At the last meeting of the Bring Your Own Book Club, a bunch of book lovers chatted about the books we’ve all been reading lately. Looks like we’ll be doing it again on July 16th if you’d like to join us.
Here’s some of the books we discussed.
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives. At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.
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Unsettled by Reem Faruqi
When her family moves from Pakistan to Peachtree City, all Nurah wants is to blend in, yet she stands out for all the wrong reasons. Nurah’s accent, floral-print kurtas, and tea-colored skin make her feel excluded, until she meets Stahr at swimming tryouts.
And in the water Nurah doesn’t want to blend in. She wants to win medals like her star athlete brother, Owais–who is going through struggles of his own in the U.S. Yet when sibling rivalry gets in the way, she makes a split-second decision of betrayal that changes their fates.
Red, White and Whole by Rajani Larocca
Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays. But Reha’s parents don’t understand why she’s conflicted—they only notice when Reha doesn’t meet their strict expectations. Reha feels disconnected from her mother, or Amma, although their names are linked—Reha means “star” and Punam means “moon”—but they are a universe apart. Then Reha finds out that her Amma is sick. Really sick.
Reha, who dreams of becoming a doctor even though she can’t stomach the sight of blood, is determined to make her Amma well again. She’ll be the perfect daughter, if it means saving her Amma’s life.
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Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
A terrible accident has transformed Billie Jo’s life, scarring her inside and out. Her mother is gone. Her father can’t talk about it. And the one thing that might make her feel better — playing the piano — is impossible with her wounded hands.
To make matters worse, dust storms are devastating the family farm and all the farms nearby. While others flee from the dust bowl, Billie Jo is left to find peace in the bleak landscape of Oklahoma — and in the surprising landscape of her own heart.
Welcome to the United States of Anxiety by Jen Lancaster
When did USA become shorthand for the United States of Anxiety? From the moment Americans wake up, we’re bombarded with all-new terrifying news about crime, the environment, politics, and stroke-inducing foods we’ve been enjoying for years. We’re judged by social media’s faceless masses, pressured into maintaining a Pinterest-perfect home, and expected to base our self-worth on retweets, faves, likes, and followers. Our collective FOMO, and the disparity between the ideal and reality, is leading us to spend more and feel worse. No wonder we’re getting twitchy. Save for an Independence Day-style alien invasion, how do we begin to escape from the stressors that make up our days?
Jen Lancaster is here to take a hard look at our elevating anxieties, and with self-deprecating wit and levelheaded wisdom, she charts a path out of the quagmire that keeps us frightened of the future and ashamed of our imperfectly perfect human lives. Take a deep breath, and her advice, and you just might get through a holiday dinner without wanting to disown your uncle.
The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery
Once upon a time, when her dad married Sage’s mom, Daisy was thrilled to get a bright and shiny new sister. But Sage was beautiful and popular, everything Daisy was not, and she made sure Daisy knew it.
Sage didn’t have Daisy’s smarts—she had to go back a grade to enroll in the fancy rich-kid school. So she used her popularity as a weapon, putting Daisy down to elevate herself. After the divorce, the stepsisters’ rivalry continued until the final, improbable straw: Daisy married Sage’s first love, and Sage fled California. Eighteen years, two kids and one troubled marriage later, Daisy never expects—or wants—to see Sage again. But when the little sister they have in common needs them both, they put aside their differences to care for Cassidy. As long-buried truths are revealed, no one is more surprised than they when friendship blossoms.
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Summer of 69 by Elin Hilderbrand
Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century. It’s 1969, and for the Levin family, the times they are a-changing. Every year the children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother’s historic home in downtown Nantucket. But like so much else in America, nothing is the same: Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby, caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests and determined to be independent, takes a summer job on Martha’s Vineyard. Only-son Tiger is an infantry soldier, recently deployed to Vietnam. And thirteen-year-old Jessie suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother and her worried mother, while each of them hides a troubling secret.
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Thirsty Mermaids by Kat Leyh
Fresh out of shipwreck wine, three tipsy mermaids decide to magically masquerade as humans and sneak onto land to indulge in much more drinking and a whole lot of fun in the heart of a local seaside tourist trap. But the good times abruptly end the next morning as, through the haze of killer hangovers, the trio realizes they never actually learned how to break the spell, and are now stuck on land for the foreseeable future. Which means everything from: enlisting the aid of their I-know-we-just-met-can-we-crash-with-you bartender friend, struggling to make sense of the world around them, and even trying to get a job with no skill set…all while attempting to somehow return to the sea and making the most of their current situation with tenacity and camaraderie (especially if someone else is buying).
The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky
Scholarship student Rachel keeps to herself at Manchester Prep, preferring the company of horror films to trust fund babies. When a prank puts her on the radar of a mysterious student society, “The Mary Shelley Club”, they subject her to a number of escalating Fear Tests which eventually puts them on the radar of a serial killer.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
In a small back alley of Tokyo, there is a café that has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. Local legend says that this shop offers something else besides coffee—the chance to travel back in time.
Over the course of one summer, four customers visit the café in the hopes of making that journey. But time travel isn’t so simple, and there are rules that must be followed. Most important, the trip can last only as long as it takes for the coffee to get cold.
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The Others by Sarah Blau
As soon as Sheila hears the news, she knows the police will be calling. Dina Kaminer—one of Israel’s preeminent feminist scholars and Sheila’s oldest friend—has been found murdered, the word “mother” carved into her forehead and a baby doll fixed to her hands.
For Sheila, that word is a warning. Two decades before, she and Dina had joined a group of women who swore they would never have children. Instead, they would follow the example of “The Others,” women the Torah considered childless, but they saw as willingly child-free. Sheila has upheld her vow year after year, even as her friendship with Dina fell apart. But now, as more women turn up dead, each transformed into a mother against her will, Sheila must decide if she’s made the right choice . . . and who might want to make her pay the ultimate price.
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No I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club by Virginia Ironside
Marie Sharp is heading toward sixty and is just fine with it. She’s already had plenty of excitement in her life: sex and drugs in the freewheeling sixties, career and children, marriage and divorce. Now she’s ready to settle into a quiet, blissfully boring routine. No Italian classes or gym memberships or bicycle trips across Europe, thank you very much! Marie just wants to put her feet up and “start doing old things.”
She’s even sworn off men! But as it turns out, life still has some surprises in store, the biggest of which is a new grandson on the way. What’s more, Archie, her old childhood crush, suddenly reenters her life, and her closest friend falls seriously ill. Armed with a biting sense of humor, Marie wrestles with a life that refuses to follow her plans—and may still offer more possibilities than she realizes.
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri
In the arc of one year, an unnamed narrator in an unnamed city, in the middle of her life’s journey, realizes that she’s lost her way. The city she calls home acts as a companion and interlocutor: traversing the streets around her house, and in parks, piazzas, museums, stores, and coffee bars, she feels less alone.
We follow her to the pool she frequents, and to the train station that leads to her mother, who is mired in her own solitude after her husband’s untimely death. Among those who appear on this woman’s path are colleagues with whom she feels ill at ease, casual acquaintances, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. Until one day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will abruptly change.
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Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Navigating between the Indian traditions they’ve inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of cultures and generations. In “A Temporary Matter,” published in The New Yorker, a young Indian-American couple faces the heartbreak of a stillborn birth, while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession.
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Chemistry by Weike Wang
At first glance, the quirky, overworked narrator of Weike Wang’s debut novel seems to be on the cusp of a perfect life: she is studying for a prestigious PhD in chemistry that will make her Chinese parents proud (or at least satisfied), and her successful, supportive boyfriend has just proposed to her. But instead of feeling hopeful, she is wracked with ambivalence: the long, demanding hours at the lab have created an exquisite pressure cooker, and she doesn’t know how to answer the marriage question. When it all becomes too much and her life plan veers off course, she finds herself on a new path of discoveries about everything she thought she knew. Smart, moving, and always funny, this unique coming-of-age story is certain to evoke a winning reaction.
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When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen
More than a decade ago, Mira fled her small, segregated hometown in the south to forget. With every mile she traveled, she distanced herself from her past: from her best friend Celine, mocked by their town as the only white girl with black friends; from her old neighborhood; from the eerie Woodsman plantation rumored to be haunted by the spirits of slaves; from the terrifying memory of a ghost she saw that terrible day when a dare-gone-wrong almost got Jesse—the boy she secretly loved—arrested for murder.
But now Mira is back in Kipsen to attend Celine’s wedding at the plantation, which has been transformed into a lush vacation resort. Mira hopes to reconnect with her friends, and especially, Jesse, to finally tell him the truth about her feelings and the events of that devastating long-ago day.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever. In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.
But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.
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