Monday, August 14, 2017

September 2017 - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Penguin Essentials The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel SparkThe Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Meeting Details:
We're getting together at Danielle's house on Thursday, September 7th at 7:30 pm, with discussion to begin at 8 pm.

*Discussion questions and menu to follow soon! Please write September 7th down as the next Book Club meeting! And go order the book from the Library RIGHT NOW or purchase online RIGHT NOW ($10.99 at Indigo). Looking forward to seeing all of you!

(or Tessa has a copy you can borrow!)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August 2017- The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

The girls in the garden 9781476792224 hrDate: August 3rd (to be rescheduled to Aug 10 if there are not enough able to come)

Place: Emily's house. Plan to sit outside (by the fire) in keeping with the setting of the book!

Discussion Questions:
    1. Did you like the book? Why/ Why not?
    2. Who did you first suspect of attacking Grace? Did your suspicions change over the course of the book? Were there clues that pointed you toward the perpetrator? What were some of the red herrings that misdirected your attention?

    3. Adele has a very lenient, alternative parenting style, homeschooling and preferring to let her children make their own choices, whatever they are. She repeatedly suggests that she feels judged by others for her lifestyle. How did you feel about how she is raising her children? Were there points in the book you felt supportive or critical of her maternal choices?

    4. The police suggest that Grace is “mature for her age” (page 206). Do you agree that Grace is (or is acting) more mature than her age? If so, how? How do Grace’s or Pip’s experiences compare with your own experience of being twelve and thirteen?

    5. Do you think Clare made the right decision in keeping Pip and Grace’s father’s release from the hospital a secret? Why or why not?

    6. Adele asserts that “with parenting there’s a long game and a short game. The aim of the short game is to make your children bearable to live with. Easy to transport. Well behaved in public place . . . But the aim of the long game is to produce a good human being” (page 150). Do you agree with her belief that you can “skip” the short game? Is there a middle ground between her viewpoint and Gordon’s discipline-focused approach?

    7. What draws Clare to Leo? Is her attraction to him based more on her own circumstances or something about him?

    8. Why do you think Lisa Jewell wrote primarily from Pip, Clare, and Adele’s perspectives? What do these narrators have in common? What is unique about their different standpoints, and how does this affect the story?

    9. Did you relate to any of the girls or parents more than the others? In what ways?

    10. Do you think you would enjoy living in a home with a communal garden like the one described? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks?

    11. What drives Catkin and Fern to follow Tyler’s lead? What do you think were their motivations for taking the actions they took?

    12. Why does Adele ultimately look after Tyler? Are her motives purely selfless?

    13. Do you think Adele does the right thing by keeping quiet after she discovers what happened to Grace? What would you have done in her position?

    14. All of the girls go through both traumatic and formative experiences during the course of the book. What do you think the various girls will be like when they are grown up?
    15. Read the following excerpt of a review of the book. Do you agree, disagree?
The characters of The Girls in the Garden were overall unlikable, unbelievable, and therefore, unrelatable. Pip is the only exception, and she proves to be a wise, intuitive, caring girl. (...)
While Pip and Grace are the main characters, we’re introduced to a host of secondary characters in this book, all residents of the communal garden, and each with their own social standing. The other children are odd, and their behavior often distressed me. More than that, it seems the parents in this book don't care for their children, and in fact, are scared of their children. Scared of their disdain, of their temper tantrums, of their arrogance and ego. And so, they allow their children to run wild and to run over them in the process. Is this how families are run in the UK? I think not -- but this book would have you believing otherwise!

There are lots of mentions of food in the book! Some ideas, although not all will work too well eaten outside by the fire:

Chicken noodle soup, oaty cookies, crumble- pg 19
Spaghetti and peas, chamomile tea- pg 28
Wholesome muffins with raisins- pg 55
Plums- pg 57
Chicken curry, lentil curry, sag aloo- pg 86
Fudge, pg 94
Lasagna- pg 152
Red velvet cake- pg 167
Chicken, sausage, vegetable kabobs- pg 177
Jacket potato (with cheese and baked beans)- pg 262
Hummus and breadsticks, pasta salad- pg 270

I will supply chocolate (pg 129), tea, coffee, wine (maybe champagne?) and look for cordial, and Pimm's

Celebrating Canada's 150th: August

August's title is Truth and Bright Water by Thomas King.  I enjoyed his nonfiction book so much that I thought I'd try a novel too.  And he didn't disappoint!

Image result for truth and bright water  Book Summary: Truth & Bright Water is the tale of two young cousins and one long summer. Tecumseh and Lum live in Truth, a small American town, and Bright Water, the reserve across the border and over the river. Family is the only reason most of the people stay in the towns, and yet old secrets and new mysteries keep pulling the more nomadic residents back to the fold.

Monroe Swimmer, famous Indian artist, returns to live in the old church with the hope of painting it into the prairie landscape and re-establishing the buffalo population. Tecumseh’s Aunt Cassie has come back too, already arguing with his mother. Why has his mother given Cassie a suitcase full of baby clothes? And why is Lum interested only in winning the Indian Days race?

Tecumseh has more questions than anyone will answer, until the Indian Days festival arrives and the mysteries of the summer collide in love, betrayal and reconciliation. Equally plainspoken and poetic, comic and poignant, Truth & Bright Water is a crackling good story that resonates with universal truths.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book... King's sense of humor clearly shines through and at the same time, he doesn't hold back on the darkness either.  I found Monroe Swimmer a fascinating character... he's one of the few who seems to "escape" from Truth and Bright Water and find success out in the world, but he returns seeming so broken.  I love how he buys the mission church and paints it so that it disappears into the landscape and sets up sculptured buffalo in the fields around it...a very literal use of art to erase the damage done by missions among the Indigenous people and to try to restore the old order.  Swimmer restores the old practice giving away all your possessions at a pot latch and uses this to bring healing in the community.  He says he's moving on... he's heard there's a former residential school for sale and he's going to buy it and paint it away.  

And Lum; Oh, Lum... Lum will baffle you and break your heart, especially if you're the parent of a teen aged boy.  

This book has it all - mysteries, memorable characters, relationships, art, nature, culture, humor, darkness and overall, a glimmer of hope.  Definitely worth the read!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Celebrating Canada's 150th: July

Inspired by our recent discussion of Wenjack by Joseph Boyden, I've decided to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary in my own, strange, book-ish way: by reading an indigenous author every month for the year and I thought you all might get a kick out of following along.  I'm purchasing these books to build my collection, so feel free to borrow one if anything along the way tickles your fancy!

So, here's my July title:  
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America 
by Thomas King
Image result for the inconvenient indian
  Book SummaryRich with dark and light, pain and magic, The Inconvenient Indian distills the insights gleaned from Thomas King's critical and personal meditation on what it means to be "Indian" in North America, weaving the curiously circular tale of the relationship between non-Natives and Natives in the centuries since the two first encountered each other. In the process, King refashions old stories about historical events and figures, takes a sideways look at film and pop culture, relates his own complex experiences with activism, and articulates a deep and revolutionary understanding of the cumulative effects of ever-shifting laws and treaties on Native peoples and lands. 
     This is a book both timeless and timely, burnished with anger but tempered by wit, and ultimately a hard-won offering of hope--a sometimes inconvenient but nonetheless indispensable account for all of us, Indian and non-Indian alike, seeking to understand how we might tell a new story for the future. - from
My thoughts:  I really enjoyed this nonfiction title.  King has a great sense of humor and a keen eye for the bigger picture and I was surprised how often I found myself laughing out loud... and it was very refreshing to be able to laugh with the author in the midst of this difficult history.

I like how King dealt in a very straightforward way with many of the questions that people ask and comments that people make... like: why can't you just get over it?  And, you were conquered, move on!  And, quit your complaining and move off the reserve already!  And, why should you get all these freebies and handouts?

Using history, logic and personal experience, King exposes many of the misunderstandings of today and shows how racism is still very much alive in North America.

I like how he uses the phrase "Dead Indian" to describe the stereotypical movie image of a half-naked, child-like savage warrior who's brave but needs the guidance of a kindly white leader to succeed.  King shows how we've become attached to that romantic image of and how the very real, alive Indigenous people of today are a disappointment in that they don't fit that mold.  Society enjoys the old-time dress-up "Dead Indian" at a summer time Pow-wow, but doesn't know what to do with young, angry, white-collar Native people living and working in cities, for example.  We like the image of the fur-clad Inuit living in igloos and eating seal blubber (as long as no seals were harmed in the making of this movie!), but can't get our heads around a modern, northern hunting and trapping operation or the idea that Inuit people might want to work in industries other than hunting and trapping!

Overall, King does a terrific job of facing many of the modern issues facing Indigenous peoples by exposing the past and confronting the racism that is still alive today. An excellent tool for building context and a valuable overview for anyone with a deeper interest in the fate of Indigenous people in North American today.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

July 2017: Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

Image result for turn right at machu picchu Meeting Details: We're getting together at Tessa's house on Thursday, July 6th at 7:30 pm, with discussion to begin at 8pm. 

- cancelled; possible rescheduling at Chandra's next week

Discussion Questions:

1. Did you enjoy the book?  Why or why  not?
2. Discuss the guide, John Leivers, and his role and how he impacts the author’s trip.
3. Discuss the similarities and differences between Bingham I, II and III.
4. On page 52, John says to Mark regarding hiking and that it will get easier as his body adapts, “ There’s a general law in life. The body and mind only get stronger when they’re traumatized.” Do you agree with this law of John’s? 
5. Discuss the author’s transition from desk editor to adventurer/explorer and how it changes his life.
6. Why does the Inca culture and civilization hold so much fascination for us today?
7. Why was the longer traditional second trip to Machu Picchu more meaningful that the author’s first trip there?
8. Discuss the role and interrelatedness of the different Inca sites and paths.
9. Discuss the Spanish encounters with the Inca civilization and how its effect are evident today.
10. Does this book inspire you to visit Peru? Machu Picchu? If so, why and if not, why?
11. Would you recommend this book to others?  To who and why?

Menu Ideas: "Holiday in Peru"... a cool nibbling menu for a hot summer day!  

- Peruvian Grilled Chicken Skewers - Karen
Causa (peruvian layered potato dish)
Peruvian Pickled Onions
Solterino Salad (quinoa salad) - Sherri
Stuffed Avocados 

- Fruit Espuma (raspberry jello dessert)
- Alfajores (dulce de leche cookies)
- Strawberry Cheescake -- Chandra 

Drinks: lemonade and mango juice - Tessa

(Note: questions and menu may be modified slightly when I finish reading the book!)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Looking Ahead July-Dec 2017

Here's a look ahead at the next 6 month stretch!

July - Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams 
Hostess: Tessa

August - Mystery Night - The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell
Hostess: Emily
September - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Hostess: Danielle

October - 
Library Kit - The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
Hostess: Chandra
Note: books will be available at the September need and need to be returned by the October meeting so that we can get the whole kit back on time.  If you're unable to make the Sept meeting, please arrange to have someone collect a book for you. 

November - Trafficked by Sophie Hayes
Hostess: Erica

December - Get Cooking - STILL UNDECIDED
Hostess: Karen
  1. A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
  2. Sous Chef by Michael Gibney. 
  3. My Paris Kitchen Recipes and Stories by David Lebovitz
  4. A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorisson
  5. The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson
  6. The Farmgirl's Table by Jessica Robinson
  7. other suggestions? We looking for good food with a bit of a "story" to it :-)
February Couple's Meeting 
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice

Red Notice by Bill Browder

Friday, June 2, 2017

June 2017: Wenjack by Joseph Boyden

Image result for wenjack bookWenjack by Joseph Boyden

Meeting at Tamara's place, June 8.  (address and contact coming via email.) Come at 7:30, with discussion starting at 8:00

Wenjack Discussion questions:

1)      Did you enjoy the book?  Why or why not?
2)      Along the way Chanie is followed by Manitous, “spirits of the forest who comment on his plight, cajoling, taunting, and ultimately offering him a type of comfort on his difficult journey back to the place he was so brutally removed from.”  Why did Boyden use the voices of the Manitous to tell part of the story?
3)      Were you angry that the uncle of the other boys wanted Chanie to go away - To go back to school?
4)      This book was written in a very unique way. What did you think of the writing style?
5)      What was the most heart-wrenching part of this book for you?
6)      Since this is a work of historical fiction (although based on a true story) do you feel that Boyden used stereotypes of residential schools to tell his story?
7)      In a CBC interview, Boyden said that “Wenjack is a "little book with a big heart," and he hopes that anyone who picks up the book will be able to feel the sadness, hope and empathy behind the story. "I want the reader to be Chanie."   Did he succeed for you…were you able to “be” Chanie?
8)      What do you think was the ultimate purpose of writing “Wenjack”? If Boyden’s purpose for the novel was to highlight the horror of residential schools…did he succeed?  If his purpose was to tell the story of Charlie Wenjack…did he succeed? Or are the two stories really the same?
9)      Boyden has said that Canada is “a haunted house”.  In what way?  Why is it important for Canadians to know the story of Charlie Wenjack?
10)  Have you read/heard of “Secret Path” the graphic novel/music album/animated film produced by Gord Downie (of the Tragically Hip and a friend of Boyden) and Jeff Lemire? (Also about Charlie Wenjack).  Is the fact that they were published around the same time a coincidence? Was it good/bad for each work?
11)   Had you heard about Chanie Wenjack before this book or Gord Downie’s The Secret Path were published last year?
12)   It seems unbelievable that the last residential school in Canada didn’t close until the mid-90s. When did you first learn about residential schools? Do you remember learning about residential schools in class? Do you feel that it was discussed enough?
13)   With the recent highlighting of residential schools by popular artists like Boyden and Downie, what do you think should be the response of Canadians?
14)   What is the role of the artist (like Boyden or Downie) in making change?

15)   After the success of “Three Day Road”, Boyden received awards for native literature, has been a paid speaker on indigenous topics, and become a “voice” to highlight aboriginal causes (native history, residential schools, missing aboriginal women etc.).  Boyden has claimed to be inspired by his uncle Erl, who “lived a traditional aboriginal” life.  However, in recent months, there has been a lot of controversy over Boyden’s claim to have aboriginal ancestry.  (Lots to find on google)!  Throughout the years, he has claimed heritage in a half-dozen native tribes – none proven.  Many of his claims have been debunked and he himself remains somewhat vague.  And his Uncle Erl was a proven fraud who sold souvenirs from a teepee by Algonquin park in the 50s.
 Many indigenous authorities (like Kim TallBear) would say that Belonging to particular community can (and should) mean sharing beliefs and cultural practices - and even official membership or citizenship. Not just genetic material.  Does this information cast a shadow over his ability to speak for aboriginals; or over the truth of how he writes?  Does it affect how you view him; or how you view the issues he highlights?  If he is actually non-native, does this change how you view the writing of “Wenjack”?

For some further reading on the controversy:

For a readable version of the 1967 MacLean’s article that Ian Adams wrote which brought the story of Chanie Wenjack to light, look to:

"The Secret Path" by Gord Downie is available on youtube or

Woodland Ojibway people ate meat, berries, wild rice, fruits, vegetables, and maple syrup…
Any Native dish, or element of these foods.  Here are some ideas to get started, but feel free to add your own ideas!

Main Dishes:
Anything prepared with maple syrup
 - Baked Brie with Maple Syrup and pecans - Tessa
The one meal that we read about in the book is from the fish, so… a fish dish! 
 - Salmon with maple glaze - Karen
Wild rice and bacon: - Chandra
Mushroom, Ham and Wild Rice Soup - Danielle
Native bread…Indian Fry Bread - Emily (or some bread!)

Anything with maple syrup
Fresh berries - Melissa

Berry cobbler - Erica

Drinks: -  Tamara