Curated Life: A Year Of Book Club

Since January 2021, I’ve been part of a wonderful group of book-loving friends who come together to chat about books and everything else in between. It has been such a joy in my life (and I hope it has brought joy to theirs, too)!

Here’s what we read this year:

The cover image of French Exit. A sketchy watercolour style drawing of a lady in a blue dress and her son seating in a chair next to hear while wearing a mustard coloured jacket. Their white cat sits in front of them.

The French Exit by Patrick deWitt

My Thoughts on This Book: I loved the dark humour of this book, I loved the indirect storytelling style, and the plot kept me utterly engaged right from page one.

I had read DeWitt’s smash hit The Sisters Brothers previously, and I recall DeWitt’s habit of dropping incredibly interesting characters and background information, and I love that he continues that style here.

At our discussion meeting, our group had a lengthy discussion of what breed of cat he was. That kind of makes it sound like we weren’t really engaged with the book, but I think this shows how exactly DeWitt is able engage his readers with these incredibly minute details. There was so much to talk about in this book, and it really was an excellent read start to finish!

As for the movie adaptation… I would say we had less than favourable opinions.

Would I Recommend This Book? Absolutely, but with the caveat that there are incredibly heavy themes in this book, and that isn’t for everyone.

My Rating (Out of 5): 4.5

The cover of year of wonders. A burgundy pattered cover with white and gold writing. Half the cover is a close up of an oil style painting of a woman’s face.

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

My Thoughts on This Book: I am so taken in by this book – the fiction pairs so well with the historical truth that the story is built upon. The characters felt very honest given the obscene times they were living in, and the fear and turmoil seemed real. The issues the book touched on were real and raw, and I think it created an incredible mosaic of complexities that made for a really engaging read.

I will say that the ending did not work for me as a reader. I won’t say more for risk of spoilers!

Would I Recommend This Book? I think yes, but as we are in pandemic times I would give a heads up first.

My Rating (Out of 5): 4

The cover image: a series of repeating images of a young girl with older style clothing including a ruffled collar and a bonnet. She is holding an apple.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

My Thoughts on This Book: I am the biggest ‘fraidy cat in the world!

I really enjoyed this toe-dipping into a gothic-style horror, I found the plot to move along at a really good pace. I thought the details and moving between timelines really grabbed my attention. Some of the details were a little grotesque, but I think it added to the horror of the book overall.

Would I Recommend This Book? My more experienced friends found this actually not that scary, and some of them saw the twists and turns coming a mile away. So I guess if you’re looking for a intro to scary books that are for people who aren’t very well-versed in the genre (like me), I would recommend it!

My Rating (Out of 5): 3

The cover art features a rounded arch of warm yellow toned bricks. Through it there is a deep blue horizon and a boat with sails puffing out.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

My Thoughts on This Book: Gosh, so many thoughts.

I struggle with this one because it has this beautiful, lyrical prose that just… it made me feel things, man. A beautiful story that lifts your heart, and reminds you that love can move mountains, literally and figuratively.

But there’s something about cramming in reading this book on lunch breaks because you have to rush around after work to do errands and paying off your credit card bills and trying to remember to return that call that the magic of this book seems too trite. I felt like I wanted the book to hurry it along because I just didn’t have time.

So maybe the book isn’t trite, maybe I’m just not open to the magic within it?

And isn’t that just a little bit sad?

Would I Recommend This Book? If your heart is crying out for a little bit of magic, and a lot (maybe too much?) of beautiful prose, yes!

If your pretentious-ness meter is reading a bit high, probably not.

My Rating (Out of 5): Hoo boy! I think it is about a 2 these days, but it would have been a 5+ if I read it when I was 21.

The image features a washed out image of mostly sky with two people at the bottom third. They are dressed in blazers and trousers and are facing away from the camera. The title and author name takes up the top two thirds of the cover.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

My Thoughts on This Book: This is the best book I read in 2021, hands down.

Heartbreaking, complex, expertly paced – I honestly couldn’t put it down. It’s equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful, damning and redeeming. The prose was tight without being clipped, and the characters were real, flawed, truly motivated, and in some way, wholly loveable.

Would I Recommend This Book? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

My Rating (Out of 5): 6! (It’s my blog I do what I want)

The cover features an illustration of a long line of adults facing away from the viewer. Partway, a young boy (George Takei) is holding his parent’s hand and is turning towards the viewer. The adults are facing a barbed wire fence and a WWII era American military member dressed in full fatigues and holding a gun.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takai

My Thoughts on This Book: I was surprised to find there wasn’t a super lot to talk about with this one – the story is very straightforward, and there isn’t honestly a lot of nuance to the storytelling.

Having read this one before, coming back to it didn’t offer a lot to me as a reader. However, for a first read, it is a compelling but almost sweet story of a family finding hope and courage in the face of hatred and racism. Takei’s storytelling is honest and unflinching, and is filled with love and moments of clear profundity.

Would I Recommend This Book? Probably yes – it’s a really decent intro to graphic novels and from the category of celebrity memoir, it’s an excellent option. History buffs or politic wonks probably won’t get as much out of it, as it’s a bit too general in scope. If you want to read a gossip filled or salacious celebrity memoir, this surely isn’t it.

My Rating (Out of 5): 3

The profile of a woman’s face is at top of the book, looking down. It has been edited to look somewhat dreamy. At the bottom, an image of waves has been edited on.

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

My Thoughts on This Book: I loved about 90-95% of this book, but as with Year of Wonders above, it fumbled the ending a bit.

I will say the oppressive setting of this book and the relationship building between characters was exceptional. The community was so tightly wound from the first pages, the hardtack survival story takes on a really interesting direction that made a lot of sense. The choice to hand the narrative back and forth between two characters was absolutely wonderful and added a level of emotional complexity that I really enjoyed.

Would I Recommend This Book? Absolutely!

My Rating (Out of 5): 4.5

A blue background with stars glowing. A white building which reveals at the top every side is different, is approached by a white cat.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

A note that this book deals with suicide and mental health.

My Thoughts on This Book: Boy howdy, I won’t speak for the club but this one didn’t get the love from me that it gets over on TikTok.

I struggled with this book because even though the author has struggled with serious mental health issues, the approach towards serious mental health issues felt very flippant and “it’s a wonderful life”-esque.

I worry that by presenting mental health challenges as a feelings shift or a change in perspective, it can undercut the real and significant lifestyle changes (including therapy, medication, overall holistic health, building community) that people have to do to address their mental health challenges. It also negates to mention in any capacity that even with these changes, people have setbacks. I worry that this book can leave the reader with the idea that if you don’t want to be depressed, just don’t be depressed, man.

Would I Recommend This Book? I initially said to the group that I would recommend this to someone who was looking to develop skills in empathy, but I’m on the fence if this is the right book for that. I’m honestly not sure.

My Rating (Out of 5): 1 – this book isn’t for me, but I see why people like it. It’s an engaging concept and a fast read. I just didn’t personally love it.

My Thoughts on Book Club: I was so honoured to have had this group of incredible women spend their free time exchanging ideas, hearing to what the others were saying, building and sharing on ideas and concepts, and to positivity and compassionately dive into these texts.

For me, book club is as much about what we’re reading as it is about being with this wonderful group of people. It was such an awesome experience and genuinely warms my heart every time I get together with this amazing group.

Thank you book club gang, you make my heart happy!

A whole year of book club in one photo!

Psst – want to peep what we have up next?

Our first book of 2022 is Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Then after that, we have The End Of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird.

One thought on “Curated Life: A Year Of Book Club

  1. This was a perfect summation of a wonderful year of reading, reviews, new friendships, and excellent hang outs! I agree with your ratings almost to the decimal point! These would be very similar to my reviews, only worded much more eloquently.
    Can’t wait to see what 2022 has us reading. I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience in a book club!

    Liked by 1 person

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