Twelve Years a Slave

This month the Book it Sisters Read Twleve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Published 1853, 363 pages

Book it Sisters’ Grade:

Perhaps the best written of all the slave narratives, Twelve Years a Slave is a harrowing memoir about one of the darkest periods in American history. It recounts how Solomon Northup, born a free man in New York, was lured to Washington, D.C., in 1841 with the promise of fast money, then drugged and beaten and sold into slavery. He spent the next twelve years of his life in captivity on a Louisiana cotton plantation.

Suzanne RigbyAI read this book three years ago, but I remember it changed my thinking about slavery and how they lived and survived. I thought it was fascinating that he went from being a free man, and having that educated perspective. Much of the book was heartbreaking, but so worth the read.
Samantha HarrisoncWhile it had a happy ending I didn't like trudging through such a depressing story.
Mary HalseyB+A tough read but impressed at this viewpoint into slavery from free to slavery to free...Makes me appreciate my freedoms more.
Judy BushB+It seems unfair to give a grade to the account of a life, as it was a true and accurate acciunt of Solomon Northup. The story of slavery and its abuses is extremely disturbing, but historically important to recognize. Solomon does a good job of letting us into his world. The writing style was awkwardly stilted and sadly, the audio narration even more stiff. But the story itself could not be put down. It was powerful and painful to read. I don't want to see the movie now. I can't stand to live that experience twice! Even Solomon's liberation was only partially satisfying, as he left an entire population behind in servitude as he traveled back to his home in the north.
Cheryl ClowesB+The subject matter was very hard to read but I felt the story was a good one. I was amazed that this was told by the actual man who went through this. I was glad to read this and learn about the terrible instituion. It makes you more aware of African American history and why they feel as they do now a days.
Anna McDanielsBIt was a very good narrative and a well told story. It is hard to believe this section is history was really not so long ago.
Silke Elsner

The Boys in the Boat

This month the Book it Sisters Read The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, Published June 2010, 416 pages.

Book it Sisters’ Grade:


Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled  by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam’s The Amateurs.

Suzanne RigbyB-I thought the story itself was a great "rags to riches" story, it was just the way it was told I felt was a bit slow and repetitive.
Samantha HarrisonAI liked it because it made me appreciate his journey and the ability of someone to succeed in spite of very little advantages and support.
Mary Halsey
Judy BushB+The very interesting story was somewhat diminished by the cut and dry writing style that felt more journalistic and seemed to suck the life out of the characters. The story itself carried the book despite the plodding writing that sometimes seemed interminable.
Cheryl ClowesAI really enjoyed this book and the story of Joe and the team. I liked seeing each person's point of view and following their lives.
Anna McDanielsAI really enjoyed the book. I learned a lot about rowing and I admired the determination and mettle of the main character.
Silke ElsnerCI quit after 100 pages, it was too tedious for me.

The Other Wes Moore

This month the Book it Sisters Read The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore, Published April 2010, 233 pages.

Book it Sisters’ Grade: A-

Two kids with the same name lived in the same decaying city. One went on to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.

In December 2000, the Baltimore Sun ran a small piece about Wes Moore, a local student who had just received a Rhodes Scholarship. The same paper also ran a series of articles about four young men who had allegedly killed a police officer in a spectacularly botched armed robbery. The police were still hunting for two of the suspects who had gone on the lam, a pair of brothers. One was named Wes Moore.

Wes just couldn’t shake off the unsettling coincidence, or the inkling that the two shared much more than space in the same newspaper. After following the story of the robbery, the manhunt, and the trial to its conclusion, he wrote a letter to the other Wes, now a convicted murderer serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His letter tentatively asked the questions that had been haunting him: Who are you? How did this happen?

That letter led to a correspondence and relationship that have lasted for several years. Over dozens of letters and prison visits, Wes discovered that the other Wes had had a life not unlike his own: Both had grown up in similar neighborhoods and had had difficult childhoods, both were fatherless; they’d hung out on similar corners with similar crews, and both had run into trouble with the police. At each stage of their young lives they had come across similar moments of decision, yet their choices would lead them to astonishingly different destinies.

Told in alternating dramatic narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption,The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world.

Suzanne Rigby
Samantha HarrisonB+I didn't like this because it was depressing in that there does not to seem like there is a solution to this problem. It did give me more empathy for people caught in this situation.
Mary HalseyB+Amazing story bringing much thought and empathy...still not sure how to help but much research at end for this.
Judy BushA-This book accomplished its purpose of showing how t.wo men born in similar circumstances had very different outcomes in life. It is sad and emotional to follow the one who ends up in jail, and heartwarming to follow the one who succeeds. It made me feel like I wanted to help, but don't know how I, an outsider, could do a thing to help the self destructive drug culture in the inner city.
Cheryl ClowesAI enjoyed this book because it was interesting to see the different paths of the two Wes. It was discouraging to see that the cycle keeps going. I also liked to see the contrast and likeness of the two men. The efforts of the family really made the difference. This makes me think about my life and all of the good things in my life.
Anna McDanielsB+The book really made me think. I think it would be a good book for students in schools to read-
Silke ElsnerAgood book about the disadvantages black youth faces with hints of what the causes and the solutions might be.




This week the Book It Sisters reviewed Enchantment, by Orson Scott Card.
Published May 2005
442 Pages
Book it Sisters’ Grade: B+

As one of the most consistently exciting writers to emerge in the last twenty-five years, Orson Scott Card has been honored with numerous awards, immersing readers in dazzling worlds only he could create. Now, in Enchantment, Card works his magic as never before, transforming the timeless story of Sleeping Beauty into an original fantasy brimming with romance and adventure.

The moment Ivan stumbled upon a clearing in the dense Carpathian forest, his life was forever changed. Atop a pedestal encircled by fallen leaves, the beautiful princess Katerina lay still as death. But beneath the foliage a malevolent presence stirred and sent the ten-year-old Ivan scrambling for the safety of Cousin Marek’s farm.

Now, years later, Ivan is an American graduate student, engaged to be married. Yet he cannot forget that long-ago day in the forest–or convince himself it was merely a frightened boy’s fantasy. Compelled to return to his native land, Ivan finds the clearing just as he left it.

This time he does not run. This time he awakens the beauty with a kiss . . . and steps into a world that vanished a thousand years ago.

A rich tapestry of clashing worlds and cultures, Enchantment is a powerfully original novel of a love and destiny that transcend centuries . . . and the dark force that stalks them across the ages.

Suzanne RigbyBI thought it was a great plot of travel through time and the fairy tale played out over time was interesting. I thought the first half was a little slow, but it picked up when they reached modern day. I'm not a big fan of fantasy books, but this one was worth reading.
Samantha HarrisonBI thought it was interesting learning about the Russian story and some of the customs through the ages. A pretty easy read, a little wordy in some parts that made it slow.
Mary HalseyAI love this version of sleeping beauty,,,a fun read
Judy BushA-This book was a totally enjoyable read right from the begining. The setting in Russia was interesting and the characters people you liked. Sometimes the rules of magic seemed contrived or inconsistent, but it was forgivable, as Scott's writing style is engaging.
Cheryl ClowesB+I enjoyed the book very much. The description of the country side and about the culture of the kingdom. I also like how the relationship of Ivan and the princess grew. I also liked how Ivan and the Princess thought about what to bring back to help with the war. Overall, it was very enjoyable.
Anna McDanielsB-Light enjoyable read.
Silke ElsnerB-The story was too slow for me, the writing was uneven; oldfashioned and wordy in the old times, somewhat modern but reverting to old-fashioned in the new time. The application of magic was uneven. All in all the book made antsy while reading; I needed it to end.

Revolutionary Road

Today the Book it Sisters reviewed Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Published 1961, 324 pages
Book It Sisters’ Grade:

In the hopeful 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler appear to be a model couple: bright, beautiful, talented, with two young children and a starter home in the suburbs. Perhaps they married too young and started a family too early. Maybe Frank’s job is dull. And April never saw herself as a housewife. Yet they have always lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But now that certainty is about to crumble.With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves.



Suzanne RigbyBAlthough this book was well written with great character development and wonderful description, I thoroughly disliked all of them! What a bunch of dissatisfied, high-minded selfish people. I knew the ending was going to be tragic and kept putting off finishing the book. I did finish it!
Samantha Harrison
Mary HalseyC++Many voices, but no understanding of why ending with the realtor...such a minor voice. Every character was so unhappy I found it very difficult to read so many ugly relationships.
Judy BushB-What a miserable read. The husband and wife were terrible people. Coulnd't the author have slipped in a few normal people. What is he, a suburb hater? I'd rather be a soccer mom than a bitter would-be urbanite! I was glad the wife died! I hated her!
Cheryl ClowesCI had a very difficult time reading this book. The characters were not easy to like. I did like the character development and the way you got to see what they were thinking. I wanted to the characters to have a realization or a character enlightenment.
Anna McDanielsBIt was well written. Not likable characters, however, it did give you pause to think about what it means to live an authentic life.
Silke EilsnerAgreat character description, nice language, a challenge

The Christmas Visitor

Yesterday the Book it Sisters reviewed The Christmas Visitor by Anne Perry
(Published October 2004, 199 pages)
Book it Sisters’ Grade: B-

Renowned for her acclaimed Victorian novels as well as a stunning new series set in World War I, Anne Perry consistently dazzles us with stories rife with emotion, intrigue, and psychological depth. She recently expanded her talents with the delightfully rendered novella, “A Christmas Journey,” which “USA Today” called “one of the best books to brighten the joyous season.” Now she has given readers another gift-a yuletide offering full of holiday magic . . . and murder.
The Dreghorn family is gathering for an anticipated reunion in the Lake District of England. The blissful tranquility of the snowbound estate, however, is soon shattered by what appears to be an accidental death. The victim’s distraught wife, Antonia, summons her godfather, distinguished mathematician and inventor Henry Rathbone-one of the most beloved characters from Perry’s bestselling William Monk series. But questions about the tragic event turn into whispers of murder, sending shock waves among members of the Dreghorn clan, who haven’t seen each other in ten years.
Now Rathbone must put his analytical and creative capacities to the test as he assumes the role of an amateur investigator. But while searching for clues and mulling over potential motives, he cannot help but wonder: Will another poor soul meet the same untimely end-and be silenced like the night?
In this Christmas novella, featuring a colorful, somewhat eccentric cast of characters and an irresistible plot as twisty as a ribbon, Rathbone rescues the holiday with a grace that would impress William Monk himself.

Our Review

Suzanne RigbyB-I know I read it very quickly, but I felt that some things were left unanswered and a little loosey-goosey with the plot. However, I do love a good story set in the British countryside! The characters were all good strong people and I'm glad it ended on high moral ground.
Samantha HarrisonCI had to start this several times and while it had an unexpected ending that was nice, it wasn't a book I would probably read again.
Mary HalseyBLoved the weather and how it played into the plot...a bit loose with some things not clear or undeveloped...unexpected ending that whole family made the right choice to forgive and make things right for the bitter wrongly used man.
Judy BushAGood mystery with satisfying ending. Enjoyed getting to know the Dreghorn family. They are a unique bunch. Also like Henry Rathbone. Liked the Christmas thoughts on forgiveness and walking figuratively where the Savior walked.
Cheryl ClowesBI enjoyed the story and the imagery. I really wanted to know what happened to Judah. I liked the twist in the conclusion. The overall theme of family, Chrsitmas and honor made me smile in the end.
Anna McDanielsC+It took me awhile to get “into” the story line. It was a good mystery with an interesting and unexpected twist.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye

Today the Book it Sisters reviewed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye by Rachel Joyce
(Published July 2012, 320 pages)
Book it Sisters’ Grade: A


Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old friend in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.

Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie–who is 600 miles away–because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die.

So without hiking boots, rain gear, map or cell phone, one of the most endearing characters in current fiction begins his unlikely pilgrimage across the English countryside. Along the way, strangers stir up memories–flashbacks, often painful, from when his marriage was filled with promise and then not, of his inadequacy as a father, and of his shortcomings as a husband.

Ironically, his wife Maureen, shocked by her husband’s sudden absence, begins to long for his presence. Is it possible for Harold and Maureen to bridge the distance between them? And will Queenie be alive to see Harold arrive at her door?

Samantha HarrisonAI enjoyed reading this and seeing the relationship as it evolved with the absence of being together and the changes that occurred as they reevaluated the past.
Mary HalseyAThis was a hard read for me but the journey was worth it. I found the unpredictable adventure brought healing this couple needed. Queenie was a saint.
Suzanne RigbyAI enjoyed this book very much. I thought it was a wonderful character study and the power of human faith and determination. I was so happy that Harold and Maureen were able to regain their love story.
Cheryl ClowesAI really enjoyed this story of Harold. I liked the style of the author and it drew me in. I was sad that the son had passed away and the effects this had on the couple. I was glad the couple was getting together in the end too. The descriptive qualities of the author's writing.
Anna McDanielsAWell written story about a personal voyage that changes a life and those around him. I enjoyed it!
Judy BushAPoignant story about a man that makes a life changing trek. We could all use a little time to re-evaluate our lives. Sometimes very sad, but hopeful in the end.
Silke ElsnerAliked the British language, there are a lot of philosophical nuggets worth reflecting.
Denise LinkBInteresting reflection on how tragedy can pull us away from the ones we love instead of bringing us together.

Three Weeks With My Brother

Today the Book it Sisters reviewed Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks
(Published January 2006, 368 pages)
Book it Sisters’ Grade: B

The day the brochure came was a typical one. With a wife and five small children, a hectic schedule, and a new book due to his publishers, Nicholas Sparks was busy with his usual routine. The colorful mailer, however, described something very different: a tour to some of the most exotic places on Earth. Slowly, an idea took hold in Nicholas’s mind and heart. In January 2003, Nicholas Sparks and his brother, Micah, set off on a three-week trip around the globe. It was to mark a milestone in their lives, for at thirty-seven and thirty-eight respectively, they were now the only surviving members of their family. And as they voyaged to the lost city of Machu Picchu high in the Andes. . . to mysterious Easter Island. . . to Ayers Rock in the Australian outback. . . and across the vast Indian subcontinent, the ultimate story of their lives would unfold. Against the backdrop of the wonders of the world and often overtaken by their feelings, daredevil Micah and the more serious, introspective Nicholas recalled their rambunctious childhood adventures and the tragedies that tested their faith. And in the process, they discovered startling truths about loss, love and hope. Narrated with irrepressible humor and rare candor, and including personal photographs, Three Weeks with my Brother reminds us to embrace life with all its uncertainties. . . and most of all, to cherish the joyful times, both small and momentous, and the wonderful people who make them possible.

Our review:

Samantha HarrisonBI enjoyed hearing the family dynamics and the perspectives of the brothers growing up. I thought it was an easy enjoyable read.
Mary HalseyBI enjoyed the inside view of childhood freedom of the 60's and 70's...appreciated the bond of siblings...but question credibility in some of the memoirs...
Suzanne RigbyB-I enjoyed taking a peek behind the curtain of Nicholas Sparks' life. I didn't like the traveling part of the book, but waded through it to get to the personal history part of the book. I am not a big fan of his books, but I am better able to appreciate where his ideas came from based on his own past.
Cheryl ClowesBI liked the book. I liked to see inside the family's history. The story was very interesting and it was terrible how Nick lost his mother, father and sister so early.
Anna McDanielsBGood basic read. Interesting family memoir and story of brotherhood.
Judy BushBNicholas Sparks is the writer of schmalzy love stories, which make you cry, but also make you feel cheap for having been sucked into it. The autobiographical portion of this book gave some insight into Sparks, but while the travel portion was a clever literary juxtaposition, it fell flat because of the total lack of sympathy Nicholas and his brother exhibited towards other cultures. Their humor was so sophomoric that it felt crass. As they belittled their guides for their lack of English skills I wondered how he could have written that in a book. It would have been much better to focus on positive aspects of travel, and in describing the difficult parts not come across themselves as Ugly Americans.
Silke ElsnerB-I didn't think his life story was special enough to be made into a book. His travel report confirmed prejudices that exists about traveling American: rude, obnoxious, Europe in seven days and claiming to have seen it all.
His personal life description was partly not credible also due to the fact that he just brushed on topic without going deeper.
I didn't expect more from Sparks though.

The Grand Sophy

Today the Book it Sisters reviewed The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
(Published 1950, 328 pages)
Book it Sisters’ Grade:A-

When the redoubtable Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy is ordered to South America on Diplomatic Business he parks his only daughter Sophy with his sister’s family, the Ombersleys, in Berkeley Square.

Upon her arrival, Sophy is bemused to see to see her cousins are in a sad tangle. The heartless and tyrannical Charles is betrothed to a pedantic bluestocking almost as tiresome as himself; Cecilia is besotted with a beautiful but quite feather-brained poet; and Hubert has fallen foul of a money-lender.

It looks like the Grand Sophy has arrived just in time to sort them out, but she hasn’t reckoned with Charles, the Ombersleys’ heir, who has only one thought – to marry her off and rid the family of her meddlesome ways.

Here is our report:

Samantha HarrisonBFun for and 1800 era romance book.
Denise Link
Suzanne RigbyB+I enjoy this time period in literature. I kind of felt like it was Jane Austen "lite". Very similar scenarios, but Sophie was very engaging and interesting.
Cheryl ClowesAIt was a very interesting and fun book to read, I enjoyed the story!
Anna McDanielsB+It was a fun period book. Main character is spontaneous and bold- nice contrast to the times.
Judy BushAYou've got to love Sophy, another version of Emma, with a lot more international experience. The dialogue brings the characters to life. It would make a great movie. One of Georgette Heyer's best books!
Silke ElsnerDidn't get past chapter 3, too cheesy for me.
Mary HalseyAI want to be to make everything work out without being obvious...WOW!


The Anatomy of Peace

Today the Book it Sisters reviewed The Anatomy of Peace:Resolving the Heart of Conflict by the Arbinger Institute
(Published July 2015, 288 pages)
Book it Sisters’ Grade

Like Leadership and Self-Deception, The Arbinger Institute’s first book, The Anatomy of Peace has become a worldwide phenomenon—not because of a media blitz, movie tie-in, or celebrity endorsement, but because readers have enthusiastically recommended it to colleagues, relatives, and friends.

The Anatomy of Peace asks, What if conflicts at home, conflicts at work, and conflicts in the world stem from the same root cause? What if we systematically misunderstand that cause? And what if, as a result, we unwittingly perpetuate the very problems we think we are trying to solve?

Through an intriguing story we learn how and why we contribute to the divisions and problems we blame on others and the surprising way that these problems can be solved. Yusuf al-Falah, an Arab, and Avi Rozen, a Jew, each lost his father at the hands of the other’s ethnic cousins. The Anatomy of Peace is the story of how they came together, how they help warring parents and children come together, and how we too can find our way out of the struggles that weigh us down.

This second edition includes new sections enabling readers to go deeper into the book’s key concepts; access to free digital study and discussion guides; and information about The Reconciliation Project, a highly successful global peace initiative based on concepts in The Anatomy of Peace.

Here is our report:

Samantha HarrisonAI liked the book because it made me think about my thought process and if I was assuming things about people because of their actions. I also liked the idea of not categorizing people but seeing them as individuals.
Mary HalseyBI appreciate the need to act on promptings to do the right thing as the book explained. Unfortunately, I still make bad choices but now recognize my errors when I start the justifying...
Suzanne RigbyCI only had a chance to read half of the book. I enjoyed the beginning but then felt it kind of bogged down with the theory of it all. I didn't feel like it was incredibly new information. It did drag it out too.
Cheryl ClowesCII think this book has a lot of insight. It made me think of things that I can change in my life and can think about in my life situations. Overall the book was slow but it did make me think.
Anna McDanielsBInteresting read. It gave me another approach on how to communicate. I thought it is difficult to implement in emotional situations, I thought the book simplified how to de-escalate those types of situations. My take-away was to see the person first, not our own agenda and also to follow your instincts in the favor of the positive- that you won't regret any kindnesses
Judy BushC+The concepts in the book, while sound, sounded pat and manufactured in a book format. It might have been an okay seminar, but was long and preachy in a book. It felt like a long drawn out advertisement to enroll in the Arbinger Institute and fix whatever is wrong with you. It didn't leave me with a peaceful heart. I was just glad it was finally over!
Silke ElsnerBthe language was too simple; appreciated the concept; how change can be accomplished was not explained enough