"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened
and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you
and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse,
and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was."
Ernest Hemingway

Monday, May 26, 2014


Reader's Reach has made it to 100 reviews!

With two years come and gone - and dozens of books read - it's thrilling to know this project is still going.  I started Reader's Reach with the intention of writing about books.  I had an itch to scratch:  a desire to share what I thought and, I hoped, discuss with other readers their favorite books and authors.  It's been about sharing a personal opinion, but it's also been about sharing a love for words and books and reading.

And it's extremely gratifying to know Reader's Reach, despite the occasional break or unexpected interruption, has made it to 100.

So, here's to another 100 - and another book.

Happy reading.

Best regards,
The Scrivener

The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club
Image courtesy of
The Joy Luck Club
Amy Tan

The Summary
Jing-Mei (June) Woo has lost her mother, Suyuan, and must now take her mother's seat at the Joy Luck Club.  As she speaks to her mother's friends, she learns a stunning secret:  the twin daughters that Suyuan left behind are alive and wish to meet her.

Thus, begins June's journey to remember her mother and meet her sisters, just as Rose Hsu, Waverly Jong, and Lena St. Clair learn to reconnect with their mothers and reclaim one more piece of family history.

The Good
Simultaneously heart-warming and heart-wrenching, The Joy Luck Club is a wonderful collection of stories that recounts the lives of mothers and daughters - Chinese immigrants and their American-born children - as they struggle to bridge a gap in language and culture to communicate and, more importantly, find common ground.

What makes Amy Tan's novel so appealing, however, is that it's readily accessible for readers.  Although The Joy Luck Club prominently features Chinese and American culture (individuals learning how to embrace and/or acclimate to one or the other),
Tan's work doesn't focus on one nationality over the other.

This novel holds many universal themes that offer a deeper connection to the work and to the individual characters.  It is about human emotion and experience, perspective of mothers and daughters as they learn to listen to one another and, finally, connect.

The Bad
My primary difficulty lay with distinguishing each story and figuring out how they matched, how each mother's story matched her daughter's narrative; however, I believe that's more attributed to my personal confusion than anything else.

The Ugly
Not all the stories you read will be pretty.  You will find eloquent tales with beautiful imagery and emotional narratives that will shed light on both Chinese and American culture; however, many of these stories will be tragic and many more will be heart-breaking.

In particular, it's important to note that all of the mothers - Suyuan Woo, An-mei Hsu, Lindo Jong, Ying-ying St. Clair - lived through World War II and faced the turmoil of that era.  They experienced damaging social upheaval, political strife, and human depravity, and all of their stories reflect the tragedies they faced during World War II and the tribulations they endured in emigrating to America.

It's not always a pretty picture.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Under the Cajun Moon

Under The Cajun Moon
Image courtesy of
Under the Cajun Moon
Mindy Starns Clark

The Summary
When Chloe Ledet, an international expert in business and social etiquette, learns her father has been gravely wounded, she rushes home to New Orleans; however, she becomes embroiled in a police investigation and a dangerous plot that involves murder, buried treasure, and intrigue.

Now on the run with an high school friend, Chloe must evade the police and an anonymous murderer if she wants to stay alive - and uncover the secret her father has kept hidden for more than forty years.

The Good
Although it took some time to really sink into the story, it was intriguing.  I especially enjoyed when the novel veered into the past.  With Under the Cajun Moon, you actually have two perspectives to follow:  Jacques Soleil (his story) and Chloe Ledet (her personal narrative).

It's fascinating to see how the stories change and how they interweave.  At first, I didn't see how the stories even connected.  I mean, you have Jacques who is a goldsmith in 18th century France and Chloe who is an etiquette savvy businesswoman in modern America.  It's difficult to see the link between them, until you realize there's more to the story - and, more importantly, more to the random shooting that injures her father.

I also enjoyed the descriptions within Mindy Clark's novel.  The details afford to New Orleans and the surrounding areas really gives the reader a feel for the environment and, more to the point, the challenges which Chloe will face in her search.

The Bad
To be perfectly honest, I struggled a bit reconciling the religious undertone of Chloe's story - she does indeed go through a crisis of faith during the course of her story - and the sense of suspense and adventure as she and Travis Naquin go in search of buried treasure.

I have no problem with the addition of faith, merely how it appeared to pop up abruptly (at least to me) in the middle of what I assumed was an action-adventure tale of buried treasure and romance.  I mean, I suppose I imagined something along the lines of Indian Jones-esque adventure - you know, an unexpected and reluctant hero thrown into tough situations - rather than the tame, semi-religious novel I received.

I'm not bashing Clark's work.  It's a good novel with solid development and enjoyable characters.  However, I'm simply pointing out it wasn't quite what I expected - although I suppose I should have taken the hint when I read the back cover:  "[Clark] offers another exciting standalone novel, one full of Cajun mystery...and the glow of God's unending grace."

Yeah.  In retrospect, that should have been a dead giveaway.

The Ugly
Murder.  Big thing right there.

Otherwise, Under the Cajun Moon is pretty tame.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

French Trysts: Secrets of a Courtesan

French Trysts: Secrets of a Courtesan
Image courtesy of
Barnes and Noble
French Trysts:  Secrets of a Courtesan
Kirsten Lobe

The Summary
For Alexandra, Paris is the city of her dreams.  Now residing in France, earning her doctorate and living with her boyfriend, Laurent, she's tickled at the opportunity to explore and live in such a beautiful city.

However, when Laurent abruptly leaves and breaks her heart, Alexandra's life is turned upside-down - and when the opportunity presents itself to meet a powerful, dynamic man, Alexandra can hardly resist, even if he is married.

Thus, she abruptly finds herself playing the unique role of courtesan to some very rich - very, very rich - and powerful men.

The Good
Kirsten Lobe's novel is intriguing.  As I've made only a few literary forays into the lives and minds of courtesans, I find Alexandra's story interesting.  How she copes with her new-found sexual prowess and juggles her non-traditional "obligations," so to speak, adds a little appeal to her narrative.

Another point I enjoyed:  Alexandra's descriptions of her surroundings.  When Alexandra takes it into her head to offer a description of a specific location, her asides are frequently rich with detail.  During her tenure as courtesan, she visits some beautiful places, which I find are appealingly described.

The Bad
Although I enjoyed Alexandra's descriptions, I found her personal narrative grievously lacking.  For a Ph.D. hopeful, her story leaves something to be desired.  Her eloquence only reaches so far, apparently, and her emotional appeal was virtually nonexistent, and I really don't think it has anything to do with her roots as a small-town American girl.

There is also an element of repetitiveness that makes French Trysts frustrating.  Yes, we know Alexandra is in awe of her unexpected influence over powerful men and we know she is "one very lucky girl" for the unexpected opportunities she has to visit beautiful places, but we don't need to be reminded in every single chapter.

She's trying far too hard to justify her new lifestyle.

Additionally, Alexandra makes her mark as a sexually precocious and dynamic individual; however, she uses up her quota of surprising her readers by overusing her flippant attitude and indulging in frequent asides about her sexual escapades.  It's less amusing and racy, more vulgar and tiresome (and I might even be so bold as to call it trite).

The Ugly
Alexandra has no filter:  absolute candor is her policy.  Discretion is kicked to the curb.

So, when she mentions an orgy at the beginning of the novel, you can bet she'll eventually share every detail.  Likewise, she fashions a running "tip-sheet" for courtesans and logs the unique observations she makes, which means she's sharing a lot of intimate information about herself and her partners.

Thus, if you find heaps of sexual content (she talks about an orgy on the first page, for crying out loud) and strong language unappealing (yes, there's quite a lot of that going around, too.  Alexandra is exceedingly fond of a four letter word beginning with "F"), I don't think I would recommend French Trysts.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

All-American Girl

Image courtesy of
All-American Girl
Meg Cabot

The Summary
Samantha Madison is an average girl, who has run into a bit of trouble:

One, she's forced to take drawing lessons after her parent's discover she's drawing caricatures during her German class - for a fee; two, she's in love with her sister's boyfriend; three, she just saved the president of the United States from being assassinated.

The Good
Honestly, I've enjoyed reading Meg Cabot's novel in the past.  Having finished it twice, now, I find her characters charming and her story exceptionally well-written.  Although the plot seems absurd given the circumstances, Cabot manages to create a story that's both intriguing (even with its absurdity) and engrossing.

Likewise, the characters in All-American Girl are spectacularly depicted.  They have depth and breadth, emotion that makes them simultaneously compelling and sympathetic.

In particular, you'll find yourself enjoying Samantha Madison, the central protagonist and narrator.  She's intelligent and sarcastic, but she's also thorough and flawed.  She has a unique voice, but it's a voice we may have heard at one time or another when faced with our own woes from high school.

You'll like her.

She's also a fan of creating lists in the middle of her narration, which comes across as a positive thing in my opinion.

The Bad
Occasionally, Samantha's narration comes across as petty.  I mean, she's a teenage girl.  Her tone of voice will sometimes sound juvenile, she will sometimes frustrate you with her teenager logic (and her infatuation with Gwen Stefani), and she will not always present the most likable qualities.

However, Samantha is only human - and she also happens to be a teenager thrown into a very difficult situation.

The Ugly
I can't say which is worse:  a broken heart or a broken arm.