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. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Celebrating Canada's 150th: November

It's Thomas King this month again, but this time, a short story collection: One Good Story, That One.

Book Summary:There is much more than one good story in this bestselling (over 10,000 copies sold) collection of short fiction. In fact, there are more than a few of the best examples of native storytelling ever published. Thomas King, author of the acclaimed Medicine River and Green Grass, Running Water, and the newly released Truth and Bright Water, has proven he has a magical gift, a fresh voice and a special brand of wit and comic imagination. 

One Good Story, That One is steeped in native oral tradition, led off by a sly creation tale, introducing the traditional native trickster coyote. Weaving the realities of native history and contemporary life through the story, King recounts a parody version of the Garden of Eden story, slyly pulling our leg and our funny bone.

A collection that is rich with strong characters, alive with crisp dialogue and shot through with the universal truths we are all
searching for, One Good Story, That One is one great read.- from

My Thoughts: Oh, Thomas King is a clever one and he knows just how to get his readers to challenge our view of the world and our assumptions about Indigenous people by pushing us past our comfort zones and then having a laugh at himself.  I have a hard time picking a favorite story, but here are two noteworthy ones.

Joe Painter and the Deer Island Massacre - Joe recruits the only "Indian" he knows, a friend he nicknames "Chief" to help tell the story of their town's founding for an anniversary celebration.  A group of friends and family rally and help act out Joe's play - acting the parts of both the "Indians" and the "good Christian citizens" in a play that depicts the massacre that precedes the building of the town.  Ironically, the "Indians" don't look "Indian-enough" and Joe finds black wigs and yarn braids to increase their authenticity.  Meanwhile, the "chief's" family and friends have a hoot performing in the play and laughing at how completely clueless Joe is about the ridiculousness of the play they're performing.  A wonderful illustration of racism in action today and the strength and humor of Indigenous people.

Borders - a son tells the story of him and his mother trying to cross the border to visit his older sister in Salt Lake City.  At both border crossings, his mother declares her citizenship as "Blackfoot" and gets stuck in limbo while the border guards figure out what to do with her!
A powerful story about nationhood, sovereignty and citizenship.

If you enjoy short stories, this is a intelligent and witty collection that is sure to having you seeing Native people in a fresh new light. Not a difficult read, but you'll want to take it one story at a time to allow you time to think about each one.  Highly recommended.

Monday, October 30, 2017

November 2017: Trafficked by Sophie Hayes

 Date: Thurs Nov 2
Time: 7:30 pm, discussion to start 8:00pm
Place: Emily's- 45 Concession Rd 2

Discussion Questions:

1. Did you like the book? Why/ why not? If not, was there anything you did like about it?
2. What are your feelings about Sophie? Could you relate to or sympathize with her? Do you agree with her own self-analysis of her character/ issues/ motivations?
3. Who was your favorite character and why? Which character did you most relate with?
4. If you could hear this story from another person's point of view, who would it be?
5. How do you think the other people in the story feel about how they are depicted?
6. Did reading this book change your views at all? Would it change how you would feel visiting Italy or France?
7. Is trafficking an important issue to discuss (with daughters/ friends/ politically) or do you feel it's not likely to happen to anyone in your life?
8. Would you read another book on trafficking to get a broader perspective now that you have read this one, or was this more than enough?
9. Would you recommend this book? Why/ why not?

Items from England and Italy, the two main settings.

Potted shrimp
Sausage rolls

Bubble and squeak
Meat pies

Caprese salad
Mushy peas, or minted peas

Gelato- Tessa
Eton mess

Or your own favorite classic British or Italian dish!

Reminder: We hope to choose books for the next few months tonight, so have a look at the proposed titles and come prepared!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October 2017: The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

We will be meeting at Chandra's house on Thursday, October 5th, at 7:30pm, with discussion to start at 8:00 sharp.

The Winter Palace, Eva Stachniak

Discussion Questions

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

2. The novel starts with a quotation from a letter the future Catherine the Great wrote to the British Ambassador, Sir Hanbury-Williams: "Three people who never leave her room, and who do not know about one another, inform me of what is going on, and will not fail to acquaint me when the crucial moment arrives." What does this sentence tell us about the future empress of Russia?

3. Varvara is an immigrant to Russia. She is an outsider in many other ways, a tradesman’s daughter among aristocrats, a Roman Catholic among Orthodox Christians, a Polish wife of a Russian officer. How does she cope with the need to belong? How much is she willing to sacrifice for a sense of home?

4. Catherine too is an immigrant. In the 17th century Russia, keen on developing its national identity, her Prussian blood is suspect. How does Catherine cope with xenophobia? How does she turn it to her advantage?

5. Much of the novel is about power. The characters crave it, gain it, lose it. How are the principal female characters Varvara, Catherine, and Elizabeth defined by their understanding of what power is? What in their background made them think that their definition of power is the right one?

6. Why is power so important to these three women? What do they wish to do with it? How much are they willing to sacrifice for it? And, when they finally have it, what do they actually do?

7. Motherhood is another pivotal issue in the novel. Elizabeth wishes to be a surrogate mother to her nephew, Peter, and later to Catherine’s son Paul. Catherine and Varvara give birth to their own children. What does motherhood mean to each of them? How does it transform them? Why?

8. Darya and Paul are two children whose birth we witness in the novel. How do their childhoods differ? What is expected of them? What emotional future do you envisage for them and why?

9. The Russian court is the backdrop of the novel. Historical sources confirm that spying was commonplace there. How does being a spy affect Varvara? How does having spies affect Elizabeth and Catherine? How does being watched affect the lives of the courtiers?

10. Peter the Great has transformed Russia. Is his presence felt in the novel? In what ways? What is your sense of Russia under Elizabeth and later under Catherine? Why does the country feel snubbed by the rest of Europe? How do Catherine and Elizabeth play to this sense of rejection? What are their visions for Russia? Do they really differ that much?

11. Toward the end of the novel Catherine decides to reassess her own needs as an empress and her obligations as a friend and lover. Is she justified in this decision? How does she do it? What are Varvara’s expectations of their friendship and what is Catherine’s assessment of it?

12. The novel ends when the reign of Catherine II has just begun. How much has Catherine sacrificed for her position? Is it possible to predict from her behavior as Grand Duchess what kind of a ruler is she going to be? What are her best qualities? Her worst?

13. The novel ends with the image of Varvara beginning to tell Darya the story of her life in Russia. How much do you think she will tell her child? What will she keep to herself? Why?

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

Menu for the evening:

Soup:  Yurma (fish and meat combo)
            Borscht (perhaps the beef variant?)

Bread:  Russian bread (white)
             Borodinski bread (dark rye)

Meat:    Beef and Cabbage pie
             Plov (chicken and rice casserole)

Dessert: Blini
              Plum Veriniki

Drinks: will be taken care of by Chandra :)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Celebrating Canada's 150th: October

Birdie by [Lindberg, Tracey]This month's book: Birdie by Tracey Lindberg.  I actually read this one in August while on holidays and I wouldn't recommend this as a beach read as it's pretty deep and quite sad.

Book Summary:  Monkey Beach meets Green Grass, Running Water meets The Beachcombers in this wise and funny novel by a debut Cree author.  Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, leaves her home in Northern Alberta following tragedy and travels to Gibsons, BC. She is on something of a vision quest, seeking to understand the messages from The Frugal Gourmet (one of the only television shows available on CBC North) that come to her in her dreams. She is also driven by the leftover teen aged desire to meet Pat Johns, who played Jesse on The Beachcombers, because he is, as she says, a working, healthy Indian man. Bernice heads for Molly’s Reach to find answers but they are not the ones she expected. With the arrival in Gibsons of her Auntie Val and her cousin Skinny Freda, Bernice finds the strength to face the past and draw the lessons from her dreams that she was never fully taught in life. Part road trip, dream quest and travelogue, the novel touches on the universality of women's experience, regardless of culture or race. - from

My thoughts: I loved this book, but reader beware that the majority of the book is dark, gritty and moving and although there are hints of hopefulness and healing throughout the book, the book doesn't really have a Sherrie-approved happy ending.  

I loved the strong, amazing - and hurting - women in this book and I would love to sit in the bakery and have a tea and a chat with them all.  Lindberg does a great job of creating realistic, well rounded characters and she refrains from over-explaining them or providing too much of their backstory so that the reader is left curious and wanted a book about each one of them!  I loved how the majority of the story is told by a woman who spends weeks lying on her bed, motionless.  This book is really not about what happens to her or around her, but is truly about Birdie's interior story... how she processes all her experiences and finds wholeness and healing.  I loved how Cree vocabulary, traditions, story-telling and dream scapes are woven into the story to provide a rich scaffolding of culture in which to understand Birdie's life.

Lindberg manipulates language so cleverly to convey the complicated, contradictory truth of life, using invented compound words like screamwheeze, cousinemotion, and im/patience.   She has a powerfully poetic way of using words and punctuation, like here:  "Bernice had forgotten about that when she would allow herself to ragemember.  And she could also not forget Freda's shaky lip when the door was kicked closed in front of her.  The knowing in her eyes.  She knew.  At the very least, Freda had noticed.  And. Was relived. That. It was not. Her." (pg 155).    

A difficult read, but well worth the effort!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Looking Ahead Jan-June 2018: Book Choices

Here's our previous lists (minus the books we read or decided didn't appeal to us).  If you have an additional suggestion, please add it. Thanks!!

  • January - Change Your World... an inspirational book that could be a biography or autobiography (Marion)
         - some options include:
    • Between Gods by Alison Pick... one woman's discovery that she is really Jewish and how she struggles to make sense of her heritage, faith and family in the midst of depression
    • I Hate to Leave this Beautiful Place by Howard Norman (a memoir about the laughter and heartache in one man's strange, unpredictable life)
    • Queen of the Air by Dean N Jensen (a biography that may inspire a new fitness routine?!)
    • Some Assembly Required (a true story of a woman's first grandson and how he changes her life)
    • Run, Hide, Repeat by Pauline Dakin (a women spends her childhood on the run; and then her adulthood discovering why and learning to forgive)
  • February (Melissa)

  • March - Library Kit... hostess chooses her top 3 picks; then the HPL gives us whichever of these 3 are available (Shelagh)
  • April - The Lastest Buzz ... one the most talked about novels of the year; any genre or age level as long as there is some buzz around the book lately (Sherrie)
         - some options include:
    • Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese - the Canada Reads winner this year!
    • The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood - brand new title! ###
    • Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien - a best-seller and award winner about 3 musicians in China
    • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur - a collection of both poetry and prose about survival; about love, loss and what it means to be a woman.

  • May - Forgotten Favorites... a classic children's novel; sometimes we push the boundaries on "classic" and read the hottest new book for Middle Graders instead. (Tamara)
         - some options include:
    • The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame... another classic with a subtext about the wonder of reading and writing books
    • 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher... a modern classic for teens dealing with the aftermath of a suicide and the basis for the very controversial Netflix series by the same name
    • Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool... a Newbery Medal Winner; Abeline discovers secrets that change her view of her father and herself; and she changes the town she's visiting too
    • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Bradley ***

  • June - Celebrate Canada... a Canadian author writing a story that takes place in Canada - past or present (Tessa)
         - some options include:

Monday, September 11, 2017

Looking Ahead- Update

About the Summer Months:  We discussed July/August meetings and have decided to skip those months for the next while and see how that goes. We're having a hard time getting together even 3-4 people for a meeting and it seems unfair to the hosts to plan and prepare for a meeting that either doesn't happen, or ends up being just 2 ladies enjoying an evening coffee and pie!   Since we have 10 members, that still allows us to host once a year (Sept-June) and if we get back up to 12 members, then we host a little less often, but have some more variety about when we're hosting.   For now, we'll just drop our July/August themes with the idea of being able to incorporate another Library Kit (August) into the rotation now and then.
Here's a look ahead at the next few months, with some changes as noted below!

October - Library Kit - The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
Hostess: Chandra

November - Trafficked by Sophie Hayes
Hostess: Emily 

December - Get Cooking - A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg; if you want to avoid buying the cookbook, you can pop over to her blog  instead and read/cook from there!
Hostess: Karen

February Couple's Meeting  - Red Notice by Bill Browder

Friday, September 1, 2017

Celebrating Canada's 150th: September

I've watched his 8th Fire series on CBC, so I was excited to read this memoir next on my list. 

Book summary: When his father was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Winnipeg broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew decided to spend a year reconnecting with the accomplished but distant aboriginal man who'd raised him. The Reason You Walk spans the year 2012, chronicling painful moments in the past and celebrating renewed hopes and dreams for the future. As Kinew revisits his own childhood in Winnipeg and on a reserve in Northern Ontario, he learns more about his father's traumatic childhood at residential school. An intriguing doubleness marks The Reason You Walk, a reference to an Anishinaabe ceremonial song. Born to an Anishinaabe father and a non-native mother, he has a foot in both cultures. He is a Sundancer, an academic, a former rapper, a hereditary chief, and an urban activist. His father, Tobasonakwut, was both a beloved traditional chief and a respected elected leader who engaged directly with Ottawa. Internally divided, his father embraced both traditional native religion and Catholicism, the religion that was inculcated into him at the residential school where he was physically and sexually abused. In a grand gesture of reconciliation, Kinew's father invited the Roman Catholic bishop of Winnipeg to a Sundance ceremony in which he adopted him as his brother. Kinew writes affectingly of his own struggles in his twenties to find the right path, eventually giving up a self-destructive lifestyle to passionately pursue music and martial arts. From his unique vantage point, he offers an inside view of what it means to be an educated aboriginal living in a country that is just beginning to wake up to its aboriginal history and living presence. 
     Invoking hope, healing and forgiveness, The Reason You Walk is a poignant story of a towering but damaged father and his son as they embark on a journey to repair their family bond. By turns lighthearted and solemn, Kinew gives us an inspiring vision for family and cross-cultural reconciliation, and a wider conversation about the future of aboriginal peoples.- from

My thoughts: Wab openly acknowledges that he and his people are proud and stoic - which makes this open, honest and emotionally intense memoir all the more compelling.  You can hear, at times, in his story-telling that he's reluctant to reveal difficult situations or deep feelings - and sometimes, he pulls back from the reader - but many times, he bravely tells his story, and the story of his father and his sons, as it needs to be told.

I learned so much about Indigenous culture, spirituality, and families; I saw in a very real way how the horrors of residential schools affected the survivors, but also their families - their children and grandchildren.  And I was humbled and amazed to hear how Wab's father worked relentlessly to make peace, reconciliation and forgiveness a very real aspect of his everyday life.  

An important, positive, hopeful and emotional look at how Indigenous people and other Canadians can learn from each other, understand each other and put true reconciliation into action.