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Twitter book club #tbc

Book club updates

I haven’t posted recently about my book clubs and the books we’ve discussed!

A few days ago, my Book Club M discussed Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby I reviewed it in October, and then suggested it for this group to discuss. We all enjoyed reading the book– I’d been pretty sure that most of the members would, but I was glad that the others did as well. We had a good discussion, largely stemming from the highly unreliable narrator and from the family relationships in the book.

Book Club L skipped December (my fault!) but Book Club M read and discussed Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, which is the Silicon Valley Reads book for 2010. I haven’t posted a review of this book yet, and I probably won’t. Our opinion on this book was mixed, with some people loving it, and others being not as certain. I didn’t think our discussion was particularly compelling either, but I was probably the persbn that liked the book the least. We talked about the science behind his claims and about his tone while discussing them. I think that those that liked this book best had previously read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, so that may be a better place to start.

In November, my Book Club L discussed Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, which I’d previously read, reviewed and discussed with Twitter Book Club. Olive Kitteridge made my list of top reads in 2009. Everyone thought it was a good book, but not everyone enjoyed reading it– a couple of people found Olive’s character too negative, and that interfered with their connection with her. This disagreement helped the discussion, which I think everyone enjoyed.

Also in November, Twitter Book Club discussed Tethered by Amy MacKinnon. I still hope to review it someday, although I’m not sure how likely that is at this point. I really enjoyed the book and the TBC discussion (even if I hadn’t finished the book yet). I need to recommend this for one of my other clubs, since I’d love to talk about the parts I hadn’t yet read.  I have to say, Twitter Book Club has consistently selected great books, and I’m thinking I should go back and read the two I’ve missed!

I think that catches me up on book club discussions! Hopefully, I’ll stay more up to date on my reviews this year, but  I still may post short updates when we discuss I book I’ve already read.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2010 in Book Club, L, M, Twitter

 

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Review: A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

A Gate at the Stairs My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As much as I did like A Gate at the Stairs, I’m almost embarrassed to say I think I would have liked it more if I was more literary in my tastes.  I think most of the things I didn’t love about it are part of what make it an exceptional book for others.

Looking at other reviews, the author is very well known and highly regarded, but I’d never heard of her before.  She seems to be known for her short stories, which is a field that  I have neglected.

As the United States begins gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, the Midwestern daughter of a gentleman hill farmer—his “Keltjin potatoes” are justifiably famous—has come to a university town as a college student, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir.

Between semesters, she takes a job as a part-time nanny.

The family she works for seems both mysterious and glamorous to her, and although Tassie had once found children boring, she comes to care for, and to protect, their newly adopted little girl as her own.

As the year unfolds and she is drawn deeper into each of these lives, her own life back home becomes ever more alien to her: her parents are frailer; her brother, aimless and lost in high school, contemplates joining the military. Tassie finds herself becoming more and more the stranger she felt herself to be, and as life and love unravel dramatically, even shockingly, she is forever changed.

I really enjoyed Tassie’s character, and thought the book was worth reading just to get to know her.  She had a great sense of humor and a wonderful view of events around her.   She was young and fresh, but with interesting insight.

I was also interested in the book’s insight into adoption, as Tassie falls into a job as a nanny for a couple trying to adopt.   Sarah (the adoptive mom-to-be) is very earnest and seems to be well-meaning in her views on the birth mothers, adoption across racial lines, and so on– but it is Tassie that actually expresses interest in the birth mothers as people.

A Gate at the Stairs looks at racism from many different angles, from outright nastiness from strangers to well meaning but ultimately demeaning behavior from friends.

The biggest problem I had with A Gate at the Stairs is something that other people have noted as the book’s strength– the rich language it is written in.  I read for character and plot, and prefer the words to be the delivery vehicle.  Although the book had strong characters, and interesting plot, I found the words getting in the way at times.

I also felt that the different storylines and sections of the book were disjointed, didn’t completely tie together.

Back to the literary front, I think (based on the book description and a few references in the book) there were further points being made about September 11 and terrorism that simply went over my head.  Whoosh.

I read this book for the September Twitter Book Club*. I was lucky enough to win a copy thanks to The Book Studio and Random House.  Thank you, particularly since if I didn’t have a copy in hand, I probably would have skipped this month due to a busy reading schedule, and I’m very glad I didn’t.

I really enjoyed the TBC discussion this month.  It was smaller than last month, and that made it easier to hear and be heard.  There were many insights I didn’t catch on my own, and several times were people were able to state my thoughts better than I could.   I think everyone participating enjoyed the book, and most appreciated the writing more than I did, although I’m not the only one that felt it slowed them down.

*Twitter Book Club is exactly what it sounds like– a group that discusses a book on Twitter each month.  Anyone is welcome to join in.  Full details are at the Twitter Book Club website. Please feel free to join in, even if you’re new to Twitter or to book club discussions.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on September 30, 2009 in Book Club, books, reviews, Twitter

 

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Review: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge: A Novel in StoriesOlive Kitteridge: A Novel in Stories

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, this is a book that is going to stick with me.

From the back of the book:

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

As the subtitle indicates, this novel is told as a series of short stories. Some are directly about Olive Kitteridge, some indirectly about her, and others barely mention her in passing. Each gives us a different viewpoint.

These viewpoints cover different events with different main characters, but we come away with insight into Olive, her husband Henry, the town, marriage, extra marital affairs, parenting, and more.

Each story is wonderful on its own terms, not just what it says about Olive. I think “The Piano Player” (about a very talented pianist that needs a drink to play in public) is one that touched me most, and Olive is only mentioned in passing. In “Starving” (about a young woman with many problems, including starving herself), Olive plays a small role, but one that allows us to see her and the other characters much more deeply.

I particularly want to call out “River”, the last piece in the book. There isn’t much I can say without giving away too much about where the story goes, but I wanted to acknowledge the strength of the ending.

This is a very real book. There aren’t always happy endings. There aren’t always endings of any kind. People aren’t straightforward either.

Olive Kitteridge the woman wasn’t easy to love, but I by the end, I did. The book was much easier to become attached to.

I read Olive Kitteridge for Twitter Book Club. This TBC didn’t work as well for me as my last one, for Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel. I felt like I had a harder time being heard and understood. Maybe this book was harder to break down into 140 character thoughts? I still enjoyed it and got some additional insights into the book (The differences in how Olive was perceived were quite interesting). I should be there for the next one.

 
20 Comments

Posted by on August 11, 2009 in Book Club, books, reviews, Twitter

 

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Review: Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

Last Night in MontrealMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a beautiful book that pulled me into the lives of the characters.

From the Unbridled Books web page:

Lilia Albert has been leaving people behind for her entire life. She spends her childhood and adolescence traveling constantly and changing identities. In adulthood, she finds it impossible to stop. Haunted by an inability to remember her early childhood, she moves restlessly from city to city, abandoning lovers along with way, possibly still followed by a private detective who has pursued her for years. Then her latest lover follows her from New York to Montreal, determined to learn her secrets and make sure she’s safe. Last Night in Montreal is a story of love, amnesia, compulsive travel, the depths and the limits of family bonds, and the nature of obsession.

I was fascinated by Lilia’s childhood on the run, in seeing the effect on her as an adult, and puzzling the reasons behind what had happened to her.

I was hooked on this book when Eli explained his interest in dead and dying languages. Eli’s character was lost– not sure where he was going with his own life. When Lilia steps into his life, then back out again, he wants to help her, and to make sure she is OK. He pursues her for that reason, but this may be the way to finding his own path.

Michaela was even more interesting than the two main characters. Her father had left her alone as a teenager (her mother left earlier) in order to pursue Lilia and the father that abducted her. Michaela forges a link between herself and the person she holds responsible for stealing her father away– Lilia.

The complex relationships in the book are well portrayed.

I read this book for the Twitter Book Club. The last time I tried to particpate in a Twitter Book Club discussion (two months ago with Sag Harbor), Twitter didn’t cooperate, but this time everything went smoothly. There were interesting insights on the book. I hadn’t really thought about the writing– I was just happy it didn’t get in my way– but others pointed out that this was the result of beautifully crafted minimalist prose. I enjoyed having the author’s view of the characters and events of the book.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2009 in Book Club, books, reviews, Twitter

 

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BEA Twitty Party!

BEA Twitty Party

I’ve attended other Twitter gatherings before.  I take part in various chats, and I tried to take part in the Twitter Book Club, but Twitter melted down on us!

Last night was my first Twitter party, but hopefully it won’t be my last.  I sat on TweetChat watching the #BEATwittyParty messages scroll past, jumping in as often as I could.  I had to resign myself to missing part of what was happening, since the conversation moved so fast.  It was like a large party where everyone was walking around, so you’d hear someone say something, reply to them, but by then they’d be gone and someone new would be near you, and they’d answer you.

We talked food, we talked books, we just chatted.  We didn’t spend much time or energy on the original reason for the party– Pity for ourselves at not being at BEA (Book Expo America) and the BEAtweetup!

A big thank you to The Book Lady (Rebecca) for organizing us, and organizing prizes as well.  I’m looking forward to House & Home, donated by author Kathleen McCleary.

It was great meeting everyone, and I look forward to continued conversation on Twitter and out blogs.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on May 30, 2009 in blogging, Twitter

 

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