pop culture, reading

Book Club Picks: The Good, the Bad, and the Puzzling

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Okay, I think I need to say this now before I explode. There is something inherently frustrating about belonging to a book club.

Yes, that’s right: it can be frustrating for a self-avowed bookdragon to sit around and discuss books with other people. Why? Because sometimes the selected title will just make you want to scream…and then you will be the only person in the room who thought that about said selection.

Maybe it simply is that I am too picky a reader. Maybe it just boils down to I don’t like most adult fiction; it comes across as boring and irrelevant and senseless. While there certainly have been exceptions in my reading career, after this past year of belonging to a book club for the first time, I’m strongly reminded of why I generally stick to YA and/or fantasy.

Here are the picks that stuck with me in recent months as being the books I loved to hate, or at least to analyze unto its demise.

Before We Were Yours

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This is the story, based on real events, of sisters who were separated as children, by a woman in the South who was selling poor children to wealthy families that couldn’t produce their own offspring naturally. Yes, she literally abducted munchkins from parents who already loved them; their only crime was being too poor, or too immigrant, or too minority.

It’s already an appalling tale, but what galled me even more was the fact that all of this is discovered long after it happened, and the people involved are mostly dead, and the perpetrators never face justice.

I truly felt that the entire story was absolutely pointless since the whole concept of a character discovering this secret should have automatically led to bringing those responsible to court. Instead, the sisters just find each other years later and catch up, and they can all know each other’s children, and blah, blah, blah.

And while it may sound kind of heartless to put it that way, for me, the crux of the biscuit was literally: Will the kidnappers be forced to pay? Even if they’re no longer living, there must be someone still around who knows what the organization was doing, and will speak up, knowing it’s the right thing to do…

But, no, that never materialized, and when I finished reading this book, I actually wanted to turn back the clock and reclaim the hours I wasted on this utter nonsense.

Lilac Girls

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This one I was really into at first. It’s the author’s re-imagining of what life may have been like at the only all-women concentration camp in Poland during World War II. It is historical fact that there was a retired actress, named Caroline Farraday, in New York City, who found out about the survivors of this camp, and devoted a good chunk of her life after the war to securing funds for their medical care.

This is so inspiring, and I really wanted to know more about the real person, so after finishing about 60% of the book on audio (I skipped all the parts set in the camp), I Googled Caroline Farraday.

And what I found out made me so mad. At the author. Yet again.

The author deliberately invented a romantic interest that Caroline never had, and inserted him into the story, as her main reason for getting involved with the plight of innocents during the war. What the heck was the point of that?! It makes the real Farraday look flighty, self-absorbed, and only willing to turn to philanthropy as a way to spend her life when the man in question goes back to his wife. (Yes, you read that right — which brings up a whole host of other moral and ethical questions.)

And since, based on what’s on the website established by the historical society created in her honor, none of this is true, either about the woman’s life or about her recorded personality, I simply cannot track with this approach by the author.

And this is exactly why I refuse to recommend this book to anyone, even though it is an important subject to know about and discuss.

A Gentleman in Moscow

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Please, oh, please, oh, PLEASE, tell me there’s someone else in the world who didn’t like A Gentleman in Moscow! I definitely appear to be in the minority on this one. It’s the story of a Russian aristocrat, post the Communist revolution, who is put under house arrest in Moscow.

The entire premise tripped me up from the start: It’s an interesting concept (how a person’s life would change so much, so quickly, from what he knew, and how he would handle it), but completely implausible. After the Bolshieviks seized power in Russia, there is not a single way they’d let a Count just live out his natural days in a fancy hotel; nope, it’d be the firing squad for him, and we all know this.

The factual inconsistencies aside, this was honestly one of the dullest books I think I’ve ever read. It is literally drowning in purple prose, and even listening to the audio version made me so bored I could hardly stand it. Apparently there is a successful market for such works, but you can totally count me out of it.

And there we have it! Have you read any of these? Do you have thoughts on the up sides, or down sides of book clubs, or not at all? Let’s comment away!

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3 thoughts on “Book Club Picks: The Good, the Bad, and the Puzzling”

  1. I often struggle with book club picks as well- they just never seem to be to my taste. Before we were gone doesn’t sound any good. And oh gosh I thought I was the only one with gentleman in Moscow- I didn’t look to badly on it cos it was well written and I liked the concept- but man, looking back on it, I just thought it was so boring!! Great reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YAAAS about not being the only one who didn’t like A Gentleman in Moscow! The concept was so interesting, that I could easily see *starting* a novel there, and then the second half being about what happened to other people who knew him, or maybe he was released from his house arrest somehow. The way the author draaaaaaged the descriptions out absolutely did me in, though!

      Liked by 1 person

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