We were not completely 'blown away' by The Tree Lady. We learned that when the author read it aloud at a writers' conference a few years ago it had been amazing, poetic, and very moving, but evidently some editorial changes had turned it into a very dry, completely nonpoetic entity which was somewhat of a grind to read. Several of us were very annoyed by the phrase, "...and she did" (or something similar) at the end of every page. We all liked the illustrations by Jill McElmurry a lot, and agreed that the book would be useful in a school setting to introduce a science unit on botany or to introduce the concept of biography to young students. We also felt that it did present good information on how the 'tree population' of San Diego, CA was created, and we felt that perhaps students who had interest in this subject might want to read more about it in more extensive works. [The Tree Lady is the winner of the 2014 FOCAL Award. Read more about the award and Kate Sessions (the tree lady) HERE.]
As for our novel, This Song Will Save Your Life, we had very differing opinions. One of our members said it was only "mildly interesting," and that it was a chore for her to finish the book. Many of us questioned some of the plot points, i.e. the fact that (somewhat geeky) Elisa left her house late at night and walked alone to a local warehouse district where she frequented the weekly party there, and her otherwise seemingly engaged, though divorced, parents never had a clue as to what was happening. A couple of us felt Elisa's voice came through clearly, and we could really 'get' her feelings about being an outcast, her failed suicide attempt, her need for friends, her love of music, and her relationships with Vicky, Pippa, and DJ Char as well as her classmates and family members. Others felt that her voice didn't come through at all, and, in fact seemed more like what the (probably) 30+-year-old author was trying to project about her own feelings and reactions to the (usually pretty loud) music that is a big part of the story. And, for all of the specific songs that were mentioned, we never actually learned what specific meaning they each had for Elisa -- which would have been a big plus. ...and so it goes.