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My Reviews

 
Dramatic, Insightful, Interesting
How a critically ill child effects the entire dynamics of a family.

JOdi Picoult manages to tackle a topical situation with aplomb. How one child's illness overshadows the needs of the other family members. A riveting sorrowful story that is excellecent for book club discussions. We had 40 attendees for a group and ALL enjoyed this book even if they found the subject matter painful and uncomfortable at times.

The Namesake: A Novel by Jhumpa Lahiri
 
Interesting, Insightful, Beautiful
A wonderful view of the immigrant experience

Our group truly enjoyed this book. The richness of the immigrant experience was one we could all relate to even if we were 2 or 3 generations removed. Lahiri's ability to make us see the difficulty of livin in two different worlds was a theme that ran throughout. Very good discussion book.

The Known World by Edward Jones
 
Informative, Difficult, Confusing
An unusual perspective of slavery

I personally was enlightened by the fact that Blacks were slave owners in the United States. This fact alone would have made this an interesting read but the real story here is one of community. "The Known World" takes place in a fictitious county in VA in the years before the Civil War. The plot is character driven and saga like in form. Discussionof the book brought up civil rights era perceptions of the North and South, issues of why Blacks would own Blacks, economic issues for land owners, etc. Some members had a difficult time with the many characters. I recommend the paperback version since it contains a list of characters at the back to reference and refresh one's memory.

 
Pointless, Boring, Persuasive
Ties that bind women together are never broken

When one member of a college foursome loses her husband she seeks out her college friends as well as a new life to embark upon. Though the footprint of her path is one she dreamed with her deceased husband she follows the outline to learn where her new life will begin. We had wonderful discussions about starting anew after life changes (death, divorce, illness), friendships that are unchanged dispite the passage of time and separation, and living life to the fullest. Highly recommended for book clubs.

 
Informative, Boring, Insightful
An accurate depiction of life in Iran under Fundamentalist regime

Though our book club was not wild about this book, I personally found it quite interesting, though difficult to read large portions at a time. The author/narrator was obviously beloved by her students and a liberal academic in an increasingly intolerant society. The slow errosion of individual rights was reminiscent of other societies (i.e.-Hitler's Germany) and cautionary for our own with the creation of the PATRIOT ACT and its' removal of civil liberties in the name of "protection".

 
Adventurous, Dramatic, Interesting
A captivating exploration of mankind and animals

An excellent book for discussion. The multilayered story line seamlessly takes the reader from the depression era circus life to the despondency of life in a nursing home. Loyalty, love, betrayal, compassion, mental illness all converge in the telling. Highly recommended.

 
Well written, easy read and great for discussions

The characters are well developed though not necessarily likeable;the uber-successful couple who divorce, the lawyer co-worker who sets in motion the divorce and ultimate marriage to the older divorcee, his precocious son, the manipulative ex-wife, etc. etc. The setting is life amongst the priviledged New Yorkers with an emphasis on Central Park to be specific. For anyone who enjoys reading about believeable flawed individuals you will love this book. The author is herself a former lawyer (Wesleyan undergrad, Harvard Law) who started writing when she had her first child. She is the wife of Michael Chabon.

 
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Thought provoking and polarizing in review

Our group of 35 either loved or hated this book....usually a sign of a good discussion book. Most participants were judgemental of David's "secret" but as we continued talking we became less judgemental and more sympathetic to the "secrets" we all keep and the rationalizations we make to keep them. A true example how a secret can change all lives that it touches. Well written, straightforward, good character development, painful, humorous, thought provoking.

 
Very thorough historical novel

There are 35 menmbers in our club so satisfying everyone is tough. Liss did an excellent job of recreating 18th century England and the politics of the time period. It had a good dose of humor and was classified as a mystery/suspense novel. The main character is a repeat from A Spectacle of Paper. Generally a good read but many members found the politics of the Whigs and Tories to be less than riveting. Interesting to draw parrallels to our political climate today.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
 
Inspiring, Insightful, Optimistic
Inspirational reading, good discussion book

Though not everyone enjoyed this book in our club (28 attendees) most were able to see the beauty in the simplicity of the story. A "go for it" in your life book in a fable format. Self-help in achieving your goals without being in the "self-help" section. Personally I enjoyed the book tremendously and will pick it up again

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
 
Informative, Dramatic, Insightful
Thought provoking, topical, portrayal of Afghanistan

Though rather slow to start, once you get through the first 100 pages or so you realize Hosseini is building and enriching his characters so that the plot can advance. A history of the regimes that have occupied Afghanistan since the 70's and the utter disregard, abuse, misuse of the Afghani women. This beautifully written, if not painful, depiction of a country and it's twisted interpretation of the "laws of God". A wonderful book for discussion, highly recommended.

 
Interesting, Inspiring, Dramatic
A harrowing tale of survival

Walls writes an engaging memoir of a childhood that is at best adventuresome and at worst abusive and neglectful. She and her three siblings survive and thrive through multiple moves, starvation, poverty and sn egomaniacal childish mother and a brilliant rage-aholic/alcoholic father. Her open non-judgmental voice allows the reader to form their own opinion. We had 52 at our book club and the discussion was lively.

On Beauty: A Novel by Zadie Smith
 
Interesting, Difficult, Confusing
Race, Class, Deception, and Humor...what more do you want

This novel of multi-cultural, multi-class level life is presented with humor and intelligence. Smith's writing is beautiful and her characters well drawn, even when they seem to be stereotypical. Life in the insullar world of academia with two Black/Multi-racial families lives intertwining is most entertaining. The discussion of this book was very thought provoking. I listened to the book on CD, something I don't usually do, and highly recommend it. The reader was as talented as the writer.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
 
Dramatic, Interesting, Dark
A return to the gothic novel; mystery, debauchery, redemption

An extremely well written book in the Gothic tradition. Our book club was very pleased. EVERYONE enjoyed this book. A little bit of romance, a lot of intrigue, a couple of good twists and a very discriptive narrative. This first novel by a talented writer is not to be missed.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult|Jodi Picoult
 
Insightful, Dramatic, Interesting
Thought provoking, enlightening and necessary!!

Jodi Picoult takes you on a journey back from the horific incident of a school shooting into the mind and heart of the shooter and victims. This book should be required reading for all middle school kids. Bullying is a problem that is nothing new but the way it has manifested in school shootings is a phenomenon of the past decade. Picoult's website has a platform for role playing that looks interesting. My group exceeds 35 people so it was not possible to do this exercise but would like to hear from any group that has tried it.

 
Fun, Insightful, Graphic
Art , History and fiction all rolled into one

Vreeland once again has taken a piece of art and its artist and fleshed out both. Her ability to weave the historical events of late 19th century France to Renoir and his painting makes for an enlivened art history/biography/fiction for the reader. My only suggestion is to print out a copy of the painting and list the characters in the painting so as not to experience any confussion and be able to assign a face to a personality. Our group enjoyed this book very much

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
 
Interesting, Slow, Dark
Thought provoking, topical, unique

Ishiguro manages to mix mystery and morality in this tale of eerie circumstances. Well written with varied subplots. Excellent for discussion due to the subject matter (don't want to be a spoiler). Not a book that you fall in love with but one that makes you question current issues and events and the possibilities and outcomes.

Away: A Novel by Amy Bloom
 
Dramatic, Dark, Poorly Written
An epic tale of survival

Bloom does an excellent job of creating a storyline loosely based upon a character from history. This tale is Dickensian in its nature with a little bit of John Irving thrown in. I loved this book and our discussion was very engrossing. The author, a psychoanylist by profession, approaches the trials and tribulations of the protagonist in a non judgemental manner.

The Reserve by Russell Banks
 
A mystery of the noir genre

Banks has written a fast paced novel Historical Fiction novel filled with class struggle, sex, murder, intrigue,and madness. A femme fatale drives the plot , in the beautiful Aiderondack Mountains of NY, surrounded by the haves and have nots in World War II America. The former blue collar class of society falls into a semi-servant society due to the Great Depression. The wealthy are untouched by the everyday struggles of the townspeople but harbor very dark secrets to save face time and again. A good not great novel but one which was enjoyable and interesting to discuss.

Rise and Shine: A Novel by Anna Quindlen
 
Living life in NYC

Two adult sisters livinging divergent lives in NYC. One is a high powered wealthy married co-host of the #1 rated morning show. The younger of the two is a free spirited single head of a not for profit agency. When Meghan, the toast of NY, makes a comment off mike her whole life turns around. A good if not great book on the relationship between two sisters and the dynamics of birth order on our lives. The perspective of NY from the poorest to the most elite is accurate and enjoyable.

Run: A Novel by Ann Patchett
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Inspiring, Insightful
A tight short novel

Patchett once again writes a clostrophobic novel set in a 24 hour span. The themes of race, religion, class,and family intertwine in an easy to read thought provoking novel.

A Mercy by Toni Morrison
 
Book Club Recommended
Difficult, Confusing, Dark
A Mercy by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison has written a prequel to Beloved in A Mercy. Set in 1690 America, everyone is enslaved to something or someone. Only 170 pages but with 5 major charachters and their points of view it can be confussing. I had to read it a second time in one sitting to really appreciate the specialness of this work.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Graphic, Confusing
A Brief Wondrous Review

This book has a lot of humor.Believe that part of the writer's point was to make the reader feel like an outsider by the use of slang Spanish as well as "game/book geek" knowledge. Too many footnotes though helpful with the storyline took away from the continuity of the story.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Adventurous
Page Turning Mystery

Our book club rarely does a mystery that is as fast paced as this one. I read the book in one sitting. The characters were well developed, the history informative, the story addictive. I pride myself on being able to unravel a mystery but was fooled by this author. Very highly recommended and enjoyable

 
Book Club Recommended
Confusing, Adventurous, Slow
Mystery in Sitka

Michael Chabon is one of those writers who can take the written word and turn it into vivid technicolor photos. His dystopic history of the Jews of America sent off to a remote area Alaska brings to life 19th century Jewish shtetl life with 20th century innovations. The old clashing with the new. The lead character is Philip Marlow with a yarmalke. An enjoyable read, noir mystery. A basic understanding of Yiddish is helpful to truly appreciate all the double entendres, but you can still get the story without it.

ABSTINENCE TEACHER by TOM PERROTTA
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Fun
Welcome to the neighborhood....now go home

This is an excellent book for discussion groups. Evenly balanced portrayal of the the intersection of the proseletizing religious with secular America. No heavy handed pedantic opinions just a humurous look at suburbia and all the characters that inhabit its confines. Lonely adults, searching teenagers, and a mixed bag of emotions to discern populate Perotta's pages.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Romantic, Optimistic
Very Valentine:A Novel

Trigiana is fun to read. You will enjoy her sensual look at New York and Italy. Her love of these places is evident in her writing. You will never look at a pair of shoes again without thinking of the Roncalli family and their handmade shoes. There is no thinking or analyzing to be done. Its a confection of a book to be savored. Bon Apetit.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Fun
A dark part of history given with a spoonful of sugar

Shaffer gives us a thorough depiction of the occupation of Guernsey during WWII in episolotory form. The horrors that abound are molified by the dry wit in the letters exchanged. Many WWII novels are graphic and painful heart-wretching stories. Though all the details are here the format makes the telling go down like a creme brulee. Don't miss this one for your club.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Adventurous, Graphic
Walking on the dark side

A murder mystery which points to Lisbeth Salandar, our heroine from Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, as the murderess. Mikael, is instrumental in clearing her name but the seedy side of traficking in human flesh is uncovered. A fast paced adventure that will shock and entertain you every moment.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
 
Book Club Recommended
Pointless, Insightful, Beautiful
A lack of Communication

Two young people who want so much to make a perfect mariage forget step one....communication. A fear on both of their parts sto let the other party know what their desires are leads to a very dramatic breakdown on the honeymoon. Words I would use to describe this book are uncomfortable, squirmy, frustrating and yes brilliant. McEwan makes the most of every word in this slim volume. There is comic relief worthy of Monty Python, Horror that is as graphic as Stephen King and background of characters like only He, McEwan the master can give. Excellent for discussions.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Interesting
The South at it's finest

A well written novel of taking place inJackson Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement and the attitudes of the towns people i.e. Whites as opposed to the experience of "The Help" i.e Blacks. One of "the ladies" decides to step out of the bounds of the rules and write a book about how the help is treated in this southern town. A very enjoyable book and great for discussion of Civil Rights and the changes over the past 50 years.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Interesting
An eye-opening immigrant experience

This historical-fiction novel by See is a realistic portrayal of the Asian immigrant experience. Such a different story than the European immigrant has to tell. A sad commentary on the prejudice of the US towards the Chinese and their difficult plight and determination to assimilate in American society as well as maintain their culture. The bonds and betrayal of family are at the forefront of this very moving, enlightening novel. Tremendous discussion book.

Falling Man: A Novel by Don DeLillo
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Difficult
Tough but worth the read

I have never read DeLillo before. He is regarded as one of the great post-modern writers. The style was a difficult read and getting to the end was challenging. The last chapter gives meaning and understanding to the book. In retrospect, i could not have tolerated a novel about 9/11 that was light and breezy. Delillo captures the numbness of a family in the aftermath of the tragedy. The inability of the protaganist to move on in his life after having been in the north tower during the attack is realistic and moving. Again, a difficult read but our discussion of the book was fantastic. If your club is up to reading literature and enjoys taking apart a book than this is a book you should consider.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Informative, Interesting
a life unraveling

A look at Alzheimer's from the patients perspective. Still Alice is not a book written in beautiful passages but is information driven. Genova is a scientist by trade and her writting is somewhat clumsy but the subject matter ...WOW! She describes the unraveling of the life of a brilliant woman at the top of her career in a competite academic environment. We watch as her priorities change as her disease progresses. The reactions of her three children and husband to her disease and the different ways each of them deal with and react to her situation is quite believeable. A heartbreaking story of loss of self.

Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Beautiful, Interesting
Chick lit for the quilting set

A decent read, very easy, no thinking involved. A story of friendship, hope and life in the gold mines during The Depression. This is not prize winning literature but it is enjoyable and fun. This book was originally suppose to be a collection of short stories and the disjointed writing reflects the attempt to merge the stories into a novel. The characters are well drawn and you are drawn into their community.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Beautiful
Family secrets

Lahiri is an excellent writer whose characters are well drawn and interesting. The 8 stories in this book deal with family and secrets. One or more of the family members are Indian, some 1st generation others 2nd. The immigrant story and cultural clash comes through in all the stories. Recommend for book club discussion.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Optimistic, Inspiring
....Getting what you need

CeeCee is a delightful precocious 12 year old who has been dealt a bad hand of cards....an all but absent father and a loving mother who is psychotic. Living life in Ohio during the mid-60's and filled with shame everyday is a struggle. Until she goes to live with her Great Aunt Tootie in Savahnnah. CeeCee is enveloped in the love of a Black housekeeper Oletta and a cast of characters who heal CeeCee and themselves in the process. A delightful book along the lines of the Secret Life of Bees.

The Confession: A Novel by John Grisham
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Persuasive, Dramatic
The legal system in action

Grisham, though not one of my favorite writers, presents a very accurate look at the appeal process. All the backroom deals, police misconduct, benign neglect that is fostered upon citizens who are charged with death penalty crimes. If you are unaware of The Innocence Project, it is an organization that has worked to have exonerated over 175 individuals by DNA. In other words, convictions of the wrong individual happen all the time.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
Cells for the masses

Henrietta Lacks, poor, black and gravely ill gave cells from her cervix unbeknownst to her that have changed the course of medicine for all individuals. A compelling graphic study of the advances in medicine, the family she left behind and the monies made by everone on her cells but the Lacks family. Science made easy to understand and a human face placed on the immortal HeLa cells.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Beautiful, Dramatic
A tough read but worth the journey

I have never read Erdrich before but it is easy to see why she is regarded as one of America's great literary writers. The Plague of Doves was short listed for the Pulitzer in 2009. The author weaves a complex, character driven story of relations between Native Americans and white settlers over three generations set in North Dakota. The book opens with a horrific murder of a pioneer family and the unjust hanging of 3 innocent Native Americans by white men. The characters are complex and well drawn. Erdrich writes very beautifully and her humor is laugh out loud funny. The book is not linear so it is sometimes difficult to keep the flow going. Those members who read the book through twice benefitted most.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Inspiring, Brilliant
Life's lessons from Enzo the Dog

A delightful book filled with quotable inspiration delivered with humor by Enzo. This book in the hands of a less skilled writer could be maudlin and depressing but Stein takes difficult life situations and makes them funny and poignant by having the narrator being a dog who aspires to be a human in his next life. A definite "don't miss". I haven't met anyone yet who didn't enjoy this book.

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
 
Dramatic, Insightful, Informative
A molotov Cocktail

This is a very poorly written book. The characters are not well developed therefore making it hard to relate to a bunch of stick figures. I am a fan of historical fiction and the scenes which dealt with Russia during World War II were informative but again, poorly written. I moderate a book club as well as being a participant in another. I was going to do this book with the book club I moderate; I am grateful that I did not chose this weak sappy novel but only had to tolerate it with my friends. A major disappointment don't waste your time.

 
Book Club Recommended
Confusing, Slow, Interesting
Complex but beautiful

This book is a difficult read. If you\'re looking for fluff don\'t read it but if thought provoking discussion is what your club enjoys go for it. It is complex in nature and style. Obreht moves from the literal to magical realism failrly seamlessly. Her lyrical writing will take you away. She takes on the difficult subjects of life, death and the different ways cultures/ethnicities/people deal with them. Our book club came away liking it much more after we discussed this multi layered novel. A book that begs to be read again because there is just too much to ingest on one reading.

 
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
this book should have gone down with the Titanic

Poorly written unconvincing love story masquerading as historical fiction. Danielle Steel survives on he Titanic. A complete waste of time. some interesting facts about the Congressional hearings but don't waste your time reading this go to titanicarchives.com and read the transcripts.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Slow, Interesting
once in a lifetime book

Tartt has been compared to Dickens in her writing. Here she has written a literary thriller. Each sentence propels you with interest to the next. The multi layered symbolism slowly unfolds in this coming of age story of the tragic Theo Decker. It's a big book but not one word is wasted. I defy you to read it and then not immediately start rereading the beginning. One of the most beautiful books I have ever read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Boring
A FAMILY FABRIC

Tyler gives us the "typical" family. There are four generations of Whitshanks with the emphasis being on the elder three. The founding family has a special dysfunction that is kept under wraps until the second part of the novel. The bulk of the novel is about the son of the founding father and his wife and children. The characters aer well drawn. The dialogue is witty and fun. The novel is best deconstructed. Reading it straight through and expecting a revelation will leave you wanting but as you take apart each character and peel back the onion of the veneer you see a beautiful brilliant fabric.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Confusing, Difficult
A Literary Masterpiece

Groff has the ability to turn a phrase like few authors. Her elegant prose in succinct readable sentences is truly beautiful. There are so many levels to this book. You can read it as you would any work of fiction just skimming the surface. You can submerge your head and see all of her obvious metaphors or you can dive to the bottom of the deep end if your knowledge of literature is broad and get every last morsel of deliciousness. A gifted writer like few.

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Dramatic
Pissaro's mom was a bad ass

We follow the life of Rachel Pomie Petit Pizzaro, mother of Camille Pissaro. From St Thomas, VI to Paris France we learn of a determined woman, whether it is love or life, willing to fight for what she believes. An arranged marriage with 3 children, a widow with 4 more, she marries the nephew of her deceased husband, much to the displeasure of her Jewish religious community. A family tale of the most unusual circumstances. Historical fiction with a touch or magical ralism. Delightful

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Fun
A nest broken in twigs

Four siblings, four life paths all looking for their anticipated inheritance. The oldest and most irresponsible makes an ill conceived decision that leads to tragic consequences draining the inheritance. What ensues is the unraveling of lives and lies. Lies people tell to themselves, their spouses, their siblings. A well written flowing read. One step above a beach read.

A God in Ruins: A Novel by Kate Atkinson
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Brilliant, Beautiful
A Literary Masterpiece

Too often a writer of literary fiction tries to impress the reader with their command of the English language and wields it like a sword over the less erudite. Atkinson is able to write some of the most beautiful prose in a truly accessible manner. I have never read any of her work before but I am anxious to read the companion piece, Life after Life.
I have read many novels and non-fiction about WWII. No work has touched me and made me experience the war so viscerally. I can't say enough good things about the writing, the characters and the style. Each chapter contains the past, present, and future. this style though unusual becomes evident as to why it was employed in the final chapter.
I moderate a book club in a library with over 50 participants the 2 hours allotted for the club was just not adequate for the amount of input. READ THIS BOOK!!

A Gentleman in Moscow by AMOR TOWLES
 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Brilliant, Insightful

 
Boring, Poorly Written, Informative
Too long, too boring

This book is poorly written. The story is inspirational but the writing is so poor and it drags on and on. The opening chapters and closing chapters are worth reading. This woman had to fight a lot of racism, sexism and xenophobia to achieve. This book reads like a YA bio not an adult biography.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Sleeping while Black

Jones deals with a well know problem of being falsely accused and incarcerated if you are a black male in America. She doesn't stop there though. She weaves a story of class, money, ambition and abandonment. Done in primarily an epistolary style it allows the tension between the characters to build. You feel empathy for all the characters and resolution though not neatly tied up in a bow is satisfying. An excellent read.

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