Monday, April 2, 2018

Menu: "The Heart Goes Last"

Olives (pg. 32) "Stan rolls an olive around in his mouth before chewing: it's a long time since he's had an olive. The taste is distracting.  He should be more alert, because naturally they're being scrutinized..."

Avocado with shrimp appetizer (pg. 222) "She (Charmaine) returns to the dining room.  Ed stands up, holds her chair for her.  The avocado with shrimp appetizer is in place."

Spinach salad (pg. 97)

Chicken dumplings (pg. 63) "Positron food is excellent, because if the cooking team orders up crap for you, you'll dish out the crap to them the next month to get even.  Works like a charm: it's amazing how many painstaking chefs have sprung into being.  Today it's chicken dumplings, one of his favourites."

Shepherd's pie (pg. 97) "In the evening, after four hours of towel-folding and the communal dinner - shepherd's pie, spinach salad, raspberry mousse - Charmaine joins the knitting circle in the main room of the woman's wing."

Raspberry mouse (pg. 97)

Plum crumble with cream (pg. 138) "She picks up her helping of plum crumble in its sturdy pressed-glass dish.  There's cream added, from Positron's own cows; not that she's ever seen those cows either."

Celebrating Canada's 150th: April

Book Summary: 
Winner of the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction!  This is Thomas King’s first literary novel in 15 years and follows on the success of the award-winning and bestselling The Inconvenient Indian and his beloved Green Grass, Running Water and Truth and Bright Water, both of which continue to be taught in Canadian schools and universities. Green Grass, Running Water is widely considered a contemporary Canadian classic.

In The Back of the Turtle, Gabriel returns to Smoke River, the reserve where his mother grew up and to which she returned with Gabriel’s sister. The reserve is deserted after an environmental disaster killed the population, including Gabriel’s family, and the wildlife. Gabriel, a brilliant scientist working for Domidion, created GreenSweep, and indirectly led to the crisis. Now he has come to see the damage and to kill himself in the sea. But as he prepares to let the water take him, he sees a young girl in the waves. Plunging in, he saves her, and soon is saving others. Who are these people with their long black hair and almond eyes who have fallen from the sky?

Filled with brilliant characters, trademark wit, wordplay and a thorough knowledge of native myth and story-telling, this novel is a masterpiece by one of our most important writers.

My Thoughts: I was instantly hooked by this novel and by the time I finished it, I couldn't wait to begin it again.  Thomas King has a real talent for character - and an amazing capacity for compassion and humor.  Gabriel thinks himself the villain in this tale of environmental destruction and is determined to drown himself in the sea, and yet King writes him as an anguished, reluctant hero and you can't help but the feel compassion for him and urge him to fight for life.   Dorian Asher is more likely the villain in this disaster, as he's the powerful, profit hungry CEO of Domidion, but he doesn't see himself this way at all - as as King writes him as a man driven by his appetites and desires, crippled by health concerns and gob-smacked by his wife's affair and desire for a divorce - and I can't help but to feel a deep compassion for this shallow, misguided man and his rich, but empty life.  

Mara, Crispin and Sonny are truly some of the victims of this environmental crisis, but they refuse to see themselves this way, and readers won't see this either.  They're survivors, hope-rs, dreamers and eventually, doers, as the ocean, the reserve and the village begin to live, grow and thrive again.

A powerful book  that shows us meaningful reconciliation in action - full of intriguing characters, environmental caution, cultural hopefulness and genuine compassion, all told with Thomas King's deft comedic touch.  An absolute winner!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

April 2018: "The Heart Goes Last" Discussion Questions

"The Heart Goes Last" book club
Date: Thursday April 5, 2018
Time: 7:30 pm, discussion to start 8:00 pm
Location: Sherrie's home
See the source image

Discussion Questions:

1. Did you enjoy the book?  Why or why not?

2. If you were in Stan and Charmaine’s situation, would you sign up for the Positron Project?

3. What is the significance of Charmaine’s memories of Grandma Win and her cheerful aphorisms?

4. Do you think society could actually break down to the point that it does in the novel? Why or why not?

5. Bright colors figure into many descriptions in the novel, and act as a counterpoint to the drab quality of daily life in Positron. Stan and Charmaine’s lockers are pink and green; the Alternates’ lockers are purple and red; prison uniforms are orange; the knitted bears are blue. Do you think the colors assigned to the various objects are intentional or incidental?

6. How did your attitudes toward Stan and Charmaine change over the course of the novel?

7. The novel’s title has surprising significance. When it was revealed, did you find it a clever twist or macabre and disturbing?

8. Charmaine is placed in an impossible situation when she discovers Stan on the gurney. Did she make the right choice? What would you have done?

9. No one is who he or she seems to be in Consilience. Did the shifting identities of characters make you wonder what their previous lives had been like before they came to Consilience? Would they have been better off "outside the walls"?

10. Could the Positron Project ever be a viable solution to solving societal upheaval?

11. The author is known for embracing emerging technologies, but in this work medical science and robotics are used in sinister and manipulative ways. In this sense is The Heart Goes Last a cautionary tale?

12. "The world is all before you," says Jocelyn at the close of the novel. How do you think Charmaine will adjust to freedom?

13. Would you recommend this book to others?

Menu to follow

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Celebrating Canada's 150th: March

This month's read focuses heavily on the reality of racism, both historically, and today: Injun by Jordan Abel.

Book Summary: Award-winning Nisga'a poet Jordan Abel's third collection, Injun, is a long poem about racism and the representation of indigenous peoples. Composed of text found in western novels published between 1840 and 1950 - the heyday of pulp publishing and a period of unfettered colonialism in North America -Injun then uses erasure, pastiche, and a focused poetics to create a visually striking response to the western genre.

After compiling the online text of 91 of these now public-domain novels into one gargantuan document, Abel used his word processor's Find" function to search for the word "injun." The 509 results were used as a study in context: How was this word deployed? What surrounded it? What was left over once that word was removed? Abel then cut up the sentences into clusters of three to five words and rearranged them into the long poem that is Injun. The book contains the poem as well as peripheral material that will help the reader to replicate, intuitively, some of the conceptual processes that went into composing the poem.

Though it has been phased out of use in our "post-racial" society, the word "injun" is peppered throughout pulp western novels. Injun retraces, defaces, and effaces the use of this word as a colonial and racial marker. While the subject matter of the source text is clearly problematic, the textual explorations in Injun help to destabilize the colonial image of the "Indian" in the source novels, the western genre as a whole, and the Western canon."

My Thoughts: I wouldn't really describe this book as a "fun" read, and I wouldn't recommend that you read it in a sitting.  Instead, this collection needs to be read in the context of Jordan Abel's exploration of language, and in bite-sized portions.  I got this book last October, and I've been dipping in and reading bits once a week or so since then.  Every time I visit this collection, I notice something new or I'm disturbed by something that I didn't see before.   Here's how the main poem "Injun" begins:
he played injun in gods country
where boys proved themselves clean
dumb beasts who could cut fire
out of the whitest1 sand
he played english across the trail
where girls turned plum wild
garlic and strained words
through the window of night
he spoke through numb lips and
breathed frontier2

In the second half of the collection, subtitled "Notes" Jordan Abel explores some of the other words that show up frequently in western novels.  He cuts out the line containing that word and lines up the sentences on the page so that the key word stands out.  When you read through the sentences, you get a strong sense of how that word is used, and what kind of meaning it holds.  In the case of the following example, you could easily replace the word "whitest" with "best" in the same way the word "injun" is often coupled with "dirty"

The neatest thing about reading this collection is imagining the writing of it - realizing that Abel is not writing in his own words, but that he's cutting apart novels and piecing them together in bits of his own... he literally deconstructs literature and recreates his own art from the ruins.  And what emerges is no longer the stereotyped "dead Injun" of western novels, but an alive, vibrant and rebellious nation of people who won't be defeated.

Although not really aimed at the average reader, I would recommend this challenging, "cutting" edge collection for those who don't mind some poetry that comes in impressions and big pictures, as opposed to poetry that can be analysed word by word.    I didn't understand this whole work, but that's ok - every time I go back to it, I'm challenged anew.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Suggestions for Feb 2019

Hi Ladies,

Any ideas for next February's Couples meeting book?  Pop in here and add your thoughts so that we've got some ideas to choose from for next year.

Here's an interesting list of Popular Couples Book Club books!

The AnimalsThe Animals by Christian Kiefer Bill Reed manages a wildlife sanctuary in rural Idaho, caring for injured animals raptors, a wolf, and his beloved bear, Majer, among them that are unable to survive in the wild. Seemingly rid of his troubled past, Bill hopes to marry the local veterinarian and live a quiet life together, the promise of which is threatened when a childhood friend is released from prison. Suddenly forced to confront the secrets of his criminal youth, Bill battles fiercely to preserve the shelter that protects these wounded animals and to keep hidden his turbulent, even dangerous, history. Alternating between past and present, Christian Kiefer contrasts the wreckage of Bill's crime-ridden years in Reno, Nevada, with the elusive promise of a peaceful future. In finely sculpted prose imaginatively at odds with the harsh, volatile world Kiefer evokes, The Animals builds powerfully toward the revelation of Bill s defining betrayal and the drastic lengths Bill goes to in order to escape the consequences.

Life ItselfLife Itself - a memoir by Roger Ebert Roger Ebert is the best-known film critic of our time. He has been reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and was the first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. He has appeared on television for four decades, including twenty-three years as cohost of Siskel & Ebert at the Movies.

In 2006, complications from thyroid cancer treatment resulted in the loss of his ability to eat, drink, or speak. But with the loss of his voice, Ebert has only become a more prolific and influential writer. And now, for the first time, he tells the full, dramatic story of his life and career.
Roger Ebert's journalism carried him on a path far from his nearly idyllic childhood in Urbana, Illinois. It is a journey that began as a reporter for his local daily, and took him to Chicago, where he was unexpectedly given the job of film critic for the Sun-Times, launching a lifetime's adventures.  In this candid, personal history, Ebert chronicles it all: his loves, losses, and obsessions; his struggle and recovery from alcoholism; his marriage; his politics; and his spiritual beliefs. He writes about his years at the Sun-Times, his colorful newspaper friends, and his life-changing collaboration with Gene Siskel. He remembers his friendships with Studs Terkel, Mike Royko, Oprah Winfrey, and Russ Meyer (for whom he wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and an ill-fated Sex Pistols movie). He shares his insights into movie stars and directors like John Wayne, Werner Herzog, and Martin Scorsese.

This is a story that only Roger Ebert could tell. Filled with the same deep insight, dry wit, and sharp observations that his readers have long cherished, this is more than a memoir-it is a singular, warm-hearted, inspiring look at life itself.  "I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."  -from LIFE ITSELF

Friday, February 16, 2018

Feb 2018: Couples Meeting

Couple's Meeting
February 23, 2018 7:30 p.m.
Schuurman Residence

Red Notice - Bill Browder
1. Did you enjoy the book, why or why not?
2. Does it seem that Mr. Browder’s character or perspective changes in any way throughout the course of the events described in the book?
3. Do you believe that the book fairly and accurately represents the facts?
4. Do you believe that there may be other, and possibly conflicting, opinions?
5. How were Mr. Browder’s purchases of vouchers different from the oligarchs’?
6. Do you think Mr. Browder was naive or intentionally ignored (at least initially) problems with Putin’s government?
7. What do you think was the intent behind the activist approach and the media campaigns?
8. Who do you think is the hero of this book?
9. Why do you think Mr. Browder wrote (or had a ghost writer write) this book?
10. Do you think there will be any repercussions from the publication of the book?
11. Would you invest in a fund run by Bill Browder?
12.  Would you recommend this book to others, why or why not?


Google a Russian recipe, or chose from the list below:

Black (rye bread)
Beef stroganoff
Pirozhki- Marion
Pickled/smoked fish
Pork with prune stew
Pastila - Emily

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Celebrating Canada's 150th: February

This month I've got another nonfiction title: Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death and Hard Truths in a Northern City by Tanya Talaga

Book Summary: In 1966, twelve-year-old Chanie Wenjack froze to death on the railway tracks after running away from residential school. An inquest was called and four recommendations were made to prevent another tragedy. None of those recommendations were applied.

More than a quarter of a century later, from 2000 to 2011, seven Indigenous high school students died in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The seven were hundreds of miles away from their families, forced to leave home and live in a foreign and unwelcoming city. Five were found dead in the rivers surrounding Lake Superior, below a sacred Indigenous site. Jordan Wabasse, a gentle boy and star hockey player, disappeared into the minus twenty degrees Celsius night. The body of celebrated artist Norval Morrisseau’s grandson, Kyle, was pulled from a river, as was Curran Strang’s. Robyn Harper died in her boarding-house hallway and Paul Panacheese inexplicably collapsed on his kitchen floor. Reggie Bushie’s death finally prompted an inquest, seven years after the discovery of Jethro Anderson, the first boy whose body was found in the water.
Using a sweeping narrative focusing on the lives of the students, award-winning investigative journalist Tanya Talaga delves into the history of this small northern city that has come to manifest Canada’s long struggle with human rights violations against Indigenous communities. - from
My thoughts: This books was a gut-wrenching, heart-breaking reality check showing how racism is still very much alive and thriving in Canada today.   Tanya Talaga is a journalist with roots in Northern Ontario and working in Toronto.  She travels to Thunder Bay with a story in mind - wondering how to mobilize local First Nations so that they participate in federal elections - and discovers that her interview attempts fall flat on an audience who simply want to talk about the local high school students who've drowned in the river.  Local First Nations leaders are trying to raise alarm bells, and no one's listening.  Initially, Talaga is skeptical too.  But she promises to listen, do her research and if there's a story here, she promises to tell it. 

What she shares are the lives of 7 young people who died in mysterious, unexplained and poorly investigated ways.  She shares the stories of their families, who have to live with heartbreak and unanswered questions.  She shared the pain of northern communities who have been hurt, ignored, side-lined and forgotten - not just once or twice, but for generations.  

I would consider this book a must-read for all Canadians.  Genuine reconciliation requires knowledge and compassion, and then action. Several times, this book points out in very clear ways the role of an uncaring public: if we're not interested and don't care, then racists can get away with racist attitudes, remarks and actions; then police services can get away with hasty, inconclusive answers; then politicians can get away with big talk and small action. 

All of these young people were living far away from their communities, family and friends - essentially, they were orphans.  And rather than caring for the vulnerable: the young, the orphans and the poor, the city of Thunder Bay, Ontarians and Canadians turned a blind eye to their suffering and the deaths and preferred easy answers over hard truths.  Now, Tanya Talaga is calling on us all to really see these young people and their families.  To look and not turn away.  And the truth is a painful one that requires action.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

January 2018: Seek Allah Finding Jesus; by Nabeel Qureshi

Image result for seeking allah finding jesus bookMeeting Details:
We're getting together at Marion's house on Thursday, January 11th at 7:30 pm, with discussion to begin at 8 pm.

Discussion Questions:
1. Did you like the book? Why or why not?

2. Can you see yourself in Nabeel's passion for the LORD? 

3. Nabeel's parents were faced with inconsistencies of the Quran and what they understood from their Hadiths yet those chose to overlook and dismiss them. Would we do the same? Are we so steeped in tradition that we don't think critically? Can we fall into it?

4. Nabeel has a best friend in David. Why do they get along so well, what is it about their friendship that makes it last?

5. Nabeel explains the difference between the muslims born in America and the ones who immigrated. What are the key differences? Why is this so important? How does it affect Nabeel's family? extended family?

6. Nabeel at one point says that it would have been better for his parents if he had died rather than tell them he was now a Christian. Why does he say this?

7. David arranges for Nabeel and his father to meet with experts on the death of Jesus, how is this a turning point for Nabeel?

8. Did you have preconceived ideas about Muslim faith/life? What were they? are they confirmed or changed by this book?

9. How does Nabeel account for the very great differences in muslim faith/practice, from extremism to a 'religion of peace'

10. In chapter 18 it talks about honour-shame. What is this? what are the practical implications?

11. What affect did 9/11 have on Nabeel?

12. Would you recommend the book? Why or why not?

Menu: "Iftar"

While I don't feel it necessary to fast in preparation for our meeting, lets feast!  Some suggestions gleaned from people's favorite Iftar memories


Pilau Rice with Meatballs



Mutton Curry


Chicken Chaska

Sevian with Peaches

Or something from this site 

Dates and Drinks: Marion

Drinks: Danielle

Monday, January 1, 2018

Celebrating Canada's 150th: January

Nothing like starting off a new year right!  This month's book is the intriguing and memorable, Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson.

Book Summary:  Monkey Beach combines both joy and tragedy in a harrowing yet restrained story of grief and survival, and of a family on the edge of heartbreak. In the first English-language novel to be published by a Haisla writer, Eden Robinson offers a rich celebration of life in the Native settlement of Kitamaat, on the coast of British Columbia. - from

My Thoughts:  I really enjoyed the colorful cast of characters in this engaging novel - Lisamarie and her wisecracks, her grandmother and her insight, her uncle and his activism, her father and his devotion, her brother and his single mindedness.  This novel created a vivid sense of place... and this damp west-coast fishing village is a character in its own right.

The plot line is almost an afterthought and mystery lovers who are captured by the question of what happened to Lisamarie's brother in the fishing boat (the impetus for the whole story, as Lisa spends the remainder of the book travelling alone to the site of the accident and reminiscing about their lives) will likely be disappointed by the lack of an exciting conclusion and the fairly abrupt ending to the story.

If you love a wet, west-coast setting, memorable characters as they come of age, and a realistic look at how native spirituality affects people's lives today, then you'll likely find this book well worth your time, as I did.  I loved the glimpses into the lasting effect that the residential school tragedy has in communities like Lisamarie's... this isn't the focus of the book at all, but this pain has very real implications for Lisa's generation as well, and I think that stories like hers are a very powerful witness to the ongoing trauma caused by abuse/neglect in residential schools. 

A memorable first novel by an original Canadian voice - I look forward to reading her 2nd book, Son of a Trickster, too.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Looking Ahead: Jan-June 2018

Here are the chosen books for the next few months.  Reminder that we will NOT be meeting in July/August this year.  We hope to choose books for September and following in May/June.

January - Change Your World (hostess - Marion)
     Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi
February - Couples Meeting (hostess - Melissa)
       Red Notice by Bill Browder

March - Library Kit... hostess chooses her top 3 picks; then the HPL gives us whichever of these 3 are available (hostess - Shelagh)
April - The Lastest Buzz (hostess - Sherrie)
       The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood 

May - Forgotten Favorites (hostess - Tamara)
         The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
(Book Outlet has this title in paperback for about $5 and hardcover for just less than $8 - Dec 13th!)

June - Celebrate Canada (hostess - Tessa)
       Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December 2017: A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

Meeting Details
Monday, December 11, 2017
7:30 p.m.
Karen's house

Discussion Questions
1.  Did you enjoy the book?
2.  For those of you without recipe pictures in the book, did it affect your enjoyment of the book as a cookbook?
3.  Would you recommend this book to others?  Why or why not?

please feel free to choose recipes from the book or the blog


Soup -

Salad -

Main -

Side -

Dessert -

Friday, December 1, 2017

Celebrating Canada's 150th: December

Medicine Walk by [Wagamese, Richard]Next up, Richard Wagamese' Medicine Walk.

Book Summary:
By the celebrated author of Canada Reads Finalist Indian Horse, a stunning new novel that has all the timeless qualities of a classic, as it tells the universal story of a father/son struggle in a fresh, utterly memorable way, set in dramatic landscape of the BC Interior. For male and female readers equally, for readers of Joseph Boyden, Cormac McCarthy, Thomas King, Russell Banks and general literary.      Franklin Starlight is called to visit his father, Eldon. He's sixteen years old and has had the most fleeting of relationships with the man. The rare moments they've shared haunt and trouble Frank, but he answers the call, a son's duty to a father. He finds Eldon decimated after years of drinking, dying of liver failure in a small town flophouse. Eldon asks his son to take him into the mountains, so he may be buried in the traditional Ojibway manner. What ensues is a journey through the rugged and beautiful backcountry, and a journey into the past, as the two men push forward to Eldon's end. From a poverty-stricken childhood, to the Korean War, and later the derelict houses of mill towns, Eldon relates both the desolate moments of his life and a time of redemption and love and in doing so offers Frank a history he has never known, the father he has never had, and a connection to himself he never expected.   A novel about love, friendship, courage, and the idea that the land has within it powers of healing, Medicine Walk reveals the ultimate goodness of its characters and offers a deeply moving and redemptive conclusion. Wagamese's writing soars and his insight and compassion are matched by his gift of communicating these to the reader.

My Thoughts: I was absolutely gutted by this book; weeks after finishing this one, I can hardly handle the book without feeling choked up all over again.  The writing is absolutely top notch: spare, poetic, and deeply, unflinchingly honest.  I loved this book from cover to cover and I'm already looking forward to a second read.

Franklin Starlight is a simple, hardworking 16 year old boy who's got a lot of questions about his past that never seem to get answered.  Just when he begins to decide that he can live without answers, his father calls upon him for one heroic quest before he dies.  Initially, it's awfully hard to dredge up the slightest bit of sympathy for Eldon, but as his story unfolds and intertwines with Franklin's, the reader follows Franklin on this journey of understanding, compassion and healing. 

I'm not sure why this book hit me so hard... maybe it helps that I have a 17 yr old son that I tried to imagine in Franklin's shoes?  Powerfully and movingly told, this book cause my world to tilt a little on it's axis, and I'm not sure I'm ever going to be the same person I was before.  And isn't that, ultimately, the greatest compliment that you could ever pay an author?

Highly recommended; Indian Horse just got bumped way up on my reading list, too.