What Amy’s Been Reading…

19 06 2011

Ok, so I’ve gotten several requests via email and comments asking what I’ve been reading since I’ve been reading a ton in the last year and a half or so since I’ve been leading an online book club (which is always accepting new member, btw).   So here’s a rundown…

Henry’s Sisters –  This may be, in my opinion, the best book I’ve ever read.  It’s a story of 3 sisters and their brother…  Henry, obviously… but mostly the three sisters.  At first they seem to be pretty stereotypical characters but before long you grow to love them so dearly.  And their brother… you adore.  It’s a seriously dysfunctional family and the book takes you through their past and you get to see why.  It is a page turner, no doubt.  Have tissues handy.

Confessions of a shopaholic – Entertaining I guess…  Funny in parts.  However my overall opinion of the book?  Vile dreck.  Both in the writing and in the story.   I’m sorry but a book in which the main character has SERIOUS personality flaws and yet… apparently… learns nothing?  Just awful.  I didn’t like it one bit and wouldn’t suggest anyone waste their time on it.

The Help – I thought this book was brilliant.  I thought the writing and the emotions rang true throughout.  The story of what it was to be the hired help in the early 60s.  Most specifically the maids.  Some of whom risk everything to sit down and tell their stories to a newly graduated journalism major who doesn’t quite fit in with her society friends.  Some who treat the help respectfully and others who treat them like utter garbage.  It is a thought-provoking book.  And one that will have you turning the pages as quickly as you can to find out what happens next and please God, to find out if everyone stays safe.

The Mists of Avalon – Not a book I would have normally read.  I’m not a big EPIC NOVEL type of reader.  But this took us back to the King Arthur legend days and told it from the perspective of the women.  Full of sorcery and paganism and adventure it spans 3 generations of women.  It’s a good read.  The first part…  I really thought it was very blah and I almost stopped… however once part 1 starts to wrap up and begins to segue into part two, it really picks up and after that you just have to keep going.  Written in the 70s, the material doesn’t feel dated in any way, other than the fact that it’s a period novel.  It’s quite good and worth the time.  Just don’t get discouraged during part 1.  Parts 2 through 4 make up for it in spades.

Sarah’s Key – This was a tough read.  It was very good…  but just hard to get through.  It bounces back and forth between present day and during the darkest period in French history.  The roundup of Parisian Jews and their transport to the Velodrome d’Hiver and eventually to Auschwitz.  Sarah, in order to keep her baby brother safe locks him in a secret cupboard in her home when she hears the police coming and keeps the key with her…  hence Sarah’s Key… little does she know what awaits her and her parents.  Present day, Julia Jaramond is writing a story on the anniversary of that dark time and she slowly starts to unravel the story of Sarah and is shocked to find that as she learns more Sarah’s story starts to intertwine with her own.  A story that needed to be told and done very well.  It’s not a book you will forget anytime soon.

Friday Night Knitting Club – Needing a light book after reading Sarah’s Key, the book club took on The Friday Night Knitting Club.  A group of women, completely diverse, just happen to all start coming by the yarn store right around closing Friday nights.  It becomes something they look forward to.  Something they depend on.   the story centralizes around the store’s owner, her daughter and the girl’s father.  But all the characters play important roles and they learn about each other and more importantly, themselves.  Friday Night Knitting Club is one you’ll wish was real and want to join.  It was a light and easy read, but still pleasant without being too elementary.

The Murderer’s Daughters – The story of two sisters whose mother was killed by their father and the resulting aftermath.  The sisters were affected in dramatically different ways and it’s intriguing to read of their two different lives and how they’ve reacted to their tragic past.  One grew up, got married, and never speaks of the past and in part blames herself.  The other works with paroled criminals to help them adjust to life back in the real world.  I did not enjoy this book as much as some, but it was still a page turner and lead to a couple late nights of reading not wanting to stop.

The Thirteenth Tale – A fledgling writer is summoned to the home of a reclusive aging and ailing writer, Vida Winter, who wants to finally have someone write down the truth of her life.  Something she has never told any interviewer ever.  She’s spent her life making up stories because as a fiction writer…  that’s what she does.  She thinks the truth is more interesting.  There are twists and turns as she tells the story of twin sisters growing up under unusual circumstances.  This book keeps you guessing and even I…  a usually intuitive reader…  didn’t guess this one.  I, of course, felt stupid after…  kind of like watching the Sixth Sense…  of COURSE he’s DEAD… DUH!!  But yeah, I didn’t see it coming.   Some others in the club did.  But not me.  I fully admit it.  It’s worth a read for sure.

The Wish Club – This is a lighter book as well.  Which was needed after the thinky, twisty turny of The Thirteenth Tale.  A book club reads a book about witches and decided, jokingly, to try their hand at spell casting.  But then they make rain stop…  supposedly… and make a candle go out.  After that they decide, some reluctantly, to try for other things.  Uncomfortable with the thought that they were practicing witchcraft, they decide to call it wishing.  Hence The Wish Club was born.  One wished to have a child, one for more free time, one for more money, one to lose weight to fit in with the society friends she’s been thrust into and one to be inspired by the perfect man in order to further her art.   They all get more than they bargained for in a sometimes funny sometimes poignant story that goes back to the time old adage of “be careful what you wish for”.  Overall an entertaining book that culminates to a climax that will have you unable to put the book down until you’ve read the last word.

The Forgotten Garden – This is the most recent completed book the club has read.  All I can say is wow.  This book lead to a LOT of discussion on the club forum.  We all loved it, but saw different things about it as far as the central theme.  Was it a love story?  Was it a tragedy?  Where was the true love story and how did characters actually relate to each other beyond what was on the page.  It starts when a 21-year-old girl is told the truth about her past.  She was found at 4 years old on a pier in Australia alone.  She was taking in and ultimately raised by a kindly couple and always thought that she was the oldest of a group of sisters.  Upon learning the truth she set upon a quest to unravel the mystery of who she was.   The story jumps between 3 time periods…  the far past when everything actually happened and we get to learn the story, the more recent past where the story of the woman trying to figure out who she is takes place and present day when after her death her grand-daughter learns about her grandmother’s past and sets upon a mission to finish finding out the truth that her grandmother had to give up on once she went to live with her.  It is, truly, a fantastic book and I would recommend it to everyone.

Before I Go to Sleep – I won'[t go into this one too much, as this is our current book and though I finished it yesterday – I like to stay on top of things as the group leader – I’ve asked the club to start it tomorrow so that everyone had a chance to get the book by whatever means they get them.  A few of my readers here are book club members so yeah.  I’ll just say that the book is the story of an amnesic who awakes every day 20 years older than she thinks she is and is lying next to a man she doesn’t know.  She finds out… everyday… that his name is Ben and she spends every day adjusting to the shock.  At the recommendation of her doctor she starts keeping a journal.  She looks at it one day to find the words “Don’t trust Ben” written in the front.  I was skeptical of this book when the club picked it (the club selects the books out of a choice of three via poll) but I will admit I was sucked in.  It gets to the point that you, as the reader, along with the main character, Christine, don’t know just WHAT to think and what is real.  I will say no more.  But yeah, good book.

I’ve read a few outside of book club, too.   Sometimes we break around the holidays and since I read the books quickly to try to get done before the group I’m left bookless.  So to fill the gaps here are some I’ve read on my own.

Water For Elephants – For the 3 people who haven’t read this book.  Go read it.  It’s fantastic.  I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t speak to how it compares.  I figure the movie doesn’t hold a candle as is usually the case.  It flips between an old man in a nursing home.  He’s going a little senile in his old age, but he constantly drifts off to the past where he tells of the time he spent on a circus train back when such things existed.  It is a tragic and beautiful tale.  Some times, many times actually brutal and others beautiful.  It is a lovely well-written story.  You feel every suspenseful moment as if it is YOUR life that is at stake.  It’s great story that I was sad to turn the last page of.  Just read it.  If you’ve been holding out because you don’t want to read a book just for the simple reason that everyone else has…  like me with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo… stop being such a stubborn fool and read it.

The Hangman’s Daughter – Takes place in the olden days of horses and carriages and when being accused of witchcraft was punishable by death.  An innocent midwife is accused of murdering children by unnatural means as dead kids start being found in the village.  The Hangman’s Daughter starts out terribly gruesome, so for the weak stomached…  skip the introduction.  You don’t miss any of the book except part of the hangman’s childhood when he helped his father the current town hangman with an execution that goes awry.   He vows never to be a hangman.  But back in those days the butcher’s son became a butcher, the blacksmith’s son became a blacksmith…  and the hangman’s son became a hangman.   Albeit a compassionate one.  This book was full of the suspense and in my opinion also full of the awesome.   The hangman and a young physician must unravel the truth before the midwife’s time runs out.

Favorite – A brother and sister live on their own while their musician father tries to “make it” with his band and whose mother disappeared years ago.  This was a short book.  It kept moving and though the plot and final outcome were highly unlikely…  it was compelling.  The sister is attacked and to make amends the attackers mother offers college funds for both her and her brother.  They end up diving into a sinister world where nothing makes sense and culminates into a shocking discovery.  If you’re desperate for something to read.  Go for it.  IF not…  skip it.  Favorite though it may be called…  it wasn’t one of mine.  It just seemed way too implausible.

The Dirty Parts of the Bible – Don’t take the title for what it seems.  It’s not blasphemous in any way.  It is an amusing tale of a son sent by his father to find the family’s fortune when it looks as though he may die.  Entertaining from start to finish.  Not long and an easy ready.  A great coming of age tale.

Crow Lake – I read this one some time ago.  It was not picked for book club, but I found it interesting enough to read on my own.  A mother and father are killed leaving three kids.  One is old enough to take custody of his younger brother and sister… another is brilliant… and the youngest hightailed it out of Crow Lake at her earliest opportunity.  Not for a lack of love for her two brothers…  but just in a desire for more than Crow Lake can offer.   It’s an in-depth look at how we perceive others and how or perceptions influence our relationships no matter how incorrect they may be.  Like I said I read it ages ago.   But I remember I liked it very much and left me wondering about my own perceptions of other people and how relationships with them could be better if I would just get my own preconceived notions out of my head and get out of my own way to see them for who they are and not what I think they are.

So that’s the list….   this may be the most time I’ve ever spent on one blog post so I hope you all read it and get a book or two off of it you’d like to read.  And if you do I hope you enjoy them!!  And if this has conjured up any interest in you of joining my online book club…  just let me know!!

Happy reading!!!


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3 responses

20 06 2011
Txtingmrdarcy

Ooo, book post! Yay! 🙂 The Hangman’s Daughter and The Thirteenth Tale are two I’ve been tempted to pick up, and you just definitely swayed the odds in their favor. Perhaps some good honeymoon reading? 😉

I just finished my re-reading of Mists of Avalon…. I love that it holds something new each time you read it, but wish that I could be more sympathetic toward Gwenhwyfar. I want to pull her hair sometimes. And put a bra on her toward the end. How fascinating though, that Zimmer Bradley makes you side with the Druids instead of the Christians. 🙂

24 06 2011
CathiC

Love this! I’ve got a book post of my own drafted – you’re spurring me on to actually finish it. I loved Mists of Avalon. I read it to see how it compared to the TNT miniseries – the book was much, much better! I’ve had The Thirteenth Tale on my list for sometime now. But first I need to finish Before I Go to Sleep so my book forum moderator doesn’t can me. hahaha. 🙂

24 06 2011
Amy

Well don’t read The Thirteenth Tale discussion on the book club board until after you’re done. It will spoil the whole book.

And YES, young lady, get to reading BIGTS!!! (That looks terribly much like it could be a well endowed whore’s screen name doesn’t it?)

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