Friday, October 10, 2014

The Secret Life of Bees

Members present:  Christy and Gina

Venue: Thelma's Chicken and Waffles

Book Discussion:

Gina and I went through our highlighted quotes to remind ourselves what the book was about, since we read it so long ago. Here were the themes that struck a cord with us:

1. You can love something, even if you're not good at it. Like knitting, for example. Or Karaoke. Hypothetically speaking, that is.  I'm not saying we're bad at these things. 

2. We talked about how people can change for the worse like Lily's dad, and our theory is that it happens when people can't let go of the bad stuff. Especially when they can't forgive. That was one of the quotes in the book. That some people would rather die than forgive. It's that hard. Kind of similar to the theme in "What Alice Forgot:" how much those characters changed through grief, and how they were able to come alive again once they were able to let go of their pain.

3. I am a lot like May in terms of my inability to differentiate my pain from the pain of others. I wrote a blog post about it, in fact. In case you missed it, you can read it here.

4. I saw the movie before I read the book, which I think I prefer. Because the book is always better, so you never think, this book is nothing like the movie! Plus, you already have a picture of what the characters look like if you've seen the movie and don't have to be like, that is not what Lily looked like in my mind!

Noteworthy News:

That's between me and Gina. Although we talked about many of you. And not always in a good way.

Well, I will share Gina's accomplishment of placing 3rd in a bike race in Richmond a few weekends ago, because that's pretty awesome.

And I have a lot of new developments on my blog. I have my own domain, so now the address is It has a new look, too. And I finally figured out how to use Twitter. Although I don't look at it much because it's overwhelming.

We talked about "Gone Girl," which is a movie now, but neither of us is dying to see it. But if anyone does, let us know if it's better than the book.

And we ate a lot of fried chicken and waffles. Which was a good call on Gina's part to stay true to the Southern theme. Although I feel kind of sick now.

Next Book:

Gina chose  "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" because I told her I just bought it on Kindle for like, $5 or something. You can also stream it on Netflix, if you want to cheat. I heard the book and the movie are both excellent. And if you don't like it, guess you better show up next time so you have a vote!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

Members present:  See above

Venue:  Marie's lovely abode at SML. Menu included sangrias, summer salad with pomegranate dressing, chicken wraps, and potato salad, all freshly made. And Denise brought the cupcakes below for dessert! (Creme Brûlée, Tiramasu, Chocolate, Coconut Lime, Red Velvet, and Wedding cupcakes)

Book Discussion:

We all enjoyed our time with Hazel Grace and Augustus. Many of us thought the book was going to be sappy and superficial, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that was actually existential and poetic. The title came from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," and John Green refers to a lot of poems that I haven't heard since English class. I still don't know what the one about the red wheelbarrow is supposed to mean. "An Imperial Affliction" is not a real book. I looked it up. 

We were all impressed by how mature Augustus and Hazel's love was for one another. I thought it was interesting that Hazel admitted that had they lived a long, normal life together, their love wouldn't have been as special--similar to the affair in Bridges of Madison County (awesome movie, if you haven't seen it!). We had a similar discussion to the one in the book about whether you need pain to experience joy. Some people said yes. Hazel says no: "The Existence of broccoli in no way affects the taste of chocolate." I agree with Hazel, but the reality is, we don't get a choice of one or the other. They still probably would have known joy together had they not been sick, but the cancer certainly intensified their experience of it.

Marie saw the movie and was struck by how much the terminally ill person worries about the well-being of their loved ones. People shared their personal experiences of loved ones who have passed and reflected on how they knew when it was ok to let go. Some of them were watching sporting events on TV with their loved ones at the time. I'm not sure what to make of that.

We liked the parts where Augusts and Grace got to hear each other's eulogies. I thought the scene where Hazel and Isaac were reading their eulogies for Augustus was actually hilarious. I didn't not cry in the book but I hear that the movie is a real tear-jerker, so I'll bring my kleenex.

I read quotes from the book that I enjoyed--some of which are profound but I'm not sure what they mean. The best discussion came from the one where they were writing the ad for the swing set. We all talked about how we used to try to swing all the way around. And, perhaps even more stupidly, we would swing as fast as we could and then jump off, onto the gravel or concrete or some other painful surface. Well, Marie did, at least. I actually wasn't that stupid.

We also talked about how much more freedom we had to run around unaccompanied as kids. Marie was the winner in this category as well, traveling several towns over without her parents' knowledge. I asked everyone if they thought parents were more vigilant today because their kids really are more likely to be kidnapped or because of heightened awareness, fewer kids, change in parenting, etc. We also talked about whether our mothers were motherly and whether they would have wanted to have kids if they were given a choice. Interestingly, people who didn't have motherly moms did not choose to have children of their own.

We didn't have to discuss possible cast members since it's already a movie--a popular movie with good reviews and is reportedly true to the book. I plan on seeing it soon. The only recognizable actress was Laura Dern, who Marie said was very good as Hazel's mom. Isaac was also cuter than he seemed to be in the book, according to Marie. The scene where they throw eggs at his ex's car sounds like it did justice to the description in the book.

We also had a discussion of which books were hard to say good-bye to. This was one of them for most of us. I wish I could be friends with Alice in "What Alice Forgot" and the therapist who has empathy for her stalker in "The Hypnotist's Love Story," both by Liane Moriarty. Denise liked the couple in "Me Before You." Marie really liked the beekeepers in "The Secret Life of Bees," so we chose that book for our next meeting so that Marie can spent time with them again.

Noteworthy News:

Denise told us all about her escapades in the Honduras. Great place for scuba diving and snorkeling, but apparently the food isn't that great. 

Annette told us about how she fulfilled her prediction that she would meet Brad Gilbert when she went to California last week. Marie and I made a similar declaration about getting Federer's picture at Cincy this year, and Annette was giving us some inspirational advice. Dream big or aim high or something. I can't remember exactly what it was. But Marie sees Federer every time she goes, so I'm liking our chances.

Gina is soon to be the grandmother of a baby girl. Lauren already has her name picked out but I forgot what it was. Karen is going to be an aunt to a baby girl, as well.

I got on my soap box and went off about the people who do and do not deserve to be tipped, in my opinion. I apologize if I seemed self-righteous or otherwise offensive. After writing my blog post on Mental Hygiene, I've become acutely paranoid about sneezing on people.

Surprisingly, we did not talk that much about tennis or any of you, although there has been some discussion of whether there needs to be a minimum attendance policy to remain in the book club, just so you know. I think at minimum you have to participate by commenting on the blog post about the meeting if you did not attend. No final decisions have been made at this time.

I'll let Marie decide what to do for the venue for "The Secret Life of Bees."  Which is also a movie, in case anyone wants to cheat. Annette might be interested in hosting our next meeting at Legoland in Florida. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Book Thief

Members Present:  See above

Venue:  Terrie's lovely home in Salem.  All German food--including Marie's German fried apples.  One of our best meals ever! Everything was fantastic!

Book Discussion:

- The movie is great and seems to follow the book closely, although no one read the book and saw the movie.  But I'm definitely going to watch it!

- We tried to do the discussion questions but they were boring and too much like English class.  So we basically just reviewed the book for everyone.  No casting discussions because it's already a movie. Marie did not finish it because she was grinding her teeth at night, worrying that something bad was going to happen.  Most of us thought it was told in a fairly light way, given that it was about the Holocaust and it was narrated by Death.

- I swear we talked about the book for about 30 minutes but I can't remember anything particularly profound that was said about it, other than everyone thought it was a good book.  If you are interested in other books about the Holocaust, ask Cindi for a recommendation.

- I wrote a blog post on the significance of words in the Book Thief on my Normal in Training blog.  Not really fitting for the kind of discussions we have, but I highly recommend that you check it out and add to my blog stats!

- Marie is reading some book on US history that may help us find out if parents really didn't stop for their kids when they fell out of the covered wagon.  Stay tuned!

- We did learn that there is a book club at Smith Mountain Lake that is even more remedial than ours. People can read whatever book they want and everyone goes around the room, taking turns talking about their book.  Kind of like Show and Tell.  And they bring the books and exchange them.  We were wondering how that works out since every meeting they would be talking about the same books.  But Marie said they're old so they don't remember what happened in the last meeting.

Noteworthy News:

- Grandbaby updates:  Terrie is going to be a grandmother!  Lauren is having a girl!  We saw the 3D picture of her, and it's a little scary. Also more cute pictures of Teri's granddaughter.  Lots of reminiscing about pregnancy, sleepless nights, and panic when their children first slept through the night.  And about how it's better to wait and take baby pictures until after their heads lose their cone shape.

- Tennis gossip:  Most of us are annoyed that the majority of the captains voted for 8 matches over 12. We speculated on why Jennifer Frye always wants fewer matches, since she lives for tennis.   Also more griping about Steve being a captain.  We all think that's going to lead to more than average drama. Teri is fully integrated into the tennis community in Columbia and is currently playing 3 different leagues.  Several of us are going to Wintergreen tomorrow to sharpen our killer instincts, so watch out if you see us on the court!

- Pet update:  Terrie's dog ate Marie's bratwurst.  Marie changed her cat's name to Ulysses after some cat in some obscure movie.

Hmmm.  It doesn't seem like we talked about that much, but we were there for 3 hours.  I guess we mainly just enjoyed each other's company!

Next book:  The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.  Sounds similar to Me Before You, which we all loved.  It has also been made into a movie, in case you want to take the short cut.  Marie volunteered to host, and we will schedule it on a day that Teri can make it!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Half Broke Horses Meeting

January 28, 2014

Book Club members present:  Me, Gina, Marie, Teri, Terrie, Cindi, Annette, Lauren.  A great showing given the snowy weather!  But well worth it to get to see Teri and eat Gina's cooking!

Venue:  Gina's lovely home in Boones Mill.  Marie also made a 5 layer red velvet cake that was actually 3 layers but still a very big cake.  And I think other people brought stuff but it took me so long to get there that I don't know who brought what. 

Noteworthy news:

- Baby news:  Lauren is pregnant!  Teri's daughter is due in 4 weeks!  Teri made baby sock cupcakes and a diaper cake!  And she learned baby sign language!  And Terrie made up some new baby sign language  words, which will be demonstrated in an upcoming Youtube video!  Expect it to go viral!  We also discussed the possibility that all of the crazy restrictions about what you can and cannot eat while pregnant could be contributing to the rise in peanut and gluten allergies.  Many book members had mothers who drank and/or smoked while pregnant and turned out relatively normal. 

- Latest gossip:  Steve has a 4.0 women's team so we trashed talked about him some.  We updated everyone on who is playing what team for 7.0 mixed, 8.0 mixed, 18 and over women 3.5 and 4.0, 40 and over women 3.5 and 4.0, 7.5 combo, and projected teams for 2015. No verbal commitments or written contracts were made at this time for next year's teams.   Ladder matches and weekly court times were also discussed.  Rumor has it that Charlie is putting in a new ceiling at NDor.  No more asbestos!  Terrie and Gina are contemplating offering Charlie a barter exchange:  cleaning/decorating for free court time.  He'd be a fool to pass that deal up.

- Writer's update:  Annette went to a writer's conference and is contemplating what her first writing project will be.  I am still writing my blog but have attracted a few stalkers, some of whom make jokes about wanting to kill people as a way to find a wife.  Since most of you have Google + accounts, you can read the comment first-hand under the post In Need.

- Relationship statuses:  Brian finally broke up with his girlfriend!  And he got into med school!  I forgot to tell everyone but I have a gay boyfriend!  You can see his comments under almost anything I post on FB these days.  He's great for intellectual conversation but told me that he did not believe in Valentine's Day and he would tell me the truth if he thought my outfit made me look fat, so we may be breaking up soon.

- Job updates:  Marie is retiring in May and I'm making jewelry again. So I'm hiring Marie to run my jewelry business.  I didn't tell her this but instead of paying her, she can have all the jewelry she wants for free.  This will give her something to do just in case she gets sick of spending more time with Mark.

Book Club Discussion:

We didn't do a synopsis of the book so I think everyone read at least some of it except Lauren.  But this was her first meeting and she's pregnant, so she was given a light punishment of having to sit at a separate table from the rest of us while we discussed the book.

While we all thought Lily was an interesting character, most of us liked Glass Castles better. So we basically talked about Glass Castles again and how crazy Janette Wells' parents are.  We could find some personality traits that were passed down from generation to generation to explain some of the craziness  (e.g., Lily's mom with a fainting couch in a mud hut, Lily's dad writing all those crazy letters and spelling things phonetically, Lily's dad using the money for Lily's education on great danes).  But for the most part, Lily's story did not help us to understand what was wrong with her parents.

I guess we didn't think that the book would make a good movie because once again, there was no discussion of potential casting choices.  We did discuss some of the movies nominated for Oscars.  And Teri and I loved Frozen.  Annette tried to make a compelling argument for Her, but it just sounds too creepy for most of us.

Finally, our next book will be The Book Thief, which is also a movie.  By the time we have our next meeting, it might be out on DVD.  If so, we thought we'd watch it during our next meeting. 

While I have tried to be as accurate as possible, please feel free to make any corrections to the minutes.