My book club, previously blogged about here and here, is well under way. Our book club “season” typically runs from September–May with a long break for the holidays. Unfortunately due to lack of interest and members moving, the second book club stopped meeting shortly after reading Eat Pray Love. Fortunately that didn’t keep me from reading some of the books we had planned to get through. Either way, I read some great (and not-so-great) books in late 2010/early 2011 and have some others planned for this year. Here is my updated report card, this time complete with actual grades!
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus
At a peace meeting in the 1850s, a Cheyenne Chief requested 1000 white women as a trade for 1000 horses and means to help the Native Americans assimilate. Their request was vehemently denied. In One Thousand White Women, the past is rewritten and that request is fulfilled by President Grant behind closed doors. The book told from May’s perspective shares the journey and life they lived while out West. I found this book very intriguing! I couldn’t put it down. The characters could be somewhat stereotypical, but were still interesting. It was a sad, touching novel with romance and family drama. If you enjoy historical fiction, especially those set in the Wild West, this book is great! Grade: A
Beach Trip by Cathy Holton
When it comes to books, I am a sucker for two things: beach setting and stories of female friendships. This book featured both of these themes, but neither could save it for me (or most of my book club). I just couldn’t get into the story and I didn’t find the characters engaging. I found them very frustrating. I won’t give anything away, but I was VERY annoyed by the ending. With a title like Beach Trip, we expected a light, beachy novel, but this was a deep, depressing novel. We spent the majority of our meeting picking it apart, which we rarely do! However, it did bring up lots of interesting “friendship” type questions to discuss at a book club. However, there are lots of other books that could bring up similar questions. Grade: D
Everyone in the book club felt that these novels were dark so we set out to find something funny and different for the next month.
The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin
Steve Martin’s second novellea and follow-up to Shopgirl was not as engaging as I hoped. The protagonist is a savant who has lots of neuroses and obsessions and few friends. He is currently unemployed and his life is highlighted by walks around the block to the drugstore, encounters with a realtor across the street, and visits from a therapist in training – a graduate student from a local university. Although it had an interesting premise and was fairly easy to read, I didn’t finish the book. (This pains me! I hate to leave a book unfinished.) I wasn’t going to be able to attend the meeting for that month, so I ended up scrapping it in favor of reading the next month’s book after I couldn’t get into it. Everyone in book club seemed to agree that it was much more enjoyable after 75 or so pages, so I am adding this to my list of books to finish. Grade: I (Incomplete)
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
This fictional story begins in 1986 as an older Chinese widower hears news that the belongings of Japanese families who were interned during World War II have been discovered in a Seattle hotel. The discovery stirs up old memories and soon the story alternates between the present and past (1946). I had never heard of this book and wasn’t at the meeting when it was selected, so I had no idea what to expect. As a child I read Farewell to Manzanar, a story from the perspective of a child of one of the internment camps, and remembered enjoying it. I have always been a fan of historical fiction taking place during World War II and this was no exception. It made for a very interesting book club discussion. My only complaint was that it was slow moving at first. Grade: B+
Since my second book club disbanded, I took on some of the books on my own.
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
This tale of a working woman returning home to her Mennonite parents’, just didn’t measure up to the reviews. While there were some funny and heart-warming scenes, the book overall was very choppy and didn’t flow well. I finished it somewhat dissatisfied. Grade: C
The Romantics by Galt Niederhoffer
Another book turned into a movie – it came out last summer. I had to read it before it came out, but unfortunately I was never able to see it in the theater. The story follows a group of college friends dubbed “The Romantics” because of their musical chair-like dating habits and takes place at one of the couples’ wedding. It was a quick read. Not necessarily a great book club book since there aren’t a lot of issues to discuss, but I still enjoyed it. Grade: B
One Day by David Nicholls
One Day chronicles the story of a man and woman over the course of their 20-year friendship – observing them on the same day every year. This was yet another novel, I could not put down. The characters are flawed, and watching them grow and adapt throughout their lives makes for a page turner. Life isn’t easy and this books tells that story in a beautiful way. I highly recommend this book! Grade: A+
Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan
Another novel featuring friendship from college to careers with an unexpected twist. This was much better than Beach Trip, but still not quite what I wanted. The characters are navigating the strange waters of life post-college – which I could relate to. Grade: B-
Now for my to-read list:
The Hunger Games Triology by Suzanne Collins: We’ve chosen the first book of the trilogy for next month’s book club.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden: I know this is an old one, but a friend keeps telling me I need to read this, so it is going on my list.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon: A fictional book of eight connected stories of military spouses, because I am not involved in it enough! Ha! I read an excerpt from this book in Oprah’s magazine and it was very intriguing.
I also have the very lofty goal of reading all of the Harry Potter books before the final movie comes out this summer. I am very behind here! I was late to the Twilight craze also. Do you have any reading goals for this year? What books are on your to-read list? Have you read any of these books? If so, what grade would you give them?