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The Gathering: A Novel by Anne Enright
 
Boring, Slow, Gloomy
Confusing and somewhat raunchy

I have nothing against Irish domestic drama fiction, but the detailed physical descriptions of bodily functions did nothing to draw me into the story, and my book club agreed that we were fairly repulsed. The Gathering has a stream-of-consciousness feel to it, and the confusing, drifting, plot lines made the book hard to discuss.

 
Interesting, Informative
Could have been better

Our book club agreed that the information in the book about how economic hit men have affected recent events in several countries around the world was much more interesting than the author's story of his own background and involvement. Several of us were bothered by the narrator's voice and his self-aggrandizement. The book was long on self-importance and short on verifiable facts.

 
Adventurous, Interesting, Informative
Characters that stay with you

Jim Fergus gives us an unusual, intriguing story with memorable characters. Everyone in our group enjoyed it.

 
Informative, Interesting, Inspiring
More high spirits than hard times

A nice change of pace if your club is looking for something a little lighter. We enjoyed the recipes and descriptions of life on the farm, but wished there had been more of a story and more introspection/reflection about rural life, instead of just the author's memories.

 
A classic that should not be forgotten

A Death in the Family is a thoughtful look at the death of a family member from multiple perspectives. The book also touches on what it means to be a child and on how differences between families and within families affect us. There are humorous touches as well as poignant passages that almost break your heart. Our book club agreed (almost unanimously) that this book is one of the best we have read in a long time.

 
Informative, Insightful, Interesting
Hard to describe but led to an interesting discussion

This book is hard to categorize but each of the senses gets its own chapter and the author, in a somewhat rambling style, discusses the sense in terms of its physiology, biology, history in arts and literature, and her own experience. Although some of us objected to the writing style (too many tangents), the book does make you look at your own sensory experiences differently and we had a good discussion.

The Somnambulist: A Novel by Jonathan Barnes
 
A wild ride

One of the best things about this book is the way the author blends elements of different genres (mystery, fantasy, science fiction, thriller) to create his creepy world of deranged characters. While there were some loose ends in the plot, we enjoyed the quirkiness and character development.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Insightful
History from a young girl's point of view

For many of us, this was the first graphic novel we had read, so it was a new experience to both read this memoir and also review the illustrations. Persepolis is easy to read and provides a good basic history of Iran, so it's a good introduction if you don't know much about the country. The story is told from a young girl's point of view which gives interesting insight into regime change, revolution, and war.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Difficult, Insightful
Serious but thought provoking

This classic in the women's studies genre was a dry read, but led our book club to a discussion of the choices women must make in the areas of career, life, and family. Although the writing style did not thrill us, the book did spark a good discussion.

Straight Man: A Novel by Richard Russo
 
Brilliant, Fun, Pointless
Didn't care about main character

The majority of our club could not relate to the main character, didn't appreciate the writing style, and didn't think the book was very humorous. This was not a good book for discussion as most of our members did not finish the book they disliked it so much.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Inspiring
Kinder, gentler environmentalism

The book alternates chapters about the author's family life and family tree with chapters about the native plants and animals existing in the south Georgia environment where she grew up. Ms. Ray has an aspirational view of ecology and environmentalism. I enjoyed the hopeful tone of the book, and a couple of our members had read the book more than once and enjoyed it the second time.

Cat's Cradle: A Novel by Kurt Vonnegut
 
Confusing, Boring, Difficult
An acquired taste

Cat's Cradle is definitely not for everyone. The book has several sub-plots that do not lead anywhere and it was hard to care about any of the characters. My book club decided that the book was an important one for its time (early 1960s) and would have carried more weight in the pre-Vietnam era. Now it just seems a bit dated and dark.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Dark
Can't believe this is a true story

This is a nonfiction book that reads like a novel. A very detailed account of late 1800s Chicago and the events surrounding the 1893 World's Fair and a series of murders committed in close proximity to the fair.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark
Plot twists galore

This is a good beginning if you are unfamiliar with the spy thriller genre, as we were. The plot twists were intricate and make you think.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative
She was Oprah before Oprah

Madam CJ Walker, an uneducated descendant of slaves, became the world's richest black woman after creating her own hair care empire at the turn of the century. She is a worthwhile figure to learn about.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dark
If you're looking for a romantic love story, this isn't it.

It's hard not to be annoyed/repulsed by the book's main character, Maurice Bendrix. The first part of the book is his depiction of a love affair marked by jealousy, obsession and selfishness. The second part of the affair is mainly from the point of view of the female lead character, and her feelings were easier to understand. The themes of religion, mysticism, and jealous love made for a good book club discussion.

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Romantic, Dramatic
You will want to read this more than once

A wonderful story of an unlikely romance set in World War II and post-war Australia.

 
Book Club Recommended
Persuasive, Interesting, Informative
Don't know much about history

This book will make you reevaluate (or at least discuss) what you learned in history class and why. We agreed that the book seemed repetitive at times and somewhat lengthy but prompted a good discussion about the author's conclusions and our own experiences.

 
Poorly Written, Boring
This book is not funny

We expected some humorous observations from a national park ranger. Instead, we got detailed descriptions of the parks themselves and very little humor. The comedic timing was off, and the humor (if you can call it that) was very old fashioned. Think Mr. Rogers meets Smoky the Bear.

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Beautiful
Characters that draw you in

Reading these stories about the intertwined lives of Pakistanis leaves you wanting to learn more about the culture and country.

 
Book Club Recommended
Confusing, Interesting, Adventurous
The Godfather of New Age

The author's life is more interesting than the book, but it's a good read if you're interested in the origins of New Age writing or just want a look at a book that was popular among college students in the late 1960s/early 1970s.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Graphic, Interesting
A flawed family gets into funny situation

We decided this book is the guy version of chick lit, since it is centered on a family of flawed but funny characters who get themselves in funny situations. Some of us had issues with the main character but all agreed that there were funny situational moments.

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Inspiring, Dramatic
Interesting memoir

A fast read that will make you think about your own childhood and the way your parents have affected your life and taste for adventure.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Interesting
Shanghai Girls

Without giving too much away, the ending is very abrupt. However, the beginning of the book with the details of Shanghai was interesting. We wished there had been more bright spots in an otherwise dark depiction of the lives of these two sisters.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
A fascinating glimpse into North Korea

The author's narrative, casual writing style gives an illuminating look at what real life in North Korea has been like for the past twenty years. The stories of the North Koreans profiled are inspiring rather than depressing. We learned more about North Korea from this book than we had ever learned anywhere else.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dark
A real thrill

We do not usually read mysteries, and for several in the club this was our first foray into the world of Nordic mysteries (such as the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo series). What a pleasant surprise. Arctic Chill really evokes a winter in Iceland and the mystery was full of interesting detective work and a good mystery combined with good writing.

Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Dramatic, Interesting
More inspiring than you would think

An inspiring account of how a rape victim picks the wrong man out of a lineup leading to him spending 11 years in jail for a crime he did not commit. In the end, the victim and the man she accused become friends. An inspirational book about our justice system and forgiveness. We wish the writing had included more in-depth descriptions of Ronald Cotton's emotions and time in prison.

 
Interesting, Epic, Adventurous
Not for everyone

Although for the most part we enjoyed this book, I don't think my book club would recommend it to others, unless you have a real interest in philosophy, ancient languages, or Portugal. An interesting read but difficult to discuss.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Dramatic, Confusing
Secret Scripture

The writing style is beautiful, if a little hard to get used to at the beginning of the book. You will want to read to the end to unravel the mystery of the main character's life. What an interesting character and history of her life and of Ireland.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Interesting, Dramatic
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

A fast read once you get used to the style. The characters were engrossing and a great portrait of that era in Trinidad. Lots to discuss for book group discussion.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Adventurous, Dark
The Odyssey meets the Old West

This is a really quirky, compelling tale of two misfit anti-hero brothers who roam the gold rush-era west on a journey to carry out their assassin-for-hire missions. The family history and dynamic of the two brothers is very well fleshed out and both of the brothers are so interesting and real that you almost feel like you have met them somewhere before. One of the main characters continually finds himself questioning the direction of his life and his ethical choices along the way. A very interesting read.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
 
Adventurous, Interesting, Brilliant
Pompous and pointless

Our book club read this several years ago and no one liked it. The author's tone is smug and he seems to want to hit the reader over the head with whatever metaphysical point he is trying to make. It was hard to tell what that was. What was meant to be deep and thought-provoking came off as confusing and pointless. I gave this book away after reading it because I didn't want it in my house anymore. I would not read anything else by that author.

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell
 
Great voice but not much to sink your teeth into

My book club all agreed that the author has a great humorous voice and a wry outlook on difficult life circumstances. However, there weren't many details of her daily life as a cook for well-to-do families in 1920s England. For example, we wished there had been more accounts of the meals she served or what the big houses looked like.

 
Story interesting, writing style not

R.A. Dickey's story could be inspiring but the way it was written got in the way of his message. We wanted to try a sports-related book for a change, but we weren't crazy about this one.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Slow, Insightful
Interesting topic for conversation

Although a bit disjointed at times, the author raised many points about habits and how they affect our lives. More information/research-based than self-help in style.

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