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My Reviews

Sacred Hearts: A Novel by Sarah Dunant
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Romantic, Dramatic
Limitations of women's lives in 16th. century italy

Although it is set in a convent, it is not a religious novel - the setting is the backdrop to explore the lack of options for women at this time. The love story adds the spice to the historical novel.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Interesting
great story , great characters

Our favorite book to discuss so far. Explores civil rights from an unexpected angle. All the characters are richly drawn.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Beautiful
Generated lots of discussion

At first thought it would be a predictable chick lit book, but it was full of surprises. This is a book you can't wait to read each day. Couldn't even think of starting a new book for a couple of days as the story and the characters stay with you.

 
Insightful, Interesting, Difficult
Disappointing

Expected great things, but the majority of our club found it to be ponderous with two many stories interwoven into the plot. The two protagonists were either dull or unpleasant. What some described as poetic most of us found to be more of a meandering style. Had to force myself to read this and was very glad to say goodbye to the characters.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Dramatic
Great Story - could have been fleshed out better

Enjoyable and fairly quick read despite it’s length, but it didn’t quite live up to its promise based on the first few chapters. Has a similar feel to a Catherine Cookson novel, orphan girl faces adversity at every turn except takes place in turn of the century New York instead of England, but missing a layer of detail that would have considerably enriched the story. As employed here, the diary format leaves you wanting more information. Given the time period, the location, the cast of characters and the story line, (still so relevant today) this could have been a must-read, but while there is a lot of story in this thick book, there wasn’t enough exposition to push it to the next level. I would still recommend it for the unusual plot and our book club was still able to use it as a springboard for an interesting conversation.

Anya: A Novel by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Epic
Richly detailed novel - a very satisfying read

Read this the first time in university and it was the first novel I’d read about the holocaust and was completely overtaken by the story and the character of Anya. Just reread it 40 years later and still found it a very compelling story, although it didn’t cast the same spell as the first time I read it. Anya’s life before, during and after the war is rendered in great detail. It’s a long book, but I appreciate the care Fromberg takes to truly evoke each period in Anya’s life and never found any of it boring. For me it was all fascinating information. Anya’s good and bad character traits are laid out for the reader and the book beautifully illustrates the impact of the war on Anya, her family, especially her relationship with her daughter Ninushka, the society they lived in, the choices made both good and bad to survive. Would have liked to know a bit more about Ninka as an adult, but that’s a minor complaint. Don’t want to say any more about the plot, but I would highly recommend this book. It stays with you long after you have put it down.

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Interesting, Insightful
Intense, unique novel

Searing, heart pounding novel. Well worth reading, but not “enjoyable” in the usual sense. Will not be for everyone. If you can handle the intensity it is well structured with good characterizations. Read up about Gay’s life as some of her own life experiences definitely found their way into this novel. Lots of thought provoking issues raised about racism, income inequality, first world vs. third world countries, violence against women, the politics of ransom and the impossible choices to make. A lot to digest after you read it. Excellent book club selection as many interesting topics to discuss and debate.

 
Informative, Interesting, Slow
Flat account of a fascinating couple

Boring and disjointed. A bland account of a fascinating couple. I’ve rarely felt so disengaged from a book. Horan moves from one event to another rather abruptly. Very few emotionally involving transfers over 90 short choppy chapters. Haven’t read Loving Frank, but everyone I know who read that book loved it and everyone I know who has read this book were very disappointed. Given the outline of RLS and Fanny’s lives, it would seem that it would have been easy to knock this out of the park, but whether it was rushed to print or the breadth of their lives was such that the writer couldn’t get a handle on it, it is a very pedestrian effort. I finished it because I always finish a book no matter what, and the only interesting aspect was how often I was surprised that the author was unable to inject life or suspense into the account. Our 8 person book club was unanimous in our dislike for the writing style.

Us Conductors: A Novel by Sean Michaels
 
Pointless, Difficult, Confusing
Disappointing

I'm surprised at all the enthusiastic reviews and that this was chosen for the Giller prize. Both my book club and my husband were underwhelmed. The plot should be a winner, but the execution felt too sketchy.

The first half feels quite detached and more of a perfunctory recounting of the events in his life. Despite being set in pre-Depression New York, he does not do the city or the time period justice. Feels quite remote. I'd be curious to know if this is a deliberate choice, to convey a surreal quality to his high living capitalist American life vs. his oppressive and persecuted existence in Russia when he loses his political protectors. But if so, it’s odd as his lack of control over his destiny is no different in America or Russia. Deliberate or not, the writing style was for the most part not engaging.

The second half of the book does pull you into Termen's life and circumstances much more effectively, but the novel still has a rambling, unsatisfactory feel to it. This story, especially with the tremendous liberties taken with Theremin's life should have been utterly fascinating, but we all felt we had to push ourselves to read it. One interesting aspect of the book is that the writer has Theremin serve as the narrator and one intriguing aspect of the book is that the format is to recount his story as if he were addressing his thoughts to his muse.

By the time you reach the end, you don't feel you know his character anymore than when you first meet him. Maybe that’s the point, that he is nothing more than the channel for everyone else’s desires and machinations so he gets lost in his role as the facilitator, but he doesn’t seem to grasp that. He just feels and acts like a shell of a man all the way through. Nevertheless, the reader shouldn’t feel like they are just reading a shell of a book.

The Miniaturist: A Novel by Jessie Burton
 
Dramatic, Unconvincing, Interesting
Lost Potential

A slight story gussied up with some mysterious elements. Liked the historical setting and the initial framework of the story, but it runs off the rails. Good cast of characters, but the story line gets sillier and more implausible as each character's story unfolds. The tone and plot of the book is way too contemporary for the setting and time period. I'm quite prepared to be transported into a mysterious world but there has to be a big payoff which the writer does not achieve. The character revelations were often 180 degrees from how they presented themselves and were completely far fetched for 17th. Amsterdam. I could see one, maybe 2 unexpected characters for the time and place, but the writer goes overboard with surprise after surprise. Also, the book finishes up in the blink of an eye after the climax, too quickly to satisfy the reader's need to leave the characters at a point in their story line that you can understand, whether you like the ending or not . In the end, it felt like a weak movie of the week, hiding it's failings behind the historical setting. This is no Jane Eyre.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Addictive
Keeps you on your toes

Totally involving read. Great story premise, well drawn characters, filled with insightful comments about life and relationships.The characters and their predicaments will distract you from your daily activities. Book clubs will find lots to discuss.

The Art Forger: A Novel by B. A. Shapiro
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
A well crafted art world mystery - lots to discuss.

Well crafted classy mystery novel. Entertaining mix of fact and fiction employing the famous unsolved art theft from the Gardner Museum in Boston at the center of the plot. First chapter starts off a bit too mystery- novel- by- the- numbers, but the story quickly picks up. Characters are well drawn and the plot has a nice amount of twists and turns which for the most part will keep you guessing till the end, or at least close to the end. The author does a good job of setting the story in its Boston locale and lots of very interesting details about the how tos of forging a painting. The book also explores the dilemma of what is great art, who is qualified to judge it and is an artist’s work worth high prices because of talent, infamy or both. The ending won’t disappoint.

Euphoria by Lily King
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Adventurous
Will generate lots of good discussion

Original idea, distinctive characters – definitely not stock types, exotic location in New Guinea.
Not a page turner till the end but intriguing and thought provoking. Didn’t really feel engaged with the novel till the final third – not sure if it was the writing or the irritating characters. Really feel the heat, bugs and bare bones living conditions – no glamorizing the life of an anthropologist in remote areas. The interplay between the characters jockeying for the upper hand professionally and romantically is handled very well with some startling revelations along the way. Well worth reading.

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