Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm Still Here

I am still here, folks.  Just extremely busy this time of year--working in retail pretty much takes the wind out of your sails during November, December, and yes--January.  

I'm still reading, and I will post a review on here soon of books that crossed my radar in 2011.  Some I've read, others are still on the to be read list.

In the meantime, enjoy those cold winter nights curled up with a good book and maybe a hot toddy--or tea if you want to stay awake to finish your book.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Reservoir: My Thoughts Are In A Whirl!

I just finished The Reservoir last night, and it is one of those books where you are constantly second guessing yourself.  Did he do it, or didn't he?  

I must confess that when I first started this novel, I was convinced Tommie did murder Lillian.  Told from his perspective, he takes great pains to cover his tracks, remain calm, and not give anything away.  So as a reader, you are lead into this story believing he's got something to hide.

As the story progresses, Lillian is identified, and rumors swirl about a young man who was meeting her at her hotel the night of her death.  Lillian's father, a rather horrid man (who is accused by more than one person of sexually abusing Lillian) points the finger at Tommie, and does everything he can to get Tommie arrested.  Who's the father of Lillian's unborn child?  And why did she end up in the reservoir?  

That this novel was based on an actual sensational murder case in Richmond, Virginia in 1885 gives this story  an unusual slant.  That we can search the internet and find articles and blogs about this murder is incredible.  But did Tommie do it?  We will never know.  And Tommie's character doesn't help but muddy the waters. At first, I thought he did it.  Then, after the guilty verdict, he tells his brother what really happened--that Lillian wanted to kill herself, and slipped on the snow, hit her head, and fell into the reservoir.  But then a bit later, he tells a different tale--that maybe he did hit her in the head, and push her into the reservoir.  By the end of the novel, you have to decide for yourself whether an innocent man was put to death, or if he was guilty.  I can't say for sure what I think is the truth, and that's what makes this such a fascinating story.  With today's forensic technology, would anything new have been discovered?   Tests certainly would have been done to see if the baby was Tommie's.  That would have been motive.  Who knows?  

If you haven't read The Reservoir, I recommend it.  It's a great courtroom drama; a tale of human desires, needs, and desperation.  And most of all, it's about making choices that will ripple through not only your life, but history.  I can see why the author became so fascinated with this murder case.  

Next week I will be posting a few titles that are in my "to be read" pile, along with some discussion questions for reading groups--and what makes each title a great reading group choice!  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reading For The Next Two Months And Beyond!

I'm currently reading The Reservoir, and enjoying it.  You know from the start who the killer is, and follow along the winding road towards the final outcome.  I'm hoping to have it finished by the end of this week!

Anyway, I'm either picking terrible books, or this blog has gone the way most book clubs go--great enthusiasm at the beginning, then a gradual decline in participants to where only a very few still read the books each month! I guess I thought if no one actually had to drive anywhere to meet, it would be more successful.  Take the pressure off people to make time for a specific time and date and place to be.  Sadly, I was wrong.  
  I am the sort of reader who will make time to read a book--especially if I feel that it's something I've committed to--I guess that's still a holdover from college days.  After all, I did read Wolf Hall last year, and it just about killed me.  Uggh.  For a book club.  And guess what?  No one else finished it.  But I'm glad I did--enough to know I can speak about it to other people who may be interested in it, and have some time to kill--it's a doozy.  

So with this in mind, I am shaking off my disappointment, and starting in November I will be posting a book or two a month that I'm reading, and adding some questions/author information/background on the book, along with my view of the book.  It's still a book club--if anyone else wants to read along with me, please join in and comment on my posts.  I won't end this blog, since I do enjoy it.  I may be reading some fun stuff, some teen stuff; who knows?  

I hope you'll join me.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Article About The Reservoir Murder

I am going to start reading The Reservoir this week, so I've been doing some internet research on the actual murder that this novel is based upon.  Here's a newspaper article published in 1885--this murder was a sensation in Virginia at the time.  Can you imagine the circus this would have been if they had the media outlets we have today?

Murder in Virginia

Sunday, October 2, 2011

It's October! Time to Read The Reservoir

It's October, and that means another new book for us to read.  This month's pick is The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson.  A young woman's body is found in a reservoir in 1885 in Richmond, Virginia.  Was it a suicide or a murder?  Who is the young woman?  Part mystery, part thriller, and based on a true murder case, this one has received great reviews and the "unputdownable"  label from quite a few reviewers.  I can't wait to dig in!  

Start your reading--I will announce the November pick sometime this week.  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Few Notes On Amaryllis in Blueberry

Wow.  That was one heck of a story.  At first I had a difficult time settling into the story of the Slepy family.  Seena was so vague to me, and it took me a little bit to get the girls all straight.  I found Yllis a fascinating character; so physically different from her sisters and also given the gift of synesthesia.  It does get her into trouble sometimes, though.  And in 1976, no one really understood it. She seemed like the wise old woman of the story, even though she was the youngest one in the family.

I felt the family's trip to Africa was both a disaster and a revelation for each one of them, particularly Seena and Mary Grace.  Seena's reaction to Africa, the people, and the lack of education for the girls in the village reflects what some  people would feel upon first impression--especially those of us who come from a country where we take clean running water for granted.  And her awareness that she was a racist just by thinking the Africans were so much worse off than she was put it into perspective for me--some people are so obvious in their reactions to different cultures and peoples that it's clear how they feel; sometimes we shock ourselves when we realize what we think is simply our view of a culture is really an aspect of prejudice.  Material goods and things are not what makes a life. Mary Grace literally strips everything from herself in order to find the true Mary Grace.  She is reborn in Africa.  I found her "rebirth" to be one of the best parts of this novel.

 The Africans in this novel were much more in touch with life and death; they were happier even celebrating the funeral of a young girl.  Life is life, and death comes when it comes.  I think Seena realizes that in Africa and it turns her around.  Her discussions with the Queen are an enlightenment to her attitude and "wake" her up.  Can she be the mother she needs to be?

So what about the trial?  What did you think?  Were you shocked at the end, when you realize who killed Dick and why?  

Dick.  An interesting character.  Someone you despise, yet reading from his perspective, you understand what a lost soul he is, coming from a family that did not love him when he needed it.  His desperation at wanting someone to love him.  One of the most impactful chapters I read was Dick's view of his funeral.  His ability to find forgiveness and understand his feelings for Seena, and most especially, his total love for Yllis was so touching.  His spirit "falls into them", a drop for each woman in his life.  What a brilliant way of describing keeping someone close when they are gone.  I was very satisfied at the journey Dick takes spiritually--even though it takes dying to do it.

So.  This is a book that requires reflection.  It was tough for me to get through, and after finishing it yesterday, I am glad I read it.  It was not what I expected--I'm not sure what I expected, really.  Certainly a plot line that was new to me.

October's pick is The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson.  I will be announcing November's pick next week, and I think we will skip December due to the holiday craziness.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Amaryllis in Blueberry: A Few Questions

I haven't started Amaryllis in Blueberry just yet, but after reading an interview with the author, I am so intrigued with this novel I may just have to start it today!  Here are a few questions I found on the Simon & Schuster website for book club questions and interviews with the author:


Amaryllis in Blueberry takes place in Michigan and West Africa. What personal significance do these landscapes have for you? What appealed to you about using two such dramatically different locations in the novel?

I grew up in Michigan and continue to spend time there every summer. Although I no longer live in Michigan year-round, it will always be home to me at some level. Michigan represents family to me. It represents summers on the lake. It represents holidays. While the characters in Amaryllis in Blueberry are purely fictional, the Danish Landing is very real. My family has owned property on the Danish Landing for over a hundred years. Nearly all of my most poignant childhood memories take place on the Danish Landing. I remember my grandmother standing at the stove flipping blueberry pancakes. I remember exploring the Old Trail. The Danish Landing gave me my first campfire, my first sunburn, my first leech! To the degree any place on earth makes me feel grounded, the Danish Landing does. I imagine Yllis would find part of my soul on the Danish Landing.

And I imagine she'd find another part of my soul in West Africa. I worked for a short time in West Africa during my twenties, and I continue to have ties to West Africa through my nonprofit work. To the degree the Danish Landing is my place of peace, West Africa is my place of prodding. West Africa nudges me, with its energy and rituals, its colors and smells. As a twenty-something living in West Africa, I did not feel peaceful, but I sure felt alive. I did not feel grounded; I felt flung from Addae's slingshot. And when I landed, I had a different perspective, one that was far more nuanced. I was drawn to writing about these two places because on the surface they are so very different, but beneath the surface of each, there's another world. And these beneath-the-surface worlds are surprising—and surprisingly similar in many ways.

Why did you decide to begin the narrative with The End, rather than have the story unfold along a more linear time line?

I find perspective fascinating. What if we could begin at The End? Or what if we could take the knowledge of The End and revisit our lives? Would we see ourselves differently? Would we see our lives differently? Would we become different people altogether—are we merely the sum of our choices? Or are we who we are at our core, indelible at some level no matter our choices? Would Seena or Yllis, Tessa or Mary Catherine, Grace or Dick or Clara or Heimdall be the same person to the reader if I had started at the beginning and moved straight to the end? Or did each become a different person to the reader because the reader had foreknowledge of certain outcomes? Did the reader's altered perspective change each character in some fundamental way? I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but I think the questions are worth asking, worth exploring.

Have you started it yet?  I'm interested in how Michigan, West Africa, Greek Mythology, and this family all tie together.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Oops! What do you want to do?

I'm a big doofus, and I mixed up September and October picks.  Does anyone mind if we read Amaryllis in Blueberry this month instead of October?  If no one disagrees, we'll just stick with Amaryllis for September.  Sorry.  Must  have books on the brain :)

September Read: Amaryllis in Blueberry

Ok!  We're into September, and this month's read is definitely different from The Lost Girls.  Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum takes place in Africa and Michigan.  What ties these two places together?  The four Slepy sisters, each with a particular personality trait that will determine their fate in Africa.  

I love the cover of this book.  It certainly hits the mark, and makes people pick it up!  I have heard from fellow readers that this book is great, so I am ready to start reading.  I've attached a link to the author's website, so hit the book title to go there and read about her other book Madapple, reviews, and discussion questions.  I'll be posting questions and my own observations about this book at the month rolls on!  And I may have to read Madapple.  I remember when this was on the shelves in our bookstore; it was one of those "I want to read it someday" books.  Well, that someday may be in September.  

Enjoy your holiday weekend, and start reading!  This is available in paperback and e-book format.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Are You Packing Your Bags? The Lost Girls Review

Well, I just finished The Lost Girls.  I must say this is one of those books where the cover art had me thinking I was going to read something very different than what was between the covers.

Did I like this book?  I have mixed feelings.  I think if I had been younger, and more restless, it would have had a big impact on me.  But being in my 40's, working at a job I enjoy, and being pretty settled in my life, I kept thinking to myself "No way would I do this!"  I admire these women for leaving everything behind and traveling the world for a year.  That takes a lot of guts.  Especially staying at hostels!  I am a hotel and indoor plumbing kind of gal.  I know many people would say that is part of the experience, but I don't think I would be any less awed by the fabulous sites, hikes, and people I would meet because I slept in some comfort.

I think I started this book expecting a fun, frothy tale of three women who have some great adventures and lots of laughs along the way.  The fact that they literally went around the world, stayed in places for weeks, and volunteered in Africa was a surprise to me as I read along.  I did get a bit tired of the wondering what do to with their lives when they got home.  I understand leaving home and getting down to the nitty gritty will certainly give you plenty of time for reflection on your life and where you want to end up, but it got old.  I think what I've learned that maybe they didn't know at the time is that all that angst just makes you tired--and you end up where you're supposed to be anyway.  

I am glad, however, that Jen, Holly, and Amanda went home and changed their lives to reflect what they discovered about themselves while on the road.  If that trip helped them to focus on what they truly wanted out of life, then bravo to them.  I guess I am past that stage in life, and just want a vacation full of fun, some exercise, and great food to share with Bud.  I don't think it would change my life--unless I won the lottery and could buy a vacation home in Hawaii!

What did you think of The Lost Girls?  

Where is your next trip?  

Did this book make you want to travel more?

Has a vacation or trip ever changed how you want to live your life?  How?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Working Vacation or Relaxing Vacation?

I'm about halfway through Lost Girls.  They are now in India, and Holly is preparing for her month long yoga program.  I will keep my feelings about this book for another post, but in reading about the girls traveling to Africa and volunteering, it got me thinking:  is this something I would do on vacation?

When you go away on a vacation, do you like to relax, eat a lot, and laze about? Or do you like to see and do as much as possible?  I've experienced the see and do on one particular vacation I took to Colorado a few years ago.  The first day we arrived, Bud and I drove to a white water rafting adventure that I'd signed us up for before we left Iowa.  We were in Colorado for a weekend wedding, and we were determined to use every moment not at a wedding function on traveling around and seeing the sights.  While most of the wedding guests played golf, sat at the pool, and drank too much, Bud and I were driving up into the Rockies, hiking on a trail to old pioneer homesteads, and taking a ride up a ski lift to see the sights.  We were exhausted, but packed in as much as we could.

This, of course, is nothing like volunteering in Africa for a month. They are not nearly the same thing.  But some people go on vacation and do nothing at all.  I prefer to do something--especially if it's a place that I may not get to again for a long time.  I guess I am a history/hiking/museum kind of gal, with lunches and dinners thrown in at great restaurants.  I could not, however, live out of a backpack for months at a time.

How about you?  Are you a vacation doer, or a relaxer?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Are You a Lost Girl?

Hope everyone is enjoying this month's selection.  I must admit I haven't started it yet; I'm going to buy it today and start it very soon.  Just looking at the cover makes me itch to travel.  Luckily for me, I am having my own little "lost girl" vacation in November, when I travel to Savannah, GA with two of my sisters for a long weekend.  We have already booked a fun ghost tour (if I have my way, we'll do a few more!), and my sisters are already making requests to eat at certain places.  All I have to do is run a half-marathon on that Saturday morning, and enjoy the rest of our time.  I just cannot wait to run through Savannah and see all of the beautiful homes and historic places.

So do you have a trip planned?  If not, maybe reading this book will prod you into planning a getaway.  Here's the website for The Lost Girls--check it out!

Monday, August 1, 2011

August Read: One to Relax and Sip a Mojito While Reading!

Okay, after last month's difficult pick, this month we are saying "toodles" to  summer vacations with a splash.  It's August 1st, so start your reading engines for The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett.  In a nutshell, it's an adventure about three friends who decide to travel around the world.  I'd say since I won't be packing my bags anytime soon, this is a perfect end of summer book to enjoy--armchair traveling at it's best.

This book is available as a paperback and an Ebook.  Join the fun--where would you want to travel with your friends if you could?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Finished It!

I  finished The Great House by Nicole Krauss.  It was difficult to get through, which leads me to question whether I have been reading too many books that have no depth to them.  I read for enjoyment, and while I can't say I enjoyed this book, I do appreciate the writing, the story, and the ability of the author to leave the reader with that lingering feeling of having read something profound, even if I don't understand everything I read.

This book is about secrets, regrets, being haunted by your past, and of course, the ever continuing ripples that the Holocaust has caused through history.  As we get farther and farther past WW 2, I think books like this are important  to keep reminding those of us who did not experience this time in the world that it did happen, and it is not something that people can forget.  It continues to shape and haunt those who lived through it and the guilt they feel for doing so.  That guilt colors generations; something as seemingly unimportant as a desk can symbolize a lot of pain, regret, and lost love.  Time really is a great house, full of rooms and hallways that seem to go on  forever.

I hope a few of you have managed to finish this book.  I am happily diving into a light summer read, but this will linger in the back of my mind for some time to come.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Great House Ate My Brain

Aw nuts.  I have managed to get through about half of this book, and I must say I don't know what to think about it.

Jewels is struggling, Jo hasn't started it, and I feel doom and gloom whenever I start to read more.  Now I understand the beauty of the writing, and I understand each story is connected by not only the desk, but by the Jewish experience in this century--especially the effects of the Holocaust on those who survived it.

But it's depressing as hell, and it's difficult to get into this book when the sun is shining and it's 95 degrees outside!

So I will try to finish it this week, but I am not holding myself to this, and won't feel bad if I don't.  I am appreciative of the author's hard work, and her talent.  Perhaps if I had read this at another time, I would have enjoyed it.

I'll recap at the end of the week.  Next week, we start a non-fiction book that I think we will love!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Great House Questions For You To Ponder

I'm about 100 pages into The Great House.  I am not giving up!  This is what makes a reading group interesting--reading something that requires a bit of work and dedication.  My fellow co-worker Kirk is also reading it, and he has fallen hard for this novel.   Kirk, if you're reading this, please share your thoughts about The Great House.

Here are a few questions from Oprah.com that may help you think about the characters in the novel and the overall theme of each story:

1. The large and imposing desk in the novel is passed from life to life, moving through space and time to link the characters in the novel to each other and to the past. What does this inheritance represent for each? Is it a burden?

2. A sense of loss—of a child, a parent, a lover, a home, youth, an illusion, and so many other things—suffuses the novel. How do the characters respond to loss, destruction, and change?

3. The novel is composed of intimate and emotional monologues that have the tone of a confession. What does Nadia, or Arthur, or Aaron feel themselves to be guilty of? What role does judgment play in the novel?

4. Many of the characters are haunted by doubt or uncertainty, whether it's moral doubt, or self-doubt, or the doubt that comes with a realization of the limits of how fully known we can ever be to one another, of how often we must live unknown and unknowing. What is the nature of Nadia's doubt, as expressed in the question that afflicts her: What if I had been wrong? What kind of uncertainty did Arthur feel in his marriage? And Aaron, as a father? What about Yoav and Leah Weisz?

Keep reading!  I'll post a few more questions next week.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

And The Next Selections Are...

August Pick
September pick

October Pick
Here are our choices for the next few months.  All are in paperback and available as Ebooks!

Monday, July 11, 2011

My First Impression of The Great House

Ok.  I know this book is going to be a challenge.  I've read about 50 pages, and I had to get on Google and see what other people thought of it.  I can say people either love it or hate it.  I think it will be a book that will stay in my brain for quite some time, simmering away.

Have you started it?  What do you think so far?  I don't know anyone at the bookstore that has read it, so I have no one to question!  Aggh!  One theme that came up a lot in people's reviews was the argument that it's actually 4 short stories, and not a novel.  The critics love it; "regular folks" like us are definitely mixed.

I will keep digging in!  I can say with a pretty good inkling that it's not a happy novel, so read it out in the sun, with a cheerful drink by your side.  Then go out and do something fun.  Loneliness and isolation are certainly themes Nicole Krauss explores in The Great House.

More later...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Last Batch of Goodies to Pick from!

Searching for books that will appeal to this group of book lovers has been both wonderful and full of "Oh I have to read that one" moments for me.  Here's the last batch for you to choose from for the next few months.  Even if we don't pick one you like, I certainly hope you will write down the title and rush to your local library or bookstore and add it to your pile.  I will post the top three choices next week, and then if there are any questions or comments, please let me know!  Which of these do you like?  Or do you like them all?

Read about it here

Read about it here

Read about it here

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Three More Choices

Here's another batch of titles to look at.  Yesterday's batch responses show Amaryllis in Blueberry in the lead.  If anyone has suggestions, please let me know!  And you don't have to pick just one from each batch, I'm just grouping them in 3 sets of 3 to make it a bit easier for everyone to look at them and decide.  I'll post another 3 tomorrow--

Read About This Book Here

Read About This Book Here

I'm happy to read any one of these titles, but I have had The Lost Girls on my list for a loooong time.  
Looking forward to seeing your comments--

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Decisions to Make!

Hi fellow book lovers!  Yes, we are again at the point where we have to pick our next three choices for the book  club.  I will be posting titles for us to choose from for August, September, and October.  They are linked to BN.Com so you can pop on and read the overview and other people's reviews to help you make a choice.  They are also available as Ebooks and I'm trying to pick titles that are in paperback.  So, here's the first three choices:

Read about it here

Read about it here

Read about it here

I'll be posting a few more choices, so by Mid-July we'll have our picks.  There are so many great books to choose from, I would be happy to read them all (and maybe I'll even try to do that :).

Friday, July 1, 2011

July's Pick: The Great House by Nicole Krauss

It's July 1st already!  This weekend will be full of fireworks, BBQ, and family fun.  After Monday, be prepared to tackle our latest pick--The Great House by Nicole Krauss.

I must confess, I have picked up this book so many times in the past few months.  I am intrigued by the story of a desk and the history it holds for so many people.  Nicole has many fans in our bookstore--her History of Love has been a favorite handsell.  I am new to Nicole, so I am looking eagerly ahead to the coming weeks and can't wait to dive into this novel.

If you want a short synopsis of the novel, click here.  It takes you to Nicole's website.

I will be posting a few questions for you to ponder, and also posting some suggestions for our next three months of reading.  I'm trying to narrow down my list, which seems to grow every week.

Have a great 4th of July, and start your reading!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What Did You Think Of Red Leather Diary?

I finished The Red Leather Diary last night.  I found myself thinking a lot about Florence after I put the book down.  Why?  I think because she made me think about myself, in the future, as --God willing--an elderly woman.  When I look back on my life, what will I think?  Will I be filled with regret, or will I be one of those amazing senior citizens who still get up every morning and keep a full and active life?  Will I be jumping out of a plane at 80, running (very slowly) a half marathon, or dancing in a Zumba class?  

As I was reading this book, I must admit Florence got on my nerves a bit.  She seemed very "adult" for a young teen, and rather snotty at times.  I cannot imagine living in the world she occupied--it had to be so vibrant and alive!  Knowing what would come in a few short years--a world torn apart by war, made reading this poignant for me.  This world was lost, so for Florence to have kept a diary for just a few short years gave us a window into a time when it seemed the world was full of fresh new ideas, chock full of art and culture, and women were realizing they had more to give than being a wife and mother and stifling their artistic talents and desires for careers outside the home.

I am glad the book did not simply end with the diary, that I got see what Florence did after she wrote her last entry.  I'm thrilled she got to Europe--that trip sounded like a heck of a good time!  And Nat--what a handsome guy--holy cow!  I think every man she met was swoon worthy.  They all looked so elegant.

Florence as a 90 year old was a delight.  I agree with Lily, that she was still the young girl from the diary.  Florence may have felt she lost that adventurous young girl, but I think she was still there.  And her daughters and grandchildren were perfect examples of her sense of adventure and artistic flair reaching their full potential.  I looked to see if Florence was still alive today, and I could not find anything that indicated her death, so I can only assume she's closing in on 100 years.  What a time span--so many things she has witnessed.

Does this make you want to begin a journal of your own?  Have you rediscovered an old diary from your younger years?  I must confess I do not have a diary from my childhood.  I think of Oprah, who has kept a journal since her teen years, and still, to this day, keeps a journal.  She has said she looks at some from her 20's and laughs at her drama.  I am kind of envious that she still has contact with that version of herself.  I can't remember what I was thinking about 5 years ago, much less 20!  So I may start a journal this year, the year I turn 45.  I say better late than never.

I hope you enjoyed this book.  If Florence was too much for you, well, I hope you enjoyed traveling back to 1930's New York, and it has given you some thought about your life--what you've done, where you are headed, and if you are living the life you dreamed about in your younger years.

Will you start your own red leather diary?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Discussion Questions for "Diary"

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer so far--here it's been either high heat and humidity or very strong thunderstorms, hail, and pounding rains!  Perfect weather for reading, I think :)

Here are a few discussion questions for The Red Leather Diary, courtesy of HarperCollins:

1. Koppel writes that "she wasn't really interested in celebrities" that she was covering for the New York Times before she found the diary. She writes, "wanted everything to slow down. I was searching for a story that completely touched my life and those of other people." What point does the book make about finding meaning in our youth-obsessed, celebrity-crazed, materialistic culture? Do teenagers keep diaries anymore? Where do we record our inner lives? What windows do we have into the human soul?

2. One morning, outside of her Manhattan apartment, Koppel glimpses an unusual sight: a dumpster piled with old steamer trunks. Late for work, she climbs in, prying open the trunks' rusty latches. Among the flapper dresses, old photographs, "an entire collection of handbags," a tangerine bouclé coat from Bergdorf's, she discovers a crumbling red leather diary kept by a precocious and free-spirited young woman named Florence Wolfson. Koppel writes, "I couldn't help but read it as if it were a personal letter to me." Koppel unearthed a deep and profound connection with a like-minded spirit. Does the discovery of the diary signal fate? A cosmic force at work? Coincidence?

3. Opening the tarnished brass lock, Koppel embarks on a journey into the past. As she turns the diary's brittle pages, she is captivated by the headstrong young woman whose intimate thoughts and emotions fill the pale blue lines. "I had kept journals but never like this. Not a single day was skipped in the diary's full five years from 1929 to 1934," Koppel writes. Is Florence's inner monologue recorded on the pages of her diary a "real-life time machine," as Koppel writes, or also a portal for us to look at ourselves, daughters, mothers and grandmothers in a new light?

4. Koppel writes, "Florence's writing possessed the literary equivalent of perfect pitch." In one entry, Florence swooned, "Have stuffed myself with Mozart and Beethoven—I feel like a ripe apricot—I'm dizzy with the exotic." At fifteen, she writes, "Went to the Museum of Modern Art and almost passed out from sheer jealously—I can't even paint an apple yet—it's heartbreaking!" Florence records, "I'm not ordinary." In another entry: "There's so much to do—music, art, books, people—can one absorb it all?" How does Florence compare with contemporary young women today?

I'm still taking ideas for our next batch of reads--any ideas?  I'll be putting up a list later this month for everyone to vote on.  Next month's read is The Great House by Nicole Krauss.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

June Read: The Red Leather Diary

Okay, if you couldn't join us for the inaugural book The Paris Wife,  I hope you can join us for our second selection The Red Leather Diary  by Lily Koppel.  This is a non-fiction selection which I have been wanting to read for years and now I have an excuse to do it.

I'll be posting a few questions and some info about this book during June.  I think I am not alone in thinking that women who lived in the first half of the 20th century had a life that was a bit cloistered and they didn't have any fun at all, or much of anything to do but find a husband.  I am pretty sure this book will make me see things in a different light!  

Here's to another intriguing read.  And also, we have a book picked out for July, but I am taking suggestions for the next batch of books for the club.  Anything you're itching to read and discuss?  Remember, it doesn't have to be a new book, and it can be fiction or non-fiction.  I'll be posting our reading list for August, September, and October at the end of this month, so please feel free to suggest titles.  

And thank you to all who read and commented on our first selection.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Paris Wife: What Are Your Final Thoughts?

May is almost over, and that means we will be starting our June selection, The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel next week.  It's available in paperback for those on a budget, and you can probably get used copies, too.

I'll be posting some information about this book next week.  I can't wait to read it.

Anyway--back to The Paris Wife.  I finished it a few weeks ago, and I have to say I have mixed feelings about it.  The writing was beautiful, and I appreciated the short insights the reader had into Ernest's feelings; I think otherwise I would have been even more annoyed at him without them.

I can say I am firmly on Hadley's side.  I don't know how she lived with a man who was so obsessed with his writing--to the point that he would spend hours a day agonizing over a few sentences. I think they did love each other at the beginning, but Ernest seems to be the type to fall in and out of love easily.  I think he felt responsible for Hadley, but he knew she would pretty much go along with what he decided.

I was almost shouting at the novel when Hadley was trying to decide if she should stay with Ernest and Pauline in the wife-mistress-man scenario.  I looked at it from a woman's point of view in 2011; I don't know if I would have felt different in the 1920's.  I am so glad she found love again, with a good man.

Ernest was a very complex man, and I think he used the "artist" card to dismiss his behavior not only towards Hadley, but towards his friends.  What a bunch of damaged people!

What are your final thoughts on the book?  Are you glad you read it?  Are you interested in reading more about Ernest Hemingway?

I did do some googling, and found out he had two more sons with Pauline; cheated on her, and married two more times before his death.  John Hemingway, his son with Hadley, died in the 1990's and is the father of Margeaux and Mariel Hemingway.  Mariel's middle name is Hadley.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

More Questions for The Paris Wife

I'm about halfway through The Paris Wife.  How about you?  I know some of you haven't started, while others are done!  I will say, at first I had a hard time getting into the novel, but I am fully engaged in the story of Hadley and Ernest, and will probably finish it by the end of the weekend.

Here's a few more questions to ponder courtesy of The Princeton Book Review:

4. The Hemingways spontaneously opt for Paris over Rome when they get key advice from Sherwood Anderson. What was life like for them when they first arrived? How did Hadley's initial feelings about Paris differ from Ernest's and why?

5. Throughout THE PARIS WIFE, Hadley refers to herself as "Victorian" as opposed to "modern." What are some of the ways she doesn't feel like she fits into life in bohemian Paris? How does this impact her relationship with Ernest? Her self-esteem? What are some of the ways Hadley's "old-fashioned" quality can be seen as a strength and not a weakness?

6. Hadley and Ernest's marriage survived for many years in Jazz-Age Paris, an environment that had very little patience for monogamy and other traditional values. What in their relationship seems to sustain them? How does their marriage differ from those around them? Pound's and Shakespeare's? Scott and Zelda's?

I think it's interesting to see Paris after World War 1, and before World War 2.  I do like Hadley, but I find myself feeling a bit frustrated for her.  I can't say I would put up with such a moody husband.  And I am astounded at the amount of time and frustration Ernest spends on his writing.  To know that he does become a famous novelist, but seeing him before that happens is fascinating.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Paris Wife: Three Questions While You Start Reading

May 1st is just around the corner, so I hope everyone is ready to get started on The Paris Wife.  I have found a great website:  The Princeton Book Review that features questions for book discussions and has a lot of great recommendations for other books.  I'm going to post three questions for you to think about as you start the book.  Feel free to post your comments anytime--there is no certain time where you have to be so far in the book.  If you have any questions while you're reading, or want to post something you feel is important in the book, do so!  

Here are the questions, courtesy of The Princeton Book Review:

1. In many ways, Hadley's girlhood in St. Louis was a difficult and repressive experience. How do her early years prepare her to meet and fall in love with Ernest? What does life with Ernest offer her that she hasn't encountered before? What are the risks?

2. Hadley and Ernest don't get a lot of encouragement from their friends and family when they decided to marry. What seems to draw the two together? What are some of the strengths of their initial attraction and partnership? The challenges?

3. The Ernest Hemingway we meet in THE PARIS WIFE—through Hadley's eyes—is in many ways different from the ways we imagine him when faced with the largeness of his later persona. What do you see as his character strengths? Can you see what Hadley saw in him?

Also, if you read my previous post about A Moveable Feast, you know I'm going to read that at the same time.  A few other book club members are also taking up that challenge.  Please add your comments about that, too.  I think it's going to give me a better view of what happens in The Paris Wife.

Happy May 1st, everyone!  Here's to the start of a great book club.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Paris Wife: Some Photos

I don't know much about Ernest Hemingway, except for reading a few of his books and that he committed suicide.  I'm looking forward to reading The Paris Wife--even if it is fiction.  Mostly because I can't wait to read about Paris in the 1920's!

1920's Paris

Here's a picture of Ernest, Hadley, and their son in 1925:

I also recently discovered that A Moveable Feast is about their time in Paris.  So now I may have to read it while I read The Paris Wife.  Anyone on board with me for that?  I will be posting a few reading group questions each week in May. You can certainly comment on them as you will, or wait until the end of May to discuss questions.  Either way, I am happy to oblige!  If you are interested in learning more about Hadley's life, I suggest checking out Wikipedia for a brief biography of her.  I'm going to start reading May 1st!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: A Visit From The Goon Squad

The Pulitzer Prize in Fiction was announced this morning, and it's A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.  I have not read this book, but I am intrigued by her ideas of time.  Here's what bn.com has to say:


Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Winner of the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
One of the New York Times Book Review's Top 10 Books of 2010
One of the Best Books of the Year: Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, The Miami Herald, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Newsday, NPR's On Point, O, the Oprah Magazine, People, Publishers Weekly, Salon, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Slate, Time, The Washington Post,and Village Voice
Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

The New York Times Book Review - Will Blythe

Although shredded with loss, A Visit From the Goon Squad is often darkly, rippingly funny. Egan possesses a satirist's eye and a romance novelist's heart. Certainly the targets are plentiful in rock 'n' roll and public relations, the twinned cultural industries around which the book coalesces during the period from the early '80s to an imagined 2019 or so. No one is beyond the pale of her affection; no one is spared lampooning. Often she embraces and spears her subjects at the same time.
More Reviews and Recommendations


Jennifer Egan is the author of The Invisible Circus and the story collection Emerald City. Her stories have been published in such magazines as The New Yorker, Harper's, GQ, Zoetrope, and Ploughshares, and her nonfiction appears frequently in The New York Times Magazine. Egan lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn. 
For further information about Jennifer Egan, visit her Web site at www.jenniferegan.com.

If you are interested in learning more about Jennifer, here's her website:  http://jenniferegan.com .  Her books available in paperback and ebook format.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Yes, I Have More Questions!

Hi everyone!  I was thinking about how to keep the discussions going for the books we read each month, and I thought of an idea--please tell me if this gets a thumbs up, or a thumbs down.

I will post some questions each week about our selection, and you can answer them as you see fit.  This way, we have an ongoing discussion during the month, and it gives you something to think about as you are reading.

I was thinking of putting this club on Goodreads.  That way, you can go on and add comments whenever you want, and more people can also join.  Goodreads is a free book site and it's pretty awesome.  Does this sound good, or do we just want to keep it on this blog?  Either way is fine with me.  It's all about what you want!

I believe our reading selections for the first three months are as follows:

The Paris Wife-May

The Red Leather Diary-June

And--for July: The Great House

These are all available as ebooks, or at your local bookstore, used bookstore, or library.  I believe they are all available as audio books, too.    Does anyone mind reading hardcovers, or do you all prefer something in paperback, to keep the cost down?  Or does it matter?  I am fine with either hardcovers or paperbacks.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Front Runner Is...

So far, the front runner book for May is The Paris Wife.  Just to give you some insight into what the book is about, here's a synopsis from BN.com:

A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.
A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.

Still sound good?  Anyone have any other suggestions?  The Red Leather Diary also looks good as another pick--perhaps for June?  Anyone have a book they're just itching to read, and think it would make a good selection?  Give me a shout out!

Also--there is no limit to this book club.  Anyone who wants to participate is welcome.  

Monday, March 28, 2011


I'm so excited to start this blogger reading club!  My goal is pretty simple:  pick a book for the month, post questions throughout the month, and then let everyone comment on the book.  The more comments, the better.  This book club will evolve as we get moving, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it grows and changes in the coming months.

What are we going to read?  Whatever you pick--fiction or non-fiction.  I'll post a list of potential titles, and you get to vote.  Whatever title gets the most votes is the title we'll read.  For the sake of keeping it simple for everyone, I'd like to pick 3 months at a time, so if you can't read a particular title, you know what we're reading next.  Sound good?

Here is a list of titles to get us started.  Please post a comment as to what you would like to read--pick three.  I will post the first three titles mid-month; this will give everyone some time to check them out and vote for your choices.  We'll start reading the first title May 1st.
If anyone has any other title to suggest, please feel free to enter it into the mix!   I welcome any and all book suggestions.  Without further ado, here are some titles I thought we could pick from for the first three months:

When We Were Strangers by Pam Schoenewaldt
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Great House by Nicole Krauss
Postmistress by Sarah Blake
West of Here by Jonathan Evison
The Sea Captain's Wife by Beth Powning
Swamplandia by Karen Russell
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden
The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel
The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed

These are just a few titles I thought of.  If you've got other suggestions, please feel free to comment!