Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Published: May 2015
Summary: Ove is a 59-year-old curmudgeon who spends his days simply by monitoring the neighborhood for any rule-breakers and generally being dissatisfied with other people. His orderly life is thrown into chaos when a young family moves in next door. This quirky cast of characters and a straggly cat help to disrupt his life and force him to consider how he got there.
My Thoughts: Cutting straight to the chase, as Ove would likely prefer, this was not my favorite book. If it hadn’t been for it being a book club pick, I likely would not have finished reading it. I have to say that I really enjoyed the writing style of Backman and at times really enjoyed this book. There were chapters, which are more like vignettes, where I was overwhelmed with how beautifully written and poignant this book is. Where this novel fell short for me was in the length and redundancy. If there were a few less chapters about his contentious relationship with his neighbor, Rune, or even less devotion to his obsession with Saabs, I think I would have enjoyed this book much more. I can’t exactly recommend this book, but I would encourage someone to read it for themselves and make up their own opinion. I would not call this book a waste of time, just not my favorite.
Book Club Discussion: We were split down the middle in terms of enjoying this book. My sister Janette and I did not love it, but my mom and sister Erin liked it better. None of us, however, would classify this as a home run. Something we all agreed upon was that 59 isn’t really that old. This book continually describes Ove to be an old man and the way Backman describes him, you would think he was in his 80s. Maybe in Sweden they are even more fearful of aging than we are in the U.S.? We talked a bit about the Swedish influences, such as trying to imagine the neighborhood that Ove lives in or the “council” in “white shirts.” I watched the trailer for the Swedish movie made about this book to get some of my questions answered and was able to see the neighborhood set up, which is unlike anything I have ever seen in the U.S. We also enjoyed the many references of IKEA, me especially since my house is mostly furnished by the Swedish company. There were plenty of topics to talk about, so I would recommend its use in a book club.
Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Published: December 2010
Summary: Anna is plucked from her comfortable life in Atlanta to attend a boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school, courtesy of her successful author father. Feeling like she has been dealt the worst at first, Anna comes to make an interesting group of friends and a new crush in the City of Light.
Why I Am Recommending: This book is such a fun read! I would put it into my “cotton-candy” category of delicious, easy, romantic reads. I actually did not read this book, but rather listened to it as an audiobook….twice. Kim Mai Guest is the narrator and she does a fantastic job of providing the voice to an emotional, angsty, teenager. I enjoyed stepping into this experience along with Anna and experiencing Paris through her eyes. The characters in this story are quirky and likable and all add humor and insight to Anna’s story. I found myself laughing out loud and sighing with hearts in my eyes right alongside Anna. Such a great read, or in my case, listen. Again–the audiobook is fantastic and I don’t know that I would do this book any other way.
Title: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Published: September 2016
Summary: Aelin and her growing court are endeavoring to build an army to battle the darkness in Morath. In this effort, Aelin is making allies and enemies alike as well as beginning to learn what it really means to be a Queen.
Why I Am Recommending: I have become a big fan of the Throne of Glass series since I first began reading them in 2014. Aelin is such a strong female character, but the book has several other strong female characters, most especially shining in this 5th installment. This book was the longest of the series, but I enjoyed every single page of the 693 page tome. I think the use of multiple perspectives is at its best in this book, which allows for a multi-dimensional story and the ability to leave secrets. The content of this book was the most adult of any in the series, which makes me finally make the assessment that although this follows young adults, it should not be categorized as a YA book series due to the more mature content. There was seriously so much about this book that I loved, but don’t want to give anything away. I will be waiting with bated breath for the 6th and final book of this series to release later this year. I can’t remember being so into a series of this size in a long time…dare I say since Harry Potter. Maas has done a great job creating this world and large cast of characters that has left me enjoying all 2,728 pages of the series and anxiously waiting for more. On a very excited side note, I have read that Hulu is developing a series on their streaming service, which will be called Queen of Shadows!
Title: The Ship of Brides
Author: Jojo Moyes
Summary: Three very different young women join 600 war brides on a flight carrier ship after WWII ends leaving from Australia to take the brides to their British husbands. Along the 6 week journey, the young women get to know each other and themselves as they see exotic locations and move very far away from home.
Why I Am Recommending: Although this was a slow starting book, I was glad I stuck around to finish it. Jojo Moyes creates three really interesting characters from very different backgrounds and gives each of them a sense of vulnerability as they experience this unusual journey together. I am always up for a WWII period book, but this was an aspect of WWII that I have not read about in the many novels I have completed to date. It certainly seems like a different world, but it was great to get immersed in the story once the character development was done. The end is fast-paced and page turning, which will be the carrot I dangle in front of anyone who decides to read this book…keep going and you will be happy you did!
Happy New Year! It is the time of year for fresh starts and big goals. I love the feeling of the first of the new year when I have all the optimism that this will be the year that I will accomplish all of my goals–who knows, maybe I will this year!
There is one goal that I feel confident will be met this year, completing a book club with my sisters and mom. Each of us are avid readers and whenever we get together, books are always a staple to our conversation. So with this as the background, we decided to gift each other book club picks for Christmas to prepare for our first ever family book club. This year, my sisters, mom and I will make our way through 11 books, and spend time each month on Skype discussing the book. I will post along as we make our way through this delicious list of books. Here are our picks and the months we will be reading them:
January: – Fredrik Backman A Man Called Ove (Erin’s & Janette’s pick)
February: Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance (My pick)
March & April: Middlemarch – George Eliot (Janette’s pick)
May: Winter Garden – Kristin Hannah (Janette’s pick)
June: To The Bright Edge of the World – Eowyn Ivey (Erin’s pick)
July: News of the World – Paulette Jiles (Mom’s pick)
August: Commonwealth – Ann Patchett (Mom’s pick)
September: The Summer Before the War – Helen Simonson (Mom’s pick)
October: Women of the Silk – Gail Tsukiyama (Erin’s pick)
November: Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche (My pick)
December: Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon (My pick)