Thursday, June 26, 2014

TBT Gone With The Wind

I know, I know but let me just say this about that.  It is a GREAT read.  I was 15 when I read it and it was the first time that I realized that the Civil War (and subsequently all war) has more than one point of view.  It forced me to think about opposing views to a same subject.

The southern voice was fascinating to me.  The genteel way of life was mesmerizing.  I hadn't, until I read "Gone With The Wind," realized that the southerners were fighting for a way of life, that certainly included slavery but was also more than that.  It was very reminiscent of "Regency" England.  It was a battle for all things proper, and orderly and refined, as they saw it.  Of course all of that was afforded on the backs of slaves.

Was it elitist?  Of course.  Did the country need to change?  Without a doubt!  Was the treatment of fellow human beings abhorant?  Absolutely!  Yet the part I found fascinating was the realization that there were people who believed strongly, and correctly, that if the South fell it would be the end of a regal era, as they knew it.

The movie was magical, but the book was an epic, grand, larger than life experience that you should revisit.  So Fiddle-dee-dee, don't think about this tomorrow, just read or re-read it today!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

TBT The Color Purple

Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" was insightful, emotionally raw and like nothing I had read before.  It became a phenomenon that was made into a movie and then a musical.  Of course it will always be tied to Oprah Winfrey because of her role in the movie and her passion for the story.  One of the best review statements which I have read was from jlind555 who said,  " 'The Color Purple"' is one of the strongest statements of how love transforms and cruelty disfigures the human spirit that this reviewer has ever read!"  

The story is about Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to "Mister," a brutal man who terrorizes her. Celie eventually learns that her abusive husband has been keeping her sister's letters from her and the rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.

Sometimes I remember snippets or passages from books, but most times I remember the feeling I got when I read the book.  The "Color Purple" left me feeling so fortunate to be born into a loving and healthy family, but also sad, encouraged, embarrassed, hopeful, guilty, overwhelmed and heartbroken.  It's a good book that can still elicit those feelings 30 years after having read it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chapter Chatters Do More Than Read!

Today was awesome as we took our book club to a Habitat For Humanity site in White Bear Lake.  Most of us put up siding. Sarah F. and  Deb H. bless their hearts shoveled rock in the basement all day.

We shared a little bit about our book club with the rest of the crew and felt great about learning a new skill and being part of an effort to give someone affordable housing!

Matthew 25:35-40 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 3I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Thursday, June 12, 2014

TBT A Clockwork Orange

In last week's Throw-Back-Thursday I referenced Mrs. Dietsch and her list of 100 books one should read before going to college (That list has changed BTW check out one of many 100 reads before college lists)

So as disturbing as Camus', The Plague was, it suffers in comparison to A Clockwork Orange.  If you choose to read this book be prepared to walk into a big wide world of weird.  It's Extremely violent and disturbing.

It is a story of a post modern society and follows the life of Alex, a cruel and ferociously violent young man.  As we follow his path of disturbing and amplifying ruthless antics it becomes clear that he is the protagonist in the story and yet it's hard to feel empathy for him. It becomes a little easier once he is incarcerated and forced into a brain washing treatment meant to cure him of his desire to be violent.

Anthony Burgess forces us to examine how we o feel about "forced morality." It brings up the questions of  recidivism, reform, government involvement in behavior modification, to name a few.  So many moral issues, so much to think about.  Forcing a "bad person" to do "good things" is so unnatural it is like a clockwork orange, something which is suppose to be alive yet is robotically mechanical. As you read you ask who get's to decide what is bad, what is good, where is the line, what is the response.

A Clockwork Orange is one of those books you don't think twice about reading at 17  but would have nightmares after page 4 and would probably put it down by page 12, if you read it in your 40s. But I will say it is thought provoking if you can stomach it!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

TBT Camu-The Plague

My Junior year in High School, Mrs Dietsch gave us a list of the 100 books you should read before going to college.  Yes I'm a nerd so I read them all. (and an only child who didn't get my license until I was 17, and didn't have friends in the neighborhood because I went to a parochial school miles away from home, and lived with my grandparents, and... well yeah, a nerd)

One of the oddest and most memorable was Albert Camus' The Plague.  One of the problems with reading 100 books in a year is that you don't have time to absorb and remember the details of all of them.  (That and having read it 30+ years ago) While I don't remember all the details or even characters of The Plague, I do remember the sensation and feelings I got when reading it.  It was weird, and wonderful, and so dramatically deep and profound (as only metaphorical existentialism can be to a 16 year old girl)   I wasn't sure what all of it meant, but I knew it was important that I try to figure it out.

It was where I was introduced to the concept of  Absurdism.  Trying to seek out the meaning of life only to find that it is not possible to do so.  I remember having long conversations about the meaning of  life, was it possible to know, was it the same for everyone, are we suppose to know, does that definition exist, change, develop, and on and on.  One felt so smart even contemplating those things.  Of course it was even better when discussed under the influence... (wait what?  hey kids I mean this was WAY after High School, and the drinking age was 18 for my friends, who may have legally drank once or twice, not me of course...oh never mind there's no way my kids are reading this anyway)

The Plague is set in the 1940s and poses the questions of immortality, fear, self preservation, loyalty etc It forces you to reflect what you would become if you were quarantined in your city with death an imminent threat.  The characters react in predictable ways as human nature tends to steer us towards heroism, recklessness, survival or whatever it is which makes us what we are.

A few years ago I realized that I don't sit around and have deep thoughts anymore.  Is it because I am not reading that which is thought provoking; or because I think I have figured it all out; or maybe that trying to figure it out is just too exhausting?  Perhaps we get to a place where we accept that the meaning of life is unfolding as we go, or we have a glass of wine and just really don't care that much!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Back in the Fight- A Great Discussion with J. Robinson

Book club last night was very interesting.  As you know my only complaint with reading a biography is that it is not always conducive to a great discussion.
Q:  "Why did the author set the book in that city?"
A:  "Ahhh because he lived there?"
But last night our lovely host Deb, invited Army Ranger/Viet Nam Vet/Head U of M Wrestling Coach/ Motivational speaker J.Robinson to book club. While we didn't exactly meet with Joe "Kap" the author, one could argue that Army Rangers (and Special Force members in general) are all cut out of the same cloth (and that cloth is definitely camo!)

Coach Robinson fleshed out some of the details which we couldn't picture from the book.  What exactly is a base camp (Fire camp) how big, how is it used?  What is the difference between night and day patrols etc.  The Rangers (SEALS, Delta Force, Green Berets) are a special breed.  They are tough men doing a tough and often thankless job, which is alright with them because they are not in it for the thanks.

There were so many take aways from our evening but the one that really resonated with me was advice which coach Robinson's parents gave him: (please excuse the paraphrase...should have been taking notes) "Surround yourself with people better than yourself."  The idea is they will pull you up instead of dragging you down. That in a nutshell describes why I belong to this book club.  It is a group of intelligent women with respectful differing views, who frankly make me better.  I love them all!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Back in the Fight: The Explosive Memoir of a Special Operator Who Never Gave Up

There are no words that can express how thankful I am for the service of men and women like Joe Kapacziewski.  Men and women who are willing to fight so I may enjoy the freedoms that are not lightly afforded me.  

Reading any story about any young person willing to do this would be worth the time, this story is not only a testament to the bravery and honor of a young man willing to fight for his country and each of us, but also a fascinating testament to what the human spirit, at it's best, can accomplish.  I loved the details of what it takes to be a ranger; I loved the honesty of looking at this war on terror through the eyes of someone with feet on the ground, smack dab in the middle of it; and I loved the personal triumph of Joe "Kap" and his family.

The book is full of details that make you feel like you have a better grasp of what it takes to be a soldier, a ranger, and the wife of a ranger.  Kimberly, Joe's wife, tells her story alongside Joe's recollections and it makes the telling more full to have the two perspectives. 

Gregg Zoroya, of USA TODAY says this about the book"
The story of Joe Kapacziewski's rebirth as the only Army Ranger serving in direct combat operations with a prosthetic limb is more than a tale of will power and physical hardship.
It also is the story of a young man with a natural insensitivity to morphine whose screams of pain brought nurses at Walter Reed to tears. It is about a bedridden patient, his leg held together by rods and pins, doing stomach crunches.
It is a story about Kimberly Kapacziewski, 30, agonizing over her husband — already wrecked once by war, yet striving so hard to get back into it.
And it is about a soldier who says his dream is just to be a soldier — and not a war hero-slash-amputee.
Thank you for sharing your story Sergeant Kapacziewski, and thank you for your sacrifice, it was a pleasure reading this book.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

TBT Taylor Caldwell

I LOVE Taylor Caldwell novels.  In fact in 1992 I named my daughter Taylor after this author believing I was being unique. (In 2009 my daughter Taylor sat in a biology class of 35 students with 6 yes SIX other Taylor's... sigh, so much for uniqueness)
Janet Miriam Holland Taylor Caldwell (September 7, 1900 – August 30, 1985) was an Anglo-American novelist and prolific author of popular fiction, also known by the pen names Marcus Holland and Max Reiner, and by her married name of J. Miriam Reback. In her fiction, she often used real historical events or persons. 
The first Caldwell I read was when I was 14, it was The Great Lion of God, a fictionalized version of the Apostle Paul.  A little racy for a 14 year old in the 70s but it had the word "God" in the title so no one thought to censor it on my behalf!  I was hooked and read as many as I could get my hands on.  I do remember the librarian asking if my mom would approve of me reading A Prologue to Love. I told her it was for my mom, then went home and couldn't put it down. The Listener and Captain and the Kings are my two favorites.   The Listener is a short book, each chapter telling the tale of a different person who desperately needs someone to listen to them. They all find their way to a building which was erected just for the purpose of refuge to talk to the man behind the curtain who listens to the suffering and stories of people day and night.  The Captain and the Kings seems to be drawn from the lives of the Kennedys, Rockefellers, and perhaps even Howard Hughes.  It's epic and grand and delicious!

A few years ago I read, The Search For A Soul: Taylor Caldwell's Psychic Lives.  A fascinating journey into her "past lives" as she recalls them under hypnosis.  Reincarnation, some think, is why she wrote her historical works with such vivid and accurate detail.  The argument of course would be, having a rich and remarkable imagination, along with much research for novels, might make one invent past lived under hypnosis.  Wherever you stand on the reincarnation theory, it is a really interesting read!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Throwback Thursday- Leon Uris

Leon Uris is one of my favorite authors. Mila 18, and QBVII  were two books on "The List," which Mrs. Dietsch gave us in 10th grade, of the 100 books one should read before college.  (Yes, evidently I'm  a nerd because I read them all)
I fell in love with Leon Uris novels and have read seven of his thirteen books.  His first book, "Battle Cry," was written in 1953, and his last, "O'Hara's Choice,"  was written in 2003.  There are still a few out there I haven't picked up, but the ones I did read pulled me into worlds I never knew existed before reading them.

Knowing about the Holocaust and meeting characters who would draw you into their world are two different things.  Uris drew me into those worlds. The sometimes dark and always gut wrenching stories were also filled with hope and an optimism in the human nature's ability and will to survive.  The same was true about Ireland and Israel in "Trinity" and "The Haj." 

It is thought provoking, to say the least, that a man who never finished high school and flunked English three times could write such heart breakingly beautiful and compelling novels.  Try a Uris novel, I promise you won't be sorry

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Killing Jesus: A History by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

"Killing Jesus" was informative and interesting.  If you have never done any Biblical, historical research, it is a fascinating look into the historical event that was the life and the grisly crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.  It is not for the faint of heart, as the Romans executed and tortured with authoritative expertise.

The Roman machine was an epic power, which I find endlessly fascinating.  This story tells not only the life of Jesus of Nazareth but how the Roman leadership systematically imploded.

As a Christian it was impossible to read this history book without the tug of emotions that is evoked when you believe that this horrifying event not only took place, but Jesus did it voluntarily as an innocent, to absorb the guilt for all.  I would love to hear reactions from those who could read it as pure history!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Throw Back Thursdays

I was thinking about all the great books which I have read before there was blogging, and thought I should revisit my love of those!
So on Thursdays I am declaring them "Throw-Back -Thursdays, and I will be hopping in the "way back machine" and will  write about some of my favorite books. (Or I suppose least favorite, but memorable)  Here we go...

I've been thinking about Poe lately.
He is one of many authors/poets which I'm happy a teacher forced me to read because I would have never picked one of his works up of my own volition. (See my last blog entry on British Chick-Lit lol) There are thousands of references to his works in TV, movies, comedy, other books etc.  I can't imagine how sad I would feel, if I didn't see the cleverness of "Poet" beer with a raven on the bottle or even the Sponge Bob-Square Pants episode, "Squeaky Boots," which reference "The Tell Tale Heart."  Anyway I do appreciate Poe, with all his angst and tragedy, though I'm not sure I can say I love him. I am happy that I read many of his works, if for no other reason than it makes areas of my life richer ( understanding "Sponge Bob"... who knew it was such a poignant medium?) So when your kids ask why they have to read what the teacher wants them to read, you can tell them, it's so they will understand all the jokes on Sponge Bob!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Paranormal Romance? Say Whaaaat?

So today I was updating my book-bub account. (If you don't have Book-bub and you have an electronic reading device you should open a new tab right now and sign up for it! click here for Book Bub) Anyway I came across a genre called "Paranormal Romance."  My mind immediately went in a million directions, with a million jokes, (super funny jokes if I do say so myself!) trying to figure out what that meant.
Is it romance via ESP (or ESPN as a friend always calls it, which would be a weird, sports romance genre, also fun to contemplate!)

All I could picture was an alien mating ritual, which isn't easy since I don't really know what aliens look like, nor am I familiar with their mating rituals, nor do I care to visualize them mating! (Although Steve Guttenberg seemed to have a lovely experience in "Cocoon," but I digress)  So  as I sat at my computer with the world wide web at my finger tips contemplating what "Paranormal Romance" could mean, I finally had the bright idea of looking it up.

I would like to take a moment to explain that I usually consider myself a fairly quick study.  The first time my son said that someone "jacked" something from his locker...I was able to translate that to "stole" without too much trouble.  I know what "para" means, beyond-outside of-separate from- and I know what romance means.  But I just couldn't get past thinking of Ghostbuster lines. (Dogs and cats LIVING that's para- normal)

So I "Googled" it, and everything became clear.  I asked my 21 year old daughter what she thought it meant and what she thought was the number one best seller in that category.  She said, Oh probably "Twilight." Which of course it was. Now in my defense I have 2 early 20-something daughters who read a lot, and then buy the movies, so I have come to think of high school aged girls hooking up with werewolves, vampires. wizards and the gang as normal romance, not anything outside of normal.  I blame it on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers where everyone finds it perfectly normal for King Friday (THE PUPPET!) to have Lady Aberlin (THE HUMAN!) as a neice.  Meow, meow crazy! if you ask me.  But of course now that it has been pointed out to me it all makes sense.  As it turns out, Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver made a love connection in Ghost Busters so technically that is a paranormal romance and I wasn't so far off now wasI?!

The definition from Wikipedia is as follows:
Paranormal romance is a sub-genre of both romantic fiction  and speculative fiction.  Paranormal romance focuses on romantic love and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending together themes from the speculative fiction genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Paranormal romance may range from traditional category romances, such as those published by Harlequin, Mills & Boon, with a paranormal setting to stories where the main emphasis is on a science fiction or fantasy based plot with a romantic subplot included. Common hallmarks are romantic relationships between humans and vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, and other entities of a fantastic or otherworldly nature.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde and the Girls: A Guilty Pleasure

Okay I'm admitting it, British "Chick-Lit" is one of my guilty pleasures. It might be Rom-Com or I have even heard it called Choc-o-lit, but it's not a romance novel.  No judgement it's just romance novels are more about the physical romance and Chick Lit is more about the lifestyle. I love the bright colors, and the whimsey of the pictures chosen for the covers, and how you can actually judge, or at least identify the genre, by the cover.

This all started when I read the highly enjoyable and immensely clever Jasper Fford's "Thursday Next" series.  "The Eyre Affair" is on my top 10 favorite reads of all times!  While Jasper Fforde is NOT a "chick-lit" author his books do sit right next to Katie Fforde in the library and while searching for, and neglecting to find, a Jasper I grabbed a Katie instead. Delightful!

I know, I know, I've heard all the arguments and to you I say, "so!"

Predictable?  Only in the best way.  I would be furious if the main character died because my lovely British friends suddenly decided that they were going to be deep and shadowy.

Light?  Only in the best way.  The characters are real (well you know fictional but real-ish) and deal with all the wonderful mucky stuff of life, but no...these books are not dark, or heavy or whatever the opposite of light is.

Unrealistic?  Only in the best way. Um, hello....that's why I'm reading them, I've got real in spades all day long, who needs more of that!

Besides, I like to figure out the words that are different from our American ones.  For example

  • Agas: Some sort of stove which may or may not be quite like our old wood/coal burning stoves 
  • Biscuits: Cookies (usually popping out of tins!)
  • Jumper: I can never remember if they are a sweater or sweatshirt, but one definitely needs one when it's cold out!
  • Wellies: Rain boots
  • Bin: Trashcan
  • Boot: Trunk of the car
  • Plaster: Band-aid
  • Tea: Well Okay tea is tea, but they drink it a lot!

Anyway I just finished Good Husband Material by Trisha Ashley.  It was lovely and delightful and fun. Everything one wants in their guilty reading.

I love Katie Fforde's books because I always feel like I learn a new profession when I read them. Thyme Out is one of my favorites. (Can you guess what the profession is?)

Enjoy, and don't feel guilty!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Well

"The Well" is Stephanie Landsem's debut novel and part of her "Living Water" series.

I like historical fiction, and I love Biblical fiction.  Who doesn't read a Bible story and wonder about the back story, or what else happened.  We are told about an angel visiting Mary to tell her she will carry the Christ child, and we naturally wonder what would her mother say, how was she treated, did she hide?  Or how many people did she tell about the Angel's visit before she gave up?

Ms. Landsem wove a wonderful story surrounding the woman at the well.  We could feel the angst between the Jews and Samaritans, we felt the shame of Nava, the fictional name given to the famous Samaritan woman at the well, and felt the peace and joy which was the result of the encounter with Jesus. This is a wonderfully engaging setting because we know some juicy tidbits about the woman, and because the conversation between Jesus and this woman is the longest one-on-one conversation recorded.

It is impossible for me to read Biblical fiction without the lens of Biblical scholar. (Notice I didn't say expert as I am far from that but I can't get enough of the research) So one is forced to ask, "Are these characters believable," "Is the story and setting true to the era and purpose of the original writing," and "Did the conjecture of the fiction affect my faith or ideas?"

I thought the characters were believable, the research made the setting come alive, and the fictionalized parts of the story  never caused me to question what I believe as truth. What I did learn however is that I read fiction with certain expectations and desires, and those expectations are very much of this world.
Without giving away the ending, let me just say that Jesus remained totally in character as Jesus even as I longed, much like the Jews of the day, for some righteous revenge and maybe a little fire and brimstone to rain down on the characters of my choice!  

That for me was the point of this book, and frankly most Bible studies.  I don't get to pick what happens. Jesus doesn't change his actions to meld with my limited ideas of how a story should end.  My happy endings are so short sighted when compared to the Messiah's. What an enjoyable trip to Samaria!
Check out Stephanie Lansem's web page and see her next book in the Living Water series.

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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underwortld

I found this book fascinating....So much to discuss.
So Chapter Chatters, here are a few questions to think about as you read, or at least be ready to discuss when we meet on February 6.
  1. What are the moral, financial, and economical repercussions of prostitution
  2. What would be the advantages and/or disadvantages of legalized prostitution
  3. If you had to run a bordello what would you do to make life better for your employees, customers, and the community
  4. Is a bordello better, worse, or no different than "street-prostitution"
I will have mardi gras masks for us to make, jazz, jambalaya, king cake and more.  Here's a fun link...thinking of you Sue :) click here for the 16 most iconic drinks of New Orleans

About the Book 
Norma Wallace grew up fast in the rough neighborhoods of New Orleans. In 1916, as an ambitious fifteen-year-old, she went to work as a street-walker in the French Quarter, but by 1920 was madam of what became one of the city’s most lavish brothels, an establishment frequented by politicians, movie stars, gangsters, and even the notoriously corrupt police force. For decades Norma flourished, a smart, glamorous, powerful woman whose scandalous life made front-page headlines. Her lovers ran the gamut from a bootlegger who shot her during a fight, to a famed bandleader, to the boy next door, thirty-nine years her junior, who became her fifth husband.

Norma knew all of the Crescent City’s dirty little secrets and used them to protect her own interests – she never got so much as a traffic ticket – until the early 1960s, when District Attorney Jim Garrison decided to clean up vice and corruption. After a jail stay, she went legitimate as successfully as she had gone criminal, with a lucrative restaurant business. To the end Norma maintained her independence, and surrendered only to an irrational, obsessive love, which ultimately led to her violent death.
In The Last Madam, author Christine Wiltz combines original research with Wallace’s personal memoirs to bring to life an era in New Orleans history rife with charm and decadence, and to reveal the colorful woman who reigned as its underworld queen.