Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

First, let me give a very public "Atta girl!" to Kristin.  She finished the book with time to spare (That's a big deal for Kristin.  She's super busy and stuff.  Go ahead and do a quick happy dance with her.) 

On to the book.  It was our first thriller, and could best be described as "Victorian Noir."  It's written as a confession, so you spend the entire book inside one character's head.  As the book progresses, you're able to make more sense of what that character is like, and in turn, that knowledge changes how you view the supporting characters.  This is what I mean:  Have you ever had a friend who exaggerates, and who usually views himself as completely innocent in every situation?  That's the frame of the main character.  So later in the book, when he's talking about how horribly unjust something is, or how terrible someone used to treat him, I gave those comments less weight because I had more insight on his character.  I found that phenomenon interesting.

At the end of the day, we thought the book could have been a few hundred pages shorter and still included all the details it needed to work.  (Translation:  it gets pretty slow at times.)  But I think we enjoyed it.  Our conversation centered on the topics of justice, revenge, parental influence, self-centeredness, betrayal, and guilt. 

Speaking of guilt, here's the thing we found most interesting about Cox's book.  It opens with the murder of an innocent man.  The main character then goes on a reminiscent journey to fill you in on all the factors leading up to that moment. Those factors and paths consume all the primary characters.  The protagonist doesn't regret any of it.  But at the very end, he admits that he feels guilt over the murder of that innocent man.  It makes me wonder of that guilt was why he wrote the confession in the first place?  Not just to share his story, but to absolve for the one crime he truly regretted.  (That's a bonus thought for you).

Paige Turners, what do you think?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Murder Mystery!

Our next book choice was quite long, so we decided to take mercy on our reading schedules and have a party this month.  I'd never hosted or even attended a Murder Mystery before, but I think our get together worked out quite nicely.

The plot of our story revolved around a death at the Annual Superhero Assembly.  Due to a horrid oversight on my part, I don't have any pictures of the evening, but this was our cast of characters:
  • Electra (played by Regina) - Electrical powers - Electra is a medical doctor by day and a super hero by night. This healer is able to draw upon electrical energy to fight her foes. Electra is one of the preeminent superheroes in the Justice Confederation and some say she is the unspoken leader.
  • Shiver (played by Katie) - Powers of ice - This cold hearted hero is rumored to be in the superhero realm for purely selfish reasons…attention. There have been many recent reports in the news of Shiver not coming to the aid of victims around the city because she is out shopping, getting her nails done or doing self-centered things. However, when Shiver does come to help damsels in distress, her rescue rate is 100%.
  • Stingmata (played by Kristin) - Powers of poison - Stingmata’s toxic personality can be rather annoying to those around her. She is full of energy and sometimes loses herself in the moment. However, she is typically the first superhero on the scene of a crime and does her job with vigor and integrity.
  • Blue Blaze (played by Erinn) - Powers of fire - Blue Blaze is known for her fiery personality. An attorney by day, she is outspoken and can be quite callous on occasion. She is one of the most powerful superheroes in the Justice Confederation and sometimes she walks a fine line on what side of the law she is truly on.
  • Nerdon (played by Christine) - Powers of all things nerdy - Nerdon is the quintessential nerd with amazing but nerdy super powers. Nerdon is able to draw upon all things nerdy to battle enemies. So watch out for Nerdon’s flying protractorangs, robotic monkeys and her ergonomically created sword.
  • The Red Wonder (played by Mandy) - Magical rap lyric powers - The Red Wonder is a famous rap artist by day and super rapper by night! Her lyrics of iron will counteract any evil villain’s attacks. The Red Wonder is a force to be reckoned with…especially with her faithful microphone.
  • The Wisher (played by Amanda) - Powers of wishes - The Wisher is one of the most caring and accommodating superheroes in the Justice Confederation. However, watch out for her sneaky side if she tricks you into making three wishes.
  • Ms. Fabulous (played by Kate) - Powers of being completely fabulous - Ms. Fabulous is…well…she’s completely fabulous! Her perfect body, perfect hair, charismatic personality and trusty hand-held mirror are all that she needs to bring the criminals to justice. The lawbreakers stop in awe at the sight of Ms. Fabulous… just in time for the other superheroes to take control of the scene.
  • The Jester (played by special guest Laura) - Powers of humor - This comedian (comedienne) is a hoot to be around and was once voted everyone’s favorite super hero in the Justice Confederation. The Jester uses the power of humor to defeat villains. Criminals don’t know what’s hit them when the jokes start flying!
We had such a great time!  Nerdon was the star of the show.  Christine's costume was completely rockin', and she stayed in character the whole night.  That was no easy task.  After a few rounds of games and clues, we made our final predictions and found our killer.  We thought the ending was a little "Scooby Doo"ish (meaning, you didn't quite have all the clues you needed to find the answer), but we certainly had a good time trying to piece it all together.

I hope the night of mystery and mayhem helped us all to look forward to our December book:  The Meaning of Night.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Romeo and Juliet

The timeless Shakespeare love story. Some of us had to read Romeo and Juliet in high school, others read it for the first time this past month...but all of us were familiar with the story. How can you not be?

What makes Shakespeare so wonderful to read is this: he can play linguistic gymnastics with a familiar story. In Romeo and Juliet, the chorus tells you the end of the story right off the bat. "A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life." But then you start reading, and laughing, and hoping... and becoming drawn into the comedy and drama of the story. It was very fun for our group to re-visit this story as adults... because we can read between the lines to get all the bad jokes! *grin*

Our conversation jumped all over the place (as usual), but we touched on all the major themes and topics of the play. Also, many of us associate "Romeo and Juliet" with the Baz Luhrman movie. It was interesting how we kept comparing what we read in the play to what we remember seeing in the movie. We love the Montagues and aren't really big fans of the Capulets. Tybalt is lame. Benvolio rocks. Romeo and Juliet have it bad. Paris really gets a raw deal in this story. And Friar Laurence wasn't doing anyone any favors with his meddling. Two of our favorite quotes: "You kiss by the book" and "By my heel I care not."

We concluded the night by finding a 9th grade final exam for Romeo and Juliet and testing our knowledge. I'm proud to report that we passed with flying colors! Whoo hoo!

Next month will be a bit of a treat. We are reading "The Meaning of Night" by Michael Cox, and will have a murder mystery theme to our next gathering. I've never done one of these before, so I think it will be lots of fun!

Till then... Happy Reading!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

While the Daffodils Danced

After a busy Labor Day weekend, it was nice to sit down and chat with my book club pals. We were a slightly smaller group this month, and we stayed remarkably on topic. Even with some later arrivals and opening chit-chat, we were able to get through our thoughts in time to see the Nadal/Monfils match of the US Open. Not bad, girls! Not bad.

Our basic synopsis of "While the Daffodils Danced" -- it feels like a Lifetime movie written down. You can see major plot points coming, and everything wraps up in nice little bows. (While some readers may find that annoying, I think others don't mind.)

I loved the minor characters in this book. We thought most of the major characters remained the same throughout the story, but the journeys of the mother and father were quite beautiful. Another minor character that we all loved was Nurse Sarah. She comforts Cara just after she gives birth to the baby girl she is giving up for adoption. She tells Cara, "What a wonderful thing, to give someone life." As a group, we discussed adoption, and how this was a beautiful way to frame that decision.

One thing we giggled about: finding the chapter title in the chapter. You could make it a little game with yourself as you read. Kind of like waiting to eat your popcorn at the movies until the reason for the title happens. Example: In FoTR, halfway through the movie at the council meeting in Rivendale, Elrond makes the proclamation, "So be it. Nine companions. The Fellowship of the Ring." --> You are now free to eat your popcorn!

Looking ahead: Our next meeting is on Tuesday, October 13th. We will discuss Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare.

November's meeting has been moved to Tuesday, November 17th. We will discuss The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox. I'm working on some fun things for this night. You won't want to miss it...or be late!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


On Sunday, I hosted a cookout for the Paige Turners, and company. We had a full menu: burgers, grilled caesar salad (sometimes with ranch), greek pasta salad, potato salad, fruit, veggies…and dessert! Key lime pie and brownies. (Thank you everyone for all the yummy goodness). No one left hungry. Well done!

We sat and chatted. We played Balderdash in special honor of Sarah. (We missed you!) And then we moved inside to talk about important things. Like lists. And M.A.S.H. (Not the show, the game. Poor Kate. She ended up with most of the yucky options. But at least she got her dream job!) We wrapped up the day with an almost-finished-game of Disney Trivial pursuit.

Of course, the cutest part of the day was Charlotte. When we were eating lunch, she and Gallaudett got to know each other. They were chasing each other around and around the desk. My dog is 15 years old. He doesn’t interact with anything. In fact, he usually runs away. But for some reason, he fell in love with Charlotte. It was so cute. Then Charlotte discovered the BIG teddy bear. Partially because Erinn attacked her with it (good job). But she loved playing with that thing. It made her ecstatically happy.

And I love when people are happy.

I hope everyone else enjoyed the day as much as I did.

Looking ahead: Our next meeting is on September 8th. We are discussing While the Daffodils Danced by Cathie LaMarsh. Happy Reading!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Our book club meeting this month was a casualty of summer schedules and Harry Potter. Of our nine girls, four came to the meeting, and only two had the chance to read the book. But we still had a lovely time, even with a smaller group.

Katie and I were able to talk about our reactions to the book. We both enjoyed reading it, but also both were of the opinion that it would make a perfect “bathroom” or “leave it in the car” book. There really isn’t an overarching plot, nor does the book grip you in such a way that you can’t put it down. The book is a conglomeration of little stories and filler chapters, and each one wraps up nicely before moving on. If the rest of the series is like this first book, we can understand why it has been translated to the small screen as a TV show. But the heroine is likable, and can be quite hilarious at times with her matter-of-fact approach to life and case solving. So for those whose schedules got the better of them this past month, this one is worth reading. Keep it in your car or on your dresser for those *cough* slow *cough* moments in your day. They’re bound to happen….sometime. :-)

The overarching lesson this month was: IPhones are quite nifty, and camel spiders are big and creepy.

Looking ahead: I know July is historically our slowest month, but after our meeting a few weeks ago I’ve been brainstorming. I’m planning some different things for the fall. Keep your eyes on your mailboxes. Good things are in your future.

Upcoming meetings/events: We will have no book discussion for August. Enjoy a reading vacation! We will have a cookout on Sunday, August 23rd starting at 1:30. I’ll provide the burgers/buns/ and the porch. Bring your family and a side dish or dessert, and let’s just enjoy the afternoon. Our next book discussion will be on Tuesday, September 8th. Stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Shack

I must admit that I was surprised by our discussion this month. Our book was “The Shack” by William Young. I put it on the list because I kept hearing about it: from various friends, from church programs, from Amazon, etc. In fact, the Amazon description is as follows:

Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment, he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant "The Shack" wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!

So I dutifully searched and found some discussion questions, and eagerly waited for our Paige Turner discussion.

And I was surprised.

"The Shack" is a polarizing book. Some readers really loved it, and others truly did not. More than not liking the writing style or the pacing or the (insert literary element here), they were genuinely bothered by the content -- The journey travelled and conclusions reached by the main character.

So our discussion that night went to some places I never would have guessed. But you know, that’s the great thing about our book club. I’m genuinely glad that we were able to talk about the different things we liked and didn’t like. I’m glad that our little group provides an atmosphere of openness and trust so that people can talk about negative responses and reactions. Kudos to us. (I hope everyone else felt the same sort of atmosphere I did.)

And in coming back to the book. There’s a lot to love. One of the things we all enjoyed: a recurring phrase used by the character portraying God. “I am especially fond of ____.” God says this about group of Californian Euro-funk musicians who have yet to be born, of Missy (the child murdered in the beginning of the book, of Mack (the main character), and of several other people along the way. In fact, God tells Mack to pass this message on to his best friend. When Mack gives the message, it’s incredibly apparent that these words touch a very deep place in his friend’s heart. And why wouldn’t they? As a group, we all agreed that this particular element is both true and encouraging. No matter who you are, or how you view yourself: God is especially fond of you.

I won’t list the things that gave us pause. Those worms can stay canned. Suffice it to say that “The Shack” reads like a parable. Therefore, there’s a lot of pictures, statements, and conversations can raise a lot of questions. So, dear reader, if you do pick up this book and you find that in reading it you have questions…please feel free to contact one of us and start a conversation. (You can find my email address on my profile page.)

For the Paige Turners – our next book is “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” by Alexander McCall Smith. Big surprise, they’re making this one into a movie! (Who’s surprised? Anyone? *wink*)

We’ll meet to discuss it on July 14th. (A date much anticipated by Harry Potter Fans….the sixth movie releases that day at midnight. Whoo hoo! You coming?)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing

Our group was a little smaller this month, but we were not lacking in discussion! Leave it to Shakespeare to whip our little group into a frenzy.

We opened our meeting with something a little different: a quiz! (I wish I could take credit for crafting it, but I just stumbled upon in during an internet search for good discussion starters.) But whoever *did* draft the quiz certainly had fun with making up the multiple choice answers. For example, one of the potential answers for “Why did Claudio refuse to marry Hero?” was “She smelled like a rotten orange.” Pretty funny stuff. Mandy squeaked out a victory and won the super cool prize of glow in the dark flip-flops. I found them at Michaels, and they’re pretty fun!

I don’t think it’s possible to read a Shakespeare play and *not* have something to talk about. And this particular play has lots of quippy lines and sensational characters. After laughing at chatting, we also watched the Kenneth Branaugh version of the movie. It stays very close to the text of play, although we were disappointed that only the first and last lines of this interaction were included in the movie:

Dogberry Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.
Don Pedro First, I ask thee what they have done; thirdly, I ask thee what's their offence; sixth and lastly, why they are committed; and, to conclude, what you lay to their charge.
Claudio Rightly reasoned, and in his own division: and, by my troth, there's one meaning well suited.
Don Pedro Who have you offended, masters, that you are thus bound to your answer? this learned constable is too cunning to be understood: what's your offence?
For me personally, watching the movie dramatically impacted my view of one of the main characters. But I’ll save my thoughts on that for a Leakey Faucet post.

For this post, I will simply say adieu.

Thanks for a great meeting everyone. Next month we will meet on June 9th to discuss The Shack by William Young.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Explanation Required

For the first time since November, we had all our Paige Turners in attendance. It was especially nice to have Sarah there, since it was her birthday…and she is not as giraffe-crazy as some of the other girls. But thanks to Erinn and Amanda, we had cupcakes and decorations. And thanks to everyone who came we had a night of smiles and laughs and chatter about our chosen giraffe books – Tall Blondes and Giraffes? Giraffes!

Tall Blondes was picked because it had several reviews like this one: “This book contains the most captivating journey through the history and lives of giraffes that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. As a giraffophile myself, I was amazed at the extent of new, fascinating information contained within each page. It has wonderful illustrations that complement and enhance the reading. "Tall Blondes" is a must-have for every giraffe lover; it's a graceful, distinctive work that is truly deserving of its unique subject matter.

As a group, we feel that the book falls very short of this review. It is very quote heavy. And the quotes aren’t necessarily all related to each other or arranged in a way that reads well. There are certainly some interesting facts about giraffes, but we wouldn’t call it “a captivating journey.” It isn’t until the last couple chapters when the author moves away from listing facts and quotes and actually creates something of a narrative. Those last chapters were ok, but it took a lot to get there.

Highlights from Tall Blondes:
  • We learned a giraffe can kick in all directions. With this skill, they can decapitate a lion. Can you imagine that?

  • We also learned that giraffes have amazing circulatory systems. Valves in their neck veins keep blood moving one direction so they can lower their head without all the blood rushing downhill and pooling there. Also, their leg veins have thicker walls, and their skin is stretched tight to keep blood moving back up toward their heart. Scientists are trying to use the design of giraffe’s legs to design space suits that will keep astronaut’s circulatory systems from weakening while they are in space. Pretty cool right?

  • The story of Victor – a giraffe who tragically passed away after he fell and did the splits in a Great Britain zoo in 1977. I’ll have to borrow a copy of Tall Blondes (mine went back to the library) and share the tribute that was printed in the paper. It’s quite something. Many of the girls who read Tall Blondes said they teared up as they read Victor’s story.

Giraffes? Giraffes! was picked because it looked ridiculous and hilarious. It definitely lived up to our expectations. It’s kind of like “Napoleon Dynamite” – you have to be in the mood for that kind of movie, but if you are, it’s hilarious.

My personal favorite correlation between the two books: space travel. As mentioned above, science is trying to take some giraffe wisdom to improve the design of space suits. This makes complete sense, since according to Giraffes? Giraffes!, these majestic creatures migrated to Earth from Venus by way of a conveyor belt. Coincidence? Most certainly.

Overall, I think it’s totally appropriate that the books this month were both a conglomeration of nonsequitors. Why is that? Because it was Katie’s month to pick our books. And as her own blog suggests…with Katie, there’s usually some explanation required.

Looking forward: It’s the last month of our round robin season. We will be reading Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. Picked by Christine.

See you in May!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Glass Castle

This month we delved into the tale spun by Jeanette Walls describing her very interesting childhood. We decided as a group that the book synopsis/teaser on the back cover is a very inadequate portrayal of the misadventures shared in the book. With that being said, there was no shortage of conversation. We didn’t even need to be driven by a discussion guide…our own reactions directed a great conversation that covered every area suggested in a prompt. Impressive right? The Glass Castle has it all: parts that make you angry, parts that make you happy, parts that make you sad, parts that make you quite indignant, and parts that make you proud. We concluded the evening with a time of sharing stories from our own childhood. It was a lovely time. Thank you Kristin for suggesting this book for us all to read.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a book club meeting without a side sugary goodness. This month, Christine, Mandy, and I dove into the world of phillo dough, dates, and nuts. The result? Baklavah and Ma’amoul. Mmmmm…..

Next Month: We'll have a Giraffe theme with "Tall Blonds" by Lynn Sherr and "Giraffes? Giraffes!" by Doris Haggis-On-Whey.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


This month’s meeting started with a surprise. Regina attempted to make single-serving smore brownies. And for the most part, they turned out wonderfully. But this was the first time she used the “broil” setting in the new, gas-powered oven. And as she pulled the top tray out, she discovered that the pies were on fire!

Mandy, being a supportive friend tried to comfort Regina by saying, “Oh it’s not that bad.” But then she lightly tapped one of the burnt pies, and it disintegrated. Which made everyone in the kitchen disintegrate with laughter as Mandy tried to communicate, “Ok, maybe it –is– that bad.”

Thankfully, the rest of the batch was fit for human consumption, and the smore brownies were a hit.

Moving on to Inkheart. We all thought it was a fun read. There are lots of fun characters, and it will be interesting to see how they interpret the book into a movie. (An outing is planned for tomorrow night.)

One of our discussion points for the evening was around language. Inkheart was written in German, and then translated to English. We wondered what may have been lost or gained in translation. We talked about how even with an English to English translation (ex. Harry Potter series), certain words or situations may be received differently by different readers. It was an interesting thought to toss around.

We later got distracted by superstitions. One of the main characters – Basta – is a deeply superstitious person. Christine shared that at a recent family gathering, the women in her family had fun with the pencil test. So of course, we scrambled to find a pencil, a needle, and some thread…and the night ended with more laughter.

Looking ahead, our next read is “The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls (Kristin’s Pick). A few of us also plan on reading the rest of the Inkheart series. Thank you Erinn, for picking such an enjoyable book!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Twice as Nice

Two more months have passed for the ladies of the Paige Turner book club, and those two months gave us very different literary experiences.

For December, we read Blood Done Sign my Name by Timothy B. Tyson. It’s a memoir of the son of a white pastor who lived in the south during the height of the civil rights movement. Needless to say, it’s a book that gives great insight to a pivotal and important part of our American history…and from a unique point of view. Our meeting discussion touched on all sorts of issues: from black/white tensions to the struggles of Irish immigrants and indentured servants. One of the lasting thoughts of the night: it is important to remember the past, but the cycle of hurt doesn’t have to continue. By living color- and status- blind, and by loving and respecting everyone equally, we can break negative cycles and paradigms. It was a night of great discussion and as a group, we would highly recommend that you read this book. (Thanks for picking it Susanne!)

Our January book was Once Upon a Winter’s Night by Dennis McKiernan. It’s a retelling and embellishment of the Norse fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. McKiernan took the original story and expanded it to try and capture the type of story a wandering bard would tell. It’s an enjoyable ride through the “land of faery,” and a classic high fantasy story: Love, a curse, several riddles, an evil mother, a dragon, a sparrow sidekick, and an adventure to reunite those who have been separated. How can you go wrong? Though if I re-read this book, I will keep a running tally of the following words: ire, dire, peril and twilight. Seriously. They’re everywhere. We enjoyed the book though. It was a welcome break from some of the heavier books we’ve read recently. Thanks Amanda!

Now we’re looking forward to February. We’re tackling Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. Unsurprisingly, the movie comes out this Friday, so I sense a book club outing in our future. (Take a look at our list of books. We have a habit of picking books that are made into movies. Most of the time we don’t realize it until much later. – for example, The Secret Life of Bees. In fact, I even discovered an old English film retelling East of the Sun and West of the Moon – It’s a very fun phenomenon to live out.)

Till next month...happy reading!