Book Club discussion: ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee

My reread of “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee was just as enjoyable as the last two times, the most recent was in 2019 and my views on the book are similar to what they were then, which are outlined in my review.

We read this book for the Modern Library Book Club and unlike my 2019 discussion for the SARAH Book Club where everyone liked the book, this time we got mixed reviews. It raised the question of whether “To Kill A Mockingbird” is dated for the current time and if Harper Lee tries to make race a sentimental issue.

Everyone thought that Harper Lee was a good writer, and for the people who loved the book, they thought it genius on how she was able to weave different subplots together, which ultimately made this a strong book. Like me, many thought that every character had a role to play, though it was split between Atticus and Scout on who the favorites were. Atticus, for none other than taking up a case he knows he can’t win and Scout for being the one to tell it like it is in her childlike way.

While Scout is technically an adult when she is telling this story, she is narrating it through how she viewed it as a child, which I think is so important in how the more serious issues in this book are portrayed.

One member who grew up in the 60s in the Midwest said he never heard of this book growing up. Having read it for the first time this year, he thought thought that the book was probably considered radical where he was from and was never publicized there. He was glad that he finally got the chance to read it and loved it.

For those who didn’t like the book, thought it was too sentimental. That the Black characters are held to a different standard, that they are completely innocent, or they are treated as children, which bothered them. Many had read “Go Set a Watchman” which portrays Atticus quite differently than in “To Kill A Mockingbird”, and wondered why Lee never wanted the manuscript published, whether she was trying to hide the truth. This where the debate came in.

Some argued that Harper Lee was writing for the time, and trying to show through Atticus, that despite his true feelings, the idea is to treat others the way they want to be treated. Others brought up the book “Caste” which they said would provide a whole new perspective on the topic.

Others argued that the book was inclusive, and beyond race, it showed that you could be different. Scout was different from the other girls she grew up with; Boo Radley, some thought, probably had some mental disability but he wasn’t treated any differently by the adults. Can I just say that I loved the part when Scout finally meets Radley? Her reaction is so unexpected.

Despite the debate, everyone thought that the book was good for what it was and everyone left still friends.


Have you read “To Kill A Mockingbird”? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

Review: ‘To the Lighthouse’ by Virginia Woolf

Where do I begin when it comes to this book? I am writing this right after having finished it. Maybe it’s not a good idea. I feel like I am adrift like the boat when the wind goes out of its sails and it just rocks with the waves. I am not sure what to think about this book. At some levels, I can see the hints of brilliance that people rave about when they discuss Woolf, and at the same time, I feel like I haven’t grasped it just yet, it’s just beyond my reach.

I think part of the problem is the style of writing, which is a mix of stream of consciousness, and the other is that it doesn’t have a linear plot. When we open this book we are met by Mrs. Ramsey with her husband and family of eight children at their vacation home with some friends. The first part of the book is about the day or two they are there and we go from character to character and get a glimpse into their minds, what they are thinking about themselves, about the other people around them and the events occurring. In this way, we get to know who everyone is. All the while, the underlying question is whether going to the lighthouse will be feasible due to the weather.

The second part is about time passing over the years. The house almost becomes a metaphor for the family, reflective of how time has changed the family dynamic as people die, marry, give birth and so on.

Then in the third and final part of the book, the family returns to the house some years later, quite altered, and they make plans to do what they didn’t get a chance to do so many year before.

I know that the lighthouse is supposed to be symbolic of something but I haven’t quite figured it out. Maybe I am completely overthinking this whole book and it really is as simple as it seems.

I think this is a book that you have to read several times to get the full meaning behind it. With each reread, you will uncover another little secret that was held from you before.

As for Woolf’s writing, once I got used to her style, I rather enjoyed reading it. There is no doubt that she has a way with words. You still can picture what is going on around you but you can’t quite put your finger on the underlying current, almost like Lily Briscoe trying to paint the picture of the family but can’t quite get the picture to become clear.

I gave this book three stars, aka a neutral rating, because right now I don’t know what to rate it. This can change as things become more clear to me.


Have you read “To the Lighthouse”? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

Review: ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert

It’s not surprising that “Madame Bovary” caused an outrage when it first came out. Nor is it shocking that this book made the rounds and became a classic. Not only was it relevant then, but it remains relevant now.

If you are looking for a happy ending, this is not the book for you. Slowly, we watch Madame Bovary, a young Catholic girl who was raised in a convent, get married to the first man who ever pays her any attention. Call it naivete, youth, whatever, she quickly realizes that she has made a mistake. But being a good Christian wife, she attempts to live with that mistake by being the ultimate good housewife and do her “duty”. However, she becomes bored with her situation, and seeks to fulfill her more romanticized yearnings. She turns to adultery.

You would think that is where her debauchery ends, but no. Her character further declines from lying and deceitful to greedy and vain. She longs for the finer things in life and goes so far as to steal from her husband to get it, making flamboyant purchases, racking up IOUs and paying for her adulterous escapades. Or as we like to say in modern times, keeping up with the Joneses.

It is inevitable that this will all culminate to her ruin. How can it not?

Readers of the 1800s must have been shocked, damn near outraged, that Gustave Flaubert had the audacity to write about the insights of women. How dare he write about a woman who doesn’t love her husband. How dare he assume that bored housewives will inevitably cheat on their husbands. The outrage! The fact that the French government unsuccessfully tried Flaubert for obscenity is quite laughable.

Methinks thou dost protest too much.

Aren’t all stories somewhat based on truth? They were probably mad that someone actually had the chops to actually publicize what everyone already knew. They can no longer put on airs. Flaubert alludes to this as some of the villagers end up blackmailing Bovary to keep her secret. At least Flaubert wrote a fictional story about it, but it must struck a little too close to home for some.

I am pretty sure that this book made the rounds among the populace very quickly and for good reason. Moving away from the plot, Flaubert is known for his writing style, one that he perfected over a grueling number of years and pushed him to be known for ushering in the age of realism in literature.

Although this book was written in 1856, it is notably different from works of the same era. For one thing it was very easy to read as it lacked the dense language that often bog down similar books of the time. Flaubert focuses on telling the story in the most simplest of terms and in a way that everyone can understand. He doesn’t hold punches. And while he has the decorum not to go into intimate detail about Madame’s affairs, he doesn’t allow the reader to interpret it any other way. His descriptive writing doesn’t leave anything to the imagination and you can follow Bovary as if you were her accomplice.

If you didn’t know when this book was written, you would have thought it was written today. Which is why this book stands the test of time. Unfit marriages continue to happen today, and more often than not, the couple realizes they made a mistake and go on their separate ways. Unfortunately some of them don’t end before someone does something hurtful to the other. It is just sad that Bovary’s ending was a bit more tragic.

‘Midnight Sun’ by Stephanie Meyer was unnecessary

When it comes to the Twilight saga, I have always been on Team Edward. So when I heard that Stephanie Meyer wrote a book based on the perspective of Edward, I knew I had to read it. However, when I finally got around to it, I was highly disappointed. The following is probably going to be a rant, probably with spoilers, but I just can’t help it. You have been warned.

There were so many different ways that Stephanie Meyer could have approached Edward’s story and she did it in the laziest way possible – in my opinion. Why, after reading the series, would I want a regurgitation of the same story? Why? I already knew what happened from reading the first book, and if anything, why didn’t she include his perspective when she originally wrote the book – aka multiple perspectives.

She had so many opportunities to tell a different story. One being a prequel – Edward’s life starting when he first became a vampire and going through the years. I mean isn’t he a few hundred years old? He has so many stories to tell. She could have ended the book at the point where he finally meets Bella.

OR

Turning his story into its own trilogy. Again, I am sure he has so many stories to tell from when he first became a vampire. It would have been interesting to know some of the characters he came across over the years, his interactions with the Voltari, his relationships with the Cullens. So many stories.

OR

Continue where Breaking Dawn left off. They are married. A few years have gone by and Edward is reflecting on his life from when he first met Bella to where they are now. Maybe another drama unfolds. Who knows.

While it was interesting to see what Edward thought of things, going through familiar scenes, I couldn’t help but wonder if the dialogue was the same in the first book. It was distracting as it slowed down my reading. Also I couldn’t help but wonder if the events had changed slightly, which further irked me.

I don’t think “Midnight Sun” provided anything drastically different from what we already knew except some snippets into Edward’s thoughts and maybe some revisionist history. Maybe I am being a bit too critical but it just irked me that I read the same story and I don’t think it was necessary.

I told you this was going to be rant, but this left a bad taste in my mouth and I just needed to get rid of it.

Review: ‘Project Hail Mary’ by Andy Weir

Imagine waking up, hooked up to a bunch of tubes, not knowing where you are, how you got there or why. That is how you feel when you first crack open Andy Weir’s latest book, “Project Hail Mary,” because that is how we find the main character, Ryland.

Ryland wakes up in what seems to be a medical unit, being cared for by a robotic machine. However, after a few days of slowly coming out of the lethargic fog that he woke up in, Ryland takes a precursory glance around to deduce that he is on a space craft on a mission. What that mission is has yet to be known, but he knows that it must have been super important. As he struggles to regain his full memory, Ryland tries to move forward with the mission.

This was my first Andy Weir book and I was immersed from the first page. I have never had any aspirations to go to space so the fact that we are joining Ryland on this journey was a nail biter for me. Not only does Ryland not know what he is supposed to do, he is alone, so it’s like learning a new job on the fly. I couldn’t help but hold my breath every time that he touched an unknown button or did something that was clearly not a good idea. Luckily, although Ryland’s memory is hazy, he realizes quickly that many of the things on the ship come easy to him, helping him conclude that he has some type of background.

This book can get a little technical with the scientific terms and the numeric calculations, but it didn’t hinder my understanding of what was going on or what Ryland was trying to do. I was more than happy to let him drive the ship so long as we didn’t crash or he didn’t die. But then I got to thinking – could this actually be possible? Could we build a ship that was able to travel so many light years away and survive?

Are we alone in this universe? It is the age-old question that there is still no clear answer for. Yet, Weir would have us believe that not only is the answer a resounding no, but we can communicate with them and live with them despite our differences.

I loved the relationship between Ryland and Rocky and how the two work on each other’s strengths to get the job done.

I liked the way that Weir used flashbacks to flesh out the story as well as Ryland’s character. Sometimes in books, the flash backs are random but not here. Ryland will look at a piece of paper and what may seem like numeric garble at first, suddenly triggers a memory of him working in a lab on Earth and looking at similar numbers.

I am not one to read science fiction, which is probably why it has taken me so long to pick up one of Weir’s books, but this book was a fast read and thoroughly enjoyable. Now I can’t wait to pick up the “Martian”, which I have heard nothing but good things about.


Have you read “Project Hail Mary”? What did you think? What other Weir books would you recommend? Let’s discuss!

‘The Viscount Who Loved Me’ by Julia Quinn

The second book in the Bridgerton series was just as delightful as “The Duke and I”. Since Daphne is off and married, it is now Anthony’s turn.

Anthony is the oldest of the Bridgerton clan taking care of the estate that his father left behind. It occurs to Anthony that he must get married if he is going to provide an heir. However, he doesn’t want to marry for love for his own personal reasons. A simple wife with whom he can respect but isn’t too dependent upon him will do just fine. He has his sights on Edwina Sheffeld, a beautiful woman who has many admirable suitors. But then Anthony meets Edwina’s sister Kate, who is determined not to let her sister marry the biggest rake there ever was.

I loved the love-hate dynamic between Anthony and Kate. It is every entertaining and you can’t help but keep turning the pages only to find out what happens between the two of them. I found the events that unfold between the two highly comical, especially the scene where the two are chasing after Kate’s Corgi through the town and end up in the lake. I could picture the whole scene in my head and couldn’t help but chuckle out loud.

I also liked how Quinn develops Anthony’s character. His father dies at an age when Anthony can use his wisdom the most and it effects him in a way that it doesn’t the others in his family. His father’s death further goes to shape how he lives his life and who he plans to marry. That is, until Kate shows up and throws a wrench into his plans.

If you love the banter between the Bridgerton clan in the first book, you will not be disappointed as it appears in this book as well. In the “The Duke and I” the banter between the siblings comes during more serious moments, whereas in this book, we catch the family just having pure fun. Though I am not sure if the Bridgerton’s annual Pall Mall game would be considered fun since its a highly competitive game. However, as the reader just observing, one can’t help but laugh at it all. If anything this made me love the family all the more.

And of course, we can’t forget Lady Whistledown, which I think is the secret star of the books. I realized after posting my review for the “Duke and I” that I had completely left her out of the review and I can’t believe it. She is what makes the books even more enjoyable. Her gossip column about the goings on of the members of the Ton sets up each of the chapters and you can’t help but wait with baited breath, like each of the characters, as they see what Lady Whistledown has to say about a particular event. However, we don’t know who Lady Whistledown is yet, though if you watched the Netflix show, it has probably been spoiled (I can’t believe they did that!) Though I can’t help but wonder if she/he is the same person in the book as the person they made Whistledown to be in the show.

Anyway, if you are wondering whether you should continue on with the series, I would have to say yes. You don’t necessarily have to read “The Duke and I” to read “The Viscount Who Loved Me” to understand Anthony’s story. However, there are mentions of a few things that happened in the first book. Though you can always go back later.


Have you read “The Viscount Who Loved Me”? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

‘The Duke and I’ by Julia Quinn

So I wasn’t going to get on the “Bridgerton” train but thanks to boredom, I ended up watching the Netflix show about a month or so ago. And of course, I loved it. I didn’t even know it was a book series until I began seeing all the blog posts about the first book and the comparisons to the show. Well, because the book is (almost) always better than the movie/show, I couldn’t help reading the first book.

I was rather surprised by how closely aligned to the book the show is in regards to Daphne and Simon’s storyline. I really liked how Quinn set up these two characters. Simon is a duke who swears never to marry to spite his father who hated him and Daphne, debutante who is looking is on the marriage market, searching for her husband. These two characters couldn’t be more different if they tried. They end up using these difference for a common purpose. Of course things don’t necessarily work out the way they planned but alas, does it ever?

I have come to rather like the Bridgerton family very much and the banter between the siblings. They are a close family and I enjoyed their family dynamic. However, I noticed upon reading the book, that Quinn doesn’t get too much into the background of the other characters in the first book, whereas the Netflix show does. I think the show is going to follow the books so that each seasons will follow a different Bridgerton, but with some storyline around these characters already outlined in the first season, it will be interesting to see how the show begins to veer away from the books, as I am sure that it is bound to happen.

What the book provides that the show doesn’t is a little more insight into Simon’s character and what is going through his mind about his decisions. While the show did a good job of showing us why Simon’s character is the way he is, there is something to be said about reading a characters thoughts in the moment, especially when it came to Daphne’s character.

Overall I enjoyed the book and have since bought several of the others in the series. As you know, I am not one to follow through with a series but alas, I need to find out what happens to each of the Bridgerton clan.


Have you read “Bridgerton: The Duke and I”? Have you seen the show? Which did you like better? Let’s discuss!

‘The Survivors’ by Jane Harper

I struggled what to rate this book and I am between 3 to 4 stars. I thought it was a good story but I just wasn’t dazzled by it. This is my second Jane Harper book, having read “The Dry” a year and a half ago, and to be honest I can barely remember it.

In “The Survivors”, the main character Kieran Elliott returns home with his girlfriend Mia and their baby daughter, for a visit with his mother. Elliott hasn’t been home since a mistake over 10 years before changed his life forever. And upon his return, old memories begin to resurface – the night of the storm, his brother dying and a girl gone missing. Then 24 hours after arriving back home, Kieran is thrown right back to the past when a young girl is found dead on the beach and questions begin to surface. Then as Elliott and the rest of the town wrestle with this latest development, they end up back on a familiar path that leaves more questions than answers. However, Elliott is determined to find some of those answers this time and maybe in the process put old ghosts to rest.

If there is one good thing Harper is good at doing, it;s creating a complex plot that grabs the readers attention and keeps them wanting more. We know right away, when Kieran returns to his hometown, it’s the last place he wants to be and instantly you want to know why. Then he is accused of being a murderer and now you really want to know what happened. I mean it’s either just a misunderstanding or he really is a murder. So you keep turning the pages wanting to know more. At the same time you want to know what happened to the girl on the beach and how it all ties in, and gradually Harper provides those tidbits.

With the mounting tension, I expected a great unveiling. The point when the past ties with the present so that we not only find out the murderer of the current dead body but also what happened years before. And that’s where this book fell short for me. While we do eventually find out, I was left disappointed. All I could think was “That’s it? That’s what happened?” It almost felt like upon arriving at the point where she had to give the big reveal, Harper didn’t know what to do and picked a random character and a random act to tie it all together. I don’t know, it kind of didn’t fit for me.

Maybe it was because I really liked the characters. Harper did a good job creating this tight knit ocean side community where everyone has their secrets. Then you have this small group that includes Kieran and his group of friends that he hung around with in high school, and even that group has their own secrets. I just thought that there was going to be something bigger – either a huge betrayal or a dark side of someone he thought he knew.

Overall I thought it was an easy, entertaining read, but I thought this was going to be more of a thriller novel than it really was.


Have you read “The Survivors”? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

‘Concrete Rose’ by Angie Thomas

This review is long over due but I would be remiss not to say anything about it. I absolutely loved this book. Though it is the prequel to “The Hate U Give”, it stands on its own as its own.

We are back in Garden Heights but this time Thomas focuses on Maverick Carter who is 17-years-old and is at a crossroads in his life as he made to decide how he is going to make a living. Is it going to be following in his father’s footsteps and dabbling in the gang life where you can get “rich” quick, or is he going to get a “real” job, where the pay sucks but its an honest living. The decision becomes all the more difficult when he suddenly learns that he is a father and now has someone depending on him – his son Seven. Maverick’s decision becomes all the more difficult as he tries to do the right thing by his son but struggles to give him everything he needs.

Once again Thomas puts a difficult issue right on the table – gangs – and forces the reader to understand that sometimes, what you see on the news or hear in the public domain is all as it seems. That though society thinks people who are a part of the gang life choose this life, sometimes they feel like they have no other choice. It’s easy to form an opinion when you don’t actually live the life, and just like she did in “The Hate U Give”, she puts the reader right in front of it. And you begin to understand that sometimes it comes down to pure survival.

Maverick wants to leave the gang life. He saw what it did to his own family as his father is currently behind bars and his own mother struggles to pay the bills. What was a difficult life before is now even more difficult with the presence of a baby and all the costs associated with raising a child. Maverick is only 17, struggling to juggle school, work and raising his son. With his father as an example, Maverick knows that the gang life is not what he wants and vows to break the cycle so his son doesn’t follow. He gets a job that pays with a real paycheck, but as he barely makes ends meet, he wonders if doing a few odd jobs is so bad, at least until he gets enough money under his belt so they are more stable.

What also makes this book great is how Thomas tackles the subject of being a teenage parent from the male perspective. There are so many books about the teenage mom – the book that kept coming to mind while reading this book was “With the Fire on High” – but by focusing it on the teenage dad, Thomas also tackles themes of loyalty and duty. Maverick has a duty to take care of Seven and raise him right but often times that duty comes in conflict with the loyalty he feels toward the Kings. When one of their own is gunned down, Maverick’s loyalty is questioned as he struggles whether to retaliate.

Thomas said in an interview that she wrote this book because she had so many fans who wanted to know about Maverick’s life. While she could have presented his story in the present day of “The Hate U Give”, I am glad that she presented the story in the past because Maverick’s story deserved to be told on its own.

For those who have read “The Hate U Give”, you won’t be disappointed with the prequel.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Book Club Discussion: ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ by Sherman Alexie

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book. I thought I had read it before and I couldn’t remember it. Usually, a book I like leaves some type of impression on me, but even rereading it for book club, I didn’t remember anything. However, I actually liked it this time around.

It’s a coming-of-age story about a teenage Native American boy who tries to break away from the life he lives on the Spokane Indian reservation. Junior aka Arnold has dreams of one day going off to do bigger and better things, but he knows that if he doesn’t leave the reservation, he is destined to follow in the footsteps of many before him. So he goes to Reardon High School, a school 45 minutes away, where he is the only Native American at the school. However, Junior quickly learns to navigate the dual life he now lives and is the better for it.

For me, I liked how the author brings to light the challenges Native Americans face and how they have been affected by alcohol, casinos and just living on a reservation in general. The fact that it is semi-autobiographical makes it all the more meaningful.

I also liked watching Junior grow through this book, especially while he is at Reardon. The author did a good job pointing out that although Junior is Native American, he is just like any other teenage boys who thinks about girls, sports, friends and just navigating his tumultuous teenage years.

I was one of the few in book club who did like the book. However, there was a pretty even split in terms of this book. Those who liked it thought it was an important work about Native American life and one of the few that were around. Those who didn’t like it, thought that they would have probably enjoyed it better if they were younger. Others didn’t like Junior and his attitude and couldn’t connect with the characters at all.

And then during the book club discussion, one of the organizers read up on the author and found out that he had been accused of sexual harassment in 2018. This created a whole new debate as to whether we could separate the works from the author. Some argued that since this was semi-autobiographical you couldn’t and some who liked the book before regretted doing so now that they knew about the authors’ actions. Others continue to defend the book, arguing it was still just as important because it was one of the few about Native American life that needed to be told.

Usually we would go on to dissect the book, but after this discovery, the discussion began to swing to other works that we were reading and recommendations for future reads. I was kind of disappointed because I thought there was so much to discuss in this book.