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My Reviews

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Adventurous, Interesting
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Our club really enjoyed this book, and we all said we would be interested in reading the sequels. We found it really funny and we especially enjoyed Flavia's relationship with her sisters. The only complaint was that sometimes you could tell this book was being written by an adult, but overall the author was believable as an 11 year old girl.

 
Fun, Difficult, Dark
Doesn't live up to the hype

Our club had definite and differing opinions on this depending on whether or not we'd read the original. One member gave up after 50 pages because she hated the way Elizabeth was portrayed. Another member, who has never read the original and is a great fan of zombies, enjoyed it. Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book, and I have to admit that this one just didn't live up to its hype. The zombies grew old fast and except for a few scenes (notably Lady Catherine's interrogation of Elizabeth at dinner) Jane Austen wrote it much better. There were definitely times that dialogue was changed to dumb down the text or for no apparent or zombie related reason.

The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
 
Adventurous, Graphic, Informative
Russian Concubine

This was not a favorite of my book club. While we all agreed the storyline itself was quite interesting, especially since it is partially based on the real life story of the author's mother, the writing itself was found to be trite. One member of our group has spent an extensive amount of time in China, and felt that the setting was historically accurate. I was surprised at how neatly everything was resolved at the end, and that it would end as happily as it did.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Interesting
Great Choice for Book Clubs

This engrossing novel is told from three different women's perspectives in 1960s Mississippi. Each has their own distinct and well-developed voice, and reader's will find themselves identifying with all three. It's funny, sad, poignant, and ultimately optimistic. I feel that Stockett is taking a portion of the civil rights era that is not as well known, outside of the south, and giving all those women a voice. She shows all sides of the relationship between women and their maids, along with the impact on the children being raised by them.
An author's note at the end explains her motivation for writing the story, which one member of my book club thought would have been more effective at the beginning. The only other complaint was the somewhat open-ended ending.

 
Fun, Optimistic, Insightful
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

When Precious Ramotswe opens the first female detective agency in her small town she has no experience, but she more than makes up for it with her intuition. She solves many crimes usually within one chapter that range from infidelity to kidnapping.
Yet before any of the action begins McCall Smith takes the reader through both her previous history (did she really have to be a battered wife?) and that of her father. This section coming right at the beginning can be off-putting. That along with the lack of a central mystery and the fact that it appears that almost all the men in Botswana are creeps kept me from really enjoying this novel.

Virgin of the Rodeo by Sarah Bird
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Fun
Virgin of the Rodeo

Wench: A Novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Informative
Wench

Every summer white southern men bring their slave mistresses to a resort in Ohio. Lizzie is one such mistress, and she is fairly content with her lot in life. Her master Drayle treats her well, teaching her how to read and moving her into his house, but she never knows when something will happen to send her and her children back to the slave quarters. In Ohio she meets other slave women like herself, but everything changes when they meet Mawu, who's determined to change their lives.

The history behind this book is fascinating, and Perkins-Valdez really brings to life the struggle these women faced because of the psychological and physical hold their masters had over them and their children. Lizzie is especially conflicted because Drayle is a much kinder master than most, and she's afraid of upsetting the balance of her life if she attempted to escape. Full of well developed characters and historical details it's an enjoyable read right up until the open ending that falls a bit flat compared to the rest of the book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Pointless, Confusing
Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
The Writing on My Forehead

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Insightful
Sarah's Key

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Interesting, Inspiring
Half Broke Horses

The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula Mclain
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Insightful
Paris Wife

My book club generally enjoyed this one, although some found Hadley a little too passive. She allows Hemingway to get away with a little too much as she attempts to save her marriage. It was interesting to see how Hemingway climbed to fame, and how easily he both drew people to him and pushed them away. I wished there was just a little more information about her life after Ernest, but other than that an enjoyable and informative read.

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

This is heartbreaking, yet ultimately life-affirming and hopeful. Starting in the late 1800s the reader is taken through the history surrounding the US's acquisition of Hawaii and the leprosy quarantine. Brennert intertwines the lives of his fictional characters with these real events and the lives of people who were there. Rachel's personal story is extremely heartbreaking as she has to give up her family twice in the story, yet her perseverance throughout and the somewhat happy ending redeem the story.

Sharp Objects: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark, Addictive
Sharp Objects

 
Unconvincing, Slow, Pointless
Everything is perfect when you\\\'re a liar

Fever: A Novel by Mary Beth Keane
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
Fever

Mary Mallon was an Irish immigrant living in New York City in the beginning of the 1900s. As a talented cook she was constantly in demand and had cooked for some of the richest families in the city. She was also extremely healthy, and was known to nurse several of her clients back to health from various illnesses. Then in 1907 her world came crashing down. A doctor determined that she was an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever. She was immediately quarantined on North Brother Island, and kept there for several years as they performed a battery of tests on her. When her lawyer finally secures her release it is with the stipulation that she stop cooking. Faced with disagreeing information and difficult choices Mary makes a series of decisions that have far reaching ramifications.

This is a fascinating fictional account of the real "Typhoid Mary." Mary is portrayed as a sympathetic character, especially in the beginning when she was stripped of her basic rights and had to fight to have her case heard in court. Yet as the story goes on, and Mary becomes aware of the illnesses she may inadvertently have caused it becomes harder to view her in a favorable light. This point generated an interesting discussion in my bookclub. Like Rebecca Skloot did in the nonfiction title The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Keane has brought to life a forgotten piece of history, and raised questions about medical ethics.

 
Poorly Written, Informative, Confusing
Interesting Premise but uneven delivery

Here finally is the untold story of what happened behind the scenes of the space program during the 50s and 60s. It was a time of intense competition yet fierce loyalty, and astronauts and their wives lived under the intense scrutiny of both NASA and the world. The wives felt they had to conform to the ideal image projected to the world while raising their children virtually single-handed (the astronauts were away from home a lot, and even when they were home were not always \\\"present\\\"), and making their husband\\\'s lives as stress free as possible when they were home. The astronauts, in the mean time, were seen as celebrities and found themselves surrounded by women. While a few marriages were able to withstand the strain most of the couples ended up divorced.

While the information is fascinating the way it is presented makes it extremely hard to enjoy it. While I understand Koppel\\\'s decision to include information about all the wives involved in the program it made it hard to remember any of them. The conversational writing style that attempted to be from the wives perspectives just didn\\\'t work. Ultimately an interesting premise but an uneven delivery.

The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons
 
Slow, Interesting, Dramatic
The House Next Door

Colquitt and Walter Kennedy have an idyllic life in their beloved house in the suburbs of Atlanta. Then a house is built next door on a previously vacant lot. Initially they are annoyed, but they become friends with the architect and find the house to perfectly fit into the neighborhood. Then mysterious and horrible things begin happening to anyone who moves into the house, and the Kennedy's begin to believe that the house is the root of the evil . . .

The horror of this story creeps up on the reader as the mundane details of rich suburban life give way to unspeakable horrors. Each set of new neighbors comes with new issues that are only compounded by the evil of the house. Throughout Walter and Colquitt seem almost above it as Colquitt states time and time again that she and Walter are an extremely strong unit who need only each other; which only serves to annoy the reader. Almost shocking is how Walter and Colquitt ultimately play right into the house's hand and on flimsy evidence too! The epilogue does almost nothing to bring closure to this at times disturbing, but ultimately dull tale.

Lucky Man: A Memoir by Michael J. Fox
 
Book Club Recommended
Optimistic, Inspiring, Informative
Lucky Man

Michael J. Fox chronicles his life before and then 10 years past his Parkinson\\\'s diagnosis. He takes readers through his childhood in Canada and his early acting success and then failure and then success again on the show that not only launched his career, but also made it possible for him to even stay in the the US. He discusses his family, his feelings about celebrity, and how he finally came to terms with his disease. There\\\'s a lot of interesting information here for those who know little about his life, though the frequent jumping around in time makes it hard to follow at times. Though he had his jerky moments it\\\'s nice to see that the persona he projects on screen is not that far from how he is in real life- a genuinely nice person.

Longbourn by Jo Baker
 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Interesting, Beautiful
Longbourn

The premise of this book sounded great, but my interest was almost immediately lost by all the boring, gritty, and frankly depressing details of Sarah's life. I gave up reading it after about the first chapter, and I only came back to it and finished it because it was selected for my book club. I adore Pride and Prejudice so I was disappointed that so many of my favorite moments were skipped over, barely mentioned, or worse we were left shivering in the cold with the servants while the family went in to a party! [author:Jo Baker|965819] seems determined to include everything that could have possibly happened in that time, especially things that Austen chose not to write about, and it's all too much. Plus the back story towards the end was much too long. I felt her depiction of Elizabeth at the end of the novel was not in keeping with the spirit of Austen at all, but otherwise what events from Pride and Prejudice that are touched on appear correct and her other characterizations are fine(though I'm still on the fence about how I feel about Mr. Bennet's storyline). The servants reaction to Mr. Collins was among the more enjoyable aspects, and Sarah's story, in a way, was an alternate ending for Jane's story. Readers looking for more insight into P&P are better off skipping this, but readers looking for details about what life was like during that time period won't be disappointed. It sparked an interesting discussion at my book club though, so I would recommend it if only for that reason.

The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard
 
Book Club Recommended
Mourning Hours

Kirsten's idilic life as the youngest daughter of a farming family in rural WI comes crashing down when her brother's girlfriend goes missing. He was the last one to see her, and to make matters worse she disappeared during a snowstorm. The Mourning Hours traces the family's journey as they come to terms with the tragedy and gradually drift apart. Then years later they are drawn back together . . .

Kirsten's nine year self seems a bit to adult (our group decided she must be looking back at the story now that she is an adult). The action is extremely slow in the first part of the book and extremely detailed so it's really jarring when you reach the action packed barely detailed ending. All in all an interesting look at how something ripped out of the headlines might actually effect a family.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Interesting, Adventurous
Girl with All the Gifts

This is a fresh take on the zombie genre that inspired good discussion.

 
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Interesting, Informative
Astonish Me

This book sparked a lively discussion at my bookclub.

 
Informative, Poorly Written
Push Not the River

The writing style kills this story along with the almost cometic way everything that could go wrong does go wrong for the main character, making it an almost unbelievable story. It\'s really too bad as the history here is interesting and the story is based on the diary of a real woman. I am interested to know how much of this tale was fact vs. fiction though. It\'s the first in a trilogy as well.

 
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Unconvincing, Pointless
American Ghost

This is more of a family history and less of a ghost story, but the history is interesting.

The Martian by Andy Weir
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Dramatic, Fun
The Martian

Mark Watney has found himself trapped on Mars with no way of communicating with earth, and no hope of rescue. He perceivers and begins to plan what he can do to survive until the next group of astronauts lands on Mars.

Obviously this book has been all over the place recently, and I've heard it recommended as a good pick for most readers. I was a little apprehensive at the start as I felt the initial math and science were a bit hard to decipher, but once the book got going it was really enjoyable. In between Watney's diary of his days are sections from various NASA employees perspectives as they work to bring Watney home. It was a fun read for my bookclub.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Dramatic, Interesting
The Weight of Blood

Mystery has surrounded Lucy's life from almost the moment she was born. Her mother was a newcomer to their small Ozark town when she married Lucy's father. Then right after Lucy's 1st birthday her mother disappears without a trace. Now 17 Lucy's interest in her mother's disappearance takes on new urgency when a local girl's body is found a year after she went missing. Lucy begins to investigate the murder, and as she digs deeper her whole world is upended.

The novel is told in alternating chapters mostly by Lucy and flashback chapters from her mother's point of view. The rest of the chapters are told from several other character's points of view. While what happened to Lucy's mother was predictable I did not see the present day killer coming. The conclusion is not entirely satisfying, but the reader is left knowing almost everything that happened. Lucy, on the other hand, knows barely more than she did before. According to an author interview I read this story was loosely based on a real crime in her hometown.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Insightful
The Boston Girl

Addie Baum's life is chronicled from her birth in 1900 in the tenements of Boston through her journey to her 85th birthday. She's influenced early on by the Saturday Club she joins, and those friendships last a lifetime.

This is a quick read that seems only to superficially touch on the issues of the day. The author has said in interviews that she uncovered a lot of information while researching and it shows here. Most interesting to me was how much was it was based on real information. Rockport Lodge was a real place for girls to vacation, the Saturday Club and its activities were real, and even two of the characters were based on real people. I would love to read a nonfiction book on many of the subjects in this book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Scary, Graphic
Head Full of Ghosts

This title definitely sparked a lot of discussion which is why I recommended it. It is graphic at times, and the blogger voice can be off-putting. Some members of my club did not find it well written, and it leaves several questions unanswered.

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Slow, Confusing
Lake of Dreams

Lucy has finally come home years after the drowning death of her father. She's at a crossroads in her own life, when she discovers that the family story she has always known holds secrets. She begins to investigate her history discovering ties to stained glass windows, woman's suffragette movement, and just maybe the key to her future.

This was a quick read, and you could tell that Edwards put a lot of thought into the unfolding of the plot. Parts of the end are a bit rushed, there are a couple of 2 dimensional characters, and Lucy's ultimate journey doesn't actually show a lot of growth in the end. Still this highlights some interesting history, and I raced to the ultimately satisfying ending.

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Interesting, Inspiring
Wild

When this book first came out I thought about reading it, but was turned off by Strayed's lack of training for her hike. Then it was chosen for my bookclub, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it really wasn't too bad. Yes, the beginning made me want to throw it across the room, and she continued to make some questionable choices throughout, but once she started to meet people on the trail, becoming a better hiker along the way, it became more interesting. It's actually the PCT and those who hike it I found most interesting, and I wanted to learn more about what's like to hike now since Strayed's hike took place in 1995. Strayed intersperses stories from her past with her account of hiking the trail giving the reader a deeper understanding of what lead her to the trail. There were several times I was surprised by her lack of emotion or thought about certain weighty subjects while she ruminated for hours on others. Overall it's a good discussion book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Informative, Interesting
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Christopher can keep a large number of facts and math problems straight in his head, but he struggles to read people's faces. When his neighbor's dog is killed he decides to investigate, like his favorite detective Sherlock Holmes, even though his father wants him to stop. What follows is less a mystery and more about Christopher discovering new things about himself and his family.

This was an extremely quick read. I got a little bogged down with all the math, though there's an appendix at the end with the explanation of all the problems. The path of the story is a bit unexpected yet still satisfying, but those hoping for more of a mystery will be disappointed.

 
Interesting, Insightful, Informative

It was great on audio, and it's read by the author.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Fun
Eleanor Oliphant

This book sparked a really great discussion for our club.

 
Fun, Interesting, Adventurous

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