Book Club

 


Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

“This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers. Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali. By turns rapturous and rueful, this wise and funny author (whom Booklist calls “Anne Lamott’s hip, yoga- practicing, footloose younger sister”) is poised to garner yet more adoring fans.”

You’re either going to love it or hate it. Some people disliked the Pray section of the book, and others felt that it was too “me, me, me”. I personally enjoyed Eat Pray Love and would recommend it.

Look Again – Lisa Scottoline


“When reporter Ellen Gleeson gets a “Have You Seen This Child?” flyer in the mail, she almost throws it away. But something about it makes her look again, and her heart stops—the child in the photo is identical to her adopted son, Will. Her every instinct tells her to deny the similarity between the boys, because she knows her adoption was lawful. But she’s a journalist and won’t be able to stop thinking about the photo until she figures out the truth. And she can’t shake the question: if Will rightfully belongs to someone else, should she keep him or give him up? She investigates, uncovering clues no one was meant to discover, and when she digs too deep, she risks losing her own life—and that of the son she loves. “

This book was just okay in my opinion. It was definitely an entertaining read, but I also found the main character to be unreasonable and over dramatic at times. There are points in the book that read like a Lifetime movie.

The Celestine Prophecy – James Redfield

“You have never read a book like this before — a book that comes along once in a lifetime to change lives forever. In the rain forests of Peru, an ancient manuscript has been discovered. Within its pages are 9 key insights into life itself — insights each human being is predicted to grasp sequentially; one insight, then another, as we move toward a completely spiritual culture on Earth. Drawing on ancient wisdom, it tells you how to make connections among the events happening in your life right now and lets you see what is going to happen to you in the years to come. The story it tells is a gripping one of adventure and discovery, but it is also a guidebook that has the power to crystallize your perceptions of why you are where you are in life and to direct your steps with a new energy and optimism as you head into tomorrow.’

This was one of my book club choices. The book is written as a parable, revealing nine insights about life and explaining how people relate to one another. This is another polarizing book. You may be moved and enlightened by it or completely turned off from it. It does foster good discussion and has a good message.

Sarah’s Key – Tatiana De Rosnay

“Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten-year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door to door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard—their secret hiding place—and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released.

Sixty Years Later: Sarah’s story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own future. “

This book is broken up into two intertwined stories. Sarah, a victim of a horrendous event that is hardly mentioned in French history, and Julia, an American reporter, living in Paris who is also married to a Frenchman. While I found Sarah’s story to be heart wrenching and compelling, by the end of the book I HATED Julia. The more I read, the less I liked her character and completely disagreed with some of her actions. But with that said, it’s still a good book to read. Most people I’ve talked to enjoyed the book

Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea – Chelsea Handler

“In this hilarious, deliciously skewed collection, Chelsea mines her past for stories about her family, relationships, and career that are at once singular and ridiculous. Whether she’s convincing her third-grade class that she has been tapped to play Goldie Hawn’s daughter in the sequel to Private Benjamin, deciding to be more egalitarian by dating a redhead, or looking out for a foulmouthed, rum-swilling little person who looks just like her…only smaller, Chelsea has a knack for getting herself into the most outrageous situations. Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea showcases the candor and irresistible turns of phrase that have made her one of the freshest voices in comedy today.”

Just read it. This book was chosen during the holidays when everyone wanted a lighter read. Although our discussion of the book wasn’t deep or profound, we did laugh. A lot.

The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”
—Randy Pausch

“A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave—”Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”—wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.”

The Last Lecture was a touching and inspiring story of a professor who was asked to give his last speech though he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. His main reason for this giving one final speech was to leave his young children with lessons from their father. The book is filled with anecdotes from his life and tips on how to make the most of your own. You can also watch his last lecture on Youtube.

 Middlesex:  A Novel – Jeffrey Eugenides

“ “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license…records my first name simply as Cal.”

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic. “

*To be frank, I hated this book. I hated every second I had to read it. It’s a 600+ page monster. There is a lot of prose, well written prose, but it does nothing to further the story. The first, I don’t know, 200 pages gave me narcolepsy. Anytime I started to read it, I’d pass out, regardless of the time or my location. The author basically just wants you to know how well he can put words and sentences together, disregarding whether these random sentences actually fit into the story and help with its movement.

So, that being said, I DID think it ended up being a decent book for book club because of the discussion that we had afterwards. Everyone had strong opinions.*

The Help – Kathryn Stockett

I’m sure most of you have read this so I won’t say much about it except that I loved it.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

*The Hunger Games is one of my favorite books of all time. Everyone in BWBC loved it. Although there’s been a lot of hype surrounding this series, I believe it’s justified. The writing is great; the plot is fast paced, captivating, and a bit disturbing. I feel that it’s an excellent critique of our society.*

31 Hours – Masha Hamilton

“When Carol Meitzner jolts awake in the middle of a long night, she knows — as surely as a mother can know — that her son, Jonas, is in danger. His girlfriend doesn’t understand why, but she knows she has somehow lost him. Jonas won’t answer his phone. And no matter how carefully she shapes them, he won’t return her messages.

His father says it can’t be as bad as they fear.

But it is.

Jonas is in a safe-house beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. There, in the belief that he can change the world, he ponders his newfound faith — and his specialized training. Over the next 31 hours, he will cleanse himself, mind and body, in preparation for the violent action he means to take when the subways are most crowded.

Carried by Masha Hamilton’s elegant and powerful prose, 31 Hours is a compelling story about the helplessness and frantic hope of the people who can save Jonas — and countless others — if only they can reach him in time.”

This is a short, thought provoking book. Over a 31 hours, Jonas’s family and girlfriend try to track him down, feeling that he might be involved in something terrible. The author, in a way, almost makes one feel sympathetic towards Jonas. He isn’t a crazed religious zealot, but a young man who has clearly lost his way and is disenfranchised with the US. The book ends at hour 31, leaving the reader to interpret what happens next and the ending is one that will stay with you long after the book ends.

Before I Go To Sleep – S. J. Watson

“Every day Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear every time she falls asleep. Her husband, Ben, is a stranger to her, and he’s obligated to explain their life together on a daily basis–all the result of a mysterious accident that made Christine an amnesiac. With the encouragement of her doctor, Christine starts a journal to help jog her memory every day. One morning, she opens it and sees that she’s written three unexpected and terrifying words: “Don’t trust Ben.” Suddenly everything her husband has told her falls under suspicion. What kind of accident caused her condition? Who can she trust? Why is Ben lying to her? And, for the reader: Can Christine’s story be trusted? At the heart of S. J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep is the petrifying question: How can anyone function when they can’t even trust themselves? Suspenseful from start to finish, the strength of Watson’s writing allows Before I Go to Sleep to transcend the basic premise and present profound questions about memory and identity. One of the best debut literary thrillers in recent years, Before I Go to Sleep deserves to be one of the major blockbusters of the summer.”

*Entertaining and a quick read (I finished it in a few hours), though very repetitive in the middle and the ending also plays out like a bad Lifetime movie. *

Bossypants – Tina Fey

“Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.”

*Although I love Tina Fey, I didn’t like this book much at all. There were some funny portions and I found the SNL chapters about her experience playing Sarah Palin to be interesting but the rest, meh at best. It’s a pass.*

In the Woods – Tana French

“As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

Richly atmospheric, stunning in its complexity, and utterly convincing and surprising to the end, In the Woods is sure to enthrall fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones.“

*This book is a vivid police mystery. The main characters, Cassie and Rob are members of the Irish police force and end up taking on the case in which a young girl was brutally murdered in the woods. There are two main storylines that are neatly intertwined throughout the book, though both are not resolved in the end. The ambiguous ending left us wanting more and we weren’t sure what to believe.*

Await Your Reply – Dan Chaon

“The lives of three strangers interconnect in unforeseen ways–and with unexpected consequences–in acclaimed author Dan Chaon’s gripping, brilliantly written new novel.

Longing to get on with his life, Miles Cheshire nevertheless can’t stop searching for his troubled twin brother, Hayden, who has been missing for ten years. Hayden has covered his tracks skillfully, moving stealthily from place to place, managing along the way to hold down various jobs and seem, to the people he meets, entirely normal. But some version of the truth is always concealed.

A few days after graduating from high school, Lucy Lattimore sneaks away from the small town of Pompey, Ohio, with her charismatic former history teacher. They arrive in Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere, at a long-deserted motel next to a dried-up reservoir, to figure out the next move on their path to a new life. But soon Lucy begins to feel quietly uneasy.

My whole life is a lie, thinks Ryan Schuyler, who has recently learned some shocking news. In response, he walks off the Northwestern University campus, hops on a bus, and breaks loose from his existence, which suddenly seems abstract and tenuous. Presumed dead, Ryan decides to remake himself–through unconventional and precarious means.

Await Your Reply is a literary masterwork with the momentum of a thriller, an unforgettable novel in which pasts are invented and reinvented and the future is both seductively uncharted and perilously unmoored.”

*This book was an interesting mix of mystery and psychological drama. The storylines ramble on for most of the book, leaving you to wonder how and why they are connected. It’s not until the end that the connections begin to unravel. Another great book for a book club discussion.  *

Babyville – Jane Green
Meet Julia, a wildly successful television producer who appears to have the picture-perfect life. But beneath the surface, things are not as perfect as they seem. Stuck in a loveless relationship with her boyfriend, Mark, Julia thinks a baby is the answer . . . but she may want a baby more than she wants her boyfriend. Maeve, on the other hand, is allergic to commitment. A feisty, red-haired, high-power career girl, she breaks out in a rash every time she passes a stroller. But when her no-strings-attached nightlife leads to an unexpected pregnancy, her reaction may be just as unexpected . . . And then there’s Samantha—happily married and eager to be the perfect June-Cleaver mother. But baby George brings only exhaustion, extra pounds, and marital strife to her once tidy life. Is having an affair with a friend’s incredibly sexy husband the answer?

With Babyville, bestselling author Jane Green applies her golden touch to the next phase of a girl’s life. By turns witty, rollicking, and tender, this sparkling, sexy tale about the complexities of modern motherly love isn’t really a story about babies—it’s about three friends whose lives are suddenly turned upside down by that life-changing event that hangs over the head of every single girl: motherhood.

*Typical Chick Lit. Boring, implausible, and mind numbing*

3 thoughts on “Book Club”

  1. We’ve read a lot of good (and awful) books this year!

    • rephrase: a lot of good, only a couple awful! haha! I saw Middlesex on a “top 10 books of the decade” list and nearly fell out of my chair.

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