Tag Archives: The Secret of Raven Point

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: BOOK CLUB PICKS

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What factors lead to successful Book Club Reads? Book clubs are made up of individual readers; so as we might expect, choices can be personal and passionate. Are there common denominators that make for successful book club choices? Discussion and deeper understandings are goals for most clubs. Does the book offer the possibility of varied viewpoints? Are there points to discuss? Seems to me there are always aspects of character, plot, writing, ideas, you name it, to be discussed. When experienced readers get together it’s likely varied viewpoints will attend the meeting.

Broad appeal and availability are usually considered important. These days with electronic readers becoming more and more popular, access to particular books is less of an issue. Members usually consider a book more successful for their group if the majority of the members find it interesting and enjoyable. If too many hate it, not a good choice.

Is the book well-written? Is there interesting structure? What of clearly and beautifully written sentences? What do you think adds up to a successful book club choice?

Whether you personally are looking for a good read, or your book club is making decisions, I offer the recent choices of two book clubs for your consideration.

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Any Bitter Thing. Monica Wood.
Here are characters who struggle with heartbreak and loss. Different voices create a moving experience for the reader. A profile of Monica Wood was posted on the Writing page of this blog on July 10, 2014 under the title “Meet Monica Wood.”

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Annie’s Ghost. Steve Luxenberg. Non-fiction.
Chosen as a notable Michigan book for 2010. Memoir, mystery, history. A story of searching family secrets and family heartbreak at Eloise Hospital, a bygone psychiatric facility in Wayne, MI.

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Chaperone by Laura Moriarty.
This historical novel tells the story of a woman who accompanies the young Louise Brooks to NYC in the 1920’s and the changes that await them. Readers I’ve talked to are enthusiastic about this book and this author.

The Invention of Wings. Sue Monk Kidd. Unknown-3
This novel has been on the NYT Best Sellers List for a number of weeks. It is about the relationship between a wealthy girl who will become a prominent abolitionist and the slave who is a gift to her on her eleventh birthday. Those who have read this book liked it very much.

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Necessary Lies. Diane Chamberlain.
A young social worker defies conventional thinking in 1960’s North Carolina. Ms. Chamberlain is a popular author with many novels to her credit. To my surprise, this story and its characters have stayed with me.

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Orphan Train. Christina Baker Kline.
This novel can be placed on the shelf titled: Made Popular By Its Readers. It tells the story of the past and present of an orphan taken from the streets of New York and transported west to a new home in the 1920s.

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The Secret of Raven Point. Jennifer Vanderbees.
Book review available on this blog under the title, “Mystery, History, Romance” posted on Aug. 4, 2014

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The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. Gabrielle Zevin. Novel.
This story is set in a bookstore. I recently heard from a reader who loved this book. See “Five Things to Like about The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry” posted on this blog on June 4, 2014.

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Molokai. O. A. Bushnell.
This is a work of fiction based on the history of a leper colony in Hawaii during the late nineteenth century. Not a new book and an unexpected pick, perhaps. We shall see if book club readers like this one.

Do let us know if you would recommend one of these for your book club? Everyone likes to hear ideas on book picks.

MYSTERY, HISTORY, ROMANCE

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The Secret of Raven Point
Author: Jennifer Vanderbes
Publisher: Scribner (2014)
Genre: Historical Novel
Hardcover Edition: 304 pages
Source: Library copy

In 1943 a girl only seventeen years old uses her intellect to become a nurse in order to follow her beloved brother, who has been reported missing, into war. The war in Italy is both beautiful and horrifying, and the story set there is heartbreaking and unforgettable.

This is the first novel I’ve read, at least in recent years, that addresses the mental suffering of soldiers in World War II and the work of medical teams to treat them. Jennifer Vanderbes handles the subject with skill. Her writing reminds me of the novels by Pat Barker about those on the front lines during World War I and the mental trauma suffered by so many who fought in the trenches then. Both authors make the issue real and painful. In the author’s note, Jennifer Vanderbes tells readers that approximately fifty thousand American soldiers deserted during World War II, a statistic I found surprising. Her research is admirable. And further, she uses it to advantage to create characters and tell the story. This novel never reads like a history report.

Here is a writer who builds a house of history so real that the bones, the blood, the emotion, the horror and the love are brick and mortar. She transforms the past into a story of people the reader wants to stay with until the last words have been read several times. Her ideas are powerful and her sentences are some of the most beautiful ever written.

This thrilling and heartbreaking book is with certainty one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year. Ms. Vanderbes’ descriptions are powerful. She writes her characters and their situations with compassion and understanding.

The combination of mystery, history, and romance found on these pages is most compelling. Ms. Vanderbes has a new fan, and I would guess I am only one of many. Follow her on Facebook and read about her books at www.goodreads.com. Here is the link to her website www.jennifervanderbes.com.