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
         - 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)
  • March - Library Kit... hostess chooses her top 3 picks; then the HPL gives us whichever of these 3 are available
  • 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 
         - some options include:
    • And the Mountains Echoed by Kahled Hosseini (a multigenerational story from the author of A Thousand Splendid Suns)
    • 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.
         - 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

  • June - Celebrate Canada... a Canadian author writing a story that takes place in Canada - past or present
         - 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 has Red Notice for $3.59; 

Trafficked for $5.69 and 

Homemade Life for $5.69

if you're looking to scoop up a great deal!

(all 3 available on Sept 13th...)

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. 

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

2. What is Miss Brodie's "prime"? What does she mean by the term and why is it so significant—she announces it to her class and refers to it time and again? It also brought up in the last line of the book.

3. Do we ever learn why she selects the particular girls she does as her Brodie girls? Talk about the girls, their relationships with one another, and their relationship with the school. Are they individuals...or conformists?

4. What is Miss Brodie's purpose in creating the Brodie set? Is it purely educational...or something else? What does she want for (or from) them? In what ways, if at all, does the Brodie set change over the years? Do the girls alter their feelings for Miss Brodie by the time their schooling ends?

5. What do you think of Miss MacKay, the headmistress, who continually attempts to undermine Miss Brodie? At the end, she says to Sandy, "I'm afraid she put ideas into your young heads." Why has that bothered her for so many years? Is that not precisely what education is about, at least Miss MacKay's own philosophy of teaching? Is Miss MacKay a watchful headmistress doing her job? Or is she inhibiting a vibrant, creative teacher?

6. We know Miss Brodie only through the eyes of the girls, primarily Sandy. How does their perception of her change by the time they are 17 years of age...and also when they are even older?

7. Muriel Spark wrote with a great deal of wit, and her humor is particularly evident in this novel because we view the adult world through the eyes of innocents. What are some of the sections you find particularly funny?

8. Is Miss Brodie a good person? Is she a good teacher? Try, in fact, to explain the enigma that is Miss Jean Brodie? What, for instance, is her background—do we ever find out?

9. What about Teddy Lloyd and Gordon Lowther, Miss Brodie's two love interests? What does she want with them? She refuses Lowther's entreaties to marry her—why? And more mysteriously, she encourages Rose to have an affair with Lloyd—why, again?

10. When she is finally betrayed, was the one who did so right or wrong? What prompted the girl tell Miss MacKay what she told her? Was it a betrayal?

11. In the final analysis, how do you come to think of Miss Brodie? Is she a noble figure? A tragic one? A visionary? Is she silly? Is she dangerous or well-meaning? What impact did she have on her girls, lasting or short-term?

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

(Questions 2-11 by LitLovers.)

Menu: "A Scottish Tea at Twilight"

Let's sit in the twilight, either on the carpet like Sandy and Jenny or on my couches, and discuss Miss Jean Brodie and her girls, while enjoying delicious Scottish desserts. And we can toast to the fact that we, fellow book clubers, are the creme de la creme! :) (how's the for post-survival summer vacation encouragement ;) )

Scottish Shortbread

Old Fashioned Raspberry Buns

Scottish Berry Brûlée - Emily

Scottish Oat Cakes

Udny Arms Sticky Toffee Pudding

Apple Shortbread Pie

Scotch Teas (this is actually a food!) - Tessa

(Recipes can be found here:
Or Google/Pinterest)

Drinks: Danielle

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!)