Monday, October 23, 2023

Overbooked and Night Owls - October 9, 2023

It was a melding of the minds (or groups) for October as Overbooked and Night Owls members both met to discuss the Shirley Jackson gothic mystery, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The novel, the last to be written before Jackson’s death, is told from the perspective of the main character, 18-year old Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood as she recounts the tragic events that have befallen her family which isolate her and the remaining members from their local community.

 Members noted that from the start of the novel, Merricat is not trusted as a reliable narrator, given her tendency to dissociate from situations as a means of coping with the difficult realities around her. While the author’s writing initially appears simplistic, members couldn’t shake the feeling that everything has a much deeper meaning and adds an additional layer of uncertainty while reading through the novel. Merricat’s other relatives, her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian, also made for interesting points of discussion as members closely scrutinized and analyzed the characters’ peculiarities to find deeper and darker meanings.

Despite some members admitting that this is not the typical book they would normally reach for, they could appreciate the novel’s gothic elements and its inclusion as our October book. I think one book club member best summed up the book by saying “it reminds me of Anne of Green Gables if Anne were a psychopath.” Overall, the book received a modest 3.2 out of a 5 stars rating.


Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Readers -- October 18, 2023

The Readers Book Club met on October 18 to discuss A Bad Day for Sunshine, by Darynda Jones. The book is the first in a series about Sunshine Vicram, who returns to her hometown of Del Sol, New Mexico, as the newly elected sheriff. Sunshine's first day on the job proves to be much more interesting than she had anticipated. The day begins with the delivery of muffins, which everyone swears are bad luck. This seems to ring true, as shortly following the delivery, a car crashes through the front window of the department. The car is driven by a distraught mother, whose daughter is missing. Also filling Sunshine's first day on the job is an escaped convict, a stolen prize rooster, a missing boy, and an ex flame, who may or may not be involved in her own unsolved abduction from years ago.

The group was all over the board with how they felt about the novel. The ratings were as low as a 2, and as high as 4.5, giving the book a final score of 3.375. One of the issues the group had with the novel was how many story lines were introduced, many of which seemed unnecessary and contrived. Sunshine was abducted as a teenager and much of the book touches on this. The case went unsolved, and it is still that way at the conclusion of the book. In spite of this, the book was fun. The characters had good rapport, particularly Sunshine and her daughter. The people surrounding Sunshine are loyal and kind, and she comes across as witty and intelligent. A few of the club members intend to finish the series, and have been instructed to report back to the rest of the group as to who actually abducted Sunshine and fathered her daughter.

Young Soul Readers -- October 16, 2023

Little & Lion is a stunning novel on love, loss, identity, and redemption written by Brandy Colbert. When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are, along with her crush, Emil. Her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support. But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.

The novel did a good job of representing multiple diverse identities, including race, sexuality, religion, disability, and non-traditional family structures. A significant theme of the novel is Suzette’s exploration of her bisexuality. This book is a recipient of the Stonewall Book Award, which recognizes exceptional LGBTQ+ literature. In addition to the diversity represented by the main characters, the peripheral characters are also diverse in race, sexuality, and ability.

Members did like how realistic this novel portrayed the different identities. However, some of them didn’t have relevance to the story causing it to be a slower read. The nonlinear narrative style was a little frustrating also. It didn’t necessarily have to be written that way for readers to understand the story. Overall, members decided, for a YA read, it was satisfactory. They rated it three out of five stars.  

 

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Questers -- October 11, 2023

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is a classic American tale of two drifters trying to find a little piece of the world where they belong. As they work as ranch hands, they have a goal in mind to own a piece of land, raise their own animals and food, and just live their lives in peace. They face challenges along the way, especially when Lennie's lack of intellectual development is taken advantage of by others. 

This is a tragic tale that masterfully creates an emotional investment for the reader. We want the diminutive George and gargantuan Lennie to see their dreams come true, but foreshadowing makes us doubt that possibility as much as the characters doubt themselves. Dangers lurk around every corner for Lennie, who doesn't understand his own strength or the motives behind George's orders to stay away from people who might cause them trouble. 

The Questers gave the book a 3.13 rating out of 5 stars. They respected the writing and agreed the author created a classic by giving the readers an emotional storyline that resonated with our own deep desires for human connection and a place of belonging. However, it is a deeply sad book, which contributed to such an average rating.  


 

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Once Upon a Crime -- October 3, 2023

The Once Upon a Crime book club met to discuss the book, Elevator Pitch, by Linwood Barclay. With seven members voting, the book received 4.4 out of five stars. The group enjoyed the many unforeseen twists and turns and surprises in the plot. However, they did agree that the author rushed the ending and it didn't seem to fit with the rest of the story.

A very upset government aid is getting back at the mayor for something he did years ago. He's figured out how to gain control of the elevators in some of New York's tallest buildings. He's trying to do away with the mayor's biggest money backers by sabotaging the elevators in their offices. This was intriguing, but the group discussed why some of the people were killed when they weren't really directly involved with any campaign for the mayor. 

A terrorist group was also in attendance at the gathering at the city office and most were pointing fingers at them. This is a most riveting story which will have a reader a little hesitant to enter an elevator!

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...