Friday, August 16, 2013

September 2013

When the Emperor Was Divine

August 2013

Divergent (Divergent, #1)We had a yummy dinner at Blue Lemon in Holladay, minus Linda. This YA novel was chosen by Leslie and some of us went on to read the second in the trilogy, as well.  The final book is due out in October so we're prepared for it. It was great to get caught up on everyone's summer doings and lend emotional support for various crises.  That's what friends are for......

The book got a solid 4 stars from us.

Alison said: Maybe I was just in the mood for a romantic dystopian adventure - but this certainly filled the bill! 

Leslie said: The idea of the five factions was an interesting world, as each group tried to make the world better by eradicating one of the traits they felt was responsible for the destruction of their previous world.

Sue said: Overall, it's a fun read with plenty of action, a little romance, lots of conspiracy, and some strange characters.

Natalie said: Fun book!

July 2013

Navigating EarlyJuly's meeting was unscheduled but became a reality because we've discovered that two months in between meets is way too long.  So an impromptu meeting was held without the vacationing Sue and Grandma Linda who thought visiting new grandbabies was more fun than hanging with us.  Dinner was at a perennial favorite, Red Iguana 2, in Salt Lake City and the book was "Navigating Early" because several happened to be reading it. The book got 3 stars from the group.

Karen said: The story begins with Jack moving from home to attend a boarding school after his mother passes away. Jack becomes friends with Early, a boy who today would probably be classified as a savant. As I read about how Early saw the world, and especially numbers, I thought often of the book: Born on a Blue Day. Interestingly, at the end of the book the author mentions that particular book as an inspiration for her. The novel Navigating Early weaves together the story of Pi with the adventures of the two boys as they navigate their own journey from lost to found. Overall, it was a fabulous read.

Alison said: This second novel by Newbery Award-winning author Clare Vanderpool had some excellent moments - and I did enjoy the main characters Jack and Early - but I think I liked the beginning and the ending of the story better than the middle section. Sometimes, too, the messages seemed a little heavy handed and the plot devices a tad too contrived. I really loved Moon Over Manifest, so I was somewhat disappointed with this one. I'm looking forward, though, to see what Vanderpool does next.

May/June 2013

Life seems to be getting more and more hectic, limiting our ability to find dates on which everyone can meet. We'd planned to meet in May, but because Alison was sick that week, we postponed our meeting until June - and we managed to get everyone there except Holly, who was with her sick son. While we enjoyed the sandwiches, soups, and salads at Café Zupas, we had a great discussion of the themes of Tova Mirvis's The Ladies Auxiliary.

The book got 4 stars from our group.

Alison said: This thought-provoking novel about the Memphis Orthodox Jewish community has a lot of application to other close-knit and/or religious communities, particularly those with high expectations for their children. Focused on the women in the community, the novel also provides an opportunity for reflection on women's relationships with each other and about the roles women play in a society, either by choice or by convention.

As a life-long member of the Mormon (LDS) community and having married twenty-five years ago into the Japanese-American culture, I have thought often about such issues as community values versus individuality, the need to understand the "whys" behind religious practices in order to be more fully committed to them, and ways to instill traditions and beliefs unto one's children. As a feminist, I am particularly interested in the impact of those issues on women.

Sue said: This is an intellectual story and not chick-lit so I really liked the themes and thought-provoking messages. It was told from the POV of the collective, a plural "we", so that the idea of the newcomer coming to town and not being part of the community was always at the forefront of the reader's mind. It was an interesting way to write the novel and made it seem as though all the women felt the same way about everything, but really underneath, they all had different viewpoints. I found the lack of male influence quite interesting. The Rabbi, as the most important person in the community, was around and had a little personality, as well as his son, but the other husbands were almost absent. They were referred to obliquely, but they were always off doing something religious or working and thus the women were left to "manage the community". They never seemed to discuss things with their husbands and there were several comments throughout the novel of the women having to deal with things on their own. I wondered if this was a Jewish phenomenon or simply a Jewish Memphis one.

The book raised many questions on religion and personal choices, faith, parenting, friendship, and community that were interesting and made me think.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 2013

The Whistling Season
We met at ZTejas at the Gateway and had a great time, but we missed Holly.  :(  Karen's book pick was "The Whistling Season" and it was a 4.5 star hit.

Karen said, "The story of a housekeeper and her brother coming to a small homesteading community in Montana, and changing the lives of one family. "

Alison said, "Such beautiful writing!"

Sue said, "Loved, loved, loved this book! The writing was great and made you feel in the moment, living the emotions with the characters. It's historical fiction set in Montana at the turn of the 20th century where a family is trying to make it dryland homesteading. Because of the mother's death, the father answers a newspaper ad from back East for a housekeeper who "can't cook but doesn't bite". She arrives with her brother who is well-educated and eventually becomes the teacher at the one-room schoolhouse where the boys attend and the father is on the school board. The story is told as a walk down memory lane as the oldest boy, Paul Milliron, returns to Marias Coulee as State Superintendent of Public Instruction with some important decisions to make on the future of schooling in Montana. He remembers his youth in the schoolhouse, learning to love Rose, the housekeeper, the various ups and downs of childhood, his own education, and his relationship with his two brothers. It's brilliantly told and compelling with wonderful characters and interesting dialogue. I have read the author's "Dancing at the Rascal Fair" which I really liked, but I liked this one even better. A great read."

Leslie's review is found here.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 2013-our fourth anniversary

We met at Kneader's at City Creek for an evening to discuss "Garden Spells".  It got 4 stars.  Alison said, "I loved this one! It's not my usual genre (though I am quite eclectic in my choices) - but I just adored the whole thing. I'm wondering if there is a sequel. Will I learn more about the fabulous Waverly women (including little Bay)?
If I have one complaint, it's that Bay, as a five year old, is just too mature for her age (not withstanding her life experience and her magical gift).

Sue said, "This book contains some delightful characters. I wanted to move to Bascom, North Carolina and hang out with the Waverley women because they were so interesting. Claire grows flowers in her garden and cook dishes with them that affects others' emotions, Sydney does the same with hair, Evanelle gives things to people they later need, and Bay talks to the anthropomorphic apple tree with special powers. The magical realism in the book seems so natural as to be absolutely believable as the ladies see other people's auras snap and change. One character deals with horrific domestic violence and another deals with fears that everyone she loves will leave her and has built up walls around herself. As each character comes to terms with these fears, they grow and mature. It was a very fun read, but there's a sexual situation alert and a language alert as the really mean, nasty character has severe language associated with him."
Garden Spells

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 2012

Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13We had our annual holiday festivities at Natalie's home this year with our traditional ornament exchange.  The fun was enlivened by a call from Sue's son announcing his engagement, accompanied by cheers from all the girls over the phone. We read "Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13" and it got 4 stars from our reviewers.  Alison said, "This took me longer to read than I had hoped - but I think that's a function of my life, not a reflection on the book. Although I'll admit that much of the technological aspects of the story went right over my head, it was still very readable and I enjoyed it a lot. I've seen the movie version a couple of times and found that the book filled out the story quite a bit. I do think that the movie depicted the role of Ken Mattingly in bringing Apollo 13 home safely as more significant than the book seemed to imply - but maybe I just missed something in my late-night reading."
Sue said, "I found this just as engrossing the third time around as the first. It's a well-written tale that's page-turning and makes the technical aspects of the Apollo program understandable to the layman. Great story and characters."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 2012

Doomsday BookBecause of life changes among most of our members, we are choosing an every other month format in order to keep pressing forward.  So we'll only meet half as often, but we'll still get to meet.  This month our book is Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis.  We met at The Dodo for a great dinner.

This book got five stars from our group.

Sue said, "One of the best books I've read in a while. It drew me in from the first couple pages and the story never let up. It's part science fiction, part historical fiction, part medical thriller, and part religious exploration that's gripping and fascinating. The characters were of all ages and very interesting. Wonderful book!"

Linda said, "Loved this book and the lessons learned. It combines science and historical fiction. A great read for teens and adults. Thought about this book long after I finished it. To me that's the sign of a great book, one that makes me think."

Alison said, "Just as good - maybe even better - on this re-reading! Historical fiction. Travel travel. Spirituality. This book has it all!"

Karen said, "Sometimes you never get enough time at once to really read a book. Unfortunately that was the case with this book, it was read in stolen snatches of time over the course of 2 weeks. This book is part medical thriller, part time travel, part historical fiction. It tells two stories with connected characters in parallel hundreds of years apart. Kirvin traveling back in time to the 1300s to observe life there, while her contemporary counterparts struggles with the outbreak of the flu and the holidays in her time (around 2050). Interesting read, great book club selection."