Saturday, April 2, 2016

Playing Catch Up

When you live in Canada, winter weather can sometimes interfere with your plans and that is what happened in February. We were all set to meet at Heather's house for a great discussion about her book pick, The Girl on the Train, when the snow and ice ended up keeping us all at home. So this month we did double duty and discussed both our February and our March books.

The girl on the train had mixed reviews. It was agreed by most of us that the story had an impaired narrative structure. It was hard to keep the shifting time frames and narrators straight which took away from the story. The book received a 6.0 out of 10 on the low end and a 9.0 on the high end from Tony:

"I really enjoyed this book. I thought the author did a masterful job setting up the premise and pace of the story‎, using an almost diary-like mode as the day began or ended for each character. The flashbacks in time made sense, developing both story and characters. With most stories, I find the middle drags with unnecessary details or plot lines, and this has a little of that - her sexual liaison with the grieving husband makes no sense to me, for her or for him - but it finished well and all the pieces fit nicely into the puzzle. I would rate this book as 9/10. "

Overall our book club rated The Girl on the Train a 7.25 out of 10.

Our next discussion centered around our March book that was chosen by Beatrice, Water for Elephants.

Old fashioned and endearing, the author brought to life with vivid text a beautiful and engaging story of a bygone era. Filled with colorful characters and shocking realities, this book kept the interest of our group from start to finish.  An overall rating of 8.7 out of 10 puts this book near the top of our list!

Tony's thoughts:

"I also enjoyed this book, with one caveat - do we ever learn why you don't carry buckets of water to the elephant? The characters are readily visible on the page, the story line is consistent, and the flash forwards to the old man Jacob provide poignant and comic relief. The author ties a nice bow at the end of the story - you can just imagine this guy wobbling with his walker across the street to the circus! I would rate this book 9/10."

Next month's pick by Renee is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi.  Will you join us?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

Our January book, picked by Judy D., was a truly outstanding read! This unique and unforgettable story, narrated by the voice of Music, takes you on a journey of the life of Frankie Presto, the greatest guitarist to ever walk the earth.

The author, Mitch Albom, beautifully and believably weaves Frankie's life along with some of the great musical legends of our times, from classical to jazz to rock & roll.  It tells the tale of Frankie - rescued by a nun after his mother dies, saved by a hairless dog from a river, raised by a poor but loving man as his own son, taken in by his music teacher, sent to America at the age of 9 in the bottom of a boat, and follows his musical career that follows him through the 1940's, 50's and 60's.

Music introduces his wisdom on Page 4: “All humans are musical. Why else would the Lord give you a beating heart?" and continues to tell the story of talent, life and ultimately love. The blue strings hold mystery and magic and you soon realize that, "Those strings did indeed have lives inside them, but it was not his playing that turned them blue; it was his [Frankie's] heart."

Our wonderful hostess even had her own magic guitar...

and spoiled us with yummy cupcakes and wine!

And our meeting was held in the library of her building! How appropriate :)

A favorite quote from the book is from the only song that Frankie wrote after his beloved Aurora died, “Yesterday I saw a bird, Whose tree had disappeared. The clouds lay claim, To a moonless sky,  You are gone, I’m here.”  Aurora was Frankie's tree - his home, his shelter, his grounding. Such a sad part of the book!

This book received a high rating from our book club, 9.0 out of 10! A must-read!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Monday, December 7, 2015

Welcome to the Hundred Acre Wood

So, have you ever read Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne?  I mean the original version that was published in Great Britain in 1926?  Neither had I nor many of the members in our Book Club and that is why Linda B-B chose it for our November book.

Our lovely hostess transformed her home into a replica of the Hundred Acre Wood and greeted us dressed as Winnie the Pooh!

We all agreed that we experienced a lovely return to childhood memories and simpler times while reading this book and we rated it a 9 out of 10.

It was such a great evening and we all appreciated the extra efforts that Linda put into making our book club evening an experience as well as a gathering. The following sentiment expresses the friendship we all feel in our book club:

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Fasten Your Seat Belts!

We read a very interesting book this past month - An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield.

Chris Austin Hadfield is a retired astronaut who was the first Canadian to walk in space. As Canadians, we came away from reading this book more informed about what it takes to become an astronaut and understanding what space travel is all about, along with feelings of pride in our home-grown hero.  But as a book club we found this book a difficult read.  Overall, it was dry, textbook-like and, to be quite honest, we were all hoping for something... more?

Most of us felt that the author gave a good accounting of his experiences, but there were way too many facts and not enough emotion.  While Chris tries to share his 'advice' throughout the book (such as, it is best to be a team player, strive to be a zero, sweat the little stuff before it becomes big stuff), it sometimes felt as though he was preachy and a bit self-applauding.

One thing we all found interesting was his idea of aiming to be a zero.  This is his rating system:
 -1:  Someone who is actively harmful; someone who creates problems.
  0:  A person whose impact is neutral and doesn't tip the balance one way or another.
+1:  Someone who actively adds value.

He explains:  "Everyone wants to be a +1, of course.  But proclaiming your plus-one-ness at the outset almost guarantees you'll be perceived as a minus one regardless of the skills you bring to the table and how you actually perform."   Hmmm... some good food for thought.

I think this was our least favourite book since our book club began, with a rating of only 5.9 out of 10.  I would not discourage anyone from reading his book, but I believe it would appeal to a more scientific mind.

With all of that being said, our lovely hostess, Linda R., was as gracious as ever and we enjoyed another evening of lively conversation and delicious food and wine! 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Back Together

September is always special for our Book Club because we get to reunite after a summer break.   The months of July and August are normally busy with family, cottages, traveling and other summer time activities, so we say good-bye at the end of June and then meet again in September.

It was my turn (Joanne) to host the September meeting and I chose the book Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese.  I first read this book a couple of years ago and was very moved by it and thought it would make a great Book Club pick.  Fortunately, the rest of our group thought the same and we found our discussions took us in some interesting directions.

The book centers around four chronically homeless people–Amelia One Sky, Timber, Double Dick and Digger – who seek refuge in a warm movie theater when a severe Arctic Front descends on the city. During what is supposed to be a one-time event, this temporary refuge transfixes them. They fall in love with this new world, and once the weather clears and their lives are forever changed they still continue their love of movies and trips to the cinema.

Some of the questions we discussed included:  Do some street people actually choose that way of life?  Do most street people struggle with mental illness?  Was their lottery win and how it affected them a realistic depiction?  Who are the shadowed ones?

The idea of 'home' was an important theme of the book and the author painted such a beautiful picture of it.  "Dick taught me that home is a truth you carry within yourself.  It's belonging, regardless.  It's the place where you never need to qualify, measure up, the place that you never have to fear losing."  This quote from the book just really touched my heart.

Other favourite quotes that provoked deep thought: "When the hands on the street are held out, it isn't always alms that are beggared; it's life, contact, touch, generosity of spirit."  

And: "Today, showered, shaved and dressed expensively, I had become a sir.  What had the soap washed off, I wondered?  What did the clothes cover?  What did the plastic bank card in my pocket buy me that I didn't know I'd purchased?"

Our Book Club gave Ragged Company an 8.6 out of 10 rating. It's a story of hope, despair, love, redemption, trust, loyalty and it's a story you just have to read.  I hope you pick it up and enjoy it as much as we did!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer Reading

Do you find that you read more or less during the summer months?  I actually find that I read more in the summer because I simply use every opportunity I have to pull out a book and read.  Especially when I am traveling in the car (not while driving!), sitting on the patio or laying on the beach, and always, always before I fall asleep at night.

In addition to reading a couple of Kate Morton's books, I just finished reading a very interesting book called The Snow Child.

It is the story of a couple living in Alaska that find a young girl who seems to have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale.  I found it an easy read but mid-way through wondered if I should keep going as the story seemed to slow down a bit.  I am happy to say that I persevered and read it through to the end and I am so glad that I did!  I would highly recommend it and I would give it about an 8.0 out of 10.  It would make an awesome book club read as I would be interested in what others thought about the ending.

So what has been on your summer book shelf?  I found this list below that had a few titles that I have not read yet.  I might have to make a trip to the book store sometime soon :)

I hope you are filling your days with lots of great summer activities, including reading.  That is the beauty of a book.  It can go anywhere with you and keep you company at any time. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dolls, Shawls and Vodka!

Every once in a while we do something really different when we meet for Book Club.  It is up to each host/hostess to decide what food and drinks to offer and if we will be doing something outside the ordinary when we discuss the book for that month.

One of my favorite Book Club memories is when Vesna hosted our discussion of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  She chose that book as it is a classic that many of us had not read and because she lived in Russia for a few years and could bring her personal experience of the culture to the discussion.

When we arrived at Vesna's house, we were greeted with Russian music playing and we were each given a shawl to wear. How fun! Then, as we entered her dining room, we were welcomed by a gorgeous sight!  Her table was beautifully set with authentic collectibles from her time in Russia.  It was so interesting!

One of my favorite things, were the nesting dolls she had displayed.  I have always been intrigued by nesting dolls and was so delighted to see them.

She also had the largest bottle of Vodka that I had ever seen!  lol  This was all in addition to a lovely selection of delicious foods. 

Thank you, Vesna, for sharing your history with us.  It really brought the book to life and enhanced our Book Club experience tremendously.

Until next time...