Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

October 25, 2005 > Coming together over a good read

Coming together over a good read

by Joyce Peters

In this age of the Internet and blogging, people still need face-to-face interaction. When I had my bookstore, I enjoyed sharing books with customers. I've replaced that with two book groups - Fremont Main Library sponsors one devoted to California authors and the other is a loose collection of friends who love children's books.

Each member brings their own taste, personality and family history to the table. We often disagree about the merits of a book which makes for lively exchanges. Being in a group has given me the structure to read books that I never would have considered before. I don't usually like fantasy or science fiction. I prefer memoirs, non-fiction, historical fiction or just a great story. Reading different genres has made me appreciate good writing, especially when paired with a great story.

Librarian Susan Rosenblatt moderates the California Author discussion group. She picks the books and makes sure that the library has enough copies to lend. Growing up in New York City, I read mostly East Coast authors. Now I am discovering the West Coast. I've been reintroduced to John Steinbeck through "Cannery Row" and have acquired some new favorites, such as Isabel Allende who wrote "Daughter of Fortune." Steinbeck uses an elegant, spare prose, while Allende is much more extravagant and romantic. Both Steinbeck and Allende create full-blown characters that live beyond the pages of the book.

"Daughter of Fortune" (Harper Collins paperback, $7.99) is a big sweeping historical novel. It follows the fortunes of Eliza Sommers, Chilean by birth but adopted by a British spinster, Rose Sommers, and her bachelor brother, Jeremy, after she is abandoned on their doorstep. The novel is flavored by four cultures English, Chilean, Chinese, all intersecting at the California Gold Rush.

I now know more California history than when we started since some of the group members are history buffs, especially of the local area. Reflecting our community, the group is, of course, multicultural which adds another dimension to discussions. Meetings are on the third Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Fremont Main Library. The next book is "The House of Sand and Fog" by Andre Dubus III. For more information, you can reach Susan Rosenblatt at

In my children's literature group, we take turns choosing a book that we will all read and discuss. I decided to veer off and pick an adult title, "Sick Puppy" by Carl Hiaasen (Warner Books paperback, $7.99). Since I had loved his 2003 Newberry Honor children's book, "HOOT," I wanted to try his adult fiction. As I read "Sick Puppy," I had this sinking feeling that the language and the kinky sex might turn off members. It did. When the group met, I was afraid that there would be no common ground for discussion. Instead, it was one of the best discussions we've had, precisely because people had different gut reactions.

I preferred "HOOT" which is recommended for 5th graders and up. It doesn't have the sex which can get in the way of a good story. In "Sick Puppy," the heroes are more crazed than heroic. The dog acts just the way a dog should and thinks the way you imagine he would. Hiaasen's style is evident in both works; it's just the content and language that differ. His books highlight the corruptness of Florida politics and the environmental damage that ensues when land-grabbing big money rules. These themes certainly fit these cynical times. Both books are very funny.
If you like "Hoot," try Carl Hiaasen's new children's book "Flush." (Random House hardback, $16.95)
New Picture books:

"Nacho and Lolita" by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Claudia Rueda, Scholastic Books, $16.99 (2005)
Grade 1-4

Once there lived a rare and majestic bird named Nacho, the only pitacoche for thousands of miles. He was proud of his brilliant feathers and haunting songs, but what good were they with no one to share them? Then the swallows came to nest and Nacho met Lolita. His heart filled with affection. Was it possible for two such different birds to find happiness together? And what would happen to Nacho when Lolita and the other swallows migrated back to South America? This sweet story reveals that any difference can be overcome with love.

In Ryan's retelling of a Mexican folktale, children learn of the fascinating migratory patterns of the birds that call Mission San Juan Capistrano home for the spring and summer. Each year on the March feast day of St. Joseph, the swallows return to the Mission. Rueda's illustrations gradually evolve from a dry, brown landscape to the beautiful colors of spring.

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