BOOK CLUB Giveaway – The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein

This year we’ve been changing up BOOK CLUB. Gone are the rigid dates, where we announce books on the X Tuesday of the month, discuss them on the Y Tuesday, alternating whose blog the discussion happens on. Instead, Nicole and I will be co-hosting BOOK CLUBs as we find books that we are just dying to discuss with everyone. The next book in our semi-new format is going to be Lauren Grodstein’s The Explanation for Everything. I’m really thrilled about it, because I absolutely ADORED her last book, A Friend of the Family. Here is the publisher’s description of The Explanation for Everything:

There is nothing inherently threatening about Melissa, a young evangelist hoping to write the definitive paper on intelligent design. But when she implores Andy Waite, a biology professor and a hardcore evolutionist, to direct her independent study, she becomes the catalyst for the collapsing house of cards surrounding him. As he works with Melissa, Andy finds that everything about his world is starting to add up differently. Suddenly there is the possibility of faith. But with it come responsibility and guilt the very things that Andy has sidestepped for years.

Professor Waite is nearing the moment when his life might settle down a bit: tenure is in sight, his daughters are starting to grow up, and he s slowly but surely healing from the sudden loss of his wife. His life is starting to make sense again until the scientific stance that has defined his life(and his work) is challenged by this charismatic student.

Part of the new book club will include reaching out to more readers. We are now giving away books with the understanding with publishers that there will be a readerly discussion. If you are a blogger and review the book, great! If you are not a blogger, but review the book on LibraryThing or GoodReads, or talk it up on Twitter, wonderful! All we really want, though, is for you to commit to come and discuss it with us.

We will be discussing The Explanation for Everything on my blog on Tuesday, September 10th. If you would like to be entered to win one of our ten copies (US mailing addresses only, please), please fill out the form below by 11:59 pm Eastern on Thursday, August 8th. Your address WILL be required to win (but will not be used by us for anything but getting your book to you) because we want to get these books to you with quick turn around.

The Explanation for Everything will be available for sale on September 3rd, so even if you don’t win the book from us, we’d love for you to buy a copy or grab it from the library and join us to discuss it.

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The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina – Book Review

The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina
Published by Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books, an imprint of Hachette

She’s a young woman who misses her mother, a girl who just had to suffer through her mother’s protracted illness, attempting to pay for her care. She isn’t expecting the boys. The boys who come in, shouting about the children they are sure she has, the children she doesn’t have. The boys who are oddly unafraid and – terrifyingly – don’t seem to care whether or not she knows who they are, whether or not she can identify them.

The End of the Wasp Season presents a difficult case for Detective Alex Morrow. The facts of the case are hard enough on their own, with the brutal murder of the young woman, and the situation is complicated by her pregnancy with twins – a pregnancy that makes her particularly nervous after she lost her young son – and the tenuous situation in the office ever since Bannerman was promoted. It is all a bit of a shocking transition from Still Midnight, actually. Alex is in a very different place in this book than she is in the last, which is actually sort of disconcerting, because the reader doesn’t really see her journey, it all happens off screen.

For me, this case had less immediacy than the one in Still Midnight. The victim in Still Midnight had been kidnapped and the case was time sensitive but in The End of the Wasp Season the victim is dead and it doesn’t seem that anyone else is in danger. Still, I liked to see Alex’s growth, as I became attached to her

If you’ve read The End of the Wasp Season, you can join us here tomorrow to discuss it.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.


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Still Midnight by Denise Mina – Book Review

Still Midnight by Denise Mina
Published by Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books, an imprint of Hachette

It is an unprofessional kidnapping. A teenage girl gets her hand blown off, an old man – the wrong man – is taken. Do the kidnappers even have the right house in the quiet Glasgow suburb? At first it seems quite possible to Detective Inspector Alex Morrow that this whole thing is a mistake, although that doesn’t exactly help get the elderly hostage back. This is a case that gets to Morrow, this family disrupted in the area where she grew up. In order to solve it, Morrow has to revisit some of the people from her past and, in doing so, perhaps put her entire job at risk.

Still Midnight has one of those openings that leaves you going, “huh, what now?” The first 30 pages or so are a bit slow for exactly that reason, as the reader tries to figure out exactly what is going on. Once everything becomes clear, though, Still Midnight becomes an exceptionally engaging book. First, there is the mystery; clearly there is something happening that is not quite what it seems. In addition, Morrow herself is a fascinating character. She is sick with loss and a need to prove herself while also hiding her past.

I ended up really loving Still Midnight, and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, The Wasp Season. If you’ve read Still Midnight, we are discussing it on June 11th, 2013 on Nicole’s blog.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

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The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker – Book Review

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Published by Harper Books, an imprint of HarperCollins

A golem and a jinni walk into New York City at the turn of the century. Okay, well, the Jinni doesn’t actually walk, he arrives in a copper flask that has held oil for longer than anyone can remember. The Golem, though, she walks. She walks right off the ship that carried her from Europe and right along the bottom of the harbor. Oh, and also this isn’t a joke, but Helene Wecker’s lovely and magical story about late 19th century immigration, identity, and just a little magic.


Really, I found everything about The Golem and the Jinni just fabulous. Both the Golem and the Jinni were astoundingly realistic, especially considering they are mythical creatures. What is particularly well done with their characterization is the fact that their concerns are at the same time unique to a golem (or a jinni), but also contain threads that would make their problems easy to relate to for we non-magical beings. Wecker’s turn-of-the-century Jewish and Syrian immigrant communities are also vividly drawn and compelling, making The Golem and the Jinni a real treat for lovers of historical fiction.

The Golem and the Jinni is one of the very rare books that I wish was longer, so that I might continue to dwell within its pages. Very highly recommended.

Source: Publisher.
Learn more about The Golem and the Jinni on the publisher’s website


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BOOK CLUB – The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

5256159881 7ba9c432e6 m pictureWelcome to BOOK CLUB, which I run with co-conspirator Nicole from Linus’s Blanket. Today we will be chatting about The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, from Knopf. For those of you reading this post, please remember that this discussion may contain spoilers.

Here is the synopsis of the book I wrote for my review:

For as long as he can remember, Will Schwalbe’s mother has been almost a super-human figure. She was Harvard’s first female director of admissions, then later the founding director of International Rescue Committee’s Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. Nothing could slow Mary Anne Schwalbe down, except stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Even cancer didn’t slow Will’s mother down as much as it would most people. Still, though, there were those periods of enforced rest, the doctor appointments, the chemotherapy treatments. Will is lucky enough to have the flexibility and proximity to attend many of his mother’s appointments with her. When they are together, the conversation frequently defaults to the same thing it has throughout their lives: books.

The End of Your Life Book Club is as much – or more – about Mary Anne’s life with and death from cancer than about the books that the two read together. It is a chronicle of the last months of her life, a testament to her strength, and Will’s coming to terms with the way his family’s life will be forever changed./blockquote>

If you plan on participating in today’s BOOK CLUB, please consider subscribing to comments at the bottom of the page (please use the TOP subscription option, the second option will subscribe you only to replies of your own comments).  I will be updating this post with new questions and ideas over the course of the day.

Here we go…

  • First off, what were your general impressions of the book?
  • Is this a book you would have read had you not been reading it for a book club?
  • Were you able to connect with the Schwalbes and their loss?
  • Had you read any of the books that Will and his mother read? Do you think this affected your enjoyment of/connection to The End of Your Life Book Club in any way?
  • Did the frame of the books and the book club work well for you as a way to access Will and Mary Anne’s story?
  • What do you think of Will’s revelation that he had basically had his mother’s name wrong his entire life?
  • Any other questions? Anything else you want to discuss?

12  copies of The End of Your Life Book Club were provided by Knopft in order to facilitate this discussion.  Below are reviews from some of this conversation’s participants:

Books Speak Volumes | Devourer of Books | Read Lately

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