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My Reviews

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Interesting
Couldn't put this down!

Most members of our group loved this book, including me! The subject matter lends itself to lots of discussion on various themes (racism, the roles and expectations of women, family dynamics, etc.). This is Hillary Jordan's first novel, but she was mentored by Barbara Kingsolver and the book is very well written. Chapters are written in the voices of several characters, which really lends insight into their thoughts and feelings. Given the themes and certain events in the book, it is not a fun read, but it is compelling. I couldn't put it down!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Interesting
A favorite!

Our members really enjoyed this book -- I loved it! The voices of the women are pitch perfect. I hated to say goodbye to the characters when the book came to an end. The historical context added to the authenticity of the book and the times. The book also prompted a lot of discussion on the themes and how they relate to the personal experiences of some of our members.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative
Well worth reading

The author is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who teaches a popular class on the same subject for non-science majors. This book is a great read for anyone interested in exploring the scientific facts behind topics like nuclear energy, terrorism, space exploration, global warming, and alternative energy. It is not a fast read, but the topics are covered in a conversational style and designed to be of interest to the lay public -- with the hard-core math and other more technical information relegated to footnotes in the back of the book. As another reader says in a quote on the book jacket, this book could also be entitled "Physics for Useful Citizens." Well worth reading.

The Prospector by J. M. G. (Jean-Marie Gustave) Le Clezio
 
Book Club Recommended
Epic, Beautiful, Insightful
Beautifully written book by Nobel Prize winner

This is one of those books I never would have picked up on my own, but it came highly recommended by an independent book store in our area. The author, who won the Nobel in 2008, is French, although he also lives part-time in New Mexico and Mauritius. The story takes place in Mauritius from the 1890s through World War I. I admit being annoyed by repetitiveness, and by the focus on description rather than action -- perhaps a cultural bias -- but his descriptive language is beautiful and mesmerizing. Le Monde refers to the book as a "parable of the human condition" -- the central character's attempt to find his treasure and get back to the idyllic existence of his youth. Even with the little annoyances, I couldn't stop reading this book. It gives us a glimpse into another culture and time, an insightful view of WWI, and a sampling of world literature.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Interesting
Book better than movie

We read the book and viewed the movie at our meeting. We all liked the book. The themes (including conceiving a designer baby to help another with a life-threatening illness) are thought provoking. Although the movie followed the general plot of the book, it didn't have the same depth. The characters weren't fully developed, which left it just mostly sad. More surprising, the ending was totally different -- more predictable, but kind of flat. I'd recommend reading the book and skipping the movie.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Interesting
A favorite!

I love this book! It has an epic sweep, from Haile Selassie's Ethiopia to the immigrant experience in New York, from medicine in an Ethiopian mission hospital to public health in America. The descriptions bring the locations and characters to life -- I had a hard time reminding myself that it was fiction. The medical descriptions range from sensitive to hysterically funny. I was also fortunate to be able to hear the author speak two nights after our book review. His depth and humanity and humor was as evident in his talk as it was in his book. This is a must-read!

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Insightful
The human side of history

I like books that bring history down to a human level -- that teach me something about history but from the perspective of everyday people. Sarah's Key brings to life the role of France and the Vichy police in the round-up of Jewish families in the summer of 1942 from the perspective of a young girl, and connects that with the impact on two modern-day families. An interesting and worthwhile read for book clubs.

Into the Beautiful North: A Novel by Luis Alberto Urrea
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Adventurous, Interesting
New twist on current topic

This book addresses the immigration issue from a different perspective: a small Mexican town needs its men back from the U.S. to protect it from thugs. It is told with interesting characters, who demonstrate the heartbreak, poverty, and humor of the situation. I didn't attend this review, but I understand it provoked a lot of discussion on both sides.

 
Informative, Dramatic, Adventurous
Not my cup of tea

Our group was nearly evenly split between those who loved the book and those who didn't. I didn't. On the plus side, it is an interesting aspect of the Civil War -- Jewish spies on both sides. And as one of our members mentioned, the book did a good job of "normalizing" the characters -- showing all as good and bad, flawed in their own ways. On the down side, I thought the first half read like a romance novel. I was particularly annoyed by certain phrases repeated often and throughout the book (e.g., Southern young ladies tucking errant curls behind their ears, our "hero" seeing things from his one good eye). The situations often seemed implausible, although as some members mentioned, that is part of the point -- are we the same people from one night to another.

Brodeck by Philippe Claudel
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful, Dark
A thought-provoking read

"Like" is a difficult word to apply to this book. While beautifully written, the topic (man's inhumanity to man) is very difficult. The location and time are never specifically identified, but it becomes clear as the story unfolds. The book is thought-provoking and provoked a lot of discussion. In addition, there are glimpses of love, friendship, and humanity in the face of horrible circumstances.

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Dramatic, Interesting
Wisconsin Gothic

Interesting period piece in the Gothic tradition. A story of loneliness, love, family dynamics and interrelationships set in an isolated Wisconsin town.

 
Interesting, Slow, Informative
The realities of Puritan America

This is not the Puritan America we were taught in elementary school, with friendly Indians sharing their corn with the White Men at the first Thanksgiving. This book is a terrific amalgamation of extensive research that serves to bring a giant dose of reality to the years following the Mayflower's voyage. On the other hand, only those most interested in the details of this historic period will truly "enjoy" the book. Many of us found the detailed account tedious and the various individuals, tribes, and battles difficult to keep straight.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Inspiring, Dramatic
Compelling account of slave life in 1700s

This is a story of the slave trade and life for the slaves as told by one woman who was stolen and sold into slavery at the age of 11. It puts a human face on the brutality and cruelty, as well as the ability of one girl/woman to survive. Our group enjoyed learning more of the period, particularly the relocation of loyalist slaves to Nova Scotia and, later, to Sierra Leone.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting
How to succeed at anything

Book gives various examples and "how to's" that show that talent is not the most important factor in success at anything. This book clearly relies on same research as "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, but is more a how-to for individuals and organizations. Interesting and informative.

Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
 
Fun, Pointless
Split Decision

Some members thought this was LOL funny; some thought it should have remained a blog.

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Informative
An original view of the Holocaust

The central character in this book is an iconic house in Brno, Czech Republic, by architect Mies van der Rohe, and specifically, The Glass Room. The story follows the original Jewish family that built the house, and the various people who pass through after they flee the Holocaust, including Nazi genetics "researchers."

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
Readable medical nonfiction

Fascinating story behind the discovery of HeLa cells: the poor Black Southern woman whose cells were taken without her knowledge or consent, and used in research that led to many life-saving medical breakthroughs. Lots of good discussion on bioethics, racism, poverty, and education. What is acceptable in order to obtain potentially life-saving medicines and procedures?

West with the Night by Beryl Markham
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Beautiful, Inspiring
Beautiful memoir of Africa and flight

I admit only two of our group really loved this book; most found it slow-moving. But it is a beautifully written memoir by a significant woman in history -- Beryl Markham, the first person to fly non-stop from East to West across the Atlantic, describes her life in Africa, from childhood to training race horses to bush pilot, culminating in her flight across the Atlantic. Even Ernest Hemingway gave this book high praise, and it is considered one of the best travel books of all time! A must read!

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Informative
Women's History in our time

This book gives a great overview of the women's movement since the 1960s. Women who came of age during this time will especially enjoy reading about events we witnessed, as well as learning what went on behind the scenes. The book also gives younger women some perspective on how far women have come in this short time. I loved the book!

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