I feel terrible because I didn’t get a chance to read the book club selection for this month. I was scheduled to post the review today, but with Thanksgiving and end of the semester projects due, I just haven’t had time. I also started reading Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama last week, thinking I could read it simultaneously with The Tortilla Curtain, but I got too drawn into Obama’s book and always choose to pick it up instead. I know, big mistake, right?

Anyway, I’m going to New York next weekend and plan to read the book on the plane rides there and back, so I should be posting on December 10 instead. I hope those of you who have read the book will stop by to leave your thoughts, or links to your own reviews.

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Thanks to Diane and Beastmomma for your suggestions for this month’s book club selection. I’d never heard of The Tortilla Curtain, which was suggested by Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea, so I decided we should all give it a try. I love book clubs because they get me to read books I may not have otherwise picked up. There wasn’t much about this book on Amazon, so I took this description from the Penguin.com Website:

In this explosive and timely novel, T. Coraghessan Boyle explores an issue that is at the forefront of the political arena. He confronts the controversy over illegal immigration head-on, illuminating through a poignant, gripping story the people on both sides of the issue, the haves and the have-nots.

In Southern California’s Topanga Canyon, two couples live in close proximity and yet are worlds apart. High atop a hill overlooking the canyon, nature writer Delaney Mossbacher and his wife, real estate agent Kyra Menaker-Mossbacher, reside in an exclusive, secluded housing development with their son, Jordan. The Mossbachers are agnostic liberals with a passion for recycling and fitness. Camped out in a ravine at the bottom of the canyon are Cándido and América Rincón, a Mexican couple who have crossed the border illegally. On the edge of starvation, they search desperately for work in the hope of moving into an apartment before their baby is born. They cling to their vision of the American dream, which, no matter how hard they try to achieve it, manages to elude their grasp at every turn.

A chance, violent encounter brings together Delaney and Cándido, instigating a chain of events that eventually culminates in a harrowing confrontation. The novel shifts back and forth between the two couples, giving voice to each of the four main characters as their lives become inextricably intertwined and their worlds collide. The Rincóns’ search for the American dream, and the Mossbachers’ attempts to protect it, comprise the heart of the story. In scenes that are alternately comic, frightening, and satirical, but always all “too real,” Boyle confronts not only immigration but social consciousness, environmental awareness, crime, and unemployment in a tale that raises the curtain on the dark side of the American dream.

I’ll post some discussion questions on Nov. 30. This sounds like a really interesting book and I think it will spark some interesting conversations. I can’t wait!

Does anybody have any suggestions for what we should read this month?

This month I selected Wicked by Gregory Maguire for the online book club because I’ve wanted to read it for years and I thought it fit well in the month of Halloween. My only disappointment with this book is that I never read it sooner! I had put off reading the book because I was a little irked that Maguire took someone else’s story (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum) and repurposed it for his own novel. I’ve always been one of those people who thinks it’s unimaginative to take someone else’s work and rewrite it, but that has all changed with Wicked.

Maguire weaves a wonderful tale of Elphaba Thropp, the woman many of us know as The Wicked Witch of the West, and the land of Oz from the time before the infamous Wizard arrives to Elphaba’s untimely death at the hands of the unforgettable Dorothy. As Elphaba grows up we see her transforming into somewhat of a political activist. Upon entering college she is immediately drawn to helping Animals who have just been subjected to new laws limiting their rights and taking away their ability to be gainfully employed in anything besides manual labor. For her actions to aid the Animals she is considered a threat to the Wizard. Not to mention the fact that her sister, the ruler of Munchkinland, has seceded from the greater country of Oz, showing growing discontent of the Wizard’s rule among the people of Oz.

And there is so much more. There’s magic and talking Animals (animals don’t talk, Animals do) as one would expect. Many of the mysteries of Oz are fleshed out and made very real. And we see another side to the story of the Wizard of Oz. The book was definitely a grown-up’s fairy tale, but I thought it was wonderfully well written.

I also read Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men after finishing Wicked because I just had to know what happened (seriously, it’s like Harry Potter for adults). However, I didn’t like Son of a Witch quite as well as Wicked because it moved a bit too slow until it got to the end. I did enjoy it though and the ending made my heart smile in a big way. A Lion Among Men was even slower than Son of a Witch and left me wanting more. Liir (the son of Elphaba) was completely left out of the story with no accounting of him or his family, which I suppose was done in order to leave space for another book in the series, but I was still disappointed by it. In regard to A Lion Among Men, I almost felt like Maguire had a deadline and so decided to throw something together. And I was hugely disappointed that the Lion turned out to be such an opportunistic creep – and after Elphaba saved him as a cub! Have any of you read these sequels? What did you think? Am I being too harsh here?

Also, I want to know what you all thought of Wicked! I tried to keep my review short because I really want to know what you all though. Who were your favorite characters? What did you think of Elphaba? How about her sister? Did you think the author left any unanswered questions at the end?

Wicked was also reviewed by:
Beastmomma

Oh, and before I forget: I selected the winner for my copy of Janeology by Karen Harrington! I selected the winner using the list randomizer on random.org and got: REBEKAH E. Rebekah if you can send your mailing address to bexadler at yahoo dot com, I’ll send the book out to you. Thanks to everyone who entered and check back in a few days because I’ll be holding another giveaway then.

So, thanks to The Book Pirate, I learned that our book of the month has a new sequel being released today so if you’ve already read Wicked and Son of a Witch, you really have no excuses not to participate this month. Actually, I should say especially if you’ve read these books because I know you won’t be able to resist getting the next in the series if you’ve already read the others. I started reading Wicked on Friday night and then shirked all of my real responsibilities in order to continue reading. I’m almost finished but have been forced to put it down because I have so many upcoming deadlines (I bribe myself by saying if I get one assigment completed I can read one chapter before starting the next). This is Harry Potter for me all over again.

Erm, sorry to go off on a tangent. I just wanted to point you all toward A Lion Among Men, the latest release by Gregory Maguire. I also wanted to let you know that if you’re super poor like me and you somehow can’t find someone to borrow this book from you can read Wicked for free by going here.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a few days but life got too hectic there for awhile and I let it slip. This month I’d like to finally read Wicked by Gregory Maguire. I borrowed this book ages ago from one of my friends and still haven’t gotten around to it. I thought it would be a good book for October too since it’s about a witch. I don’t like scary books too much so this is about as close as I could get to a Halloween theme. If you’ve already read this book, but want to participate, how about considering the sequel?

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Born with green skin and huge teeth, like a dragon, the free-spirited Elphaba grows up to be an anti-totalitarian agitator, an animal-rights activist, a nun, then a nurse who tends the dying and, ultimately, the headstrong Wicked Witch of the West in the land of Oz.

Maguire’s strange and imaginative postmodernist fable uses L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a springboard to create a tense realm inhabited by humans, talking animals (a rhino librarian, a goat physician), Munchkinlanders, dwarves and various tribes.

The Wizard of Oz, emperor of this dystopian dictatorship, promotes Industrial Modern architecture and restricts animals’ right to freedom of travel; his holy book is an ancient manuscript of magic that was clairvoyantly located by Madam Blavatsky 40 years earlier. Much of the narrative concerns Elphaba’s troubled youth (she is raised by a giddy alcoholic mother and a hermitlike minister father who transmits to her his habits of loathing and self-hatred) and with her student years.

Dorothy appears only near novel’s end, as her house crash-lands on Elphaba’s sister, the Wicked Witch of the East, in an accident that sets Elphaba on the trail of the girl from Kansas, as well as the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman and the Lion, and her fabulous new shoes. Maguire combines puckish humor and bracing pessimism in this fantastical meditation on good and evil, God and free will, which should, despite being far removed in spirit from the Baum books, captivate devotees of fantasy.

As always, the book club discussion will be held on the last day of the month (October 31). Hope to see you all there!

First, I wanted to let you all know that after your encouragement I decided to go to my public library book club and I still enjoyed the discussion. Not only that, but I also was given a copy of the book by one of the other members so I won’t have to check it out at the library again! Now hopefully I’ll really find the time to read it, especially considering how many people there actually really liked the book.

Now, onto our own book club discussion here. This month we read House & Home by Kathleen McCleary (check out my interview with her here) Personally, I really enjoyed this book. At first I was uncertain as to whether I’d like it because it sounded a little far-fetched to me. I also got the feeling I wasn’t going to like Ellen because, from the description, she seemed like an impetuous child – burning down her house because somebody else had bought it outright? Puh-lease! BUT I loved this book. I got through it quickly and what I found was that, despite the cover’s description, the book was about much more than Ellen and her house.

House & Home is about learning to distinguish between what makes a house and what makes a home. The two words conjure up very different meanings in my mind, and I was glad that Ellen was finally able to see that what made her house a happy place was not necessarily the things that filled it, but the people.

I thought the characters in this book were really well developed and I loved every one of them. Sam was one of my favorites, despite his flaws (probably because he reminds me so much of my own beau). Some of Ellen’s complaints about him really caught me off guard because I have had so many of those complaints myself.

I also found that I really connected with Ellen on a different level, in that she reminded me of my own mother in some of the passages. As a child I moved often, and I have to say I reacted much like her children. I threw huge tantrums every time we moved and would hold it against my parents for months afterward. Here is one passage that I highlighted in the text:

“And then Ellen simply refusted to move again. After years of putting off having children, and working endless hours to get her decorating business up and running in one town after another, she was done. She wanted to buy a house and paint the walls red, not some neutral rental color. She watned to get pregnant and have babies. She wanted to plant bulbs and know she’d be there in the spring to watch them bloom. She wanted to make friends and reminisce over shared memories that went back more than twelve months.”

I think this one passage so encapsulates that desire, after years of moving, to stay put, to have some roots. I know I’ve felt this way as recently as March when I moved back to Sacramento from Paris. I absolutely had every intention of settling down here, finally. And I still dream of owning my own house and knowing it will be a place I can always come back to.

This book was very relatable in many ways. It’s more than a story of a house – it’s the story of a family. I really want that to come across in my review because I feel that some people may avoid this book as I did at first, thinking it was too far-fetched.

For those of you who read the book, I have a couple of questions in the hopes to get a conversation started:

What did you think of the book?

Who was your favorite character in the book? Who did you relate to most and why?

Have you ever felt this way about a move or a house?

Were you surprised by all of the turns this book took?

If this book was made into a movie, who would be your choice to play Ellen? And who would play her hunky husband, Sam? (I stole this question from Displaced Beachbums, hope you don’t mind!)

Oh, and I almost forgot: We have a winner! I chose the winner of the House & Home giveaway using Random.org and it chose kamewh! Congratulations! Send your mailing address to bexadler (at) yahoo (dot) com and I’ll get it out to you right away!

For other reviews of this book visit:
A Lifetime of Books
It’s All About Books
Books on the Brain
Booking Mama