Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Readers -- May 17, 2023

The Readers met on May 17 to discuss Lightning Strike, by William Kent Krueger. They gave the book a rating of 3.75 stars out of a possible 5. The book is a coming of age story that follows Cork O'connor, growing up the son of a Native American school teacher and an Irishman, who also happens to be the town sheriff. When Cork and his friend Jorge, come across the hanging body of a local Native American, Big John, it sets off a train of conflicts in the small Minnesota town of Aurora. 

The discussion group liked the story, although not quite as much as This Tender Land, a book they read last year by the same author. They enjoyed the way Krueger paints his characters, giving them life and making them people we can care about. They enjoy his Minnesota settings and the way he is not afraid to smack us in the face with the way Native Americans were, and still can be treated. The group did feel that the author took liberties with Cork, making him just a bit more intelligent than he probably really is at the age of 12. They also liked the way the book ended, on a positive note with a hopeful future for Cork and his friends. One member liked the book so much that she plans to read all of Kureger's other books.


Young Soul Readers -- May 16, 2023


The Young Soul Readers met this month to discuss the novel They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman. Take Gossip Girl, add some secret societies and a murder no one can forget, and you'll get They Wish They Were Us. 

This murder mystery novel takes place at an exclusive prep school in Gold Coast, Long Island. Jill and Shaila are best friends and inseparable, until Shaila is killed by her boyfriend during a Player's initiation ritual their freshman year. After a dark night on the beach, Graham confessed to the murder and the case was closed. Jill spent the rest of her high school career trying to move on. 

Now it's senior year, and she's determined to make it her best one yet. She's a member of Gold Coast Prep's exclusive, not-so-secret secret society called the Players. It's sort of a secret society. Everyone knows it exists, but no one really knows what goes on except those who are part of it. Everyone wants to be a Player, to be admired by everyone else, and to be the best at everything. Acceptance is based on rigorous criteria and after completing a great number of daunting and, frankly, terrible tasks called pops. Once a student is accepted, he or she will be the coolest, most envied person in the entire school. As Sheila put it best, "'Look around. Look at everyone else,' Shaila whispered into the huddle. 'They wish they were us.'"

Soon, however, Jill starts receiving texts proclaiming Graham's innocence and all of her hopes of having a great senior year start to come crashing down. If Graham didn't kill Shaila, who did? Jill is angry, passionate, and determined to find out the truth, even if it means putting her friendships and future at risk. 

Members of the discussion group liked the novel but were a little disappointed in the characters, who were rude and arrogant. They felt the relationships between the siblings were strong and protective over each other but the friendships were toxic, filled with lies and secrets. The plot was a tad predictable and easy to devour. There were a lot of topics and situations that seemed to be thrown in more as representations than for plot furthering. The ending though, tied everything together nicely and the reader saw a different side of the characters. Just because things are a certain way, doesn't mean they can't or shouldn't be changed. 

Overall, it was a great concept and well-played story, averaging a 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

Night Owls -- May 8, 2023

The Night Owls gathered this month to discuss the graphic novel memoir Barely Functional Adult by Meichi Ng in which the author touches upon topics regarding failed relationships, dissatisfaction with your job, imposter syndrome, growing into adulthood, and weirdly enough, the tribulations of caring for an African dwarf frog with a mysterious butt blister. 

While the book is categorized as a graphic novel, some members stated that it read more as a traditional book with comic strips inserted in place of dialog or to simply illustrate a point. They were disappointed by this aspect as they anticipated reading what they viewed as a "more normal graphic novel." This could be due to the fact that Ng started her work as a web comic and was later collected and published in book format. 

Other members found that this book was exactly what they needed at the moment as the humor and topics greatly resonated with them. All members of the group found one point in the novel that spoke to them and how it is always reassuring to see that other people struggle to deal with things in a similar way. It always seems to help when one feels less alone and embarrassed about how you dealt with a bad breakup or put up with a terrible job longer than you should have or even just struggling to make new friends as an adult. The use of metaphors by Ng was also very inspired, and the group really enjoyed the creativity she used to explore themes within these metaphors. 

While the book ultimately may not have been what the group had expected it to be, it nonetheless received a favorable 3.5 star average rating from members. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Overbooked -- May 1, 2023

The Overbooked gang met this month to discuss the many short stories of the iconic Sherlock Holmes complied in the aptly titled book, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. The book contains twelve of Doyles' earliest short stories involving the astute detective, all told from the perspective of his trusted confidant, Dr. John Watson. 

Some of the highlights from the collection were "A Scandal in Bohemia", which features the first appearance of Irene Addler, a popular character. Many group members were surprised to learn this is the only story she appears in; "The Five Orange Pips" finds Holmes investigating mysterious deaths that may have sinister ties to a radical American organization; and "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" kept members trying to figure out the strange manner in which a young woman died in her room shortly before her nuptials. 

Members agreed that they enjoyed the stories being told from Watson's point of view. It helped them to immerse themselves in the investigations as they tried to work out each case, as the reader is only privy to what Watson sees and knows. The cleverness of Holmes and his world famous deductive reasoning were also seen as a more modern approach than what readers had expected for the time period. 

All in all, members of the group were in agreement that they were glad to have read this collection of short stories and can now say that they have read the great Sherlock Holmes. It received an average four star rating. 

Questers -- May 10, 2023

The Questers' latest discussion revolved around the classic novel Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Many members had read it previously, and they felt like they liked it better during that first reading experience, but could not pinpoint the reason for that. One theory was that as we evolved as readers and as individuals, we no longer saw the plot as a romantic tragedy, but more of a story of manipulation and control. 

When the main character, who isn't even respected enough to be granted a first name in the novel, meets and marries a rich, handsome, and much older widower, she is not prepared to live in the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca. The reader is left wondering if she is paranoid, as each glance and comment from the servants of her husband's much beloved estate make her feel inferior or if the servants are, indeed, comparing her to their former employer. Just as the novel begins to seem bogged down in the details of this intimidation, a twist in the plot revitalizes the story and breathes new life into the mystery surrounding Rebecca's death. 

Book club members all agreed that if the book was written today, instead of 1938, the reader might view the characters differently, altering the status of this novel as a classic. For example, Maxim de Winter is a handsome, brooding, somewhat sympathetic character as viewed by an earlier audience, but through today's lens he is seen as a controlling, manipulative, and cold husband to his much younger new wife. Overall, the Questers evaluated it as a thought provoking read, but a little too wordy. The group gave it 2.83 stars out of 5. 

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Once Upon a Crime -- May 2, 2023

The Once Upon a Crime book club met to discuss their may book, A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, by Holly Jackson. With seven club members and a few  guests rating it, the book received four out of five stars. 

Members liked the pace of the book even though it had a lot of characters to keep track of. Pippa, a high school girl, has chosen a closed murder case as her school project. She starts out just wanting to clear her accused friend's name, and once she questions the boy's brother, they decide to "solve" the case together and clear his name. There are many different people who the kids suspect, but finally they do solve it and clear the young man's name. 

The discussion members were amazed at how they went about discovering different facts as teenagers and how the community folks were willing to answer their questions. 


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 Caro...