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My Reviews

 
Book Club Recommended
3 1/2 Stars for After You

3 1/2 stars. As a child, The Secret Garden was one of my favorite books, so I was very easily drawn in reading the synopsis of what this book would be about. Part love letter to The Secret Garden, part redemption and renewal story, I enjoyed the time I spent with this book and its characters. I particularly loved the way that Julie Buxbaum talked about books and reading. I readily identified with Ellie, or at least what I think Ellie must have been like. While I mostly really enjoyed the characters and the story, a tad too neat, tidy and somewhat predictable ending kept this from being a 4 star book for me. Having said all that, I look forward to seeing what else Julie Buxbaum will write. I'm sure I'll be reading more of it.

Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Interesting
Beautifully Written Book

This is a really beautifully written book about a difficult and painful all too true reality. I was initially drawn in by the very spare description offered up of the story and I'm truly glad I was. I won't spoil the story as the publishers have asked that I don't. I will just say this is a book well worth reading.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Informative, Interesting
Remarkable - A Striking Portrait

Alice may be fictional,but that makes her no less relevant in any way. Alice will stay with you long after you put this book down, and she SHOULD. This account of a woman in her 50's diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease is remarkable, in that it's an account from the point of view of the person with the disease. A striking portrait from the inside looking out. This may well be as close as one can get to experiencing this disease the way a person who has it does. Genuinely and profoundly moving, this is a book everyone should read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Informative, Beautiful
Lovely Story

3 and a half stars. This was a lovely story, but the conclusion felt rushed. Parts of the narrative were really beautifully written and the story was well told, I just wish the ending didn't feel as if it came on so suddenly.

 
Dramatic, Interesting, Adventurous
Maybe It's Just Me - Just OK

I read the rave reviews of this book and I know it's landing on lists of top books of the past year and I really wanted to love it. I didn't love it, I just liked it. It was just OK. I know there are 2 more books that Stieg Larsson wrote and delivered when he delivered this one. I don't know that I'll bother with reading them. This book took quite a while to get going and even once it did, it still felt like it dragged at times. Nothing seemed like a stunning plot twist to me and it was difficult for me to get really invested in the characters.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Fun
Unique Perspective

Written in the form of letters back & forth, this book tells the tale of the people of Guernsey in the Channel Islands during the German Occupation. It's a story of survival and strength and how a love of art, and more particularly a love of reading sustains one through a difficult time. It's a story told from a unique perspective and a different way of experiencing the pain and the sorrow suffered during the war and the occupation, as well as the strength,the rebuiliding and renewal of these people's lives after the war.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Inspiring, Beautiful
Touching Story Told With A Unique Voice

A touching story told with a unique voice, that begins with a moment that changes everything.

 
Interesting, Romantic, Unconvincing
I Wanted to Love This Book - I Didn't

2 1/2 stars. I so wanted to really love this book. I don't get the overblown comparisons to Jane Austen at all, but that didn't draw me to it, nor did it put me off, I just don't get where this comes from. With cookbooks and a rare books store supposedly central to the plot, coupled with a relationship between sisters, I expected to love this story. Turns out there was too much going on and none of it hung together very well. Many of the characters were somewhat trite and cliche. Having said that, there were some truly beautifully written passages and that kept me going.

 
Book Club Recommended
More Than Just Willy Wonka

Jerry Silberman - fencing instructor, watercolor artist, cancer survivor. Gene Wilder is so much more than the funny guy we know from the movies. In a simple, direct, straightforward way, Jerry Silberman paints the picture of how he became Gene Wilder, including the story of that particular name. We learn that some of the films we've come to know so well and love were box office failures. Gene Wilder takes us to therapy with him and shepherds us through Gilda Radner's illness and death as well as through his own bout with cancer. Although it would have been enough for those of us who love Willy Wonka, this memoir shows us, Gene Wilder is so much more.

 
Book Club Recommended
Sweet, Delightful Book

Marlo Thomas does a wonderful job with this memoir. Stories of her childhood growing up among some of the legends in the comedy world woven in among interviews with today's comedians made for wonderful reading. Thomas treads the line very carefully between telling her own story without allowing it to become all about the other famous people, particulary her extraordinary father, Danny Thomas. This is a sweet, delightful, book, much like Thomas herself.

Russian Winter: A Novel by Daphne Kalotay
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Slow
Interesting & Compelling

An aging Russian ballerina with long buried secrets is auctioning off her collection of jewels. This story unfolds slowly and gracefully as we learn Nina Revskaya's back story along with her secrets and connections to other characters in the book. The details about an artist's life in Soviet Russia were both interesting and compelling.

 
Book Club Recommended
Difficult, Confusing, Boring
We Should All Have A Friendship Like This

We should all experience at least once the kind of life-altering friendship that Cathie & Denise shared. Everyone should had a friend who has your back no matter what, who teaches you something without it feeling like a lesson, who shows you the world through new eyes, who you can laugh with, cry with, even fight with and yet know, there is nothing you cannot do and cannot say that will change the bond between you. Cheap Cabernet is a story about that just that kind of friendship.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Informative
Interesting Take on the Restaurant World In Unique Voice

I love spending time with Anthony Bourdain. He's wickedly funny while at the same time being quite a good writer. It was interesting to get his take on the business, to hear his stories, in his unique voice. Bourdain loves food and that really comes through in this book. He's both a terrific storyteller and quite a good writer. It's hard to beat that combination.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Interesting
Artfully told story of life in the early 1960's American South

Once in a great while a book comes along that, as the story unfolds, you can't wait to keep on reading, and yet, you don't want the story to end. The Help is that book.
Early 1960's, Jackson, Mississippi. Told in the alternating voices and from the perspectives of 3 women.
Aibileen- Kind and wise. She ensures that her young charge, Mae Mobley builds her self-esteem and knows love in a household where her Junior League mother seems distant and cold.
Minny - Her sassy wit and feisty candor often finds her at odds and in trouble with those who employ her. Yet we find this bravado is a veneer shielding her fear and vulnerability while she fiercely defends and protects her friends.
Eugenia aka Miss Skeeter - While negotiating the shark-infested waters of the Junior League and high society, and simultaneously trying to build a career and her independence, she works to tell us some very compelling stories and teach us the lessons that come along with them.
Their stories, the stories of the American South in the early 1960's,come together to illustrate that our differences, the things that separate us, aren't quite so many or so overarching as we might at first think.
This artfully told story and these women should stay with you long after you close this book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Poorly Written, Informative
Absorbing & Artfully Written New York Story

There's something really wonderful about sitting down with a Steve Martin book, ok there are several really wonderful things about it. It's always pleasantly surprising what you take away from his work. His keen insight and sharp wit blend beautifully to take you places you aren't expecting. It's always a real joy to read whatever it is he happens to be writing.

Juliet by Anne Fortier
 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Adventurous, Dramatic
Over-reaching and a tad convoluted - still not a bad story

I wanted to like this book a great deal more than I did. It was a bit too ambitious and broad in scope and I think that's what did it in. By the end it was Raiders of the Lost Ark meets trying-to-be-Shakespeare meets The Davinci Code. Scaling some things back would have been more effective, and characters who were more multi-faceted instead of so one dimensional and cliche would have been more interesting as well. More descriptive prose about Siena and the historical aspects would have been better than over-reaching attempts at writing in a Shakespearean style. Having said all that, I'll take the blame somewhat as this really isn't a bad book. It simply wasn't what I was expecting, and perhaps my expectations were off.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Dark
Intriguing Mystery Wrapped Within the Story of a Family

Some of my best book finds have come in airports when I'm under a serious time crunch and faced with a relatively limited selection to choose from. Faithful Place was one of those finds. I hadn't read Tana French's past 2 books so I was going solely based on the synopsis on the back cover.

Compelling, intriguing and well written, this mystery kept me engaged and in anticipation of what happened next, both with the criminal case and with the Mackey family. While it didn't have the relentless pace of a thriller, the unraveling of the central plot was intriguing and the characters were relatable, making for a truly enjoyable read.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Insightful
Poignant Beautifully Woven Narrative of Two Women

Of all the many things we know and we've learned about the Holocaust, it's shocking and sad that the round up at Vel' d'Hiv is so little known, seems like a dark, hidden secret. De Rosnay weaves the stories of the two women in this book, Sarah & Julia, together quite beautifully and seamlessly. Although 60 years separate them and their stories, Julia is haunted and compelled by what happened to Sarah and her family and is determined to do whatever she can to learn, to atone and to remember. This is a story that should stay with you long after you read the last word and close the cover. It behooves us to never forget.

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Interesting
Compelling Story Told from Unique Perspective

3 1/2 stars. Compelling yet at times quite difficult to read. This story is unique as it is told from the German perspective. I'm naturally drawn to read things from this period of history and I've often wondered about this partiular perspective as you don't see it very often. The story of this mother and daughter, what they go through, what they've learned, how they've honored the memories and carried the burden and responsibility of having the stories of those who lived through those times told, is both poignant and disturbing. Blum's prose was at times quite lyrical and beautifully written. On the other hand, for me, at times, the sexual content seemed to be too much the focal point and the descriptions a bit more graphic than necessary. Otherwise this book would easily have earned a 4 Star rating.

Strangers at the Feast: A Novel by Jennifer Vanderbes
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful Social Commentary Mixed with Gripping Family Drama

Vanderbes deftly weaves historical fact, relevant current events and the story of one family's Thanksgiving. This book manages to be part insightful social commentary, part suspenseful mystery and part family drama and no part suffers in deference to any other. It asks the questions how do you define home and family and how far would you go to protect and defend them.

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Optimistic
Corrigan's Story Told Intertwined With That of Her Father

4 and 1/2 stars. Kelly Corrigan tells the story of her diagnosis of breast cancer intertwined with the story of her beloved father's recurrence of bladder cancer with wit, grace, charm and aplomb.

 
Book Club Recommended
Quaint, Engaging Story of Sisters During WWII

Berg does a nice job with this story of 3 sisters writing to soldiers during WWII. Done partially in epistolary style it's a quaint, engaging story of devotion and family.

 
Book Club Recommended
Confusing, Difficult, Dark
Brilliant - Neil Gaiman at his best

One of the reviews for this book said "You long for writers like Neil Gaiman...." and I have to say, at least in my case, that could not be more true. The way Gaiman creates unique characters and the worlds they inhabit, and the fact that they are out of the realm of the ordinary but you effortlessly and completely become engaged with them and consumed by their world makes reading his work the kind of experience you rarely get but so often crave as an avid reader.

American Gods is a journey and a metaphor and an exploration of a life and a world, and so many other things all rolled into one. It's quirky, complex and brilliantly written. In short, it's Neil Gaiman at his best.

At one point in the book this passage appears
"Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes....and in the world beyond the tale, we turn the page and close the book, and we resume our lives."

And so I close this book and resume my life, but I do so enriched by the journey Gaiman took me on while I read it.

 
Book Club Recommended
Confusing, Interesting, Insightful
Complex & Unique - Different from anything else

It's difficult to describe this book in any fashion that could make you truly understand what it was like to read it or precisely what it was really about and that is exactly why I liked it so much. Completely different from anything I've ever read. Richly complex, powerful, moving and genuinely unique.

Restoration: A Novel by Olaf Olafsson
 
Book Club Recommended
Enjoyable, beautifully written passages

3 and 1/2 stars. Olafsson writes eloquent passages in this story that takes place in Italy during the war. This may be a case where my expectations were greater than what I got. I suppose I expected more descriptive prose relative to Italy and to the art-related information. Still, there are beautifully written passages and I did enjoy the story.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Boring, Interesting
You Can't Help But Love Tina Fey

I love Tina Fey. She's intelligent, she's witty, she's one of us. I think that's why we love Tina Fey. She's one of us. She came from nowhere, worked her tail off and made a good life for herself and her family. And she did so in a spectacularly hilarious way. Or maybe it's just that she perceives it and writes it that way. Either way, I can't help but admire that.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
Fresh New Take on the Story of the Titanic

Having been a journalist herself, it's not surprising that one of the central figures in this story is a journalist. It is precisely that character that takes this fictionalized account of a survivor from the Titanic in a fresh, new direction, one we haven't seen or one we've seen very little of in the past. Through the eyes of the journalist and the apprentice dressmaker, the title character, we see an imagining of what might have happened in the aftermath of the survival. From accounts drawn from actual testimony from the inquiries, a story of the lingering effects of that event and the choices survivors made both during the disaster and in the aftermath is sketched.

Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore
 
Fun, Interesting, Informative
More or Less Mediocre

Ok, so you've got a book that's a mystery and it involves art and artists and it's Christopher Moore so it's going to be brilliant and hilarious, right? I thought so, but as it turns out . . . . not so much. I wanted to really love this book but I only more or less just liked it. This was a book that took a long time to get started and then once it picked up somewhat it still kind of plodded along. Moore can and has written other things that are much better.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Informative, Dramatic
Enjoyable if formulaic

Daisy Goodwin provides an enjoyable if formulaic tale about a young American woman with a social climbing mother who takes her to England to utilize their vast fortune to "buy" her a title.

When our protagonist falls off her horse landing quite literally at the feet of a Duke, the story begins. Goodwin deftly takes us on the journey along with Cora. While the characters were somewhat stereotypical and more or less one-note, this is a well written story.

A light, easy read.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Dramatic
A Very Different Kind of War Story

Some stories don't get told. Some you hold on to. Perhaps it should also be said that some stories hold on to you. Long after you turn the last page and close the book, the people from within those pages and their stories linger. This is one of those stories. It's a story about the power of words, the written word, spoken words, voices and how they carry our history and our stories. Told largely though the eyes and voices of women, this is a very different kind of war story and it is indeed one that will stay with you and hold on long after you close the cover, tuck it neatly into the dust jacket and set it on the shelf. The words, the voices, the story will hold on to you.

Gone Girl: A Novel by Gillian Flynn
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark, Interesting
2 1/2 Stars - Extremely Well Written However Despicable Cast of Characters Makes It Difficult to Like

Gillian Flynn is one hell of a writer. She's also an extremely skilled storyteller. It is undoubtedly an achievement to people a story with such unlikeable characters and yet keep your reader hanging on, turning page after page, eager to find out where the narrative is going to go. Flynn does just that. Every time you think you have things figured out, you don't. Having said all that, the despicable behavior and nature of the characters and the unraveling at the end, in my opinion, into cliche, made it difficult for me to like this book more than I did. 2.5 stars

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Insightful, Beautiful
The Power of Books & Reading

“We're all in the end-of-your-life book-club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.”

Ask anyone who knows me at all and they will tell you I am a reader. Oftentimes other words precede reader, words like voracious or avid. From the time I was a very young child I was enamored of books. They were treasures for me. They took me to places I might otherwise never go. So it will come as no surprise that I was drawn to this particular book.

"What are you reading?" With that question, one we've all asked and answered many times, Will Schwalbe invites us to vicariously join his book club of just two, Will and his mother, Mary Anne.

It's the story of a son and his mother and the book club they form as he accompanies her to appointments for chemotherapy. It's a story about family, and courage, and grace in the face of pain and loss. And, it's a story about the power of books to open conversations, to forge connections and to take us on journeys.

The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula Mclain
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Insightful
Beautifully Written Hemmingway Tale Told From Fresh Perspective

3.5 stars for this well written story told from the perspective of Hemmingway's first wife Hadley. By all accounts, there has been much written about Hemmingway, so finding a unique, fresh perspective from which to tell the story is difficult at best. McClain did just that and did it beautifully.

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Insightful, Epic
Eloquenty Written Lovely Juxtaposition

It's always a strange and lovely juxtaposition when a book about such a horrific subject is so beautifully & eloquently written. Julie Orringer is masterful with her prose and the story unfolds in a compelling manner. This is one of those books that you don't just read, you inhabit the world along with the characters and they and their stories will stay with you long after you leave them.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Confusing
Titantic, the onset of war & how one family copes with both

A beautifully written tale of a family coping with the aftermath of Titanic, the onset of war and the myriad daily trials that come along with both of them.
Howe's prose is superb and the story moves at just the right pace as it traverses a vast territory moving back and forth in time to provide the background for the ongoing story of the family members, their history & its ties to the present situation.

 
Book Club Recommended
Part Travelogue, Part Spiritual Quest

Paulo Coelho effortlessly draws you in to this tale of a man on a quest to recover his connection with his spiritual side. There are some truly beautifully written, eloquent passages. Part travelogue, part embarking upon & examining the spiritual side of the protagonist's life this is a journey well worth accompanying the characters on.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Humorous Exploration of Living with Anxiety

The Buddhists have a term for excesses of thought & emotion. They call it Monkey Mind. If you've ever suffered from anxiety you know exactly what that is & what it feels like. You can't stop the constant barrage of thoughts that lead to sometimes debilitating emotions & it's all a vicious cycle. Daniel Smith titles his memoir of living with anxiety with that same Buddhist term.
With his sense of humor firmly intact, Smith explores & describes just what it has been like when he experiences bouts of anxiety, how he dealt with it & how it informs & influences his life & who he is.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Inspiring, Insightful
Insightful, Inspiring Story Putting a Face on the Headlines

Part history lesson, part memoir, part inspirational narrative, this is a book well worth reading. The first half, which is the background sets the tone & provides perspective. The second half is where you really get to hear Malala's voice as she tells her story. Witnessing the events of history through the eyes of someone who lived it is always fascinating for me. Putting a face & giving a heart to the headlines is what Malala does with grace as she shares her perspective & story.

The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten
 
Book Club Recommended
Promising if Melodramatic

I would give this book 2 1/2 stars. I really wanted to like it more than I did. The premise was promising & it does start off in a truly gripping fashion. The backstory is quite fascinating. I've always been enamored of the time period in which the backstory takes place & finding anything with a new take on that is always interesting.
As I noted, while the story hooks you early on & is well written it tends to degenerate into soap opera schmaltz at times.
The ending is a little too convenient & it's hard to buy into the idea that the protagonist could change her mind so easily about how she feels about those responsible for the heinous acts perpetrated upon her & her family.
The history behind this story is what saves this book.

The Prisoner of Heaven: A Novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
 
Book Club Recommended
Dark
Zafon Does NOT Disappoint

4 1/2 stars. Zafon does not disappoint in this 3rd in the series of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. His narrative is always eloquent & witty, his characters richly drawn & the stories so engaging. This story may well be the darkest of the 3, however that doesn't detract for it at all. I particularly love the way that Zafon weaves common elements throughout his stories so seamlessly. It's always a wonderful journey reading a Zafon story.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Addictive, Dramatic
Follett Improves Upon An Already Great Series

This second book in the Century Trilogy while quite hefty seemed to me to have much less extraneous information & passages than did the first. Don't get me wrong, I really, truly liked Fall of Giants. I simply think that Follett improved upon an already great series with this second book.
Granted, I do have quite a fascination with this particular time period & I still suspect that this will be my favorite book of the series.
I wish that I had been able to dedicate more time to uninterrupted reading than I was able to, but alas, life gets in the way.
I am very much looking forward to the third & final book in the series.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Addictive
The Story of F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Told By Zelda Herself

This tale of Zelda & F. Scott Fitzgerald\'s life together is told from Zelda\'s point of view. It starts off with a letter she has written to Scott in 1940, just one day before she learns of his death, then traces its way back there from the beginning.

Therese Anne Fowler has brilliantly conceived this story through Zelda\'s eyes. This is truly Zelda\'s story. This fresh take on well traveled and in some cases infamous territory was eloquently written & a joy to read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Informative
Intriguing, Intense, Haunting & Lyrically Beautiful

I was fortunate enough to receive an Advance Readers' Edition of Once We Were Brothers. What an incredibly beautifully written, insightful book Ronald Balson has written. The narrative moves seamlessly & effortlessly from WWII Poland to modern day Chicago. The characters are eloquently fleshed out & you come to care about them & or despise them the more you are drawn into the remarkable story told by Ben Solomon. I found myself staying up well past the time I should have been sleeping several nights. Intriguing, intense, haunting & lyrically beautiful are all words that leap instantly to mind when speaking about this book. The juxtaposition of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis against the uplifting & inspiring story of survival as well as the enduring love story makes this story & its characters one that will stay with the reader long after they close the book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Slow, Interesting
Eloquent Gem of Story - Beautifully Written

\\\"And as much as I\\\'d like to believe there\\\'s a truth beyond illusion, I\\\'ve come to believe that there\\\'s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between \\\'reality\\\' on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there\\\'s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.\\\"

It is for passages such as these, and there are many throughout this beautifully written book, that it was, for the most part, a real joy to read. While I had my moments where the editing, the odd syntax, the strange choice of punctuation bothered me a little, or maybe those were intentional choices, and while it is my own opinion that despite not really wanting this book to draw to a close, it perhaps would have been an even better book were it trimmed back a bit. Having said all that, The Goldfinch was a really good book. There are as I said before many passages that are lyrically beautiful & eloquent, paintings drawn from words & they truly were a joy to read.

I have not read The Secret History or The Little Friend yet, but since I so enjoyed Donna Tartt\\\'s deft hand with her prose, they will surely earn a place on my To Be Read bookshelf.

 
Book Club Recommended
Grit, determination, perserverance

Jerry's story is certainly an amazing one & it is to his credit that with his many struggles & the difficulties he faced that he did, in fact, never give up. The fact he's still here to make the brave choice to tell his story is remarkable. Jerry's story is both a testament to the tenacious grip addiction can hold as well as the power of grit, determination & perseverance to overcome it & carry on living a better life.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Life Changing, Dramatic
Wanted to LOVE this Memoir - Just really liked it.

I'll admit I struggled a little with this one. I love Pat Conroy's writing & I always look forward to whatever he's releasing. I thought for sure I'd love this memoir, honestly though I can't say that I loved it. I really liked it, but I didn't love it. Admittedly The Great Santini is one of Conroy's books I haven't read & now I'm not so sure I will. I'm not sure what it was that made me have less than a great love for this one. Maybe it was that Conroy didn't come off so well & neither did anyone in his family. Maybe he looked upon it as nothing less than brutal honesty. We all have our demons, we all have out issues, we all have less than perfect families. I suppose it's a really good thing we all don't write books about them. There are moments of sheer brilliance where Conroy's gift for some truly luminous prose shines through. Overall though, I much prefer his fiction to this memoir.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Inspiring, Romantic
Beautiful & Thought-Provoking

4.5 Stars

"We stared at the house for a while. The weird thing about houses is that they almost always look like nothing is happening inside of them, even though they contain most of our lives. I wondered if that was sort of the point of architecture."

So many wonderful little gems like that throughout this book. It's not depressing. Oh it's sad, of course, but in a really wonderful sort of way. It's a book that makes you feel & think. Ponder various things. Question. That's a good thing. It doesn't drag on or become overwrought or too florid or schmaltzy. Green takes you on the journey with his characters, you meet them, you fall in love with them, you go with them. It's easy. It's effortless. And it is really beautifully done.

 
Book Club Recommended
Life Changing, Romantic, Fun
Easy, enjoyable read

3.5 stars - This was an easy, pleasant read. It was, however my least favorite in the trilogy. It felt a little rushed. The story behind the story was touching.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Slow, Interesting
Graphic & chilling yet artful suspense tale

Bohjalian does a masterful job of crafting an intense, suspenseful story with elegant prose. He blends art & history with suspense in a way that keeps you turning the pages hoping to learn more about the mystery while simultaneously enjoying being immersed in the poetry of his words. Graphic & chilling yet so artful. A really wonderful read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Unconvincing, Boring
Beautiful story about the transformative power of an unlikely friendship

"In every moment there exists a lifetime. Every day brings something good!"
4.5 stars - This story about the transformative power of an unlikely friendship unfolds beautifully. Carol Wall's memoir is as much, if not more, the story of her friendship with Giles Owita & how this gentle soul taught her about gardening & more significantly & importantly about facing life & its myriad challenges with grace, dignity, joy & serenity. As Giles teaches Carol to love flowers & to experience the joy & serenity of working in a garden, he also imparts in his unassuming way life lessons. I'm grateful to Mrs. Wall for sharing her story & the story of Dr. Owita & allowing me a window into their lives & the opportunity to hear their story.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Insightful, Interesting
Beautifully Drawn Story With Unique Central Characters

3.5 stars
\"....But that was later....\"
This unique take on a love story was beautifully written. Anna Quindlen can really turn a phrase & there were some really lovely descriptions & passages. Though it took a little time to truly fall into the story it was well worth taking the journey. For me, at times it felt slightly disjointed & more like a patchwork of vignettes somewhat haphazardly stitched together rather than an overall arc that flowed smoothly. At the end of the day though, this was a beautifully drawn story with central characters who are very different than you more often see in narratives of this sort.

 
Book Club Recommended
Somewhat scholarly dissertation

Not entirely sure what my expectations were, however I find I wanted to love this book but wound up only liking it instead. I can\\\'t really put my finger on what it was that prevented that, so I\\\'ll not elaborate any further.

The Painted Girls: A Novel by Cathy Marie Buchanan
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Insightful
Pleasant diversion

3.5 stars - I really enjoyed the art & ballet references. The story is also beautifully & well written. It was well worth spending time in this world for a little while. I enjoyed this imagined tale of the story behind a work of art. It languished on my "want to read" list for a while. As luck would have it, a delay at Chicago Midway prompted a trip to the book store & I picked it up. It was quite a pleasant way to spend the flight home once the plane actually took off.

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett
 
Book Club Recommended
Ambitious 3rd Book Falls Short of the First Two

Easily the weakest of the trilogy. For me, it DRAGGED for the first 300 or so pages & then it seemed to try to pack too many events & too much time into too little for the rest of the book. Admittedly I struggled with this one. The stories felt cliched & verged on being soap operatic instead of richly drawn as they did in the first 2 books. This trilogy was an ambitious undertaking, perhaps too ambitious, even for someone as gifted & adept as Follett.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Informative
Spare Elegant Prose Weaves A Beautiful Story

With her spare, elegant prose Anne Tyler effortlessly draws us into Aaron's story. This man who was faced with the sudden loss of his wife now must navigate the uncertain territory of grief & grapple with how to move on with his life. Tyler simply, quietly tells Aaron & Dorothy's story weaving in vignettes of those who people it giving us further insight about Aaron & how his life has been shaped.
It's easy to see why Tyler is a Pulitzer Prize winner.

The Art Forger: A Novel by B. A. Shapiro
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
Fascinating Story About Art Peopled With Flawed Characters

I love a well researched, well written story that gets the details right. There's nothing not to love about this book. While the characters are flawed & make some seriously morally & ethically challenged choices, they aren't truly despicable or evil. They are quite simply flawed human beings. The passages relative to the details of painting were fascinating & added depth to story. This was a great read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Quick Easy Read Beware If Looking for Gushing Admiration

This was a relatively quick, easy read. If you're looking for a deep dive into the enigma that is Jon Stewart though, you'll be disappointed. While this book is well researched you won't gain any critical insight into what makes Jon Stewart who he is. You won't know what drives him or makes him tick. You won't get inside his head. This book is much more am exposition on The Daily Show & how it has become what it is during Stewart's tenure. Be forewarned, the book also has a tendency to portray Stewart & the atmosphere at The Daily Show in a less than flattering light. If you're looking for glowing praise, look elsewhere.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Insightful, Dramatic
So Beautifully Written - Nearly Perfect

4.75 stars - One of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. I actually need to start over again & read without the myriad of interruptions, stops & starts & loooong pauses I was required to take because life got in the way of the reading.

The language was so eloquent & the story so well told. Very, very close to perfect, just one little thing holding me back from a perfect 5 star review. Maybe upon rereading I will be able to see it differently because I think, perhaps, I'm meant to feel the way I do about what is unresolved for me.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Informative, Inspiring
Finely crated tale of English History & the Language of Flowers

Unsure of what else to do, Tilly turned to what she knew best. She walked outside, to the mountains and lakes she loved so much, retreating into herself: the girl with the wind at her heels and a storm blowing in her heart.


Traveling back & forth in time mainly between 1876 & 1912, Gaynor skillfully & beautifully tells the stories of Irish sisters Flora & Rosie Flynn & the Covent Garden flower girls as well as that of Tilly Harper who has left her own troubled past & gone to London to work at one of the training homes for those flower girls.

The prose is eloquent & the story is richly detailed. Getting a glimpse into a part of English history I hadn't know of was wonderful. This well researched, finely crafted story was a joy to read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Beautifully written story

I got 114 pages in & the writing is really beautiful. I just wasn't very drawn in to the story, despite thinking that I would be given all of the descriptions I'd read. I've put it aside for now, but will most certainly pick it up again in the future. Such a beautifully written tome deserves to be read & done so when it can be given the proper attention.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Addictive, Interesting
Suspenseful Page Turner Peopled With Difficult, Flawed Characters

Ultimately the story of 3 women. Hawkins quite masterfully weaves their intertwining stories together & keeps you reading. A well written story peopled with flawed characters who were, for me anyway, difficult to identify or sympathize with. Comparisons to Gone Girl were inevitable. The 2 books share more than a few similarities. The best one being that despite being peopled with difficult, flawed characters, they are rather well written stories. I didn't DESPISE the characters the way I did with those in Gone Girl but neither did I connect with or particularly sympathize with them. They were not caricatures nor were they one-note, but they were difficult to like. This was a deftly written story with enough suspense & drama to keep you turning the pages. I would welcome the opportunity to read more of Hawkins' writing.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Confusing, Adventurous
Deftly woven beautiful tale

4.5 stars With elegant, polished prose, Erika Swyler weaves together a wonderful tale of fortune tellers, a mute wild boy, mermaids, a painted, electric man, an antiquarian bookseller, & a librarian, curses, doomed families, an old home by the sea. All of it told beautifully & compellingly. One is quickly drawn in to the story that begins when an antiquarian bookseller sends a mysterious book to a struggling librarian who goes on a journey to unlock his family's history.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Persuasive, Inspiring
Compulsively Readable Liz Gilbert

3.5 Stars - I love Elizabeth Gilbert & I love reading her work. The concept of this book intrigued me. Don't we all want to live beyond fear? Don't we all want to be fearless? Don't we all want to be more creative? More badass? More something? I know I do. I found myself nodding in agreement with Liz's narrative quite a bit, but that doesn't mean that I didn't also find myself feeling challenged & not entirely convinced at all points. For me at least, this book was very much about not letting the big, bad Perfectionism hold you back. Fear dressed up is still fear. It's also about learning & knowing that you're good enough, you're just plain enough. It's about finishing & letting go. What's not to love about that?

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Epic, Brilliant

The Paris Architect: A Novel by Charles Belfoure
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Fascinating story of a very different Paris

3.5 stars - Fascinating story of an architect who designed ingenious hiding spaces within the architecture of various buildings to hide Jews attempting to flee Paris during the Nazi occupation. This enterprising gentlemen also designed industrial buildings for the Nazis such as munitions factories & the like. Belfoure paints a picture of a very different Paris than any I'd read before. I was intrigued with the aspects of architecture & art woven throughout the narrative.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful
Elegant, Deft Storytelling Paints Unique Portrait of Hemingway

Beautiful book, yet ultimately rather sad. That may, in fact, be analogous to Hemingway's life. Big, bold, brash & beautiful, yet with an undercurrent of intense melancholy & great sadness. Perhaps it is as one reviewer noted the book that gives us the best understanding of Hemingway as a man. Hotchner paints a portrait of Papa Hemingway in a way very few have seen him before & does so with deft & elegant storytelling.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful
Fascinating Story Artfully Told

I have long been enamored of Eric Ripert so when I heard about this book I was eagerly awaiting its release. I always find it fascinating to learn peoples' stories. Eric Ripert's is a somewhat surprising one. It was a real joy to go on the journey from the mountains of Andorra & in the kitchens of those who shaped & nurtured Chef Ripert's love of food & cooking. He speaks quite eloquently of food painting a delectable picture. You can see just how much joy it brings him. There are poignant passages about the loss of his father, of the harsh, even cruel treatment he endured at the hands of others in his life & some harrowing & anxiety-provoking descriptions of the reality of professional kitchens. A fascinating story, artfully told. Well worth reading. As I was drawing near the end I found myself not wanting to leave the world of this story as I so enjoyed learning a little about what made Ripert the chef & the man he is. This sort of memoir leaves you hoping that at some point there will be another that traces the journey further.

Be Frank With Me: A Novel by Julia Claiborne Johnson
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Interesting, Optimistic
Delightful story with most charming protagonist

4 & 1/2 stars. Such a delightful, charming book. Richly peopled with characters you won't soon forget, particularly the title character, Frank. Time well spent exploring the world of the tiny protagonist & those who fill his life.

Forgetting Andrew by Tia Finn
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful
Eloquently told story about the power of love & the beauty of memories

I love this treasure of a book! It is one you both can't wait to read more of & yet don't want to end. Tia Finn has such a beautiful way with words & is a remarkable & eloquent storyteller. I laughed & I cried. I heard E's voice loud & clear in my head as I walked through the story with these characters. A moving, poignant story about the healing & redemptive power of love & the beauty of memories.

The Sugar Men by Ray Kingfisher
 
Book Club Recommended
Poignant & Powerful Story of Holocaust Survivor

Even if I hadn't been a captive audience (on a 9 hour flight) this book would have drawn me in. This tale from a Holocaust survivor who kept her story a secret from her children until just before her impending death is poignant & powerful. Even though this book treads in territory & from a perspective we've seen before, the details and the twist on it, a visit back to exorcise long buried ghosts makes it just different enough to set it apart.

The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay
 
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Boring, Gloomy
Multi-themed story told in epistolary style

Told largely in epistolary style & with de Rosnay's beautiful writing, this story about the redevelopment of Paris touches on many themes, that of home, of connection, of love for buildings, architecture & history, of secrets kept & of great love. A really wonderful book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Informative, Adventurous
Fascinating look into another aspect of this well traveled point in history

3.5 stars. I really enjoyed the historical aspects of this book & discovering yet another angle of this particular period in history. I had no idea there was an Italian resistance, but certainly found it fascinating to learn a bit about it through this work of historical fiction. Memorable characters people this book & not knowing the history well enough to distinguish or to pick up flaws, this narrative flowed quite seamlessly.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Fun
Delightful Read Like Coffee & Conversation with a Friend

3.5 stars Unabashedly himself & completely candid, this book was a delightful, easy read. It was like sitting down & having a conversation with friend you thought you knew, yet you walked away having learned a great deal. And I fully intend to scour the Internet in search of at least one of those arabesque pattern mugs.

It Takes Two: Our Story by Jonathan Scott, Drew Scott
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Inspiring, Insightful
Brilliant Behind the Scenes Story

Have you ever been really excited about reading a memoir or biography, then you did & you were completely disillusioned about the subject? All your illusions & perceptions were shattered. You were left feeling completely different about the person you thought you knew & loved. That will absolutely NOT be the case with "It Takes Two: Our Story". Quite the opposite in fact.

If you already like &/or love Jonathan & Drew Scott you're in for a real treat. If anything, you will grow to admire them even more. Reading their story which alternates back & forth between the brothers for each chapter along with commentary from the brother sitting that chapter out, you'll see that not only are they extremely good at what they do, but even more importantly & impressive, they are truly remarkably GOOD humans with enormous hearts & beautiful souls.

While the entire book is wonderful, & I love that there are portions written by the Scott parents, JD, Linda, & Jacinta, my favorite chapter, "Speak Up, Step Up", brilliantly illustrates precisely who Jonathan & Drew are, & highlights one of the most impressive, heartfelt, impassioned moments/statements I have ever seen on social media. That moment, which I remember witnessing when it first happened, forever indelibly sealed Jonathan Scott as one of my all-time favorite human beings.

This behind the scenes look at Jonathan & Drew's story is a lovely read, & well worth the time that will fly quickly by while you enjoy getting to know them even better.

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Interesting, Inspiring
Inspiring Story of Hope & Healing

"There's no way to know what makes one thing happen & not another. What leads to what. What destroys what. What causes What to flourish or die or take another course."

Such a powerful story of love, & loss, & redemption. Of coming into one's own & finding one's power, peace & presence. Cheryl Strayed writes beautifully about her journey not sanitizing or prettying up her flaws. Her time on the Pacific Crest Trail is eloquently detailed in a simple, elegant way. Her story of hope & healing is an inspiration & a reminder that life brings us all sorts of circumstances & lessons, & that we can not only live through them, but grow & thrive.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Inspiring
Wonderful read of the stories of Jahren's work & life

When the blurb on your cover compares you to Oliver Sacks, those are rather lofty heights to reach. At least in my world they are. I always enjoy a good, scholarly read. Anything that makes my brain work & takes me out of the day to day madness in my life is a good thing. Hope Jahren does an admirable job with Lab Girl. It's a wonderful read. Eloquent use of words woven into the narrative build into stories about Hope's work & her life. Time with this book is time well spent. My favorite part may well be the epilogue where Jahren implores us to plant trees. It's a beautiful, poignant, timely & hopeful message for the world in which we live today.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
Fascinating story - Journalistic presentation that reads like suspense

3.5 stars. Journalistic presentation that reads like a suspense novel. Fascinating story. I love when these kinds of stories are unearthed & you learn something you otherwise never would have.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Adventurous
Well crafted thriller

3.5 Stars - Fascinating mystery & well paced thriller that reaches its climatic end in a rush of horror. D'Andrea knows how to turn a phrase & craft a narrative.

The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic
Deft, well-woven narrative with fascinating details

3.5 stars on this one. It was fascinating to read about the details of the fashion industry & I always enjoy a deft, well-woven narrative that unravels a mystery within the story being told.
There were some beautifully written passages.

Becoming by Michelle Obama
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Insightful, Interesting
Beautifully written memoir

Beautifully written, thoughtful narrative with astute, poignant recollections.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Difficult, Slow

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Interesting, Informative
Beautifully imagined tale of lesser known aspects

3.5 stars. Well written blend of history & fiction. I enjoyed this imagining of the lesser known parts of Hedy Lamar's story. What a fascinating woman she must of been. If only we'd known more of this side of her. I'm grateful to learn of it now.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Beautiful, Inspiring
Touching story of the power of love

4 & 1/2 stars - I read a LOT of books set during this time period & about various aspects of the history. There are so many stories. It shouldn't be surprising & yet it still is just how many stories there are. So many facets, so many viewpoints. Lale & Gita's story was very touching. A testament to the power of love. I'm very grateful to have spent some time getting to know them.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Romantic, Beautiful
Brilliant prose within well-told beautifully written story

4.5 Stars Beautifully written, well told story. Walter's prose is magnificent. Seamless transitions between several time periods weaving the overall narrative together perfectly.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Informative, Interesting
Open, Honest Conversation Between Mother & Son

4.5 Stars An open, honest conversation between Mother & Son wherein each learns about the other & shares thoughts on life, love, & loss. Because Anderson Cooper & Gloria Vanderbilt decided they wanted nothing left unsaid between them they had this conversation over the course of a year & graciously shared it with us in this book. This glimpse into their lives, thoughts, feelings, & aspirations provided interesting & touching insights into a part of their journey.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Epic, Brilliant
Brilliantly crafted story of the journeys taken during the final collapse of the 3rd Reich

Bohjalian's deft prose immerses you in the journey of a family of Prussian aristocrats fleeing the advance of the Russian Army in the final months of World War II during the collapse of the Third Reich. He brings us into the lives of several richly drawn characters in addition to the central family, including the Scottish prisoner of war who had been working with the family, the Jewish man who leapt from a train bound for Auschwitz, & a group of women being marched away from a concentration camp. Deeply evocative & immensely moving, Bohjalian has crafted a story from a unique perspective examining the importance of hope, & encouraging reflection on the legacy we leave behind.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Adventurous, Interesting
Charming Ode to the Power of Books & Reading

Charming & beautifully written this ode to the power of books & reading takes you wandering along the Seine & into the lives of the characters peopling this tale. Nina George's lyrical prose is enchanting as are her well-drawn characters who allow us to accompany them on their journey. It was such a joy to spend time in this exquisitely textured little world.

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