May 25, 2022

My Three Book Clubs: Some Book Characters Need A Makeover | Books

None of the books I read for the three January Book Clubs offered a character I could embrace – all were a little self-centered. But a can’t-miss plotline in “The Plot” kept me engaged in at least one of the picks. Two excellent bonus books, one from an author’s debut and the other from an award-winning writer, lifted my month of reading.






‘The parcel’

{h4}By Jean Hanff Korelitz{/h4}

What I thought • When a unique opportunity presents itself to Jake Finch Bonner, he jumps on it. An author whose star has faded and faded, Bonner is teaching in a third-rate MFA program when one of his students arrogantly brags about his idea for a book with an unmissable plot. . It’s guaranteed to be a smash hit, they both agree.

A few years later, Jake learns that the student died without having written this book. It would be a shame to let the can’t-miss plot go to its grave, and just as its former student predicted, the Jake-penned book becomes a #1 bestseller with Steven Spielberg signing on to direct the movie. Basking in glory but still secretly dreading discovery, Jake begins to receive messages calling him a thief. The thought of being called a crook begins to haunt his every waking minute.

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This book took a bit of time to build, but once it took off, I found it engaging and well-paced.

At the book club • Most members agreed that the book started slowly (and that the main character was whiny, boring, and self-centered), and a few understood where the book was heading halfway through. But above all, it was an enjoyable read. A member has already chosen it to discuss in another of his book clubs.

Even nicer? The potluck brunch we shared with egg cups, blueberry pecan baked oats, focaccia, fruit salad, Bloody Marys and more.

Korelitz’ previous novel “You Should Have Known” has been made into a limited series – “The Undoing” on HBO. “The Plot” also heads for the screen. Mahershala Ali will star in and executive produce the eight-episode limited series for Hulu. His next book, “The Latecomer”, comes out in May.






"Lily and the octopus"

‘Lily and the octopus’

{h4}By Steven Rowley{/h4}

What I thought • When I saw that this book was described as having the “magical spirit” of “Life of Pi”, I moaned. Several people recommended “The Life of Pi” to me, but I couldn’t get past the first few chapters (even though I enjoyed the movie).

Anyone who’s had a pet knows how hard and fast they can burrow into your heart. The main character, Lily, is a sweet, aging dachshund loved by her not-so-lovable owner, Ted. The “octopus” is a tumor growing on the side of Lily’s head.

Not only does Ted come to terms with the impending loss of his dog, but he’s also reeling from a bad breakup with his boyfriend.

I loved Ted and Lily’s origin story. “Actually, you chose me,” Ted told Lily. I also loved how Lily “talked” to Ted in excited exclamations, “WHAT! IS! THIS! CLOUD! YOU ARE! LICK! I! LOVE! TO! LICK! THINGS!”

What bothered me was the magical realism. Sometimes the book felt more like a bad LSD trip. I usually don’t mind a good soft dog story (although I’m more of a cat person). CORN! THIS! A! CORRECT! NOT ! TO HIT! THE! BRAND!

At the book club • The host admitted to starting the book in December and considered changing her selection after reading only a few chapters. One member said, “I enjoyed the book until it got weird.” And that pretty much sums it all up. Although most book club members thought Ted’s conversations with his dog were cute, the author took the octopus theme way too far.






"Excluding reservation"

f the reservation: stories that I almost took to the grave and probably should have had”

{h4}By Michel Rossi{/h4}

What I thought • I’ve never been a fan of memoirs (“Unducated” by Tara Westover is one of the few exceptions), and Rossi’s confessional and egocentric book didn’t change my mind.

Rossi’s mother abandoned him early in life and his father died when he was very young. Rossi, who was born in New York, moved to St. Louis to live with relatives after his father’s death. He unfortunately went from one mostly indifferent parent to the other, with only his sister, Amy, as consistency. Unsurprisingly, he grows up to be a messed up adult.

It was Rossi’s Metro East connection that led the host to select this book, published in 2015. Some of Rossi’s connections are to Edwardsville and surrounding communities, and that’s one thing that drew me to the book. story, trying to piece together some of the places (and people) he referred to – Boomerangs in Collinsville, Fireside in Maryville and a “restaurant named after his favorite drink” in Edwardsville.

I could have done with less scenes of him doing drugs and sleeping because it got repetitive, but I give him some points for his honesty. He does not try to hide any of his many sins.

At the book club • We all agreed that this book was not well written (it was self-published), but nevertheless we were all drawn into its train wreck of a life that cannot look away. One member called the author “very narcissistic,” which was unsurprising given his traumatic childhood, she said. It was like he just wanted to brag about how awful he was, another member said.

The memoirs weren’t written as a mystery, but being from the area where many of the author’s escapades took place brought out the inner detective in a few members.

19 Crimes Snoop Dogg Cali Red (a surprisingly good wine) accompanied the discussion perfectly.






"The sweetness of water"

• Set at the start of the Reconstruction era, the Civil War is over and the slaves have been freed. But black people have no money or place to live, and their former landlords and most residents of the town of Old Ox, Georgia, still cling to the beliefs of the past. In his first novel, “The Sweetness of Water” Nathan Harris creates a gripping story that captures the tension of this period. Black brothers Prentiss and Landry are living in the woods when they meet George, a white man who has just learned of the death of his only son, a Confederate soldier. George strikes up a friendship with the brothers and offers to pay them a fair wage to help cultivate his land. These actions inflame a city already seething with resentment. Intertwined in the story is George’s relationship with his wife, Isabella, each of them suffering, not knowing how to support the other in grief. Another dramatic subplot involves a secret relationship between two former Confederate soldiers. I can’t wait to read more about Harris, who is only 29 years old.

Among other accolades for this book, Harris was the recipient of the University of Oregon Kidd Prize, which is judged by Anthony Doerr, and that brings me to my next book.






'Cloud Cuckoo Earth'

• Five views, spanning eight centuries, of the walls of Constantinople inside an interstellar spaceship. Not to mention a story within a story – an ancient comic novel that connects the five characters and gives them all hope. Moreover, this book is 626 pages. But I assure you, “Land of the Cloudy Cuckoos” worth it.

Doerr masterfully weaves the past, present and future into this beautifully written book. “At seventeen, he had convinced himself that every human he saw was a parasite, captive to the dictates of consumption. But as he [Seymour] reconstructs the translation of Zeno, he realizes that the truth is infinitely more complicated, that we are all beautiful even if we are all part of the problem, and that to be part of the problem is to be human.

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