Member Profile

Name : Sara B.
Occupation : Branch Services Librarian

My Reviews

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Dramatic

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Fun, Optimistic

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Optimistic, Insightful

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Beautiful, Dramatic

Exit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid
 
Interesting, Insightful, Beautiful

 
Graphic, Dark, Interesting
Interesting, But Not Book-Club Worthy

Although the topic was interesting, the details and pictures were a bit too graphic for some members of my general book club. Also, it did not stimulate much discussion.

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Slow, Informative

Anxious People: A Novel by Backman Fredrik
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Interesting, Insightful

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Insightful
Not for Me, But Good Discussion

The Boston Girl is a meandering, confusing literary stroll... but it does prompt great discussion and is generally well written.

American Dirt: A Novel by Jeanine Cummins
 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Dramatic, Adventurous
Contentious - But a Possible Modern Day Classic

Despite the controversy surrounding this title, I found it to be a thought-provoking, stunning literary novel. When not taken as an explanation of fact, it certainly has potential as a future classic.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Romantic, Beautiful
A Classic Gothic Romance

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Adventurous

One of Quinn's most recent historical novels, this fascinating glimpse into the workings of Bletchley Park seamlessly weaves together real characters and events with fictional. Although a lengthy book, it is easy to read, well written, and carries the reader effortlessly through war, espionage, and a bit of romance. The three main characters are developed with great thought and care, and I loved seeing how Mab especially grew into herself. The dual timeline heightens anticipation as past and present move nearer to one another. The mystery, the primary plot of the book, is unexpected and filled with twists and turns. As Quinn brings the reader through the horror and triumphs of war, as well as a variety of cultural issues, the plot thickens and pulls the reader into a sure grasp. Despite the occasional tragedy, the novel (and characters) feel real and intimate. Quinn might be overextending herself in treating so many issues of the time frame - racism, sexuality, women's rights, mental illness, espionage, abuse, and more - but it mostly works well together.

 
Unconvincing, Poorly Written, Interesting

In this debut novel, author Asha Lemmie explores a unique aspect of history: mixed race children of American soldiers in WWII Japan - and, in an even more complex twist, children of African American soldiers. I was excited going into this novel, and Lemmie's talent with writing is obvious, but I was disappointed that the subject matter was not explored more deeply. The novel lacked the complexity and richness it had the potential for, and the ending of the novel was anticlimactic, disappointing, confusing, and not a little out of character for the heroine. Overall, I have mixed feelings regarding this title. While Lemmie is a wonderful writer, her story lacked depth and the conflict was drawn out. The relationship between the main character and her brother bordered on incestuous - and emotionally abusive, or at least unhealthily controlling. There was so much more that this novel could have been - an exploration of societal, cultural, and racial issues... a saga of a young woman who rose above her childhood trauma and social constraints to become a better woman than her predecessors. Instead, her rise to greatness - or at least betterment - was at once stunted and confused by uncharacteristic decisions and unrealistic responses to severe trauma. Acceptance of unethical social mores seems to underlie Lemmie's plot, as well as a lack of concern for historical accuracy or depth. Significant historical events and issues were brushed over or completely ignored, implying that Lemmie did the bare minimum of research, something that I find borderline unethical when dealing with issues that are so little known to begin with - her opportunity to educate through literature was ignored in favor for what one reviewer called "tragedy porn". Certainly this was a novel filled with emotional conflict, but acumen in depicting character growth and the process of emotional maturing was obtrusively lacking.

Moloka'i: A Novel by Alan Brennert
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Inspiring, Interesting

In this historical novel, Alan Brennert (known previously for his comic book writing and more professional ventures) explores the cultural and social issues surrounding the leper colony on Moloka'I, Kaluapapa. In the early 20th century, a 7 year old girl is sent to be quarantined on the colony site. Little does she know that a lifetime of the most unexpected mix of tragedy and anguish await her. Touching on cultural issues such as Father Damien, the different Christian denominations seeking to help the lepers butting heads with native healers, World War II, the stigma surrounding leprosy, and more, the length of the novel is justifiable. Brennert shows exquisite empathy and captures the perspective of a girl - who then grows into a young woman - surprisingly well. I enjoyed the overall plot and characterizations, despite the regularity of tragedy (suitable given the context). However, there were a few plot points that seemed thrown in for no apparent reason. In addition, there seem to have been occasional inaccuracies in cultural details (I noticed a few discrepancies in the portrayal of Catholic clergy and nuns, but they were minor). It is difficult to achieve perfect accuracy in such a far-reaching novel, so it only takes away somewhat from the novel. This is a great choice for book club discussions!

The Guide: A novel by Peter Heller
 
Pointless, Unconvincing, Poorly Written

I dislike writing wholeheartedly negative reviews, especially for local authors, but I find myself more than frustrated with this novel. It is my first read of Heller's, and it has left a poor enough taste in my mouth (and mind) that I am reluctant to try even his bestselling Dog Stars. In order to be most fair, I'm simply going to list what I disliked most about this book, after listing the qualities I did enjoy. Of the things I appreciated, the accuracy of the author's descriptions of outdoor activities, particularly fishing and horse training, is at the top of the list. The author obviously knows about the beauty of these activities first hands. Secondly, I did appreciate that there was backstory to the main character. Of the things I did not like (at all), there were far more than what I enjoyed. You won't know it until you run across it, but there are some spoilers to Heller's earlier The River throughout this book. The main character, Jack, is the same main character as The River. Second, but a personal preference, is that I disliked the style of writing. While some described it as lyrical, the majority was some of the most prosaic writing I've ever read, with sentences abruptly short and sharp. While descriptions of fly fishing are indeed lyrical, the rest of the book seems to be abrupt in changes of topic, perspective, etc. Third, the language. Again, this is largely a personal preference. However, the excessive, gratuitous use of foul language turned me off early on. If I hadn't been reading this for a book club, I'd have stopped within a chapter. The problem is not simply that there is language, it is that the foul language does not serve a literary purpose. All characters swear regularly and in the same way, no matter what region of the country, cultural, or social background they come from. Not all cowboys emit such language from their mouths in every sentence, nor does every other individual in the world. Characters become more and more shallow as their personal style of speaking is not conveyed. When all characters speak and think the same, it does nothing to improve the plot. Fourth, the plot itself was thin. It seems to me as thought it is a rewrite of The Island of Dr. Moreau - except, the island is now a fishing lodge in the Rockies, and the beasts are men themselves (although they are perhaps more accurately described as monsters and vampires). Yet there is little to explain why the atrocities that happen behind the veil of the lodge's blissful-looking surroundings actually occur. Why the two lodges? Why hire unknowing guides instead of invested employees? Why was the former guide killed? What about the boots? What about Shea's mother? Who is Alison, and why is she there without prior knowledge? So many unresolved plot points, as well as the fact that the mystery itself seems trite yet disturbing (I wasn't anticipating some of the nauseatingly violent scenes), make it a poor work in my opinion. (Also, why in the world would someone not immediately die after being shot in the chest by an AR-15?!)

The Library Book by Susan Orlean
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful

Orlean explores a case of arson in this ode to libraries unlike anything you've read. Part investigative journalism, part homage to books, part historical sketch, the stories of Los Angeles' central library intertwine with the story of the suspected arsonist who caused one of the largest library fires in modern history. Beautifully written paragraphs describe everyday scenes that paint the heart of the Library are sprinkled amidst Orlean's interviews with former library directors, the suspect's family, library employees, and arson investigators. The solution to the crime isn't so important as the impact of the fire (and the library) itself. Although a nonfiction book, Orlean's writing sweeps readers away into a delectable world of intrigue, history, nostalgia, and hope. She captures the essence of libraries, their staff, and their patrons in a way that is honest and more poetic than prosaic.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Informative, Adventurous

Klara and the Sun: A novel by Kazuo Ishiguro
 
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Interesting, Confusing

A complicated and disturbing science-fiction novel, Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun explores what it means to be human from the eyes of a near-human AI "Friend". Klara is hand-picked to be the Artificial Friend Josie, who suffers from some unnamed malady. Past tragedies are revealed as Klara learns from flawed humans what humanity means… and her ponderings bring her closer to humanity herself.
Ishiguro is undoubtedly a gifted author. However, this befuddling mix of science-fiction, philosophical wanderings, and a tinge of dystopian horror left me feeling disturbed, unclean, and frustrated. Bare-bones world building make the plot difficult to understand, confusion abounds not only in Klara's mind but in the reader's, and too many questions are left unanswered or answered in a way that seems hurried and unsatisfactory. It's clear Ishiguro and I disagree in terms of philosophy, but more than that… the work seems pointless and despairing, a kind of white flag on humanity. And honestly, half the time I'm wondering what is happening. This one is a 'no' for me, but it certainly made for good discussion in our book club!

 
Book Club Recommended
Life Changing, Inspiring, Insightful

The Paris Library: A Novel by Skeslien Janet Charles
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Epic

West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Inspiring, Beautiful

In a beautifully written ode to life, to youth, to mistakes, to hope, Rutledge marks her spot as an inspired author. A tiny piece of history comes to vibrant life in West with Giraffes, an adventure following a teenage boy on the verge of becoming a man in the middle of the heartbreaking desperation of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. Woodrow Wilson Nickel - more commonly known as Woody - is struggling at 105 to remember his youthful adventure across the country with a pair of wonderfully exotic creatures… but something tells him its critical that he does. So he begins to write his story… it all begins with a hurricane that tosses the simultaneously powerful, hardy, and unbelievably fragile pair of young giraffes that will forever change Woody's life. As characters from his past haunt his memories, Woody is transported back in time. Transported back to driving a group of unlikely characters across a broken and ravaged country, trauma from his hometown coming unexpectedly nearer by the mile.
Rutledge's story doesn't just tell Woody's story, or the story of the Hurricane Giraffes - she tells the story of a country fighting to hope amidst the worst times. She tells of Black hotels, of newly paved mountain roads, of ramshackle trucks and of hopeless hearts finding second chances. She tells the story of us all, and we find that the love we find for Woody and the giraffes encapsulates the love we have for our unlimited potential in this life. Fear and hope intermingle in this tenuous race to save giraffes… and one boy hungry for a home.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Brilliant, Scary

The first book I've read by Chris Bohjalian, The Red Lotus was an excellent introduction to this talented author. A thrilling and eerie novel that takes readers from the US to Vietnam and back, from the emergency room to research labs, from young love to deadly conspiracies. A web of lies is revealed after Alexis, an ER doctor, discovers her boyfriend of less than a year has died on their bicycle tour of Vietnam. A deadly pathogen is on the verge of being let loose… but only a few know, and Alexis isn't (or is she?) one of them. Bohjalian ties together multiple themes - relationships between parents and children, the effect of the Vietnam War/American War on both countries, and the development from ignorant greed to complicit immorality - seamlessly throughout the book. Although I'm not completely shocked by the ending, it was satisfying and somewhat eerie considering when Bohjalian wrote the book (in association with the pandemic).
A few points to keep in mind for fellow readers in terms of content: there is talk about past self harm and self-harm thoughts throughout the book (it is done well, and does not glorify it, but can be hard to read), and there are rats (A. Lot. Of. Rats.). Language and violence are present but minimal.

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