Thursday, February 22, 2024

Clubbing in February -- Part 2

The Questers discussed Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner in February. The book is set between 1938 and 1947 with the earlier years focusing on Rosie in the United States, and the later years focusing on Helen in Europe. Rosie is a teenager who loses her family to an accident and is taken in by her employers. Remembering her instructions from her parents throughout her childhood, Rosie tries to make it to adulthood without anyone finding out what makes her different. Being "different" in the 1939 was a very dangerous trait, even in the United States. 
Helen is the sister of Rosie's employer and she left for Europe years ago to be a nanny. She considers the families she works for to be her own. When Hitler begins to invade the continent though, a child she tends is in grave danger. The decisions Helen makes to keep Brigitta safe have life altering consequences. 


Only the Beautiful is a profound story of a dark time in history, making for a deep and thoughtful discussion for the Questers. They gave the book a solid four stars.





 
The Young Soul Readers discussed You Have a Match by Emma Lord in February. This is a cute coming of age tale set at a summer camp with a splash of social media stardom. When Abby finds out she has an older sister she never knew about, and that this older sister happens to be an Instagram star, her life and her potential romance with long-time best friend Leo, is thrown into a tailspin. While trying to unravel the mysterious reasons her parents gave her sister up for adoption, Abby realizes there are many more ups, downs, and surprises that need to be embraced if one is to truly experience life. 

The Young Soul Readers gave the book a respectable three stars.




The Readers discussed Recitatif by Toni Morrison in February. Morrison weaves a story of two girls thrown together as roommates in a girls' shelter when they were eight years old. As the reader gets to know Twyla and Roberta, we know that one girl is white and one is black, but we don't know which is which. After they grow up and lost track of each other for years, they are finally reunited. Separated by experiences, opinions, and conflicts, there is still an undeniable bond that was forged when they were young girls. 

This edition of Recitatif had an introduction that was almost as long as the book itself, and The Readers felt like it told them all about the story before they even read it. The discussion group gave it a struggling 2.2 stars and put it in the "don't bother" category. 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Clubbing in February -- Part 1


Overbooked discussion club members discussed James Baldwin's classic, If Beale Street Could Talk, for their February meeting. This is one of the twentieth century's most memorable novels and is considered by some to be the best novel ever written by the brilliant James Baldwin. 

What could have been a sweet love story between Tish and Fonny, takes a sad turn when Fonny is accused of a crime he didn't commit. Baldwin takes the reader on a roller-coaster of emotions as Fonny's family and Tish try to clear his name, hoping their love can survive.

The novel received an overall 3.8 positive rating from the Overbooked group. Members agreed that Baldwin's book is of important literary merit but also acknowledged that parts of it could be difficult to read. 




The Night Owls enjoyed discussing The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion for their February meeting. The light-hearted story follows socially awkward Don, a professor of genetics, and Rosie, a fiery and charismatic barmaid, as they each search for something special in their lives. Don is looking for a wife; Rosie is looking for her father. While completely incompatible according to Don's sixteen page scientific survey, the two develop a chemistry that defies mathematical formulas. 

Readers who are looking for a book that marries humor and romance, will be pleased with this novel. The Night Owls gave it a solid four out of five stars. 




Once Upon a Crime book club members discussed Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo for their February meeting. Castillo once again shows her expertise in writing about the Amish life and landscape while mixing in suspense and intrigue. This time, the protagonist, Katie Burkholder, returns to her hometown over fifteen years after leaving the Amish life for a big-city life in law enforcement. As the new police chief of Painter's Creek, Ohio, her first task is to solve a murder and prevent anyone else from meeting the same fate as the victim. Secrets are exposed and relationships are betrayed in this sizzling crime thriller.

The Once Upon a Crime members found the book riveting and gave it a very high rating of 4.7 stars.



                                                                                                                                                                           




Monday, January 22, 2024

Clubbing in January -- Part 2

Overbooked members ventured into Middle-earth to kick off their second year of book discussions with The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien. The classic tale follows its hero, Bilbo Baggins, as he sets out on an adventure with thirteen militant dwarves who are searching to reclaim their treasure from Smaug, the dragon. As they continue to encounter dangers and challenges, Bilbo learns about himself and life outside his safe little hole. This is a story that can be read over and over, while getting something new out of it every time. The discussion group thoroughly enjoyed it and gave a strong 4.5 rating to this classic. 


Young Soul Readers discussed I'm the Girl by Courtney Summers for their January selection. Georgia Avis might only be sixteen years old, but she has high hopes of escaping the poverty she was born into. Her dreams of the beautiful life she thinks she deserves are interrupted when she discovers the dead body of another teen. Georgia teams up with the victim's sister, Nora, to solve the crime and the two find themselves in a world of immense wealth and privilege. While she's witnessing all she thought she ever wanted, she also learns the dangers that can accompany such a lifestyle. The discussion group enjoyed the book and gave it a solid 3.7 rating. 





The Readers discussion group chose a fantasy for their first discussion of 2024. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alex E. Harrow follows January Scallar as she grows from a young ward of Mr. Locke, who is aptly named since he basically locks her away when he learns of her special powers to see doors to other worlds. Encountering dangers and adventures behind each new door, January finds new purpose in her life as she waits to be reunited with her family, from whom Mr. Locke has desperately tried to keep her separated. The Readers found the concept of this novel intriguing and gave it a strong 4.33 rating. 
 

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Clubbing in January -- Part 1

The Night Owls kicked off their 2024 discussions in January with Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sustanto. This comical first book in a series received a 3.2 out of five stars, meaning the majority of members liked it. Main character, Maddeline Chan finds herself in quite the predicament when her blind date ends up dead and her mother and aunties concoct a plan to dispose of the bodies. The Chans have a family wedding business, and they can't let a pesky dead body in their cooler throw a wrench into their success. While they try to figure out a solution to this farce, Maddeline runs into an old flame, which only complicates things more. Some discussion members liked the slap-stick comedy, likening it to a Weekend at Bernie's kind of situation, while other members thought a lot of it was just absurd and hard to believe ever happening. The aunties were definitely the highlight of the book. 



The Questers discussed The Last Lecture in January. Professor Randy Pausch was told he only had months to live when diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. While many teachers offer up inspirational words of wisdom in what is known as their last lecture, his was literally, his last opportunity to tell his students, his children, and the world what he had learned. In this book, the reader gets a glimpse into that lecture and the thoughts and actions behind his words. While the Questers found the book generally inspiring, some had a hard time reading it, as it hit a bit too close to home. Many members agreed that it could be read differently at different stages of life, and also thought it would make a great graduation gift. Overall, the group gave it 3.68 stars.



Once Upon a Crime members began a new year of discussions with Cat about Town by Cate Conte. It is the first novel in this cozy mystery series. When Maddie James opens a cat cafe, she is not prepared for one of her new feline friends to stumble upon the dead body of the town bully. She's gone from the cat-whisperer to the main suspect, while still managing to attract two eligible bachelors who are trying to woo her. This is the perfect read to curl up under a blanket and enjoy a touch of mystery, a touch of humor, and a touch of romance. The discussion group gave it a 3.7 rating.
 

Thursday, January 4, 2024

The Readers -- December 20, 2023

 

The Readers met on December 20 to discuss The Boat of Dreams, A Christmas Story, by Richard Preston. The story, which was originally written for the author's friend who was dying of breast cancer, centers on the Foster family in a Maine lobster town. Sarah Ann and her two children, Will and Lila, live in a small trailer and are struggling to make ends meet. They have recently received news that Will Sr, has been lost in the Vietnam conflict and they are on the verge of losing their home. The children come home one day to find a grouchy, smelly old man in their trailer, whom they soon come to realize is actually Santa Claus. Due to a crash with the Hoover Dam, he will now need their help, as well as their father's boat, to deliver dreams for Christmas.

The group gave the book an overall rating of 3.17. While the book was void of the usual sweetness found in Christmas books, it was not overly uplifting either. It was confusing as to whether or not the author wanted us to believe that the stranger was Santa Claus or God. It was hard to picture Santa guzzling beer from a recliner while watching a soap opera. There were some touching moments in the book, like when the local fisherman refused to let the Foster family lose their boat, and when Lila gave up her favorite stuffed animal to another child, but all in all, it was just an ok read with an ending that felt like no more than a footnote.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Questers -- December 13, 2023

The Questers ended 2023 on a high note with a book almost everyone in the group liked. The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin received 3.6 stars.

The book introduces readers to three main characters: Alice, Jake, and Harry. All three have experienced great loss, loneliness, and grief, but when their lives surprisingly intersect on Alice's bee farm, we see a beautiful friendship develop. As the bees are threatened by the newest chemicals being used by local farms, the three misfits band together to help the bees, their community, and each other. 
 
The Questers agreed that this was a pleasant read with very likable characters. When we put the book down, we felt good about what we read. It also provided a lot of interested information about bee keeping and bees in general. There was just enough conflict to make it interesting without leaving the reader feeling a lot of angst. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Once Upon a Crime -- December 5, 2023

The Once Upon a Crime book club met to discuss our December book, One by One, by Ruth Ware. With seven members present, it received 4.2 stars out of 5.

Most of us were caught off guard by the ending. There were many twists, turns, and hints throughout the book that we thought pointed to other characters. 

A group of people from a business travel to a winter chalet for a bonding trip. They get checked in and rest for the evening. The next morning they all leave to go skiing. Just as they are preparing to come back, they experience an avalanche. One of the members is knocked off of the mountain. The rest of the group make it back to the chalet and are devastated when they realized one member doesn't return. Many of the buildings are knocked down and buried, leaving them with no electricity or Internet. The group is torn up over the loss of their friend. The next morning they discover another member of the group is found dead. Many strange things are starting to happen. Two more people are killed and one comes up missing.

The discussion group agreed this is a very good book. If this sounds like a book club you may be interested in, let us know and we can add you to the mystery book club. Our next meeting is January 2nd and we will be reading A Cat About Town, by Cate Conte

 

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Overbooked -- December 4, 2023

Overbooked got into the holiday spirits (pun intended) with December’s book club pick, the Charles Dickens classic novella, A Christmas Carol. The story begins on Christmas Eve as the reader is introduced to the main character Ebenezer Scrooge, the penny-pinching curmudgeon who is visited by the spirit of his long-deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, who brings him a dire warning and a chance for redemption from three Christmas spirits. 

Members discussed the impact of Dickens’ story and how it has become a cultural touchstone not just in literature but in other forms of media as well, particularly in film. One member commented “Imagine the world without A Christmas Carol” and others were hard pressed to disagree, especially given how quintessential it has become in relation to the holiday season. Members were also tickled by the connection between the story's name and the chapters being called “staves” which is not immediately clear to non-music reading folks. For members that have previously read works by the author, they agreed that A Christmas Carol is probably the best entry point for anyone wanting to dip their toes in the Dickensian literary pool, as his other novels can be a bit more difficult to wade through. 


Overall, the Overbookers were delighted to have read the novel and still be surprised by a story we all know so well even if you never read the book previously. A Christmas Carol was given a positive 4.4 out of 5 star-rating.


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Overbooked -- November 6, 2023

Overbooked met in November to discuss the National Book Award winning title The Round House by Louise Erdrich. Told in first person perspective by Joe Coutts, the story centers around the assault his mother suffered when he was 13 years old and the ensuing investigation that pulls in several members of the community who reside on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. Growing frustrated with the abysmal investigation into his mother’s case, Joe sets out with the aid of his friends to seek justice on her behalf and learns too late that some actions lead to life-haunting consequences.

 Some members initially admitted to being lost at different points in the story due to the scattered dialogue. Other members however believed that may have been intentional as it was reminiscent of the fractured thoughts of a 13 year old boy being retold by his adult self. Yet members all agreed on the profoundery of Erdrich’s writing with members reading aloud passages that resonated with them. This was a novel that members stated is a deeply thought provoking work of literature for anyone that appreciates this genre of books and that greatly benefits from group discussions. The Overbookers all expressed interest in reading more of this author’s work for future book discussions.

The Round House received an overall positive response, averaging a 4 out of 5-star rating.

 

The Readers -- November 15, 2023

 

The Readers Book Club met recently to discuss The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson. The story is told through the first-person perspectives of five women. Lorraine is the ever-patient nurse in a nursing home, taking care of the steady but sharp-tongued Margaret, and her friend and sidekick, the wacky Bernice. Rhonda is the hairdresser who takes on an extra job as the hairdresser for the home, and comes to love the residents. There is also April, Lorraine's daughter, who works hard to become a doctor, the profession she dreamed of as a child. 

Unfortunately, the group did not care for the book, only giving it a rating of 1.83 out of a possible 5 stars. Most of the members felt that the book had no purpose and left them with the feeling that reading it was a waste of time. The characters, while likable, had no depth and the stories were not developed. The book was confusing, as there seemed to be no flow from one character's story to the next. The time jumps in the plot happened without wrapping up anything that occurred before. It was as if the author was trying to be Steel Magnolias, but fell short. 

Clubbing in February -- Part 2

The Questers discussed Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner in February. The book is set between 1938 and 1947 with the earlier years focu...