Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This was my book club’s pick for June!  It stirred up some very good discussions about this tale that reflects upon a true story that happened in Memphis around 1939.

Before We Were Yours follows five children and their life on the Mississippi River upon a shanty-boat.   One night their mother needs to be rushed to the hospital before a storm hits, feeling as though she may be having complications with her pregnancy.  The older of the children, Rill is left in charge.

The next day, strangers arrive at their boat.  No parents in sight.  The children are coaxed off their boat with promises of visiting their mother who is recovering in the hospital.  A lie that starts as a trickle and turns into a churning forceful river.  The children are not taken to the hospital, they are taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage.

The tale ultimately moves from two stories, one in the past with the children and one in the present with Avery Stafford.  Avery’s character  discovers a long-hidden family secret.  One that will tie both families in together in a way that you won’t expect.

This book is based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country.

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Wonder (Wonder #1) by R.J. Palacio

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This was our May pick for Book Club!  I had started to read this book, then realized that I had already read it before!  So, I decided to check out the movie to see how well it followed the story.  I highly recommend reading the book first before watching the movie as some things are a little different, but both were really great!

Wonder is the story of a young boy named August Pullman  or “Auggie” for short.  He was born with a facial difference, keeping him from attending public school and his mom homeschooling him, until now.   Auggie is about to enter the 5th grade at a public school.   He just wants to be an ordinary kid!  As his classmates and friends get past his differences, all the characters seem to grow in their own way, especially Auggie!

His story will bring tears to your eyes and in the end, triumph in your heart.  A great book for kids and adults alike.

 

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This was our pick for March at our Book Club!  I really enjoyed this book!  It is based on a true story of The Alice Network, a real-life group of female spies in France during World War I.

The Alice Network tells the story of Charlie St. Claire in present day and then bounces into the story of another woman Eve Gardiner’s past.  Charlie is pregnant and is on her way with her mother to ‘take care of her little problem” when she decides now is the time she is going to break free.  She is hoping to find her cousin Rose who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war and now is perfect opportunity.  Charlie heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

In Eve’s story, she is itching to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.  Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

I usually have trouble when a story flips between two people’s stories, but I had no trouble with this one!  I’m glad this author decided this story needed to be brought to light again.  It’s fascinating to discover it’s based on a real woman, Louise de Bettignies or Alice Dubois and her story heroism and courage.  I highly recommend this book!!!!

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

This was our February Book Club pick!  The group discussion was interesting and mildly deep.  Everyone seemed to have liked the book!

I didn’t dislike the book, although I found it to be a lot going on.  I came to a point where I was asking myself ‘what’s the point of this story’, then referenced back to the title.  The title fits it well after reading all the stories and the character’s little fires everywhere in their lives.  I love that in Book Club, I venture out to read things that I normally would pass by without a second look.

I would suggest this book to others as it does set up for a great book club discussion.  The points touched upon in the story eerily pertained to current events in the world and a case in a town not far from where we live.

Via Goodreads:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

King Rat (Asian Saga: Chronological Order #4) by James Clavell

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥

This was our book club pick for January!  It was a good story, although in some spots it seemed to drag on a bit and it took me awhile to get through it.

The story is set in a Japanese POW camp near Singapore in early 1945.  British, Australian and American prisoners are sick, starving and in a dire situation in hopes of being rescued.  All except one American prisoner whom they call “The King”, who somehow manages to eat, live and dress like nothing out of the ordinary while all the others suffer from starvation, skin and bones.

The story revolves around this character, “The King” and his secrets to living as one.  Nearly, everyone depends on the King, though, to make a life-saving trade – a watch for a bowl of rice, $20 for an orange, etc. The King decides to take the unaffected Marlowe under his wing as a sort of junior partner.

The King lets Marlowe in on his adventures and his secrets, something the whole camp would like to know, too.  Soon, the King comes up with a plan to both make money and get revenge on the camp enemies.

I would recommend this book to readers, it’s an interesting story of the length humans will go to survive.

House by Frank E. Peretti, Ted Dekker

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Rating: ♥

Enter House — where you’ll find yourself thrown into a killer’s deadly game in which the only way to win is to lose… and the only way out is in.

The stakes of the game become clear when a tin can is tossed into the house with rules scrawled on it. Rules that only a madman—or worse—could have written. Rules that make no sense yet must be followed.

This was our book club pick for December!  Unfortunately I did not like this book.  I did give it one heart rating for the fast pace story it did hold!

The story to me was very cliche.  A wanna-be scary story that I felt took bits and pieces from other familiar tales I’ve read.  I’ve read one other book by Ted Dekker that I also didn’t really get into.  I gave this one a chance because that’s why I joined book club, to read outside my  normal zones!

After discussing the book at book club, we had a couple members who pointed out the possible significance references to the Bible.  Which, I could see after they described how they portrayed the story.  Where as I just read it as a cheesy wanna-be horror tale.  It did make me realize that in other books I have read, I don’t actually take the time to reflect on the possible second meanings of the stories being told.  I read them how they are, don’t think much about them and move on.  So that will be my ‘take away lesson’ from this one!

 

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This was our Book Club Selection for August!

The Devil in the White City had a super slow start for me, although we were warned at Book Club that this is somewhat how Erik Larson’s books all are…but then about a third of the way through, it got interesting.

The story is several stories in one, it is a book about the White City — the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and a book about a devil — a psychopathic serial killer.  I enjoyed both stories here, but wasn’t interested with the author’s decision to try to integrate them into one book.  I think the historical pieces about the Chicago’s World’s Fair were great to have in the story to set the place and time, but having all the detail about how the World’s Fair came to be among the murdering madness of H.H. Holmes – it was a bit much.

The White City half certainly dealt with a fascinating cast of characters, architecture was skyrocketing in importance, and Chicago was a hotbed of architectural innovation. And since architects invariably deal with wealth, all the contradictions and surprises of the Gilded Age are brought to the fore.  And perhaps the devil half contained enough meat to reach the topmost tier of true-crime nonfiction.  The social changes seen by the poor — the gilded age’s dark lining, as it were — were just as important as the boardroom side of the story.

The Devil the the White City tells the story of the men and women who shed sweat and tears into making the Chicago Worlds Fair into the most spectacular event of the time period.  It also tells of the women whose blood was shed behind the curtains during the Chicago Worlds Fair – by the hands of the madman Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.