Category Archives: Bookies Review
This past week, 13 of the 16 Bookies gathered together for fun food, conversation, and a close up look at October Classic read, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. My full review of the book is here. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, I was curious about how a true crime would go over in this group. We had read an Anne Rule true crime many years ago when we were about 8 or 10 members at that time, but nothing since then.
Our discussion mainly centered around the time and the crime. We agreed that in the small community where the crime took place, you did not worry about your neighbors or what you said in public about what you owned. The results of In Cold Blood, changed this community, and many communities forever. I mentioned to the group that I had recently been speaking to a woman at a dinner I attended about our book club choice. She said at the time of the crime she was a young girl and her parents told her, “you never tell people about what we have in our house… you do not mention the safe, or anything.” The crimes of In Cold Blood, put fear in so many.
We also discussed how things randomly happen. If Richard Hickock and Perry Edward Smith had never met, never spoke with the gut who had worked on the Clutter home…. the crime, by circumstance would never have happened. We compared this, on a much lighter note to how we all wound up in book club together. Looking around the room, when book club started I knew only one of the thirteen girls in the room. We all met by circumstance, someone talked about book club and we agreed to go. If not for Bookies and our group talking about it… we would not all have been in that room together this week talking about this book.
I love things like that. :)
Overall, the book was rated mainly average which is actually a good rating for a classic. A few rated it higher, and a couple rated it lower. The overall thought was that most of us do not like to read true crime, but this one worked as it is written in such a fictional way. This was mainly because of the dialogue in the book compared to just straight facts about the crime.
Our food for the night… we themed a lot of foods from the times – Angie even made from a 1959 cook book a Purple Sea Urchin dish – little hot dogs poking out of a cabbage with Sterno in the middle to cook them! I made the cucumber sandwiches… I went with the theme of funeral food.
What makes this a good book club choice?
I think it is good for a book club to shake up genres. A true crime can bring out a different type of discussion, and while it is true crime, In Cold Blood is written in such a way it is not overly horrific, therefore making it a good book club pick – and it is a classic! In Cold Blood is one of the books i like to be able to say I have read due to its classic status and the fact that Truman Capote is an author you will want to read.
When planning food for a book such as this I loved the idea Angie had of making food from the era. She also brought (not pictured) old style potato chips and homemade dip with the Liptons onion soup mix, which apparently became popular in 1959.
While decorating for a true crime, or dressing up is hard to do – we did use a little crime scene tape that I had left over from the banned book window at the library.
For the groups that like to go a step further – In Cold Blood is a movie, as well as Capote (newer). Either of these movies could add to your discussion on book and or author.
For September, our group the Bookies read and discussed That Night by Chevy Stevens. I had read this one and reviewed it in June. For myself, I was already a fan of Chevy Stevens books, but I was excited to see the bookies try her.
Brief synopsis: Toni, a senior at her school becomes a victim to bullying even at the hands of her younger sister. Her parents, especially her mother believe that Toni is the trouble maker while her sister Nicki gets away with everything. When Nicki is found dead, Toni is blamed in having killed her and is tried as an adult and sent to prison. Years later, on probation she is out and back in her home town where nobody wants her there, but she has to figure out what really happened that night.
That Night, actually surprised me of how well it lent itself to great discussion. While at first glance I would not have called this a great book club discussion book, after last night I believe I need to change my response to that.
That Night covers such topics as the criminal justice service, wrongful convictions, dirty cops, bullying, murder, family dynamics, and relationships. Our group actually had a deep conversation around these topics. Including today’s school system, how the rights have gone from the teachers tot he students and how their is no control unless the parents give permission – and usually they do not.
Why would book clubs enjoy this read: Chevy Stevens is well worth putting on your book club or reading groups radar. Her book Still Missing blew me away years ago and I still refer to it. I can easily see her books becoming movies. Book Clubs can find much to discuss within these pages as I mentioned above.
We did do a little food with our review… nothing themed – I could not get my head wrapped around this one for a good idea…. and there is not much food in the book itself:
The book club I am part of (The Bookies) have had a fun exchange that we have taken part in for the past three years. I recently posted about it here. It is a lot of fun and a great summer break idea for your book club or for you and your friends just to read really great books.
Here is the basic layout of how to do it.
- Pick a date when you ask each person in your group to bring a wrapped book to the group. (*we encourage brown wrap so people do not choose by the packaging ;) )
- MOST IMPORTANTLY – The book everyone brings NEEDS to be a book the giver has read and liked very much if not LOVED.
- Inside the front cover of the book place a post it note saying why you loved the book so much and if you want the receiver to keep it or return it after is read.
At your gathering you each choose a book and what you pick is what you read. When you meet up again, you each share the book you read, who gave it to you and what you thought of it. It is a lot of fun.
Our group does this every June so in July during our annual picnic, we share what we each read instead of a whole group book review like we do the rest of the year.
This year some of the books that made this exchange were:
Lethal by Sandra Brown (this is the book I picked out of the pile)
My favorite part of the whole process is to listen to what everyone thinks about the books. As you can see above we had some pretty amazing books in the group and a couple really deep ones (Night and Boy In The Striped Pajamas – two books that I think everyone must read. For the most part everyone really enjoyed the book they picked. As readers, at least I know for myself… I love it when a freind recommends that next great read.
It is the morning of our Bookies Coronation. SQUUUEEEEE!!! I bought the dress on Saturday, I wrote my speech last night, giggling and texting my friend like a school girl about “How’s it going are you done? Are you ready?” with her texting back just as excited “just finishing up, now picking out my dress”
It will be great :)
Last month at book club, we had our Annual Book Exchange. This practice started three years ago. Each Bookie is supposed to wrap up in plain brown paper ( we are trying to avoid people picking the *pretty packaging*) a book that they have read in the past year that was a great read. Obviously, not a Bookies Book Club pick.
We all randomly choose a book out of the pile and that will be the book we will each read and discuss in July (tonight) while we enjoy good food and conversation. It is a fun tradition:
I had missed Bookies last month as I was at camp but I still participated. I sent a book into the mix – the center picture above, Delicious by Ruth Reichl (LOVED that one!) and then the group picked a book out for me. So what did I have picked to read this past month?
I had Lethal by Sandra Brown. This was a good one for me as I have tried Sandra Brown before and could not get through it. She seems like an author I would enjoy, so this was a fun attempts again. I finished it last night…. I will review the book later but for now I would describe it as very similar to the book Labor Day…. but a heck of a lot steamier. ;)
I know right? As of today we are 6 days out from our annual Queen Event for book club. 6 DAYS!!!
If you are familiar with our book club “happenings” every July since… (hmmm…. I should know this) well, for many years, we dress up in formal wear and have a coronation for Bookies Queen of the year. It comes from the book Same Sweet Girls by Cassandra King. (Yes,worth the read!)
We usually grill, talk books, eat lots of tasty foods… and have a LOT OF FUN! The competition is all in fun. And the girls really get into their speeches…
and I think I mentioned delicious food…
Alright… now I am getting into this… maybe I will save more for Saturday snapshot. And I must prepare my speech…. I think I have an idea…
Book club people – do you do things above and beyond the books? IE. potlucks, dinners out, movies, road trips? I would love to know :)
Small synopsis: Hawaii in the late 1800’s was a beautiful place but a potentially frightening one as well. With the outbreak of Leprosy everyone was on the look out for anyone who may have this contagious disease. When little Rachel “Aouli” Kalama found a sore on the back of her leg that would not heal. She is eventually taken away from her family to live in Kaulapapa, an are off the island of Moloka’i for those with Leprosy. Here is where Rachel lives her life.
In May of 2014, 15 of the Bookies Book Club showed up for a review of Moloka’i. We sampled Hawaiian culture foods and discussed this read of a time in Hawaii most of us were unfamiliar with.
Using the questions provided int he back of the book, we discussed Leprosy compared to the AIDS scare if the 80’s, and what that must have felt like at the time to those who were in fear for their lives and the lives of their families. As in Rachel’s case, being taken away from her family had to be devastating on both sides; and Rachel’s diagnosis put a huge label on her family and even though they did not have it themselves they were shunned by their community.
Rachel herself makes for a great protagonist. Learning at a young age that she was pretty much on her own, she has a strong will, but also a sensible one. While she may stretch the boarders, she does have a wonderful sense of right and wrong and it shows throughout the storyline.
The Bookies overall enjoyed the book. A few found it a bit drug out, certainly not a fast read at almost 400 pages, but filled with deep historical facts that made for a good read.
What makes this a good book club read?
Moloka’i does make a good book group discussion due to it’s historical nature. There is plenty to discuss around the subject of Leprosy and what we can compare that to today. The characters of this book and how they respond to Rachel is also discussion-worthy. Once you label a person, how does that change us?
The questions in the back of the book are great for the discussion. There is also a section in the back of more detailed facts behind the fiction that makes for interesting follow up. A group could bring items of Hawaiian culture or information off the websites marked in the back pages to add to this discussion.
The natural deepness of this read also makes you feel like you read something important. Deeper reads deepen your book discussions.
Recently I was reading an article written by the Huff Post called True Life: I am a Book Club Drop Out. I am always drawn to topics on this as I am actually floored by how many times I head that a book club fails. When I chat about our book club here on-line many of you share with me your desires to be part of a book club but can not find one, or you share a group that you were once in that just could not pull it together. Through the years the main reasons I have heard for book club fail are:
- Not committed to the read (the book is supposed to bring them together but they never read the book)
- No one wants to take the lead and drive the conversation
- The meetings become more of a social time and those that really want to talk about the book fade away
- Too structured, no snacks, no extras, no fun
- personality clashes, you can’t agree on how your time should be spent so the group implodes.
- People who do not read the book, had no intention of reading the book, and month after month have nothing to contribute to the discussion. (While one in your group may not be a deal breaker, a few of them could be) *this is taken from a Barnes and Noble Article called why book clubs fail
- Your book choices do not encourage discussion. If you do not strive to pick books that will create conversation beyond “ooh the protagonist was cute!” (not that that is wrong ;) ), your book club will become b-o-r-i-n-g fast.
- One person always chooses what is read so you never branch away from the one persons tastes.
- The group is just not interesting enough for people to fit it into their already busy schedules of work, kids, family, commitments…
- poor location – restaurants can become too loud to talk, home meetings require people willing to open up their home and have an environment that works for discussion
- Not valuing each others opinions on the books. You do not have to always agree, but you do need to respect each others thoughts.
Am I am expert on successful book clubs?
No. I am simply someone who had an idea for a book club and the right people came along to support it. I honestly believe it is our group as a whole that makes us successful. We have had the bumps in the road…we are probably at one time or another guilty of everything I listed above. The difference I believe, is that we adjusted and we moved on.
It was not always easy.
I remember one particularly heated book club meeting from many years ago. The book was My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Piccoult and the discussion became pretty hot at the end of the night about the decisions that were made in the book. We had just went through a growth spurt in our group and I was still learning how to juggle the dynamics of a growing book club. I remember leaving the meeting and calling one of my friends who was also in the book club but was unable to make it that night. “I think we may have just discussed the book that killed book club” I said to her, and I was worried that it was true.
Since then we have had similar discussions over a read where someone may get emotional but the cool thing is, we have learned to grow together and appreciate each others thoughts and opinions more. It’s actually a beautiful thing to watch a group discuss a book openly without fear of retaliation or disapproval and some our deep discussions are my favorite memories of book club.
So lets discuss what makes a book club THRIVE. I do have friends on-line and off who are in book clubs and when I hear how they do their groups, I am thrilled to see that they have a plan that can succeed. Here are some thoughts on successful book clubs:
- Have someone in charge of sending out email/Facebook communications to your group regarding the book, the time, the place… these reminders are great!
- If your group is on Facebook – create a group page. This way you can send out reminders as well as discuss bookish things. This is a great way to continue a discussion after a meeting and those that were unable to attend can chime in.
- Don’t make it a lot of work for people to attend. If you do food and drinks keep it simple and rotate the people who bring something. Don’t give “home work” unless it is optional. If you think it would be fun to dress the decade of the read, put it out there and those who wish to… do it. :)
- Someone needs to lead the discussion. This can be the same person every time, or it can switch off each time you meet up but someone needs to bring discussion questions or topics and direction to your meeting.
- Everyone should have a chance to suggest a book or a turn at choosing a book. However you make that happen. We vote each month on suggestions that members bring to the meeting, other groups rotate who hosts and decides. Whatever works for your group.
- Ask the hard questions. Books bring up topics that are sometimes hard to discuss… for our group, this has led to some of our best discussions. Bring up the questions, if no one shares, move on… but give people an opportunity to share something about how they feel about what they read.
- Do not be afraid to rabbit trail. Books can open up personal stories and that is good. Sometimes I love to just sit back and watch the conversation flow around the book. I have learned so much about those in group when they share how they connect with a book.
- Don’t go too long! A good discussion from start to finish is around the 1 1/2 to two-hour mark. Value people time and know that some may need to work in the morning or still do things when they get home. Our group is currently around that two hour mark and that includes time to eat and chat with each other.
- Pick a size that works for your group. (We learned this the hard way.) Agree as a group how many members you will grow to (if you decide to accept new members along the way). This eliminates awkward discussions when you accept one persons cousin into the group but three months later turn down a members sister due to your group becoming too big. If you settle on a number, everyone will know where you are at.
- Its fun to encourage the little extras – looking up author info, having an author SKYPE, eating foods that surround the books culture or foods that are in the book, dressing up, going to a movie that was based on a book you read, occasionally attending a bookish event together that is in the area.
- If you are the discussion leader, think of something extra to add to your discussion – perhaps pictures of the time period, or try a new recipe that was mentioned in the book, artifacts, culture….
One thing that seems to be true, as the article mentioned, we want to be social. We want to bring our friends and hobbies into the same space.
I would love your thoughts on this topic, please add your thoughts on hits and misses for book clubs. How do you feel a good book club sustains life?
Grace Stanton is living the life. With her life style blog bringing in thousands of views a day and advertisers lining up to be a part of it, as well as a super hot husband… well, what more could she want?
Then one evening she catches that sweet husband with her so-called trusted assistant and the next thing you know Grace has driven his sports car into the pool. Seeking sanctuary at her mother’s house while she clears her head, Grace learns that hell hath no fury does not only apply to women….
Suddenly Grace finds her bank accounts closed, and her blog passwords changed. As Grace’s husbands name is on everything, he is shutting her life down one gold card at a time and now Grace is left with the clothes on her back and the change in her pocket.
Forced by the divorce judge to attend mandatory “divorce recovery” sessions weekly, Grace finds herself among a group of disgruntled women… surprisingly all sent to this same quirky divorce recovery by the same judge… something does not seem to be on the up and up. As the women in this group start to bond they find they have a lot in common and “Ladies Night” comes out of the ashes of their messy messed up lives and something new begins to grow…
is it hope?
I so enjoyed this read! Light and funny, Grace is a woman who has been wronged. As a blogger myself… I can only imagine what it would be like to lose my rights to my own site…. grrrr :razz:
Mary Kay Andrews writes Grace as a strong female character who gets knocked down, but finds her way back up. In a fun fast paced read that will have you laughing and cheering, Ladies Night is Women’s Chick Lit at its finest. Grab a glass of wine and pull up a chair!
The Bookies reviewed this book for our November read. We had a lot of fun setting up our food and drinks as the “Sandbox”, the name of Grace’s moms bar. For the most part, the girls really enjoyed the book giving it an above average score overall.
Warsaw 1939, a young boy, no more than 8 years old wanders the streets alone, stealing food to survive and sleeping wherever he can feel safe for the night. He knows not who he is or where he came from, and when is asked what he is called honestly replies, “Stopthief” as that is all anyone has ever called him.
When he meets a group of boys who are much like him, they hie our at night in a bombed out barber shop, stealing food by day. People ask him, “Are you a Jew? A Gypsy? A filthy son of Abraham?” He eventually is given a name by the boys he hangs out with, “Misha”. He likes it and the story they gave him as well about his family. The boys watch out for the “Jackboots.” the Nazi’s who come to town to gather up the Jews, and destroy any happiness. Misha would like to be a Jackboot with their shiny boots and big tanks. When he grows up, that’s what he wants to be.
Misha makes a friend with a little girl in town names Janina. She is 6 years old and has lovely things and Misha enjoys visiting her. When Janina and her family are forced to move into the newly created ghetto, Misha thinks it is a game and goes along. When a wall is built high around the ghetto so no one can get out, Misha finds a hole in the wall that he is the only one small enough to use, and he goes out and steels food as he pleases and brings it back in to Janina and her family. But times are changing and the bread shelves are empty, and the ladies with the fox fur who used to be easy to rob with their large boxes of sweets are no longer able to be found.
As Misha leans more about his surroundings and what is really happening, he no longer wishes to be a Jackboot. Not at all.
We chose this book for our Bookies book club read for March. Our plan was to choose a YA book to read as a group. This is the book that was nominated and I found myself thinking this is not what I was considering for YA. Yet, having never read Spinelli before I had no idea what an experience I was in for.
MILKWEED is YA like Book Thief is YA. They are written with a younger reader in mind, yet they are written on important and powerful topics. There is no paranormal activity, no witches or werewolves, or vampires in MILKWEED. Instead, there is young, dirty boy.
MILKWEED is a young orphaned boys view of the Holocaust and the innocence of not knowing what is happening, and never really fully understanding until many years later the full impact of what he had been through. Living in a world where you were shot at, called “filthy pig” and seen friends die, was the only world Misha knew.
Even as I type this I am still in awe of the power of this little book. AT 208 pages, you do not need a lot of time to read it, but I do recommend that you do read it. I will definitely be looking for more of Spinelli.
The Bookies had a good discussion over this book. It definitely left us with quite a bit of things to think about as the book focused around the Holocaust, Jewish people, hunger, and the crippling effects of having no hope. For all of us, this was our first Spinelli (speaking for myself, it will not be my last).
We discussed the value of a Holocaust book being written and marketed to 5th – 9th grade. We appreciated the value of a book to this age group on this topic but felt for the younger end they would need a follow-up with a parent to have questions answered as it does not go into much about the reason for the Holocaust or explain much about why people died. Of course this same line of discussion led to the wondering if a generation that has grown up surrounded by violence on tv, at the movies, and in video games would get the book and understand this was reality.
Overall the Bookies gave it an average rating. Some found the ending to be not to their liking. And of course, we had food… and lots of choices from the book as in the beginning Misha and the boys he hung around with stole from stores, gardens, and people’s homes, and food was plentiful.
Victoria was one of those kids who fell through the cracks of the foster care system. Placed time and again in homes that did not fit for her, or were flat-out… abusive. The Foster Care program felt it was Victoria, she was labeled as difficult and uncooperative… and so Victoria continued moving home to home until at 18 years of age she outgrew the foster care age -
and then was on her own.
One home however, haunts her dreams in a painful loss sort of way and if filled with the “what if’s” of life. When Victoria was placed with Elizabeth a woman who grew up surrounded by flowers and their meanings , Victoria soon learned the secret language as well…. aster meaning patience, honeysuckle for devotion, plum meaning keep your promises….
But a poor decision leads to an unthinkable tragedy and Victoria once again shuts down, holding within her secrets and not trusting anyone with her heart. She finds herself in a world of flowers and in almost an unreal way she flourishes, knowing exactly what those looking for the right bouquet want and need… and while this keeps her busy and is fulfilling…
she still longs for what she came so close to having if not for her secret, and Victoria is about to learn that your past has a way of finding you… and that isn’t always a bad thing…
My book club the Bookies chose this book for our November read. On synopsis alone, I wasn’t sure about this one… I had some sort of 70’s flower child image in my head, however the girl who recommended this one is usually spot on with her book suggestions and she had already read it and said it was wonderful.
The Language Of Flowers, as it turns out is wonderful and an incredible discussion book for reading groups. The beauty we found within the pages of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s story line here was well worth discussing. While Victoria is not always likeable, that makes the story even deeper. She is flawed. She will annoy the crap out of you (and did). AND her decisions do not always fall back on her child hood and the “oh look what she has been through though!” My response to that is, “yeah well, we have all been through stuff.”
Victoria is three-dimensional, while you can not put her on a pedestal, you also can not fully dismiss her. She makes you want to know more about the way she thinks and the underlining flow of flowers and their language is not only fun but interesting. I highly recommend this read not only for flower lovers but also for discussion groups as there is so many ways to discuss this book further.
The Bookies over all rated this one a steady 4 out of 5. While we differed somewhat on how we felt about Victoria, we still enjoyed the read and the characters. The flower discussion was good and I had printed out lists for everyone of Victoria’s Dictionary Of Flower, found on-line and created by the author.
Fresh flowers of course adorned our get together as well as flower book marks. Our food for the review looked like this:
The foods served were some mentioned in the book. I went with Zucchini Linguini because Zucchini starts out as a flower. ;)
The Language of Flowers makes for a wonderful discussion book for book clubs.
Also submitted to Beth Fish Reads, Weekend Cooking Meme.