Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak


It was have been awfully hard to write anything after giving the world “The Book Thief”. This novel has its moments and is quite beautiful, but it’s overdone too. I liked the second part much more than the first, which is plodding because it got so caught up in its style. Overall, this novel is lovely – if you can stick it out. “Bridge of Clay” is about five brothers living together in a Sydney suburb, like feral animals. Their mom is dead and their father has left. Clay is the brother who takes centre stage.

Gwenamon: Trying, but worthwhile overall

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Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid


This novel is immensely readable and that’s probably why it’s on every summer reading list. Reid’s book is about beautiful Daisy Jones who injects her voice and chemistry into an existing band, The Six, during the 1970’s.  The novel is written like a band interview. Since I didn’t know anything about it before reading a copy lended by a friend, a quarter of the way through, I  actually Googled to see if any of it was real. But what didn’t ring true to me was how neatly it all tied up and how Billy behaves, like no rockstar ever.

Gwenamon says: A good summer read

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Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami


This is the surreal tale of a portrait painter who, after his wife leaves him, goes to live in his friend’s father’s country home because the father has been put in full-time care for his dementia. The father happens to be the famous artist, Tomohiko Amada.  In the home’s attic, the (unnamed) narrator finds and unwraps an unknown painting. And so begins characteristic Murakami oddness, involving a mysterious wealthy neighbour, an art student, and a shrine’s circular pit. This book is compared to a mash up of “The Great Gatsby”, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, and “The Magic Mountain”. I’ve read only the first two and definitely see their influences. Although I usually love Murakami, I feel this novel needs a good edit: there’s too much repetition, and just too much downtime overall. I feel Murakami’s downtime—the mundane making of meals, doing laundry, etc.—is usually more nuanced and paced.

Gwenamon says: Great in parts, but needs an edit

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Washington Black by Esi Edugyan


The novel is named after its main character and begins when Washington is eleven years old. He’s a slave at a Barbados sugar plantation, overseen by a contemptible master. The master’s brother, Titch, visits and chooses Wash as his manservant. Washington’s new role introduces him to science, nature, and his artistic talent. But it also throws him into a new life that he’s unprepared for. He must unravel and make sense of loyalty, friendship, freedom, and ownership.

Gwenamon says: Wonderful

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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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