Wednesday, April 16, 2014

10 No-Fail Questions to Spark a Great Book Discussion

Have you ever had to lead book club and you just don't know what to ask?  Here are 10 great questions that will get the conversation started, and keep it going.

1.  If you were forced to add 100 more pages to this book where would you take the story?
2.  Could this plot work in another setting? (either time or place) Why or why not?  Pick a different setting to prove your point.
3.  Who would you cast as the leads if this book was turned into a movie?  If it is already a movie, do you agree with the casting?
4.  Did you know what the book was about when you saw the title?  Would you have given it a different title? Do titles matter?
5.  Who was your favorite character?  Why?
6.  Who was your least favorite character? Why?
7.  If you could jump into the story would you like to be an observer, a minor character, or a main character?
8.  What did you learn from this book that you didn't know before?
9.  Do you agree with the reviews on the front or back jacket of the book or any others you have read? If there aren't any, what review would you give?
10. With time could this book be considered a classic?  Why, what does it have or lack that makes you say that?  If it is already considered a classic, do you agree with that classification?  What attributes might make it so?

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Art of Trapeze: One Woman's Journey of Soaring, Surrendering, and Awakening (The Awakening Consciousness Series)

"How Hard Can It Be?"  A good friend has threatened to put that on my tombstone.  I may have uttered those words once or twice in my life, so you can imagine when I saw the description for "The Art of Trapeze" by Molly McCord, that I was intrigued.

On a random Thursday morning, with nothing to lose and only a dream to gain, Molly McCord decides to move to Paris, France to follow the courageous call of her heart. She arrives in a city she has never visited before and where she knows no one, yet she trusts her ability to figure it out because her adventurous life has prepared her for this biggest of leaps.

I enjoyed the story immensely and kept thinking, "this author does a great job of making this feel like a memoir!" Well somewhere along the line (Okay, okay it was when I was done and was researching the author) I figured out that this lovely story was "real life" as my kids would say. Ms. McCord is a beautiful writer and her physical and spiritual journeys are honest as well as intriguing and inspiring.  I love hearing about another culture, getting the inside scoop on everyday living, and spending time walking (and walking, and walking, in this case) in someone else's shoes.

As interesting as this book is in it's ability to be a travel guide for Parisian neighborhoods, (Not really...but kind of ) I think it's intention lies in being a travel guide for personal growth, or at least revealing Molly's path of growth.  Check out  conscious cool chic Molly McCord's web site!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Orphan Train

This is a touching and tough subject.  It is hard to imagine that we as a nation really had orphan trains.  I was first introduced to this through the "Orphan Train Adventure Series" by Joan Lowery Nixon.
Christina Baker Kline's novel Orphan Train is described like this:

 Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvie and worse...
As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren't as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.
Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.
Enjoy this look at our past and how we have moved from a system of orphanages to foster care

Christina Baker Kline is an American novelist, essayist, and editor. She is the author of five novels and has co-authored or co-edited five non-fiction books. Kline is the recipient of several Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowships

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Thank you Carrin

I check in from time to time on the blog and I was very excited to see that you had updated the Blog site.  I am plugging along, reading Chapter Chat picks from 2012.  Right now I am enjoying Find Your Strongest Life. I miss you all.  Geri

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Lacuna

Wow!  When you pick up a Barbara Kingslover book you can pretty much be assured that you will be in for a great ride.  Lacuna did not disappoint.  As my friends will attest I love when an author researches something so thoroughly that I, A.-feel like I was actually present in the setting, B.-feel smarter, and C.-Learn about something in an easy-peasy format because the author did all the hard work!

So, I spent a few weeks last month in Mexico City my good friends, the Riveras!  It was amazing.  I did a little diving, baked some bread, (I have the perfect technique down!) the Trotsky's stopped by and then I ended up in the McCarthy era "witch-hunt" trials.  Exhausting, but satisfying.

Lisa/Frida and her eyebrows were the perfect hosts for our book club.  Attendees wore their finest and there were margaritas and empanadas for all!

On an interesting side note, one of my husband's and my favorite lunch spots is Don Julio's in White Bear Lake.  (Amazing grilled Tilapia smothered in scallops and shrimp for $12!) Because calla lilies are one of my very favorite flowers I always want to sit in the room with the cool calla lily picture.  You can imagine my delight when we went there last week and I took a closer look and lo and behold it was a Diego Rivera print.   And there was Frida's little maid walking through the market with her basket of flowers!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Last Madam-Part II

One of the reasons I choose this book was because of the complete "otherness" of the setting.  A world of organized crime, prostitution, sultry swamp land, fast women and slow accents. (It's also a dream book for hosting book club!)  A few posts a go I asked some questions I wanted my book club to reflect on.  So here are a few more..
  • .Is there anything glamorous about this lifestyle?  
  • Is this a legitimate business, or just sin wrapped in a business suit?
  • If  a bordello would open up locally, would you protest? (how far away is far enough?)
  • Could you befriend one of the ladies of the house?
  • Are there professions which society does NOT frown upon which are equally distasteful, or "worse" and in what way?

The Paris Architect

"A beautiful and elegant account of an ordinary man's unexpected and reluctant descent into heroism during the second world war." —Malcolm Gladwell
A thrilling debut novel of World War II Paris, from an author who's been called "an up and coming Ken Follett." (Booklist)

I had pretty much decided that I would never read another Nazi/torture/concentration camp-centic book again.  WWII holocaust stories are tough reads, and that's okay; they are gruesome, as well they should be; but they are also essential reading, so we never forget. As a young adult (if 15 is a young adult?) I couldn't get enough of these stories.  I gobbled up Leon Uris novels (QBVII , Mila 18 ) like twinkies, and have read dozens of holocaust and WWII stories. I felt like I was cognizant, I had done my part in the effort of being aware, and remembering what had happened.  At some point, I just couldn't read any more about human indignity and horror.  And naturally felt guilty about that.  After all if millions of people fell victim to these crimes, the least I could do was read about them!
After reflecting, I realized that continued reading about this topic wasn't going to change anything, better to put efforts into awareness of current atrocities like Darfur etc.
So why was I drawn to, "The Paris Architect"?  Perhaps it was because of Lucien's reluctant entry into the world of helping Jewish neighbors.  Or it could have been my love of reading anything which teaches me a new vocation.  (Yes I totally believe I am now qualified to design large factories!)  What ever the reason I am happy that I read it.
It is an interesting peek into Parisian life during the occupation, as well as a glimpse into the complexities of the effectiveness of the French Resistance.  It comes at the subject of the holocaust from a different angle than I have ever read.  The characters are wonderfully crafted and multidimensional!  There are a few tough pages, with VERY graphic torture scenes.  If you can get past that it is well worth your time!  I