Monday, September 25, 2023

Night Owls -- September 11, 2023

For September’s book, The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman, it was a return to characters that the Night Owls first met in last year’s book club selection The Thursday Murder Club. This time around the gang of pensioners are set to task when one of their own, Ibrahim Arif, is cruelly assaulted during a robbery, and when a dead man from Elizabeth Best’s former MI5 days reaches out to her for help. 

Highlights for the members were the author’s use of humor and characterization of the elderly cast of characters. Members agreed that it was refreshing to see a more polished representation of senior citizens, as they can oftentimes be portrayed as little more than incompetent or merely utilized for comedic relief. While at times a certain amount of suspended disbelief may be required when the characters accomplish certain physical feats it ultimately does little to detract from the story or from the characters that are all so uniquely endearing to readers.

Overall, the Night Owls gave the second installment in this series a favorable 3.8 out of 5 average rating.

Overbooked -- September 6, 2023

Overbooked met in September to discuss the book Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, which follows the Chicano narrator, Antonio Márez, as he recounts his childhood set against the end of World War II and the spiritual journey he embarks on after Ultima, a highly respected curandera, comes to live out her remaining years with his family on the outskirts of a small New Mexico town. Over the course of two years, Antonio reflects on the events and people in his life during this time that ultimately help to shape his personal identity.

The themes of the book lend themselves well to discussion, as a great deal of time can be spent solely on reflecting on individuals’ interpretations of the author’s use of symbolism, imagery, and foreshadowing, as well as the juxtaposition of both Antonio’s religious and cultural worlds. The more members discussed the book or read aloud passages that resonated with them personally, the more members found themselves becoming impressed by the depth of the author’s writing skills, which led some members to change their initial impressions of the book. 

With such a thought-provoking and engaging discussion, the members of the group reviewed the book positively with a 4.6 out of 5 average rating

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Questers -- Sep5tember 13, 2023

The Questers met in September to discuss The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel. Primarily set during World War II, the novel follows Eva, a brilliant young forger in occupied France, as she struggles to keep her mother safe while also working for the resistance. She is responsible for forging documents to help Jewish children escape into Switzerland. This is a deeply emotional book, as the characters feel the weight of humanity's lack of civility bearing down on them.

When Eva begins giving the children their new names and backgrounds, she fears she is erasing their identities. With her partner in forgery Remy, they concoct a code in a book to preserve the original names of the children they are saving. Eva and Remy are then left to wonder if they have, in the effort to save these identities, lost their own. 

The novel is full of intrigue, religion, romance, betrayal, and history. The Questers thought it to be a very thought provoking read, with half the discussion focusing on whether such an atrocity could take place today and how we would react if faced with the same dilemmas as the characters in the book. Would we betray our neighbors? Would we save ourselves? Would we be brave enough to risk our lives for children we never knew or would know again? 

The novel received a 4.1 out of 5 star rating.


Once Upon a Crime -- September 5, 2023

The Once Upon a Crime book club met to discuss The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie. Of the seven members at the meeting, the book averaged 4.2 stars out of a possible 5. For some of us, this was the first time we had ever read a Hercule Poirot story, so we were not prepared for how differently he saw things from his partner, Mr. Hastings. 

A serial killer is out and about, but he always sends a note first to Hercule telling him the day and street, working his way through the alphabet. The first person killed is an older lady with a last name that starts with the letter A. The killer then continues to someone whose last name starts with the letter B, and so on. Hercule doesn't have the police tell the public this because he doesn't want to give the killer any publicity, but then Hastings says it might draw him out if he thinks they are on to him. Hastings focuses on the clues that present themselves, but Hercule seems to find the less obvious clues.

There were enough different characters in this story that none of our club members really could pick out the true killer. We all liked the book because there were several twists and turns and motives for several characters. The author was very clever in the layout and storyline of this book. 

We are setting up our next set of books for the 2024 year. If you think this might be a book club you would enjoy, please contact the library and sign up We always welcome mystery readers to our club!


Monday, August 28, 2023

Young Soul Readers -- August 21, 2023

On August 21st, Young Soul Readers met to discuss My Dearest Darkest, by Kayla Cottingham. With five members attending, they rated this novel a 3.25 out of 5 stars.

This debut novel introduces readers to the isolated town of Rainwater and its main attraction—Ulalume Academy, a prestigious prep school with an arts focus that pianist Finch Chamberlin wants to attend more than anything. However, on the way back from her final audition, Finch gets into a car crash that kills her parents and that should have left her for dead. But something monstrous, ancient, and terrifying, wouldn't let her drown. Finch doesn't know why she woke up after her heart stopped, but since dying she's felt a constant pull from the school and the surrounding town of Rainwater, like something on the island is calling to her.

Three months later, she’s an Ulalume student but still suffers serious aftereffects from the accident. She’s in the same year as Selena St. Clair, the leader of an exclusive clique on campus and a girl who is already out to get Finch after an earlier misunderstanding. However, when Finch and Selena are paired for a crucial performance project, they must come to terms with the burgeoning feelings that arise between them. Selena St. Clair sees right through Finch, and she knows something is seriously wrong with her. But despite Selena's suspicion, she feels drawn to Finch and has a sinking feeling that from now on the two will be inexplicably linked to one another.

When Finch, Selena, and the popular girls stumble upon a mysterious and alluring power in the tunnels beneath Ulalume, they accidentally summon a carnivorous creature of immense power in the depths of the school. It promises to grant every desire the girls have kept locked away in their insecure hearts―beauty, power, and adoration―in exchange for a price: human body parts. But as the cost of their wanting becomes more deadly, Finch and Selena must learn to work together to stop the horror they unleashed before it consumes the entire island. Blood, gore, and drama make for a spooky success.

The members thought the book started out a little leisurely. There were some parts, like some of the relationships for instance, that felt unnecessarily added that didn’t influence the story. But once the group of girls found the creature, that’s when it started to get more interesting. From fingernails to human bodies, there was quite a bit going on at every turn that will have readers at the edge of their seats. The ending was satisfying, but it did leave the members with some unanswered questions. Overall, it was an adequate read. 


Night Owls -- August 14, 2023

For the month of August, the Night Owls read the comedy horror Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix. The novel follows the protagonist Amy as she meanders through her unfulfilling work at ORSK, a not-so-thinly-veiled knock off of IKEA. However, the monotony of Amy’s job is interrupted as she and her fellow coworkers begin to notice, and ultimately investigate, the strange incidents that are taking place throughout the store during the closed hours of ORSK. What they once perceived as acts of vandalism from a disgruntled employee or customer soon begin to take on a more paranormal and sinister tone.

If the math checks out, this is the first comedy horror that the Night Owls have read and the general consensus was that it was an enjoyable read with some technical flaws. Ratings and criticisms were consistent among the majority of members, primarily that while the story was “just okay,” high marks were given to the ingenuity of the book's premise along with its design and format. Formatted to resemble an IKEA catalog, each chapter is named after an IKEA-esque piece of furniture that was featured in the chapter accompanied with an illustration. However, as the book progresses, the chapters' furniture becomes more and more menacing. Audio listeners of the group also mentioned that the audiobook’s treatment of each chapter heading as a mini-commercial was inspired and added another layer of humor to the book. 

Less liked aspects of the book were the majority of the characters (not Ruth Anne, though-never Ruth Anne), particularly Amy, although the final act does show strong character development for her, but it arrived much too late in the book to connect with readers. Other characters, particularly those of Matt and Trinity, were viewed as superfluous and very much came across as existing solely to move the plot forward. Certain characters’ fates that were never explained and red herrings that were never fully developed were also disappointing aspects for members.

Overall, the book was received favorably by readers of the group with a 3.4 out of 5 average rating.


Thursday, August 24, 2023

Overbooked -- August 7, 2023

Overbooked met this month to discuss the John Steinbeck novella The Pearl, a parable based on a Mexican folktale revolving around Kino, a poor fisherman, whose discovery of a large pearl soon puts him and his family in danger as the greed and evil of those around him covet his priceless find.

Amongst some of the biggest critiques of the novella were passages that some members felt as too detailed and unnecessary given the novel’s relatively short 112 page count. Others, however, remarked the opposite and relished the use of Steinbeck’s evocative imagery to illustrate key themes throughout the story. Some members also felt that the writing was much too simplistic given the literary prestige of the author yet other members sighted this as a highlight. Too often “classic literature” is perceived as too high-brow or not for “the common man” and some members appreciated the approachability of Steinbeck’s “simple writing” and making it more accessible to the everyday reader, but without diminishing the effectiveness of his writing. 

In the end, the novella received a favorable 3.2 out of 5 stars average rating from members.


Readers -- August 16, 2023

The Readers met on August 16th to discuss West with Giraffes, by Lynda Rutledge. The book, which received an overall rating of 3.85, is a historical work inspired by the true story of two giraffes who survived an Atlantic hurricane and made a cross-country trip to the San Diego Zoo. The book begins in the year 2025, when Woodrow Wilson Nickel, age 105, learns that giraffes are becoming extinct. This triggers memories of the trip he made with the giraffes back in 1938, during the Great Depression. Woody was a young Dust Bowl survivor, and through a set of circumstances, gets hired to drive the giraffes to their final destination. Along the way, we are introduced to a young reporter, whom Woody calls Red, the Giraffe's handler, referred to as "Old Man" in the novel, and learn about Belle Benchley, the first female zoo director in the world.

 Overall, the group enjoyed the book, and they particularly liked the storytelling aspect. In the twelve days it took Woody to drive the giraffes to the zoo, they experienced a number of adventures, some of them realistic, some not so much. We are reminded of the grim times people suffered through during the depression, Hoovervilles and segregation. Some of the Readers felt that since the author did not give the characters real names, choosing instead to call them Red, Old Man, Girl and Boy, they did not feel connected to them. The book printed actual newspaper articles that were run during the giraffe's journey. This was a fun aspect to the story, reminding the group that this was indeed, a work of fiction based on a real life historical event. The giraffes, Lofty and Patches, lived at the San Diego Zoo for nearly thirty years and had seven offspring.


Wednesday, August 9, 2023

The Questers -- August 9, 2023

The Questers book group met in August to discuss Robin Cook's Blindsight.
This is the first book in a fourteen book series that began in 1992 and added its last installment in 2023. Cook develops his main character, Laurie Montgomery as a medical examiner, in this medical thriller.

When Laurie is performing autopsies on a series of overdoses by young, wealthy professionals, her personal pain of losing her brother to an overdose prompts her to take her investigation further than her superiors have ordered. She can't shake the feeling that these deaths are caused by tainted cocaine and could be prevented if her boss would simply see what she sees instead of focusing too much on the political ramifications of publicizing the rampant use of illegal drugs by high class and influential families. 

At the same time Laurie is noticing this series of deaths, Lou Soldano is a New York detective investigating a series of mob hits. Visiting the morgue is out of his comfort zone, but his attraction to Laurie makes it easier, if not a little awkward for the reader. The Questers had a hard time pulling for this couple's potential romance, as the chemistry seemed lacking. As both characters work their cases, eventually a tie is made between Laurie's overdoses and Lou's homicides. 

Overall, the Questers liked the book, giving it 3.12 stars out of 5. They did have a hard time reconciling some of the errors, such as a complete disregard for doctor-patient confidentiality. It seemed like a huge plot hole that was only briefly mentioned by the author. Others felt like there were just too many characters to keep straight and the characters seemed a bit cliché.

Once Upon a Crime -- August 1, 2023

The Once Upon a Crime book club met together to discuss Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane. All members commented about how fast the book rolled along to keep our attention. With six members present, the book received 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Girls are coming up missing and then found dead. A wife finds her husband's "secret phone" with calls and graphic videos with him and these girls. Horrified by her findings, she plots to kill him. Once the deed is done, she parks his car at the school with him in it. His principal comes that morning asking where he is. She is dumbfounded, now wondering if he is dead after all, especially when she starts getting notes about her activity. 

The discussion group was a little surprised at all the twists and turns this book had. Several characters were introduced and had motive. 

Night Owls -- September 11, 2023

For September’s book, The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman, it was a return to characters that the Night Owls first met in last year’s b...