Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 2009

Natalie picked the children's classic "Ballet Shoes" by Noel Streatfeild and we gave it 4 stars.  Alison and Sue were excoriated for never having heard of the series as girls, but took it all in good fun.  We were treated to a delicious lunch hosted by Holly at her home, had an ornament exchange, and caught up on our personal news.  We had a lovely time.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November 2009

Sue chose "The Alchemist's Daughter" by Katharine McMahon and we gave it 3 1/2 stars.  We lunched at Mimi's Cafe in Murray.

"There are long-held secrets at the manor house in Buckinghamshire, England, where Emilie Selden has been raised in near isolation by her father. A student of Isaac Newton, John Selden believes he can turn his daughter into a brilliant natural philosopher and alchemist. Secluded in their ancient house, with only two servants for company, he fills Emilie with knowledge and records her progress obsessively. In the spring of 1725, father and daughter begin their most daring alchemical experiment to date - they will attempt to breathe life into dead matter. But their work is interrupted by the arrival of two strangers: one a researcher, the other a dazzling young merchant. During the course of a sultry August, while her father is away, Emilie experiences the passion of first love. Listening to her heart rather than her head, she makes a choice. Banished to London and plunged headlong into a society that is both glamorous and ruthless, Emilie discovers that for all her extraordinary education she has no insight into the workings of the human heart. When she tries to return to the world of books and study, she instead unravels a shocking secret that sets her on her true journey to enlightenment."

Sue says: This was a feminist book set in the early 18th century. The title character is raised to be a scientist with a functioning brain, but is so sheltered that she doesn't realize that in her society, women are chattel who belong to their husbands. So when she marries and learns this sad truth, she has to use her intelligence to remake herself into an independent woman. It is painful and costly, but the benefits to her and those she influences are great. There are also sub-themes of the slave trade and the dearth of good medicine for women in childbirth, along with interesting details about science and alchemy. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 2009

Holly picked "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman and we gave it 3 1/2 stars.  We ate at Lone Star Taqueria in Salt Lake City at 2265 Fort Union Blvd.

Holly says: Who knew the graveyard was such a jungle?

Alison says: I adored this Newbery Award winner! I will admit I was a little worried that it would be too "creepy" for my taste - but I was hooked from the first page. The following quote from the Newbery website sums it up well:
A delicious mix of murder, fantasy, humor and human longing, the tale of Nobody Owens is told in magical, haunting prose. A child marked for death by an ancient league of assassins escapes into an abandoned graveyard, where he is reared and protected by its spirit denizens.
Sue says:What a fun book! I really had no expectations when I started it and didn't know anything about it except that it was the pick for this month's book club. It has a very unusual story with fun characters and a satisfying conclusion. It is essentially a coming-of-age book, but with some very different aspects. Who knew so many interesting things happen in a graveyard?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

September 2009

This was Leslie's pick to lunch at Jason's Deli.  We read "My Family and Other Animals" by Gerald Durrell and gave it 3 stars.

Alison says: I think I'm in the minority, but I didn't love this memoir. The "family" parts were somewhat interesting to me - sometimes downright laugh-out-loud funny - but the "other animals" stuff just isn't my thing.

Sue says: As my friend Leslie said, "This book is one outrageous story after another". This book is very funny and I enjoyed reading it.
the family members-hilarious
the animal stories-hilarious
the other characters-hilarious
the natural history-fascinating
the descriptions of the Greek island Corfu-beautiful

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July 2009

Alison picked "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins and we gave it 5 stars.  We lunched at Cafe Rio in Taylorsville.
This book generated a lively discussion about the societal implications of the games and also the brutality in a young adult book.

Leslie says: Couldn't put it down!

Alison says: This YA novel has a compelling plot - as well as some great social commentary to contemplate long after the final page. I'm eager to read Catching Fire, the next book in what I've heard will be a trilogy. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 2009

This month we instituted rotating responsibility for book and lunch choices with the caveat that we wouldn't complain about choices, but you had the freedom to not read a book you didn't like.  And we could all still be friends.  :)

Cheryl chose "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and we gave it 4 stars; lunch was at Sweet Tomatoes in Sandy.

Alison says: I found the writing to be somewhat uneven - which is sometimes the case in a memoir - but the content of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel is such an important one! That the basic human rights of women and female children can be violated with such little thought and/or in the name of religiosity is tragic, and we all need to be a little more aware of the problem so that we can find a solution. 

Cheryl says: What a shocking book this one was for me. Her descriptions of life as an Islam woman go beyond anything I have ever read before. I tried to remember, as I read the book, that she was someone who left a faith and I have never run into anyone who has done that where their descriptions are bitter and not totally fair. Reading Infidel has increased my commitment to read the Koran, myself, to see if she is accurate in what is found there, or whether her bad (extremely bad!) life's experiences so dramatically colored her objectivity. I think that this book is a must read to understand women's experience in a Muslim world. But, I am choosing to remain a bit skeptical on some of her analysis of what the Koran actually does and does not teach so far as war and peace.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April 2009

April was Sue's choice and we read "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini.  We gave it 4 1/2 stars.  "A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan's last thirty years, from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding, that puts the violence, fear, hope and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives, the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness, are inextricable from the history playing out around them."

Lunch was at Pei Wei in Sandy and we met on April 20th.  A noteworthy day as it is Alison's son's birthday, Sue's anniversary, and the anniversary of Columbine.

Holly says:
The title of the book refers to a 17th century poem of the Persian poet Saib-e-Tabrizi called Kabul. The poem is translated into English by Josphine Davis. The English translation is not a literal translation of the original.


Ah! How beautiful is Kabul encircled by her arid mountains
And Rose, of the trails of thorns she envies
Her gusts of powdered soil, slightly sting my eyes
But I love her, for knowing and loving are born of this same dust

My song exhalts her dazzling tulips
And at the beauty of her trees, I blush
How sparkling the water flows from Pul-I Bastaan!
May Allah protect such beauty from the evil eye of man!

Khizr chose the path to Kabul in order to reach Paradise
For her mountains brought him close to the delights of heaven
From the fort with sprawling walls, A Dragon of protection
Each stone is there more precious than the treasure of Shayagan

Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls

Her laughter of mornings has the gaiety of flowers
Her nights of darkness, the reflections of lustrous hair
Her melodious nightingales, with passion sing their songs
Ardent tunes, as leaves enflamed, cascading from their throats

And I, I sing in the gardens of Jahanara, of Sharbara
And even the trumpets of heaven envy their green pastures

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March 2009

This month's book was a consensus choice of the group and was "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows.  We rated it 4 1/2 stars.

We met again in The State Room cafeteria at the Utah State Capitol.  Leslie wanted to make us a potato peel pie but thought we might not like it, so she made a yummy sweet potato pie and brought it to the Capitol.

Holly says: I love that this book was made up entirely of letters. After reading the book, it reminded me that the Internet is taking away communicating by letters and turning us into e-mail addicts. How many e-mails have we all exchanged with one another? Where will our e-mails eventually end up? Our children and grandchildren will not be able to read them (maybe a good thing in some cases)and learn of our days past, like we can with the letters of our grandparents and other family members. I love that this book was part history, and part fiction. I enjoyed the pace of the style of writing, it read like banter—but it was substantive at the same time.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

February 2009

This was our inaugural meeting.  We started because Natalie had read a book and wanted to talk about it with some people, so she asked us to get together and then we just continued on.  The first members were Natalie, Leslie, Alison, Holly, Cheryl and Sue.

We met in The State Room cafeteria at the Utah State Capitol.
We read "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak and it got 4 stars.

Alison says:  The Book Thief, which was Salt Lake County's 2008 "One County, One Book" selection, has been on my to-read list for ages! While I didn't find the book to be the "life-changing" experience that some have, I did like it a lot. The characters are fabulous - including Liesel (the book thief of the title), her foster parents, her best friend Rudy (who wants to grow up to be Jesse Owens), the reclusive mayor's wife (who has a fabulous library), and Max (the young Jewish man that Leisel's family hides in their basement)! I loved discovering the various layers of who each of them were as the book progressed.
What I loved the most was the message of the power of words, both for good and for evil. In author Markus Zusak's words, from "A Reader's Guide" at the end of the paperback version of the book:
I ... realized the importance of words in Nazi Germany. I thought of Hitler destroying people with words, and now I had a girl who was stealing them back, as she read books with the young Jewish man in her basement and calmed people down in the bomb shelters. She writes her own story - and it's a beautiful story - through the ugliness of the world that surrounds her.

Sue says: I found this book to be brutal. I've read WWII books that have more horrific descriptions of events, but this book took the cake. I've been thinking and thinking about why this is, and I think it's because of the main character. How many horrible things can one teenage girl experience and still remain a decent human being? Evidently alot. The writing style was very interesting. It was chronological, yet the narrator took liberties with the timeline by skipping around and giving teasers about future events. Also, the choice of a narrator was very interesting. I really enjoyed the book, but felt battered by the end because of the events.