Dec 6, 2014

Ghana must go: first part

I wonder if you are having the same feeling. I had actually no idea what the book was about, but the title, the cover, somehow made me think that this was going to be a story of hope, progress, maybe adventure. And up to now, I was wrong. Ghana must go has so far presented some family stories, migration, but mostly loneliness and melancholy. So I'm disappointed, cause I wasn't expecting a drama, but at the same time, it is very well written, so well it hurts at times. I still have about two thirds to finish, so the story, maybe hasn't actually started, and it turns out to be what I was expecting, but this is a hard beginning.
There are two things that catch my attention, the relationship of the characters with their houses/ homes (the story with the carpenter and the tree), and the family relationships, so close and so remote. Thoughts?

Oct 19, 2014

The Custom of the Country: final chapters (31 to 46)

Does Undine after all that manipulation, live to a happy ending? I don't think so. If we can extract some conclusions here, I would say, enjoy the day! She is constantly wanting what she doesn't have and as soon as she gets it, ooopsss, something new on sight!
Did you like the end?

Sep 26, 2014

Chapters 21 − 30, "The Custom of the Country", by Edith Wharton

How are you enjoying the book so far? Does Undine's level of ambition and self-centrism still have the capacity to surprise you? What do you think about how the whole divorce and Mr. Van Degen story ended up? Did you feel sorry for Undine…? And what/who else do you think Undine will try to manipulate next to pursue what she thinks is of her right?
The book is certainly full of surprises...

Aug 22, 2014

Chapters 11-20, "The Custom of the Country", by Edith Wharton

Undine's ambition, bad taste, and selfishness seem to be growing as we advance in the book and her life. 
In these chapters, the marriage takes place and the marriage ends. Does it happen too fast, too slow, or do you find it has the perfect pace?
We get to know Undine as a wife and mother, and we see how these "circumstances" don't seem to change much her aspirations and rhythm of life.  
Although the book is a constant critic of the American society it portraits, at one point in these chapters the author provides a direct and explicit analysis of the man-woman relationship and "the customs of the country" through the character of Mr. Bowen. Do you agree with his vision? Do you think it belongs to the old times or do you see something of it in nowadays society? What about his perception of the European marriage?

Looking forward to keep reading your thoughts!

Aug 4, 2014

First part: "The Custom of the Country", by Edith Wharton

Is it me, or this Undine girl we have actually met somewhere? It is amazing how real the characters are! What do you think of her? She is capable of manipulating her own parents, but once out in society she is copying every other "high society" lady... Will she grow and become a more mature person by the end of the book? To me, this smells tragedy!
What about the descriptions of society? Have we made so much progress? New York versus South?
I was surprised to see that the story moved fast, we get the romance and the wedding, and there is a lot of pages still to go! This is no Jane Austen (not I critic, I love Austen) but this is going much farther, reviewing maybe "the customs of the country"...

Jul 21, 2014

We are now reading "The Custom of the Country" by Edith Wharton

Get your copy and join our discussion! Check the schedule tab to learn about the suggested reading timing and to learn how to get your free copy!

Jun 20, 2014

In Cold Blood, third & fourth chapters

Life got busy and I have been postponing too long the wrap up post of our last book together. That, despite the fact that I had finished it some time ago. Not as soon as Mr. J, but long before the suggested schedule times. Once I started, I found it difficult to put it down. 

So, without further ado (and excuses), how did you like the book? 

By now I guess you have already read the interesting, exhaustive, and thought-provoking analysis of Jorge, to which I have very few (or nothing) to add in terms of wrapping up the story. 

I have liked very much the book despite the uncomfortable feeling it left in me every time I closed it and thought about the story, the characters, the fatal coincidences… The third chapter was so far the hardest to read. The confession of Perry with the details of the crimes, the description of the Clutter's fear, their suffering, the absurdity of it all...

In brief, there are two things I kept thinking about while reading and after reading the book:

First, when considering Perry's life and how bad it had treated him, his personality issues and instabilities were somehow "understandable". The bad feelings, resentments, hates.. At times, I felt deeply sorry for him. Having said that, her only alive sister is there to show how you can choose a different way of facing very harsh circumstances. 
However, with Dick is different. He had a normal, nice family, who loved him and took care of him. Does that mean he is intrinsically bad? Was he born with a mean, cruel nature that would show in any case? It seems Perry and Dick are two perfect examples to illustrate the Nature or Nurture? eternal question.

Second, and despite what I said above regarding my own suffering when reading about the Clutter's suffering, and the disgust about the crime and murderers, I still can't believe in the death penalty… That is a too complex and long debate to start here and now, but it is certainly an issue the book brings up. 

What a wonderful book. 
Maybe in the future we can explore more of Capote with Breakfast at Tiffany's?  


May 10, 2014

In Cold Blood, second chapter

In the second chapter the crime has already happened and Capote presents us the community trying to live through it, describing how the drama has affected the families in Holcomb.
We are introduced to Dewey and his desperate need to solve the crime. Also, we get to know the whereabouts of Dick and Perry after the murders, as well as some of Perry's past and life story.
For me (Macarena), too many questions are raised here. 
Why does Capote present so much information about Perry? How do you see the character? How do you feel about the crime and the criminals as the story advances? Can you think at this point of a motive for the murders?

May 8, 2014

In Cold Blood (with spoilers), by J

Hi Cookies,

It seems that I have been the first one to finish the book this time!I have pretty much enjoyed the book, although I will probably never again pick someone on the road or leave a door not locked in the night.

I have been hooked since the beginning as the book is very well written and interesting (being a real case makes it even more addictive). Even if we know how it ends, you continue reading, willing to widen your view of this case, maybe trying to understand why.

I think that Capote has made an amazing book by drawing a straight timeline and somehow sticking to it throughout the story.

The introduction of the characters is clear, clean, you can almost feel that you have met the nice and friendly Clutter family and that they are your friends just by the everday life the author describes of their last 24 hours. The life of this nice people,we do not know why, is crossed, erased, by these two guys that are also starting to be described in our story. But we also learn about an specific time, society, customs in the midwest of the USA.
Then it happens, even if we do not have the details, it terribly happens and we knew it was going to happen... We have to wait for the details, and that is the morbidness that make us continue hooked with the book...

And then we travel with Perry and Hickock from the US to Mexico, from that fatidic date November 14th 1959, to their childhood, their fears, their families, their problems. We can feel sometimes sorrow for them, quite often we are disgusted by their behaviour, but always we can feel that, after all, they are derailed human beings, each of them with his particularities.

Then we read about this KBI agent Dewey, how he works, how he manages his anguish, how he investigates and does accusse some people before going to nowhere. How he reads and rereads the diary, uses the information available, gets frustrated... And how he with his team finally find them in Las Vegas.

Then comes one of the most incredible parts of the book: the confession, and the details too. I find this part of the story amazing, how they start to have the same allibi and how easily the police make Perry confess everything in the car. How can a human being confess such crime like he did? Without remorse, as someone that is talking about a football match... I find it unbelievably scary...

But the book is far from finished, we learn then about the trial, how they are well treated while in prison, the witnesses testimonies, their psicological profiles. We even feel that they might escape their fate and be declared not guilty because of who knows what kind of legal trick.

And then, as in the rest of the book, everything continues as it was expected: they are condemned to the death penalty, and we can see how they are going to share the death row with other incredibly sinister characters, that have killed plenty of innocent people (even his family in the case of Lowell Andrews), apparently without remorse, in cold blood. They come from very different backgrounds, educated, lonely, from rich or poor families.... No stereotypes can be applied to all of them. I think this is the crudest, most astonishing part of the book; the description of all these murders carried out by those people that, some of them, could be your neighbor or your classmate.

And then Hickock decides to fight back, to write letters, to have a revision of the trial, and time passes by, and again, when we start to think about that they might be going to be lucky, about the  possibility of, one day, finding these guys out there in the street... But the story continues as it is, no surprises, six years after their crime, they are hanged. But again it is incredibly easy, apparently normal, almost an everyday activity, how they behave just minutes before and how they die.

I find that this book is an amazingly clear radiography of psicology profiles, of small groups interaction, of society, of legal system, of the enforcement of law. But above all it is the harshest book I have read about death, how extremely easy is to kill or to die, how close anybody can be to his killers without even knowing it, how instantly the life of a person or a even family can be wiped out without a real reason or just because a misunderstanding or incorrect information (there was no safe in the Clutters' place!).

This book is very good, sometimes it has description that I find too baroque, but in general it greatly written. It's a pity that we have not many more books from you Mr. Capote.

May 2, 2014

In Cold Blood, first chapter

Hello readers! How is Capote going? For those reading about vampires, please note that there was a mixing among titles, but we are reading Truman Capote, maybe vampires for the next one...
So, for all that I know, I'm the one really behind this time, as I'm not reading THE BOOK.
And why is that? I mean, shame on me, but, I have some sort of excuse, I read "In Cold Blood" a few years ago... so I felt that I would read something else in the meanwhile... and I'm reading a bizarre African novel, difficult to read even in my native in Spanish...
So I would ask for your help in leading this conversation, I don't have all the details in my memory, so what should be discussing here? Take the lead!

Apr 9, 2014

And the Spring Winner is...

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote

And below, the second and third positions:

- Ghana Must Go, by Taiye Selasi
- Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts

Time to get your copy and be ready for some true crime genre, as the book has been regarded by critics. 

Mar 18, 2014

Will you be able to pick just one?

One more time, we have a wonderful selection of books from which to pick. We can select just one, but make sure to swell your "to-read" list with all of them!

Send us your pick by Friday, and we will have a winner by next week.

Ghana Must Goby Taiye Selasi - sent by Jorge

Selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal and The Economist, the book has been sold in 16 countries as of 2014.
 “Ghana Must Go” comes with a bagload of prepublication praise. For once, the brouhaha is well deserved. Ms Selasi has an eye for the perfect detail: a baby’s toenails “like dewdrops”, a woman sleeps “like a cocoyam. A thing without senses…unplugged from the world.” As a writer she has a keen sense of the baggage of childhood and an unforgettable voice on the page. Miss out on “Ghana Must Go” and you will miss one of the best new novels of the season.

Shantaramby Gregory David Roberts - sent by Rika
I'm choosing off my bookcase because I haven't been able to get copies of some of your titles.
Help me finish this book!

Crime and punishment, passion and loyalty, betrayal and redemption are only a few of the ingredients in Shantaram, a massive, over-the-top, mostly autobiographical novel. Shantaram is the name given Mr. Lindsay, or Linbaba, the larger-than-life hero. It means "man of God's peace," which is what the Indian people know of Lin. What they do not know is that prior to his arrival in Bombay he escaped from an Australian prison where he had begun serving a 19-year sentence. He served two years and leaped over the wall. He was imprisoned for a string of armed robberies peformed to support his heroin addiction, which started when his marriage fell apart and he lost custody of his daughter. All of that is enough for several lifetimes, but for Greg Roberts, that's only the beginning.
A 4.5 out of 5 stars book - Amazon reviews.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstressby Dai Sijie - sent by Arantxa M.

The tale takes place in China during the harsh days of the Cultural Revolution, when millions of young people were sent to the countryside for "reeducation." The two teenage boys in Sijie's novel fail to escape this fate, but lonely and frightened as they are in the rural mountain village to which they've been exiled, they find themselves transformed when they uncover a forbidden treasure trove: a suitcase filled with Western literary classics. Hugo, Stendhal, Dumas, Flaubert, Dickens, and especially Balzac become the boys' secret companions, firing their imaginations and giving their lives new meaning. The books become the motivation and the sweet reward for everything they do: They lead them into danger but also help them out of scrapes. And the books also become the vehicle by which one of the boys, Luo, woos a beautiful seamstress who lives on the other side of the mountain. Ultimately, the secret books become the catalyst for Sijie's provocative and unexpected ending.

The strange case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson - sent by Rocio H.

I see we don't pay much attention to horror in this club, so maybe, the time has come to read under the blankets!!!!

The young Robert Louis Stevenson suffered from repeated nightmares of living a double life, in which by day he worked as a respectable doctor and by night he roamed the back alleys of old-town Edinburgh. In three days of furious writing, he produced a story about his dream existence. His wife found it too gruesome, so he promptly burned the manuscript. In another three days, he wrote it again. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published as a "shilling shocker" in 1886, and became an instant classic. In the first six months, 40,000 copies were sold.

In True Blood, by Truman Capote - sent by Monica De la Paz

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.

Mar 13, 2014

The African by Le Clezio

Hi cookiest,
I have enjoyed the book, but in different ways as I was advancing on its pages.
I find the first half of the book as a nostalgic description of the mostly nice memories the author has from his childhood in Nigeria. The manner how he describes that time of his life and the feelings he had to the land and people there made me remember my own chilhood in a place closer to Africa in several senses than many of the people I met as a child would admit now. This part is mostly about the boy and the view, through his candid eyes, of the world (the people, the animals, the landscapes) that was in front of him.
But then, almost suddenly, we start to learn about the African, about war, loneliness, the unfairness and unjustices of the colonialism and how all of them left a deep scar in the personality of the writer's father. That changed the life of the family too, and Le Clezio masterly uses the book to try to learn, to try to justify, to try to forgive his own father while at the same time criticizes the behaviour of the colonial powers and the greed of its people in Africa, the absurdity of the war and the everyday fight against death that we can still find in many developing countries. Instead of the child, we hear now the voice of the adult, the man trying to understand his father in an uncomprehensible world.
I find this book amazing because the author deals with all that social, psicological, antropological and even political complexity easily, in a quite short book, seemingly without any effort, as talking to a good friend while drinking a cup of tea. But the memories, the sentiments and the realities described are far from simple, far from easy to write about.
I think I will read more books that came out from your typewriter, monsieur Le Clezio.

Mar 2, 2014

The African, second half

In the second half of the book, we read a more intimate part of the story. Le Clezio talks about his father, his personality, his relationships with his children, with the people he works. He searches for the causes of what made his father an unhappy man, unable to show love for his children, and he blames the war. What else is there? Do you agree with this vision?

Feb 13, 2014

An interesting (and funny) article about The African

According to Geoff Wisner, it is worth reading The African "to learn more about the author's childhood, personality, and relationship with his father… for the sometimes elegant beauty of the prose". 

However, "don't read it for its insights into Africa and its people. Why? 

The most efficient way to explain is to say that The African scores high on the criteria set out in Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina's essay How to Write About Africa".

Really worth reading the criteria analysis here:

Feb 10, 2014

The African, by J.M.G. Le Clézio - First chapters

We travel into the youth of the author, to meet a French family that lives in the depths of Nigeria, and not far from Cameroon. We meet the characters, our boy, the father, the mother, the brother, basically the family. Le Clézio presents the situation, why they were there, what it was to be there, the change of moving to Africa after the war, meeting his father, meeting severity and having freedom at the same time. Is this family different? Or no matter that they were in the middle of nowhere, a family is a family with the same kind of issues? What strikes you most in the first part of the book?

Jan 15, 2014

2014 Starter

After a close vote, our winner is…

The African, by J.M.G. Le Clézio.

Here is a summary of the votes:
The African, by Le Clezio - 4 votes
I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai - 3 votes
Persuasion, by Jane Austen - 1 vote

Maybe "I am Malala" could be presented again for the next election?

In any case, get your copy of "The African" and be ready for the suggested reading schedule to be posted soon.

Looking forward to sharing some African traveling adventures and reflections with you!