Monday, May 23, 2011

Gunn's Golden Rules

Oh how we love Project Runway!  So when we discovered Tim Gunn had penned a book, we simply had to add it to our lineup.  We were expecting something light and witty, and for the most part, Tim delivered.

Gunn's Golden Rules:  Life's Little Lessons for Making it Work.  It's part ettiquitte, part story-time.  Our main complaint:  the book can rabbit-trail, and lacks an overall cohesiveness.  Sometimes the chapters just end, and you can't remember which "rule" you started with because the storytelling went to a completely different place.  We also thought the ending was a little weak.  We wanted more of a "final thought" or something that would wrap it all up and leave us ready to "Make it work!"

That being said, Gunn's writing is very true to his voice.   He's warm and witty and sarcastic and slightly snarky (though he claims he constitutionally incapable of being so).  The crazy stories from the fashion world and the glimpses behind the scenes of Project Runway were consistently funny and satisfying.  And we enjoyed the stories from his personal life too.  We love Tim Gunn and we're happy that we read his book.

Next up:  Here Burns my Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Still Alice

Out book for April was "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova.  It's a book that tackles the issue of Alzheimer's, and is told from the perspective of the woman who is struggling with the disease.  Our group's reaction:  This was the first book we've truly enjoyed since reading "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak in March 2010.  I would highly recommend this book to other book clubs.

We talked about the characters, issues, and plot.  We thought Lisa Genova did a wonderful job of writing so that you really identify with the main character and experience her stuggles and losses with her.  We loved the diverse, yet believable, reactions of her family and friends. 

Our longest discussion topic was around the question: "Would you want to know if you had an unavoidable illness?"  The characters in the book face this question specifically on the topic of Alzheimers.  Would you want to know if you were going to go through it?  Or would you rather face it (or not) as it came?  We had people that answered differently, and for very different reasons.  It made for a wonderful conversation, and I think we all learned about each other in the process.

Next up:  Gunn's Golden Rules:  Life's Little Lessons for Making it Work by Tim Gunn

Monday, March 21, 2011

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Our nomal meeting night fell on St. Patrick's day...and we had green-frosted cupcakes to celebrate.  Also, we discovered triskits + Irish cheese + bruscetta = one delicious appetizer.  But on to the book.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.  We didn't hate it, but we didn't love it either.  Kingsolver often weaves multiple storylines together.  To us, one of the storylines grabbed us much more than the others.  It featured a believable lead role, and a believable struggle.  I think it would have been nice if the whole book centered on that storyline.  The other characters could have been woven in through shared scenes or conversations. 

One thing we really enjoyed was the language.  Kingsolver truly gives each character their own voice, and has her characters use their unique voices to help them describe how they percieve their world and how they work through their problems.  That was very neat to read.

The conclusion of the story was a little sudden and convenient for our taste.  (With the exception of our favorite storyline.  We felt that one ended in a realistic place and we enjoyed the journey to get there.)  I would like to read some of her other books to see if this one just rubbed me the wrong way, or if Kingsolver...while very talented...just isn't for me.

Next Month:  Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  I'll be a little transparent here.  It would be nice to find a book our whole group can be excited about again.  That hasn't really happened since "The Book Thief"...and that was several months ago.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Magicians

After a very hectic fall, the Paige Turners are back to normal.  And with the presence of brownies, banana bread, veggies, and five eccentric girls, we had a lovely gathering last night.

The topic of conversation was Lev Grossman's book The Magicians.  The back cover describes it as a grown-up version of Harry Potter blended with Narnia.  Our collective group opinion was slightly different.

It wasn't one of our favorite books.  A few girls were deeply bothered by some of the content and language.  We did discuss several interesting topics:  growing up, teenage ennui, revisiting childhood stories, the affect of power, maturity, sexuality, dynamics of small groups, faith and confidence.  But what frustrated us all was the lack of something to root for.  We didn't feel any like the story took us (or the characters) anywhere, nor was there someone we could get get behind as a hero (tortured soul variety included). 

We've put this one behind us and are looking forward to Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I do believe this is the "most trendy" book we have read as a group.  Meaning:  Right now people are reading it, wanting to read it, talking about how much they liked seems to be everywhere.  We're cool girls, don't get me wrong.  But our meandering literary path took us very mainstream this month.  Having said that, everyone really enjoyed this book.

A large number of our regular attenders were out of town, so we welcomed a few new faces to make up for it!  They fit right in.  Rabbit-trailing like pros.  *wink*  It's a beautiful thing.  Balancing fellowship with jabbering and managing to fit a meaning discussion about the book in as well. 

We talked about the characters and their voices.  We talked about racism, self-esteem, social dynamics, and choices.  We talked about the bravery of Skeeter and her friends.  And we talked about how sometimes the brave thing and the right thing may cause waves, but leave things pretty much unchanged, and yet somehow still be the right thing to do.  (That was actually something that bothered me a little bit.  How nothing was really different at the end of the book.) We talked about how class distinctions in any form don't have to be inherently degrading.  And we talked about how these issues, prejudices, and mindsets might be reinterpreted in the years to come.  Will we be able to recognize flawed thinking and injustice when we see it?  Will we have the courage to listen, to stand up, and to tell the meaningful story...even if there's a chance it won't change anything?  I enjoyed listening to Anna and Lynn share stories about the beautiful houses of West Annapolis and the families that make homes.  Good discussion indeed.

And of course there was chocolate pie for all.  No extra ingredients included of course!

So...Lynn and Anna, welcome!  Erinn and Amanda, thanks for holding down the fort.  Everyone else, you were missed.  I hope to see you soon.

Next up:  The Hunger Games by Suszanne Collins.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In My Hands by Irene Opdyke

This month's gathering marked a first for me:  it was the first time I hadn't read the book.  (Shame on me!)  In my defense, I honestly thought I was going to miss the meeting.  I loaned my copy out to one of the other girls.  I made arrangements for us to meet at Panera Bread instead of our normal living room.  I was resigned to my fate. And then my hindrance dissapeared and I happily joined everyone for the discussion. All I have to say is this: Thank goodness that this book was based on a real life!  I was able to do some research on the real facts of Irene Opdyke's life (the truth really is better than fiction), and I was able to engage in the conversation.

What a woman!  Her story gave us so much to talk about.  How much a person can change in 5 years.  How some people become heroes and legends by simply responding to the situations in front of them.  It could be said that all Irene did was rise to the opportunity.  But we talked about how there are thinkers, and there are doers.  Some people would have weighed and pondered and re-weighed every consequence.  Irene just looked at things and said, "this is what I can do." 

We talked about hard choices.  About how sometimes people are forced into supporting a system they don't agree with.  How does a person deal with that?  Respond to it?  Fight the system even while 'supporting' it? 

One of our amusing side conversations was on languages.  Irene knew a few, and her friend (fiance was it?) knew several more.  Most of us were lamenting that we are still fighting to learn a second.  But then we decided to divide up the globe, so no matter where we travel someone will know the local tongue.  (Krisitn has Spanish and she'll have to take Portuguese for the team, Erinn has Russian, Mandie has German, I'm all about Arabic and Hindi....).  How is this a bad plan?

I'm looking forward to actually finishing this book.  From what I understand, this book is very easy to read.  It's inspiring.  It's true.  And it's worth keeping around.  It was a delightful way to end our WWII theme on a hopeful note, and we highly recommend this book to others.

Up Next:  The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

This month, we continued with our theme and decided to read Dick's Hugo Award-winning 1962 alternative history, which considers the question of what would have happened if the Allied Powers had lost WWII.

Of the four people who came to the meeting, only one had read the book completely.  One was nearly done and finished the last 20 pages during our discussion.  One had only attempted a few chapters.  And one wasn't able to start at all (though she brought amazing cupcakes.  All is forgiven. *grin*).

For all the praise this book is given, we all thought it was dry, uninteresting, a bit disjointed, and...strange.  Even by the end of the novel, the reader still has large questions about what Dick was trying to communicate.  We chatted for a while about the different voice Dick tried to portray for different parts of the country -- based on whether the states had been controlled by Japan or Germany after the war.  We chatted about the use/misuse of the I Ching throughout the book's plot.  We chatted about some of the main characters.

And then we abandoned the strange book and played Dutch Blitz while we watched Glee.

Dutch Blitz is a card game that is part Solitaire, part Skip-Bo, part Speed, and part "Egyptian Rat Screw."  The latter is what makes my sister so dangerous.  She didn't join the Dutch Blitz game until the 4th or 5th round, but when she did she proceeded to stomp us.  Soundly.  (Which was mostly ok.  Grrr.  *wink*)

Imagine all that insanity with Glee as a backdrop.  For one of us, it was her first Glee episode ever.  She started out looking at us like we were all insane.  "What?" And ended by laughing with delight that Neil Patrick Harris would guest star on an upcoming episode. "What?!"

Good times (and delicious cupcakes) were had by all.

Next month we will conclude our WWII theme with the book:  In My Hands:  Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Opdyke.