Books: Me Before You

July 30, 2016

Me Before You is the sort of book I would never have picked up on my own. Even knowing it would be the subject for discussion at our monthly book club meeting on Monday, I put off starting it until two days ago. Something about the cover photo of a beautiful young woman and a handsome man staring into each other’s faces just put me off somehow. And that title – sounds like some character is obviously self-absorbed though I didn’t know who it would be.

Note: it’s pretty hard to say much more about the book without giving some hint of the ending, so if you haven’t read it and want to read without knowing what will happen, stop here.

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Books: A Song I Knew by Heart

February 14, 2016

An online friend told me about this modern adaptation of the story of Ruth and Naomi. A Song I Knew by Heart by Bret Lott explores Naomi’s grief after losing first her husband Eli, then her son Mahlon. When she decides to move from Massachusetts back to South Carolina where she had lived as a child, her daughter-in-law Ruth insists on going with her.

Unlike the story in the Old Testament, there is no other son and no Orpah who agrees to go back to her family. Ruth has no family to go back to, so going with Naomi is staying with the little family she does have – and acquiring a large new family when they get to South Carolina.

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Books: Mistress of the Art of Death

May 14, 2015

The title of the audiobook, Mistress of the Art of Death, didn’t particularly appeal to me – it sounded like it might be one of those vampire novels so strangely popular these days. But then I picked up a different title by Ariana Franklin, a historical fiction novel which looked interesting. When I saw that it was a follow-up to Mistress of the Art of Death, of course I had to check that one out first.

Adelia Aguilar is a forensics pathologist, but she has few of the resources available to Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan or Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, for the simple reason that she lives in the twelfth century. Trained at the medical school in Salerno, she is sent with a (Jewish) investigator to find out who is murdering children in Cambridge, England, both to put an end to the heinous killings and to absolve the Jews who have been accused of ritual murder.

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Books: The Sandcastle Girls

April 17, 2015

The Sandcastle Girls was our book club’s selection last month, but I found it difficult, immediately after reading it, to figure out what to say about it. There is so much I could say about the awful tragedy recounted in the book, both at a personal level for characters in the book and for the millions of people affected by the genocide of the Armenian people.

Then again, what is there I could say that would really do justice to the subject? Chris Bohjalian does it far better, bringing to life an ugly chapter of history that has been largely forgotten by most of the world. The stark reality of human suffering is depicted in more grim detail than I might have liked, but the fact that people do such horrible things to one another is reason to tell them, not to ignore them.

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Books: Doomsday Book

December 29, 2014

I was trying to think of something to get my younger son for Christmas. I remembered that he had enjoyed some books about time travel, but rather than another book in a series we’ve already read (from the library), I decided to look for another author neither of us had read before. One of my first hits in Google was Connie Willis.

I’m not sure which book I looked at initially, but from the description I discovered that it was not the first novel in which Willis had historians of the future going back in time to study their subject first-hand. So I looked through the list of books mentioned, and decided to start with Doomsday Book, which fortunately was available through the library.

If I liked it, I’d invite my son to read it. Then if he liked it I’d consider buying some of her books. With Christmas coming up so soon, I had to find something else to get him (how’s this for someone who particularly likes both science and superheroes?). But having discovered Willis, I was eager to read her books just because I like time travel books so much myself.

I was already in the middle of a historical fiction novel I’m reading for the book club, but it was slow going so I set it aside (knowing I had all Christmas break to read it), and picked up Doomsday Book. I put it down a few times because I needed to cook meals or other necessary stuff like that (though I did kind of get behind on the laundry). I didn’t quite finish it within 24 hours, as one reader on had, but I came close.

I realize that not everyone finds it such a page-turner. Several reader reviews complain that it is much too long and that very little happens, or that it is full of time-travel clichĂ©s and too-obvious foreshadowing. I suppose those criticisms have some validity. Read the rest of this entry »

Books: The End of Your Life Book Club

August 25, 2013

Sometimes, by the time the library notifies me that a book I had put a hold on is available, I have forgotten requesting it. But when I see that it’s in, I remember requesting it and why. Until this time. When I got the email that The End of Your Life Book Club was available for pickup, I didn’t even recognize the title of the book. Even now, after reading the entire book, I still don’t remember where I heard about it or what prompted me to decide to read it.

Books about books can be very interesting. The idea of a “book club” with two members, a woman dying of pancreatic cancer and her son who discusses books with her during her chemo treatments, was intriguing. I would love to have someone to discuss all the books I read with – though I would hardly wish for chemo treatments to provide the opportunity.

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Books: The Fault in Our Stars

May 6, 2013

When I started reading The Fault in Our Stars, I thought for a while that I would probably have quit reading if it weren’t this month’s selection in our book club. But if I had quit, I would have missed out on a moving story.

There’s nothing objectionable in the first few chapters, there’s just not much that’s particularly thought-provoking either. Yes, it’s a shame these young people are dying of cancer, but that’s not enough of a reason to want to listen in on their lives as they hang out together and watch movies or play video games.

Perhaps it was when Hazel talked about An Imperial Affliction, a book that was like scripture to her, that I began to get more interested. I couldn’t understand her obsession with finding out what happened to the characters in the novel after it ended, but I was intrigued by the insights in the novel and their effect on her.

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