Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Shutter IslandFor September, we read Dennis Lehane’s 2003 mystery Shutter Island. This book was made into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio in 2010. Steeper Kristin had submitted this book for our consideration quite some time ago. I must admit that we picked it from the teapot a few times previously. This time, when we chose this title and it looked like it was going to be discarded again, Kristin murmured with displeasure, “We’re never going to read that book.” Well, that was enough to make sure we chose it!

It ended up being a solid decision since almost 100 percent of our attendees (including two new members, yay!) completed the read. We all ended up finding it pretty creepy and twisty, which as you may or may not know, horrors! horrors! is our motto. Shutter Island definitely provides plenty of horrors. We found that it is wise to consider our narrator as unreliable, as is often the case with mysteries. The majority of us enjoyed the twist and didn’t catch on too early. A few of our members were hip to what was going on way early.

Surprisingly few of us had seen the Scorcese film prior to reading the novel and we all seemed to like it that way. Those of us who watched the movie afterward were underwhelmed. Despite a fairly stellar cast (DiCaprio being the least of these), we found that the movie attempted to beat the viewer over the head with too loud discordant music which actually decreased the suspense. As Steeper Melissa exclaimed in frustration, “Scorcesio!” It’s going to be our new curse word . . . . or a way to call the power of WonderTwins, or something like that. Try it, screaming “Scorcesio!” can actually be quite soothing.

We felt like one of our steepers seemed to have read a different book than the rest of us, his understanding and interpretation of the novel was so wholly different from our collective one. We agreed it was worth the read, despite several of us admitting that we may have found ourselves skimming the novel, mostly to get to the next clue.

Miss Kristin also found a really interesting theory about the end, but I don’t want to post any big spoilers here. So, if you’d like to know the secrets of Shutter Island . . . guess you’ll have to visit me at the library and check out a copy!

Our rating average turned out to be about 3.75 teacups, but since I only go by halves, we’ll round it up to 4!

4 teacups

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Paper Towns by John Green

Paper TownsBack in August we read Paper Towns by John Green and took our annual trip to the movies.  I’m sorry to say that we felt like our third field trip didn’t quite live up to the first two.

The consensus on the book was a bit ‘meh,’ but those of us who saw the film had definite and strong opinions about it. We agreed that there are often legitimate reasons for altering parts of books for a viewing audience, but in this case, the majority of the group found the majority of the changes unnecessary and detracting from the work.

The complaint for both book and film was that we didn’t much like the main characters. Seriously, if this book was about Radar and Ben, we’d be on board. It goes to show what kind of character the lead is that I can not remember his name. Ben and Radar, they were memorable, but Quentin (I did have to look it up) was just forgettable. Margo on the other hand was unforgettable, but not in a good way.  None of our group really understood Q’s fascination or could fathom why Becca was interested in hunting down her “friend.”  Margo’s just not very nice, even for a teenage girl.

Paper Towns movieMany of us enjoyed the book in chunks.  I liked the beginning and then it just fell off for me. Some said they’d enjoyed it up until the ending. Most of us weren’t fans of how Green finished it. I typically applaud Mr. Green for not finishing books in the predictable way, but this time, I thought he should have called this one a short story and ended it after about 25 pages. Both book and film promise a mystery that just isn’t all that mysterious or frankly very interesting.

The film’s lack of understanding of how long it takes to drive from Florida to upstate New York infuriated our PA crowd and we felt like the dropping of the group’s fear that Margo had died or was going to kill herself completely removed the incentive to find her and just dumbed down the whole experience.

The steepers who joined us for the filming were actually more entertaining than the film. Meghan sat to my right and used wild hand gestures and harrumphs to exclaim her displeasure at the numerous changes. My favorite experience came from Kristin. She sat stoically throughout the film, only moving to decline my offer of a raisinet (Meghan informs me that she believes that raisinets are just fruit masquerading as candy). The moment that the lights started coming back up, Kristin exclaimed, “Well, I hated that!”

She wasn’t the only one with such sentiments, while most of us didn’t love the film, Maureen’s vehement dislike was palpable. She admits that this in her 3 least favorite films of all time. That’s hardcore dislike, my friends. She also announced that the film sucked when Meghan was searching for the right word to describe her feelings about the film. She did, however, say that Paper Towns had seemed better to her than The Fault in Our Stars, to which Meghan replied, “Well, there is a lot less cancer.”

Overall, we gave this book about a 2.5 teacup rating and while we don’t rate the movies, this one would be pretty low on the list.

2.5 teacups

July Discussion: The Importance of Being Earnest

ImportanceThe Read It & Steep group simply loved The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.  We had such fun discussing this silly play that I took almost no notes at all!  We all delighted in the read and many of us made sure to watch an adaptation (or in some cases more than one adaptation) on film. We all took great delight in laughing about the absurdities of the actions in the play.  What fun it must have been to see this on stage and know that you are laughing at yourself (if you happened to be part of the society that Wilde is satirizing).

I was surprised (and pleased) at the number of our readers who had not read this gem before.  Especially coming from George, a steeper who has read just about every early Greek play no matter how obscure; he voiced his delight in Wilde’s writing and an interest in reading more.  Nothing can be so gratifying!  George, unfortunately, was away for the summer and I only had his input through the letter he wrote me about the play. Continue reading

June discussion: Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins

First off, big ups to BookAtlas where I found this funky Penguin cover.  Check BookAtlas out if you get a chance; it’s pretty neat, they post the first/last lines of the books with some quotes.

Sorry that I’m running a bit late again.  The thing is . . . I took practically no notes at our discussion of Beautiful Ruins! It wasn’t that we didn’t have plenty to talk about either.  We had a great turn out and everybody definitely felt something for this novel.  Several of the steepers weren’t able to finish the book, in fact, Tara (who chose the book for us) admitted that this was her third attempt at reading the novel.

Continue reading

The Green Mile discussion

The Green MileBack in May, Read It & Steep met to discuss one of my all-time favorite books, Stephen King’s The Green Mile. We’ve found, in the past, that sometimes conversation can be stifled if we all feel pretty similarly about a title.  Not so with Mr. King’s masterpiece.  This was the first time in the history of RI&S that every single attendee gave a book a 5 teacup rating.

It was a special night all around, most especially because my mom attended. This is one of her favorite books as well and I credit her with encouraging me to read it the first time around. It was Mom’s intention to sit in the corner (creepy, right?  I made her sit at the table) and not make a sound, but she found that she simply could not avoid getting involved in such an interesting conversation. Continue reading

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A-Tree-Grows-in-BrooklynThe Steeper discussion of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was great! Initially we had about 5 people show up and Meghan, the member who chose the book since it is her “very favorite of all time” was feeling like her book wasn’t getting much love. Then 4 people who never before attended a meeting showed up simply because of the book choice! She was very pleased and we all loved having new voices adding to our discussion.

The majority of our attendees finished reading the book, I, however, failed in my quest to finish each of our books for this year. I will finish A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I just couldn’t before our meeting. The others who didn’t complete the read also agreed, which I think does say quite a bit about a book. Continue reading

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

Physick Book logoMarch’s selection The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. I’m sorry to say that I seemed to have misplaced my notes about our discussion, so I’m going to have to do this mostly from memory . . . thankfully I usually have a decent memory, especially about books that I enjoy. This book was chosen by Steeper Kristin and many of us saw the similarities between this and our October 2012 read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Both books follow academic ladies through their introduction to their family history as witches . . . the difference (we thought) was that Howe is able to convey a more interesting story in a much shorter book and she didn’t need vampires to do it.

That being said, there were some criticisms of Deliverance Dane. Some of us felt that it read like a first novel (which it is). The majority felt that any roughness in Howe’s style could be worked out and voiced an interest in reading some of her other works. Steeper Kristin pointed out that it is getting slightly tiresome to read the trope of the perfect grad student. Connie (like Diana in Witches and countless others) are at the top of their classes in prestigious schools in difficult areas of study. Several of the members of Read It & Steep have their master’s degree and voiced a desire for, just once, the opportunity to read about a grad student who is struggling or confused. My biggest complaint was that if Connie is so brilliant, she most certainly would have known that recipes were known as “receipts” in the past, especially considering her field of study. My master’s degree is in library science and even I knew that . . . side note: I had to change my recipe pinterest board from “Receipts” to “Yum Yums” since several friends pointed out the “mistake” I’d made in naming it. I thought I was witty. Seems not.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the only time this very smart woman shows obtuseness. We all felt it took her too long to come to the realization that Deliverance may have been an ancestor and realize the significance of her name being “Constance.” We all felt the “bad guy” was a bit blatantly bad. We all yelled at Connie to recognize the malevolence in the villain. Perhaps she would have been quicker on the uptake if there was a thick curling mustache and a damsel tied to train tracks . . .

However, unlike Discovery of Witches Howe was able to convey an interesting tale with a smattering of romance, making the story much more about Connie’s journey than her romance with, let’s face it, a doomed Sam. We felt that Howe’s description of the fates of several men who loved Dane women might have tipped off Connie that Sam wasn’t going to be safe. Also, her mother should certainly be a little less thrilled that Connie’s found love if she knows that men in their family don’t necessarily fare well . . . but you’ll have to read the book to know more about that.

All of us, without fail, loved the dog Arlo and the subtle twist of his character. We applaud Howe for how well thought out and presented a character as seemingly unimportant as the dog is. Arlo really added to Connie’s story and several of us found ourselves paging back and forth to re-read some of his story.

There is a part of the book where Sam and Connie visit a “mystic” shop and Connie is indignant about the state of the herbs and that they’re all expired. Several of us, myself foremost, lament that Connie would be appalled by the state of my own herbs. What can I say? I like my food bland.

Overall, Read It and Steep enjoyed The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and would recommend it as a quick and fun read. The mystery aspect isn’t as sharp as it could be, but it’s an enjoyable read anyway. I will say that we will re-read Howe or check out some of her other books since she not only retweeted one of our tweets but actually wrote to us! We geeked out and we give her massive props for being a cool, down-to-earth author.

Katherine Howe

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane gets 4 teacups from us!

4 teacups