This year, I want to be fearless in everything I do, and that includes reading. I want to read books that I normally wouldn’t read. I think that the book club will be so great for that! Get ready, because today I have nine book reviews of all different genres to talk about.
1.The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
This was our first book for our book club. I think it worked well as a book club pick, because there are so many times where you wonder whether the characters are doing the “right” thing or you just want to smack them. I have a lot of feelings about this book — sorry they are kind of all over the place.
I had to keep remembering that the book begins in 1964. I think keeping that as a frame of reference can help see Norah, Caroline, Pheobe, and even David, in a different light.
After Norah gives birth to twins, her husband, David, realizes that one of them, Phoebe, has Down syndrome. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take Phoebe away to an institution. After seeing the horrific conditions there, Caroline can’t leave Phoebe at the institution, so she takes her away and raises her as her own child. The book follows the separate but entwined lives of Norah and David with Caroline and Phoebe.
To me this is an intriguing storyline, and I kept turning the pages just because I wanted to find out what happens. But a novel needs more than that. The characters were a little bit annoying, and I felt that the author didn’t do the character of Phoebe justice at all. I hated the ending, which I felt was rushed and unrealistic. But when I consider the roles that women were expected to play during the time, I can’t help but empathize with Norah and feel like Caroline did something amazing.
But the reason why I didn’t love this book is because I felt like it was very plot-driven. I don’t like when authors do things just to shock you. I felt like the author had the entire plot mapped out and then just used the characters to fill it. I don’t think she really thought about the characters, their motivations, and their emotions. I felt like the characters wouldn’t necessarily do a lot of the things they did, but the author had them do them to advance the plot.
2. We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
This is a heavy, haunting, astonishing book. So of course, I loved it. Eva’s son, Kevin, committed a mass murder at his school. A few years later, he is in prison, and Eva grapples with whether she caused her son’s actions by being a mother who admits that she just didn’t have it to give. What makes this book so compelling to me is the question of whether Kevin was born a certain way or if his mother’s coldness caused him to grow up into someone who would commit mass murder.
3. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Brooks
This book is written from the perspective of a dog in his old age, so get ready to bring out the tissues. It was not at all what I expected, but I found myself enjoying it a lot. I felt like the book wasn’t as much about Enzo, the dog, as I had expected or wanted, but I still enjoyed it. It was a quick read – perfect for a rainy day.
4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.”
This quote sums up everything I loved about this book. With magic, adventures, and mystery, I could not put it down. I loved the role that memory played – a fascinating topic especially when you think about children’s understanding in the present moment to the way adults look back on things. Part of me wishes I had this book when I was growing up although I know it only came out a few years ago. But the other part of me is happy to have read it now, as an adult, as a reminder to always look for the magic. Highly recommend!
5. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
After I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I decided to go on a mission to read more of Neil Gamin’s work. Neil Gaiman is a master world builder, and he has an incredible way with words. American Gods is an epic novel that has everything you can possibly need: fantasy, mystery, a road trip, romance, myths, gods, Amercia. Although it’s a big book and there’s a lot in there, it’s done so well. I might have fallen slightly in love with Shadow, the protagonist. The plot is long and complicated, so all I can say is please read this incredible book! And then we can talk about it.
6. On Writing by Stephen King
This book changed my life. I don’t say that lightly. Stephen King’s memoir is in two parts. The first part tells the story about how he came to be a writer, and the second is all about his writing process. He has a lot of very useful advice, and practical tips that you can implement immediately if you want to become a better writer. I stopped writing in my books a long time ago, but I couldn’t help but underline and take notes all over this book. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves writing.
7. Tree and Leaf by JRR Tolkien
This book is for nerds only. Specifically, nerds who are obsessed with fairy tales, children’s literature, and fantasy. Tolkien writes about the history, importance, and craft of fairy tales, and why they are not just for children. This essay is followed by a short story about an artist who goes on a long journey. I understand if you’re not interested, but I loved it! If you loved The Lord of the Rings, you might want to check it out.
Favorite quote: “But fairy-stories offer also, in a peculiar degree or mode, these things: Fantasy, Recovery, Escape, Consolation, all things which children have, as a rule, less need than older people.”
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Easily one of my favorite books ever. A high school freshman, Charlie meets two seniors, Patrick and Sam, who expose him to a lot of things for the first time as he navigates high school life. I loved the way Charlie looks at the world and the way he thinks about things. No matter what our story in high school was, everyone can relate to Charlie. His story is everyone’s story and that’s what makes this book so perfect.
9. A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth’s Warren’s story about how she became the first female senator of Massechuetes is in itself an incredibly powerful story. She dropped out of college when her high school boyfriend proposed, but didn’t take well to domestic life. She decided to chase her dreams, even though she was expected to stay home with her children.
This book is deeply moving. She talks a lot about her career and why she fought for better bankrupcy protection for families, how she fought to hold people accountable after the financial collapse, and how she started an agency to protect people against predatory banking. She also talks a lot about her personal life, her family, and even her dogs. It was hard for her at times to continue fighting when she wanted to be with her daughter or grandchildren across the country, but she knew that she had fight for American families to be given “a fighting chance.” I think everyone should read this book.
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