Celebrating 10 years of blogging this month with my first post: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As with all great classics, I am hard-pressed to say anything original about Gone With the Wind. This is my third reading and I still love the book. If you have seen the movie, but have not read the book, read the book. There is a great deal more that will only add to your enjoyment of the story line.

Some things I did not know about Margaret Mitchell made re-reading the book all the more interesting (thank you, Wikipedia). Mitchell’s maternal great-grandfather was from Ireland and settled on a slave-holding plantation in Georgia. Her grandfather fought in the Civil War and made a lot of money in the lumber business after the war (just like Scarlett!). As a young girl, Mitchell heard a lot of Civil War stories from her relatives and visited the ruined plantations in Georgia. And, most interesting to me was that her mother was a women’s rights activist.

I think these points are important because they give you a better understanding of the characters in GWTW. And I think the most interesting point is Mitchell’s portrayal of Scarlett as a shrewd and independent businesswoman during a time when no women ran businesses or even played a role in commerce, except maybe in selling pies like Mrs. Merriwether and taking in sewing and boarders like Mrs. Elsing. (Or Belle Watling’s business. Belle’s character is also quite modern, profession aside.) Mitchell also portrays Ellen, Scarlett’s mother, as the true head of the plantation, with Gerald as a figurehead.

Although I love this book, it is difficult to read the sections about slavery and the slaves on the O’Hara plantation. The O’Haras take pride in their kind treatment of their slaves, yet their language is clearly condescending. It’s a bad part of American history and all accounts of this time-period make me very uncomfortable and ashamed.

I think Mitchell’s description of the post-war period is very good and it shows what a mess Atlanta was and how the Southern way of life known and loved by its people was forever lost. I like how the characters, particularly Melanie and her followers cling to their committees and old customs, even when the Northerners take over the city.

There are certainly many, many other points to add about the characters and the book, Melanie’s goodness, Ashley’s displacement in the new South, and Scarlett’s inability to understand and appreciate the people around her until it is too late.

I like Rhett Butler the best. He is very modern, thinking it ridiculous never to mention pregnancy and birth control. He loves children and these things make him even more appealing. You want to forget how he makes his money, his drinking and what he does over at Belle’s house because he is so likable and smooth. His flirtatious conversations with Scarlett are so fun to read, but my favorite parts are when Rhett shows his true feelings to Melanie, and sadly to Scarlett at the end.

Like music? Check out my literary playlist of music to complement Gone with the Wind on Spotify.

Have you ever read the sequel to Gone With the Wind? I read Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley years ago. I read it because I was curious what may have happened to Scarlett and Rhett, but when a sequel is written by a different author, it doesn’t seem authentic. I don’t remember much about it, but I don’t think it was very good. I mean, how do you top GWTW?

And if you want to know more about Rhett Butler, check out Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig. Just as cheesy as Scarlett, but I couldn’t resist!

How do you feel about literature that depicts shameful periods of history? Can characters on the wrong side of thinking still be good? I have trouble with this, do you?

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In case you missed them! BCM Book Reviews April-May 2023

Hey Everyone,

I read some great books this spring! In case you missed them, here’s a quick look at my book reviews for April and May.

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

The Hike by Susi Holliday

What great books have you read this spring? Leave a comment!

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Book Review: The Hike by Susi Holliday

The Hike
Susi Holliday

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Cat Baxendale is an excellent planner. And she definitely has a plan when she and her husband, Paul, sister, Ginny and brother-in-law, Tristan embark on a hike in the Swiss Alps in this suspenseful thriller. The book opens after something bad, when two of the four stumble to the police building in the local village. “Side by side they sit, waiting. They are in this together.”

The story jumps back two days earlier when the group arrives from London. Here, the author sets up the dynamics between the four. Cat and Ginny, though sisters, are hardly alike. Cat, the responsible, hard worker, has built a successful event-planning business. Ginny, the vapid social media influencer, is most concerned about her looks and her foodie posts. More importantly, they recently argued about money at Ginny’s thirtieth birthday bash. In addition, both marriages are on the rocks. The author teases the reader with vague details about infidelities, inquiries and job changes. Paul seems beaten down and submissive while Tristan acts the typical glad-hander.

What is Cat’s plan and who is she in kahoots with? What will happen when they get up on the mountain and must depend on each other, without their phones, by the way? Because nothing ever goes completely as planned. Difficult trails with hair-raising ascents, detours, bad gear, not enough water and food: just the right setting for a thriller.

I tend to fall into the traps of thrillers, latching on to one reliable character, believing suppositions about others. That is the fun of reading books like this. They are great diversions and readers expect the typical tropes. I love when conflicts erupt between characters. I like riding through all the twists and turns and enjoy the sudden reveals that keep the plot going.

The story jumps back and forth between the hike and the visit to the police, including observations from an unnamed creepy follower. Readers will need to read to the last page to figure it all out. I enjoyed this book. Though definitely not great literature, it was a nice escape. That is what thrillers are. They allow you to gasp, “I’m so glad that’s not me up on that mountain!”

I recommend The Hike to readers looking for a quick read, who don’t mind unlikable characters, because there are a lot of them in this one.

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Book Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
Gabrielle Zevin

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I waited a long time to get my hands on this popular book and it was worth it! I was traveling when I read it, so sadly, I took no notes. Now a week later, I will have to draw on memory to tell you about it.

I knew nothing about Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow when I started reading. That is my preferred method, by the way. I was delighted to meet Zevin’s characters who are brilliant, yet human, and whose decisions based on their emotions create divides that the reader is just hoping will be resolved before it is too late.

The main characters, Sadie Green and Sam Masur are brilliant gamers and game designers, who first meet in a hospital when they are children. Sam had been in a tragic car accident and Sadie’s sister was battling leukemia. In the hospital lounge, they quickly discover their mutual love for video games. They have a big falling out when Sadie turns thirteen, however, and pride prevents them from making up. Now they meet by chance in Boston as college students. Sadie is at MIT, Sam’s at Harvard. Note: sometimes I get frustrated when I read books where everyone goes to elite colleges. Don’t let that put you off. They belong there. Ultimately, they collaborate on a video game that launches a hugely successful game design company. Barely into their twenties, Sadie and Sam are millionaires and they head for California. But egos, hurt feelings and misunderstandings get in the way of happiness.

The title is a Shakespeare reference to Macbeth’s well-known soliloquy, but also refers to the essence of video games where there’s always a chance to start over. Also playing into the story are the characters’ mixed races and cultures, as well as their loneliness despite their success. Believe it or not, it reminds me of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson because it has that “what would have happened if I did this or of this didn’t happen” theme.

I’m not a gamer, but I enjoyed diving into the gaming world and especially loved reading about their creative process, which really is about developing characters, themes and story lines. It’s definitely not just graphics. I will tell you that the last section gets a little meta because you’re deep into a game and its avatars. I thought it was really clever how the author wrote that into the story.

Throughout the book, I wondered if Sadie and Sam would ever have a romantic relationship. There are many missed opportunities and Zevin fills the book with strong emotions and realistic human situations. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens!

I recommend Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow to readers who like stories with great characters. This is my second book by Gabrielle Zevin. I also loved The Storied Life of A J. Fikry.

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When “silent” characters find their voices – books with silent characters

Silence is never forever, especially in stories about characters who’ve been keeping quiet. These three “Silent” books are good examples of how quickly lives can turn upside down when a character finds her voice. From a patient who refuses to speak, to a sister who has left her family, to a wife who is tired of looking the other way, stories with characters like these are always great reads!

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides  – Alicia Berenson does something strange after her husband’s murder. She stops talking. Not another word. Nothing to the London police, to her lawyer, and still now, years later, nothing to the doctors at the Grove, the psychiatric ward where she lives. The only clue to explain her actions is a self-portrait, painted a few days after the murder.

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain – When buried family secrets surface, one thing is certain: once revealed, nothing will be the same. Riley McPherson has grown up believing her older sister Lisa, a talented violinist, committed suicide. She’d always thought that her sister’s depression was the reason. But that may not be what happened.

The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison – What’s beneath the surface of a seemingly happy relationship? Jodi and Todd have a smooth way of being together and it’s worked for twenty-some years. They’ve never officially married, but it doesn’t matter. This is a marriage and they have a nice rhythm, live a very nice life and have everything they want. Then we get to know them a little better…

Have you read any books with “silent” characters? Leave the title in the comments!

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Book Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – UPDATED 5/6/23!

The Silent Patient
Alex Michaelides

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I don’t ordinarily re-read mysteries and psychological thrillers because once you reach the finish, you know the twist. But enough time had passed since I last read The Silent Patient and I was pleasantly surprised that I had forgotten most of the ending! I can honestly say that I enyoned it as much the second time around and I picked up on nuances I hadn’t noticed the first time. That’s because I thought the plot was so good and couldn’t wait to find out what happened. The Silent Patient has many unexpected twists, a few red herrings and an excellent tie-in to a classic Greek play.

Here’s my review from 2020:

Alicia Berenson does something strange when she’s charged with her husband’s murder. She stops talking. Not another word. Nothing to the London police, to her lawyer, and still now, years later, nothing to the doctors at the Grove, the psychiatric ward where she lives. Before the murder, they lived the good life. Alicia was a well-known artist and her husband, Gabriel, was a famous photographer. Now she sits silent. The only clue to explain her actions is a self-portrait, painted a few days after the murder.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist and he’s been obsessed with Alicia’s case from the beginning. So he jumps when a job opens up at the Grove. The doctors have given up on her, but Theo is determined to get Alicia to speak. Despite warnings from his boss, Theo digs so deep into Alicia’s psyche he may not be able to free himself.

What a great set-up for a suspenseful psychological thriller! I tore through this fast-paced story because I was both engrossed in the plot and anxious to see what Michaelides’ characters would do. The story is told from both Theo’s and Alicia’s perspectives, with Theo as the narrator and through Alicia’s journal entries. Readers will need to do some work, however, because they won’t get the full story from either, not until the finish where a final and unexpected twist explains it all.

Although plot driven, The Silent Patient is also a look at different psychologies and how vulnerable children are to their circumstances, especially in relationships to their parents and other family. Both Theo and Alicia suffered miserable childhoods and were subjected to pain and rejection. Through his story, the author asks important questions about nature versus nurture. Would his characters be different people if they’d had better childhoods?

Michaelides also cleverly ties The Silent Patient to the Greek play, Alcestis and the tragic choices that are made between Alcestis and her husband. I enjoyed this parallel very much and how it explains Alicia’s behavior.

The Silent Patient is the author’s debut novel and the type of book you want to start and finish in the same day. I recommend it to readers who like the fast pace of a thriller with the bonus of interesting characters and ideas. According to a 2019 article in The Hollywood Reporter, Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures and Brad Pitt’s Plan B plan to adapt the book into a film, but there is no new word on a release.

Meantime, if you’re looking for a fast and engrossing read this one fits the bill!

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Book Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Next Year in Havana
Chanel Cleeton

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I learned a great deal about the Cuban experience in this novel about Marisól Ferrera, young Cuban-American journalist who travels to Havana to spread her grandmother’s ashes. The novel takes place in Havana during two time periods, 2017 and 1959, and includes a storyline that ties the two women together in a surprising way.

The story begins as Marisól’s grandmother, Elisa Perez and her wealthy family flee Cuba. Fidel Castro has overthrown the government and the Perez family faces danger due to Elisa’s father’s alliances with ousted President Batista. Now they must leave their sugar dynasty and all their riches behind. In 2017, when Marisól arrives in Havana, she travels under the guise of writing an article about sightseeing in Cuba. She hopes to write the article, spread Elisa’s ashes and connect with her Cuban culture, especially with Elisa’s dearest friend, Ana Rodriguez.

At their first meeting, Ana gives Marisól a box of letters Elisa had asked Ana to safeguard, letters from a mysterious lover, Pablo. After she reads them, she knows she must learn the full truth about her grandmother. But unforeseen problems force Marisól to reconsider the risks. In addition, Ana’s handsome but enigmatic grandson, Luis, makes Marisól wish she could stay in Havana longer. She wonders what her life might have been like had her family not fled.

As a Cuban-American, Marisól has always struggled with her dual identity. She holds the Cuban culture close, but sees a great divide between the Cubans who left and those who stayed. Her grandfather, Emilio was able to rebuild his sugar dynasty in Florida and the Perez family has enjoyed a life of wealth. But the Rodriguez family stayed in Havana and have since endured desperate conditions amid continued control under Castro’s communist regime, now led by Fidel’s brother, Raúl.

I enjoyed learning about the Cuban culture, its food and architecture. I was impressed by the Cubans’ fierce loyalty to their place in Havana, despite extreme poverty. In addition, the author’s descriptions of breathtaking seascapes made me jump on the internet to see. What was most impressive, however, was the author’s ability to describe beauty in the once-grand buildings that have fallen into disrepair. The author also explains the complex relationship between Cuba and the United States, which has caused a good deal of resentment.

Next Year in Havana is the first of Cleeton’s series about Cuba. Many thanks to my blogging friend at Hopewell’s Public Library of Life for recommending Chanel Cleeton to me!

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Book Review: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

The Widows of Malabar Hill
Sujata Massey

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sometimes you need to work through the early chapters of a book to reap its rewards. That is how I felt about this historical mystery, set in India during the 1920s, when the country was under British Rule. In the first book of Massey’s mystery series, we meet Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female solicitor, who, because of her own disastrous marriage, is devoted to protecting women’s rights. Perveen grew up in a progressive Parsi family, studied at Oxford and now works beside her father, a successful lawyer.

In this story, Perveen represents the three widows of the recently deceased Omar Farid, a Muslim man. Razia, Sakima and Mumtaz live in complete seclusion at their Malabar Hill home where direct contact with males is forbidden and all communication must take place through a jali wall. The women are at the mercy of the estate trustee, Faisal Mukri, who wants to control the portions that are allotted to them. Most importantly, Perveen wants to make sure the women understand their rights.

Her drive to protect them is personal. In 1916 when Perveen was nineteen she met Cyrus Sodawalla, a dashing Parsi businessman from Calcutta. They seemed to make a great connection, but the Sodawallas had insisted Cyrus choose a wife from an approved list that did not include Perveen. After much negotiation, however, they married and moved across the country to live with Cyrus’s parents, who are Orthodox Parsis. Nothing was what Perveen expected: it was much worse. When she tried to get out she discovered that she had almost no rights.

Now, when Mukri turns up dead, Perveen finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. Inspectors make an arrest, but is it the right person?

I do not want to spoil the rest because I think books are most enjoyable when you only know the premise. Besides learning a lot about India, the cultures and religions during this time period, I liked reading how Perveen gets to know the widows who seem to get along, but do they? The undercurrent of resentment becomes apparent as you read and learn more about each and why Farid married them. I was also fascinated by how the women coped, despite their isolation. In addition, the Sodawallas’ orthodox practices would make anyone want to escape!

Also at play is the country’s strained relationship with Great Britain and their disdain for the English government officials posted in India. They had years to go. The Crown rule in India would continue until 1947.

The Widows of Malabar Hill is the winner of the Agatha Award, the Macavity Award, the Lefty Award for Best Historical Mystery and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Once I got into this story, I really enjoyed it. I would say you have to be willing to take the time to understand the setting and history and then it really takes off. My mystery book club agreed with me!

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Book Club Mom’s Short Reviews of Recommended Reads – April 2023

Weldome to a new feature on Book Club Mom: Short Reviews of Recommended Reads. I hope you’ll take a look!

Born in a Treacherous Time by Jacqui Murray: I dove into this prehistoric story, Book 1 of Murray’s Dawn of Humanity trilogy, and wow, what a great portrayal of a world we can only imagine. Set 1.8 million years ago on the savannas of East Africa, we meet Lucy, an early human female from the Man-who-makes-tools group. Tragic events break up Lucy’s group and she joins another group, toolmakers, but different from her people. Pregnant, Lucy mourns the loss of her forever pairmate, Garv, but like all others, she must carry on in a world that is dominated by hunting and survival from starvation, attacks, extreme weather, volcanos and earthquakes. Lucy’s keen instincts, excellent hunting skills and knowledge of healing herbs and techniques prove an asset, yet other members resent her. They must all work together to survive, however, as they face many perils, including the ominous presence of Man-who-preys. Murray makes it easy to picture what life may have been like during this period, full of violence, but with equal amounts of emotional and social aspects.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio: Here’s a book you just have to like for its feel-good story and message. Fifth-grader Auggie Pullman has been born with a severe facial deformity, one that has required many surgeries. Previously home-schooled, his family enrolls him in a private middle-school in New York City. Not many people can say how Auggie feels to be so disfigured, to be stared at, made fun of, and worse. He has felt it all, yet he remains remarkably upbeat. Palacio does a nice job presenting Auggie’s character, through his own words. She continues the story through other characters’ narrations, giving us a wider perspective. Most interesting of these points of view is that of his older sister, Olivia, who has always loved and protected her brother, but begins to push away from that role. Olivia has lived in the background at home, with necessary attention being given to her brother. The overall message of kindness is perfect for readers ages 8-12.

Well Behaved Wives by Amy Sue Nathan: I enjoyed this historical fiction story set in the prestigious Jewish neighborhood of 1960s Wynnefield, Philadelphia. It begins as Ruth and Asher Applebaum, newly married, move in with Asher’s parents, Shirley and Leon. Shirley, stung that the couple eloped, sets her mind on making Ruth, a confident and career-minded New Yorker raised by her father, into a well-mannered woman of society. That means looking your best, saying the right things and supporting your husband’s career. Ruth has other ideas. A recent graduate of Columbia Law School, she plans to study for the bar exam and begin a career helping battered women. The problem? Asher has not told his parents about Ruth’s plans. Shirley arranges for Lucy to attend grooming classes, led by Shirley’s close friend and socialite, Lillian Diamond. Together, with three other young women, they become the “Diamond Girls.” Ruth discovers that she may be able to help one of her new friends escape dangerous circumstances and she soon learns that these older women have a lot more to them than she thought. Light reading, a little heavy on the message, but an interesting story.

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In case you missed them! BCM Book Reviews First Quarter 2023

Hey Everyone,

I’ve read some great books so far this year! In case you missed them, here’s a quick look at my book reviews for the first three months of 2023.

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

The Lindbergh Nanny by Mariah Fredericks

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse

The Measure by Nikki Erlick

The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

A Girl Named Truth by Alethea Kehas

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

“The Hay Bale” by Priscilla Bettis

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

The Giver by Lois Lowry

What great books have you read so far this year? Leave a comment!

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