Challenge: 50 Books discussion

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Finish Line 2018 > Connie F's 2018 challenge

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message 1: by Connie (new)

Connie Faull | 611 comments 1. Riverine A Memoir from Anywhere But Here by Angela Palm Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere But Here ***

As memoirs go, this one's pretty good. In parts, it reads like a novel. Palm navigates us through her childhood in Indiana where she grew up in a house that was not truly a part of any town and a part of two towns at the same time - her address was in one town and their phone number was in the other town. This is kind of a metaphor for how she felt throughout most of her life, not quite belonging anywhere, but still being drawn back to where she came. Her relationship with Corey is explored, but I wish it was explored a little more. Palm became obsessed with crime and criminals after Corey is sent to prison. Her years of unrequieted love for him and her trying to understand how she could love someone who could commit such a crime is a central theme in this book.


message 2: by Connie (last edited Jan 06, 2018 07:24PM) (new)

Connie Faull | 611 comments 2. Great House by Nicole Krauss Great House **
This book is actually 4-5 interconnected short-stories. At times I felt like I was getting bored with the story and then the author would turn the story just enough to make me curious as to what was going to happen and how all of these people are connected.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 3. The Dark Lake The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey **

This was just an o.k. book. The writing wasn't really anything special. She weaved the story pretty well but once they introduced the character that committed the murder, which was pretty early on, I knew whodunit! This book did contain a love trope that I hate. Why do authors, especially women authors, have to write women who become so stupid about a man. Especially if the character is a kind of tough woman, like a cop. It's almost like they think - well, we can't make her too tough - let's make her a complete idiot about a man. That whole story line really wasn't even necessary for this novel and for me it took away from the story and is a big reason why this was just an o.k. 2 star read for me.


message 4: by Connie (last edited Jan 08, 2018 08:17AM) (new)

Connie Faull | 611 comments 4. The Circle by Dave Eggers The Circle ***

I wasn't sure what I would think about Dave Eggers fiction after having read his autobiography last month. Although there were still some of the same long streams of consciousness that get a little annoying, all-in-all I found this book to be an enjoyable read. Eggers tackles (and makes fun of) the world of social media and how it is dangerous to allow conglomerates to take over, as well as, how easy the majority of people will sheepishly fall into line without any forethought or argument. I found the writing to be pretty fast-paced. I again listened to this mostly on audio and the same narrator (Dion Graham) from A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, also narrates this novel. His narration is really good.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 5. The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure The Paris Architect ****

Very enjoyable book even though it was about such a depressing and depraved time. This book is a powerful character study of WWII Parisians during the Nazi occupation of France. The story was incredibly thought-provoking about wartime and the suffering of both the Jews and the French and the sacrifices that had to be made. This book really made me think about the atrocities of WWII and how people during a war and in particular during an occupation are forced to make a choice between their own humanity and self-preservation and it makes you wonder how you might react in that situation. This story showed how everyday people became heroes and risked their own lives for the sake of saving another. Lucien started out as a bit of an unlikable character whose actions were self-serving, but became someone overtime whose actions became heroic and selfless. I appreciated the character development in this novel from the main protagonist to many of the lesser characters. This makes me want to continue to delve into other novels about WWII.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 6. A Kind of Freedom by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton A Kind of Freedom ***

This is a 3 generational family saga. It tells Evelyn's story in the mid 1940s with her parents, what it was like as a black woman in New Orleans in the mid 1940s; then her daughter, Jackie, in 1986, after having a baby and trying to figure out what to do about her relationship with her drug addict husband; and finally Jackie's son T.C. in 2011 after getting out of jail, a baby on the way and what he is going to do with his life. All three stories deal with race and opportunities or lack thereof for black people in Louisiana at very different times. The stories showed how some things for black people had changed but there is still an underlying racism in the 2000s as opposed to the very open racism during Evelyn's time in the 1940s. How racism can affect one's economic situation and if there isn't hope of getting out of your current economic situation to better yourself, you can stay stagnated in your life.


message 7: by Connie (last edited Jan 25, 2018 01:20PM) (new)

Connie Faull | 611 comments 7. Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman Dark at the Crossing **

This book was a bit slow and the characters weren't fleshed out enough to make me really care about them. Not only that, I don't understand the mindset of young men like our protagonist, Haris Abadi, who want to go fight wars because of some need for a cause. The relationship between Amir and Daphne, I found unbelievable, and as the Syrian civil war is a central theme in this novel, the author doesn't explain much of the politics behind it. I had no idea who the "good guys" and the "bad guys" were.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 8. The Unseen World by Liz Moore The Unseen World *****

Part family drama, part coming of age, part science fiction and part mystery. The Unseen World addresses issues of homosexuality, single parenthood, family secrets and Alzheimers. I loved the relationship between single dad, David and his daughter Ada. He's a scientist who is home schooling his daughter and she goes to work with him at the University daily. Then the author introduces 2 related mysteries that need to be uncovered. This novel is told in the 3rd person - you find out at the end who the narrator is. I enjoyed the character and plot development of this story and I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience with this book.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 9. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory ****

I related to Caitlin Doughty's dry, macabre sense of humor. This book was a lot more than what I expected. Yes, the author gives you some funny, awkward & some times cringeworthy stories about working in the business of death, but this book has an underlying message, which is that we, as a society, have sanitized death. Up until the 1930s, most deaths, viewings & funerals took place in the home. In the 1930s with the establishment of hospitals, ..."the dying could undergo the indignities of death without offending the sensibilities of the living." The fact is that we all are going to die and that's what gives life meaning, but with the sanitizing of death and our obsessiveness in wanting to keep from thinking about it, let alone seeing it, we've lost sight of that fact as a society. The author delved into the history of funerals and embalming and discusses rituals practiced by other societies. All-in-all, I found this book to be thought provoking and even an enjoyable read.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 10. The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan The Chilbury Ladies' Choir *****

Fantastic character-driven novel taking place in 1940s as the Nazi's are marching on England. This is a multi-perspective story about the town of Chilbury and as the men have left to fight the women are left at home and now the choir is only women. The choir is really just an opportunity to bring the communities together. There are several storylines to follow here and several characters you follow who range in age from 13 to 50ish. This book is written as diary entries, correspondence and newspaper clippings. I highly recommend this book if you like literary fiction or historical fiction. And if you listen to audiobooks - this audiobook was fantastic with a full cast narration. I particularly liked the narrator of Kitti and Venetia.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 11. The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor The Chalk Man ***

Unfortunately this didn't live up to the hype for me. I heard some people review it saying it was the "scariest" book. That's not at all how I felt. It was more mystery, than scary. The novel starts off great with finding the body of a headless girl. The story alternates between 1986 when the body was discovered and 2016, following a group of friends. Our narrator, Eddie, is one of the boys who finds the body. The backstory was pretty good and allowed for some really good character development, but I didn't feel like the author gave you enough answers along the way to keep you really wanting to continue on, instead, at times we just got more questions and that made it feel like the story was neverending. I only had about 30 pages left in the book and I set it down to look at Facebook and that should have been the climactic part of the book. I think the writing style was good and the book was pretty readable. I listened to the audiobook and the narrators, Euan Morton, Andrew Scot and Asa Butterfield did a good job. Had I just been reading this book it probably would've taken me about a week to finish instead of the 2 days listening to the audiobook at 2x the speed. I use Goodreads definition when I rate books - so 3 stars isn't a bad rating for me - I did enjoy the book - it just didn't live up to my expectations. I will probably pick up the author's next book because I do think he can write - this book just fell a little flat for me.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 12. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn The Woman in the Window ***

You have your unliable narrator in protagonist Dr. Anna Fox, whose suffering from a multitude of mental illnesses including, but not limited to PTSD and agoraphobia for which she takes a boatload of psychotropic medications to treat her issues which she downs with gulps of Merlot. Parts of this novel did have me riveted, yet much of the book had me rolling my eyes as I found Dr. Fox to be incredibly annoying and weak. I can deal with unlikable protagonists, but weak protagonists, especially of the female persuasion are a little overdone. The first twist I figured out early - but I will say I didn't figure out the last one, and with that, it did have me thinking "what's going on here", so I gave this a 3* rating. For the most part, I did enjoy the story and if you don't read a lot of psychological thrillers, you may like this book.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 13. So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson So You've Been Publicly Shamed ***

This is a thought-provoking non-fiction read about the resurgence of public shaming on the internet, especially Twitter. I think anyone who has posted a comment online, in any forum ie. to a news article, a YouTube video, a Facebook post, etc., has found themselves, at some point, at the mercy of individuals who don’t share the same opinion and have felt the wrath of that group. Ronson begins by detailing a couple examples of individuals who were publicly shamed and it literally ruined their lives; costing them their jobs, integrity and self-esteem. In the stratosphere of the internet, an individual’s shaming can continue for years – every time you google that person, or a key word, can bring up their incident and start the shaming all over. Apply for a job, they may google you to see what comes up. Meet someone on an internet dating site, they may google you to see what comes up & if you’ve been publicly shamed (which is basically 1 side of the story), that’s what they’ll have to base their opinion about you on.

I rated this book 3*s instead of 4, because I felt that, at times, the author diverted from his original argument and I actually had to think whether he was for or against public shaming. He brings up some fascinating topics that are, at times, loosely related to the issue. However, at some points in the narrative he went beyond what was necessary to make his argument. Again, 3 * rating for me (and Goodreads) means I did enjoy this book. It definitely made me think about how much of an online presence I want to have and to go to Facebook and make sure I’ve got everything marked so only friends can see my posts & pictures and not the actual public.


message 14: by Connie (last edited Feb 02, 2018 07:55PM) (new)

Connie Faull | 611 comments 14. The English Wife by Lauren Willig The English Wife ****

I really enjoyed losing myself in this murder mystery (I mainly listened to the audiobook). In 1899, a murder is committed. The story switches between the early 1890s to 1899, which allows the author to weave this story, and flesh all the main characters out. The pacing was pretty quick and I found myself wanting to continue to read to find out what happens next. The author offers up 2-3 different characters who could've committed the murder, which kept me guessing.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 15. The Heirs by Susan Rieger The Heirs ****
I thoroughly enjoyed this family drama. The author does a great job of fleshing out the characters slowly. You get to know the main characters quite well. The chapters alternate between protagonists, also alternating in different time periods. I loved the family dynamic of the Falkes family. My only real issue with the book, that at the end had me rolling my eyes - was the characterization of most of the female characters of being knockouts that men just fall all over. Especially Eleanor. I also wished the author had included more on all the brothers, but you get more about Harry & Sam and the other brothers were just touched on. Other than that, I really enjoyed this novel. I will definitely be looking for more of Susan Rieger's books. If you enjoy literary fiction, especially family dramas, you will probably enjoy this book.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 16. Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo Stay with Me ***

I wanted to love this book, like so many other readers, unfortunately, it did not live up to the hype. It’s a relatively well-written novel with good pacing. Most of the reviews I saw (and even the first blurb on the jacket cover) says it’s a book about a woman who can’t get pregnant and how that affects her life and to an extent it is, however it’s really a lot more than that. It tackles the subjects of loss, grief, loyalty and family relationships, as well as how society views a woman as a wife and a mother. There were aspects of this story that were devastating and thought-provoking. Although I understand that many cultures practice polygamy and still treat women like second class citizens, I have difficulty with novels about that subject matter without feelings of frustration. The audiobook was narrated by Adjoa Andoh, and she did a pretty good job, but at times I didn’t feel she changed her voice enough for distinction between Akin & Yejide, which got a little confusing as to who was talking, Akin or Yejide. (However, I read that people who only read the book and didn’t listen to the audio, had a difficult time with that in print). 3 stars is actually a good rating from me – I enjoyed the book – I just didn’t love it like I’d hoped I would.


message 17: by Connie (new)

Connie Faull | 611 comments 17. Winter by Ali Smith Winter **

Hmmm. Maybe Ali Smith's writing just goes over my head, or maybe I just don't want to work so hard to figure out what she is trying to say. There are some political topics in this book that are present day, but many of the political issues she brings up were from WWII era. I'm not sure if she's trying to link the old school ways of thinking back then to what is happening in today's world with anti-immigration; pollution and destruction of the planet, etc. There was some (for lack of a better term) magical realism (or the 2 characters are just going crazy and seeing things), but I didn't get the point of that part of the story. Those two characters were very cold people who were set in their ways and unforgiving, and I'm not sure if they were a metaphor for old or dead ways of being which would link them to the title of the book, Winter. I cared less about the characters in Winter than I did the characters in Autumn and I did like Autumn just a smidge more than Winter. For some odd reason though, I'd like to see what she comes out with for Spring & Summer! Glutten for punishment - maybe!


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 18. Martin Marten by Brian Doyle Martin Marten **

The premise of this book intrigued me, I can't remember where I saw this book but when I did I immediately put it on hold at my library. This is a YA novel about Dave, who is 14 and getting ready to start high school, Martin (who is a pine marten, a relative of the wolverine) is getting ready to leave his mother's den and go out on his own, and the little Oregon mountain town where they live. It is a 3rd party narration, but I felt like this type of narration might have kept the characters at a distance for me. So, what worked for this book for me was the characters of Dave and Martin and their odd relationship and the parallels of their lives. Portions of this novel felt disjointed to me. The narrator at 2 or 3 times in the book referred to the fact that you are reading a book which, for me, took me out of the story. There were also a couple moments where something kind of important was happening, like in one part a woman was telling her co-worker about going out with someone who she felt wanted to date her, the other character asked her if she wanted to date this person and the next paragraph goes on to talk about how all these other things are happening simultaneously in nature that we don't even notice like birds flying over these women's heads, and bugs feeding off of a scrap of food beneath their feet (I don't think the bug thing was actually in the book but it's an example), anyway I was like WTF, why did you take us out of that moment.

I also felt like the author tried to give us these "quirky" characters in this mountain town, but I didn't really find them quirky - it just didn't work for me. The author may be an outdoorsman himself and a hunter/trapper because he does spend a bit of time defending these things. He also does discuss the cycle of life quite a bit about how animals hunt and eat other animals to survive etc. I didn't have a problem with that and I actually did enjoy the author's discussion of many different types of animals that live in the Oregon mountain area as well as the nature depictions. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough for me to really enjoy this book. 2 stars - just a meh read.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 19. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Purple Hibiscus *** 1/2

3.5 stars. Another book I wanted to love - but I just didn't. This is Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie's first novel. The writing was good, the pacing is o.k. I think I just found the main character to be a little annoying. She has serious self esteem problems from being abused her whole life - but it got to a point that the protagonist "wanted to say something, but I didn't" I just rolled my eyes. I will say I think the story got much stronger as it went on and the ending wasn't really something I saw coming, but it ended the way it needed to end.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 20. Solar Bones by Mike McCormack Solar Bones ****

The whole book is in stream of consciousness and is in a non-linear style. Marcus Conway is a man who is reflecting on his life, his wife, kids, parents, and even politics throughout several periods of his life and all that happened good & bad. I thought there were several possibilities as to what made Marcus have these reflections and you do find that out at the end, however- the author gave hints throughout the book. I thought it was beautifully written and I enjoyed Marcus as a character. This isn't a fast-paced read. It's lacks plot, but you get to know Marcus and his life well. As per usual for me, I both read and listened to the audiobook. The audiobook was narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds, who I thought did a fantastic job. I heard this is a one sentence book. It's a book that lacks any and all punctuation - there are many sentences in this book, but the author chose to forego punctuating them.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 21. The Color Purple by Alice Walker The Color Purple ****

The Color Purple is one of my favorite movies and the book will now be one of my favorite books as well. It's written in diary format. As per usual - I also listened to the audiobook. It was narrated by the author, which can really be hit or miss, but she did a really good job. The movie did a good job of following the book, there was just one small part that was in the book and not in the movie. This is a strong, character driven novel with a pretty fast pace. I fell in love with Celie and Sophia all over again. The b.s. that women, in particular black women, had to tolerate back in the day, is disturbing and frustrating. Highly recommend this book!


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 22. The Dry The Dry (Aaron Falk, #1) by Jane Harper ****
This is a well-paced, mystery-thriller. There were 2 mysteries in this novel - the death of a 16 year old 20 or more years ago and then the death of one of her friends and his family in present day. Harper weaved a good story, alternating between current time and 20 or so years before when Aaron Falk (our protagonist) was a teenager with his friends, including Ellie - the girl who dies. I think if you like mystery/thriller novels - you will probably like this book


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 23. Force of Nature (Aaron Falk, #2) by Jane Harper Force of Nature ****

Jane Harper is creating an extremely readable crime series with protagonist Aaron Falk. This book, takes place in a difficult terrain in the bush of Australia. Harper seems to choose difficult environmental areas as backdrops to these first two novels. Using the environment almost as a minor character in the books and how the environment affects the characters and their decisions. This book/mystery follows a group of corporate women who take part in a corporate outdoor retreat, get lost and all but one find their way back. The rest of the novel unfolds with the search for the missing woman, Alice Russell. Will she be found dead or alive? As with Harper's first novel, The Dry, she alternates chapters with the present and the near past to present the story of what happened. In the present you're following the investigation and search for Alice and in the near past the story of what happened to these women when they got lost unfolds. One part of Aaron Falk's story that I hope continues to be revealed is his coming to terms with his relationship with his dead father. I hope the author continues to explore that relationship and Aaron feelings about it in future books. I will definitely continue to pick up books by Jane Harper.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 24. The Power by Naomi Alderman The Power
***
The Power looks at what might happen if women became physically stronger than men, which turns society upside down. Alderman unflinchingly holds a mirror up to our society today by reversing the power dynamic. This was an interesting concept, unfortunately the execution felt oversimplified. The story is told in four part perspective. One character turns to religion and becomes a zealot, another uses her newfound powers to climb to the top of her father's criminal empire, then there's the older woman in politics and the only man, who is a journalist and travels the world to cover the stories coming out of this role reversal. The second part of this book was definitely much stronger than the first part, but also much more uncomfortable.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 25. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah The Great Alone ***

This book had everything I thought I wanted to read about: a war vet, a coming of age novel and the wilds of Alaska. Unfortunately, it was just an o.k. read for me. I'm not even sure what went wrong here for me other than I really didn't like the 2 main characters. They were characters that I think the author wants you to like and see as strong - but what I got from them was that they made stupid decisions and kept themselves in dangerous situations, which I see as weak! Also, I really want to go to Alaska, which by the way Alaska is a character in this novel, the author kind of had the hero worship for both Alaska and Leni (the young protagonist). At times I found myself just rolling my eyes. This book could have been edited down better as well. I may have liked it more had it been closer to 300pp as opposed to the 438 pp it is. All-in-all- this was just an o.k. read for me.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 26. Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller Norwegian by Night ***1/2

3.5 * Sheldon "Donny" Horowitz is 82 and his granddaughter has brought him to Norway to live with her and her husband. Sheldon's not thrilled. His life is coming to an end and he is reflecting on his life and his losses. A crime is committed in their apartment and Sheldon ends up on the run with a little boy. The text of the novel flips from present day to his past at various, non-linear times and you see Sheldon's life unfold. You also see that Sheldon, by taking care of this boy, may be trying to make up for some past-indiscretions he thinks he committed that caused his son to go back to Vietnam. I enjoyed the novel up until the end - which I hated, which is why it got 3.5 instead of 4 stars. Even though the ending was less than satisfying the rest of Sheldon's story is worthwhile. I really enjoyed how the author explored the questions about life and the exploration of a life that people go through as they age.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 27. Startup by Doree Shafrir Startup ***

Doree Shafrir delves into the world of Tech Startups and the new Millienial work environments, but on a slightly deeper level, she examines sexual harassment in the work place. This novel is told in multipoint perspective with short chapters, which helps the novel move and keeps you wanting to continue reading. Mack owns a tech startup which produces an app called TakeOff; Katya is a 23 year old reporter for an online magazine covering the tech industry; and Sabrina, a 36 year old mother of two whose husband, Dan is Katya's boss. Sabrina works at Mack's company, TakeOff. The story revolves mostly around these three characters and includes casual sexual relationship which turns into sexual harassment in the workplace. On the negative side, I did feel that there was a real lack of depth in both the plot and character development. I also listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Elaina Marianes who did a good job. If you're looking for a quick read and enjoy stories about the tech industry or work culture - you may enjoy this novel.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 28. American War by Omar El Akkad American War ****

Technically speaking, this is a pretty sound novel. Although, I'll say that the 1st half of the book had some pacing issues and could've used some editing. I felt like in the 1st half of the book I kept waiting for something to happen and it didn't. The author used almost 1/2 the book to build the world and set the scene so to speak. The pacing does pick up in the 2nd half of the novel. The book is narrated from the beginning by an unknown narrator, you do find out who this narrator is in about the last 1/3 to 1/4 of the book.

On a personal or emotional side, I saw from the beginning that the author had a couple political agendas with this story. His obvious commentary on the U.S. government's foreign policies on terrorism, and as a secondary issue, the author seems to address, in a minor way, our country's racial tensions. His statements that people without a voice, the marginalized, are the ones who suffer the most from political policies and in war were pretty clear from the beginning. He parallels this story with issues that are plaguing the Middle East, which I'm not sure, but I think he is blaming on U.S. foreign policies. There are obvious statements regarding Guantanamo Bay and treatment of prisoners of war.

Although I agree that some policies and military actions may actually help to recruit more young people to become terrorists, I was uncomfortable with what I felt was the author trying to make the reader sympathize with their decisions to become terrorists. However, in the end, I didn't feel like he was making that statement, which kind of confused me.

All-in-all this was an interesting read and if you like dystopian type fiction you may enjoy this book


message 29: by Connie (last edited Mar 13, 2018 07:48PM) (new)

Connie Faull | 611 comments 29. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones An American Marriage 3.75*

3.75 * Oprah's book club pick is a well-paced novel about what happens to a marriage when the husband is found guilty of a crime he didn't commit and sent to prison. Celestial & Roy have been married for just over a year when Roy is sent to prison. What happens to their relationship and to Roy & Celestial as individuals is explored through the rest of the novel. The story is told in three-person perspective - Roy, Celestial & Andre. I felt like there was some character development lacking in the both Celestial and Andre. Also, the author made Roy kind of unlikable so it made it hard to feel empathy for him and his situation, but his character was very real.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 30. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin The Immortalists ****
How would you live your life if you knew when you would die? That's the question The Immortalists explores. The Gold children go to a gypsy in the summer of 1969, each goes in separately, and each is told the day they will die. Did this knowledge force them to live their lives differently - more daringly or to hold back to the point of not living at all? Structurally, the book almost feels like 4 to 5 short stories. The kids are together as children but after that the story is told through each child's life separately. Personally, the sections of the book dealing with Simon & Klara I found more compelling, but this novel contained some pretty good story-telling. I will read more from this author in the future.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 31. The Leavers by Lisa Ko The Leavers ****1/2
4.5 *. This is an excellent novel and very deserving of all the hype and adulation. The story is about Daniel (Deming Guo) and his mother Polly (Peilan). The novel is told in dual perspectives. between Daniel's story then Polly switching back and forth throughout the book. The writing is very good and the narrative moves along at a nice pace. If you want to listen to the audiobook, the narrator, Emily Woo Zeller, did a really good job, I enjoyed her narration. This book addresses illegal immigration, foster care, adoption, the lack of choices of poor people, in particular immigrants, and how the separation of a child and parent can affect the child for the rest of his life. All-in-all, this book really made me think about the choices these characters had to make and the situations that plagued them in their lives.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 32. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez The Friend *** 1/2 to 3/4
3.5-3.75*. What to say about this book. First, after watching an interview on PBS with the author I had to pick this book up - from the interview, it sounded like it was about a woman taking in her lifelong friend's Great Dane, named Apollo, after his death. (I grew up with a Boxer named Apollo). I thought it'd be this maybe funny/poignant book about caring for a dog. Let's be clear, this book is not about the relationship this woman has with the dog after she takes him in. It is about the art of writing and writers, and about mourning, loss and what happens to the people left behind after a suicide. At times this book felt like it was written in a stream of consciousness with the protagonist having complete conversations with her dead friend, reviewing conversations they had and having new conversations. For me, the book got better toward the end when it was more about the relationship of the protagonist and the dog. I'm giving it 3.5-3.75* because of the way this book dealt with mourning and loss and made me think about these topics.


message 33: by Connie (last edited Mar 22, 2018 07:47PM) (new)

Connie Faull | 611 comments 33. A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert ***1/2 - 3/4

This is a well-written novel which takes place in the Ukraine in 1941 during the early days of the Nazi occupation of the Ukraine. The book has a good pace and I never felt like it slowed down. The character development lacked a little, but I still felt like I cared about the characters, especial Yasia, Yankel and Momik. I find stories about Nazi occupation interesting while they explore the difficult issues of remaining human in an inhumane environment.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 34. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller The Song of Achilles *** 1/2

I knew nothing about Achilles or Petroclus, or much about Greek mythology in general. The story of Petroclus & Achilles throughout history is they are "friends" although many, including the author of this book, believed they were lovers. That's what this story is, basically a love story. I found the story to be compelling and the first 1/2 of the book was truly used to develop the main characters of Achilles and Petroclus. The pacing in this book was a little off - at times the pacing was a little too slow and then it's like she just breezed over sections that I thought could've used a little more development and without that development, those sections could just have been cut out of the book and it still would've been a good book. This book has piqued my interest in Greek mythology & history and it will be a subject I'll be looking more into!


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 35. All the Pieces Matter The Inside Story of The Wire by Jonathan Abrams All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire ****

If you are a big The Wire fan, you may find this book enjoyable. It's an inside look at the thought process of the writers, producers & many of the actors of The Wire. Each season is broken down (and does give away some spoilers of the story line), on how the writers & producers came together to write the show, cast the show, all about filming in Baltimore and ultimately the message David Simon really wanted to bring to the public in the five seasons of The Wire. I had known this before, but something really interesting was that this show was written, primarily by novelists (Dennis Lehane/Laura Lipton/ George Pelicanos/Richard Price) to tell this story and unfold like a novel with slower character/plot buildup. I've been a huge fan of this show since season 1 - so I found this book/audiobook really interesting.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 36. The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis The Zone of Interest **

No my cup of tea! The premise of this book was interesting, getting perspective from 2 Nazis, usually we only hear the perspective of the victims. This author's writing just didn't jibe with me, I'm not someone who wants to work so hard at trying to understand just the basic premise of the story. Part of my confusion could've come from the fact that I was solely listening to the audiobook and it was very hard to follow along and figure out whose perspective was being told, however several other people at book club said they felt it was hard to follow reading the physical book as well (I also saw that in several reviews on Amazon. Also, I'm not a fan of an author writing sentences or parts of sentences in another language and not explaining the translation.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 37. Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon Leaving Lucy Pear ****
1917 Bea Haven leaves her newborn daughter under a pear tree for the Irish family who steals the pears from their orchard to find her and raise her. Nine years later their paths cross and the story begins. This was a well-written story with good pacing and character development. There are four main story lines in this novel, which keeps you from getting bored. The narrator of the audio book, Rebecca Lowman, did a really good job. She had a nice Irish brogue when narrating Emma's story, and her voice was smooth and enjoyable to listen to.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 38. Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan Rainbirds**
Following with Goodreads rating system 2 stars is O.K. and that's all this book was. This was my Book of the Month club pick for March and I was really looking forward to it. The audiobook was narrated by David Shih - who again did an o.k. job, nothing spectacular. The story follows Ren Ishida who moves to the city where his sister had lived, after she was found murdered and falls into her life hoping to figure out what happened to her. Eventually he does, but it's almost like an afterthought. For the first 3/4 of the book you get Ren's day-to-day life and some backstory of Ren & Keiko. There were no clues along the way, that I saw, that indicate who the murderer was and all of the sudden - oh that's who did it - what. And that doesn't come up until about 3/4 of the way through the book and then the last quarter the author gives you a couple possibilities and then, BAM this person who was mentioned a couple times in the story, but not in any significant way, did it. Anyway, most of the book is about Ren's journey in this new town and some backstory about him and his sister. Not really a plot driven mystery so if that's what you're wanting I'd say pass on this book.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 39. Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser Not That I Could Tell ****

One of my Book of the Month club picks for last month and I wasn't disappointed. It's part mystery but mostly is the story of the women in this neighborhood and what happens when one of them goes missing. It reminded me of Big Little Lies in a way. I enjoyed the pacing of this book as well as the relationships of the women in the neighborhood.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 40. Bonfire by Krysten Ritter Bonfire ***1/4
Krysten Ritter (actress) wrote this book. It's a decent genre book. I worked in environmental law for 12 years so the storyline was interesting. This is a pretty fast-paced story and pretty good character development with the main character and some side characters. The story at points was a little formulaic and I figured out the crust of the mystery pretty early on. If you're looking for a good, fast-paced book to put between your tougher tomes or if you're in a little reading slump this book will probably be a good fit.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 41. Tangerine by Christine Mangan Tangerine ****
Tangerine is a mystery/thriller that takes place in the 1950s in Tangiers, Morocco with flashbacks to early 1950s Vermont. Alice & Lucy were college roommates, while Alice moves to Tangiers with her husband, Lucy shows up to surprise her and the story goes on from there. The story is told from 2 points of view in alternating chapters, through both Lucy & Alice. Both narrators are unreliable and the author slowly draws out this story and its reveals. The writing, character development and story are all very good. The one drawback to this the story is the annoying plotline that reminds me of a Lifetime movie - that of the unreliable female character who everyone is trying to make think she is crazy. For the first 3/4 of the book, the crazy factor of this character is not at the forefront, but the last 1/4 of the book it is. I'm not sure, but I think most authors want these characters to be sympathetic to the reader, however, I hate weak women and I have no empathy for the characters, I just find them pathetic. However, that character development does end up being important to the story. Tangerine is a fast-paced interesting read and I hear George Clooney already bought the film rights.


message 42: by Connie (last edited Apr 24, 2018 07:13PM) (new)

Connie Faull | 611 comments 42. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell Then She Was Gone *****
This book was very unexpected. I love mysteries, but so many are so formulaic, however, this book was not formulaic and the ending was completely unexpected. This was a page turner and I really enjoyed the ride. I also loved that our protagonist was a woman of 55!!! I did figure out the one mystery early on, but it didn't take away from the story for me and the ending was so unexpected that I'm still giving it 5 stars. The audiobook was narrated by Helen Duff and she did a really good job. I recommend enjoying this book either way, through audio or simply by reading it! (less)


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 43. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James The Broken Girls ****
Two parts mystery, one part ghost story. It's 1950 Vermont and the girls of Idlewild Hall are the girls no one wants. 2014 Vermont and it's been 20 years since Fiona's sister Deb was found dead on the field at Idlewild Hall. How these two stories connect is the ride that Simone St. James takes you on. The story pretty much alternates between the two time periods and unfolds at a good pace. I enjoyed the character development and I liked the main protagonist, Fiona. Although, the story wrapped up quickly and too neatly and conveniently, I really enjoyed the first 85% of the book so I still gave it 4 stars.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 44. Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker Emma in the Night ****

Another really good mystery as my Book of the Month club pick from last year. Both Emma and her younger sister Cass disappeared the same night 3 years ago and no one really knows what happened to them until Cass shows up back home and the story unfolds from there. I didn't figure out this story until right before it was revealed. It was engaging and fast paced from the start. I didn't feel like there was any slow-downs at all and was engaged from page one. The audiobook was narrated by Therese Plummer and Julia Whelan and both did a really good job. Highly recommend this mystery if that's what you're in the mood for!


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 45. Obsidio (The Illuminae Files, #3) by Amie Kaufman Obsidio***
Another good audiobook from the Illuminae trilogy. This is a teen spaceopera and very entertaining. Unfortuately, like most trilogies/series I've read, the 3rd book left a little to be desired, just more of the same from books 1 and 2, but still entertaining. The audiobook was narrated by a full cast with music. This is a book series I highly recommend that you listen to the audiobook WHILE following along with the physical book. The audiobooks are great with full casts and music while the books add artwork, doodles & report style memos etc. Overall I found this book entertaining and a nice break from the mysteries & literary fiction I've been reading the past few months.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 46. Far from the Tree by Robin Benway Far from the Tree*****
I loved this book. This book won the National Book Award in the YA category last year and it was well deserved. Robin Benway created a very well-crafted story around 3 teenagers Joaquin, Grace & Maya, who have the same mother but never knew each other because their mother gave them all up at different times and they all ended up in different situations. As teenagers they meet and you follow their stories. The character development and pacing of this novel were great. I loved all three characters and really felt many emotions for them. There were 2 or 3 points in the story I actually cried for these characters. This is not a perfect novel by any means, there were parts of the story that were a little contrived, but overall, the feelings this story made me feel is why I gave this 5 stars.


message 47: by Connie (last edited May 09, 2018 07:39PM) (new)

Connie Faull | 611 comments 47. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo*****
I totally enjoyed this book. It's the story of old Hollywood and the politics and manipulation games played by stars, the movie studios & the media. Evelyn Hugo is a no nonsense, strong woman who pulled herself up by her bootstraps and out of Hells Kitchen, New York to become one of the most famous Hollywood actresses by using the one thing she had, her looks & her body, and she is completely unapologetic. Monique is the little known magazine writer that Evelyn has requested for an interview. Through the process, you get to know Evelyn's life, loves and disappointments and you find out why she requested Monique for this job. The pacing of this book is very good, I didn't feel like there were any areas that the story dragged, the character development of Evelyn in particular was fantastic. When I finished the book I was a little sad that I was finished and I wouldn't get to share my day with Evelyn - that's why I gave this book 5 stars! I mostly listened to this on audio and the narrators: Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan, and Robin Miles were very good. (less)


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 48. The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner The Mars Room**
My May Book of the Month pick was a little disappointing. The story is essentially about life in prison. Romy is serving 2 life sentences for murder, along the way you meet the women she's in prison with, you get some of the prison politics of both the inmates and the guards, and you get Romy's and a few other characters back stories. This novel tackles the themes of sexual, racial and socioeconomic bias in the legal system and in particular, the problem with poor legal representation of the aforementioned groups. I was ready for a gritty, in-your-face story about life in a women's prison and all I felt I got was a disjointed story, with POVs of characters that really didn't add anything to the story. There were these weird chapters that were narrated by some unknown narrator - the author had mentioned Ted Kaczynski's diaries - so I'm not sure if those short chapters were from that and I'm not really sure what point or connection the author was trying to make with those chapters- I didn't feel like they revealed much or added to the story. To top it off, I mostly listened to this on audio and I'm not a fan of authors narrating their own novels. Her narration fell flat for me and I think it would've been better served if narrated by a professional voice actor.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 49. The Day the World Came to Town 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland****

This nonfiction account of what happened in Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11 reads like a novel. When the United States closed it's air space and ordered all American planes to land at the nearest airport, they all had to go somewhere. Gander Newfoundland, in Canada, has a large airport which was used during WWII for American military planes to refuel on their way to fight in Europe. This is the story of how the town of Gander (and a few surrounding cities) welcomed and cared for the countless travellers who were forced to land and spend several days in their town(s). Although the book took me back to that day and the days that followed and stirred up some long-forgotten feelings, this book was actually quite heartwarming and may help to restore your faith in humanity and remind us that it really is a small percentage of "bad" people in the world, the bulk of human population is ultimately good and kind and willing to lend a helping hand when needed and called upon.


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Connie Faull | 611 comments 50. Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman Unbury Carol**
What I really like about Josh Malerman is his story telling is in no way formulaic. He comes up with really original ideas for his books. The premise of Unbury Carol is incredibly interesting, a woman who suffers from a chronic condition in which she loses consciousness and appears dead. Unbury Carol is a mix of a Western, Fantasy & magical realism and I'm really not a fan of magical realism and I wasn't thrilled that the story is part western. However, I thoroughly enjoyed that Malerman uses the term "pig-shit" in all its variations (not sure why, it just made me chuckle). Again, Malerman's writing and story telling is good, this just wasn't really the book for me. The narrator of the audiobook was FANTASTIC and is probably the reason I finished the book, his voice inflections and changes for each character were great (especially his rendition of Smoke). The pacing is pretty good throughout the book but the book could've definitely used a bit of editing down. All in all - I think the audiobook was still enjoyable because of the narrator.


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