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My Reviews

 
Insightful, Dramatic, Interesting
An emotional read, especially for those with children

This book engages you from the start. The character of Peter is both likable and sinister. You can't help but feel sorry for him and want to save him, all the while hating him for what he has done. The women in my book club are all mothers, so this story struck a chord with all of us. The entire time I was reading the book I was searching my mind for ways to keep my own child from becoming each of the different teenage characters in the book, from the bully, to the passive and insecure girl, to the child who is tortured at school by other kids. At the same time it forces you to analyze yourself as an adult and a parent, "could I allow this behavior to go unnoticed within my own family?" This really is a heart-wrenching story. And while each of us in our book club felt that the ending/resolution of the story left a bit to be desired (it felt as though the author sort of got tired of writing and just decided to do a couple paragraphs to get the book over with) it was definitely a worthwhile read with a shocking twist at the end.

Woman in Red by Eileen Goudge
 
Multi-layered plot....possibly too many layers?

The premise of this book is incredibly intriguing. A mother loses her son to a drunk driver and executes her own retaliation when the justice system fails her. After spending nine years in prison, she struggles to rebuild her broken relationship with the son she left behind. There are many plot twists in the story, even leading back to a story of unrequited love between a WWII widow and an artist in the 1940s. Each of the stories within this story were fascinating by themselves and would have made a wonderful novel on their own. Unfortunately because there was so much packed into one novel, the reader's desire to learn about these characters is not satisfied. By far, the most interesting character in the story is not the main character, but rather the Woman In Red herself, the grandmother of the main character who is torn between the desire to do what is right for her family and her own love of an unattainable man. And because of the many, many layers of plot, the story almost becomes unbelievable. How could so much drama really occur on one tiny Puget Sound Island? There comes a point in the book where the reader starts to feel as though they are reading a recap of a soap opera rather than a contemporary piece of fiction. I half expected aliens to abduct Alice before the story was out. It would have made almost as much sense as some of the other catastrophes that occured. I will say, the ending could not have been better. The author did a wonderful job of appropriately bringing in a surprise character within the last two pages of the novel that really lets the reader know that our two main characters will be able to tie up all their loose ends and everything is going to be okay. There are absolutely some redeeming qualities to the novel. But with the outlandish plot twists, the excessive layering of storylines within the story, and the multitude of typos within the book, I would have a hard time recommending this book to other book clubs.

 
Too many movie references, not enough substance.

This book gets off to a very slow start. During the first half of the story, there is almost no character development leaving the reader wondering why they should bother to continue. The author has made such an effort at tying in various unknown classic movies to the plot that there are pages in the book where you feel like all your doing is reading vague references to movies you've never heard of nor do you ever intend to watch. The classic movie references actually made the book less enjoyable. Particularly because of the fact that none of the movies mentioned were very recognizable, yet in order to understand the tie between the scene in the book with the movie you would have had to have watched the movie. The second half of the book actually does pick up a bit. The reader actually gets to know some of the characters (there are far too many characters in this book, most of which make no real contribution to the plot). In the first hundred pages or so the movie references are non-stop. However in the second half of the book, there are very few movie references, which makes it much easier to read. Even with the development of the main characters, it is almost impossible to relate to any of them because they are still so one demensional. A woman obsessed with movies, a man obsessed with the Cuban revolution, a couple of old actresses obsessed with themselves. Very few of the characters in the book are believable as real people. The main character of the book does end up having an affair with a very unexpected individual which is mostly what makes the second half of the book interesting. But even though this was definitely not the best book I've read in the last year (doesn't even make top ten) I still think that it has the potential to spark a lot of conversation and debate amongst book clubs, so it may still be a worth while read.

 
Fast-paced, quick read. Very entertaining!

In this debut novel from British writer Warren Ellis, we join private detective Michael McGill on a journey through America's sexual underworld in search of a secret, lost government document. On his journey, he is faced with many questions about what is "mainstream" and what is not? What constitutes the absurd? What role does the Internet play in determining the acceptance of various activities?

The book is entertaining from the get-go in its absurd scenarios and outlandish situations. McGill encounters a number of ridiculously odd and sometimes frightening characters during his search which keeps the book moving at a very fast pace. Our club had plenty to discuss, and no one walked away from this book feeling disappointed (though most of us were skeptical when the book was initially chosen). The writing is very simple and to the point. And always entertaining. This one is definitely not for the faint-at-heart as the fetishes and sexual interests discovered are pretty far out of reach for the average person's mind.

Middlesex: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides
 
Interesting, Dramatic, Epic
Long book, but very, very worth the read!

Very impressive in the amount of research that had to go into writing a story such as this. I had to remind myself a number of times that this was not a true story. This story is heart-wrenching at times and makes you giggle to yourself at other times. Very eye-opening and honest portrayal of the emotions of the narrator and all of the characters within the story. Fantastic book! I would recommend this to everyone!

 
Quick read with many references to life in the south in the 20s

Belle Cantrell is a suffragist, a mother, a widow, a progressive struggling for approval in a very conservative world. With very simple writing, quick wit, and a number of funny moments, Loraine Despres takes through most of the stereotypes of the South in the 20s. Women tackling the vote, racism and the KKK, the beginnings of a struggling economy. Belle encounters a number of woes because of her "outrageous" behavior, which by todays standards isn't outrageous at all. The book is entertaining, but not exactly deep. With all of the issues that were mentioned in this book, the author really could have spent an entire novel just dealing with one (either the suffragist movement OR racism and the KKK). Because of the structure of the book, the reader is able to skim the top of each of the issues, but never gets a chance to delve deeply into any of them. Not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what you are looking for from your read. I would recommend this book to someone looking for a fun summer read. But if substance, content, and thought provoking discussion are your goals, this probably isn't the book for you.

Her Last Death: A Memoir by Susanna Sonnenberg
 
Fascinating, disturbing, easy read

This memoir takes us through three decades of Sonnenberg's life, mostly as it has been impacted by her mother whose promiscuity, drug addiction, and lack of mothering skills are startling. The writing is very quick paced and I found myself feeling like I was missing a lot of important details throughout the book. (The author manages to tell the story of three decades in 273 pages, so it is quite brief.) At times the stories are random and jump quickly from topic to topic, often within the same paragraph making the story difficult to follow. But the characters are fascinating, memorable, and like no one I've ever met, making this a memoir worth reading. I was surprised though that my book club did not have more to talk about given the many issues that are addressed.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
 
Interesting, Inspiring, Dramatic
Great story, fascinating, heartbreaking and incredibly entertaining!

This book is so well written. The author tells the story of her dysfunctional childhood and yet manages to never once sound as though she feels sorry for herself. Riveting characters. Amazing story. Everything that happens is fascinating. This is one of the best books I've read in the last year. I would definitely recommend this to other clubs.

 
Insightful, Informative, Interesting
Long and repetitive, little to discuss

The story of David Sheff's son is heartbreaking. No one denied that. But the story could really be told in about half the space that Sheff uses. The first third of the book is about Sheff's son Nic's childhood. The last two thirds cover tons of research into the effects of methamphetamine on the human brain and Nic's numerous relapses and tries at rehab. Sheff will spend pages describing one single emotion. And while I can empathize with his heart ache, I don't need to read five pages to understand the despair he feels, repeating basically the same thing over and over but rewording it. Most people have encountered someone who retells the same story over and over again but paraphrases because they seem convinced that you weren't smart enough to pick up what they were saying the first time around. That's how this book felt. Because it became so predictable, it was difficult to continue through the entire book. You knew what was coming, so what is the point? And while everyone in my book club could relate to at least one aspect of the story, we were left with little to talk about other than agreeing that it would be horrible to have to deal with that in your own life. I would not recommend this book to other book clubs. Though we all thought that it would be interesting to read the son Nic's memoir which has also been released and is probably much more interesting.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
 
Fun, Confusing, Adventurous
He's gross and detestful....but I couldn't get enough of him!

The main character in A Confederacy of Dunces is slovenly, disgusting, and socially awkward (to put it kindly.) He is awful to his mother, has a completely unjustifiable superiority complex, and the ability to foul up almost everything he does. This is one of the funniest books I've ever read. There are many characters, almost all of whom have very dynamic personalities. The first chapter is a little difficult to get through, but once you endure the initial character building boredom, the chuckles just keep rolling. Loved it, loved it, loved it!

 
Fun, Inspiring, Optimistic
Quick, light read...very entertaining

June is a very likeable, "average" girl who finds herself finishing someone else's "Things to do before my 25th birthday" list. With tasks ranging from "throw out my scale" to "change someone's life" she goes through many hoops and a lot of effort to cross off every last item on the list, all the while changing her own life and her perspective on happiness, love, and how to be comfortable in your own shoes. This is one of the few books I've read recently that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning because I didn't want to put it down. There were a number of scenes in the story that made me laugh out loud, which is always a plus. And while unlike a lot of the other reviewers stated, I didn't find this book to make me look at my own life differently, it is still definitely a worthwhile read. My book club made our own lists and shared them with each other which was a great way to learn new things about people, even some of the women I've been friends with for a decade.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
 
Interesting, Dramatic, Informative
Intriguing story of power, sex, and deception

This book really has it all. Never a dull moment in the not-so-well known tale of Mary Boleyn, The Other Boleyn Girl reveals the struggle within the English court to gain the favor of a vain and selfish king and ultimately the right to the thrown in 16th Century England. I loved this book as did everyone in my book club. The story (which is fiction based on historical fact) inspired a couple of my fellow book club members to do some research into the histories of the characters in the book which lead to a lot of further discussion at our meeting. I plan to read more of Philippa Gregory's work, particularly those works that relate to the Boleyn family. This coming weekend, we plan to watch the movie the coincides with this book to compare and contrast the differences. I've heard that while the movie is excellent, it varies quite a bit from the book. I highly recommend this book to everyone, even if they've already seen the movie.

 
Adventurous, Interesting, Informative
Amazing story.....I couldn't put it down

May Dodd is a fascinating and incredibly likeable character. The story is very fast-paced and grabs your attention right from the beginning. All of the characters in the story are developed so that the reader truly cares what happens to each and every one of them. This book made me laugh and cry and grin and cringe. Awesome, awesome, awesome must read for EVERYONE!!!!

 
This one bombed -- it is intended for a very specific audience

No one in our group enjoyed reading this book of compiled essays about tomatoes and tomato farming. I expected there to be some sort of storyline that went along with the farming tales. But no such luck. I wouldn't recommend this book for any book club. And on an individual basis, I would only recommend it to people who either love farming or love tomatoes.

Atonement by Ian Mcewan
 
Long winded, slow moving, all around boring book

This was a very frustrating book to read. It is 160 pages into the book before we even find out what the book is about. The first 160 pages all take place in the same day. We read the same scene over and over again but told from a different point of view which over ten pages may result in the reader learning one or two new facts. Pages and pages are dedicated to monotonous descriptions of scenery and details that do not contribute to the story in any way shape or form. In a book that is about 350 pages long, at least 150 pages are completely pointless and add nothing to the story. It was truly a struggle to get through the book, and in fact I was the only person in my book club that finished it. We then watched the movie, and it was actually the most true to the original novel movie that I've ever seen. That being said, the movie is just as bad as the book. I'm surprised that anyone ever read this book and thought to themselves, "this would make an amazing movie!" This book and movie are billed as an amazing love story. However the lovers in the book almost never see each other. It is much less a book about a love that endures than a book about the consequences of a false accusation. I would not recommend this book to anyone or any other book club. As someone else said, there are so many good books out there. Choose one of them.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
 
Informative, Dramatic, Insightful
Great book with great characters

This book spans forty years of history in Afghanistan, through the Russian occupation, the Taliban rule through current day. The main characters are so well developed that the reader truly develops an emotional attachment to them and their well being. The Afghanis have endured so much throughout the last four decades (and beyond) that one cannot help but feel the heartache of their plight. This story tugs at the heart strings, has you on the edge of your seat at times, and also makes you want to spring into action to fight the wrongs being committed in this country. My only complaint was that the resolution was a little lengthy and most of it seemed unnecessary. But overall this was an excellent book. Everyone in my bookclub enjoyed reading it, loved the characters, and we had a lot to talk about (even though we forgot to bring our discussion questions!) I highly recommend this book to other book clubs.

 
Epic, Romantic, Adventurous
An okay read, but nothing to write home about

This story of love and loyalty neither impressed nor bored me. In spite of the fact that I was very excited to read it, I never developed a lot of emotion about the story or any of its characters. I didn't dislike it, but I can't really say I liked it either. In spite of the fact that this book is historical fiction, the way the story is told, it does not have the typical feel of historical fiction. A reader can normally expect to have the feeling that they are reading a work of non-fiction. That these characters were real and the events truly did take place. Most historical fiction I've read I consistently have to remind myself that the story is fiction. I never once felt like I was reading something that may have actually happened in this book. Somehow the author managed to leave out a sense of "realness" to the characters, their interactions, and the entire plot. One member of our book club actually did some research and found that much of the story truly did take place, even some of the more outlandish events. It is unfortunate that the author was not able to translate more reality onto his canvas. This is a story that had all the potential in the world to be absolutely riveting. But somehow it missed its mark.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Informative, Insightful
Heartbreaking and eye opening - difficult to imagine this took place during my lifetime!

This book is everything that you expect it to be. An honest and horrifying account of the experiences of war. Even more disturbing is that it is a thirteen year old boy enduring these tragedies and both witnessing and inflicting these horrors. Having been born only a year earlier than the author of this book, I was struck by the fact that all of these events took place during my lifetime. When a specific date was mentioned, I would automatically flashback to what I was doing at that time and how very drastically different my life was. And at the same time, how grateful I am to have lived my life rather than the author's.

The only thing I did not like about this book is that it ended very abruptly. It seems that the author had an opportunity to write an ending full of hope for the future. Instead the reader does not even get to hear the entire story about his escape to the US. I would have liked to have read more about what happened when he got to the US.

In reading some of the other reviews, I'm confused as to how someone can pick up a book with the title "Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" and then be surprised that much of the book is gruesome and depressing. This is a heavy subject. The book is full of heartbreak, evil, drugs, blood, killing, and pain. If you cannot handle the subject matter, move on to a Harlequinn Romance Novel. This is a very important book and would make a great read for a book club.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Interesting
Beautifully written novel

Told from the view point of a poor farmers daughter in nineteenth century China, this novel follows the lifelong friendship of two girls as they endure endless challenges throughout their lives. We follow the narrator (Lily) through footbinding, marriage, her children, and the deaths of many of her loved ones. This is a beautifully written yet sometimes painful to read story. The author does an amazing job of transporting the reader to another time and place. Everyone in my book club enjoyed this book. We had plenty to talk about and I would definitely recommend this to other book clubs.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
The kind of book that makes you truly reflect on your own life

What an amazing story. What an amazing message. This book examines human nature and the way that on elife can affect others in so many ways. On the surface, this is a story of a man and his schizophrenic twin brother. But the deeper meaning of this book is so far reaching that I was truly blown away. The book ended and I was choked up. If I'd been alone, I likely would have cried.

This is a very long book, and unfortunately, that prevented most of my book club from actually finishing it. (three out of eight finished). I was very saddened by this because I suspect that there would have been some amazing discussion if everyone had finished. This book could have led to so many insightful conversations. I highly recommend this book to others and in fact I have every intention of reading additional Wally Lamb novels because of this experience. Mr Lamb's writing style keeps the reader incredibly engaged, his characters are very realistic and thoroughly developed. From a technical perspective, I loved the fact that every single character introduced to the reader has a resolution of some sort. The characters grow as a result of the events that take place in the sotry. Everything truly comes full circle, which ironically is one of the themes of the story, the circular nature of life.

Awesome book. Pick it up and read it. You'll be glad you did!

 
Dramatic, Informative, Interesting
Emotionless writing, lack of character development left us with nothing to discuss

A Haittian girl travels to live with her mother in New York after being raised by her aunt in her native land. The story had the potential to be fascinating. Unfortunately this story is written with absolutely no emotion, there is almost no character development, and the reader doesn't develop a connection with anyone in the book. The critics praised this story for having come from such a young author. I felt that it was very apparent that it was written by someone very young. The writing gave the impression that the author had very little life experience, very little knowledge of life after twenty, very little understanding of the evolution of the human soul. There are large gaps of time in the story line, which rather than adding to the story, just leave the reader feeling as though they don't understand what is going on. Largely, while reading this book, I felt like I was reading the outline for a story rather than the story itself. The story reads like a brief summary of things that occurred in the life of the girl telling the story. With a little more life experience, and a lot more flesching out of the details of the story, the author very well could have turned this into a wonderful novel. As it is, the story left our book club members with little to discuss and almost unanimously disappointed.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Interesting
Great book, entertaining, quick paced, insightful

Loved this book. The writing is superb, particularly since this is the author's first novel. My only complaint about the book is that there are some loose ends when the book ends. The ending is a little disappointing. And I hate when there are subplots that seem to have no purpose. The mom's cancer adds nothing to the story and I had a hard time with that. But everything else in the book is amazing. The characters are incredibly well developed. The characters you are supposed to like, you will love. The characters you are supposed to dislike, you will dispise. I would absolutely recommend this book to others without hesitation.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Fast, easy, and interesting read about a sub-culture few of us understand

Kyra is a thirteen year old member of a religious community who refer to themselves as "The Chosen Ones." Early on we learn that Kyra has been promised to her sixty year old uncle who is known for mistreating his other wives. In spite of her efforts to get out of this arranged marriage, she seems to be destined to marry this man whom she despises. There are many disturbing things that happen in the story. When the book ended, I was definitely left wanting more. Our whole book club enjoyed the book. Although I'm not sure it gave us all that much to talk about. It is written for a teen audience, and it is apparent in the writing. I did feel like this was a "surface" story and there is much more that could have been done with the story. However, due to the intended audience, it was probably appropriate to remain a little superficial in regards to many of the relationships and lack of character building and follow through. Overall a decent book.

Change of Heart: A Novel by Jodi Picoult
 
Interesting, Insightful, Informative
Not original, and almost preachy in regards to religion

I was not impressed at all with this book. I listened to it as an audio-book. I should say that one of the actors really annoys me. The voice is very off-putting and the acting in general isn't very good. The pauses are too long which makes this is a very slow-paced story. I am aware that this may have had an effect on my experience of the story. But I was not impressed with the story overall. As many people have already said, there is a lot that has been stolen from The Green Mile. It's basically The Green Mile with a heart transplant added in. I had a hard time relating to the mother, although I do like the actress reading her part. I read Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. So my expectations going into this book were quite high. But there is a ton of religion in this book. I'm not opposed to books about religion. But I wasn't expecting it in this story, which makes it less pallatable. There are large sections that feel more like a study of religious history and conspiracy than a book about human tragedy. I kept thinking, "is this book over yet?" Not a good feeling to have as your reading (listening to) a book. I don't recommend this book to others. If you're new to Jodi Picoult, read Nineteen Minutes instead.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Boring, Pointless
Funny, entertaining, but does not read like a memoir

This book is laugh out loud funny in places and almost philosophic on other places. I found most of the book to be entertaining. It did not follow any actual story line though, which is the main reason I can't rate it higher. It isn't so much a memoir as a collection of short stories that go in no particular order. Funny, yes. Linnear, no. I loved the mother. Loved most of the characters. I was surprised to see that many reviewers felt that the author spent a lot of time bashing the Mennonites, because as a person who is incredibly anti-religion myself, I found the Mennonites to be very endearing based on this book. Janzen, as an English scholar, can construct a great string of sentences. She is a wonderful writer. She is the kind of author that constructs beautiful sentences without appearing that she is trying to construct a beautiful sentence. It just flows. I did enjoy this book. I just wish it would have had more of a plot and/or story line.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Brilliant
A book that actually lives up to all the hype

Loved, loved, loved this book. As much as I loved it, I think that the author's second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns was even better. But this truly was a wonderful book. This author can do no wrong in my eyes. I hope he continues to write stories about characters enduring various aspects of the horrendous history Afghanistan has endured.

The Kite Runner is the story of Amir, growing from a twelve year old boy, happy in his wealthy father's home in Afghanistan, fleeing Afghanistan when the Taliban took over, growing into a man in San Francisco, and then returning to Afghanistan later in life to try to atone for the mistakes he made as a child. With amazing, realistic, and humanly flawed characters, there was little in this story that didn't grab hold of my heart.

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Dramatic, Interesting
Unanimously enjoyed by my book club

This is a beautifully written book. The author has a way with words. I had heard that this book had been compared to "Atonement" which made me nervous, as I consider "Atonement" to be one of the worst books I've ever read. Oddly enough, I see the comparison in the writing. There are repetitive passages, wordy descriptions, and some of the writing seems a little self-indulgent. However Goolrick's story is compelling and forward moving, passionate and extremely dramatic. This is not a book about one event. This is a book about three incredibly flawed, even cruel individuals and their fates as they have constructed them. I loved the repeated statements that we live the lives we have created and "such things will happen."

The story is not without its flaws. In fact, I had a very hard time with the drastic transformations that took place within the characters in such a short period of time. The events that occurred did not seem to be possible to have happened in a matter of six to nine months, which is the timeline we are given. While people do evolve and change over a lifetime, I do not believe that people change as much or as quickly as the author would have us believe.

This book is definitely worth the read and does not take long to get through at just under 300 pages.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Informative, Interesting
Very sad look at a disease that ruins lives

A middle-aged woman is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers and life as she knows it is over. This story reveals the saddness, confusion, disappointment, and rage experienced by an Alzheimers patient. The author does a fantastic job of using a third person narrative to show the perspective of a person diagnosed with this awful disease. Incredibly depressing, but a worthwhile read. Our book club had a lot to talk about, stories to relate about relatives who have gone through similar diagnoses. This book affected each of us differently. There were parts of the book that were vague which allowed us all to speculate and debate whether Alice's relatives knew certain things or various motivations. This wasn't due to a lack of plot filling on the author's side, but rather things we couldn't possibly know because we only know what Alice knows. Anyway, it left a lot of room for discussion. We all thought this was a good book. I would recommend this for other book clubs with a warning that, particularly if you are over forty, you will likely question everything you forget as a possible sign of Alzheimers for a couple of months following!

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Interesting, Beautiful
I was surprised to enjoy this book!

From the time she is six years old, Clare is in love with Henry. He appears in her life every couple of months throughout her childhood as he travels through time. I'd never been drawn to this story based on the previews for the movie. The premise seemed too bizarre for my taste. But I actually really enjoyed it from beginning to end. I did not feel like the author did a good enough job truly building the love story. You have a wealthy girl paired up with an alcoholic, drug addict prone to bar fights and womanizing who clearly have an animal attraction to each other since every time they are in the same room together the seem to end up having sex. But beyond animal attraction, the author doesn't really build much of a relationship between them. I wasn't convinced that these two would actually be together in the real world if it hadn't been for the fact that Clare had been told by Henry as a child that they would get married someday and then Clare informed Henry when they first met that he had previously told her that they would get married someday. (as confusing as that sounds, it makes perfect sense in the book.) Aside from the whole concept of time travel, the reader really has to put aside a lot of assumptions about reality in order to buy into the characters and their lives. In spite of all of this, this was an incredibly enjoyable read. Something grabbed me and pulled me in and I couldn't put the book down. So even though I would not have ever read this book had it not been for my book club, I would recommend it to others.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Insightful
A strong beginning that peters out during the last half of the story.

At ten years old, Sarah is torn from her home with her mother and father by the French police and sent to an internment camp out side of Paris. To protect her brother, she locks him in a cupboard and promises to come back and get him later that day. Unfortunately that is not an option. Julia Jarmond is an American born journalist in Paris who uncovers Sarah's story and becomes obsessed with this little girl.

Sarah's story is heartbreaking. The first half of the story is told alternating narratives, Sarah and Julia. Because I read at night before bed, I had to make sure I ended my reading on a Julia chapter because I couldn't bear to have Sarah be the last thing on my mind before I went to sleep. With that said, the first half of the book is excellent. I had to force myself to close the book at night.

However the second half of the book focuses solely on Julia and her obsession with Sarah's story. She goes on a chase across the ocean and back again to try to find out what happened to the little girl. The result is more depressing revelations. But I really had to push myself through that last half of the book. Julia's relationship with her husband (or lack thereof) is disturbing. There were too many non-essential characters introduced. From a technical stand point (being the English geek that I am), there were tons of grammatical errors throughout that I attributed to possible tranlation errors since the author's first language is not English. A lot of the dialogue didn't feel authentic. And there were many awkwardly structured sentences.

Because the start to the story was so amazing, I do believe this is a book worth reading. In addition, my book club and I all learned about the role the French played in the persecution and subsequent execution of Jews during World War II.

The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty
 
Book Club Recommended
Good novel with very real characters

My book club was split. Some of us enjoyed this book. Others thought it dragged. I thought it was a very realistic story. Poverty, teen pregnancy, religion, parenting a child with a severe disability, as well as the normal stresses of being a teenager are all covered beautifully in the story of Evelyn and her friends and family. This is not a plot driven story. This left some of my book club wondering "what's the point?" And because this is not a plot driven story, there is no real resolution. The reader is not left with a lot of hope for the future. But again, I think that's part of the beauty of this novel. Evelyn's point is, this is the way life is. You make the best of it and hope it turns out okay.

 
Slow, Poorly Written, Pointless
Not written for an American audience

The language was difficult to understand because of the different dialect. There is a glossary at the back of the book which most of us didn't discover until we'd already struggled through most of the story. And as one member of my book club pointed out, there is a problem if they have to put a glossary at the back of the book. The narrator is unconvincing as a six year old girl. The writing is very random and sporadic. The book is full of non-essential characters. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. It is definitely written for a South African audience.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Fun
Everyone liked the book, but we all had a lot of criticisms too.

Juliet is a writer in London and she recieves a letter from a resident of Guernsey, a small island in the English Channel. And so begins the continued correspondence between Juliet and a group of friends on Guernsey. The book is comprised solely of letters back and forth from Guernsey to London.

The best word I can come up with to decribe this book is "charming." It is enjoyable. Some of the characters are adorable. But as one of my fellow book club members pointed out, they are too perfect. Even their quirks are too perfect. The ending is too perfect. It's all too perfect. I felt that the story lost a lot of impact due to the fact that it is written completely as letters. This format allows the author to tell random anecdotes about characters we know nothing about and will never meet again without feeling like you are being overwhelmed with random characters. But motives are lost. There isn't a lot of background to explain why the characters do what they do, the emotions they are feeling, what led them to where they are, what are their character flaws. It makes for a shallow story. I can definitely see this book being made into a Hollywood romantic comedy, and I don't think that's what the authors were going for.

 
Fun, Boring, Pointless
An entertaining read

I read this outside of my bookclub. I thought it was entertaining and even funny in places. The narrators mother was hilarious (though I am not sure her mother would agree.) Many have said the author was too harsh on her family. I can see in parts where this may be so. But I thought it was a very straight-forward and honest look at her upbringing and family. It was very interesting. I am not sure it would be a good book club book though, simply because I didn't find the book to be all that thought provoking.

 
Fun, Insightful, Pointless
Self-indulgent and pointless

This book wasn't horrible, but it wasn't good either. A self-indulgent collection of "essays" (if you can call them that) written by some rich, old, snob who I have nothing in common with. I didn't get most of the "humor." I didn't find the author to be particularly likeable. Her complaints about the time it takes to get a pedicure or her hair done don't win a lot of sympathy from a population of people who wish they had enough money for these things. I understand that many individuals won't put these pampering rituals high on their list of priorities. But essentially, because she lives in a world of wealthy, elitist snobs she is "forced" into these rituals that most of us value as a treat. Something special you do before a big night out with someone special or a vacation or something like that. It was annoying and this was a common theme throughout the entire book. "Poor me, I have so much money and it isn't fair." Boohoo. "I'm so sad that I had an amazing apartment in NYC and after twenty years they raised the rent to market value so I had to move to a slightly less fabulous apartment in NYC." Again, Boohoo.

Rather than essays, these are more random musings from a woman who feels incredibly important and wise. In reality, she is neither. I get the feeling she really felt like she had some life-altering wisdom to impart on the masses. But to me it really fell flat. I sensed in her prose the "pause" that comes with the telling of a punchline. But I had no chuckle in me. I really just didn't find her funny, entertaining, or particularly insightful. She rambles about the mundane (ie how her favorite bakery closed down and she can no longer get her favorite pastry) and passes them off as some sort of deep metaphor for life. I didn't get it. It all seemed very......pointless.

The best chapter/essay in the whole book was the last chapter. It is about aging as it relates to accepting death. Oddly enough, one of the things that bugged me about the book, (the fact that I was being forced to read a book whose target audience was thirty years older than myself) found a spot in my heart in the last chapter. She talks about getting to a certain age and realizing that everyone around you is dying. So that means you must be close to the end as well. She talks about losing her best friend. I got a little choked up. Perhaps this was Nora Ephron at her most human, which is why I ataully felt something while reading this chapter.

Overall I would advise others to skip this book. It's not funny. It is however a quick read. Which was probably it's most redeeming quality in the end.

 
Poorly Written, Unconvincing, Confusing
Unanimously disliked by everyone in my bookclub

Very poorly written. The characters have no personalities and are incredibly underdeveloped. Everything that happens, every person they come in contact with, far too convenient and unbelievable. The author clearly has a point to get across but fails miserably in the execution.

 
Book Club Recommended
Confusing, Interesting, Beautiful
Lovable old man propels the reader through the story

Leo Gursky is a character that will stay with me for a really long time for many reasons. I found him so incredibly real and endearing. He was flawed and lovable and pitiable and brilliant. His loneliness breaks the readers heart. I was almost brought to tears at the end of the story and even now, a week later, thinking about it, my heart swells a bit. I had a very strong reaction to this one character, and thus a strong reaction to the story as a whole. I came to my book club meeting exclaiming, "I loved this book!" Unfortunately, I seemed to be the only one with any strong feelings one way or the other. So while I would recommend this book to others, I'm not sure that it is a good book for a book club. We had very little to talk about for some reason. Which really surprised me. But once we all sat down there just wasn't much to say.

Midwives (Oprah's Book Club) by Chris Bohjalian
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Informative, Dramatic
Good story with the potential to spark a lot of conversation

Sybil Danforth is a lay-midwife practicing for over a decade when one snowy morning, a laboring mother passes away during labor. To save the baby, Sybil performs a c-section. Baby is born alive and healthy, but suddenly there is question as to whether the mother truly was deceased at the time of the c-section.

I chose this book for my book club expecting a lot of debate since there are varying degrees of acceptance of home births in my club. Everyone seemed to like the book, but it definitely wasn't one of our more enthusiastic conversations. Overall I would recommend this book to other book clubs.

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Graphic
WWII novel - very good story

Multi-layered, at times complicated, and incredibly addictive. I was thinking of the characters day and night until I finished. I listened to the audio. Perhaps that added to the experience because the person who read the book did an amazing job with the accents and creating a different voice for each character. It was a great experience overall and definitely on of those books that has stayed with me for a long time (I listened to it about six months ago.)

I think this would be a great book for book discussion, even though I read it on my own. I would recommend it to book clubs.

Bad Marie: A Novel (P.S.) by Marcy Dermansky
 
Fun, Dramatic, Interesting
Good story, but no conclusion

Marie is actually a very entertaining character. I could have stayed up all night and finished this book in one sitting if I didn't love sleep so much. Problem is, this book has no ending. And for this, I had to take away a couple of stars.

Marie makes a lot of bad decisions. But I did not see her as an evil character. She is incredibly careless, lazy, and has almost no ability to predict the outcome of her actions. She acts as a child, even though she is thirty years old. I cannot dislike her for this. But it is impossible to sympathize with her as well. Overall, this is a good story. But as I said before, it just stops. I literally turned the page expecting a new chapter and there was nothing there. When I arrived at my book club meeting, I asked to see someone else's copy of the book so I could verify that I did in fact receive the entire book in my purchase. The book just stops. And that made me angry. We all know that things will not end well for Marie. But some sort of conclusion is required. So I'd like to respectfully request that Ms. Dermansky finish Marie's story and let me know when it is done. ;-)

The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Insightful
Flawed characters frustrate and captivate the reader

I really enjoyed this book. The very first chapter just launches into the meat of the story, which after "Cutting For Stone" I really appreciated. The alternating narrative was a great way to tell the story, although I did wish that as the girls grew up they would have become more introspective. I ached for the girls when they were children and wanted to smack them both at times once they grew into adults. They were frustrating and yet you love them, sort of like family.

The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Adventurous, Insightful
Great story!

I will admit, this book probably could have been about 100-150 pages shorter than it was. As the only person I know who did not like "Cutting For Stone" because of this very reason, I typically am annoyed by unnecessary prose. But Kingsolver's writing is so beautiful, not only do I forgive her for her long-windedness, I am glad for it.

The Poisonwood Bible is told from five alternating viewpoints. A mother and her four daughters as they follow the patriarch of their family from 1960s Georgia to the Congo on a one year journey to try to save the lost souls of the Congolese. Nathan Price is a Baptist Preacher who finds enough comfort in knowing that God will protect them in their journey that he puts his and his family's lives at risk to pursue what he believes is God's will.

The foreshadowing in story propelled me forward in my desire to find out what would happen. Unfortunately once we did arrive at the point the story seemed to be heading the entire time, the book still went on for more than 100 pages. The resolution was a bit drawn out. But again, I cannot really complain because the author's writing is so captivating that I ate up every word. I cared enough about the daughters that I wanted to know what happened into their adult lives and how their experiences in the Congo during an incredibly tumultuous time politically would impact who they became. For some, it completely changes them. For others, it does nothing.

The author truly does an amazing job of creating five distinct voices. The reader could pick up the book almost anywhere and know who is speaking after reading one or two paragraphs without even seeing the name at the beginning of that section. They are extremely different women with extremely different voices and that made this book even more enjoyable to read.

Everyone in my book club that read the book enjoyed it. Some more than others. But we did have plenty to talk about and probably could have gone on longer.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Dramatic, Informative
Amazing story, but didn't quite live up to the hype

The story of Louie Zamperini is amazing. There is no denying this man endured more than any human being should ever have to and more than most of us can even imagine. He is a survivor and his story is far more than what I expected when I picked up this book. "Unbroken" is a great story and I would easily recommend it to other book clubs. Everyone in my book club learned something from this book. Most of us were shocked that there was so much about WWII that we did not know. Everything written about this time period surrounds Germany and the atrocities committed there. We had no idea the number of POWs in Japan were so many and that they were treated so inhumanely. We all walked away from the book with a greater understanding of why the war had to end the way it did. And wondering why this isn't covered in greater detail in history classes.

We had more to talk about for this book than we’ve had in a long time. There was some emotional connection for us all. Many had stories about grandfathers, uncles, etc who had been in war and how rare it is to hear stories from veterans. We talked a lot about the simple miracle that Louie survived so much and how it affected him later in life. This really is a great book for book clubs with so much to discuss that discussion questions were not even needed!

While my opinion was not in the majority, I was not a fan of the writing. The story was fantastic and it would be difficult to tell it badly. It's just that amazing. The author speaks about everything from a distance. She glosses over mundane information and fails to bring much emotion at all into an incredibly emotional story. In the 400 + pages about a man named Louie Zamperini, I still felt little connection to him individually and like I knew very little about what kind of man he was (is).

 
Adventurous, Interesting, Fun
Quick, easy read - but be warned it is a kid's book

I didn't realize this was juvenile fiction before I started it and I think if I'd known that ahead of time I would have liked it a little better. Interesting story that everyone in my book club had an easy time getting through quickly. The sixteen year old narrator speaks like a forty year old man, which really bothered me. And the ending (or lack thereof) was troublesome to the other women in my book club. It was pretty clear to me that it was a set up for a sequel though.

This is a very adventurous story. The last two thirds of the book I kept thinking I should be reading it with my daughter rather than alone. Fantasy fiction is not my preferred genre though.

The Language of Flowers: A Novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful, Interesting
Best of the year so far

Everyone in our book club of nine women loved this book. It kept all of our attention with deeply flawed characters that make you cry for them, want to slap them, and root for them all at the same time. This really was such a good book. Probably my favorite of 2012 so far.

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Inspiring, Romantic
Fault in our Stars

This book received mixed reviews from my book club of thirty something women. Now, we are thirty something women reading a young adult book, so we are definitely not the target audience. And yet, after all of the rave reviews, I was somehow disappointed that this YA book actually reads like a YA book. But in spite of the cheesy teen movie-esque scenes (most notably the crowd forming a circle and applauding our lovebirds as they engage in their first kiss) and dialogue that would never leave the mouths of American teens in reality, John Green still manages to create a believable and heart wrenching love story that managed to draw me in. I won't say that I LOVED this book as so many others have, but I did really like it. And my book club had many animated conversations surrounding the story and all it encompassed.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Adventurous
Great read, very dramatic

Lots of twisty turns and soap opera worthy scandals - this was a great multi-generational story that was loved by every member of my book club. We\\\'re all looking forward to reading more by Kate Morton in the near future!

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Interesting
Scarlet Letter meets dystopian future

My book group really enjoyed this book and we had plenty to talk about. Everyone agreed it was a really quick read, some finishing it in two sittings. The action picks up on page one as we\\\'re introduced to Hannah who is serving time for murder. The biggest complaint with the book was that there was a lot of build up followed by a ridiculously quick wrap up that left most of us feeling a little cheated. Add another twenty pages to the ending and I would have gladly given this book five stars rather than four.

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