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My Reviews

 
Informative, Interesting, Dark
Proof that fact is stranger than fiction!

Our club gave this book very mixed reviews, but I was impressed with Larsen's ability to deliver the facts in such an entertaining and highly readable format. The parallel portrayal of Holmes' wanton destruction of so many lives and Burnham's near-impossible completion of the Chicago World's Fair made for plenty of good discussion. The many ways in which the Fair impacted our everyday lives were as surprising as the ghastly murders that went so long undiscovered.

The Vendetta Defense by Lisa Scottoline
 
Interesting
A many-layered novel

Very likeable characters and a storyline that was fun to read while providing much material for our club discussion. There was something for everyone: humor, romance, mystery, and an interesting commentary on our legal system and the meaning of "justice."

 
Dramatic, Brilliant, Informative
A Tale of Horror

Everyone in our group found this disturbing to read, and some even skipped over parts or stopped reading entirely, but most agreed that the book was cleverly written to parallel the fairy tale and that the story was well told. The book generated excellent discussion and left everyone thinking! Not my favorite genre, but well worth reading.

 
Dramatic, Epic, Brilliant
A Modern-Day King Lear

A good read on its own, but a great parallel to a reading or viewing of Shakespeare's King Lear. Plenty here for discussion.

The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella
 
Romantic, Unconvincing, Adventurous
A Light Romance

Enjoyable light read.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
 
Dramatic, Interesting, Scary
A Mystery with a Twist

An interesting mystery with a twist, and might generate some interesting group discussion. I found the ending disappointing.

 
Interesting, Fun, Adventurous
Delicious!

This was a fun read and a wonderful tribute to food and story-telling. Recipes for food and for life.

 
Adventurous, Dramatic, Interesting
A Well-Told Tale

An enjoyable and well-researched tale. The setting and characters were wonderfully complex. The 90 year-old Jacob was both believable and likable, and interspersing his story with that of his younger self was very effective, adding much depth to the book. This book came highly recommended and I would pass that recommendation along. There are plentiful topics here for club discussion.

Middlesex: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides
 
Interesting, Dramatic, Epic
Thought-Provoking

More than just the story of a hermaphrodite, This was a story of a Greek-American family: their history, traditions, strengths and weaknesses. Parts seems just a bit contrived, but all-in-all worth reading.

Skin and Bone by Kathryn Fox
 
Entertaining read from the Mystery/Crime Genre

The book features plenty of suspense and plot twists to keep the reader hooked. I'll read another by this author.

 
Interesting, Fun, Adventurous
Coming-of-age story with food at the center of everything

Our club so enjoyed discussing this book and how food tied in with our own life stories. It was a pleasant way of getting to know one another better at the table over a fabulous meal!

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
 
Insightful, Dramatic, Brilliant
Unique and Captivating

A wonderful, descriptive story set in Afghanistan, this would lead to excellent discussion in any group. This was a very enriching and thought-provoking book.

 
Much more than another horse story!

I was not at all captivated by the synopsis on the jacket, but picked up this book because I loved "Water for Elephants", by the same author. Once I started I was drawn into the story and never put it down. This book would make for a wonderful discussion of mother-daughter relationships, healing after loss and so much more. Highly recommended!

All This Heavenly Glory by Elizabeth Crane
 
Painful to Read!

I would not recommend this book to anyone. The writing style is annoying, the characters not likable, and the plot nonexistent. There is material for discussion within, but it isn't worth wading through the book to get at it. If this had not been a book club selection, I would have stopped after the first chapter.

Edges: O Israel, O Palestine by Leora Skolkin-Smith
 
Beautiful, Interesting, Poorly Written
Coming of Age in Israel

This book got mixed reviews from members of our book club, but I enjoyed reading it. The author's descriptions of the setting were outstanding, but the characters and plot were a bit weak. We found plenty to discuss nonetheless.

 
Fun, Insightful, Graphic
Story Brings the Painting to Life

I was not expecting this book to be a favorite, and it got off to a slow start, but I was drawn into the story and thoroughly enjoyed it. The discussion generated was even better, and after reading the book, we all wanted to go and see the original painting. This is the kind of book that makes one want to know more, and several members did some extra research on some of the characters. An excellent choice for a club pick!

 
Romantic, Adventurous, Dramatic
Fantasy, love and suspense!

The story was both beautiful and captivating. I was skeptical when a friend recommended this book for young adults, but it truly has something to offer for all ages. Couldn't put it down, and I look forward to reading the whole series.

New Moon (The Twilight Saga) by Stephenie Meyer
 
Adventurous, Dramatic, Romantic
Continuation of the saga...

A bit slower off the mark than Twilight, but things pick up later and the book was fun to read.

Eclipse (Twilight, Book 3) by Stephenie Meyer
 
Boring, Adventurous, Dark
Hooked on the series now...

Although geared for a young adult crowd, the series has plenty to offer to more mature readers as well. The third book offers much more action than the previous ones.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
 
Informative, Dramatic, Adventurous
History, Mystery and the Supernatural

The story is certainly a little dark, but this book offers plenty of suspense, is rich in historical details and weaves a satisfying mystery. Like others, I was skeptical about the vampire elements, but the author really made this work. Lots of elements for a book club discussion.

The Night Villa: A Novel by Carol Goodman
 
Informative
An Archaeological Mystery

The story was a bit far-fetched, but still enjoyable to read. Two parallel stories take place almost 2,000 years apart, both with well-developed characters and settings. The inclusion of myth and historical detail add depth and interest to a suspenseful storyline. Plenty of topics for discussion make this a good book club selection.

My Year of Meats by Ruth L. Ozeki
 
A story of two women and two cultures

This was an excellent and thought-provoking book. Although I read it as an individual, it would make an outstanding book club read. The topics for group discussion are numerous.

 
Slow, Beautiful, Unconvincing
Coming of age in the west

This is not a genre I would normally choose to read, but it was very well written and made for a good group discussion. Beautiful descriptions of the landscape and day-to day events really captured the flavor of these young men's lives.

Shantaram: A Novel by Gregory David Roberts
 
Adventurous, Beautiful, Fun
An epic tale set in India

This was one of my favorite books...very rich in details of both characters and setting. The author's appreciation of the varied people, religions, customs and terrain of India is absolutely contagious. Although this is a very long book, it is a fascinating story, well worth the time. The topics for a book club discussion are numerous and the characters' thoughts on life, love and justice are bound to generate some debate.

 
Adventurous, Interesting, Beautiful
A story of self-discovery set in India

I didn't care for this book. The humor didn't really work and the deeper topics addressed (customs, philosophies and religions of the many ethnic groups in India)were not presented in a particularly interesting way. The book started off pretty well, but never really took off. I found myself skimming some of the chapters and anxious to be done with it. Perhaps, having just finished Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, this other book about India just didn't have a chance... Shantaram had everything this book lacked and would be a much better choice!

 
Account of an 1800s religious cult (non-fiction)

The topic of this book was not of much interest to me personally, but it might generate good book club discussion. Living in Western NY, the local references made the book more interesting than it would have otherwise been. The best part of the book is a surprise near the end, when one of the characters is revealed to be someone all will have heard of.

 
Fun, Inspiring, Optimistic
A story of Self-Discovery

A light story with a little romance, but which generates some thought. Good for a club discussion... it would be interesting to learn what others would include on their lists. Might be a good ice-breaker for a club just starting up.

 
A story of healing

I expected more from this book after reading the synopsis. It was not very credible and read like a light romance novel, although the topical material was fairly heavy. Still, it held my attention and provided a good lead-in to some group discussion. The writing style was somewhat amateurish, but not annoyingly so. Overall, a pleasant easy read, provoking some thought about the way to live one's life to the fullest, overcoming guilt, and healing.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
 
Beautiful, Informative, Optimistic
Enchanting!

Three wonderful parallel stories of women whose lives are linked in subtle ways. The author's narrative is magical, and the characters are so well developed that they seem like old friends by the time the novel ends. The reader is transported to the Virginia mountains and experiences nature with all five senses. A wonderful book for discussion. I didn't want it to end!

 
Story about a socialite turned adventurer...

This was a non-fiction piece that almost read like a novel. In a fascinating story about a socialite turned adventurer, Ruth Harkness leaves Manhattan for the wilderness of 1930s China and leads an expedition to capture and bring back the first Giant Panda. This well-researched work offers an interesting snapshot of the period, touching upon the political unrest in China, the changing role of women, US foreign relations, cross-cultural relationships, and the beginnings of the conservation movement. One comes away with an appreciation of the land, people and culture of China. Great book for discussion!

Bare Bones: A Novel by Kathy Reichs
 
Forensic Anthropoligist Solves the Case!

As a forensic anthropologist herself, Kathy Reichs never disappoints. Her tales are scientifically sophisticated, suspenseful, and she proves a very talented writer as well. Her appreciation for different cultures always shines and she manages to include humor amidst some pretty grisly findings. As an individual read, I would recommend any of her novels highly; for a book club, one might provide a break from some of the heavier works we tend to read and still offer plenty of material for discussion.

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan
 
Informative, Fun
A Well-Done Snapshot of a Mundane Event

This was a very well-written story about a very mundane event. Narrated by the manager of a Red Lobster restaurant that is going out of business, O,Nan recounts the events of the last night of operation. He presents a wonderfully detailed snapshot of the setting and the characters, but while I could appreciate the quality of the writing, it was hard to get past the insignificance of the subject. This provided an enjoyable quick read, certainly provokes some thought and leaves the reader satisfied, but I don't think it would generate much good discussion.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Beautiful
Dunant's Best!

I enjoyed Birth of Venus, also by Dunant, but this book was better by far. In the Company of the Courtesan has all of the lush period detail of Birth of Venus, but the story line and characters are better developed and more interesting. I loved the quirky main characters: a young girl raised as a courtesan who loses everything but her life during the sacking of Rome, a dwarf who is her companion, friend and business partner, and a blind and deformed healer whose story is a mystery. Setting and plot draw the reader into the adventures of these marvelous characters.

Marcelo In The Real World by Francisco Stork
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Beautiful, Romantic
Marcelo In The Real World

Marcelo, a 17 year old young man with a form of Asperger's syndrome narrates this story about the summer he steps outside of the protective cocoon of his family and special school. Stork does a wonderful job relating Marcelo's at first reluctant journey into the "real world" as he takes a summer job with his father's legal firm. The reader meets a naive but very moral young man whose uncertainties force us to do some tough thinking about values. This would be fine book for discussion in a book club. It is a celebration of one individual's uniqueness and the bravery with which he confronts adulthood.

City of Thieves: A Novel by David Benioff
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Dramatic, Interesting
Humor and Hope Survive the Bleakness of Wartime

With an impressive economy of words, Benioff creates an adventure set during the German siege of Leningrad. The story vividly portrays the horrors of the time, but is lightened by marvelous characters who infuse some hope and even humor into a seemingly hopeless quest. This obviously well-researched book was enjoyable to read and generated excellent book club discussion.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Inspiring
Memoir of a Unique Prison

This is a well-written, entertaining and thought-provoking memoir about an entrepreneur and publisher whose ambition and ego lead him to a life of crime and deception. Neil White recounts how his actions caught up with him and landed him in a very unique prison. It was perhaps White's good fortune to be incarcerated at Louisiana's Carville complex where the prisoners share facilities with the country's last colony of lepers. With humor and humility White introduces the fascinating cast of characters who facilitate the process of his self-discovery and rehabilitation. In the end, the skeptical reader is still left wondering how much this very talented "spin" artist has really changed, and how much he is still playing to an audience.

White's memoir would make an excellent book club selection, as there is much to discuss within. A very enjoyable read!

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Gloomy, Difficult
Well written, but gloomy

Read it for book club; otherwise I would never have finished it. I can appreciate the author's talent, and would probably appreciate it even more if I took time to savor the words, but I found I just didn't want to spend more time with this book. The themes were all very sad... hopeless, unfulfilled, frustrated, often sick or dying characters just left me depressed. This was the second Munro collection I tried, and I just don't enjoy reading her, but the club discussion was interesting.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Adventurous
A page-turner!

Sea of Poppies: A Novel by Amitav Ghosh
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Epic, Adventurous
Book One of a Planned Trilogy

This was the start of a marvelous adventure story. Wonderfully diverse characters and settings, with the 1830s opium trade at the center of the story, make Sea of Poppies a fascinating read. As a stand-alone novel, I could only rate this work as "above average". The reader is left unsatisfied and hanging at the end of book one of Ghosh's planned trilogy. While I do want to finish the series, I feel that in a really well-written series, the reader wants more at the end of each book, but can also enjoy each in and of itself. Ghosh is a talented linguist and liberally uses the varied dialects appropriate to his setting. While this lends an authenticity and flavor to the tale, the reader has to work hard to become comfortable with the nautical terms and lascars' lingo. Sometimes the linguistic richness was overdone: I came upon paragraphs reminiscent of Jabberwocky, and this detracted a bit from the flow of the story (I had to stop and laugh!). Overall, this was an engrossing novel, and I look forward to reading the next two.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Interesting
Generated great group discussion

I began this book prepared for a so-so read on a topic that has been done so many times before, racial tensions in the 1960s southern US. It took a while for me to appreciate that Stockett really did take a fresh approach, and that this was as much a book about women in general as it is a book about black maids. After completing the book, I found an interview with the author where she quotes a line from the book which I had noted myself: "Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought." It struck me that this explains a lot about the book's popularity, especially among women. The author highlights so much that is uniquely female, both good and bad, and that women of diverse ethnic backgrounds have in common. So many books about the civil rights movement focus on the actions of white men: the lynching, the beatings, etc. As experienced by these maids, the wrath of the white women was less overt, but longer lasting and no less destructive. A well-written and thought provoking novel. I also feel that a little research on the author really enhanced my enjoyment and understanding of the story.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Life Changing, Interesting
Omnivore's Dilemma

The omnivore's dilemma, as defined by Michael Pollan is the need to choose from among the many potential food sources available, the ones that are safe and life-sustaining. The reader's dilemma, having digested Pollan's excellent book, becomes a compelling need to incorporate the material presented into a new way of looking at food. Pollan combines scrupulous background research, investigative journalism, and his own obvious love of fine food to take the reader on an entertaining journey in which he traces the sources of four very different meals. His narrative ranges from the surprising, to the disturbing, to the humorous, to the almost spiritual. In a very non-judgmental way, Pollan serves up a bounty of information and thought on the subject of how we can make food choices that make sense economically, environmentally, and morally without sacrificing nutrition, taste, and the wonderful traditions associated with sharing and preparing a meal.

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