Educated by Tara Westover


I couldn’t put this memoir down. Tara Westover is a marvel. She was raised in Idaho by survivalist Mormon parents. She never went to school because her father didn’t believe in public education. Instead, she worked in his junkyard or helped her mom, a self-educated herbalist and midwife. Tara’s parents also opposed hospitals, so massive injuries—even burns from an explosion—were treated with herbalism. I had to pause after reading about the family’s bizarre accidents to recount the aftermaths to my husband and son. Her parents also didn’t believe her when she finally told them about one of her older brother’s physical abuse. Another older brother, also a self-taught academic who left the family, taught Tara to read. Later on, she taught herself enough to gain admittance to Brigham Young University.

Gwenamon says: An emphatic yes

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris


It’s important to know that this is a true story before you start reading it, because many of the things that happen seem unbelievable or coincidental. Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is the tattooist of Auschwitz-Birkenau for two-and-a-half years. This is his incredible, harrowing story that also involves a woman whom he meets at the camp and vows to marry – Gita. I feel that Morris did a good job telling the story but she didn’t really create atmosphere, in my opinion. After finishing the book, I researched and found that she initially wrote Lale’s entrusted tale as a play, which immediately explained to me why the dialogue was more developed.

Gwenamon: An incredible tale, decently told

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The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro


In this book, Ishiguro takes on a new genre. Most, I think, would file this novel under Fantasy. A couple journey across post-Arthurian Britain to visit their son whom they haven’t seen in many years. They meet an interesting cast of characters along the way. I had considered myself an Ishiguro fan before this novel, but I didn’t like it. I found it to be plodding. That pace does serve a purpose – it emphasizes the interplay between time and memory, quite convincingly. And I came to appreciate this book more after a book-club meeting and some good discussion.

Gwenamon says: Meh

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The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham


Where to begin…. This novel almost bursts with characters and experimentation. Maugham inserts himself in the story, which I particularly enjoyed, especially with how that effect played out for the time period during which he wrote the book (early 1940’s). Maugham is the tackler of philosophical topics and in this book he explores Larry Darrell’s spiritual quest, his fiancee Isabel’s reaction and the repercussions, and her uncle’s (Elliot Templeton’s) life as a social climber. Once I adjusted to the style of writing and its somewhat slower pace (when compared with today’s novels), I was captivated.

Gwenamon says: Maugham is a master

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Less by Andrew Sean Greer


Follow Arthur Less, a failed novelist, as he goes on an around-the-world trip to half-baked literary events in order to avoid the wedding of his most recent boyfriend. As he bumbles his ways through all sorts of predicaments in various countries, he thinks of his loves and his career, but gains no self-awareness. This novel is a clever satire and a love story too. I still giggle about the blue suit’s fate at the Christian retreat.

Gwenamon says: Yes!

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Children of Blood and Bone: Legacy of Orïsha by Tomi Adeyemi


In this first novel of the soon-to-continue series, Zélie fights against the horrible king alongside her brother and a rebel princess to bring magic back to Orïsha. I really liked this novel’s concept, world, culture, and language. So the fact that the love story is trite and predictable really disappointed me.

Gwenamon: Great, except for the horribly predictable love story

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Circe by Madeline Miller


When I was looking for something unique to read, a book list (Esquire’s, I think) recommended this novel. I hadn’t read anything about the Greek gods since my university days. I enjoyed returning to the lore because this novel is more eloquent and stylized. Circe is the daughter of the sun god, Helios. But she isn’t powerful like him or beautiful like her mother. Her superpower ends up being that she’s a witch, which gets her sentenced by Zeus to a deserted island. There she explores her magic and learns about her true character.

Gwenamon says: Well done

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