In April 2016, a call went out on Instagram looking for people who were interested in a buddy read of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I was one of 5 people who responded and we began a journey together that is continuing to this day! We lost one of our members after the initial buddy read but the other 5 of us formed a book club, calling ourselves ‘The Story Voyagers’ since we are spread throughout the UK and USA. Since we have now been reading together for a year, I thought I’d look back on the books we’ve enjoyed together!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This was the very first book we read together and what a great way to start! I had wanted to read Little Women for YEARS and just never made the time for it or always found an excuse to put it off because, if I’m honest, I found it a little intimidating. I’m so glad I joined the buddy read because it greatly enhanced my enjoyment of this classic and I think I got more out of it than I would have reading it on my own.
The book is less action-heavy and more of a character study, and I found myself invested in their lives despite the book being set in a time and place that I could not relate to hugely. It’s a very human book. I enjoyed seeing the girls’ transition to young women with families of their own. There were some lovely little humorous touches here and there, as well as more serious issues, and I thought the balance was just right. And of course, as a bookworm, my favourite character was Jo!
Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Our second book choice was Love and Gelato, which sounded so cute and perfect for summer! I have always wanted to travel to Italy and this book only intensified those feelings! It took me a few chapters to get ‘invested’ and the plot twist was a little predictable, but it was lovely to read something non-taxing after finishing my final year of university! If you like contemporaries, I would definitely recommend this. Apparently, there is a spin-off in the works so I have no doubt that we will read that as a book club when it comes out!
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
In August of 2016, we took a slightly different turn and chose an historical fantasy set in an alternate Europe where Hitler was still in power. This may be my personal favourite that we’ve read as a group. I have never come across such a unique concept! This book had everything: romance, action, supernatural elements; it was so interesting! The pacing was great and the characters and plot were well-developed. Flashback scenes added a nice emotional depth. I have no words for the ending other than WOW. I could NOT put it down.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
After the action of Wolf by Wolf, we decided to slow down again with another classic. I tried to read The Secret Garden as a child but found it too slow; where were the dragons?! I appreciated it so much more coming back to it as an adult. It is utterly heart-warming and features some of the best character development I have come across in any book. Yes, it wasn’t action-packed; however, it was compelling in a different way and made for a lovely group reading experience. As with Little Women, I feel that my appreciation for this classic was enhanced by reading it with friends.
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
For October, we wanted a darker read and voted for The Lie Tree, which had been on many of our TBR lists. As predicted, it was wonderfully slow-burning and atmospheric, with delicious Gothic undertones. It wasn’t too dark because it’s a young adult book after all, but it was a very well-executed novel. Hardinge clearly did her research, creating a realistic portrait of the lives of women in the Victorian era. There were so many subtle nuances in this book. I loved the balance between the fantastical and the logical, and Faith was a fabulous protagonist. I definitely want to read more from this author!
Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin
When the sequel for Wolf by Wolf came out, of course we had to read it! This turned out to be our last read of 2017 and what a way to end the year! It was every bit as thrilling as its predecessor, full of crazy twists and turns, and, like the first book, I could not put it down. Graudin’s writing is both exhilarating and beautiful, and there were some great one-liners in this book. The duology was among my favourite reads of 2016. And yeah, apparently I never took a picture of this one?!
The Muse by Jessie Burton
Our first group read of 2017 was a 2016 bestseller! Both this and Burton’s other novel, The Miniaturist, had been sitting on my shelf and it was a case of not knowing which to read first. Book club decided it for me! I found this to be very slow at first and struggled to get into it, but in the end I found it so rewarding! Burton is a master story-teller, able to weave together two stories into an accomplished whole. The book is full of rich, evocative imagery in a beautifully realistic Spanish setting. On top of her powers of description, Burton writes dialogue extremely well. The characters all felt fleshed out and the story was believable and highly compelling. This is the kind of book that has you coming up with all kinds of crazy theories! The whole thing felt very well-researched and I would highly recommend it.
Replica by Lauren Oliver
This was our first experience with sci-fi as a book club! I don’t know about the other ladies but I’m not a massive reader of science fiction, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this! Replica is a very unique book in that it is written from two different perspectives; you read a chapter from one perspective, then you flip the book over and read from the other side. I think we all experienced some funny looks when people saw us reading this one ‘upside down’! The book has a great opening hook and a break-neck pace, so it was a very absorbing read. The moral questions raised were both interesting and relevant, and I appreciated that there were no huge info dumps, rather a steady trickle of information.
I was initially disappointed with the ending of this because it didn’t wrap up at all; then I discovered it’s the first in a duology (oops). Undoubtedly, we will read the sequel as a book club too. And I’ll take a picture of it when we do! *hangs head in shame*
The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser
Out of all the books we’ve read together over the year, this is the only one to have disappointed us so far! The concept for this book is so unique and exciting that I think we all had super high expectations; and the book just couldn’t live up to them. I mean, this book is literally a bookworm’s dream come true; who wouldn’t want to dive into the book world and meet their favourite characters?! Sadly, it just wasn’t executed well. The writing felt very young in tone, leading me to believe that the book should have been marketed as Middle Grade rather than YA.
I had many issues with this book, mainly the overuse of exclamation marks and the amount of telling rather than showing. I don’t know how much was lost in translation as this book was initially written in German, but I just felt like something was lacking. The concept is still fantastic and the book is a complete love letter to literature; it just didn’t meet our enormous group expectations.
Well, there you have it! A year of book club reads! I bet you feel like you’ve been on the year-long journey with us after the length of this blog post, oops. Sorry, not sorry. I’m enriching your life with great book recommendations!
We didn’t read a book every month because sometimes life gets in the way, but I’m pretty sure we’re all in this for the long run, and we have already chosen The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid as our next read. Here’s to another great reading year!
Is anyone else a member of a book club? Online or otherwise? What have been some of your favourite books that you’ve read together? Let me know in the comments!