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Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Informative
A Different Perspective of WWII

It is perhaps human nature to believe that everyone that "supported" the Nazis were bad people. The truth is that many people were simply trapped in an environment where speaking out meant imprisonment, torture or death. Elsie's family operated a bakery in Germany during the war and they were simply trying to survive along with others in their community. Elsie is left at home and as a teenager, she only wants to enjoy her teen years. Unfortunately she grows up fast when faced with unthinkable decisions, such as hide a young Jewish boy or report him. To say that Elsie's life hasn't been easy is somewhat of an understatement, but she perseveres and ultimately winds up married to an American GI. She relocates to the US and eventually has a daughter and builds a business baking all of the foods she fondly recalls from Germany.

Reba is only looking for a story on multi-cultural holiday celebrations when she enters Elsie's bakery. Reba is happy with her relationship with Riki, a US Border Patrol agent, but she isn't sure if she wants to marry him. Reba thinks she wants more from life than to stay in Texas and get married. It isn't until she gets everything she wants that she realizes she prefers simplicity and misses the love of her life, Riki.

The Baker's Daughter is about much more than survival. It's about doing what feels right even if rules say it is wrong. Elsie faced this decision when she helped a young Jewish boy, feeding him, clothing him and ultimately helping him to escape. Riki faces a similar situation when dealing with families that are desperate to escape their lives in Mexico at any cost. Ms. McCoy has provided a stirring and heartfelt story with The Baker's Daughter. This isn't a fast read primarily because of the subject matter presented (World War II, anti-Semitism, illegal aliens, etc.), but it provides a thought-provoking albeit fiction

The Art of Forgetting: A Novel by Camille Noe Pagan
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Optimistic, Dramatic
Friendship survival

Julia Ferrar and Marissa Rogers have been friends since their high school days in Michigan. Marissa is an editor for a health magazine and Julia is a publicist for a ballet company in New York. Their friendship survives quite a bit over the years, including an onerous boyfriend breakup in college at the behest of Julia. Now Julia is suffering from traumatic brain injury and isn't the pivotal point in Marissa's life. Julia returns to Michigan to recover and Marissa must find the nerve to move on in New York. Although you can't go back in time, Julia's return to Michigan brings an old love back into Marissa's life. Will she be able to withstand Julia's current machinations? Can they both move forward without reliving mistakes from their past?


Marissa is, in many ways, the every-woman. She has moments when she is lacking in self-confidence and is sure that those last 10 pounds will allow her to feel more comfortable in her own body. She loves her current boyfriend but constantly wonders about the one that got away. It isn't until Marissa begins to work as a mentor/coach in an after-school running program that she learns that self-confidence and self-esteem must come from within. I enjoyed reading about the self-discovery and self-awareness that evolves in both Marissa and Julia. I have to say that I didn't really like Julia as a person or a friend. I thought she was too manipulative and insistent on getting her way no matter what. It's as if she expects Marissa's life to revolve around her needs, and this is before the brain injury occurred. However, without Julia there is no impetus for Marissa to challenge herself and move forward. This is not just a "feel good" read but an honest and insightful look at friendship. The Art of Forgetting is scheduled for release on June 9th.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Adventurous, Fun
Not your typical witches and vampires...

Meet Diana Bishop, Ph.D., historical scholar specializing in alchemical history and a witch, a reluctant witch that craves to be "normal." Her love interest is Matthew Claremont, Ph.D., M.D., neuroscientist, geneticist (actually a true renaissance man) and vampire. Throughout the first half of the story Diana and Matthew appear to fight their attraction but build upon their timid friendship in the second half by falling in love and fighting for the opportunity to be in love. This fight, along with the discovery that Diana is not your typical witch genetically speaking, are the two big themes throughout the story. Diana, Matthew and their respective families must fight against the creature hierarchy that states that witches cannot be with vampires or daemons and vice versa. Is this done as a means of protection for the species or out of fear?
The other major theme is the discovery of a book that may shed light on the origins of these creatures and provide information on their potential demise. Needless to say the witches feel that this should belong to them, while the daemons and vampires are just as territorial on ownership. All three creatures fear the book falling into the wrong hands and are willing to fight to retrieve it.
These are not your typical vampires and daemons. The daemons in this story are artistically creative creatures that lean towards being slightly off psychologically speaking. Daemons apparently are born to human parents and don't "come into" their powers until puberty or around puberty. Witches are born to witch parents (one or both may be witches) and come into their powers around age seven. Vampires are humans that are reborn as vampires and require blood to survive, but these vampires are capable of being out during the day or night...and are long-lived.
Suffice it to say that there is a lot going on in this book and most of the action seems to take place over a few months, if not weeks. Sadly, the author leaves you hanging at the end, so grab book 2 SHADOW OF NIGHT asap.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
 
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Dramatic, Difficult
Literary Fiction burn-out

First, I have to say that the actual story-line and characters are brilliantly presented. The only detraction I can make about the book are the often wordy, overly descriptive passages about minutiae. I didn't feel it added to the story and, as a result, slowed the story down (at least for me). This is probably destined to be a love it or hate it book, and I can fully understand those that love it, although I'm not in that majority.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark, Interesting
Not so ga-ga for Gone Girl

First let me say that I did rather enjoy Gone Girl...well at least I did on the second read. This is a very dark, sometimes confusing and very dramatic psychological thriller. The characters of Nick and Amy aren't very likeable and that just adds to the overall dark tone of the story. There are enough twists and turns to keep the reader wondering what is real and what isn't until the very end.

Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Indefensible

Parents are often willing to do anything to protect their children, even if it means protecting them from the law. Andy Barber doesn't intend to circumvent the law, as he has spent the majority of his adult life upholding the law as an assistant district attorney. But Andy knows that his family background may play a larger role than anyone expects. Andy's father and grandfather were career criminals and both were accused and convicted of murder. Andy had told Laurie that his father was dead; now that she knows the truth about his heritage she is shocked that he misled her all these years. The shock of Andy's lineage coupled with Jacob's arrest and the impending trial might be too much. As the family prepares for the trial, Andy does several things that may be construed as obstruction of justice but he simply views his actions as protecting his child. Even after the family begins counseling and Laurie discloses problems with Jacob's behavior as a child, Andy remains in denial about their son. Is it possible that Jacob has behavioral problems bordering on sociopathy like his grandfather and great-grandfather?
Defending Jacob is a tense legal, suspense thriller filled with drama centering on one parent's inability to accept the possible truth about their child. Laurie knows that Jacob isn't like the other kids and she fears that she may have done something to cause his behavioral problems. Laurie is willing to do whatever is necessary to get Jacob the help he needs from a psychological perspective. Andy is willing to do whatever is necessary to get Jacob the legal help he needs to be acquitted. Both parents are "defending" their son in the only way they can, yet neither can fully accept nor understand the other parents’ point of view. Mr. Landay has provided a story that doesn't disappoint from beginning to end.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
 
Adventurous, Interesting, Brilliant
Strange tale...

There are very few books that I don't complete but this was one of them for 2012. Although the general premise for the book was enticing, the story was plodding and seemed filled with extraneous details for no obvious reason. I only made it through half of the book before I had to give up and say enough! I enjoyed the beginning of the book (approximately the first 25%), but the remainder that I read was confusing, plodding and simply not enjoyable. Sorry...I know this was an award winning book but it didn't do anything for me.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Dramatic
Another great one from Mr. Silas House

My first exposure to Silas House was with A PARCHMENT OF LEAVES. After reading it I promptly put his other books on my TBR list but sadly had only read ELI THE GOOD before our book club chose CLAY'S QUILT. Mr. House has a unique way of bringing the reader into the story and empathizing with the characters from beginning to end. The characters and theme of CLAY'S QUILT aren't necessarily unique to Kentucky but perhaps found throughout Appalachia. Clay, Cake, Dreama, Alma, Aunt Easter and Uncle Gabe are thoroughly believable perhaps because they are simplistic in their worldview...family first and family isn't limited to blood relations.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Gloomy
Not what I expected...

I started reading OLIVE KITTERIDGE expecting the story to center on one character, Olive Kitteridge. I was very surprised when several of the stories only made a passing reference to Olive. As short stories, each story was wonderful solo and a few pieced together provided interesting insight into Olive as well as small town America. However as a novel I felt it lacked some cohesiveness. The stories did provide for an interesting discussion. I didn't "enjoy" reading OLIVE KITTERIDGE because of Olive's darkness, but I did appreciate it by the end.

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Fun, Insightful
Cultures Unite!

MAJOR PETTIGREW'S LAST STAND seemed to be just as much about cultural traditions and nationalism as it was about romance and prejudice. Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali provide the romantic focus of this delightful story, while also being at the center of cultural disputes. They're both victims of cultural and familial expectations. Although a slow read, I was pulled into the story and continued to read just to learn what would happen next.

The Healing by Jonathan Odell
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Dramatic
Fascinating look at race relations in the South

There are numerous books about slaves and the Deep South but few leave an indelible impression on this reader. The Healing by Jonathan Odell is one such book. Granada is born into slavery but has spent most of her young life at the side of the plantation mistress, much like a pet. Unfortunately Granada views her life through rose-tinted glasses and presumes that she is much better than other slaves simply because of her so-called status with the mistress. When Master Satterfield faces a plague that is devastating his slave population he brings in an older woman that has a well-known reputation as a healer, Polly Shine.

In many aspects, Polly has the same amount of leeway to practice her healing arts and live her life as Granada had during her younger years. Polly\'s request that Granada join her in practicing healing is met with plenty of discomfort and tension, especially on the part of Granada. Although a slave, Polly has many ideas on what slavery and freedom entail and these ideas cause a split amongst many of the slaves into those that accept and understand her feelings and those that feel she is a troublemaker. Ultimately Polly ends up teaching Granada much of the healing arts, as well as providing hope to some of the slaves on the Satterfield plantation.

Fast forward seventy-five years and Granada still lives on the plantation where she was born. The area has devolved into housing for many of the blacks descended from the slaves. Granada still practices the healing arts but there aren\'t many who approach her for assistance, until a young girl, Violet, is left in her care. Violet is dealing with abandonment issues relating to her mother\'s death and being left in Gran-Gran\'s custody. As she slowly heals, Violet discovers the history of the plantation and gorges herself on the Gran-Gran\'s memories of the people and events from the past. The Healing is just as much a story of the healing practices of Granada and Polly Shine as it is about the healing that Violet brings to Gran-Gran years after slavery has ended.

And Then I Found You: A Novel by Patti Callahan Henry
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Beautiful
Love Lost and Found

Kate Vaughan has loved and lost and will probably be the first to tell you that it isn't better to have loved and lost than never at all. Losing those she's loved has been hard and that pain and loss have been with her every day for the past thirteen years. She's tried to move on with her life and has a successful boutique and is in loving relationship, but she craves what she has lost. In an effort to say goodbye to her past, she makes a trip to Alabama to visit her ex. Jack has moved on with his life and although he's glad to see her he doesn't want to revisit the past. Just when it seems like things couldn't get any worse, her current boyfriend shows up in Alabama . . . at Jack's house. Kate is forced to reveal the secrets of her past and only hopes that Rowan can understand and that they can move forward. Easier said than done because the daughter she gave up for adoption has tracked her down. Kate now has her two lost loves back in her life but isn't quite sure what to do with them.

Ms. Henry has provided a story that deals with love, loss and the consequences of our choices. Kate has to deal with the constant reminder from her parents of their lost first grandchild. She deals with the anguish of giving up her daughter for adoption each year on her birthday. Kate wants to build a future with Rowan but is that even possible when she can't let go of the past? Now that she has contact with her biological daughter what does that mean for her and her family, not to mention her daughter's adoptive family? The choices that Kate and others make have unforeseen consequences, some good, some bad and some downright heartbreaking. There aren't any bad guys in this story as everyone is simply trying to do what is best for their families as well as themselves. And Then I Found You is an excellent reminder that we can't live in the past and sometimes the only way to keep something in our lives is to let go . . . trite but fundamentally true. And Then I Found You isn't a happy ever after story but it is a hopeful ever after, as the reader is left with the hope that everything will work out after all.

Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge
 
Book Club Recommended
Self-discovery and Love reclaimed

Lucie Walker was a typical type A personality prior to her disappearance. She wore fashionable clothes, carried the most fashion-forward accessories, wore all the right makeup and micromanaged her life and business as a tech recruiter. She also tried to micromanage her fiancé and their upcoming wedding. Lucie has always found solace in her tightly managed life. This all changes when Lucie disappears without a trace from Seattle, Washington and is found days later in San Francisco, California. She has no memory of who she is, why she's in California, or of her life in Seattle. Grady Goodall loves Lucie, the good and the bad. He's an engineer with Boeing and the youngest of seven children. All his life has been spent not making waves, literally and figuratively speaking. Grady's one joy has always been found in swimming. The act of swimming allows him the opportunity to cast off the woes and worries of his life. He's not quite sure what to make of Lucie's disappearance and he definitely doesn't know how to handle her return as she's no longer the Lucie he really knew and loved.

Love Water Memory is, in some aspects, a coming-of-age story. Grady must learn to deal with his past, namely the death of his father and subsequent abandonment issues, as well as general complacency and desire to avoid confrontation of any kind. Lucie can't remember her past, not her immediate past or her childhood, so she's constantly searching for clues into who she is and where she came from. All Grady can tell her is that her parents are deceased and she hasn't had any contact with her sole surviving family member, an aunt. Neither Grady nor Lucie really like the answers they discover, but they realize they need to learn from the past so that they can move forward. I rather enjoyed reading about Grady and Lucie as they discovered who they really are and what they want, not just from each other but from themselves and life. Lucie’s search for clues to her past also helps to reunite her with the only family she still has, her aunt Helen Ten Hands. Ms. Shortridge does a wonderful job in describing Lucie's dissociative fugue state and developing the back story to explain it all. I found Love Water Memory to be a wonderful contemporary fiction read with just the right amount of romance. If you're looking for a great read, then look no further . . . add Love Water Memory to your Spring TBR pile.

Heart of Palm by Laura Lee Smith
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Interesting, Optimistic
Beautifully Crafted Tale of Family Dysfunction in the South

The Bravo family has a history of tragedy and heartache. The matriarch, Alma Bolton Bravo, was raised in a well-to-do family and never wanted for anything. Alma decided as a teenager that she wanted to be different, so she chose to marry a man that was as different from her family as she could find, Dean Bravo. The first tragedy in their lives occurred on their honeymoon, when Alma is in a boating accident that causes the amputation of her toes and splits her foot. Of course it doesn't help that the cause of the accident was Dean's refusal to have a third party as a spotter to go out with them so Alma could water-ski safely. Years pass, Alma and Dean have four children and are barely making ends meet and the second tragedy occurs with the death of their youngest child. As the years pass, it is evident that their eldest, Sofia has mental health issues (she was diagnosed as manic-depressive with OCD). Dean, a heavy drinker, winds up deserting the family shortly after the death of their youngest child. Alma makes do and eventually buys out her brother-in-law's business, a local bar and grill. Carson Bravo, the eldest son, marries and moves away from home and starts his own business. Frank Bravo, the youngest son, still lives in Utina and runs the restaurant, a job he's had since he was nineteen years old. Sofia lives at home with her mother and helps her brother out by cleaning the restaurant every morning.

On the surface it appears that the Bravo family is just a family dealing with the usual family issues and dysfunctions, but the Bravos are dealing with more than tragedy, heartache and mental health issues. Frank is in love with his sister-in-law and wants to move away from Utina and live a quiet life. He knows this won't happen as long as his mother and sister are around and need him. Carson has made a mess of both his marriage and his business and needs to find a quick fix for both before he winds up divorced, in prison or worse. Sofia struggles with her mental health issues, but she is surviving and has found love for the first time in her life at age forty-three. Alma, as the matriarch, worries about her children but knows that she can no longer control them. The family is offered the chance to make a large sum of money and leave Utina behind, something they think about or say they want until the opportunity is presented to them.

Ms. Smith has captured the essence of family in all its dysfunction in Heart of Palm. As I read, I was reminded of the line from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." The Bravos are unhappy in their own special way. There aren't any true bad guys in Heart of Palm, as each Bravo family member deals with their own secrets and guilt. Dean and Alma aren't the best parents, but they did what they could for their family to the best of their abilities. Sofia, Carson and Frank aren't loving siblings but they are there for one another when needed. Carson's wife Elizabeth, and daughter Bell, add their own idiosyncrasies to the family. Sofia's love interest, Biaggio, works with and for the Bravo family and he considers himself a family member even before he and Sofia decide to marry. Heart of Palm is filled with angst, drama, greed, guilt, pain, suffering, forgiveness, and love . . . all the things that make a family a family. If you're looking for a well-written story about family and small-town living, then I strongly recommend Heart of Palm.

Cover of Snow: A Novel by Jenny Milchman
 
Book Club Recommended
Boring, Confusing, Slow
Snow Covered Suspense

Nora and Brendan Hamilton had, by all appearances, a happy marriage and good life. At least that's what Nora thought before she woke up one morning and found that her husband had committed suicide. The only question that Nora can focus on is why? After the funeral and life for most of the residents of Wedeskyull, New York returns to a sense of normalcy, Nora begins her quest to answer why her husband killed himself. Little does she know that this quest is placing not only her life, but the lives of others in grave danger. Will she be able to uncover the truth before she is silenced?

I found the first few chapters of Cover of Snow to read a little slow and my focus on the book began to pall. However, after setting aside the book for a few hours, I found myself immersed into Nora's world and intrigue and read to the last page without interruption. Brendan's personal history is slowly revealed over the course of the book, and it's almost as if we are learning about Brendan at the same as Nora. The relationship between Nora and her sister Teggie came across just as loving and sometimes awkward as most sibling relationships during moments of personal trials. Teggie is loving, supportive and understanding, as well as impatient and brutally honest with Nora. But it is perhaps Teggie's impatience as much as the local mishaps in Wedeskyull that push Nora forward. Nora is portrayed as an outsider that had married into the Wedeskyull family. At first her marriage and connection to the Hamilton family are a plus but they quickly become more of a curse or hindrance as she continues to investigate her husband's death. She doesn’t have the support of her mother-in-law or the police department. She’s constantly cautioned to let things go and forget about the past. But the more Nora learns, the more she realizes that she didn't really know anyone in this small town and that there isn't anyone she can trust. I enjoyed the twists and turns Nora takes as she searches for the truth. I thought that Ms. Milchman did an admirable job in describing life in a small town as well as in creating a mystery-suspense read that kept me guessing until the bitter end. If you enjoy mystery-suspense and are seeking something new to read, then I can wholeheartedly recommend Cover of Snow.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
Revisiting the past to build a future

Molly Ayers is about to age out of the foster-care system. One stupid mistake, attempting to steal a library book, forces her to accept community service hours or be placed in juvenile detention or jail. Molly chooses community service but isn\'t sure where she\'ll be able to get the hours she needs. Fortunately Molly\'s boyfriend Jack is able to arrange for Molly to help an elderly woman clean out her attic for her hours. Molly stands out in Spruce Harbor, Maine. She dresses in Goth style in an effort to keep people away. If people don\'t get close, she won\'t have to worry about them leaving or hurting her. Molly has been in foster care for nine years and lived in more than twelve foster homes. Some homes were good and some were very bad. Her current foster father, Ralph Thibodeau, is anxious to provide a stable home for Molly. Ralph\'s wife, Dina, doesn\'t like the hassle of another mouth to feed or dealing with any of the problems that Molly faces. Jack is the only person she\'s really connected with in Spruce Harbor until she meets Vivian.

Vivian Daly was born Niamh (pronounced Neev) Power in Ireland in 1909. She immigrated to the US with her family in the late 1920s and became an orphan in 1929. The Children\'s Aid Society of New York gathered her and other orphans up and shipped them via train to the Midwest to be adopted. Her name was changed to Dorothy along the way and she was first sent to live with Mr. and Mrs. Byrne in Albans, Minnesota where she basically became an indentured servant sewing women\'s clothing. After the stock market crash and loss of incoming business, she is sent to live with Mr. and Mrs. Grotto as a mother\'s helper, where she lives in squalor and has to deal with being molested by Mr. Grotto. After running away from the Grotto family and temporarily being taken in by her school teacher, Miss Larsen, she is finally adopted by a loving family and formally becomes Vivian Nielsen (named after the Nielsen\'s dead daughter). She later marries and remarries and operates a successful business before retiring from Minnesota to Maine.

Vivian and Molly have a lot in common due to their backgrounds as orphans. Molly quickly learns about Vivian\'s life as an orphan and the trials of being on the \"orphan train.\" Jack and his mother Terry (Vivian\'s housekeeper), feel that Molly is taking advantage of Vivian but Molly quickly explains that she is helping Vivian revisit and organize the tokens of her past since Vivian doesn\'t really want to part with anything.

Orphan Train mixes happy with sad, good with bad, and pretty with ugly, much like life to tell an interesting story of two women born seventy-four years apart with similar lives as orphans. I found all of the characters to be fully developed and rather enjoyed the seesaw presentation of past and present. I\'ve got to say that I was initially drawn to the story because one of the characters is named Vivian (not a lot of us in the world). I could go on and on and on about this book, but let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Orphan Train. If you enjoyed reading The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh or just want a great read, then I highly recommend Orphan Train.

The Kitchen House: A Novel by Kathleen Grissom
 
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Contrived

I hate to resort to using words like formulaic and contrived, but this book fits (at least it did for me). The author seemed to include every Southern slave-era stereotype possible in a very dark and depressing read that provided little entertainment or insight into this bygone era.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Inspiring, Dramatic
Sad yet fascinating read about overcoming poverty

THE GLASS CASTLE is not a read for the weak-at-heart. Ms. Walls provides an unapologetic view of her life in abject poverty in Arizona, Nevada, California and West Virginia. Her parents were negligent, her mother possibly mentally ill, and her father an alcoholic and a genius. It was difficult to read about some of the instances of sexual abuse described in the book, but fortunately the author and her siblings survived.

 
Dark and a bit too confusing

This book is heralded as historical fiction and it brings up some interesting historical facts blended into the fiction. Having said that I found the characters to be flat and unconvincing. The storyline was confusing in that too many clues became \"red herrings\" that then became valid clues and vice versa. It was often difficult to determine where the author was heading with the plot or why the characters (historical and contemporary) were doing certain things. Can you tell I didn\'t enjoy this book? Well evidently none of my book club members did either as very few were able to make past the first 60-100 pages. One reader quit after page 3! I could go on but I think you get the point.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Romantic, Beautiful
Wonderful historical fiction

This book is well-written, highly descriptive, and emotive. The story is told in the different voices of the characters and goes back and forth in time, from 1962 to the present. It may be a bit trite to say, but this author truly paints a picture for the reader with his words. The beginning may be a bit slow or awkward for some, but (trust me) stick with it to the end and you won't be disappointed!

The Language of Flowers: A Novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful, Interesting
A Powerful Debut

I\'ve read this book three times since it\'s debut and it packs a punch each and every time. I enjoyed the dysfunctionality of the characters (especially Elizabeth and Victoria), as well as the depiction of the foster care system. The incorporation of the message or \"language\" of flowers allowed the major characters to communicate in the only way they knew how.

Calling Me Home: A Novel by Julie Kibler
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful, Inspiring
Love IS Color Blind

Dorrie Curtis is a divorced, single-mom, small-business owner and a strong, Black woman. She's dealt with a lot of disappointment in her life but is striving to be better and do better, so that she can provide for her family. She's also struggling with her "relationship" with Teague, as she's never dealt with a strong, reliable, responsible and loving man before. Over the past ten years she's built a relationship that has gone way beyond hairdresser and customer with Ms. Isabelle. When Ms. Isabelle asks her to take time away from her business and family to drive her to Ohio for a funeral, Dorrie briefly hesitates but realizes this is no small request and agrees.

Isabelle McAllister is an elderly widow who just happens to be White. She was raised in Kentucky in the 1920s and 1930s with a different mentality and approach toward minorities. Unfortunately she didn't share those opinions. One of her childhood friends was Nell, the daughter of their family's housekeeper/cook, Cora Prewitt. As a teenager, Nell became the family's maid and the continuing friendship was frowned upon. And if a friendship with the maid was frowned upon, then a friendship with the maid's brother Robert was downright dangerous. Yet Isabelle throws caution to the wind and discovers she has more in common with Robert than with any of the boys her parents consider eligible beaus. In a time when a Black man could be lynched just for looking at a White woman the wrong way, allowing a friendship to develop into a romance was potentially lethal, at least for Robert. Robert and Isabelle runaway from Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio where it is legal for a Black man and White woman to marry and they do just that . . . marry. Their happiness as a married couple is short-lived as Isabelle's father and brothers track them down and force Isabelle to return to Kentucky. Her marriage is annulled as she's underage and she is literally made a prisoner by her family. After her confinement, she once again runs away, eventually meets another man, remarries and has a family. But she's never able to leave behind the memories of her first love, her first marriage, and the impact it had on her and the entire Prewitt family

Dorrie and Ms. Isabelle have stories that are told in alternating chapters. Not only do the chapters alternate between Dorrie and Ms. Isabelle, but they alternate between past and present. Ms. Isabelle reveals her past during the long drive between Texas and Ohio and oh what a past. Calling Me Home is more than a story about prejudice and race relations, it is a story about hope and love. Ms. Isabelle had a great love with Robert Prewitt even though it was at a time when society frowned upon a White woman marrying a Black man. Over the years Ms. Isabelle had been forced to give up so much, but she's realizing that she also has much with her friendship with Dorrie. Dorrie is also realizing that although her life has been rough and she's had to deal with more in-your-face racism and prejudice that she's not dealt with anything as harshly as Ms. Isabelle's life. These women unexpectedly become not only friends but family with Ms. Isabelle considering Dorrie the equivalent of a daughter or granddaughter and Dorrie considering Ms. Isabelle the mother or grandmother she's always wanted but never had. Ms. Kibler has created characters that touch the heart, trite but true. One can only feel empathy toward Isabelle as a young woman struggling against society and her family and hoping that love will conquer all. It isn't possible to read about Dorrie and her son's dilemma and not see that it reflects Ms. Isabelle's life story. Both Dorrie and Ms. Isabelle initially come across as somewhat cantankerous women, but that's only a shield they both use to protect themselves. The drama and sorrow of this story seem to culminate with the funeral in Ohio. It is a huge surprise and one that seems to present some resolution to past hurts. I loved reading Calling Me Home so much that I've read it twice now in the past two months. If you ignore any other recommendation I may give to you don't ignore this one: read this book!

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Graphic, Dramatic
Cultural & Historical Insights

First, let me say that this was not an easy read for me. I don't consider myself a prude, but the education Violet received on becoming a courtesan was graphic without being pornographic. THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENT provides some insight into a different culture, values and time. The relationships between mothers and daughters in the story is the primary story but the cultural and historical lessons are no less important. Don't expect this to be a light read, it isn't but it is definitely worth the time you'll invest in completing it.

Dear Mr. Knightley: A Novel by Katherine Reay
 
Book Club Recommended
An inspirational fiction read that can be enjoyed by all

Samantha Moore is a young twenty-something female whose life has been turned upside down. She grew up in foster care and spent most of her life immersed in books, so much that she uses literary quotes to relate to people. Unfortunately this has a tendency to push people away rather than pull them closer. She's recently lost her job and subsequently her apartment. Forced to return to the only home she's known, she heads back to Grace House. However, her stay doesn't come without strings. She'll only be allowed to stay there if she pursues an additional degree. The priest at Grace House, Father John, persuades Samantha to apply to both the Medill School of Journalism and for a grant from the Dover Foundation. After her acceptance to Medill, she is awarded a grant that covers all of her graduate school expenses but she is required to send letters to the head of the foundation providing updates on her progress.

These letters began with rather benign updates but eventually begin to reveal who Samantha is at heart through her interactions with her friends, peers, professors, and acquaintances. These letters also reveal many of the struggles Samantha must endure in her quest to finish her graduate degree. These struggles include a holiday bout with a ruptured appendix, being mugged, and her mental struggle with her degree choice. Fortunately these struggles result in Samantha finding housing closer to the school and negate her having to travel great distances late at night, she also befriends the author Alex Powell and his friends, the Muirs.

Dear Mr. Knightley was actually the first epistolary novel I've read. I thought it would be off-putting reading a novel in letter format, but all of the action and dialogue between the characters are revealed in these letters so at times it didn't even feel like I was reading in a different format. Samantha is a difficult character to understand as she's somewhat prickly at first and doesn't really know who she is since she's spent so much time trying to channel her favorite characters and use literature to try and connect with people. It isn't until she befriends a fellow orphan at Grace House, Kyle, and later Alex that she begins to grow and learn to love and trust. In many ways Dear Mr. Knightley is a coming-of-age story with a twist. I felt all of the characters were well-developed and realistic. It was heartening to watch Samantha grow and learn from her mistakes, although at times others had to point these mistakes out to her. I found Dear Mr. Knightley to be an engaging and fast read that was filled with self-discovery, romance, and drama. If you enjoy reading uplifting or inspirational fiction, then you'll definitely want to add Dear Mr. Knightley to your reading list. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Reay in the future.

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
 
Insightful, Interesting, Dramatic
Well written but....

This is a well-written and critically praised book and for good reason. The subject matters of social isolation, poverty, and inter-racial relationships in the US South during the Depression are very heavy topics. Although the author deals with all of the topics in a gritty and serious manner, the picture painted is very bleak and gloomy. Although I can recommend this as a book for individuals to read, I don't really think it will be suitable for all book clubs (especially due to the dark and difficult themes).

The Healing by Jonathan Odell
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Dramatic
Spiritual and Physical Healing

There are numerous books about slaves and the Deep South but few leave an indelible impression on this reader. The Healing by Jonathan Odell is one such book. Granada is born into slavery but has spent most of her young life at the side of the plantation mistress, much like a pet. Unfortunately Granada views her life through rose-tinted glasses and presumes that she is much better than other slaves simply because of her so-called status with the mistress. When Master Satterfield faces a plague that is devastating his slave population he brings in an older woman that has a well-known reputation as a healer, Polly Shine.

In many aspects, Polly has the same amount of leeway to practice her healing arts and live her life as Granada had during her younger years. Polly's request that Granada join her in practicing healing is met with plenty of discomfort and tension, especially on the part of Granada. Although a slave, Polly has many ideas on what slavery and freedom entail and these ideas cause a split amongst many of the slaves into those that accept and understand her feelings and those that feel she is a troublemaker. Ultimately Polly ends up teaching Granada much of the healing arts, as well as providing hope to some of the slaves on the Satterfield plantation.

Fast forward seventy-five years and Granada still lives on the plantation where she was born. The area has devolved into housing for many of the blacks descended from the slaves. Granada still practices the healing arts but there aren't many who approach her for assistance, until a young girl, Violet, is left in her care. Violet is dealing with abandonment issues relating to her mother's death and being left in Gran-Gran's custody. As she slowly heals, Violet discovers the history of the plantation and gorges herself on the Gran-Gran's memories of the people and events from the past. The Healing is just as much a story of the healing practices of Granada and Polly Shine as it is about the healing that Violet brings to Gran-Gran years after slavery has ended.

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Interesting, Slow
Short but Amazing Read

This was an amazingly fast read for me and my fellow book group members, yet the author was able to pack a powerful punch with her brevity. The writing style may be sparse and at times rather dark due to the subject matter, but the overall effect of this style with the subject matter was found to be the perfect way to portray this dark time in US history.

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Dramatic
A Great Read

I\\\'ve had the opportunity to read this twice over the past few months for two different book groups and both groups loved this book. The insight, albeit fictionalized, into Autism provided for some of the best discussions. Even though some readers felt the ending was a bit contrived, this book remained a well-thought of and highly liked read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark, Insightful
Fighting for Love

Salvage the Bones isn't a light read but is a worthwhile read. The themes are at times dark, gritty, and dramatic. The characters are sad yet likeable. The Batiste family probably won't win any awards for family-of-the-year but they stick together and are willing to fight and stand-up for one another no matter what.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Insightful, Interesting
Reflections on a Life Past

Many of us would probably change things we've done in the past or behaviors we know have if we only had the chance. The best thing about WHAT ALICE FORGOT is that Alice, and indeed her entire family, has the opportunity to reflect upon their past, see where they are now, and make proactive changes to their future. Although I found this to be a fast-paced read, I did feel it was bogged down by the letter-writing of the grandmother and journal entries of the sister. One or two of these would have been fine but overall it didn't really help the story and may have negatively impacted on the overall pleasure in reading.

The Silent Wife: A Novel by A. S. A. Harrison
 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Interesting, Dramatic
Unlikeable characters but an enjoyable read

It's often difficult to connect with a book that contains unlikeable characters. I didn't overtly dislike Jodi or Todd but I didn't like them either. However, the author was still able to pull me into the story and I became invested in the lives of these characters even without liking them very much. It was interesting to delve into the minds of Jodi and Todd without becoming enmeshed in their drama. Neither were sympathetic characters, yet you still want to see what happens. That, to me, is the hallmark of excellent writing.

 
Book Club Recommended
Scary, Insightful, Dramatic
You Can't Runaway from Yourself!

Emily Shepard didn't have a perfect family life. Her parents drank too much, especially her father. They fought, usually about the drinking. But they provided Emily with everything a girl could ask for: a great education, travel, a wonderful home, and love (in between the drinking and fighting). All that changes when the nuclear power plant that her father is responsible for melts down and explodes. Suddenly her world is turned upside down and her parents are considered the biggest losers in the world. Is it any wonder that Emily decides to run to escape the chaos after this disaster?

What Emily doesn't know at age sixteen is that you can't run away from life. She quickly learns that her privileged life hasn't really prepared her for a life on the streets. She also learns that when you're down-and-out you're willing to do almost anything in order to survive. Emily learns that prostitution at the local truck stop can provide her with quick cash. She learns to work the system in order to get a bath, where you can hangout during the day, which shops she can shoplift from and which ones she can't. She makes up a life for herself and tries to drown her sorrows, fear and grief in drugs and self-mutilation. Over the course of nine months Emily learns how to survive on the streets and becomes a big sister/mother figure to another runaway, nine-year-old Cameron. Emily's carefully constructed life quickly disintegrates when another tragedy strikes. Will she be able to survive this latest tragedy or will she completely self-destruct?

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is presented in the form of journal entries by Emily as she reflects on her life after the power plant accident. Emily hints at the notion that she may have a mental health issue and she learns to self-medicate with drugs while on the street. Her reflections on the power plant accident, her journey to Burlington, her struggles to remake herself, the prostitution, the self-abuse or cutting, the stealing, the drugs and the friends she makes and loses could make for a disheartening story. However Chris Bohjalian is a master at telling a story that truly plucks at your heartstrings and uplifts at the same time. Emily's story could be the story of almost any teenager left without family or friends after a natural disaster, the only difference is her father is blamed for this disaster and it is by no means natural in origins. This wasn't an easy read and it shouldn't be given the themes that are discussed. Seriously, nuclear meltdown, radiation contamination, mass population exodus, teenage prostitution, teenage drug abuse, homelessness, and child and teen runaways aren't exactly light topics. Nonetheless, Mr. Bohjalian has crafted a story that deals with these dark themes and still provides the reader with a sense of hope that things will work out in the end. This isn't a story about good versus evil, but simply a story about self-awareness, self-acceptance, and survival. If you want to read a moving story that will make you think for hours, if not days or weeks, after reading it, then run out and buy a copy of Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands now. Trust me, this is a great read!

A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Dramatic
Big Problems in a Small Town

Acker's Gap, West Virginia could literally be any small town within the United States. The problems found there are found elsewhere. And the growing problem faced in many small towns is a problem with drugs (meth as well as prescription drug abuse). Prosecuting attorney Bell Elkins is working hard to see that Acker's Gap doesn't become tainted by the ever-increasing drug problems.

A native West Virginia, Bell has seen plenty of trouble in her life and was able to succeed despite the rough start. She had even left West Virginia after completing school and worked in Washington, D.C. Bell became restless with the fast-paced life in DC and yearned to return home to West Virginia and make a difference. She had hoped her husband would feel the same, but he never wanted to return to his West Virginia roots. Bell returns to West Virginia, as a divorcee and single, working mother. Her daughter, Carla, does not like the small-town feel of Acker's Gap. She misses her friends from DC and the social life. After getting into trouble again, she is seriously thinking of asking her father if she can move in with him and return to DC. One single moment changes everything for both Carla and Bell . . . a shooting that ends in the murder of three older men, a shooting that is linked to the drug problem in Acker's Gap, a shooting that Carla was misfortunate enough to witness.

Bell, due to her job, must investigate the murders but she is also concerned about the impact this event may have on Carla. Carla, somewhat traumatized by the murders, decides she wants to help her mom with this investigation. As both Carla and Bell seek to find answers to why this event happened, they put their lives in jeopardy. Will Bell be able to protect her daughter from possible retribution? Is it really possible these murders are tied to the illegal drug trade in Acker's Gap?

Ms. Keller presents a story that is all too familiar; the effects of the illegal drug trade on small towns. Bell's back story provides just as much intrigue as the investigation into the murders and drug trafficking problems. She struggles with overcoming her past, while doing everything possible to ignore it. Carla is a typical teenage girl and yearns for excitement, difficult to find in a small town (or so she thinks). A Killing In The Hills is a dramatic and suspenseful story that drew me in from the first page. I found the characters and the action realistic and plausible. This story doesn't denigrate the small town life; it just shines a spotlight on the problems found there. I finished A Killing In The Hills in one sitting and look forward to more from Ms. Keller.

The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Fun, Dramatic
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Garnet Ferrari is the object of either extreme prejudice or adoration in her hometown of Sweetwater, West Virginia. To most of the children in town and some of the parents, she is feared and hated because she is different. To the nonnas (Italian grandmothers) and a few others, she is adored for her mystical healing powers. Although Garnet's childhood isn't ideal it is filled with family and love, but all of that quickly changes with one traumatic incident quickly followed by a horrific accident that devastates the entire Ferrari family.

The Patron Saint of Ugly is a fast-paced read about love, survival, and hope. All Garnet, indeed any of the women married into the Ferrari family, want is to be loved. Garnet spends the beginning of her childhood being tortured by the ugly taunts of others. She spends her adolescence and early adulthood striving to be overlooked. It isn't until she returns to Sweetwater as an adult that she seems to overcome the struggle of being perceived as "normal."

The Patron Saint of Ugly evoked a lot of responses from me while I was reading: sadness, empathy, sympathy, and laughter. Garnet's nonna was the source of much of that laughter with her machinations during Garnet's childhood and adulthood. Much of the story takes place in either Italy in the early 1920s, West Virginia in the 1950s, early 1960s, and mid 1970s. Ms. Manilla's characters are either extremely lovable or despised. I don't think any reader will like Garnet's grandfather, maternal grandmother, or La Strega (no, I'm not going to tell you who La Strega is . . . read the book). Garnet's story is gradually revealed in a series of taped reminiscences for the Vatican, as she attempts to debunk her so-called healing gifts. It is in these narrations that we learn the back-stories for her nonna and mother, as well as learning about Garnet’s inner longings and desires. If you enjoy reading well-crafted fiction that combines humor, a quest for survival, a longing for normality, mythic origins, and a touch of magic, then The Patron Saint of Ugly is one story you have to read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark, Difficult
Better with Discussion

WISE BLOOD isn't a difficult read nor is it an overly easy read. I found that it is a book that the reader may gain a better appreciation of after discussing. There are a number of issues and themes that run throughout the book, such as faithlessness vs. faith, and sin and symbolism. Ms. O'Connor has crafted a darkly satirical work that raises some interesting questions to this reader's mind.

Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Informative
Counting Down to Loss

Imagine you only have five days left to say goodbye to a loved one. Now imagine two different families in this situation. One family resides in Michigan and includes two foster-parents and a young boy about to be returned to his biological mother after a year. The other family resides in Texas and consists of an adoptive couple, their adopted daughter, and the adoptive mother's adoptive parents. The Texas family is dealing with a progressive and degenerative neurological disorder and the mother, although only 42 years of age, is contemplating suicide rather than giving into this horrible disease process. These two scenarios provide the foundation of the story Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer.

Mara Nichols is a young, urban professional residing in Texas. She's at the peak of her career as an attorney. Her husband, Tom, is a physician with a thriving practice. Tom and Mara have been together for more than twenty years. They adopted their daughter, Lakshmi, as an infant from India and are now the proud parents of a kindergartner. Regrettably their lives were given a major twist when Mara was diagnosed with Huntington's Disease or HD four years ago. Since that initial diagnosis, Mara has suffered from a host of HD symptoms, including short term memory loss, balance and gait issues, bladder control, mood swings, and more. She has been forced to take early retirement from her beloved career as an attorney and partner in a law firm, can no longer drive due to motor control issues, and is scared beyond belief that she is unwittingly forcing her family to suffer along with her as HD destroys who she is as a person. Mara's one saving grace is her online link to a forum for adoptive, foster, and step parents. It is in this forum that she can voice her parenting issues without question or judgment. It is here that she finds friendship with MotorCity, also known as Scott Coffman.

Scott Coffman is an English teacher at an inner city Detroit middle school. Scott also coaches basketball at his school and considers himself fortunate to have met some outstanding talent, including Brayden Jackson, his foster-son's older brother. He and his wife have been trying to get pregnant for years through IVF. Now that their lives are focused on a slightly hyperactive, mild behaviorally challenged seven-year-old boy, there's less stress about getting pregnant so of course they actually get pregnant with their last round of IVF. Scott's wife isn't exactly eager for their year of fostering to be over, but she is eager to have some time alone with her husband before their biological child is born. Scott is torn between wanting what is best for his son Curtis (when did he stop thinking of him as a foster child but as his child) and wanting to keep him to ensure he has everything a child deserves: a clean home, three meals a day, clean clothes, and involved parents.

I've got to admit that I put off reading Five Days Left simply because I thought the story was going to be depressing and morbid. It isn't. Don't get me wrong, it is sad. I don't think you can read about someone with a degenerative life-threatening disease and a child being raised in filth without basic amenities like running water by a drug-addicted mother without it being sad. But Ms. Timmer has also provided glimpses of hope amidst the sadness. Mara's story is sad and heart-wrenching, but the love her family and friends have for her and one another is uplifting. It was incredibly disturbing to read about Mara's decline due to HD (there's one incident in the grocery store and another in the elementary school that had me taking a break just to dry my eyes). I was just as torn as Scott when Curtis's biological mother decides to take him back days before he was scheduled to leave the Coffmans. What made it worse was he wasn't even given the opportunity to say goodbye.

Five Days Left is told in alternating voices of Mara and Scott. Although the action takes place over the course of five days, there's a lot jammed into those days. Yes, you'll probably need to have a box of tissues handy when you read this story, but sadness isn't the only thing you'll remember about this story. Five Days Left focuses on love and the families we make as a result of that love. Some of those families are built with blood ties, and others are built through adoption, fostering, step-parenting, and friendship. I found Five Days Left to be a remarkable story with realistic characters and scenarios. Five Days Left is simply an amazing story and I know this review probably doesn't do it justice, so if you're going to take anything away from my thoughts take this . . . you should definitely read Five Days Left.

One for the Books by Joe Queenan
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Insightful, Fun
Not what I expected...

Although I enjoyed reading ONE FOR THE BOOKS, it quickly became apparent that Mr. Queenan doesn't think a lot of book groups and/or popular fiction choices. Even with his constant jabs at popular fiction and "low-brow" reading tastes, it was interesting to read about the books that impacted his life. I must admit that many of these books and authors were unknown to me, I did find myself jotting down titles and authors to check out for future reads. I'm not sure how this book will fare as a book group read, but I'm definitely glad I read it.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Beautiful
Life goes on...

You wouldn't think a book about someone considering suicide would be life affirming, but ME BEFORE YOU is exactly that. Ms. Moyes provides a beautifully written story, with great characters and character development. For me, this was simply a well-written story that makes me want to read more from this author.

The Martian by Andy Weir
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Dramatic, Fun
Sci-Fi for Everyone

I\\\\\\\'m not a heavy reader of science fiction, but The Martian by Andy Weir is one book that has changed my mind about this genre forever. A team of scientists are finally on Mars. It\\\\\\\'s the end of their mission and an unexpected storm emerges. After the storm settles it becomes clear that the one scientist that was thought to have died during the storm has survived and now he is left alone on the surface of Mars. His mission now is simply survival.

The reader witnesses the angst and despair of our lone survivor, Mark Watney. Fortunately, Mark is a botanist and contrives a way to grow food to extend his life (I was sick of potatoes by the end of the story . . . read the story!). He salvages what he can from the mission camp and ingeniously reimagines usages for his survival. Once he\\\\\\\'s able to reestablish communication with earth, he no longer has to survive without a goal. His goal is to live long enough to be rescued.

Mr. Weir\\\\\\\'s story captured my attention from the very beginning. As a child of the 60s, growing up with Star Trek, space is an unknown that man has wanted to conquer for decades. We\\\\\\\'ve never gone further than the moon or the space station with manned flight, so this mission to Mars was fantastical. The Martian isn\\\\\\\'t simply a story about the science of staying alive on a foreign environment; it is about survival. Don\\\\\\\'t get me wrong, there\\\\\\\'s plenty of science involved and even that I found interesting. I cheered along with the masses on earth as I witnessed Mark Watney\\\\\\\'s progress and gasped in horror when things didn\\\\\\\'t go as expected. Mr. Weir has this incredible ability to write science fiction and make it seem more like science possible. Mark Watney becomes more than just a man fighting for survival; he became The Martian. Trust me, even if you think you don\\\\\\\'t like science fiction, you\\\\\\\'ll want to read this book.

 
Book Club Recommended
Persuasive, Insightful, Informative
Not the usual slave narrative

Mr. Northup has provided an insightful view of slavery from the perspective of a free man abducted and forced into slavery. His memoir reads more like a report and is told without emotion or going into graphic detail of the torture slaves endured. Although a difficult read for some due to the subject matter, it is one that I found to be highly informative, insightful, and hauntingly beautiful despite the difficult themes.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Romantic, Insightful
Magical-Realism with a hint of Romance

I wasn't quite sure what to expect after reading information that stated this was a romance story. Yes, there is romance, but it seems to be more about self-discovery and self-awareness than it is about romance. The author painted an amazing picture of Burma (Myanmar) for the reader. The cultural practices and traditions were portrayed in a respectful manner. I found this to be a rather easy and fast read, and it provides many topics to explore in discussion.

 
Dramatic, Life Changing, Insightful
I Really Wanted To Like This Book

I've heard people rave about Wally Lamb and his books, so when our group chose this as a group read I was delighted...until I started reading. The main plot seemed cliched and contrived. The characters were more caricatures and stereotypes than fully-developed characters. If that wasn't enough (it was for me), there were far too many extraneous chapters that seemed to be nothing more than filler.

Although no one in my group seemed to like this book or any of the characters, it did make for a lively discussion. A discussion on everything wrong with the book, but a lively discussion nonetheless.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Poorly Written
Coming-of-age story with a hint of mystery & paranormal

HELP FOR THE HAUNTED is not your typical coming-of-age story, but it is an intriguing story. Add in elements of mystery and the paranormal and it becomes so much more than a basic coming-of-age story. Mr. Searles has an amazing talent with descriptions and setting scenes and this takes the story up a level. Yes this is story has dark and twisted elements, but at its core it is a story about a girl coping with the loss of her parents and dealing with being a teenager.

(BTW, if you get the opportunity to Skype with the author TAKE IT! Mr. Searles is charming, funny, and oh-so personable. A great addition to your discussion of the book.)

Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Insightful
Weighty topics

FAMILY TREE deals with some weight topics: racial identity, family history, racism, bigotry, and more. Although I enjoyed reading this book, it wasn't until after my group's discussion that I accepted the author dealt with most of these in a very superficial manner. Some of the characters and their behaviors are more stereotypical than realistic and detracted from the overall enjoyment by most of my group's members. Even with these issues, I enjoyed re-reading this book and will probably re-read it in the future.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Unconvincing, Informative
Great for discussion but...

Almost everyone in our group found this to be a relatively easy and fast-paced read. The primary character was very well-developed and her story was complex and dramatic. However, there were numerous questions raised about the lack of development of the secondary characters and the resolution of the story. The average rating from our group was a 3 (mine was actually a 2.5, but BookMovement doesn't allow for half-star ratings). We didn't dislike the book but found several areas questionable.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Addictive, Interesting
Not what I expected.

I was initially excited about finally getting around to reading this book. I thought the first half of the story was somewhat slow and plodding. This is an interesting character study, but it didn't really keep my attention as a mystery, thriller, or so-called psychological thriller the first time I read it. The second time I read it, I LOVED IT! Even with a previous reading (and the fact that I didn't really enjoy it the first time around), I found myself captivated by the host of unreliable narrators, namely Rachel, Megan, and Anna, not to mention the other unreliable characters Tom and Scott. This will invariably be one of those love it or hate it books. I think the author's dividing this story into multiple timelines and character narrations keeps the reader as off-balance as the primary character, Rachel. If you're having difficulty with this book, please set it aside, give yourself a few days, and come back to it fresh. Hopefully you'll find yourself sucked into the drama.

 
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Interesting, Difficult
Secrets Revealed

Rachel Woodley is a somewhat shy and unassuming young woman working as a nursery governess in France. When she receives a telegram five days late about her mother being ill, she finally stands up for herself and quits her job to return to England. Upon her return home she finds out that not only has her mother died, but she's missed the funeral. To add insult to injury, she then finds out her presumably deceased father is still alive with another daughter. What follows is Rachel's quest to find out more about her father and his other family in Lauren Willig's latest, The Other Daughter.

Once Rachel learns the truth about her father, she has the opportunity to change her life view from behind the stairs as a nursery governess, to that of an estranged cousin to Simon Montfort. With Simon's assistance, Rachel soon becomes Vera Merton, and enters the world of her half-sister, Lady Olivia Standish. The only person in this upper crust world that Rachel/Vera seems to have anything in common with is Olivia's fiancé, John Trevannion. The longer Rachel stays in her role as Vera, the more she realizes that her search for the truth just might end up hurting one of the people she's come to admire, her half-sister.

I found The Other Daughter to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. The story is set in the mid-1920s after WWI. Ms. Willig mentions some of the problems of British society at the time, lack of jobs, lack of sufficient pay, and the ongoing psychological trauma for those that fought in the war, but none are discussed in great detail. I enjoyed Rachel's role as Vera Merton and was somewhat surprised by how well she adapted from the shy, unassuming young woman from the country to a popular and witty Bright Young Thing in the city. The Other Daughter provides tons of drama: daughters beholden to their mothers, sons beholden to their families and estates, etc. There aren't any bad guys in The Other Daughter, just plenty of interesting characters and situations making for a good read. If you enjoy reading historical fiction or family drama, then you'll want to add The Other Daughter to your reading list.

The Conditions of Love by Dale M. Kushner
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Slow, Beautiful
Is Love Conditional?

For some readers, the first portion of the book is engrossing and the second portion slower-paced. I found the first portion to be slow simply because I wanted to shake Mern for her selfishness and lack of maternal instincts. I empathized with Eunice and hoped her life would get better. I was hopeful when she was with Rose and even when she was with her foster family. Eunice's life with Fox wasn't idyllic, but she seemed to find her place and I was subsequently happy for her even with the problems she faced being with an older disabled man. This is one of those stories that most people seem to either like or loathe. There doesn't seem to be a lot of happiness in Eunice's life, but realistically there isn't a lot of happiness in many people's lives. Whether you like or loathe this story, Ms. Kushner has crafted a beautifully written story with memorable characters.

Time Is a River by Mary Alice Monroe
 
Informative, Insightful, Inspiring
Back to Nature

TIME IS A RIVER is a quick read for the most part. There are parts that are beautifully written and made this reader want to experience the joy and wonder of nature and fly fishing. Although I enjoyed the nature scenes and the basic storyline, the story comes across as somewhat contrived and formulaic (or at least that was the consensus of our book group). The book group questions that are provided harken back to elementary/middle-school reading tests. Our conclusion was that this book is perfect as a beach read but doesn't really provide much fodder for discussion.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Insightful, Beautiful
Perfect for some, not for all

This book has been on my TBR list for quite some time so I was excited when it was chosen as a book group read. I expected to finish reading this book with a list of books to add to that TBR list, but that didn't happen. I empathized with Mrs. Schwalbe and her cancer treatments and applaud the Schwalbes for instilling a love of reading and giving back in their children. That's about the best I can say about this book. I didn't really connect with the reality of the people in this memoir nor could I related to their experiences. I'm glad I read this book, but I don't think I'll be recommending to anyone else anytime soon.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Adventurous, Dramatic
A little bit dark but a great read

If you've never read anything by Neil Gaiman, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE is the perfect book to start. Mr. Gaiman pulls the reader into the story with his beautiful prose and fantastical and somewhat dark imagination.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Adventurous, Fantastic
Fantastical Short Fiction

Our group found it difficult to discuss this collection, simply because it was all short stories. However, we all enjoyed the collection and definitely had our favorite stories ("The Sleeper and the Spindle" was a big favorite).

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Life Changing, Insightful
How to survive a tragedy...one family's perspective

Imagine a family grieving the loss of one of their children. Imagine two families grieving such a loss. Imagine these families are next-door neighbors and very friendly. Imagine that one family's child is the cause of the other's death. Now imagine that the family is Egyptian and Muslim in a post 9/11 world and you have the basis for In The Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib.

Hosaam Al-Menshawwy has committed an unthinkable act. He has murdered his neighbor's daughter, his former best friend, his former girlfriend and he has committed suicide. Hosaam's family is left trying to pick up the pieces of their suburban American life, grieving not only the loss of their son but their neighbor's daughter while feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt. Najla, Hosaam's mother, feels as if she should have known what her son was thinking and been able to stop him. Khaled, Hosaam's younger brother, feels an overpowering sense of responsibility to be the "good" son, as well as feeling blamed for and overshadowed by his brother's actions. Fatima, Hosaam's younger sister, wants to get away from the guilt and shame her family must bear and move to another town. Ehsan, Hosaam's devout maternal grandmother, is simply trying to keep her daughter's family together and make some sense of the insensible. Samir, Hosaam's father, feels guilt and shame because of his son's actions but naively believes that he can make amends to his neighbors and community. He also feels that his family shouldn't run away from this shame and that eventually things will get better.

In The Language of Miracles is a poignant tale of one family's search for common ground. How is a family expected to cope with this type of tragedy when neither their cultural/religious traditions nor their current societal traditions can make sense of their son's actions? The Al-Menshawwy family is a Muslim family residing in the West and for some in their community that is the sole reason for their son's actions. The action within the story takes place over the course of one week leading up to a community memorial service for the neighbor's daughter. The reader bears witness to this family's turmoil. It's been a year since the tragedy happened and this family will forever bear a public shame, as it appears many in the community are willing to blame the entire family for the action of one person, one seemingly disturbed person. It is easy to imagine this scenario in the wake of recent tragedies in Aurora CO and Newtown CT. I found In The Language of Miracles to be a fascinating glimpse into the juxtaposition of Middle-Eastern/Muslim culture compared to Western/American culture. I found this to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. How engrossing was this story? I put water in my electric teakettle, turned it on, and never got up to make a cup of tea. I didn't respond to text messages, email notifications or even answer the phone while I was reading this book. (Yes, it is that good!) If you enjoy reading about diverse cultures, want to find out how this family copes, or simply want a good book to read, then run out and grab a copy of In The Language of Miracles.

The Nightingale: A Novel by Kristin Hannah
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Informative, Inspiring
The Things We Do For Love

THE NIGHTINGALE is a good historical fiction read and provides some insight into the French Resistance movement from a female perspective. There were some things in the plot that I found questionable (such as no one revealing that Daniel was actually Ari, the Jewish son of Rachel), but this was a relatively minor issue.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Insightful, Dramatic
It's all a matter of perception

Natasha Wilson is a history professor at a university in Scotland with an interest in 19th-century Russian history, specifically the anti-Russian resistance movement. One of her students, Oz Raja, is reportedly a descendant of one of the most popular leaders of this movement. Befriending this student and his mother sets Natasha on an amazing adventure of self-discovery and reconnecting with her past in The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela.

At the age of fourteen, Natasha Hussein was adopted by her stepfather and went from being a Sudanese immigrant to a Scottish resident named Natasha Wilson. Born and raised in Khartoum, Sudan by her Christian Georgian mother and nominally-Muslim Sudanese father, Natasha never felt truly comfortable in Sudan or with her father. After her parents divorce and her mother's second marriage, Natasha did her best to fit in. In 2010, she is a college professor that has published several well-received articles and is respected by her peers. She's not quite sure why, but she's drawn to one of her students, Oz (Osama) Raja, a disenfranchised Muslim. Their connection grows due to one of Oz's forefathers, the renowned Imam Shamil. After visiting Oz and his mother, Malak, Natasha has the opportunity to see Imam Shamil's sword and other items. Although Natasha and Malak are concerned about Oz's curiosity about jihad and his perceived persecution of Muslims, neither takes it seriously until Oz is arrested after downloading suspicious materials. In a post-9/11 world, a little suspicion goes a long way and Natasha is perceived to be tainted by her visit to the Raja home and receiving an email from Oz about a possible research project for a dissertation. As Natasha attempts to rebound from these suspicions, she must also contend with phone calls from Sudan about her estranged father's failing health. Is it possible Natasha and Malak missed signs of Oz's radicalization? Is Oz, in fact, being radicalized or simply curious? Are Muslims being unfairly targeted in a post-9/11 world? Can Natasha reconnect with her father and Sudanese heritage?

After reading The Kindness of Enemies, I had to take a day just to think about it and what I could say about this book. Did I enjoy this book? The answer is a resounding YES! However, The Kindness of Enemies wasn't a book that I could simply finish reading and then set aside. There are stories within stories within stories in this book. There's Natasha's story, past and present; Oz and Malak's story, present; and, then there's the story of Imam Shamil. I was astonished to learn that Imam Shamil was a real leader in the anti-Russia movement in the 19th century. It was fascinating to read about his life, albeit a fictionalized version of his life, and that of his family. I enjoyed the blend of contemporary and historical fiction and the parallels found between the 19th-century and 21st-century storylines (trust me, there are a few...read it for yourself to discover just how many there are). The majority of the characters are all flawed and realistically portrayed. They all have their doubts and fears. This is not a story about being right or wrong or even having the right set of beliefs or not, it is about humans struggling to find their place in the world, do the right thing, and the perception of those struggles and behaviors by others. I get to read a lot of books, some good, some not so good, and The Kindness of Enemies is one of the best books I've had the pleasure to read this year and one that I strongly encourage you to read. I don't normally post a star-rating with my reviews, but I give this book five stars (yes, I really enjoyed it that much).

 
Insightful, Interesting, Boring
Not the book for me.

I've had the opportunity to read this book twice over the past few months for different book groups. (Yes, I re-read books.) I didn't connect to the book with my first reading and was hoping that I'd find something redeeming during the second read. Alas, I did not. Turns out, not many in either group could appreciate this book even though we've read and enjoyed other titles by this author. This is just one example of no one book, no matter how well written, will be liked or appreciated by all.

A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott
 
Pointless, Boring, Slow
Not her best effort...

I found this story to be flat. The characters were more caricatures than fully developed people. There was no insight gained into the relationship between Lombard and Gable nor into the making of GONE WITH THE WIND. This was a disappointing read on so many levels.

 
Book Club Recommended
Gloomy, Insightful, Dramatic
What are you?

What are you? For many biracial/multiracial children, this is a question that they must deal with on a regular basis. Rachel is a child that has never had to face her racial identity until after the tragic deaths of her mother and siblings. THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY is so much more than a tragic story of the suicide of Rachel's mother, the murder of her siblings, and Rachel's injuries and survival. It is part coming-of-age, part search for identity, and part race relations in a wholly non-threatening manner. This book provides much food for thought and discussion. Don't be afraid to read it because it just may surprise you how much you'll enjoy it.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Inspiring
Anything but Ordinary

The lives of everyone in one small rural community are touched by the events that occur over the course of one summer in 1961. At the heart of this hauntingly beautiful story is one family: a minister, his wife, their daughter and two sons. When tragedy strikes this family, they must learn how to cope, survive, and move past their anger and hostilities. ORDINARY GRACE is one part morality tale, one part coming-of-age, and one part mystery brought together in a fast-paced and engaging read that did not disappoint this reader. Wish we could give books 1/2 stars, because I'd give this 4.5 stars.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Insightful, Dramatic
Hauntingly Beautiful War Story

There are so many things I enjoyed about this story: fast-paced and engaging read, alternatingly character vignettes, beautiful language, and the highly sympathetic characters. I consider myself fortunate that I've now read this book twice for two different book group meetings over the past five months.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Optimistic, Insightful
Appalachia at it's Best

Mr. Berry has crafted a hauntingly beautiful and often lyrical work that views a part of Appalachia, from the 1920s to the present through the eyes of one woman, Hannah Coulter. If you ever read a book that simply floored you to the point where you simply can't find the words to describe the experience, you'll understand how I felt after reading HANNAH COULTER. Simply put, I found this to be an amazing read!

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark, Interesting
Not What I Expected

This book has been on my TBR list for quite some time, but I never seemed to get around to reading it. Fortunately, it was selected as a book group read and I was forced to make time to read it. I finished this book a few days ago and I'm still trying to decide if I really liked it or not. I found the writing to be beautiful and the situation between Peter and Beatrice to be sad beyond words. I felt as if the idea of proselytizing amongst a group of aliens was akin to the notions of colonial missionaries and current missionaries attempting to "civilize" by conversion. I did have issues with the overtly religious tone of the book, but that's a personal bias. Even though I'm still wavering on the decision of whether or not I liked this book, I'm glad I read it.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
 
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Not what I expected

I'm definitely in the minority with this one as the vast majority of my book group members enjoyed this book. I felt the religious aspects of the book were trivialized and dealt with in a manner that can only be seen as trite, contrived, and formulaic. I thought the characters were somewhat two-dimensional and there wasn't any character growth. The only portions of the story that I enjoyed reading were Minka's life story, her fictional story, and the bits about Leo. This wasn't a bad or even poorly written book, it just wasn't what I expected and I couldn't connect.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Interesting
Can you say dysfunctional?

Ms. Ng has spotlighted so many issues in this amazing story, but at the heart of it all is family dysfunctionality due to lack of communication. The husband doesn't talk to or confide in his wife. The wife doesn't talk to or confide in her husband. The parents don't talk to their children and the children have learned, by example, not to talk to their parents. Needless to say, this results in tragedy and chaos for the family as a whole. I thought this was a hauntingly beautiful story of being a family, being an outsider, living up to other's people's goals and more. Be warned, this is probably going to be a love it or hate it read for most groups, but there's tons to discuss.

Descent: A Novel by Tim Johnston
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Addictive, Graphic
Not your ordinary thriller!

DESCENT is a psychological thriller that is far different from other psychological thrillers. It is a page-turner from the very beginning and I found it interesting to learn about each character throughout the book. There are definitely a few twists and turns in the story and they added to my overall enjoyment. The structure of the story may be difficult for some to read, especially if you read a bit, set it aside, and come back to it later.

The Rosie Project: A Novel by Graeme Simsion
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Interesting, Insightful
A Must Read

THE ROSIE PROJECT is a fun-filled, delightful and fast-paced read that incorporates a bit of self-awareness, romance, family drama, and more.

A Cure for Madness by Jodi McIsaac
 
Book Club Recommended
Scary, Interesting, Dramatic
What we do for family...

Claire Campbell is making a life for herself on the West Coast, as far removed from her family in Maine as possible. She maintains phone contact with her parents and brother but hardly ever goes back to Maine to visit. Claire’s life will never be the same after receiving a phone call telling her that her parents have been murdered and she's now the legal guardian for her older brother in A Cure for Madness by Jodi McIsaac.

Claire left Maine shortly after her graduation from college. The exact reasons for her departure aren't clear, but she's kept herself apart from her family for years, maintaining contact via phone calls only. With the murder of her parents, she has no choice but to return to Maine and straighten out her brother's care, as well as make arrangements for her parent's bodies. All Claire knows about her parents' murder is that the act was committed by a fellow church member before the murderer killed himself. Little does she know, but that one reportedly random act of violence is the beginning of a health care crisis for the town of Clarkeston, Maine. When the CDC, USAMRID, and the National Guard arrive, the town becomes quarantined and it appears that Claire's brother may hold the key to a cure. Claire is forced to choose between her brother's health and welfare and that of her hometown and possibly the society as a whole.

I found A Cure for Madness to be a fast-paced, engaging, and enjoyable read. Ms. McIsaac has crafted a nightmare scenario that sounds slightly absurd but isn't too farfetched to be unbelievable. Added into the mix of a bizarre healthcare crisis, a family with conservative Christian values, mental health issues, public safety versus personal freedoms, government surveillance, man-made diseases, conspiracies, and more. Claire has to deal with the notion that Wes has been in-and-out of mental institutions for most of his adult life, but he is her beloved older brother and his decline began with an incident involving Wes avenging her virtue (I know it sounds old-fashioned, but trust me and read the book to find out more). A Cure for Madness provides a lot of thrills and chills, as well as a touch of romance. I wish I could tell you more about this amazing story, but you'll just have to read it for yourself. Seriously, you need to add A Cure for Madness to your TBR list and set aside a weekend to read this book. I'm looking forward to reading more from Ms. McIsaac in the future.

The Edge of Lost by Kristina Mcmorris
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Adventurous
TItle and Summary are somewhat misleading

The vast majority of the members in my book group felt that the title and summary set them up for a story about Alcatraz and they were disappointed. If you skip the prologue and head straight into the story it isn't as disappointing a read. The only other issue I had with the story is that the ending seemed a bit too contrived. The ending didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of this story, but it did strike me as a bit forced.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Fun
A Glimpse Into the Past

There are some that find it difficult to read an epistolary novel, but I enjoy the format and Ms. Shaffer and Barrows did a remarkable job of providing insight into one small community during WWII and after. I loved the different perspectives and characters developed via letters. I thought this was a fast-paced and engaging read.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Interesting, Adventurous
Political Correctness Turned Upside Down

I loved the tongue-in-cheek humor Ms. Semple used to poke at political correctness. The characters might be overly exaggerated, but it was easy to identify with the helicopter mother, over-achieving assistant, workaholic father, gifted daughter, etc. I found parts of the story to be laugh-out-loud funny. Perhaps not to everyone's taste, but I found this to be a fast-paced and enjoyable read even after the third reading.

Just Like Other Daughters by Colleen Faulkner
 
Book Club Recommended
Unconvincing, Inspiring, Insightful
Formulaic, Contrived, and Stereotypes Galore

This was a majorly disappointing read. In my not so humble opinion (and speaking as a relative of adults with mental disabilities and Down's), this story does a major disservice to adults with mental disabilities as well as to their parents. It is contrived and stereotypical in its portrayal of these adults.

I can understand a mother being overprotective of her daughter. I can even understand her being concerned about her daughter becoming romantically, if not sexually, involved. I can't understand how such an intelligent woman, especially one that has been in therapy for so many years could be so backward in her thinking.

The premise for this story was good, but I felt the execution left a lot to be desired.

I found the secondary characters, especially Jin and Mark, more interesting than most of the major characters. I was disappointed that there was no mention of Margaret and Danny's reaction to the birth of their grandchild or death of Chloe, especially since her death would mean no divorce was necessary. Although Randall wasn't a major part of Chloe's life, there was also no mention of his reaction to his daughter's death and the birth of his grandchild. Jin had been an effective supportive system for Alicia and Chloe, but again nothing about her after the birth of the baby and Chloe's death. The story just seems to ignore Chloe's death, which I found hard to swallow especially given how overprotective and nurturing Alicia had been all along.

Even though I didn't like this story, it does provide a lot of areas for discussion.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
HeLa lives!

The story of Henrietta Lacks and HeLa cells is one that I feel everyone should read. The medical and human ethics involved in the use and sales of this woman's cells is mind-boggling. The struggle for the Lacks family to find out what was done to their mother and her cells was incredibly sad, but Ms. Skloot has done a remarkable job in providing this family with answers to their questions as well as to the general public. Whether you're a science lover or not, this is a fascinating story about the growth of medical research and how one poor Black woman's cells became the backbone of this industry.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Dramatic, Inspiring
Simply put, an amazing read!

I count myself fortunate that one of my IRL book groups won copies of this book to read, otherwise, I might not have ever known about this book. To say that this book is an amazing read is oversimplifying, but OMG, this was an amazing read. Ms. Webber foreshadows the tragic ending but it never distracted from this reader's overall enjoyment of the story. Yes, there is a tragedy at the end of the story. No, I won't tell you what the tragedy is, read the book! THE WIREGRASS is a story about family, friendship, good, evil, and abuse told in such a way that it isn't gruesome nor does it belittle the abuse or evil being discussed. I found THE WIREGRASS to be a fast-paced read even though it deals with some weighty issues. I enjoyed reading this book so much I'll be recommending it to my other IRL book groups.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Not for everyone

Don't read this if you're looking for a traditional mystery or whodunit read. Do read this if you're looking for a simple Southern pseudo-gothic read. I found this to be equals parts coming-of-age and relationship exploration. This is a story that highlights the notion of "innocent until proven guilty" and leaving with the stigma of being accused of a crime. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, even though others in my group found it a bit slow, wordy, and a difficult read. This may not be the book for every book group, but it provides a lot of subjects to discuss.

A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Insightful, Beautiful
Grumpy Old Man?

It seems easy to try and stereotype Ove as a grumpy old man, but this simple man is so much more than that. I found A MAN CALLED OVE to be not only an easy and fast-paced read but an enjoyable read (as did the majority of the members in my book club). I could rave about this book, but all I'll say is think the Grinch for adults. If you find that thought intriguing, then you'll probably love A MAN CALLED OVE as much as we did.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Informative, Interesting
Identity and more...

Some readers may find this a difficult read, but I found the language hauntingly beautiful. The author's portrayal of race, identity, and more relevant in today's society.

Another Brooklyn: A Novel by Jacqueline Woodson
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful, Dramatic
Recommended read even though it may not suit all readers

Is it ever really possible to go back to the city of our childhood memories? Author Jacqueline Woodson revisits not just memories of Brooklyn but also memories of friendship, family, and grief in Another Brooklyn.


August has strong memories of her mother and Tennessee, but those memories pale in comparison to her memories of her friendship with Sylvia, Angela, and Gigi in Brooklyn. Her life is a series of before and afters. Before and after with her mother. Before and after leaving Tennessee. Before and after arriving in Brooklyn. Before and after her father joined the Nation of Islam. Before and after tragedy and grief. As an adult, August reconciles those before and after childhood memories with all that she has learned along the way.


Another Brooklyn is an amazing story of friendship, family, and survival. Yes, it is a coming-of-age story, but it so much more. Through the eyes of August, we see the bonds of friendship transcend to become the bonds of family. We also witness tragedy after tragedy, as well as childhood and adult struggles with grief. Another Brooklyn is a hauntingly beautiful addition to Ms. Woodson's list of amazing works of prose. I found Another Brooklyn to be an amazingly fast-paced read and one that I enjoyed. I wish I could say more about this book, but the only thing that needs to be said is this...read this book!

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Boring, Insightful
Historical Magical Realism at its best

Eowyn Ivey has this amazing ability to weave a story, blending fact, folklore, and more into one intriguing and spellbinding read. I found TO THE BRIGHT EDGE OF THE WORLD to be a fast-paced and engrossing read and enjoyed the juxtaposition of the historical journal entries and letters with the contemporary letters.

 
Insightful, Unconvincing, Interesting
Not for everyone

I was excited to read a book about a book club as a book club read. The book club aspect of the book was, perhaps, the best part of the book for me. I found the portions dealing with drug addiction to be unrealistic and poorly portrayed. I also felt the ending was contrived and beyond belief. The response from my group was either loved it or hated it.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford
 
Slow, Boring, Pointless

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Fun, Addictive

The Unquiet Grave: A Novel by Sharyn McCrumb
 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Informative, Insightful
A new perspective on a WV ghost tale

Sharyn McCrumb takes one of the strangest legal cases in US history (the only case where a "ghost" was allowed to testify") along with West Virginia folklore and history and presents a hauntingly beautiful fictionalized story of the main figures in the story. I'm not just saying this because I'm a native West Virginian, but this has become one of my favorite reads and am hopeful that another one of my book groups will read it in the future.

 
Interesting, Informative, Gloomy
Well-written but...

Although incredibly well-written and thoughtfully researched, the subject matter of this book and the main character did not resonate with me at all. This almost became a DNF for the year, but I felt compelled to finish it simply because it was a book group read. (NOTE: I didn't actually finish reading it until after the book group had met and discussed the book.)

This seems to be a book people either loved or found pointless. Guess which group I'm in?!

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Insightful, Interesting
A Light Shines on Body-image shaming

A timely book dealing with body image issues and the psychological and physiological impact caused by eating disorders. Beautifully written on a topic that isn't well understood or often discussed from the perspective of one woman dealing with anorexia nervosa. I can't say that this was a light read nor is it a depressing one but it is a bit dark due to the subject matter and the emotions of the characters. I felt sympathy for Anna while at the same time I wanted to shake her and scream "just eat something" knowing that would do no good. Ms. Zgheib provides insight into the struggle of the anorexic as well as the family members supporting them during their struggle.

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