Friday Morning Bookclub

August 22, 2012

As My Mother Always Said… “That’s Why They Make Chocolate And Vanilla!”

Last week we met to discuss The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I had the privilege to hear Madeline Miller speak at The Gaithersburg Book Festival this summer. Several of us from The Friday Bookclub attended the festival and we thought that The Song of Achilles would be a good choice for our group. After hearing the author read from her book it was obvious that it was beautifully written and it was something different from what we had read in the past. It was not a depressing book, a common complaint. It was not about a dysfunctional family. It was not about someone dying of cancer and it was not another Holocaust book. How could a story about Greek Gods and Goddesses be anything but interesting?

The Song of Achilles is  a modern version of the Iliad, told through the eyes of Patroclus, the son of the Greek King Menuetius. We first meet Patroclus as a young boy. He is a meek child, a misfit of sorts and a disappointment to his father. Menuetius has no patience for his son and when  10-year-old Patroclus accidently kills another boy, Menuetius sends him into exile. It is here, in the kingdom of Phthia that he meets Achilles. Achilles is everything Patroclus is not. He is strong, handsome, and confident. He is the son of  the powerful sea goddess Thetis,

Patroclus and Achilles become the best of friends. We watch as their relationship blooms into something much more. We see them grow from childhood into adulthood. We follow them to Mount Pelion where we meet  Master Chiron, the centaur who would  be their teacher. Ultimately, we follow them into battle.

I loved this book. It was a beautiful retelling of the Trojan War and the events leading up to it. It was a beautiful love story. I wish however that I had known about the glossary in the book, before I started reading it. There were so many unfamiliar names and at times I had a difficult time remembering who was who. The glossary would have been a tremendous help and unfortunately I did not discover it until I read the very last page. This is one of the few times it would have been helpful to read the last pages first as a few of my book lover friends do!

Although we had a smaller group this month due to summer vacations, we had a fascinating discussion of the book. There were those who loved the book as I did, a few who did not even bother finishing it as they just could not get into it and a several somewhere in the middle. As my mother would say….. “That’s why they make chocolate and vanilla!”

July 1, 2012

Fifty Shades Of Grey: To Read Or Not To Read! Help Me Decide!

Filed under: Book Discussions,Fifty Shade of Grey — susanbright @ 10:38 am
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It is all I hear about! Fifty Shades of Grey! Everywhere I go women are talking about it. The other day I treated myself to a pedicure, a place where I like to sit quietly, relax and read my book. Impossible! The other three women could not stop talking about Christian Grey. Clearly I was not going to get any reading done so I sat back, closed my eyes and listened. Personally I think there should be a sign on the wall titled Proper Pedicure Etiquette and number one on the list would be PLEASE TALK QUIETLY, but that is a whole other story!

These woman were in love with Fifty Shades, or perhaps they were in love with Grey himself! Apparently he was gorgeous, charming, hot! They couldn’t put the books down. They were addicting, erotic, magical, riveting, suspenseful and even romantic. They even described it as a study in human behavior.

Is this the same book that my fellow book club friend described as trash, porn, boring, stupid and poorly written? One day I decide to read it, the next say NO Way! I am fickled! What should I do. Should I download it on my kindle where it will be accessible to my 28-year-old daughter, my son’s 26-year-old girlfriend and my 80+ year old mother? Help me decide!

February 20, 2012

The Marriage Plot: A Review By Jean

Filed under: Book Discussions,The Marriage Plot — susanbright @ 10:08 am
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This month’s book was The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. Since we had read and enjoyed his earlier book, Middlesex, we were all looking forward to another good read. Unfortunately, despite its promise, this book ended up being disappointing on many levels.

The story centers on three Brown University students as they segue from the highly intellectual environment at a prestigious Ivy League school to the real world. It is a time of uncertainty and angst with which most of us can certainly identify. Love, guilt, mental illness, spiritual awareness, searching for an adult identity are pretty universal themes in “coming of age” stories. However, many of us felt that the characters in The Marriage Plot were generally unlikeable, making it difficult for us to care about their struggles. The love triangle never really seemed to fully develop and the book’s  ending was somewhat abrupt and unsatisfying. Some of us were so put off by the overdone esoteric literary references at the beginning that we didn’t even finish the book. To be fair, this book probably is an accurate portrayal of a certain community, one with which Mr. Eugenides is familiar, but it failed to connect with us.

Let us know what you thought of The Marriage Plot!

February 7, 2012

The Friday Morning Bookclub Gives Night Road By Kristin Hannah 3 Omelets

Filed under: Book Discussions,Night Road,Polls,Rate The Book — susanbright @ 12:08 pm

Amazon readers gave Night Road   4 1/2 stars

Barnes and Noble readers gave Night Road 4 1/2  stars

Night Road is one of those books that any mother of teenagers can relate to one way or another.  Jude is a helicopter mother. Her whole life revolves around keeping her twins safe. Unfortunately she learns the hard way that no matter how hard you try, life happens and not everything is within your control. Night Road is sure to promote an interesting discussion among your book club.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8949352-night-road

January 31, 2012

Divergent By Veronica Roth, The Next Hunger Games?

So you just finished the third book in The Hunger Games and you just don’t know what you could possibly read next that would be half as entertaining! Don’t despair! Divergent is here and it too is an exciting page turner with lots of twists and turns.

Like The Hunger Games, Divergent takes place in a dystopian world and therefore falls under the category of dystopian novels, a genre I know little about. The Time Machine written by H.G. Wells in 1895 is considered to be dystopian science fiction at its best. Some other classic dystopian books are 1984 by George Orwell,  Lord of The Flies by William Golding, A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and one of my daughter’s favorite books of all times, The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Meet Beatrice Prior, the feisty teenage star of Divergent. The world Beatrice was born into is divided into five factions, each representing a different virtue. Beatrice belongs to the Abnegation faction (the selfless). At the age of 16 each child is required to take a simulated aptitude test to determine which faction suites them best. There is no way to prepare for this test as no one actually talks about what happens in the testing room and once the test is finished, no one dares to discuss the results until Choosing day, the day each child announces to the world which faction they choose to commit their life to.

Would Beatrice choose to remain with her family in the Abnegation faction, or would she choose to leave everything behind and  join the Candor Faction (the truthful) or The Amity (the peaceful) or the Erudite (the Intelligent) or even The Dauntless (the Brave)? What could it possibly mean to be a Divergent and why was everyone afraid to actually say the word out loud?

Divergent is a quick and most importantly fun read. There is only one major problem with reading this book. When I finished, I immediately tried to download the second book in the trilogy…yes like The Hunger Games it is a trilogy… only to find out that it has not been released yet. I can hardly wait to find out what happens to Tris (formerly Beatrice) and her friend Four. Divergent’s Tris and The Hunger Games’ Katniss have a lot in common and would probably be the best of friends!

http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/p/books.html

January 25, 2012

Looking Back on 2011!…… Favorite Book: The Invisible Bridge By Julie Orringer

This year The Friday Morning Bookclub read a little bit of everything. Fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, a memoir and of course a mystery or two. We even listened to our first audio book (The American Heiress), complements of Reader’s Choice and Macmillan Audio. We took a tour of China (A Thread of Sky) also courtesy of one of the many book sites we visit and traveled to the Middle East and learned about life in modern-day Saudia Arabia (Finding Nouf). We glimpsed into the lives of the Ultra Orthodox Jews of Borough Park, New York (Hush) and read about Mathilde Kschessinska, Prima ballerina of the St Petersburg Imperial Theater (The True Memoirs of Little K). We learned all about the amazing HeLa cells, which were discovered at Johns Hopkins, a hospital in our own back yard (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) and read two of Laura Lippman’s mysteries, which also take place in our home town of Baltimore (What The Dead Know and The Most Dangerous Thing). We had the pleasure of meeting with Justin Kramon, the charming author of Finny who just happened to grow up in Baltimore. How lucky were we to receive copies of Heaven’s Keep, the 9th book in the Cork O’Connor mystery series courtesy of Book Movement. And of course we continued the tradition and invited the men in our lives to join us for our annual pot luck dinner meeting to discuss Unbroken.

Our favorite book of the year, The Invisible Bridge was an epic story of the Hungarian Jews  before and during World War II.  It is a beautifully written and haunting love story.  Although we read many very good books this year, several people felt that there were no “stand out ” books. Maybe 2012 will be the year of the 5 omelet book! Any recommendations?

Here is a run down of the books we read in 2011:

  • Finny by Justin Kramon (3 1/2 Omelets)
  • Heaven’s Keep by William Kent Krueger ( 2 1/2 Omelets)
  • The True Memoirs of Little K by Adrienne Sharp (4 Omelets)
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (3 Omelets)
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (4 1/2 Omelets)
  • The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (4 1/4 Omelets)
  • The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin (3 1/2 Omelets)
  • A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei ( 3 1/4 Omelets)
  • Finding Nouf by Kristin Hannah ( 3 1/2 Omelets)
  • Hush by Eshes Chayil (3 3/4 Omelets)
  • The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman ( 2 3/4 Omelets)

January 16, 2012

Night Road: A Review By Barbara

Filed under: Book Discussions,Kristin Hannah,Night Road — susanbright @ 6:56 pm
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This past month we were fortunate to win copies of  Night Road  by Kristin Hannah.  Jude is a wonderful mother, although she is somewhat protective of her 18-year-old twins, Mia and Zach.  When Lexi, a former foster child with a dark past, enters their lives as Mia’s friend, Jude welcomes her since Mia had difficulty making friends.  Eventually Lexi and Zach fall in love, and the three teens experience partying and drinking during their senior year.  A tragic accident occurs which tears the family apart and has a deep impact on Lexi.  

 We had a spirited discussion about the book and its characters.  Most felt that the characters in the book were portrayed in an extreme fashion, and that the events were somewhat contrived.  However, some felt it was necessary for the author to do so in order to make her points.  For many of us, it brought back the angst of raising teenagers, and the struggle to be protective without hovering.   As made clear in the book, no matter what choices we make as parents, there is definitely luck involved in having our children survive the teenage years unscathed.

 Although the book itself did not get rave reviews from the group, it certainly led to an interesting discussion.  Some felt it would be helpful for teens to read the book to see what an impact drinking and driving can have, but others felt it was too extreme a situation, and that in any event most teens feel invincible, and that bad things will never happen to THEM.  We all agreed that communication with our kids is the best way to have an impact, although it certainly does not guarantee smooth sailing.

December 24, 2011

The Most Dangerous Thing: A Review By Ann

In “The Most Dangerous Thing,” Laura Lippman, a reputed mystery writer, explores a mythologized childhood in the woods that skirts Dickeyville, a suburb just inside Baltimore, Maryland. In the novel, five neighborhood kids play together back in the late 1970s — back when it was actually possible for kids to roam and play.

The Friday Morning Bookclub happens to be based in the Baltimore area and many members grew up here in the 1970’s. Reading about neighborhoods, streets and parks we knew was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the story seemed “much ado about nothing”.

We hear in the voice of each kid –Gwen, Mickey, and the three Halloran brothers, Sean, Tim, and Gordon – about exploring the neighborhood park and about wondering deeper and deeper into the wilderness. Tragedy ensues, death occurs. They grow apart. They come back together. (Maybe they should have been forced to have play dates?)

While there is some interesting character development and quirky personalities, I just felt let down when it was finished. The whole book leads up to this secret lie or cover up and I was expecting something … well something …

Our bookclub had a lot of fun exchanging holiday gifts and then stealing them from one another. The best idea of the morning, however, was a recipe exchange and book. More on that to come.

November 17, 2011

Hush….

Filed under: Book Discussions,Hush — janinefrier @ 12:32 pm
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Hush was first written under the pseudonym Eshes Chayil (woman of valor) because Judy Brown had well founded fears of retribution. After reading the book, one gains a deep understanding of why Judy was so fearful and what her community was capable of…. regarding both  the abuse and the silence. Judy received death threats for publishing this book, before she publicized her real name.  Despite this, she decided to take a brave stance and allow her name to be used because of the horrific abduction and murder of Lieby Kletzky.  She said, “I refuse to continue to allow that fear to force me into hiding over a book that should have been written long ago. I no longer want to be known only as Eishes Chayil when my name is Judy Brown. I must find the courage to stand with the victims who carry the burden of our silence for the rest of their lives.”

Hushing might be what the Orthodox Jewish Community does when one of its own sexually abuses children.  As has been evident in the news lately, however, they are not alone and it can and does happen in other settings too. The community feels threatened and tainted when this happens in their midst.  So the option of least resistance, often, is to sweep it under the rug and hope that it will go away.  But we know that it never will go away.

These topics, along with the disturbing story that Hush tells, led to a deep and enlightening discussion, at our meeting this month.  Although this was a book we were discussing, the real and serious  issues that it brought to light, were not taken lightly. We commend Judy Brown for taking the step into the light and for doing what ever she can to try and prevent this from continuing to happen… no matter in what community it occurs.

October 22, 2011

Finding Nouf: A Review By Carol

Filed under: Book Discussions,Book Recomendations,Finding Nouf — susanbright @ 10:03 am
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Our meeting in October was about the book Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris, a murder-mystery set in present day Saudi Arabia. In this story, 16 year old Nouf, a young woman from a very large, traditional and wealthy Saudi family, had been missing and was found dead and her family is remarkably uninterested in a thorough investigation of the circumstances. But one of Nouf’s many brothers wanted to know the truth, so he hired a desert guide known for his tracking skills and quietly launched a private investigation.

As Nayir, the guide, and Katya, the lab worker at the coroner’s office, join forces to unofficially and surreptitiously investigate this strange and compelling case, the readers are taken into an investigation of our own: we are allowed a rare glimpse into the daily life of Saudi Arabians, who live in one of the most gender segregated and closed societies in the world. As the investigation gets more complex, we begin to see all kinds of startling contrasts: the differences between the lives of westerners and middle easterners; the differences in the lives of the wealthy Saudis and the working class Saudis. It also showcases the vast differences in the lives of men and women in the Saudi culture and the religious constraints that prohibit their partnership.

By the end of the book, everyone is changed. Nouf’s family is faced with the trauma of having painful secrets exposed. The investigators, Nayir, a traditional Saudi man, and Katya, a more progressive Saudi woman, are faced with the stress caused by their illegal collaboration, which would have frightening legal consequences, and the distress that is caused when they admit to the feelings they develop for each other, which is against all their cultural rules. Every one of them is left with a need to cope with a life changing conflict. Likewise, the readers are left feeling conflicted. The middle-eastern mindset is so alien to us, but if you view our culture through foreign eyes, maybe our western lifestyle is disturbing and sometimes horrifying in its own way. It’s something to think about.

Ferraris’s next book, City of Veils, is another fascinating window through which we can peek into the culture of the strict Moslem society in Saudi Arabia. It is another murder mystery with the same two investigators but this time Americans are involved. It’s in this story that the differences between westerners and middle easterners are really examined. I really enjoyed it. It made me think back to another terrific book we read a long time ago that takes place in the middle east (Egypt), Man in the White Sharkskin Suit by Lucette Lagnado, and through these books, I am getting a better idea of that culture and our own.

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