I recently reviewed the book The Life We Bury. This post is my book clubs review.
I was excited for this review and curious what the Bookies would think about this read by a Minnesota author, centered around a college student, an autistic brother, a non reliable mother, and a dying murderer.
Our discussion was really centered around the character development in the story. Each of the characters are well-developed, something we agreed that we like in our reading. We had a chance to get to know everyone represented – and each of them had something in their life that they buried. It really made the title so appropriate, after all… don’t we all have something in our life that we bury, work to keep from resurfacing?
We felt as a whole that book was one that was easy to fall right into. From page one many of us sank right into the smooth writing. While the group felt over all that the story was a little predictable, no one faulted the book because it was such a well written read.
Each of the characters that surround this book have a story. Some, as in most books, we were able to see flush out more than others. Author Allen Eskens however gave us enough bread crumbs on the less developed characters to see who they really were as well.
Over all the book for us rated a solid 4 out of 5. We enjoyed the book and enjoyed the Minnesota setting which we found familiar. Plus… we learned a little more about SPAM. ;)
Why Does This Book Make For A Good Book Club Read?
- The life We Bury provides a Midwestern setting that is evenly paced. The book never feels overly hurried, giving readers a chance to really sink into the character development.
- There are great opportunities to discuss what we feel we bury in our own lives – either past or presently.
- The fact that our protagonist Joe is from Austin Minnesota, the home of SPAM (which Joe states in the book) opens up some fun opportunities for your group to explore SPAM either through cooking or through trivia. Our group did a little of both :)
Above: We had fun finding food that went with the book. Thai Curry spam meatballs, spam with cheese and red potatoes, fish to represent the fishing in the book, and lots of yummy extras of wild rice soup, bread, bars, dips, crackers, bread and cheesecake.
Note: The sandwiches upper right were my quick recipe of wanting to make something with SPAM. They were Hawaiian rolls, spam, and Swiss cheese. I heated them in the oven until the cheese melted. I called them SPAMwiches, Spliders (SPAM Sliders), and SPAM burgers. ;)
Between The World and Me is a series of letters written by author Ta-Nehisi Coates to his 15-year-old son. The letters consist of racial history and walks us through Coates life from a impoverish child in a hard part of Baltimore to attending Harvard.
Between The World and Me was our book clubs pick for January of this year. I was really proud of the book club for choosing this book because not only is in non fiction, it is on a hard subject. I was excited to discuss such a book as a group. For myself, Between The World and Me was at times fascinating, Coates, has a wonderful way with worlds that made me think about things more deeply… but towards the end of this book I found myself a bit exhausted by what started to feel like heavy negativity towards our world and felt as though their was little hope for someone born African-American. When I finished the book I was not really sure, and I am still not, on how I feel about it. I am glad I had the opportunity to read it, however as I am a white woman, I can not express with any certainty of if what Coates is saying is how it is. I have not walked in his shoes.
The book club discussion was everything I had hoped it would be. Over delicious food and wine, we discussed our feelings about the book. Granted, we are a group of mostly mid-western women but I think we did a good job of discussing what is happening in our world today (Minneapolis is 2 1/3 hours from where we live and there has been recent issues there with African-Americans and the police) as well as around the US. Coates, we agreed did a good job of sharing what it was like for himself to grow up as he did, however most of us agreed that these letters to his son were fairly heavy for a 15-year-old, and in my opinion, left a hopeless sort of feeling for any positive future.
This was one of those discussions I wish I would have recorded. It was passionate and deeper in a direction we have never gone before as a group.
Over all the book rated just below an average rating for us. Some liked it less and some a little more.
Why is this a good book for a book club/ reading group?
Between The World and Me brings much to be discussed and the discussion flows almost without questions. For reading groups that have been together a while, this book will take you to another level. Groups may experience a difference in opinion on how they feel about this book and that makes for good discussion.
Ask your group to write down their favorite quotes from the book to be discussed.
Have your groups share current issues from the news involving race and discuss.
- Hardcover: 176 pages
- Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; 1 edition (July 14, 2015)
I drove some of you a little nuts yesterday by talking or I guess, not talking about a book and not telling you what the book I was not talking about was.
That was kind of the point.
Yesterdays post was not about the book, as I titled the post. Discussing the book – would have taken away from my point. The book discussion is what originally brings us together… but through the years so much more has come out of these monthly literary gatherings.
Today I will talk about the book.
Our book club just read All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I did not personally get a chance to read it however the discussion that came from this book definitely held my interest.
A quick synopsis:
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. ~ as described on Amazon
The Bookies book club had a deep discussion on what life was like for Marie-Laure and what an amazing father she had. I had heard this book made for excellent book club discussion, and observing this without having read the book myself confirmed this. The questions flowed freely and everyone had thoughts on the book, even sharing person stories of relatives that they had connected to the war.
Suzanne in our groups said, “Choosing not to read this book is a crime against humanity.”
That is a pretty powerful statement.
Over all the Bookies rated this a 3.9 out of 5. For the most part they thought it was a slow start to the book and hard to get into until you get beyond page 50. Some felt it took longer than that. Once into it however, it seemed that almost everyone found the book very good.
I plan to still read this.
This past Tuesday we had book club. It was our annual December potluck, home made gift exchange, and donation to the library’s book in a bag program. Normally, this is one of my favorite meetings of the year as I do love the little extras we put into book club. This year however…
not so much.
The last month has been hard – and I thought I had the book we were reading on my shelf and if I do… I can not find it. The library copies were all checked out, and I personally wasn’t sure if the book was something I was going to enjoy so I did not want to buy it. All that and a lot of procrastination… I had not read the book.
I went to book club that night feeling a bit stressed out… tired, and unprepared.
The visiting, the glass of wine, catching up on conversations and lives….
and the food…
Meatballs and seafood chowder, soup, salad, dips and chips, olives, breads, bruschetta, chocolates, cake and more….
I sat back and another girl in our group led the discussion which is normally what I do. Even though I had not read the book, the discussion was engaging. It was interesting to be the observer and watch this group of girls who have come together because of a book… but really… more than that. This motley crew of women are all friends. We come together to share in each others lives, to care for one another. We have been together through sickness and celebration, great sorrow…as well as joy. As I watched this group that at one time were for the most part strangers – joke with one another, discuss this book, listen to each others opinions, and share personal stories that surfaced because of reading this book and I thought…
this is so much more than about a book.
The book… well, I will write another post and share with you about the book. When I asked at the end of the discussion if they felt this was something I should read or pass on, they said it needed to be read. In fact, my favorite comment of the night came from Susanne who said, “It is a crime against humanity to not have read this book.”
I guess I will be reading the book.
I did mention this was our gift exchange night… the rule being it must be something the giver has made. I put together a metal basket of canned goods I had made this fall – salsa, apple butter, stewed tomatoes, pasta sauce, and homemade caramels.
Here are pictures of the gifts that were given (Yoda would say “talent in group runs deep”)
Don’t forget…. 1st book of the year is just around the corner!
It’s raining here in central Minnesota. I have the back door to the deck open so I can listen to it. It is almost soothing and makes me think that this is good reading weather.
My Mom’s sister, my Aunt and I have become closer over these hard months of impossible change. She lives just a few homes down from us and she has been very kind by visiting often, calling to check in, and just being there in general. In the early months she would always come to me, and now that I venture out a little more… I stop by to see her. We have coffee, occasionally I will bring her something I have made like white chicken chili, soup, or apple pie… (to this day I still cook too much food for Al and I). We will chat about life happenings, memories, and surprisingly….
I did not know my Aunt was a reader. In all honestly – I am not sure she knew she was one either. This summer she had knee surgery so I put together a care basket for her knowing she would not be able to do much for 6-8 weeks. I put together magazines, coffee, chocolates, Kind bars, hand lotion, movies, and of course books to pass the time. I had no idea what she would like to read if she did read so I guessed…
my original delivery consisted of:
When she finished those and gushed over Mary Kay Andrews I sent her home with these…
Success again…. and we were talking books at our weekly get togethers either on the phone or at one another’s home. So then I went with more discussion worthy reading…
She loved the Help and is currently reading Gone Girl which I have told her to call me when it goes crazy and assured her… she would know when that was. ;)
I find many things very satisfying about our time together. One…. obviously it is nice to connect and I value the time I have with her. Two…. I love the idea that it really only takes two to make a book club (my Bookies Book Club started with 3). I also very much am aware that in a time when statistics say that reading books is on the decline due to the increase in the use of technology through our phones and having movies/video games and pretty much anything at our fingertips 24/7…. I find it both enlightening and positive to think that many of us, like my Aunt… had forgotten their enjoyment of digging into a good book. It just took another book lover to show them the way.
Anything is possible.
I know… there is another post in there somewhere…
There is a reason our book club has a wait list.
are a ton of fun.
We always enjoy taking our reads to the next level through excellent discussion not only on book, but author as well, often food to go with what we read, and occasionally (my favorites) we dress up.
When we chose Gone With The Wind for our Annual Classic Read I was so excited about the possibilities for dressing the era. When the buzz started with the girls saying they would make curtain dresses, having never read the book before I was thrilled with their enthusiasm…. making dresses! Way to go Bookies!!!
I was sent a link to the Carol Burnett spoof on the book…
Ahhh….. what exactly were the Bookies going to do?
There was a little buzz on our Facebook page. They were havig trouble finding used curtains for their dresses. I went to a Halloween shop and found mine …. it was called Goth Vampire but I figured if Scarlett could be who she was… she certainly could also be goth.
So book review night comes. I had it at my house, converted to the Plantation Tara for the evening. And as the girls entered… I was impressed with their creativity..
do not disappoint.
As you can see in the picture… several made the curtain dress! Kathy (far right in white) even had the curtain rod in hers! Between using old curtains, buying curtains, dressing in an ere looking dress, and being creative….
the Bookies take on Gone With The Wind like pro’s! You will notice up front we have a Mammy… and another surprise you can not quite see in this picture, but you will soon!
There she is… in the back to the left with a halo…. yes Gone With The Wind fans…. Lori dressed up as….
Yup. God’s nightgown.
The exclamation that Scarlett would frequently say throughout the book when she was frustrated. The first time in Bookie history that someone dressed as an exclamation. Nicely played Lori…
Laura, with the help of her mother, went all out and sewed up this cute little curtain number from new curtains. I told her she could wear this next year to our Gatsby party as well!
Of course… it wouldn’t be a Bookies book review without great food….
We had corn pone, Frankly My Dear I Don’t Give A Ham sandwiches, Butler Balls, shrimp creole,fried chicken, brownies, and sweet potato pie (recipe below) and a Scarlett OHara drink (recipe below).
We had an excellent discussion on the book. There is so much to talk about in Gone With The Wind! We all agreed that Ashley was NOT a catch. We discussed Scarlett’s relationships with her different husbands as well as with her children. She was indeed… a unique individual.
We also had good discussion over the author Margaret Mitchell… kudos to her for creating such a protagonist as Scarlett… what an unusual perspective for the times…. this headstrong woman who was not a nurturing mother or wife but instead always looking for the best way to support herself and her ambitions.
It was interesting also to hear the difference of thoughts from those in the group who had read the book before (very few actually), and those who had seen the movie, to those of us like myself that had not done either.
For a classic, the overall consensus was an average read AND not to bad for a classic rating – BELIEVE ME. A few of us, myself included, rated the book a 5 which is our top of our rating scale. See my personal review here.
Why Does Gone With The Wind make for a good book club read?
Gone With The Wind is indeed vast with pages, but worth the efforts for book clubs. The option to read or listen to on audio makes for a wide variety of discussion on both. There is much to discuss as a group from the civil war, to the reasons this is a banned book, to Scarlett herself as well as her relationships with others. AND the little extras you can do to make your discussion even deeper.
Sweet Potato Pie
you will need-
1 1/2- 2 pounds sweet potatoes
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 9 inch pie crust
- Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done. Run cold water over the sweet potato, and remove the skin.
- Break apart sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter, and mix well with mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust.
- Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Pie will puff up like a souffle, and then will sink down as it cools. ( as seen at All Recipes.com)
Scarlett O Hara Drink
2 ounces Southern Comfort
8-10 oz cranberry juice
1 squirt of lemon juice to taste
mix and serve over ice
I love this picture. This is my book club this past Tuesday after we had a great potluck dinner, talked books, and had our Queen event. We look happy. We look fun.
Every July for the past hmmmmm… I don’t know how many years, we have had a Queen event. We dress up, we perform a talent (or not) and say why we would make a good Queen of the Book Club. It is all in fun, the Queen really only comes into play when we have a tie on books to read or when we can’t decide where to meet.
This year I went back and forth. Do I participate? I didn’t want to. I wanted to wear Capri’s and a t-shirt and take pictures. They would have understood. Yet I knew that Justin would be so sad to know I changed how I did life so I instead put on a prom dress, a little princess crown, looked up and said, “This is for you kid.”
Off to be a Queen participant….
It was a good time. We were at my friend Lori’s home. We discussed the books we had read last month (free read month) and then had our event. My “talent” was a story about a girl who decided to create a book club so she could expand on her reading. I ended the story with how after many years the group became so big they had to limit how many came and how close all the Bookies became to one another. Friends. Other talents were, speeches, songs, mime, a quiz, and even a violin playing rendition to The Devil Went Down To Georgia.
I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
Our Queen for 2015-2016 is Brenda. If you look closely at her beautiful white dress you will see that the top (and along the bottom) is made from a book. She will be a wonderful Queen.
I didn’t mean to go….
I don’t know. I guess I just didn’t mean to go.
The past two weeks have been so out of my control that I am just doing what I have to do to get through the days. With two large events just around the corner I am trying hard to find balance. You throw in the mix my friend Connie, a big storm that requires clean up attention, commitments, people I
need to want to spend time with, and my own grief….
Just trying to get through it.
And so – with all of that, I find I do not get here – HERE as much as I would like. I am still not firing on all cylinders which makes all of these things that I could normally handle feel heavy and hard to do just the easiest of tasks. I am so easily…
Yesterday and today I have tried hard to slow down. I have had things I had to do every day and I am feeling the strain on putting my grief to the side to get things done. For the record, I have discovered that does not work well… it exhausts me and leaves me pretty nonfunctional come the end of the day. Tomorrow my “to do’s” bump up again, the weekend is full of activity and next week…
I don’t even want to think about next week.
I do have posts to write. I have a couple of audio I have finished and just downloaded Armada this morning which I am SUPER EXCITED about. We also had the Bookies Queen event this week which took a lot of energy but I am so glad I participated. L♥ve this group of gals. I will write a post up all about that – maybe today.
That’s it for this morning. I have a few things itching at the corners of my brain reminding me I need to do them… and I do, so off I go. Enjoy THIS day.
While the Courtland family is on vacation in Colorado with their two teenage children, their daughter Cailtin is abducted while out for a morning run. What follows is a three-year nightmare while the already struggling family tries to move on. With no answers to what happened to Caitlin or even if she is dead or alive, each remaining member of the Courtland family battles this crushing weight in different ways.
Grant, the father remains in Colorado unable to leave the are his daughter disappeared from. He stays at a ranch helping out an elderly man, making attempts to move forward but nothing happens.
Angela, the mother, has returned to their home state of Wisconsin but deals with great depression. She lives with her sister after having had to sell their family home and has a hard time functioning from day-to-day.
Sean, the brother, now 18, the age his sister was when she was taken struggles with the guilt of having been with Caitlin when she was taken. What could he have done differently?
And Caitlin. Will they ever find her? And if they do, what exactly will they find?
I reviewed Descent by Tim Johnston last week with my opinion. This review is the thoughts of our book club as a whole and no spoilers :)
Descent brought out a lot of good discussion among our group. While some of us really found the storyline realistic and engaging, others pointed out things that did not seem to fit. There were questions of characters who suddenly did something completely out of their character which we all agreed did not fit, but some would argue that some things do not need to be revealed to the reader. Perhaps the author was giving the reader the feeling of “no control” and that not knowing what would happen could very well, as some argued, give the book a feel more real to life. After all… life is messy and try as we may to figure out how things are going to go… we never do really know.
It was mentioned that the book synopsis that we read from the book when we chose it was not an accurate synopsis, of what actually happens in the book. Some felt mislead to be told one thing and then read another.
Over all, on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best, the ratings went from 2,s to 4,s and quite a few rating it in the 3’s (a standard read). It was one of those books that bring out a lot of thoughts, opinions, and discussion. We even reenacted a final scene (I can’t share… that would be a spoiler) when we questioned how one would do that. One girl in our group even had a similar story to share of something that happened to a friend of her sons while hiking. There is actually a book written about that true story, Bringing Jon Home by David Francis. A book that I ordered on Kindle this morning.
Why Would This Make A Good Book Club Read
Descent is a book that could have been ripped from the headlines. This leads to discussion like, “what would you do?” as well as discussion on how a strong family can be shattered by such an experience and a damaged family (such as the Courtland’s) have a good chance of falling completely apart.
If you look at reviews of this book on-line from some of the big name newspapers, New York Times, The Herald, etc… you will find diverse opinions, much like you can expect from a group read. The writing style can be thought of as brilliant, or annoying. (And in our group it was just that)
In the book, Sean is believed to be false when he is telling the truth. Discussion can be made over when that has happened in your lives, when you are telling the truth about something and you are either misunderstood, or believed to be false and the frustration of when your character is questioned like that.
Themes of hope, faith, depression, denial, and survival instinct are all represented within this read.
Food ideas… while not a lot of food is mentioned within the book, there is pizza at a birthday celebration, and Caitlin keeps snickers in her pockets when she runs for energy boosts.
Good morning! Happy Wednesday! My only big “to do” today was to take the dogs to the groomers and I have already dropped them off. Now a day of catching up on some smaller projects and basking in the aftermath of last nights book club.
nothing was broken.
Actually I kid, our group was awesome as usual and last nights discussion of Descent by Tim Johnston was a good one. I do not want to say too much here as my book club review post of this book is going up later today – but I can say a book where the group has different opinions always makes for good discussion.
I think I made it to the second question on the book when it started…. one person said, “and that was where it all went wrong and I didn’t like the rest of the book,” and another piped in, “I thought that was when it was getting interesting!” I nudged Kaydi who was sitting next to me and I said, “here we go.. this is going to be good.”
And it was good, we all had things that we did not like about the book and some of us found things that we really liked about the book. This was a great discussion read and we were nowhere near the level of mixed heated discussion we were when we discussed Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.
I did also promise you some food pics… and that will be in the review post – stay tuned to find out more about Descent by Tim Johnston and what makes it an excellent book club choice as well as questions you can use for your group if you discuss this one.
I know I asked you yesterday for ideas for a book club read for April and you came forward with excellent suggestions. We did settle on a book that was part of our Book Club Girl package, Vintage by Susan Gloss because she is skyping with us for our April meeting. I am kind of excited as we have fun plans in store for this one.