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My Reviews

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Inspiring
Worth It but Pieces Missing for me

This was a good non-fiction read and interesting comparison of lives and how the choices and circumstances we live can affect the outcome. However, I felt there were parts that were too simplistic or perhaps not delved into deeply enough. For example, I would like to have heard more about the author's reservations of attending military school, such as what deeper fears that stirred in him. And perhaps if he'd not been given that opportunity how he thinks his life may have turned out. Additionally, I thought too little attention was given to the women & children in this book. The author casually mentioned that Wes (the other one) had to get out of the house/had had enough when his strung out girlfriend was passed out on the couch. Meanwhile he leaves his young children in the house. Who was going to take care of them? Not one mention of his consideration of this (or not considering it and why) was made. Kind of surprised me given that we were supposed to feel so much for this Wes who had so few opportunities in life. That's just one example of areas of the book where I felt complexities could have been explored more thoroughly yet weren't.

Wench: A Novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Informative
Good but there are better choices

Hard to pick 3 words that sum up my experience of this book. Informative - because it provides a piece of history (that black slaves went as concubines with white masters to free state resorts) I did not know about; Interesting - in its perspective from house slaves who were also "lovers" to a degree; and Unconvincing - because some of the characters and situations/events were not believable, e.g., the dinner party. I did enjoy the read, though I have read other similar books with which I connected more and that were pulled together more cohesively, e.g., The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom. My main problem with this book is that there were bits of the story that were woven in and then randomly dropped or not developed fully enough. And other areas that were powerful and could have been so much more so (e.g., the Mawu-Lisa connection). I thought the last chapters of the book were the best and wished she'd developed those themes more fully. Perhaps this was in part a failure of the editor?

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Slow, Pointless
Great discussion book & Philosophers will love it!

This was a great book for discussion. But all agreed it wasn't our favorite read. We all wondered, "so what didn't he get?" Which probably was one of the central points. Perhaps we are not so erudite, but we were left wanting to know more. But again, that was one of the points of the novel - i.e., to figure out & interpret in your own way - and what made it so great to discuss. However, we thought it would have worked better as a short story - It was too short a novel but too long a short story. However, it will stick with me. And for those who are in to philosophical discussions, it is 5 stars.

Burning Sassafras by Annie Stokes
 
Book Club Recommended
Persuasive, Epic, Beautiful
Wonderful debut novel - story, setting and characters are unforgettable!

Refreshing saga from Appalachian Virginia and "Kaintuck" during the early 20th century. Characters, setting, story and plot are unforgettable! This book is a haunting read; I wish it hadn't ended!

Having never read a self-published book before, I was somewhat reluctant to read this. However, since a friend recommended it, I decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did. It just goes to show that many of our best authors are yet undiscovered. I truly hope this author continues to write and publish more novels.

I couldn't put the book down and found the author's ability to take me to a time and place I've never lived truly fascinating. I could picture every nook & cranny of these Appalachian "hollers" down to the last detail almost to the point of feeling like I'd just walked through the woods myself.

The characters and stories were also captivating and I thought the style (1st person narratives) worked well. I was very impressed with the amount of research this author must have done and how she wove the Appalachian terms into the narrative. It made the stories that much more believable. The Appalachian words were at times difficult, but most of the times I figured out what she meant. (Just an fyi - I never did figure out what "sangin'" meant so I googled it - It means digging up ginseng). I have heard there will be another revision to this novel. The book could be improved by a table of contents and a glossary of terms & characters and perhaps by fixing a few typos, but otherwise, I hope she leaves it as is. Wonderful!

Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill, Lisa McCubbin
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
For PC Jackie fans only

The best part of the book was the last 1/4 revolving around JFK\\\'s death. Otherwise, enough with the \\\"Oh Mr. Hill\\\'s.\\\" This seems to have been written purely for all the people who can\\\'t get enough details about the lives of the rich & famous. IMO they were boring details about furniture, shopping, vacationing, etc. that I didn\\\'t need to know. A much more powerful story would have been about his personal life - how he felt about leaving his own children & wife while traveling the world with Jackie. I understand that it takes a certain kind of person - a strong one - to give up their lives to protect others. And that\\\'s what I would have liked to hear more about. I am not \\\"convinced\\\" that we saw any more of the \\\"real\\\" Jackie through this book either. It seems he kept everything so \\\"politically correct\\\" that the story lost any power. However, if you want to brush up on your Jackie & JFK era history and love to read any detail about her especially, then perhaps you\\\'ll enjoy this book. I found the writing, though easy to read, incredibly dull - junior high school level. In spite of most of us not liking this book, we did have a lot to discuss regarding how Jackie/Clint handled different things & our impressions of them as people as well as discussing the historical events, conspiracy theories etc. I imagine there are much better books about the life of a secret service agent or the Kennedy\\\'s out there. I am recommending this ONLY for Jackie fans & because it\\\'s a quick read and leads to decent discussions.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
Fascinating!

Worth reading to understand how far our medical culture has to go!

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Informative
A little too neat & pat

Our book club decided Ms. Moriarty used the main character & story to show a period of women's rights issues. The history was interesting, and we liked some of the characters. However, we felt the story was a bit too choppy & little "neat & pat." She dropped some developments only to pick up others and only briefly summarize events. We felt the story would have moved better if she'd delved more deeply into some situations or characters instead of trying to cover a huge swath of history. Because she used such a broad brush coverage, some situations seemed to fit too neatly into her plot & left us feeling like the character wouldn't have really behaved that way or things wouldn't have necessarily played out that way. In other words, many facets were not believable. However, we did generally like the book and learn some things from it, particularly about the orphan train & some women's issues, like the use of Lysol.

 
Informative, Boring, Slow
Admire her attempt but...

I would have enjoyed this book for a history class but it was dry & somewhat dull for a book club read. I appreciate what the author was attempting, in part to comment on the lack of material, but the material IS the meat of the story. I do think she did a good job pointing out the hardships women had in that period of our history. However, even though she was avoiding making up a fictional story, I think I would have preferred this book had it been written as a historical piece of fiction.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful
An informative, well-written quick read

Lovely story (though much sadness throughout) and a worthwhile read. Good book for discussion, especially if you look at the reading guide questions.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Insightful, Dark
Beautiful 5++++++++*s

This book is everything & more that others have said, so I will just add that in one interview the author talks about striving toward \\\\\\\"a tall order\\\\\\\" of having readers laugh & cry on the same page. Well Mr. Marra achieved that countless times throughout the novel. I was amazed that I found the story to be both brutal & sorrowful while at the same time heartwarming & uplifting. Through his unforgettable writing style he achieved the affect of witnessing the characters try to put the pieces of their lives back together through the patch-worked chronology and glimpses of memories and futures he wove in throughout the novel. I will not forget this book & will want to reread parts again & again just to have that beautiful prose wash over me and remind me of what humanity is all about.

Life After Life: A Novel by Kate Atkinson
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Confusing, Insightful
Breaks categorizing

Didn't think I would like this one based on descriptions. First let me say it is NOT ANYTHING LIKE Groundhog Day! It is a beautiful - if slightly metaphysical - analysis of life choices and how they affect - or don't - lives and other's lives. Love, yearnings, history, drama, thoughtfulness, characters, how pieces fit together with or without changes, animals, people, places, war and peace. It's all a part of the ride. Enjoy it.

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