Category: Bucket List Book Club

Bucket List Book Club: Before We Were Yours


Before We Were Yours

Our Bucket List Book Club pick for May is Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate! This is a fictionalized telling of the real life Georgia Tann and her Tennessee “adoption” agency. (Hint: she didn’t exactly have legal adoptions going on.)

Description from the publisher:

“Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge–until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents–but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals–in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country–Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.”

I am so, so excited for this one. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about both the story and the writing.

If you want to join in, we’ll be reading it throughout the month of May, with a discussion on June 3 at 2PM CST on my Instagram page!

You can also follow the hashtag #bucketlistbookclub on Instagram to see other people’s posts as we read Before We Were Yours.

I’ll post my review here when I’m finished, and you can also use the comments section on that post, and this one, to discuss it.

Happy reading!

Bucket List Book Club: My Brilliant Friend


My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels, Book One

Ok, Bucket List Book Clubbers! Book 3 is My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante! It is the first in a trilogy and has been sitting on my unread shelf for several years since I bought it at Costco. (Because I buy everything at Costco…) I also just found out it’s going to be a series on HBO, so this is great timing to read before that comes out.

Description from the publisher

“Beginning in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Ferrante’s four-volume story spans almost sixty years, as its protagonists, the fiery and unforgettable Lila, and the bookish narrator, Elena, become women, wives, mothers, and leaders, all the while maintaining a complex and at times conflictual friendship. Book one in the series follows Lila and Elena from their first fateful meeting as ten-year-olds through their school years and adolescence.

Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists.”

I’m all in for a saga, and I love book series, so I can’t wait to finish this one! I’ve been told that the narrator for the audiobook for My Brilliant Friend is great as well!

If you want to join in, we’ll be reading it throughout the month of April, with a discussion in early May. (If you’re interested, our discussion of My Brilliant Friend will be Sunday, May 6, at 2PM CST on my Instagram page!)

You can also follow the hashtag #bucketlistbookclub on Instagram to see other people’s posts as we read My Brilliant Friend.

I’ll post my review here when I’m finished, and you can also use the comments section on that post, and this one, to discuss it.

Happy reading!

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Review: Castle of Water


Castle of Water: A Novel

I usually start my reviews with a quote from the book. I couldn’t this time, for two reasons. One, I read the book so voraciously that I hardly took any notes because I didn’t want to stop reading. Two, I would really like to quote the entire book. It is that good.

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge was our March selection for the Bucket List Book Club, and I’m so glad it was. This has been sitting on my nightstand since last year when Madeleine at Top Shelf Text implored everyone to read it. I wish I had listened sooner. This is one of the best, funniest, and most heartbreaking novels I’ve ever read, and you’d better believe I will be first on the pre-order list for whatever his next book is.

Barry, a New Yorker who has just quite his job in finance, and Sophie, a French architect on her honeymoon, are both on the same tiny plane to visit the small island of Hiva-Oa in the Marquesas, for very different reasons. When the plane crashes and everyone, including Sophie’s new husband, except Sophie and Barry perishes, the two survivors must find a way to live together on a small deserted island. They have to not only survive the island, but each other. Stranded on an island with very little hope of rescue, Barry and Sophie must learn to trust each other in order to persevere and survive the island, and everything it throws at them.

Huckelbridge has an almost journalistic style of storytelling, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was reading fiction. He manages to put two characters into an almost unbelievable situation and make all of it very believable. I really knew Barry and Sophie, and understood why they made certain choices. (Even if I didn’t always agree with them.) Watching them get to know each other, and to see who they really are at the core, was an amazing experience. The level of detail included in the story was absolutely wonderful. I won’t give it all away, but one detail that Huckelbridge included throughout was Barry’s contacts, one of the few things to survive the crash. Here he is, on an island, with nothing, but he still has his routine of putting his contacts in in the morning and taking them out at night. It was so interesting to see what normal routines were included in the story, and how they would play out in this situation. The author is also just plain funny, and I laughed out loud several times throughout the novel. (Except for the last ten pages, which I won’t talk about, but you’ll understand once you read it.)

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I will say that romance is definitely not at the heart of this novel, and I really appreciated that. It would have been so easy to have them be romantically involved early on, but the author portrayed them accurately-they really aren’t huge fans of each other at the beginning, and they have to work around that. It made the book more interesting, more honest, and more heartfelt in the end. (In which my heart was ripped out.) This is no Gilligan’s Island with a bar, tikki huts, and romance around every palm tree. This is about real people, and how they would really act.

Dane Huckelbridge has said that his intention for this book was to write “literary fiction that’s actually enjoyable to read.” Castle of Water more than accomplishes this. This is definitely literary fiction, but it’s not highbrow, or fancy, or unrelatable to certain groups of people. It’s an extremely well-written book with characters you root for and care about, and I cannot recommend it enough to everyone who loves a good story.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Bucket List Book Club: Castle of Water


Castle of Water

Alright, friends! Book two for the Bucket List Book Club is here! For March I chose Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge from my unread shelf for our buddy read. I picked this one because it’s been sitting on my shelf since last year and it’s a quick read. Not to mention the stellar reviews I’ve been reading about it everywhere!

Two people, strangers to each other, survive a plane crash in the South Pacific. They must learn to survive together on a small island and, you know, actually get to know each other.

I am so, so excited to finally read this book! If you want to join in, we’ll be reading it throughout the month of March, with a discussion in early April. (If you’re interested, our discussion of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn will be this Sunday, March 4, at 2PM CST on my Instagram page!)

You can also follow the hashtag #bucketlistbookclub on Instagram to see other people’s posts as we read Castle of Water.

I’ll post my review here when I’m finished, and you can also use the comments section on that post, and this one, to discuss it.

Happy reading!

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Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

The secret lies in the reading and the writing. You are able to read. Every day you must read one page from some good book to your child. Every day this must be until the child learns to read. Then she must read every day, I know this is the secret.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith has been sitting on my bookshelf for over 20 years. Growing up, my best friend implored me to read the book for years, and she is the one who gave me the copy I’ve had since high school. This is why it was high on my list for The Unread Shelf Project, and my first choice for the Bucket List Book Club. My first thoughts on this book were, “I cannot believe I waited so long to read it!” A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is so wonderful. Yes, it’s a classic, and yes, it is long, which can be a deterrent for me. But this isn’t like any other classic I’ve read. It’s beautiful and timely and fun to read, and the second I finished it I flipped back to the first page and read some of it again. If you joined in with the Bucket List Book Club’s reading of this, or have already read it, please comment below or on my Instagram page with your thoughts about this book! (We will be having a group discussion over on Instagram on Sunday, March 4, at around 2PM CST.)

“You won’t die, Francie. You were born to lick this rotten life.”

Francie Nolan and her family (mom, dad, and little brother) live in the slums of Brooklyn. Williamsburg, to be exact. This book is divided into 5 books, each one focusing on a different time period in Francie’s and her parents’ lives. The book is largely about Francie’s formative years in Brooklyn and her goal of getting out of the slums, but the other characters are fully formed, and we get an entire picture of how her family came to be, how and why Francie is the way she is, and how people of all kinds survived poverty in the early 1900s in New York.

There is too much in the book for me to summarize the plot here, and I don’t want to give anything away. But as my friend implored me years ago, I implore you to read this book! It is loosely based on Betty Smith’s life, and how she gained an education without the means to do so. Smith’s descriptions in this book are flawless. They are not overly flowery or long, but I wasn’t just reading about Francie’s apartment, I was there, eating bread paste meals with her, buying penny pickles on days where there was no food, and surviving the seasons. The depiction of how Francie and her brother Neeley had to get food were particularly stunning: the lengths to which poor families (the book’s verbiage, not mine) had to go to to just get scraps of food is unreal. (And still relevant today, shockingly enough.)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is funny, emotional, sentimental, eye-opening, charming, and absolutely inspiring. Francie is a kindred spirit who loves books, libraries, chocolate, and learning. There are some passages that are a bit cringe-worthy, a sign of the times in which the book was written, some are shocking for the time, but on a larger scale, this book is still very relevant today. It truly will make you laugh, cry, think, and reconsider everything you know about how we live, how we survive, and how we can change our situations with determination and hard work. Bottom line: READ THIS BOOK!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

EXTRA!
Francie is a book nerd like the rest of us, and I love her for it. The moment she discovers that she can and wants to become a writer was a magical moment for me in the book. She is all of us who grew up embellishing the truth to make it sound better and discovering that that kind of lying is actually encouraged in writing. She reminds me of Anne Shirley quite a bit, and I think the two books would be wonderful companion reads.

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