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My Reviews

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
 
Dramatic, Insightful, Beautiful
WW II era. Young girl and family befriend a Jew in hiding.

This book was fabulous! It's narrated by "Death" but don't let that put you off. The voice of the characters is so strong and the story is told in absolutely beautiful language. The book has been marketed to "young adults" and would be terrific as part of a Holocaust unit in schools but it's a gripping read for adults as well. Loved it! Loved it!

Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson
 
Slow, Insightful, Beautiful
Gorgeous writing! A life well-lived.

This may be the best book I've read in the last 5 years. Robinson's language is beautiful and haunting. The characters are richly drawn and the prose was so vivid that I wanted to weep. I may read this again just to let it seep deeper into my soul.

The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg
 
Dramatic, Dark, Interesting
Not my favorite Berg

I love, love, love Elizabeth Berg's books. This wasn't my favorite but was still a good read. She develops great, realistic characters and really gets under the skin. Other great Berg books are True To Form, Joy School, and Talk Before Sleep.

 
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
I had trouble relating....

I really wanted to like this book but I found the female character so unlikeable. I wanted her to get on with her life and enjoy the family that she had. She was cold and dull. The doctor? Well-meaning and wimpy. The story itself was interesting enough...if not a little far-fetched. The writing? So-so. I was going to scream if I read about the baby's "star-fish" hand one more time.
Quick read.

 
Informative, Dramatic, Interesting
My book club loved this

We were enthralled by the history of 19th century China and very much liked the characters. This stimulated a lot of discussion about women's roles. Very good book!

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
 
Dark, Confusing, Difficult
WOW!!! Amazing book!

This was my favorite book this summer. The story behind the story is even more enthralling. How did this manuscript ever survive? But I'm so glad it did! It takes a little time to get the characters straight but this is beautifully written and gripping. EXCELLENT!

 
Confusing, Interesting, Beautiful
Beautiful writing!

This young author has written a terrific, multi-layed book with fabulous characters. I keep scanning the shelves to find a new book by Krauss. I predict that she'll be a major talent.

 
Insightful, Dramatic, Brilliant
My book club loved this!

This book provoked a lot of discussion. We were uncomfortable with some parts and it was almost painful to read, Characters are vividly drawn and the story is one of the best this year.

 
Interesting, Informative, Optimistic
So much I didn't know...

I've always liked Sidney Poitier as an actor but I knew nothing about his life as a boy and young man, This was a lovely book. Spiritual without being preachy. I have a whole new respect for Mr. Poitier!

Night (Night) by Elie Wiesel
 
Life Changing, Insightful, Dramatic
great discussion

I have read and discussed this book with 14 year olds and it always stimulates their young minds. Parts of it are brutal and painful but you can't help but be transformed by it. A classic.

Middlesex: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides
 
Interesting, Dramatic, Epic
Excellent read!

Loved everything about this book! I liked the writing, loved the characters and especially enjoyed the setting. I grew up in Detroit and found the descriptions gritty and accurate. Lots of great discussion about this story!

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
 
Dramatic, Insightful, Interesting
a view from the other side

UGH! I had a terrible time with this book. I hated the viewpoint... child speaking from "the other side." I hated her grisly death. This book gave me the creeps! It wasn't especially well-written and the characters were too flat.

 
Fun, Adventurous, Inspiring
I'm a dog lover but...

Marley is adorable. Marley is naughty. But the owners are just plain dumb. They could have used a few good sessions with Ceasar the dog trainer... or the Monks of New Skete. True, some dogs are neurotic, but I think the owners were a bit neurotic too. This was "cute" but not especially well-written. Too bad there weren't more pictures of Marley.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
 
Interesting, Dramatic, Informative
Inaccurate history

I wasn't very impressed with this book. It was simplistic and the characters seemed very flat. Mary is the sweet one. Anne is ambitious and ruthless. Henry is the spoiled, pouting king. Ho hum. I had big hopes for this and I love historical fiction but this was just a bodice ripper set it Tudor England.

 
Fascinating story!

I loved this book! I have been a Lee Smith fan for years but there were some recent novels that left me a bit flat. I was thrilled to find this one was back to her previous great writing (Fair and Tender Ladies is also a favorite). This follows the characters through a lifetime and includes a little mystery and curiosities as well. A very worthwhile read!

March by Geraldine Brooks
 
Interesting, Informative, Dramatic
Enjoyed this very much!

Brooks has taken a minor character, the absent Mr. March from Little Women, and made him complete. He is complex and his marriage is complex. We see 20+ years of his life and find out what made him the person he was. Parts of the novel are set against the backdrop of the Civil War and the descriptions are disturbing and very detailed. there are also references to the dangers of the Underground Railroad. Great Author! Great Novel!

 
Beautiful, Inspiring, Interesting
"can't cook doesn't bite"

Those words alone made me want to meet this character! This was a great read. I loved the characters and enjoyed the story line. It dragged in a few spots and then picked up with a vengenance. Enjoyed this very much!

Lost and Found: A Novel by Carolyn Parkhurst
 
Pointless, Interesting, Unconvincing
At the heart of it, this is a mother/daughter story

I didn't expect to like this very much. The premise is that a group of various characters (and yes! I mean CHARACTERS!) are on a reality TV show. I hate reality TV but this was a clever idea. It's a novel about love and loss and about "finding" what really matters. Not a bad read.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
 
Dramatic, Insightful, Beautiful
Touching, fabulous read!

This is marketed for teens or young adults. Don't let that fool you. This is very much an adult novel about the horrors of the Holocaust. It is very well-written and has an interesting perspective. The book is narrated by "death." Death is not gruesome or frightening. He's actually sad as he collects souls during this dark period. Despite all that, it's a lovely story about human kindness and the power of love and survival. I LOVED THIS NOVEL!

 
Inspiring, Interesting, Insightful
Predictable

It felt as if the author was trying to o hard to make this a "multi-cultural" read. Okay, I get it. This is a diverse group of women with seemingly nothing in common. They band together to form a sisterhood. Characters and dialogue were too predictable and flat to get my attention. The writing was too casual and silly. Dialougue felt forced. Not recommended for serious readers.

Geek Love: A Novel by Katherine Dunn
 
Life Changing, Dramatic, Brilliant
disgusting

It felt as if the author was simply going for shock value. A carnival family seeks to breed (with the use of horrible drugs and chemicals) their own circus "freaks.: The resulting characters are utterly unlikeable. It appears that Dunn is a good writer but this book was absolutely awful. I would not recommend it at all.

The Dogs of Babel: A Novel by Carolyn Parkhurst
 
Adventurous, Beautiful, Romantic
Good, quick read. Interesting twists

I enjoyed this book a great deal until I tried to analyze it afterward. It's written from the viewpoint of the grieving widower, Paul Iverson. Paul (a linguistics professor) is desperately trying to teach his Rhodesian Ridgeback to talk. His dog,Lorelei is the only witness to his wife's mysterious and sudden death. But Paul is an unreliable narrator as he is too deep in grief to read his surrounding accurately. There is a bit of mystery and suspense and there are some truly horrifying images that may be disturbing to dog lovers. There are a few parts of the book where things seem just too "pat." And Paul, sensitive husband though he may be, sounds too much like a woman. What man can describe his wife's dress is such vivid detail as having flowers on the bias?
All in all, this was an enjoyable read and characters are very vivid and detailed.

Digging to America by Anne Tyler
 
Predictable, not her best

I've enjoyed Anne Tyler in the past but found this book to be too neat and predictable. Her characters were too stereotyped to make it very interesting. They need more depth and individuality.

Old School by Tobias Wolff
 
Prep school in the 1960's

I liked this very much. It is a quietly powerful look at a boy's prep school in the 1960's. It reads very much like a memoir but it's fiction. Wolff is very skilled at the nuances that make characters so strong and so flawed. The fictional references to Ayn Rand, Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway were fabulous! Parts of this book were written as short stories for The New Yorker.

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
 
A companion book to The Giver

This lacks the power and intensity of Lois Lowry's The Giver (one of my all-time favorite adolescent novels!) but it's still a good read. Kira is a likeable and interesting character and she generates a great deal of sympathy from the reader. Her world is a futuristic one without technology. It is a deeply flawed society and, as always, has secrets that Kira can help to uncover. Kira has an adorable and funny side-kick in young Matt and his dog, Branch. This may not grip adolescents as quickly as The Giver, but it's a worthwhile read from a very talented author.

 
Insightful, Interesting, Brilliant
Lois Lowry at her best!

I have been a middle school teacher for almost 30 years and I teach this book to my 8th graders. Rarely does a book generate so much discussion and such thoughtful queries. I am not a big science fiction or fantasy fan but this is a book that I can read again and again. Jonas lives in what appears to be a futuristic society. Although it is meant to be utopian it is clearly a dystopia. This is a world without pain and without prejudice. It is also a world without color, without music and without real love. How much would you give up in personal freedom to insure tranquility and peace? The novel touches on some painful issues... especially the euthanasia of infants, but is guaranteed to generate terrific and thoughtful discussions.

 
Informative, Interesting, Dark
The Chicago World's Fair and a murderer

This book was much better than I had anticipated. It is not a novel, it's non-fiction and very carefully researched. It is really two stories that parallel each other. One is a fascinating account of the architects behind the Chicago World's Fair. The other is about a psycho killer who stalks naive women in Chicago during this time period. I am not a fan of murder mysteries and the stories of Holmes and his evil doings would have put me off but this is told is small chapters and without too many grisly details. There ARE a lot of details about attendance and about new inventions for the fair (Cracker Jacks! the Ferris Wheel! Zippers!) I also liked the references to many personalities of this time period... a young Walt Disney, a new architect named Frank Lloyd Wright, Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley, Jane Addams etc. All in all, a great read!

The Maytrees: A Novel by Annie Dillard
 
Pointless, Slow, Unconvincing
A love story about forgiveness

How have I gone through life without reading Annie Dillard? This was my first experience with her and I loved this slim novel. It is the story of the Maytrees... Lou and Toby and their long relationship. It is a novel about the stages of love and the power of forgiveness. Dillard writes beautifully and really SEES things around her. (So do Toby and Lou.) Sometimes I would read a paragraph again and again just to experience the beauty of her words. My only complaint? I had trouble keeping some of the minor characters in my head. They just weren't vivid enough. But this is a lovely little novel. I'm eager to read more of Dillard's work.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
 
Pointless, Insightful, Beautiful
A wedding night gone awry

The writing here is very good but the story is rather dull. A newly married couple in the 1960's fails at consummating a marriage. Ho Hum.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
 
Informative, Dramatic, Insightful
Four decades of life in Afghanistan

This was a really good read and I had trouble putting it down. I gave it four stars instead of five because I found a few things a bit formulaic. Sometimes the characters felt almost cartoonish. Ironically (because this is a male author) I thought the male characters were the least developed. Rasheed , the brutish husband, was just too flat a character for me. Even Tariq felt a bit stereotypical, I wanted to know more about his life away from Laila. Still, it was a compelling story and I very much enjoyed it.

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
 
Inspiring, Beautiful, Insightful
a multi-generation book

I love, love love Richard Russo and was eagerly awaiting this novel. I talked my book club into reading it and they complained about the slow start. When we got together to discuss it though it was very well received. Stick with it, it gets better as it goes along. Russo has a great collection of flawed characters and he makes them come to life. The book has many conflicts and many great themes and generated a lot of good discussion for us. Great book!

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
 
Interesting, Inspiring, Dramatic
Weird story

Hard to believe some of this. I didn't love the writing and had trouble with relating to some of the characters///especially the Mom. I guess I was pretty neutral about this book overall. Wanted everyone to just grow up and take care of their messed up lives!

Loving Frank: A Novel by Nancy Horan
 
Informative, Interesting, Dramatic
Based on real life

I had mixed feelings about this book. Both Frank and his married lover Mameh were too self-centered and self-absorbed to be entirely attractive to readers. But this was based on their real story. Our club talked about women's roles during this time period and how little they've changed in some ways. A lot of people hated the ending but it IS what happened in real life. The ending was not fictional. The book made us curious about Frank Lloyd Wright homes in our area and about his life after Mameh's death. Quick read. We just didn't care for the characters much.

 
Fun, Inspiring, Interesting
Sweet little book

The stories are intertwined here on purpose. It is really three stories, It's the story of life's ups and downs. It follows the personal struggles of the author without being dull or sefl-pitying. It's about the economic struggles of a small town in Iowa AND it's how Dewey, a rescued kitten, manages to put a little salve on all kinds of wounds. Will it win a Pulitzer? no. It probably won't generate a ton of book club discussion. Still, it's a nice read.

Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts
 
A feel good book

Billie Letts is one of my escape authors. She's what I pick up when I want a quick read, want a feel-good ending and I don't want to work too hard. Her books tend to be set in small-town Oklahoma, have an evil "Mr.Potter" type villian and always have a flawed character or two with a heart of gold. This one was a bit predictable but good escapist reading.

Night in Question by Tobias Wolff
 
Good for Wolff fans

I enjoy Tobias Wolff but I know he isn't for everyone. This was a strong collection of stories but they may be hard to discuss in a book club.

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas
 
Insightful, Interesting, Informative
WW II/Japanese Camps

I like Sandra Dallas a lot and enjoy her characters. This was a quick read and, while I liked the book a great deal, I found some of the characters to be too stereotypical. The story is told from the perspective of a 13 year old girl and she's a delight. Her parents are almost too good to be true and it's easy to compare the father to Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. I would almost classify this book as a "young adult" novel and recommend it to 9th graders and above. It's a great way to introduce them to the dark history of the internment camps used for Japanese Americans in WWII. A good read.

 
Insightful, Informative, Inspiring
A dog lover's book

I enjoyed this and Merle is a dog who digs into your heart. I had a few problems with parts of the book though. The author gets a little "preachy" about dog research and really advocates for a happy life where dogs may run free. For most of us this isn't possible. We live in cities or suburbs with leash laws. Merle had a lot of fun running loose and exploring nature but most of us can't live that way. I also didn't care much about the author's love life. If you love dogs and you like a lot of dog research babble, this is a good choice.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
A lot of strong discussion.

Really enjoyed the story and love Brooks' writing. I did find the movement between present day (Hanna's story) and the epic journey of the haggadah to be distracting. I almost wish this book had been strictly about the history of the book. I was also intrigued by the true story of how the book came to be saved. Good read.

Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Beautiful, Interesting
A beautiful quilt of a story

As they quilt together, Hennie (age 86) and Nit (age 17) become confidants and close friends. The novel is often told via Hennie's stories. She lives in Colorado in the Depression era but recounts life just after the Civil War. The book has sad, tender moments but is ultimately an up-lifting story about love, forgiveness and survival. It is full of authentic verbal images of "mountain talk" but doesn't sound at all forced or corny. Dallas is a master of authentic period details and it makes her characters memorable and lovable. This is a sweet novel!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Fun, Interesting
Charming novel told through letters

I enjoyed this very much. It's a "feel-good" story but not overly sweet or cloying. The characters are realistic and clever, the letters are witty and fun to read. There are references to the horrors of WWII but the overall feeling is that life is beautiful and people are good and kind. I didn't give it 5 stars because a few of the characters were a little too stereotypical and, while I loved the story being told via letters, I found it unrealistic that the postal service was so reliable in the years immediately following the war. Overall, a great read and an enjoyable story!

Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Optimistic, Graphic
Overall good but....

Billie Letts is one of my novelists for "escape reading." I don't expect anything too dense or too intellectual. This was a good read and the characters were engrossing overall but it became a little too predictable. Still, I liked the book. It was a quick read and had me engrossed enough to stay up late to finish it.

Straight Man by Richard Russo
 
Book Club Recommended
Brilliant, Fun, Pointless
I LOVED this book!

Richard Russo is one of my favorite authors and I think this may be the book I like best. It's funny and dry and witty and charming. His characters are often well meaning, down on their luck, hard drinking guys but they always have a great deal of charm. (Paul Newman often played the main characters in the movies). Russo is a master at characterization. I think this novel was brilliant!

About Alice by Calvin Trillin
 
Book Club Recommended
Optimistic, Romantic
A tender, sweet memoir

Calvin Trillin is one of my favorite New Yorker writers. This is a departure from his usual work. This is a sweet and tender memoir about his beautiful, late wife. It's touching and lovingly written.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
 
Inspiring, Insightful, Optimistic
HO HUM! and Dull!

I really wanted to like this book and it's been a best-seller for ages but I guess I just didn't see the point. It was agonizingly slow and repetitive. Kind of a JonathanLivingstone Seagull meets god. BORING!

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
Interesting story but...

I had heard so many good things about this book that I really looked forward to reading it. I almost put it down after the first couple of chapters. This is a true story of a female western Muslin who is a very accomplished M.D. Due to visa problems she needs to leave her beloved North America for Saudia Arabia. The culture shock is predictable. Wearing the abayallah and being chaperoned in public is the least of it. My problem with the story was the very poor writing. Dr. Ahmed felt the need to use EVERY adjective and adverb known to man. It was annoying and distracting. Also, her over use of designer names was making me crazy. Okay, I get it! A lot of people in Saudia Arabia are wealthy and they wear American and European designers with gusto. Ho Hum. Also, the book was peppered with spelling errors. Still, the story itself was interesting and I enjoyed hearing about the good doctor's trip to Mecca and her adjustment to this society.

 
Interesting, Inspiring, Insightful
Predictable and dull

Okay we get it. Multi cultural group of women support each other despite their own issues. Felt forced.

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
 
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Boring, Pointless
Dreams lost and found on Cape Cod

Richard Russo is one of my favorite authors and he delivers the magic with this book. Jack and Joy Griffin have realized their dreams but happiness still eludes them. They have a lovely daughter and a comfortable academic life but Jack is still haunted by his parents (literally and figuratively) and his somewhat miserable childhood. Jack's parents are almost parodies of professors in the "mid-f***ing west." They are portrayed vividly and their patronizing voices are all too clear. I wish other characters were as keenly drawn... especially Joy, daughter Laura and friend Sunny Kim. I could easily have read another 300 pages of this book. Russo fans will recognize some of his old themes... self-absorbed, well-meaning men and their shattered dreams. Middle-age introspection. Academic snobbery. etc. There are many light moments in this book as well. A seagull with perfect aim, fender benders and a slapstick scene at a rehearsal dinner. In Russo fashion, this book explores some deep ideas but leaves the reader with a smile.

BRIDGE OF SIGHS by RICHARD RUSSO
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Dramatic
I love Russo novels...

I have to admit, this wasn't my favorite. But Russo is still better than most writers even when he hasn't written his best. This novel is the story of Lou (with the unfortunate nickname, Lucy) and his life and dreams. Lucy never managed to grab me the way some of Russo's other characters have but this was still an engaging read. This book followed his previous award winner, Empire Falls.

Abide with Me: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout
 
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Inspiring, Insightful
Compelling story about small town Maine 1950's

Elizabeth Strout is a gifted writer and this book does not disappoint. A small town, widowed minister deals with his grief and the grief of his young daughter. The book is a little dark in the beginning but I think the author wants us to see the flaws in the parishoners. The title, Abide With Me was a little lost to me until I read the lyrics on line.... then the book made more sense. (Listen to a young soprano named Hayley Westenra sing it on YouTube. Beautiful!) The ending happens maybe a bit too quickly, but the last few chapters contain some of Strout's best writing.

 
Pointless, Slow, Interesting
Ho Hum! and Dull!

This was a quick read but I liked Julie Powell a little less with every chapter. She was spoiled, crude, and self-pitying. By the time I read about her filthy feet I wanted to smack her and tell her to clean her damn apartment. She sounded like a real slob. I can't imagine eating anything that was prepared in her kitchen (maggots?! UGH!) She writes well and maybe she matured a bit over the course of her project but she was so immature and self-absorbed that I couldn't care less about her and whether or not she completed her "project."

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Beautiful, Interesting
Beautifully written

Marina is an elderly WWII survivor living in the US with her husband Dimitri. This is a dual story about Marina's fade into Alzheimer's disease and her memories of her war years in Leningrad. As her current life slips away from her, she vividly remembers her time as a guide in the Hemitage museum. The two stories flow seamlessly and the writing, including the description of the art, is gorgeous. Many of us in our book club didn't realize that so may Hermitage staff lived in the cellar of the museum during the worst of the war. The author's description of those years is moving and the people are brilliantly portrayed. Debra Dean also does an incredible job of describing what it must be like to lose one's grasp on the current time. Marina appears bemused initially and eventually she is totally helpless. The only reason I gave this 4 stars is that it felt incomplete. At 256 pages it reads more like a novella and I could easily have read another 200 pages. Great little novel!

The God of War: A Novel by Marisa Silver
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Brilliant, Beautiful
A Lovely Surprise!

I didn't know anything about this book when I picked it up and it turned out to be a terrific read. It is the story of 12 year old Ares, his autistic younger brother and their well-meaning but inept mother. Ares feels responsible for his brother and frustrated by his mother's limitations. They find temporary solace with a school teacher until it appears that her family has even deeper problems. All-in-all it's a life-affirming book that is beautifully written and multi-layered.

Push. by Sapphire
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Dramatic, Graphic
So painful...

This book is a short, quick read but I had to walk away from it several times. it is VERY graphic and very painful to read. Precious is a young woman trying to make her way in the world after years of abuse. She has been impregnated twice by her father and was repeatedly beaten by her sadistic mother. But Precious wants more for herself and her young son. This should be required reading for every teacher and social worker.

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Interesting, Informative
Good idea, but...

The concept of this book was a good one but the execution was only fair. I never forgot for a moment that it was written by a man. Somehow the author didn't get to the heart and soul of his female characters. At times it seemed that he tried too hard and things just didn't ring true as a result many of the characters were interesting but too stereotypical. It was a pretty quick read and allows for a lot of discussion about history and the role of women in both the white and native cultures. Many scenes were pretty far-fetched and almost silly.

One Mississippi: A Novel by Mark Childress
 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Unconvincing, Dramatic
Whoa! Not what I expected!

There are quotes on the cover of this book calling it "rollicking" and "hilarious." Stephen King says,"Funniest novel I have read in ten years." I don't know what King is reading but this novel is dark... VERY dark. I don't want to add any spoilers but suffice it to say that the ending doesn't fit the rest of the novel. There are redeeming things in this book. The characters are pretty realistic (even when their circumstances are not!) and the author paints a clear picture of high school in the 70's but the story is very far fetched and ultimately unlikeable.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Informative, Interesting
Alzheimers at age 50

This is a debut novel and a wonderful attempt at explaining dementia from the viewpoint of the afflicted 50 year old Alice. Alice is a Harvard professor and teaches psychology, linguistics and cognitive development. That makes her "fall" into dementia that much more harrowing. The idea of this book was brilliant and the only reason I didn't rate it 5 stars was because the ending felt a little forced and much of the dialogue was too "pat." Still, it was a great read and highly recommended.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Insightful, Beautiful
Life as viewed by Enzo the dog

Sweet story about Enzo the dog and his owner, the race car driver. Enzo is hampered by his lack of language and his lack of opposable thumbs but his huge heart makes up for it. He has a beautiful soul and wants to be reincarnated as a man. That was a flaw for me, as we all know that dogs are higher beings. *smile* Enzo's owner has many problems in his life, but the dog gives him strength.

City of Thieves: A Novel by David Benioff
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Dramatic, Interesting
Interesting story but...

I had trouble remembering that this was a novel and not a screenplay. It felt as if I was watching a movie and that's not altogether bad but I had trouble feeling very engaged with the characters. They were almost cartoonish in their portrayals of "bad Nazi" and " fearless handsome Russian" and "young, virginal Jew." It didn't feel serious. Amid the horrors of WWII the young men were salivating over women while starving to death. There were also some historic inaccuracies. Still, it was a quick, easy read and if you don't want a terribly serious novel, this may be it.

 
Slow, Interesting, Boring
Not much to this

I read this in an afternoon but there's just not much to it. Eleven women and 40 years of "friendship" will amount to the usual: deaths of parents, marriages, divorces, childbirth, loss. It's life in the microcosm of Ames' women. It really is the story of mean, popular high school girls and how they turn out. Some are okay... a few appear to be struggling. Yep, that's life. Up and down. What would you discuss at a book club? The only thing I can think of would be our own enduring friendships.

 
Book Club Recommended
Epic, Beautiful, Adventurous
I liked this so much more than I thought I would!

Settlers in Montana in the 1880's. Herding sheep. Scraping out a living. Love and Loss. I wasn't sure I'd like this much but I did. A lot! Ivan Doig's work is not something you rush through. This is a book to be savored. It is what I would call a "ponderous" book. The prose is almost like poetry. That may turn some people off but I loved it. It's a historical novel about settling Montana but it is also about love and friendship and loss and enduring. It is the first book in a trilogy about the McCaskill and Barclay families. This one follows them from 1889-1919. I can't wait to read the second book.

 
Dark, Epic, Beautiful
Never got into this...

There were a lot of beautiful descriptions in this book and in some places the writing was lyrical, but overall it was tedious. Most of our book club members never finished the book. I stuck with it and I'm glad I did but there just wasn't enough in for me to say it is "book club worthy." Many characters were so unlikeable that we just didn't care what happened to them. Descriptions are sometimes gross (bathroom habits) and added nothing to the narrative. There are many better books out there.

Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Difficult, Insightful
You need to work at this one!

I enjoyed this book a great deal. It reminds me of an optimistic take on The Sound and The Fury. The writer is very skilled and the characters are extremely well-developed and interesting. The book tells of two weekends nine years apart. Robert Leavitt is a dying soldier in the early days of the Korean War. His son and step-daughter, Lark and Termite are the focus of the other parts of the story, nine years later. There is a mystical, almost religious aspect to the story. Normally that would turn me off but in Phillips' hands it is beautifully executed. This is not a book to rush through. It requires time and THOUGHT but it is intricate and lovely and worth the effort.

Big Fish by Daniel Wallace
 
Book Club Recommended
Confusing, Dramatic, Adventurous
Not a great work of literature

I read this in an afternoon and it was entertaining enough but there's just not much to it. I never saw the movie so I can't compare it. I think there is a lot that people might discuss at a book club, but it just wasn't for me.

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Optimistic, Inspiring
Great for a mother/daughter book club

The characters are likable and engaging but the story lines are pretty predictable. I think girls of 12-14 would enjoy this.

 
Book Club Recommended
Boring, Pointless
Getting dull

This is the third of the Sisterhood books and they seem to be losing steam. The story lines are too predictable and there's not much of a surprise anywhere. I get the feeling that the author was just cranking out another book while the Sisterhood fad was still hot. The first two are better.

 
Book Club Recommended
Boring, Romantic
Not as good as the first

But a lot better than the third. Maybe my mistake was reading all three of the Sisterhood books in a row. I almost knew what the characters would say and do before it happened. Still, girls of 12-14 would probably enjoy this.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Beautiful, Brilliant
What a great find!

This is a stark and powerful book about love, duty, loneliness and grief. It is told in the first person by Sanders Roscoe but it is the story of his neighbors, the Goodnoughs. The language is straight-forward and sparse like the high plains setting but it is lovely and moving at the same time. Haruf is better known for his novel, Plainsong, but this is a masterpiece.

 
Romantic, Interesting, Insightful
Really Dexter?

Love story? I couldn't get past how shallow these characters were. Could Emma really pine for Dexter for so many years when he was such a thoughtless, immature boy? Thought the ending really copped out too. I want stronger, more self-assured women in my novels.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Lovely Book

This novel intertwines the stories of a dozen very diverse characters. There is a priest, a bartender, Park Avenue wives, an attorney and several prostitutes. The author does a skillful job of drawing the reader into their lives and showing how a single event brings their stories together. This is a tough book to describe, but it's a winner on many levels!

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Adventurous
Best for Baby Boomers

If you grew up with this music, as I did, this book may have more meaning for you. This is a three part biography of rock's best known singer/songwriters of the era. It is a little gossipy (lots of who-slept-with-whom) but also tells the story behind the music. All three women had difficult relationships with me and all three were riddled with many insecurities. Best to read while listening to the music!

The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula Mclain
 
Interesting, Informative, Insightful
Yawn

There wasn't much happening in this novel of Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. Hemingway was brusque and offensive and she was dull and whiney. They drink too much, alienate friends and leave their child for weeks at a time. The writing felt very flat and the dialogue stilted and corny.

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