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My Reviews

 
Gloomy, Dark, Boring
A thought-provoking and discussion-inspiring read that underscores cultural differences.

An unwillingness to understand differences and an unwilligness to compromise result in tragedy for all. On reflection, the major characters are more alike than they realize. Each suffers from deception, pride, and bigotry. Those flaws collide to create a destructive force with horrifying consequences for everyone in its path.

Interesting companion reads might be The Faith Club, Three Cups of Tea, and Reading Lolita in Tehren.

 
Inspiring, Insightful, Brilliant
Passionless book inspires passionate discussion

Only one of nine group members favored this account of Didion's journey following her husband's death.

Grief is very personal. Didion chose to present her grief to the world but, she did so in a way that revealed little of herself and even less of her husband. Collectively, our group felt the book lacked emotion, warmth, and honesty. Generally speaking, Didion did not come across as a very pleasant person.

Still, this title inspired one of the most personal discussions ever among our group. Members shared their stories of grief, mourning, and acceptance. That would be one reason to recommend it.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
 
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
A fragment of an insect's wing, a wine stain, salt crystals, and a cat hair

mark the journey of a sacred book across time and cultures. This richly textured novel weaves present and past to tell a wonderfully compelling story of the courage and fortune, both good and bad, of the men and women who came in contact with the ancient manuscript. My group had enjoyed Brooks' Year of Wonders and looked forward to People of the Book. We were not disappointed.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Fun, Interesting
Sink into your favorite chair with a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy every word of this literary bonbon!

Though there are bittersweet moments, this is a delightful tale of ingenuity, resistance, and resilience as the people of Guernsey live through and survive the Nazi occupation. The authors obviously found great joy in writing this book and readers are certain to feel the same. It makes one wistful for the lost art of letter writing.

 
Insightful, Epic, Brilliant
Through drought, famine, and flood, the land endures...

For many in my group, The Good Earth was mandatory reading in 8th or 9th grade. That we chose to read it nearly 40 years later underscores the timelessness of the story.

As well, many of the themes are universal - the roles of the aged and extended family, the burden of daughters in a male dominated society, the conflict between the plain, dutiful wife and the beautiful but vacuous concubine, the divide between rich and poor, and the generational differences between father and sons. Overshadowing all of these is the land.

 
Interesting, Informative, Fun
A fascinating point of view that requiries thoughtful consideration

It would be very easy to accept the theories that Levitt and Dubner offer in this book. But, like all theories, these require digger deeper. Reads easily.

Whistling In the Dark by Lesley Kagen
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Optimistic, Interesting
Whistling in the Dark

Even with the threat of a murderer, this book recalls a certain innocence, trusting, and sense of community that will never be regained. Being of a "certain age," the women in our group remembered fondly "Sky King," "Red Light, Green Light," and other activities and characters from their own childhoods.

Revolutionary Road by R. Yates
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Gloomy, Interesting
The dark side of Ward and June Cleever?

For me, Revolutionary Road represented the possible "dark" side of all those happy, well adjusted 50s sitcom families. Maybe they weren't as happy and well adjusted as they seemed. The Revolutionary Road characters are self absorbed wannabes suffering from terminal ennui. That they are so unlikeable makes it near impossible to summon any sympathy for their predicament. Still, our group agreed that these miserable people made for a compelling book discussion and therefore worthy of a thumbs up.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Interesting
A Unanimous "Thumbs Up" from all 10 members of the Somerville Readers.

Stockett captured accurately the voices of the African American maids and the Southern white women for whom they work. Her characters are rich; the relationships are real. The Help is a "must read" for those who remember this tragic period in our past and for those don't remember but need to know.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Interesting
A disturbing but compelling novel of a dark period in the not too distant past.

This is a book about survival. It asks us to consider to what lengths any of us would go in order to save our children and ourselves. What humilations would we endure? Likewise, it considers culpability. Are those who turn a blind eye to atrocities guilty, too? Ultimately, it asks us not to judge.

Some will find Those Who Saved Us upsetting. However, it is well worth the read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Insightful, Beautiful
If there is a pet in your life, you'll want to read this book

How often have we heard "I wonder what (insert pet's name) is thinking?" As it turns out, possibly, quite a bit.

The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Dark
The entire group rated Fortune Street as "one of the best" we've read this year, putting it in league with The Help and The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Particularly, we found the structure of Fortune Street (4 sections; each the perspective of a different character) lent itself to a lively discussion. The "back stories" of each of the 4 characters provides insight into their present day actions/inactions, motivations, and attitudes helping readers understand the central drama of House on Fortune Street This is a great "reading group" book.

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Dramatic, Interesting
The landscape is dark; the tale darker still. The characters are deceitful and not very likeable.

Each carries considerable baggage. Yet, somehow Goolrick makes it work and the result is an intriguing and compelling tale and an excellent read.

 
Fun, Boring, Pointless
First, I felt sorry for Janzen, then I felt duped...

Janzen repeatedly reminds readers that her husband left her for a guy named Bob only to reveal midway through that she knew he was bisexual and bipolar when she married him, and that they had divorced and remarried! Her presentation of the Mennonite faith was unremarkable and, our group agreed, it is much like many other faiths and cultures. She likens her Father's Church position to that of the Pope but give no explanation for what that means or how he achieved that role. Those of Eastern European descent were amused that she has claimed Borscht as Mennonite cuisine. The book is a self indulgent portrait by an author who may have a lot to say but has chosen not to share. Don't waste your time.

 
Confusing, Pointless, Interesting
A Unanimous Thumbs Down

Our reading group has 10 members ranging from mid 30s to early 60s. Most of us did not finish reading it. None of us could understand why it attracted all the awards and accolades that it did. For us, the empress has no clothes.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful, Inspiring
Few readers would wish to trade places with young Francie.

In early 20th century Brooklyn, Francie's was hard and her prospects bleak. However, her parents' determination that their daughter would have a better future coupled with Francie's own character and drive to succeed make A Tree Grows in Brooklyn well worth reading.

 
Informative, Slow, Boring
This book does not live up to its hype

It was not whimsical, charming, or anything at all reminiscent of Chocolat or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. While it had amusing moments and some quirky characters, it was just boring. A redeeming value is that it is informative, dropping bits of information about the Tower of London. I did not know that the Tower had been home to zoo animals over time. However, it is a bit farfetched to believe in this age that anyone, let alone the Queen, would order animals removed from the London Zoo to be placed on display at the Tower which was woefully unprepared and unsuited to house them and entrusting them to the care of an inexperienced Beefeater. A real disappointment.

The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Insightful
The Soldier's Wife

Readers who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society may well be drawn to this book. I enjoyed The Soldier's Wife until the final page. I feel the conclusion was disrespectful to readers who were likely to have been sympathetic to the protagonist and her plight. The conclusion raised legitimate questions; the author provided no answers.

The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Informative, Brilliant
Slow as molasses ...

Slow as molasses easily describes the first 100 pages of The Secret of Magic. Finally, it picks up at midpoint and moves quickly to it's conclusion. A group member suggested the slow pace at the front may be deliberate in order to echo the pace of change in the South following WWII.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
Lincoln 101? Yes, in a good way.

If a reader has limited knowledge the assassination of our 16th President, this book leads her, day by day, through the waning days of the Civil War, Booth\\\\\\\'s plotting, Lincoln\\\\\\\'s schedule, and the aftermath of the murder. It is accessible history and might spark readers to dig a little deeper. The author has said Killing Lincoln should be taught in classrooms. He is right.

 
Insightful, Interesting, Boring
A Spool of Blue Thread

My group could not understand all the hype about this book. The best explanation we could come up with is that the book is about the average lives of an average family and a rather dull family at that.

 
Romantic, Adventurous, Interesting
Perhaps something was lost in translation

There was a sigh of relief when our group leader said, "I didn't like this book." One after the other, members of our group of 10 admitted, "I'm glad I'm not the only one."
In 11 years of book club and well over 100 books, this is the first time, NO ONE finished reading. One of us got 3/4 through before giving up.

We found the characters (except for Max) to be pathetic, self indulgent, and selfish and the story to be not believeable. However, we were all enchanted with the idea of a bookshop on a barge.

One woman suggested, "Perhaps something was lost in translation."

 
Fun, Unconvincing, Insightful
I wish this book had been invisible/

Women are often ''invisible" to their families, co-workers, and others. I get that. But this book strained credulity. Thousands of women worldwide have become invisible due to a cocktail of prescribed medications and few, including many of the victims, seem to care or notice. Kids don't notice that Mom is suddenly wrapped in layers of clothing. Husbands don't notice they are making love to an empty bed. One gal pal even seems to be jealous of her invisible friend! The idea of championing "invisible" women is a good one. But, this book was not the way to do it.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
 
Interesting, Inspiring, Dramatic

 
Beautiful, Interesting, Inspiring
The author's descriptions of the marsh are lyrical ....

but that's about it with this book. The story was unconvincing. It defies logic that a 5 year old child would have the skill, knowledge, and courage to survive alone.

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