10 INVIGORATING Bookclub Selections

What kinds of books do you like to read and discuss with a group of friends?  Does your bookclub go for the controversial themes or the safe ones, so that no one member feels offended? Nothing wrong with that. Some bookclubs are polite like that.

My bookclub “babes” tend to go….all over the place! We go through the historical fiction period for a few months until we get tired of that and switch it up with something hot and current. We always have more lively discussions with the “controversial” books. One book that was definitely a love it or hate it topic for us was ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS by Bryn Greenwood.

“I was lying on the tracks under a train I was in love with.”
― Bryn Greenwood, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Personally, I find this book absolutely heartbreaking and brilliant. The subject matter is tough and heavy, but honest. And definitely provocative. Talk about a conversation starter!

HILLBILLY ELEGY: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, is a fascinating book, more about the state of our nation than a memoir. I highly recommend it for a book club, so many topics ranging from Appalachian poverty to the Rust Belt and the coal and steel industry, and though the author does not even mention the word TRUMP, there is a widespread belief that this book, at least partially, explains Trump’s win over Clinton. He writes knowledgeably about education, unemployment and the general “angriness” of the white poor man in the United States.

“We don’t study as children, and we don’t make our kids study when we’re parents. Our kids perform poorly in school. We might get angry with them, but we never give them the tools—like peace and quiet at home—to succeed.”
― J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

No matter how you feel about the state of our country right now,  your bookclub may want to consciously choose books of importance, diversity, and relevance this year. In the last few months we have read HOMEGOING, AMERICANAH, THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS, THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. We have also enjoyed discussing EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, THE TORTILLA CURTAIN, THE ROUND HOUSE and THE INVENTION OF WINGS.  I can confidently say that any of these “NEW” classics are perfect for your discussions and observations. They are all immediate classics to add to your bookclub TBR.

Click on any of the images below to get your copy and start reading today!

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THE DINNER

5/5 stars

  • Author: Herman Koch, translated by Sam Garrett
  • Published February 12th 2013 by Hogarth (first published January 2009)
  • TWISTER HALL OF FAME MEMBER
“Sometimes things come out of your mouth that you regret later on. Or no, not regret. You say something so razor-sharp that the person you say it to carries it around with them for the rest of their life.”
— Herman Koch (The Dinner)

This is one of my favorite books in the domestic noir genre. It is not a book for everyone. It is biting, raw and the darkest humor you can imagine. Almost the entire story is set at a restaurant table.

There are two unhappy couples having dinner together and acting as if everything is fine. As we go from appetizers to dessert, the reader gets a sense that something is very wrong here. A simmering beneath the surface kind of tension. It continues to build until all the secrets are exposed. I could not put this book down except for minutes at a time and then I was constantly wondering “what in the world is going on here?”

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Each couple has a son. These sons are cousins to each other, because their dads are brothers.  The sons have done something horrible. Really bad. And the parents are here not just to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant, but to work out how this situation their sons are in should be handled. All four members at the table have a different agenda, a different perspective, a different personality flaw.

The narrator, Paul, is sarcastic and funny and relatable. He could be someone you know. But when you find out the true Paul, who he is when no one is watching, you realize you probably don’t know anyone like him and you certainly don’t want to.

To me, this book is a rare find. It is written so well, even though it is translated from Dutch to English. Amazing, my English major heart rejoices! A brilliant and literary, domestic suspense story.

AMAZON link    The Dinner

GONE GIRL

5/5 Stars

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Well, this is it. THE book that started the psychological suspense craze in novels over the last 5 years. Gillian Flynn’s third book is a legitimate masterpiece. Even the movie was stunning (which rarely happens).

I’m a big fan as you can tell. (I’m also crazy about SHARP OBJECTS and DARK PLACESher first and second novels).

Exploring the malevolent side of ordinary people and taking a peek into their murderous motivations is an endless fascination for me.  After reading at least a few hundred similar books, I realize more than ever how special this one is. The New York Times called this book “ice-pick sharp”.  I agree.

It is biting and witty; a fast paced perfect story of love and marriage, murder and revenge.

Click here if you need your Gillian Flynn copies from Amazon!

BEHIND HER EYES

1/5 Stars

  • Author: Sarah Pinborough
  • Published January 31st 2017 by HarperCollins
  • UK Trade Paperback, Paperback, 376 pages

I read BEHIND HER EYES a few months ago when I received the paper ARC unexpectedly in my mail. Thank you Flatiron Books! I appreciate the hard work that you do to promote authors and new books.

I love to get books in the mail, but this is not a book I love. 

I’m somewhat of a realist, but I’m open-minded and curious about subjects like lucid dreaming, mainly for the psychological aspects that may pertain to a murder mystery. You are led as a reader to think this book is traveling the byways of memories, dreams, affairs and murders. The pages fly fast and I was so involved in this story – until the abrupt end.

The publishers strongly encouraged all the ARC readers and reviewers to discuss the book with the hypey #WTFthatending. I guess that’s an appropriate hashtag, but it goes either way. I detest the ending. What a gimmick! It’s like having your mouth all set for a T-bone steak and it morphs right on the grill into a shape-shifting slice of frozen pizza. There was no steak on the grill ever. Forget about the steak. You are eating frozen pizza.

There are thousands of reviews out there on this book and my opinion appears to be in the minority. Not gonna lie, the ending of the story was like a sucker punch to the gut and I actually got angry. I tossed the book on the floor and didn’t even bother writing a review for it until now, months later. I felt used and abused as a reader.

I love plot twists. I love when authors write from different points of view. Heck, I want SHE LOVED PLOT TWISTS written on my tombstone. Not only that, but BEHIND HER EYES has a couple of unreliable narrators, my absolute favorite literary device! How could all these elements be in this one book, yet go so wrong? This looked like a book any decent storm hunter (me) would adore.

The ending of this book is more of a deus ex machina than anything else. Deus ex machina is a Latin term meaning “god out of the machine.” It refers to an unexpected, artificial or improbable character, device or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction to resolve a situation or untangle a plot. IT IS A CHEAP PLOT DEVICE!   IT DOES NOT WORK (for me!). There is barely a hint of where the book is going until the last few pages and then ridiculously, hideously, it is over. This is crazy town, folks. You might love it, I just don’t.

AMAZON link
Behind Her Eyes: A Suspenseful Psychological Thriller

What Makes a Plot Twist Work?

stormy-800pxThere are few things I love more in this world than a book or movie with a great plot twist.  Plot twists can occur throughout a novel (a constant rollercoaster ride) or there can be one huge twist at the ending after pages of suspense.  Not all plot twists work for me.  In fact, so many fail (BEHIND HER EYES).  It is a difficult thing to pull off and an author has to be quite skillful.  There are certain elements that a story must have in place for a plot twist to be successful.

  • element of surprise (duh)
  • foreshadowing/clues
  • believable, logical or plausible
  • red herrings

Of course, these elements only work if the characterization and narration of the story is compelling. Points of view are are also important. How well do we know the narrator? Unreliable narrators, such as Rachel in GIRL ON THE TRAIN, are all the rage right now and I for one, LOVE IT!! It is difficult for these aspects to all come together in a story, but when they do, HOLY CYCLONE!!  A thing of beauty.