Friday, April 18, 2008

Thanks for all of the great suggestions for books this month! We've never had so many people offer selections. As per requested at our last meeting, here are some "lighter" books to choose from since the last few we read were a little heavier. I will keep the remaining suggestions to use in the next couple of months. Please vote on your selection. This will be a short poll so that everyone will have a chance to get the book and have it read by May 12. (The poll says it ends on the 25th...sorry! Please vote by tomorrow!)

Kate Hollis, now a grown woman, has waited for years for the love of her life, Jake Sharpe, now a rock-and-roll legend, to return home, so she can finally tell him off. Jake has had hit after hit, singing about his former relationship with Kate, something she can't escape or get over. Ashley West is energetic in this fast-paced, funny coming-of-age story of first love, true friendship, and the pain of growing up. West captures each of the characters as they grow from giggling teenager to 30-something adult. She seamlessly moves the story back and forth in time as the present is revealed through the lessons of the past.

Arlene Fleet, the refreshingly imperfect heroine of Jackson's frank, appealing debut, launches her story with a list of the title's deities: "high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus." The first god, also a date rapist by the name of Jim Beverly, she left dead in her hometown of Possett, Ala., but the last she embraces wholeheartedly when high school graduation allows her to flee the South, the murder and her slutty reputation for a new life in Chicago. Upon leaving home, Arlene makes a bargain with God, promising to forgo sex, lies and a return home if he keeps Jim's body hidden. After nine years in Chicago as a truth-telling celibate, an unexpected visitor from home (in search of Jim Beverly) leads her to believe that God is slipping on his end of the deal. As Arlene heads for the Deep South with her African-American boyfriend, Burr, in tow, her secrets unfold in unsurprising but satisfying flashbacks. Jackson brings levity to familiar themes with a spirited take on the clich├ęs of redneck Southern living: the Wal-Mart culture, the subtle and overt racism and the indignant religion. The novel concludes with a final, dramatic disclosure, though the payoff isn't the plot twist but rather Jackson's genuine affection for the people and places of Dixie.

Cornelia is a single thirtysomething who lives her life like a series of movie moments. She's a manager of a cafe because she hasn't figured out anything better to do. Her ideal man is Cary Grant. And just when she thinks he'll never show up, he does, in the form of Martin Grace. What she doesn't know is that Martin, with his cool charm and debonair demeanor, has a daughter, Clare. And she never would have known that except that Martin, in a state of panic, shows up with the girl at the cafe after her mother had a breakdown and left Clare to fend for herself. Estranged from his daughter for years, Martin doesn't know what to do with her. Both women's stories are told in alternating chapters, Cornelia's in first person, Clare's in third. Overall, it is a sweet story about knowing what you love and why.

June Parker's life is meandering along until a freak car accident leaves Marissa, her 24-year-old passenger, dead and June wracked with guilt. June discovers a list Marissa had been keeping of 25 things she wanted to do by the time she turned 25. After a run-in with Marissa's brother, June resolves to complete the list. Kissing a total stranger and throwing away her scale prove far easier than pitching an idea at work or changing someone's life. But June approaches the list with aplomb, daring to speak up about being passed over for a manager position, and becoming a Big Sister to a quiet, studious Latina teen named DeeDee. But when June uncovers a secret of DeeDee's, she realizes changing someone else's life might involve changing her own as well.

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