Surznick Reads: February 2016 - The Surznick Common Room

Monday, February 29, 2016

Surznick Reads: February 2016

Happy Leap Day! We hope you all had a wonderful February. This was an exciting book month for us! We launched a book club at our apartment and had so much fun sipping wine, eating snacks, and chatting books with out friends! If you're a Pittsburgh local and would like to come hang out, let us know! Here's what we read in February 2016.

Sarah's Reads!

The Dinner by Herman Koch
From "It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened. Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love. Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy."

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for review. The story started off great. For the first 100 pages, there was mystery and intrigue and I loved how things were unfolding. But once I got about halfway through, it kind of lost it's luster. The single horrific act was revealed, and then I just didn't feel captivated by the rest of the story. In my opinion, there was no climax to the story, and the ending was less than satisfying. That being said, it was an easy, quick read and definitely interesting at parts. The brief chapters made it easy to pick up or put down if I had a quick five minutes to read. This is the book we'll be discussing with our friends at our next book club meeting, so I'm anxious to hear other's thoughts and how they aligned (or didn't align) with mine.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Nick's Reads!

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
From "When the NSA's invincible code-breaking machine encounters a mysterious code it cannot break, the agency calls its head cryptographer, Susan Fletcher, a brilliant, beautiful mathematician. What she uncovers sends shock waves through the corridors of power. The NSA is being held hostage - not by guns or bombs - but by a code so complex that if released would cripple U.S. intelligence. Caught in an accelerating tempest of secrecy and lies, Fletcher battles to save the agency she believes in. Betrayed on all sides, she finds herself fighting not only for her country but for her life, and in the end, for the life of the man she loves."

I'm pretty sure I'm about to give a written review of this book that is completely identical to the review I gave to Deception Point, so I'll try to head in a different direction. I like Dan Brown. I obviously enjoyed The Da Vinci Code, and Angels and Demons, but there is just something about his writing that holds me back from really loving his books. And finally, after reading my 4th book by him, I think I've narrowed it down: he's obsessed with romance. Not just romance, but awkward, unnecessary sexual tension. These stories are really well crafted. There is a very intriguing plot, great twists, really fun mystery and suspense, and then all of a sudden, there will be a really inappropriate comment about some woman's figure, or how her shirt is wet from the steam and is now completely see-through. It's hard to explain, but these little updates about the sexual nature of all the characters feel so out of place and completely unnecessary. Overall, I enjoyed this book, but it's hard for me to get past how attracted to his own characters he is.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Surznick's Reads!

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
From "They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose... Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life - steady boyfriend, close family - who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life - big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel - and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. Will is acerbic, moody, bossy - but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living. A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common - a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?"

A friend of ours recently described a film she had seen as "the perfect movie." She said, "It wasn't the best movie I've ever seen, and it wasn't the best movie ever made, but it was essentially the perfect movie. I walked out of the theater and said to myself, 'Well, no complaints here.'" For me, that statement perfectly sums up this book. Sarah gave it a 5 star rating, and I gave it 4. It was very well written. A unique setup for an unlikely romance, which blooms slowly with unexpected road blocks along the way made for really fast, really enjoyable reading. We both read this book in a matter of a few days. It was admittedly pretty hard to put down. For me, the "perfection" of the storytelling and plot is what prevented me from giving it the full 5 stars. Something about it felt a little too typical, without actually being a typical love story. It's definitely worth the read, and we're both super excited to see the film adaptation (with Neville Longbottom in it!) This was also the first book for our book club and we loved talking about all of the different opinions on the story with our friends. We both recommend it!

Sarah's Rating: 5 Stars
Nick's Rating: 4 Stars

Sarah & Nick


  1. i also just finished me before you.
    i like it a lot. i guess i kind of loved the whole idea that you know that it wont end as a happily ever after.
    i liked that Will made his own decision. i can understand why the family would be going through the hardship but part of me agrees that it was up to him to make the decision. after all, he's the one that has to live that life.
    currently reading the second part...and im wondering what thats going to be like...