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I agree with you Emily. All organizations may have their weaknesses, but they shouldn't be voiced on the discussion board for monthly books. There are months when I dislike the selections for BOTM, but overall, I love the community and the opportunity I have had to read such amazing selections. I would encourage you to give BOTM another try - it really is a wonderful company!
I agree with you about Katie. What really seemed "off" to me was that Katie ended up being the mom of Ava's friend (or really Ava's friend). A person would need a A LOT of plastic surgery to be mistaken for a teenager when they are in their 40s. I did not love Behind Her Eyes (the ending was too out there for me) but I tried to give this one another shot and it fell flat. Bummer.
As I was reading this book, I was REALLY into it... Until I was nearing the end. Some things came together a little too easily. I agree that when all is said and done, it feels a little like a Lifetime Movie. I did find it entertaining so I would probably give this 3.5 stars out of 5. I am looking forward to jumping into a new book with a little more substance.
I agree with what you are saying. Ever since Gone Girl was published I feel that all books are trying to be the next Gone Girl. Unfortunately, this has opened up the floodgates for a lot of bad thrillers. I will report that I am about 80 pages into this book and while I'm pretty sure I've picked up on one of the twists, I really enjoy it so far. It is quick to get through with short chapters and I think this structure helps to keep the reader engaged.
I feel like maybe I missed something in the ending - I didn't suspect that Leo had died. From my reading, I thought Leo was the one who killed Maryanne and then his parents helped his escape so he wouldn't be found guilty. I was sort of let down by this book - it certainly did not live up to the hype it was given. However, it was an easy, entertaining read (just not one I am likely to recommend any time soon).
I read this book while traveling and found it to be a great airplane read. It was easy to read and kept my attention. The first third of this book sucked me in, but I felt like the book slowed in the middle. Based on the book jacket, it is clear that Cat thinks her father is involved in the murder case. Unfortunately, most of the book centers around Cat's relationship with her dad and this felt like it droned on a bit too long. You essentially know that it either is or is not her father, so the plot felt a bit limited. I might not rush to recommend this book, but overall, it was satisfying.
It took me the longest to place the characters in the Bianca sections, but after about 2-3 time changes, the characters started to cement themselves in my mind. I most enjoyed the sections when Joseph and Miranda were teenagers, though the author did a good job balancing the time dedicated to each time period. It didn't take long for me to get sucked in; there were a few "secrets" I did not anticipate and some that were easy to guess, but I do not think these took away from the plot line.
I could not agree with you more. Had I known what this book was REALLY about, I would not have bought it. I'm sort of disappointed that it was advertised as a romance novel involving someone with autism and turned out to be about sex, sex, sex. I felt like the author used autism as a way to grab people's attention but did not do individuals with autism any justice. This is a double thumbs down book for me.
After "the big reveal", the book ended pretty quickly and I would have liked more information about what happened after everyone knew about the rape. Also, did anyone else find it odd that Caleb's wife Noami KNEW about the rape and was okay with it? This part of the storyline was never fully explored and I would have liked to know more - did she really know? Was Caleb simply lying? What would motivate her to keep such a secret hidden? Overall, this was a quick read and perfect for days at the beach.
This book has received rave reviews on so many of the book blogs that I follow. However, I really just didn't like it by the end. It started out with an intriguing premise but I was disappointed that it was more a book about raunchy sex than it was about autism. I appreciate the author's attempt to provide more fiction that involves individuals with autism, but there were SO many behaviors in this book that seemed off base and illogical. I skimmed the last 1/3 of this book and would not recommend it to others who are looking for a book with actual substance.
Anyone else grappling with this question? As she explained it during the trial, she was trying to protect him but it just spells doom at the outset. I cannot think of a single positive outcome of inviting your ex to your wedding. I would have been horrified to do that in real life.
I just finished this book and all I can say is "WOW". This book grabbed my attention from the very first chapter and never let go. The author is very talented in invoking emotion in the reader - there were several times where I thought I would cry out loud while reading this book in public. At times, this book is suffocating and hard to bear, especially as the relationship between Roy and Celestial becomes more strained. While I was anger at Celestial, I also did feel some sympathy for her. Obviously, everyone knew that Roy was innocent and I do believe she loved him. However, she is right in that their marriage never really "took root" before he was taken away. I do not agree with her choices, but I can understand them on some level. As her career was growing and she was becoming well-known, how could she share that with Roy without creating resentment between them? Even if Celestial and Dre had not started a relationship, it is likely that her marriage to Roy would never be the same after his release. How could it be? More than examining marriage, this book provided a thoughtful examination of what it means to be family. While it focused mostly on Roy and Celestial's marriage it also provided commentary on others' marriages and what it means to be a parent (to your own children and to others' children). This book is difficult to read because it is a sad portrayal of the reality of being a black male in America. It also portrays characters in a realistic (albeit not positive) way. This book was authentic. 5 stars for An American Marriage.
This book is definitely out of my "comfort zone". Usually, I do not like to read books that have a futuristic slant to them. Unfortunately, this book feels like it could be describing reality given the current political administration. Overall, I enjoyed this book's commentary and would recommend it to other readings.
Things I liked about this book:
Things I did not like about this book:
Overall, I am really pleased BOTM selected this one! It may not be in everyone's taste, but it was a provoking book on the dangers of losing reproductive freedoms.
This book frustrated me from its portrayal of mental illness. In full disclosure, I am a non-clinical psychologist, so I have some working knowledge of mental illness and its effects on individuals. This book made me roll my eyes HARD at the revelation that Ethan had a personality disorder. I can understand that Anna had extreme psychological distress after losing her family but the author really laid it on thick: agoraphobia, PTSD, alcoholism, prescription drug abuse. I could not figure out why her psychiatrist continued to prescribe her medications in such large quantities - this seems to me like negligence on his behalf. I can't help but think how the plotline would have been affected had Anna been sober throughout the book. Isn't it possible she still might have doubted what she had seen? As far as eyewitnesses go, humans are pretty poor at remembering clear detailed information from traumatic events. And what did it gain the book by making Ethan have a personality disorder? I feel like this whole book plays off the stereotypes of people with mental illness. If you have agoraphobia you must be crazy. If you take psychiatric medications you must be completely dependent on them to the point of abuse. If you have a personality disorder you must be a murderer. Also, is it possible Anna had ZERO family or friends? Maybe I missed this in the book, but it really didn't mention her parents or siblings. Shouldn't they have been involved after her husband and daughter died?
I believe that this book may have been an enjoyable read for someone who hasn't read a psychological thriller in a while. But, if you read these kinds of books frequently on your own, then you may be disappointed with the conclusion of the book. From the beginning, you know that Anna either imagined the whole stabbing event (that would be a terrible ending) or that it really did happen. And if it did happen, there were only a few cast of characters who could have done it, so at the end, it was easy to guess the killer through the process of elimination. I really wanted to like this book and it was really well reviewed ... but, for me, this one goes back to the bookshelf without another thought.
I really did enjoy Eleanor, but I can understand how this book drags on at times. There are also some references to UK culture that were really lost on me. Overall, I was able to empathize with Eleanor and really appreciated her quirkiness, but there were also points in the book where I wanted to yell "get on with it already". I think the last third of the book is the best part - keep going!
I did not read the Chalk Man but it was one that was on my "maybe" list. I am sorry to hear that you did not like it. There have only been a few real "let downs" for me that I have received from BOTM. Sometimes there have been books that I loved and others have hated and books that others have loved and I hated. I would really encourage you to keep with your BOTM membership - there are so many other choices and I am sure your next one will be different. Did you select a book for January? I am currently reading the Woman in the Window and it is also a thriller - so far it is really interesting. I hope you find one you like :)
Today, I came across a review for the Woman in the Window. It does not appear to give away any big spoilers. It does have some interesting information about the author: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/03/books/review-woman-in-window-a-j-finn.html
I am about 150 pages into this book and so far it has been a pretty good read. Admittedly, I know NOTHING about Noir films and some of the references are a bit lost on me. I also am having a hard time reading about Anna's continued self-destruction: the drugs, the alcohol. Will she not learn? Also, I am curious as to why Anna's daughter never seems to visit her. I have not yet gotten to the bottom of the events that drove Ed and the daughter from the house, but I believe I am getting close.
I am excited to see how the book ends and hope it does not disappoint!
Anyone else have first impressions to share?
I can understand how this book might be difficult to digest. On one hand, I think the author tried to provide a cohesive, believable narrative; on the other hand, I think he was used this book as a commentary on larger societal issues. While it may seem inconceivable that Cyril experienced (or was connected to) multiple traumatic events throughout his life, I believe the author did this as a way of highlighting the injustices faced by many gay and lesbian individuals (in the U.S. and abroad). I was able to overlook some of the coincidences because, in my opinion, they provided an opportunity to reflect on the consequences of the decisions made by the characters in the book. For example, it might seem coincidental that Cyril is reunited with Julian, but this provides a good opportunity to discuss the stigma associated with AIDS as well as mass confusion about how it was spread and carried. As I read this book, it felt like an opportunity to reflect on what it means to love, the multiple forms that love may take, how an individual develops his/her identity, and the costs of authentically displaying this identity. For me, this novel hit all the right spots - But, it was also a bit "heavy". I would really encourage you to keep trying BOTM! It is good to expose ourselves to content that makes us think and even content that makes us uncomfortable :)
I can understand why this book made it to so many "Best of 2017" lists. Admittedly, I purchased this book as soon as BOTM released it ... and then it sat on my bookshelf. I felt a bit intimidated to start such an effortful read - And then, over the Christmas holiday, I picked this book up and finished it in less than a week. Despite its size, this book was a quick read simply because I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. If I had to compare this book to others I have read it would be a mix between A Little Life meets The Goldfinch meets Dallas Buyers Club (the movie). The character development in this book was phenomenal and I felt emotionally invested in the characters and their well-being. For most of the novel, you are rooting for them to make the "right" choices and agonizing over how they get so far astray. many coincidences in this book. I agree that much of the story is driven by "convenient" timing, but I believe the author does this as a way of juxtaposing characters and their decisions with one another. For example, Cyril's own mother gave him up for adoption - a choice that had significant consequences on his sense of belonging in the world. Despite this, he too ends up "abandoning" his own child, engendering similar experiences for Liam. Even though Cyril was unaware that he fathered a child, the reader cannot ignore how he was both abandoned by his mother while abandoning his own son. It is excruciating to read. Even more, this book highlights the ways in which society has systemically disenfranchised the gay community. Although I am not blind to the prejudice shown toward LGBT individuals, this book does not hold back in its portrayals of these injustices. I hope someday my children could read this book and these issues will no longer be relevant to society. I really applaud John Boyne's candidness and bravery. This book really delivered everything it promised ... and so much more.
I must agree with the other readers - I found this book to be so charming and endearing. As I was reading this book, I kept picturing Eleanor as Amy Farafowler from the Big Bang Theory. I loved her quirkiness and her perspective on others' "odd" social interactions - And I found some of them insightful, as there are many things we perceive as socially acceptable that are quite odd. (The scene where Eleanor wheres her cotton glove to meet Sammy's family had me in tears). The author did a really good job describing and discussing depression. I appreciated that she cast light on such an important topic while also examining it with light humor. I do believe we need to do more to address and openly discuss depression (and mental illness in general) and the author managed to do it very well. Also, I laughed out loud at the exchanges between Eleanor and her therapist. What I loved most about this book was the relationship between Eleanor and Raymond. At the end, I felt that the author was hinting at a relationship between the two of them but I appreciated how it was left undecided. Raymond was such a true, dear friend to Eleanor and I feel that such a relationship is even more important than a romantic one. One piece that felt underdeveloped was the imagined relationship between Eleanor and her mother. That revelation was quite surprising to me, but the author just sort of put it out there and moved on. I would have liked a little more discussion surrounding Eleanor's beliefs that her mother was still alive. The holidays can be a stressful time and I found this book to be quite refreshing. It was definitely a book that I savored and tried to take my time to get through reading. Some of the last few BOTMs I have read have been a bit on the "heavy" side, and I appreciated the humorous, heartwarming nature of this book.
Love love love.
I was sucked into this book almost immediately. I appreciated the structure of the book such that it moved back and forth between "before" and "after". This structure revealed just enough information to keep the reader informed but also engaged. What touched me most about this book was Sarah's commentary on society's obsession with true-life and fictional crimes. Her depictions of TV shows like CSI was incredibly insightful - why do people want to subject themselves to that material? Why is murder considered entertainment? Perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of this book was finding out the killer's identity. This man was not a prominent figure in Crystal's life; in fact, he was relatively unknown to her. For me, this felt like such an injustice - it felt preventable, it felt so unnecessary, it felt unfair. I kept trying to put myself into Sarah's shoes: Is it easier or harder to accept such a tragedy if the killer is known versus unknown? Perhaps neither is easier, but it felt so wrong that this man who had no part in their lives could destroy it in just one night. Sarah was brutally honest about the people in her life and how they treated her after the murder. She experienced some serious and unfortunate mistreatment by many adults after the loss of her mother and I think she was incredibly brave to call them out on it. Your actions have consequences. I am curious to know how her family received the book (if they chose to read it). It is hard to accept that your parents are, in fact, real people dealing with daily decisions and hardship just as we do as adults. I appreciate Sarah's journey to learn more about who her mother was as a woman (separate from her role as a mother). She balanced both positive and negative characteristics in her writing and this made her story feel objective and honest. I really enjoyed this book. At the end, my husband asked if "I liked the ending" - this is a difficult question to answer. Going into this type of book, the reader knows there isn't really an opportunity for a happy ending but I think Sarah helped to provide some sort of justice for both her mother and her myself.
I agree with your analysis. Addiction is a horrible disease and it makes people act in ways that are reprehensible. I was hoping that Greg found GJ, but the ending sort of leaves the reader with the same feeling that Greg might have had about his son - hopeful for his return, despondent in his absence. Yet, the ending gave me a sense of hope about GJ. Indeed, his parents were pretty irresponsible and contributed a great deal to his later addiction problems. To me, the ending represented GJ's chance to be his own person and to come to term's with his own behavior (including the need to distance himself from toxic people... including Greg).
This book grabbed my attention from the beginning and I found it to be a quick read, overall. On the last page, I felt like a whole bunch of nothing happened throughout this novel. And at the same time, A LOT happened. Essentially, this book was about several broken people and how they use and abuse each other or vices to help them cope with life. On one hand, I hated all of the characters of this book for being selfish and irresponsible and lacking self-control. Yet, I also empathized for Greg and Marie as they tried to overcome and make-up for their parental shortcomings. At the end of the day, I disliked the characters and their behavior. To some extent, they deserved exactly what they got (Especially Greg with his drinking and misogyny)... but there is still something that makes me empathize with his situation. I will certainly say this is NOT a feel-good story. But it is a pretty easy read, all things considered.
This book blew me away. I might be in the minority of readers, but I was actually less impressed with Celeste Ng's first book "Everything I Never Told You". The ending to her first book was also loose on details, so I was not surprised that "Little Fires Everywhere" had a ending that lacked clarity and full disclosure. With that said, I think Ng did a good job tying up most of the loose ends in the novel without setting the futures of the characters in stone. What I loved most about this book was how each of the characters were forced to confront their values. In many cases, individuals experienced a change of heart or change in ideology because the unthinkable happened to them (The plot line following Lexie's experiences was ASTOUNDING). I love how Ng shed light on how value systems are created as well as how differences in values can create cracks in once-strong relationships. As I read this book, I felt the conflict each of the characters was faced with. And I asked myself on several occasions "What would I do?". While some readers did not like the social commentary, I loved the struggle surrounding parenthood. The scene in the book where Mrs. McCoullough is questioned in court about her ability to connect May Ling with her culture was very on-point. It does beg the question - what makes someone a parent? And, do people deserve second chances? It seems that as a society, second chances are not something easily granted. Although the ending was a bit more "fluffy" than I would have liked (and I hated the way Mrs. Richardson treated Izzy all along), I felt the storyline was interesting, meaningful, and well-written. I give this book 5 stars.
Thank you for the recommendation! I had picked that book up at one point while visiting the bookstore but did not end up buying it. The premise sounds really interesting. For this month's book, I did get Emma in the Night so I will likely end up buying All is Not Forgotten when I am done. You are so right about the TV series. I could see this being a 6-10 episode mini series, even. I appreciate your insight about the author's purpose - I agree, it may not have been to explore memory in and of itself and that could have contributed to some minor gaps in the story. I really did like that this book was completely different than anything else I had read recently and it is always great when a book makes you think and talk through broader issues.
I just recently moved to the Delmarva area and I really enjoyed the historical perspective provided by this book. I think the author does a great job providing context for the string of arsons - why the occurred, the impact they had on the community. Perhaps under different circumstances, in a different community, such crimes would not have occurred. After finishing this book, I am in agreement with some of the other reviewers here - I felt really sympathetic for Charlie. The crimes committed by Charlie and Tonya are really interesting because (in general) they did not directly hurt other people. It even seems as though they went out of their way to prevent others from being hurt. Indeed, even the firefighting community emerged from the string of arsons without injury. It might be, for this reason, that the crimes seemed less severe to me than they otherwise might have (say, for instance, if these were a series of killings or if all the houses had been occupied). Based on the author's reporting, I do believe that Tonya was involved and likely the mastermind of the crimes. Charlie's confession appeared truthful - he gave so much away about himself that would otherwise not have been needed to be told. Part of me wonders if these crimes would have been prevented had Charlie not been impotent. Were the fires essentially a demonstration of masculinity (For either himself or for Tonya?) Did Charlie and Tonya ever really love each other or were they just a means to end? I am left with so many questions that I wish I had answers to, if for nothing else than out of sheer curiosity. I look forward to doing some additional research/searching on this book and the people portrayed within it.
I LOVED every part of this book. I blew threw it in only a couple of days. Prior to reading this book, I had just finished Weike Wang's Chemistry and this novel has a similar flair and style. It was, at times, laugh out loud funny and also, incredibly poignant at others. I have not known someone with Alzheimer's but the author did an incredible job portraying the challenges of caring for and loving someone who develops this disease. The narrator was quirky, imperfect, and a wonderful storyteller. I absolutely loved the relationship between Ruth and her father - this novel is one you will read quickly but will not forget any time soon.
I read Chemistry right after finishing The Sisters Chase and finished it in about 2 days. Right now, I am reading Goodbye, Vitamin and it has a similar narration style as that of Chemistry. It also has some wit and dry humor that I really appreciate. In general, Chemistry and Goodbye, Vitamin are not the typical types of books toward which I gravitate. However, I am really glad to have them on my shelf as follow to the Sisters Chase. One reason I did not like Mary was for how the author sexualized her. Rather than creating a strong female narrator, she created a character who was sexually manipulative and exploitative in order to get her way. I guess it would be nice to see a female narrator who is able to be strong and fierce without using these gendered tactics. It was made abundantly clear that Mary was a beautiful girl and for this reason, everyone bent to her every wish. I just do not know how realistic this is - especially given her lack of warmth or connection with others.
This book spoke to my soul. The author was perfectly able to capture the pressures and horrors of graduate school. In May of this year, I completed my PhD and I still have yet to snap out of the graduate student mindset. Her observations are spot on - in graduate school you feel pressure from your advisor, your peers, your parents, your significant others. There were many times when I felt pushed to the breaking point and as though I would never actually get to the end of the program. This book made me laugh out loud several times. I appreciated the narrator's honest prose and I enjoyed the staccato writing. I finished this book in just 2 days.
With my praise aside, I can understand how this book might not appeal to the masses. It might seem as though very little action actually happens or be difficult to really empathize with the narrator's situation. However, if you have ever been enrolled in graduate school, this book will likely speak to your soul.
I read this book fairly quickly over a week's time span and, in general, liked the writing style and storyline. This book was touted as a love story, but as I progressed through the chapters I wondered if it really could be considered as a story about love between two individuals. In the beginning of their relationship, Jamey did not seem to be attached to Elise other than for fulfilling his own sexual interests. While he does begin to more seriously incorporate Elise into his life, he seems to do this by hiding her from everyone else who was involved in his world. Rather than standing up for his love for Elise, he simply withdrawals from the world in which he grew up. While it was portrayed as "shielding" her from his family and friends, I always felt that he was ashamed or resentful towards Elise. I really found Jamey to be an unlikeable coward. Did anyone else feel that he used Elise as a means to escape his old life, but was never really in love with her? On Elise's part, it was hard to know if she really did love Jamey or if she perceived him as a means to leave behind her old life. She describes loving him, but it seems to be a feeling of codependency rather than admiration. What defines love? Can we really love another person without having self-interested motives? Do Jamey and Elise love each other for the wrong reasons? These are questions that I grapple with as I continue to consider White Fur.
I finished this book two days ago and have been waiting to post because upon finishing, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I was one of the few readers who seemed to enjoy the upfront portrayal of Rachel's life - admittedly, I am quite interested in character development, so I may be biased here. Lehane's description of Rachel as an individual with anxiety and agoraphobia was well-written and helps bring to light the struggles and experiences of individuals with anxiety-based disorders. For me, this kept me quite interested, but I can understand the critiques that it reads slow to others.
After finding out that Brian was a conman, the pace of the book did pick up significantly and reading the second half of the novel took me half as much time as the first. As the details started unfolding about Brian and his "double", I had to go back and re-read the original story he had told Rachel. The author really did set-up what the reader needed to know, but did so in a way as to not give too much away too quick.
Overall, I think I may have been waiting for some "big reveal" or surprise ending at the conclusion of the book. Because that big reveal never happened, I cannot determine if I am satisfied or unsatisfied with this novel. After finishing, I even asked myself "If my partner was leading a double life and was in trouble would I drop everything and help him"? I appreciated how Rachel put Brian through a test of his love before just committing herself to help him. I would say this book was enjoyable and would recommend it to friends looking for a thriller.
I kept hoping that BOTM would include a discussion feed for Into the Water. I had read some reviews on other book buying websites, and they were not favorable toward Paula Hawkins' second book. I, however, found it to be a quick and enjoyable read. It did take several chapters to be able to familiarize myself with all of the characters, but I enjoyed the short chapters. Using multiple perspectives does not allow for a lot of character development, but it did help to set up the plot. I imagine that being a detective is a lot like reading this book - you get information a little at a time from a lot of different sources - and sometimes these sources are unreliable. By the final pages of the book, I had a feeling about how it would end but I think Hawkins did a great job building and sustaining suspense throughout most of the novel. It only took me a few days to finish this one and I would recommend it to others, especially those who did like Girl on the Train.
I love your synopsis here, Jen. Deming straddled two worlds, if not externally then certainly internally, for much of his life. What was most striking to me was that even after finding his mother, he chose to return to New York. For so long he believed his mother to be "home", and it turned out that he was not the same boy he was when she left.
This book unpacked so many themes related to self-identity and family. How do we define ourselves? Is family what we are born into or can we shape our own? Can you recreate yourself?
As I read this novel, I was impacted by Daniel/Deming's constant struggle to fit in, and how the loss of his family made him feel like an outsider, no matter where he was. So many of his actions were driven by a desire to be both true to himself and to meet the expectations everyone imposed on him. The ending, for me, was fitting because Deming finally was confident enough to pursue what HE wanted in life - to go after dreams or avenues that he previously felt too insecure or too undeserving to obtain.
The author also did a great job exploring family dynamics. What makes someone family? Is there a need to simply know from where we came? While Peter and Kay loved Deming, it was painful to read about their interactions and attempts at assimilation. And yet, when Deming is with Polly on his birthday, I felt discomfort at the pain it was causing Peter and Kay. This couple had adopted and incorporated Deming into their family, and yet, they never truly accepted him. It makes me wonder how frequently this happens, in which adopted children lose their heritage, values, or even identities for the sake of being loved by anyone.
Overall, the character development was outstanding. The writing enjoyable and fast paced. I wanted to know what happened and was thinking about this book even when I couldn't actually read it. I would highly recommend this to other readers who have enjoyed similar immigrant-based novels (Exit West, Behold the Dreamers).
I am on about page 75 of this book, and I already feel so connected to the characters. After I got through the first chapter, I was hooked. It is painful to read about Deming's forced assimilation into a majority-White culture - even if it is done in from a place of good intention. I desperately want to know what happened to Deming's mother Polly, and already cannot imagine that she would have just left him behind. Whenever I am not reading this book it is on my mind and I hope that the ending is as powerful as the beginning. I know some individuals have commented that they were not able to get into this book, but I hope others are inspired by it as I am.
Hi Francesca. I agree with you - this is not a typical love story. But, to me, it did represent a practical, realistic love story. Love doesn't always (or in my case hasn't) happen in grand gestures and events, but rather in the events we share with another. Part of me was curious if Nadia and Saeed would have fallen in love in a different context. Did the war and the fear of loss and loneliness drive them together in a time of need? It is almost like they helped each other through this crucial time in their lives and emerged more mature and ready to find more compassionate, lifelong love in others. It certainly isn't the happy love story of most books, but I think it shows how we continue to love someone even when it hurts, and how that love doesn't dissipate even across long periods of time.
Isn't it interesting how our previous reads can prime us for liking or not liking a later read? I had to spend a lot of time at the airport this week and finished both 'The Killers of the Flower Moon' and 'Exit West'. Exit West, for me, was not about the plot or action but more about the depiction of the ways in which war can affect the intimate details of individuals lives. As I read this book, I thought back to when I first my partner and what it was like to fall in love, and tried to imagine how our story would have evolved in a different context. What I loved about this story is that in each other, Saeed and Nadia found something beautiful even among the existence of so much ugliness, and yet, in the end, this love was not enough. Or maybe it was perfectly enough to get them through that part of their life so they could begin anew. I can see why some might think "nothing happened" because the plot was a little light on details. But the description of the relationship between those two main characters stole my heart. I am happy to hear you liked Pachinko - it is sitting on my shelf just waiting to be read!
The way Hamid described and portrayed the relationship between Nadia and Saeed was tender and yet sad. These two individuals met so young and experienced so much loss together, it makes me wonder if they ever had a chance at surviving it together. The way he captures the growing divide between them is wonderfully written and heartbreaking. I found the ending to be a good match for the rest of the book - they leave it open for the possibility of a rekindling and yet the reader knows this is tenuous. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this one!
I could not agree with you more. For the first 2/3 of the book, I was experiencing outrage. I was so angry about the injustice and abuse of power occurring across multiple levels of the law. And then, that last section. It broke my heart to learn about how the Osage community is still experiencing consequences from these murders that occurred decades ago. The stories of individuals who lost their grandparents or witnesses their parents' suffering was hard to reconcile. Sadly, the Osage Indians will never get the justice they deserve, but Grann does a good job trying to fill some of this void. Knowledge is power. I am left unsure of what to do with this newfound knowledge, other than to feel anger. This book is a powerhouse.
This book was WOW. Eye-opening, heart-breaking, outrageous, chilling. Grann certainly did his research when he crafted this thoughtful reconstruction of a horrific series of murders within the Osage tribe. The deep seeded corruption amongst law enforcement, government officials, and local citizens is nearly unbelievable. After finishing this book, it was hard to unpack everything that had happened, and it is almost too horrific to believe. I usually pick fiction novels but am so grateful that I chose something different this month. I further appreciated the thoughtfulness and care that the author put into writing this account - In fact, he felt much more committed and ethical than the other non-fiction writer that I read this year (A Stranger in the Woods). I have been hearing about this book through news outlets and book lists, and it is certainly at the top of my list this year. I believe this book will haunt me for a long time. If you did not pick this one, I highly encourage you to add it to your cart next month.
Frankie J, I agree with your sentiments. Flawed characters are realistic and relatable and heartbreaking. (My favorite book of all time is My Little Life - it was gut-wrenching and horrible, but beautifully written). Ava, however, was flawed, incredibly selfish, rude, and pretentious. I'm not sure why I detested her so much, but I really did not like her as the narrator. As I read the book, I felt conflicted feelings about Zelda. She certainly seemed to get the "shaft" in her family, but then there was the whole affair with Wyatt that made me dislike her. In general, no one in this family was good to the others and yet, everyone expected the others to forgive their sins.
I think that is a very tricky (but worthy) question that you posed. I personally enjoyed this book, and at times, it did not feel like it was non-fiction. I believe that Christopher Knight did want his privacy, but he also (according to the author) seemed to solicit communication and friendship with the author. In some ways, the author could have written the book anyway, and perhaps, Chris felt that he could at least help shape the story being told. While others did not seem to enjoy the history of hermits, I actually found that part of the book to be quite interesting. For me, the history provided a context into understanding the drive for solitude. For this reason, I think Chris' story was important, but you are correct that the author took it a bit far in trying to reach Chris. To this end, it is honorable that the author disclosed his methods, and he himself may have been aware that he was crossing a line. This does not seem like a black and white issue to me, but I can understand how Chris' privacy may have been impacted by the writing of this book.
I agree with your synopsis that the characters were intentionally flawed. For some reason, though, I had a very hard time empathizing with Ava. Usually, I enjoy books that are raw and gritty, as they portray life as it really is (not the fairytale version). However, with Ava and her family, I was over the alcoholism and self-destruction halfway into the book. I just felt like we were told 100 times that Ava (and everyone else in her family) had a drinking problem. At some point, it just quit adding to the perspective and started to get on my nerves. I do agree though - the plot was creative and the author was quite talented. The plot was certainly different than most books I have read of late.
This book was so thought-provoking, and one I have discussed at length with friends and family. On one hand, I understand WHY Christopher Knight felt the need to break into people's homes, but on the other hand I didn't understand why he didn't try to live off the land. Couldn't he have hunted or eaten plant matter from the woods at least part of the time? For me, that made it seem less acceptable to rely solely on other people's food/supplies, rather than perhaps supplementing his own items when times were especially rough. I am a very cautious person and I cannot imagine the fear I would feel knowing someone had broken into my home, sometimes on more than one occasion. While it is notable that he did not take 'big ticket items', he was still entering their homes and stealing their sense of safety (not just their items). With that being said, I also felt empathetic toward him and his desire to escape civilization, and the fear he must have felt while in jail. I have not yet figured out how to reconcile these differences. Also - I cannot imagine how his family felt! They must have been relieved to know he was safe and sound, but how heartbreaking that he totally cut them off from his life without any word at all.
You described exactly how I felt about this book, too. I just finished it yesterday and was literally counting down the pages until I could just be done (so I could move on to the next read). One reason I may have struggled with this book is because I found Ava to be intolerable. I understand dysfunctional families and the desire to flee from them, but she really took on a 'woe is me' mindset, and came across as selfish and cold. Toward the end I was not even engrossed in the mystery, I just wanted to get through it. I like the premise of the book (great storyline), but the narrator was so very dislikable.
My interpretation was also that they had a threesome, and ultimately, this drove Ava to leave for Paris. I thought that it was a weird secret - if I caught my sister having sex with my boyfriend, I would not choose to have a threesome with them both less than a week later. It seemed to me as though this part of the plot was included simply for the 'risque factor', and did not seem plausible to me. But, hey, maybe these things happen in real life! I have been to the Fingerlakes many times and I enjoyed thinking about New York state and all the wineries - Watkins Glenn is a charming place! However, that was probably the most redeeming part of this book for me. I really liked the plotline and didn't mind filling in some of the blanks on my own, but the characters were SO unlikeable. I think the way Ava treated Nico was cruel - in the end, she treated him no better than Zelda and Wyatt treated her. I truly felt most bad for Nadine. I understand she was not a warm and tender mother, but Zelda and Ava really mistreated her, especially as her health deteriorated. In the end, I'm not sure Ava really got what she deserved (P.S. Happily ever after isn't it!)
In addition to being a BOTM selection, this book is also on several lists for '2017 Must Reads' - and I was super excited to read it. However, I had a really hard time getting into it. I liked the storyline and I appreciate suspense novels, but there was something very off-putting about the writing style. It felt very pretentious and I felt very separated from the narrator. To be frank, I absolutely detested Ava. I can appreciate that the author wanted to portray the Antipovas as a flawed, dysfunctional family, but I felt as though she was trying to beat me over the head with the fact that everyone in the family was an alcoholic. Ava tried to play the part of a martyr but she came across as selfish, juvenile, and egocentric. Halfway through this book, I contemplated quitting it. I eventually decided to see it through to the end, but I felt as though I was counting down the pages until it was over. I was less bothered by the holes in the story (as compared to some readers on this board), and probably would have liked the book better had any of the characters had even one redeeming quality. This is not a book I would recommend to another reader.
This is by far one of the most interesting books I have ever read. When I was not reading this book I was thinking about it or talking about it. I read parts of it out loud to my partner, I recommended it to a friend, I talked about it at a family gathering. For me, it was so hard to wrap my head around someone living a solitary life, by choice, for nearly three decades. While this would have been an impossible feat for me personally, I can understand Chris Knight's desire (compulsion even) to live as a recluse in nature. It was heart breaking to read about Chris' incarceration and the whole time I was reading, I was waiting to get to the end to know what happened to him. I was heartened to know he did not have to serve a life sentence for his break-ins, but struggle knowing he is living a life enmeshed in a society to which he does fully belong. I forced myself to wait until the end of the book before I looked up any information about Chris Knight - the pictures of his campsite were fascinating. Overall, this was an astonishing read and one I probably would not have chosen without BOTM. Highly recommend.
Izzy's decisions about men did not seem as disastrous to me as it did to other readers. I am a 28-year-old female about to be married, and reflecting on my own choices about past dating partners, cannot help but groan. (What was I thinking!?) At times, I think we gravitate toward others not simply because we love them, but because we are also trying to fill a void in our own lives. I'm not sure if Izzy's relationship problems truly stem from her father, but rather a desire to be loved or cared for by someone (anyone). While David was a complete jerk, Izzy was also strong enough to walk away from this relationship before it even had an opportunity to get off the ground, and I really admired her for that. Rather than seeking companionship for the sake of it, she realized David would never truly be able to give her what she wanted. As I write this, I feel as though Izzy could represent any number of women today and demonstrates that we do not always get love right on the first time. She deserved happiness and I am glad she found it.
I, too, appreciated the novelty of this book. It is a rare thing when an author presents a truly unique perspective or plotline, and Kevin Wilson nailed it! Last month, I also read Behind Her Eyes, and as the book progressed, I found myself loathing the main character. I did not feel that way at all about Izzy. She was strong, determined, intelligent, insecure yet loving - a great representation of many young women that I know. The only critique I have of this book is that many of the other families in the IFP were on the periphery of Izzy's storytelling. I would have liked to know more about these families or to have them more fully incorporated into the dialogue - although there were 10 families, it felt as though only 3-5 were heavily discussed throughout. I imagine this was done more for simplicity (for both the reader and author), but these families sort of felt "thrown in". Overall, I would highly recommend this book to others!
I really enjoyed PLW. It is certainly not as suspenseful as Behind Her Eyes and doesn't truly have any real "spoilers" or what I would consider page-turning moments. Instead, it offers an alternative view on how we cultivate a family. It challenges the notion that we cannot pick our family and discusses, what many of us probably already feel, family is so much more than biological. The author's writing style was what drew me into the book. I appreciated Kevin Wilson's ability to write about complex emotions and capture the vulnerabilities we all feel - even as adults when we are raising our own families. I also think this book draws attention to societal concerns about raising children: are there superior child-rearing practices that allow our children to thrive? Can we, as parents, ever really ensure the protection of and prosperity for our children? I really enjoyed thinking about the logistics of the research plan, and as a researcher myself, I appreciated some of the scientific undertones the author wove throughout the story. I would say that this story may not keep you up at night, but it may stay with you after it is done.
I read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things last year and it was beautiful. It was unlike any other book I had previously read - gritty and off-putting. This book may challenge some of your belief systems about right v. wrong, but I think that is a hallmark of a good book. Happy Reading!
Maybe Rob was never really best friends with Adele? It is hard to know if he was genuine or not in his journal, as we have little else to go on regarding his feelings/thoughts. I would have liked a few more pages from his perspective to help tie up some of the plot.
This may be a tangential point, but I was wondering if anyone else found it convenient that Louise and Adele could both have out-of-body dreaming experiences? I wasn't sure how Louise could just happen to have this same "skill"? I suppose if Adele had offered Louise more guidance it could have felt more real, but based on the set of rules about dreaming (e.g., pinch yourself once an hour), it didn't seem likely that both women would have such an unusual experience. I really liked the suspense the book provided throughout, but the more I analyze the book, the less I seem to like it. Maybe I am just less imaginitive than other readers.
I was one of those readers that found it to be far-fetched. The whole book seems to be rational and plausible - we can all imagine affairs, jealous spouses, naive friends, etc. But body-switching? It turned me off from this book, which is unfortunate because I liked the first 80% of it.
This book was pitched as a thriller and mystery, and the judge's recommendation really pulled me in. The first 75% of this book flew by - I tried to sneak a chapter into any spare minute that I had in my schedule. But then the plot twist becomes less realistic and more supernatural, and that is where the author lost me. It may be more of my reading preference (as compared to a stylistic author flaw), but I have a hard time enjoying books that do not seem logical or plausible. In this case, the way the story "comes together" at the end was not satisfying because it was so far-fetched. I liked the psychological drama involved in the writing and it felt reminiscent of Gone Girl or Girl on the Train. However, both of those books seemed more rooted in reality than Behind Her Eyes. Others have mentioned that the characters were unlikeable, and personally, I always enjoyed reading about flawed characters because that seems more reflective of reality (aren't we all flawed in some way?). Had the final explanation of events been different, I probably would have been much more satisfied with this read.
I really like your synthesis here. Your description of this book as a 'slice of life' is spot on. Honestly, I think it would have felt less probable or less authentic if some major plot twist was inserted (e.g., all the girls become brand new people) because unfortunately, people just are not that quick to change. Sometimes it may be hard to face reality, but I enjoyed the author's perspective. Would I read this book again? Unlikely. But am I ready to burn this book and quit BOTM? Not even close.
There is a lot of variability in readers' preferences. I think it was really cool that BOTM was able to secure this book ahead of mainstream printing, which is just one of the benefits that being a member provides. While this book may not have been your cup of tea, I say keep at it! For example, I wanted ALL of the February books this month and ended up picking 3 of them! Don't give up because of one bad experience :)
I think this criticism is a bit harsh. Everyone has a unique perspective and perhaps individuals are drawn to certain books because of their own life experiences or interests. I will say that I have read better novels but parts of it did resonate with me. What draws us in may vary across people, but the beauty is the sense of curiosity that reading can provide.
I agree with you Shelbi. I think these woman had good intentions but they did not actually face their underlying problems. For example, I think about Chloe shaving her head. Her problem was clearly not her hair, but rather was indicative of an underlying psychological problem. So often in life we try to put a band-aid over our problems so we do not have to face them. In the end, we may actually be worse off for doing so. I liked that the author did not give us an ending that was aimed at satisficing for the reader. Rather, she wrote the book to be probable and, in that sense, it felt more authentic. This book seems to have gotten a lot negative feedback but I honestly did not think it was as terrible as other people described.
I agree with your comments here Victoria. Sometimes we have the tendency to assume the 'default' gender is male. I am an academic researcher and this is common among my students - they always refer to 'he' when talking about the author, when in fact, many of the research studies we read were written by women! I think an author's gender, race/ethnicity, age, etc have an important place in understanding the perspective they bring to a given book. This is certainly not meant to be confrontational, but a reiteration of the idea that identity matters :)
I, too, believe Gil had found the letters. It wasn't clear to me whether or not he had found all of the letters or just some of them. He did, indeed, seem to be on a hunt for the letters. I believed he may have still been looking for some of them or may not have been able to read the final letter he found as the book was lost after his accident. As I reading this book, I was secretly hoping that Flora or Nan would find one of the letters to help better understand or cope with their mother's departure. In this sense, Gil is the only one who gained satisfaction from the letters. Again, it seems that Gil is the only one who gets what he wants. Perhaps Ingrid should have been writing the letters to her daughters instead.
You pose some really interesting questions. I have spent some time pondering these questions after finishing Pull Me Under this week. I believe that individuals can learn and change as a result of past experiences. In these instances, individuals may feel reticent to share their past lives. Perhaps they feel shame or guilt over past actions, or perhaps dwelling in the past, rather than looking forward, leads only to despondent feelings or stagnation. I do not feel as though individuals are required to share every part of their life with their partner, especially things that may have happened in the past. For example, I was previously married to an individual who seemed to bring out the worst in me. I would not characterize our relationship as healthy, and admittedly, I was not the best partner. However, that relationship helped to shape my perspective on relationships and ultimately made me a much better partner to my (now) fiance. I have not shared every part of that past relationship with my current partner. I do not believe it would add value to our current relationship, and may even create doubt or uncertainty when it is not warranted in our current situation. To this end, I think growth and independence is an individualized process. To this end, I was able to fully understand why Rio chose to reimagine herself and did not share her past experiences with Sal.
The consensus regarding this book seems to be that many enjoyed the writing and the story, yet were left with a host of questions at the end. I would agree with these observations. One individual who was not discussed in detail (so far) is Jonathon. He played a major role in Ingrid and her daughters' lives, and I would have liked to have known more about him. Specifically, he seems to be the influential factor in why Ingrid ultimately stayed with Gil, even after his countless infidelities. Throughout the book, I was secretly rooting for Ingrid and Jonathon to begin a relationship. From my perspective, it seemed that Ingrid only initiated sex with Jonathon as a means of getting revenge on Gil. While Gil was a terrible husband, I was surprised that Ingrid would have been unfaithful for the sake of a one night stand. Does anyone else have an idea of why Jonathon would have wanted Ingrid and Gil to remain married? As another, unrelated question, I was curious about other readers' perceptions of Ingrid. My favorite part of the book was her letters to Gil. I felt so much sympathy towards her, and how much of her life she gave up on account of Gil. At the same time, it was hard to reconcile her decision to leave her daughters who were so broken by her disappearance. While I can empathize with her desire to distance herself from Gil, I had a really hard time reconciling her decision to leave her daughters behind.
Hi, Kyen. You provide an interesting perspective in your post. I wonder if Flora and Nan will actually be able to move on in life. While Nan seems to have coped with her mother's disappearance, it seems unlikely that Flora will ever adjust to having lost both of her parents. Given her reckless behavior and naive perspective, it seems as though Flora will likely be searching for her parents throughout her life, even if it is not realistic.
Madeline, your description of Swimming Lessons is quite on par with my own perceptions. I, too, questioned the extent to which Flora was a reliable narrator. Her depiction of past events seemed contradictory to those described by others in the novel. Here, Claire Fuller does a great job showing the naivete of children - how they remember the good, and filter out the bad. This was especially pertinent when Flora describes how Gil "found" her after she had run away and how he had slapped a phantom (who was in fact, Ingrid). Part of me was secretly hoping that Flora or Nan would stumble upon the letters when taking care of Gil, if only hear to their mother's side of the story.
I could not agree with you more. The entire time I was reading this book, I thought that it overlapped heavily with the Manson clan. It did not seem as though there was a great deal of imagination in the creation of the plot. It made much of the book seem predictable. Unfortunately, I did not really enjoy this book but more wanted it to just be over.
This is a very interesting question and one that is not quite easy to answer. Evie experiences extreme loneliness as a result of teenage drama and a mother who is not quite present. While she is drawn to Suzanne and the ranch, I can't help but think she would have been drawn to anyone who was willing to show her attention. For example, had Connie's brother shown an interest in Evie she likely wouldn't have been as eager to be accpted by Suzanne. Had the context of the ranch been different, Evie may not have been connected (or tempted) by violence.
I selected Every Man a Menace because it is different than many of the books to which I usually gravitate. I was pulled into the book from the beginning and found that I quite enjoyed the writer's style. Admittedly, it did take me some time to fully understand how the characters fit together, and at times, I did have to go back to earlier parts of the book to ensure that I fully understand the full MDMA "ring". After reading this book I actually said out loud "You can't trust anybody!". At some points in time, I found myself rooting for some of the bad guys, and felt distraught when the criminals in the book inevitably did "criminal things" (e.g., betrayal, murder). Overall, I liked the thrill and suspense the book created but I would not describe this book as particularly memorable or meaningful. It is unlikely that I would specifically recommend it to a friend or family member, but if asked about it, I would say it was an interesting and quick read. Surprisingly, after reading this book I did not feel as though I knew anything more about the inner workings of the drug smuggling business than I did before reading it. The book centered heavily on the specific characters of the book and I did not feel as though it did a good job covering or connecting to the bigger picture.
In summary, I would say this book was entertaining but I'm happy to retire this one to the bookshelf.
Lois, I am sorry to hear this was your first BOTM selection. I too found the writing over the top and somewhat obnoxious. I have read many of the other BOTM selections and have highly enjoyed them. Last month I bought The Mothers as an extra book in my box and LOVED it. I wish I had just gotten that one and not The Fall Guy. Keep with it though, you will find some real gems through your membership!
I really loved this book, even though it is different from any other I have read before. I think that Kellen's relationship with the older woman shines light on his inherent 'human-ness'. It is human nature to want to be with someone, and though he loves Wavy he also is in a very dark place without her and without the comfort of his old life. Quite simply, people do not want to be alone, and will sometimes fill a void with anyone who will have them. I think if they had both waited for each other it might have felt less 'real'.
I did not get a sense that they were 'meant' to be together. Both individuals were experiencing a loss (in Luke's case the loss of his identity as a football player, and in Nadia's case the loss of her mother), and the shared (but separate) grieving is what drew them to one another. I think we have the ability to sense grief in another person, and in sharing this grief, it can be somewhat cathartic. Had the circumstances been different, I do not believe these two individuals' lives would have intersected. While they are now inextricably linked to one another, this does not equate (in my mind) to being soulmates. As an alternate perspective, one must consider what would happen if Nadia and Luke did remain together. In my opinion, they would not be fulfilled. Rather, their relationship may become a constant reminder of 'what might have been'.
I think that Aubrey was the first person who showed kindness toward and acceptance of Nadia, despite the stigma related to her mother's suicide. In this sense, Nadio may have felt a sense of fragility in their relationship. She wanted so badly to forge a meaningful connection with someone else, and may have been afraid to risk her relationship with Aubrey by disclosing her secret. It sort of begs the question, can another person truly care about someone unconditionally? In my opinion, we are often afraid to find out the answer to this question.
This year, one of my reading goals was to expose myself to authors of different race/ethnicities, gender, and nationalities. BOTM has really helped me to do that, as many of the authors are diverse. I think we have a tendency to read books by authors who are similar to us (For example, I read a lot of books by White males or White females). For me, I think it is important to broaden the scope of the authors that I read in order to have exposure to different ideas, perspectives, or experiences. Sometimes, it may feel like these experiences aren't quite different than our own (which helps build connection), and in other times, these experiences may change how we evaluate the world in which we live (such is the case after I read The Veins of the Ocean, another BOTM book). I have recently started keeping a reading log that tracks the books I have read for the year, including the author's name, gender, and race/ethnicity. This helps me to ensure that I am meeting my own goal of broadening access to diverse perspectives and voices. It has really been an enlightening experience.
Lizzy, I completely agree with you. I am an avid reader (I have books on top of books!), and in recent years have become much more focused on character develop and writing style than plot, per se. This book definitely fell short on style and prose. Many of the sentences were clunky, and sounded unnatural. I had not read a book by this author before and will not be pursuing any of his previous novels.
Yes! Melrose, I agree with you. I struggled with the story because it was unclear if Matthew was accurately portraying the events. Obviously any narrator will be biased, but some come across as more reliable than others. When the reader gets a glimpse of the conversation between Chloe and her lover, it sort of makes you question the truthfulness of Matthew's retelling of events. IF Matthew were meant to be portrayed as unreliable, this technique would have been more successful by incorporating others' perspectives into the story.
I have been a member of BOTM since this summer and frequently opt to buy at least one extra book, so I have read several selections now. This book was by far my least favorite from the BOTM collection. I found the writing to be clunky and at times distracting. It was as if the author was trying to use complex language just for the sake of it. Throughout the novel, I found some of the philosophical 'insights' tedious, and had to struggle not to simply skim over those parts. After finishing the book (this morning, just in time for a new selection!), I reflected on the plot, and came to the conclusion that there weren't any real 'spoilers' or 'surprises'; rather, the storyline unfolds in a somewhat predictable manner. I think the characters were underdeveloped. Perhaps I would have liked this book more if the reader was able to get a glimpse into the other characters' perspectives. I had the feeling that the narrator was unreliable, yet even at the end, you aren't sure if he suffers from delusions of grandeur or if he was objectively describing events. Overall, I found this book to be really boring, and at the end of it, not much really happened. It sort of reminds me a of Dateline episode... but longer.