Monday, October 9, 2017

The Couple Next Door

Book: The Couple Next Door - Shari Lapena

Members Present: Sue, Denise, Sharon, Christy

Venue: Alejandro's

Discussion highlights:

If you read the book, then you know that there isn't that much to discuss. This was Lapena's first book. She was a lawyer, so her info about a criminal investigation was probably accurate, but we all agreed it wasn't particularly well-written and wondered how it was possible that she could get a book deal with a major publishing company and that this book could be on the best seller's list. I have researched publishing my own blog, and while I haven't tried to do so, hearing how unlikely it would be to get published has been enough to make me give up. Sharon knows someone who published a book and only made about $4000 total. So if you want to publish a book, you should probably do it for other reasons than getting rich.

The story, however, was interesting and not predictable. It was also a quick read. But there wasn't much character development, and I thought it read like a draft of a paper that someone would present in a creative writing class. Compared to similar books that we've read--Gone Girl, Girl on a Train--this one was probably the worst, but still worth reading to find out what happens.

We did not discuss Small Great Things, other than to say it was a great book. I think that it would be more useful to make this book mandatory reading than to have any kind of diversity training, because she does a much better job of representing many viewpoints on the racism spectrum than any educational program I've been a part of. So if you haven't read either, I would read this one. Or anything by Jodi Picoult.

We didn't talk about any of you, so you can all safely return to the next meeting.

Next book:

Denise was prepared and ready to host the next book club. W we will be reading Behind Closed Doors, by B.A. Paris. It is of the same genre of The Couple Next Door, but much better. At least that's what Sharon said, because she's already read it. So if you have recommendations for her of what she can read, let her know. We are shooting for end of November/beginning of December for our next meeting.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Man Called Ove

Book: A Man Called Ove -  Fredrik Backman

Members present: Cindi, Linda, Terrie, Christy, Karin

Venue: Terrie's lovely abode

Discussion highlights:

We had a small but talkative group for our meeting, which adjourned at 11:30 pm! Excellent food, great conversation, and great venue!

We had a high completion rate for the book--4 out of 5 of the members present finished it, and 3 of the 4 who read it also watched the movie. If you haven't done either, I strongly recommend that you do both. We all agreed that it is up there with our favorite books of all time. It is a quick read, and some people chose to finish it in one day, while others tried to make it last as long as possible. Sort of like the opposite of the ripping off the Band Aid thing. I assume that the book was originally not written in English, which is surprising because it is very well-written. It has a unique voice, and I suspect that's part of the appeal. The chapters are short and each chapter has a memorable anecdote. Even though the story sounds like it's going to be a real downer, since it starts with Ove deciding to kill himself, and a lot of sad, tragic things do happen, but somehow the overall tone of the book is light and funny. Laugh out loud hilarious, in fact. Maybe it's because each chapter has a title and a drawing. How tragic can a book be that has a drawings in it?

Plus his suicide attempts were foiled by people who needed his help. Because they needed rides to hospitals after their husband fell off a ladder while trying to open a window from the outside. (Ove totally knew that was going to happen and didn't stop him so it's only fair that he had to take them to the hospital). Or because someone had fallen on the train tracks before he got a chance to jump. Or because a gay guy who was disowned after he came out to his dad needed a place to stay. Cindi described Ove as being someone who put up a front that he wasn't a caring guy, and everyone went along with it to humor him, but they knew he had a big heart. Too big, unfortunately.

This is not one of those times where you would want to cheat and see the movie instead of reading the book because I thought the tone of the book was lost in the movie, even though I thought the movie was very good. It has subtitles, just as a forewarning. And Ove's name isn't pronounced the way you were probably saying it in your head while you were reading. It took a while for Karin to realize they were even saying his name, because it does sort of sound like an expression, like hey.

Cindi pointed out that Sweden was a socialist country, which admittedly, I did not know, and all of the red tape and complaints about the white shirts refers to Ove's anger at the government for all of the real and perceived injustices he suffered. Taking away his house. The lack of compensation for the bus accident. The lack of wheelchair accommodations. Trying to put Rune away from his wife. (But Ove got the white shirts back on that one! Ha ha!)

I was annoyed that they made up some of the dialogue, because there's plenty of great dialogue in the book that they cut out. And the lines they made up were not of the same quality. But some of the details in the movie that they elaborated on were well done--like the scene where he got laid off and they gave him a shovel as a retirement gift. The bus accident scene was also very good in that it really highlighted how tragic it was. And his wife was even lovelier in the movie than she sounded in the book.

We also had a chance to talk about our last book, When Breath Becomes Air. One of the advantages of a smaller group and intimate venue. Although I like it when everyone shows up and we eat out, too.

Next book:

Our next book will be The Couple Next Door, by Shari LapeƱa. Since co-hosting went so well this time, thanks to Terrie, we will do the same thing for our July meeting. Linda has chosen the book and will set the date, Cindi will bring in some traditional book club info to raise us even further above the remedial status, and Terrie has agreed to provide her home again and do the pot luck details. We are aiming for the last week of July.

Until then, happy reading!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

When Breath Becomes Air

Book: When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi

Members present: Annette, Shea, Karin, Sue, Christy, Marie, Denise, Sharon, Gina, Lorelei, Terrie

Venue: Mellow Mushroom

Discussion Highlights:

Admittedly, it was difficult to have a proper discussion because it's really loud in Mellow Mushroom. And there were so many members present--which is a good thing!--that you could only hear the people who were sitting next to you. But we did get a little discussion in. All of the people on my end of the table liked the book. We all thought he was brilliant. Some of us thought it was sad and others didn't, which was surprising to me. It's true that his writing style was not that emotional. And I guess if you have to die, it's good to know that you lived your life as purposefully as you could, that you were surrounded by your loved ones, and that your mental facilities were in tact. But I still thought it was sad. Sharon's argument was that he lived a very full life in a short amount of time.

We also discussed how sad it was that he didn't get to finish the book, which he really wanted to do. I can imagine him writing furiously in between surgeries and treatments and playing with his baby. But at least the last line he wrote was about how much joy his daughter brought to his life.

We also talked about tennis and finally had some good gossip to share. But if you weren't there, you miss out on the good stuff!

Next Book:

Our next book will be "A Man Called Ove," by Fredrik Backman, and I will be the host. I have to say, I didn't have high expectations when I started the book, but I liked it so much after the first few chapters that I would only read a chapter a night so that I could savor it for as long as possible. However, you could finish it pretty quickly if you're more of a binge reader. I will aim for the end of May for our next meeting.

Friday, March 10, 2017

White Picket Fences

Book:  White Picket Fences - Susan Meissner

Members Present:  Sue, Lorelei, Shea, Sharon, Christy, Linda

Venue: Lenore's

Discussion Highlights:

We were down to 50% in terms of readers who had finished the book, so we spent most of the time giving a detailed summary. It was a quick and easy read. Most people's favorite part was the story of the two men in the Holocaust, which was the central story that pulled together all of the subplots. It was the least depressing book about the Holocaust that we have read and was unique in terms of depicting how it all started, when Hitler invaded Poland. Some of us did not see why it was such a big deal to hide the story about the fire, and I didn't think that it would have been that traumatizing had it been Chase who started the fire since he was four years old. But Linda thought that was a realistic possibility, and I guess people do feel guilty about stuff that isn't their fault all the time. I would say the moral of the story is that it's better to reveal your deep, dark secrets sooner rather than later, before it ruins your marriage and sets your house on fire. All the more reason I have a job, I guess!

We spent a lot of time talking about food and restaurants downtown. If you need a recommendation, ask Shea.

Also, I encourage all of you to vote for me for Captain of the Year next year for the Mid-Atlantic, because I like to win everything! I need to captain 5 more teams this year, because last year's winner had 13 teams. Maybe I should just be co-captain on everyone else's team.

There was also a discussion about pickle ball, because Sharon sent a picture about the length of the kitchen this morning to the group, but I missed that part.

Next Book:

Sharon has agreed to host our next book club meeting. The book is "When Breath Becomes Air," by Paul Kalanithi. Another quick read, so we will aim for April.

Until then, happy reading!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Book: Truevine - Beth Macy

Members Present: Denise, Cindi, Sue, Marie, Terrie, Sharon, Shea

Venue: Denise's lovely abode

Discussion Highlights:

Truevine by Beth Macy was the book for our gathering on Jan 31. Denise was our hostess and Tom her husband cooked delicious chicken and joined us for dinner. Members present were Denise, Sharon, Shea, Cindi, Terrie and Marie. First time book clubber Sue Lunsford came after tennis in time for dessert.  Unfortunately Gina Keller had to cancel due to a possible ACL injury from tennis but luckily she was able to make the Tres Leches cake!! Get better soon Gina!

Denise, Sharon, Shea and Marie (almost) read the book. Denise really liked the book and we all agreed that it was an interesting story. Most of us were in agreement that the story jumped all over the place and that the writing was not the best. Beth Macy is a journalist and the book was written as such and the story didn’t flow. We also liked all the references to areas we were all familiar with in the Roanoke area.  For those of you who didn’t read the book here is a brief summary ….
The true story of two African-American brothers who were kidnapped and displayed as circus freaks, and whose mother endured a 28-year struggle to get them back.
The year was 1899 and the place a sweltering tobacco farm in the Jim Crow South town of Truevine, Virginia. George and Willie Muse were two little boys born to a sharecropper family. One day a white man offered them a piece of candy, setting off events that would take them around the world and change their lives forever. 

Captured into the circus, the Muse brothers performed for royalty at Buckingham Palace and headlined over a dozen sold-out shows at New York's Madison Square Garden. They were global superstars in a pre-broadcast era. But the very root of their success was in the color of their skin and in the outrageous caricatures they were forced to assume: supposed cannibals, sheep-headed freaks, even "Ambassadors from Mars." Back home, their mother never accepted that they were "gone" and spent 28 years trying to get them back.

We also discussed that back in the early 1900’s blacks were not treated very well so we felt that the brothers actually had a better life than what they would have had in Truevine and all the freaks living together were like family where no one judged them. This was somewhat proven in the book when the mother found the brothers and brought them home they eventually went back to the circus life.At the end of book discussion we were all happy with the recent news that the Ringling Bros.Circus would be closing down.   

Next Book:

We saw fitting that the next book be chosen by our newbie Sue. She chose White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner. Hopefully we can keep our streak going and read one book a month!! The end of Feb is our goal for the next book club meeting. Thanks again to Denise for hosting!! And thanks, Sharon for taking minutes at the meeting! If you talked about me, you don't have to tell me what you said since I wasn't there, and that's the rule :).

Friday, December 2, 2016

Queen of the Court

Book: Queen of the Court - Melanie Howard, Andrea Leidolf

Members present: Lorelei, Linda, Karin, Christy, Cindi, Marie, Denise, Shea

Venue: Abuelo's

Discussion Highlights

The book is a quick, entertaining read. Shea and I had trouble getting into it but it's worth finishing, and it doesn't take that long to read. We couldn't think of many people who were similar to the characters except for one Hungarian player that we all know and love, although Shea said  this was a realistic portrayal of the types of women who played in the country club scene at Va Beach.

The book was interesting from a local perspective in that both authors graduated from UVA and the book was set in NOVA, where tennis players really are as intense as crazy as they were in the book. They also played at River's Edge, which seems like more than a coincidence.

Marie thought there were too many characters and I thought that some of them had such superficial development that I couldn't even remember who they were and had to look them up. Like Sean, Karen's future boyfriend. And Quinn, Bethany's twin. And it took forever for me to get a sense of what Karen was like.

Next Book

Denise has generously volunteered to be our next host. The book is Truevine, by Beth Macy. It's written by a local author, so maybe we can have her as a guest at our next meeting if we're really ambitious. If we do get her, we'll have to be like a real book club and prepare questions and everyone who attends will have to read the book. But we made our goal of 6 books this year, so who knows what we're capable of in the new year? We'll meet again in January, so you may want to consider asking for the book as a stocking stuffer this holiday.

Friday, October 7, 2016

For the Rest of Her Life

Book: For the Rest of her Life - Laura Moriarty

Members present: Christy, Linda, Karin, Sharon

Venue: Veranda Bistro

Discussion highlights:

Everyone liked the book, but everyone (except me) liked "Defending Jacob" better. Linda felt sorry for Leigh because of her insecurity as a parent as a result of her mother abandoning her at 16. Sharon pointed out that the mother seemed envious of her daughter--how easy her life was, her popularity, her confidence. I thought it was interesting that the mother and daughter both perceived the other person as being critical of them when in reality both of them wanted to be loved by the other. I particularly liked the line where the daughter tells her mom that if she had known that if killing someone would make her mom like her she would have done it a long time ago. Karin added that many relationships are ultimately destroyed because people don't communicate how they really feel.

We also discussed the different responses for what the consequences should be for the daughter. That dad wanted her to go through it with as few consequences as possible so that she could start college and play soccer. The mother wanted her to suffer some consequence which seemed to border on wanting her daughter to be punished. Linda pointed out that this made the dad question whether she wanted the best for her daughter. We discussed how, although the daughter felt the same way as the mother, the mother seemed oblivious of this because she was so focused on the daughter liked her. We all felt that her decision not to postpone college was a good one because it would have been difficult to focus on the typical transitional struggles when you've gone through something traumatic.

Linda brought up Leigh's relationship with her own mother--particularly her decision to abandon her at 16 because she never had a life of her own. How the daughter was so hungry for love that she liked the attention from sketchy guys. I brought up how she was so desperate for help that she slept with someone to get him to help her move her bed. Sharon brought up how she tried to convey an air of confidence about this, even though this was her first sexual experience and she was obviously vulnerable to sexual exploitation. We discussed her conversation with her daughter about sex and how it revealed the mom's own insecurities and her daughter's confidence in herself. Sharon thought the daughter might have been lying about how secure she felt, but I thought the daughter was surprisingly emotionally mature for her age and probably did feel like she wouldn't have sex unless she wanted to, which made the mom feel inferior.

We also discussed the difference between Leigh and her sister Pam's response to their mother's "parenting." Although Leigh's life turned out well, she struggled with self-confidence and was sensitive to rejection and abandonment. Pam, on the other hand, had more compassion for the mom and did not hold her failings as a mother against her, even though her life sucked. I thought that highlighted how a traumatic upbringing could impact a person's interpersonal relationships even if the person looked "normal" on the outside.

We also discussed Bethany's mother's attack on the daughter. Linda thought it was good that Leigh was eventually able to connect with the mother in a meaningful way--after stalking her--and the daughter and Bethany were able to correspond, as well. Karin brought up how the mother needed some target, even though they were really all victims. There was a quote in the book about this--how there were no victors, only casualties.

We discussed the dad's relationship with the son and how it was similar to the mother's relationship with her daughter in that they didn't share the same interests and had trouble relating to one another. But we all though it was good that the father eventually made an effort to figure out what his son's interests were so that they could have a connection. I liked the quote about how parents try to give their children what they needed, but their children might need something completely different. Linda liked the quote about how, ideally, parenting is like sending the care packages that Leigh sent her daughter--you put things in it and see if it's what she needs, and if it's not, you change the next care box accordingly.

Next book: 

Our next book is Queen of the Court, by Melanie Howard and Andrea Leidolf. Karin gets extra credit for already having noted this from the last blog post and reading ahead of the syllabus. Linda has agreed to host. Thanks, Shea, for the suggestion!