All posts tagged: Book Clubs

The Quiet American by Graham Greene

Book Club Book Review – The Quiet American by Graham Greene

The Quiet American is a quintessential book of the American involvement in the Vietnam War. It is seen by some as Greene’s anti-American sentiments. Americans should have known better than to get mixed with the affairs of Vietnam, and now look at what happened. That’s what it seems to be telling me, at least on the surface. But if you chip away that surface, there’s a tale of moral complexity that takes the form of a murder mystery. Alden Pyle, the eponymous American, is a well-meaning CIA agent who’s out there to put into practice the theory of his favorite political author. He keeps on preaching about York’s Third Force that will solve the problem that is Vietnam. He blindly follows this York fellow and doesn’t know that his ideologies are going to be murderous. These are going to make not only his pants and boots splattered with blood but his hands as well. He will pay for his rallying of the Third Force with his life. Which shouldn’t come as a spoiler because how else would …

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

Book Club Book Review – The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon is one of those books that I approached with a mild hesitation because the last time I read a proper crime fiction, I nailed it as the worst book of that year. That’s two years ago, and I’m not obviously over it. Private Detective Sam Spade is hired by a beautiful woman to track down her sister. That’s the first chapter, and the second chapter kicks in with a murder. You’d think that a murderous death and a beautiful woman’s plea for help are just coincidences, but of course they are not. Before anyone can make any connection, a bunch of suspects are thrown around because it isn’t palatable if there aren’t red herrings served on your plate. But what are these people killing each other for? Yup, point your finger at the Maltese falcon, the prized object in this novel, which I’m not going to talk about. But seeing that some editions of this novel have an image of a perching black falcon in the cover art, it’s safe to say that this statue is …

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Book Club Book Review – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a novel about family and friendship between two teenage boys who come from different walks of life. Ari is an angsty boy from a family composed of a loving mother, a quiet father, and an absent brother. Dante is a pretty smart aleck raised by a pair of well-educated parents who touch and hug and kiss a lot. The two boys meet at the local swimming pool and the rest, so to speak, is history. What could I find interesting in a coming-of-age young adult novel? Surely, we’ll see the characters forge their identities in their critical teenage years and the role of the family during this transformation. I’m not terribly excited about these two things. Sure, they have to be addressed considering that this is a young adult novel. But here’s what I looked forward to: there are gay characters, which is not uncommon today but which can still pique the interest of some people. I wanted to see how Mexican and American gay kids from the …

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Book Club Book Review – High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

High Fidelity is about Rob Fleming’s transition into adulthood. From what? Instead of answering that in one phrase, let me describe who Rob Fleming is. He’s the novel’s narrator, a thirty-ish funny and whiny guy who owns a record store that specializes in hard to find vinyl records. His favorite hobby is making mixtapes for people. He is obsessed not only with music and mixtapes but also with lists, Top Five lists of something he comes up with, to be exact. Obviously, he’s big on music, having shelves and shelves of records that he sorts and re-sorts in an order dictated by his mood, as if his life depended on it. Is it so wrong, wanting to be at home with your record collection? It’s not like collecting records is like collecting stamps, or beermats, or antique thimbles. There’s a whole world in here, a nicer, dirtier, more violent, more peaceful, more colourful, sleazier, more dangerous, more loving world than the world I live in; there is history, and geography, and poetry, and countless other things …

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Book Club Book Review – The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The God of Small Things is a novel that defies the power of blurbs and summaries. In fact, my copy only has praises from high brow publications and the critic/writer John Updike, no less. It’s “a novel of real ambition” that “invent[s] its own language.” True enough, its ambition left me feeling dizzy after finishing the last page and made me write the following lines after the last paragraph: how can I be conflicted about an amazing novel? I love it, and yet I have so many complaints. It’s all the small things. Whatever I exactly meant by that escapes me now, but I distinctly remember my smugness accompanied by a bitter aftertaste that I refused to swallow. I wanted to spit it out because yes, I get that this is an important novel, but my mouth forces the bitterness in because I somehow feel that its importance is derived from its self-importance. The fraternal twins Estha and Rahel return to their childhood home a couple of decades after being separated from each other when they were …

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

Book Club Book Review – Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

Love Walked In is my first stinker of this reading year. People who know me can easily assume that I didn’t like this novel because of its genre. I disagree. There must be romance novel out there for me and I just haven’t read it yet, obviously. I’ve found young adult and science fiction novels that I’d gladly recommend to anyone who wants my opinion. I’m thinking that Possession by A. S. Byatt could possibly be my romance book, but really, the romance that it defines for itself is not the romance that we’re talking about. So the search for my romance goes on. Maybe I’d like my romance to be a little gritty. This one is very neat. I don’t remember a single loose thread left hanging. Cornelia, the protagonist, goes on a date with a Martin and later finds out that he already has a daughter. Cornelia and Clare, the daughter, form a bond, and you’d imagine that maybe the three of them can all live happily ever after, right? Of course not. That would be too predictable, yes? Instead, …

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Book Club Book Review – Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Navigating Early is one of those books that I might not have bothered to read had it not been our book club’s first selection for this year. It’s a middle-grade novel about Jackie, a 13-year-old Kansas boy who moves to a boarding school in Maine, and Early, an eccentric classmate who lives at the school basement. One might have thought that the title is a descriptive action, such as Waking Up Early or Sleeping Early, but no, “Navigating” is a transitive verb and the direct object is the person Early. I tend to treat a novel differently when I know that the intended audience for it is younger than me. I am either more forgiving or more flexible. So it shouldn’t be surprising that I found this rather fun. If I had a nephew or a niece, I would like him or her to read this novel about a friendship that is strengthened by the boys’ adventure. At first, the friendship didn’t seem to have a chance because Jackie is that kind of boy who can …