Monday, October 22, 2012

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Our November Book Club selection was HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford.  We all liked reading the book, and some of our members have lived in Seattle area, so they could relate to the story.  Several had read the book before and someone said "worth reading again."

Ginger started out by sharing a bit of history about the author.  I'm posting directly from his web site  "If you're Chinese, how did you get the name "Ford?"  JF answered:  "My great-grandfather was a man named Min Chung, who immigrated from Kaiping, China around 1865. Later, while working in Tonopah, Nevada, he adopted the very western name of William Ford.  Oddly enough, his son, George William Ford, was an actor in Hollywood and had to switch back to make his ethnicity more demonstrative. He appeared as a bit actor and extra in numerous films as George Chung. He also taught martial arts and was a consultant on the 70s series, Kung-Fu."

We talked about the differences between Henry and his father, between Henry and Marty, his son.  We saw positive changes with Henry and his son.  Henry thought Marty was only interested in himself, was not empathetic.  We know that he was watching his father, he was paying attention.  We found this out when Marty introduces his girlfriend to Henry, and she shares all that Marty has told her.

One item we questioned in the book was, did Henry really go to China?  Some felt he did not go, some felt he had to.  He'd do what he always did, find the sweet among the bitter.

We talked about the differences with Keiko's family and Henry's family.  There were similarities too, both of them were born in the same hospital.  Henry's Dad had him wear a button that said "I am Chinese."  He was worried so much about the sentiment during the war against the Japanese, and having someone think that Henry was Japanese.  Keiko's family was very open to Henry, even at the camp they were sent to.  Interesting characters Henry met along the way in his life, Sheldon & Mrs. Beatty.  Sheldon was very protective of Henry and Mrs. Beatty took risks for Henry, and crossed lines to help Henry and Keiko.  We liked the jazz, "good background for love story" someone said.  We felt, in this story, that being 13 years old, Henry was very brave and did not act like a child.

We discussed struggles that immigrants have, about holidays and foods.  We talked about WWII.  We talked about books that reminded us of this era, "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay and "Snow Falling on Cedars" by Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel

Mrs. Robert E. Lee The Lady of Arlington by John Perry

Tuesday, October 23   Please share in discussion of this historical book at 6:30 p.m. at Park Grove Library, Cottage Grove.

Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler

The prolific Anne Tyler is an author I have never read, and in a matter of a short time, have read "Saint Maybe" and through another book club, "Noah's Compass. " One more book "Back When We Were Grown Ups" awaits my break in books, begging to be read.

What did the Park Grove Library Book Club members think when we discussed this book at our September meeting?  Most liked it, a couple did not.  One stated "Didn't hate it, didn't love it."

"Could have happened to anyone in real life, " someone stated, "things like that happen."

Inside the book cover, we read:  In 1965 the Bedloe family lives on a quiet street in Baltimore.  It is an "ideal, apple-pie household," and seventeen-year-old Ian has all the usual expectations and dreams for the future.  One of our first questions had to do with Ian.  Was it his fault?  Did his feelings toward Lucy play a role?  We commented that he was aroused by his sister-in-law and had to take a step back regarding his feelings surfacing and guilt.  He was taken advantage of with babysitting.  He didn't understand her, was trying to put that together like a puzzle piece.  We, the readers, felt we didn't know anything about her, were mystified by her.  What kind of woman would send a bowling ball through the mail?

After the tragedy, Ian takes care of the children, along with his parents.  We talked about the children's effort to marry him off, one time planning to have Miss Pennington join them at their home for an evening meal.  Agatha and Thomas took care of Daphne when she was little. Agatha did what she needed to do to keep the family together, even hiding papers in her jewelry box, telling Thomas not to tell anyone or they'll ship us off to some strangers.

Ian wondered if he had done the right things in his life, did he make the right choices with the kids.  We talked about that most peoples life don't go exactly as planned.  We thought good morals were stressed through the whole book, and family values.  Would the grandparents have kept the kids if they didn't have Ian?  Was he a hero?  Was he a Saint?  Maybe.

Did we like how the book ended?  We didn't get the happily ever after.  We felt he was helping in someone else's life, becoming a dad again, sacrificing life again. 

Footnote:  Agatha eventually married, became an oncologist, still taking care of people.  Thomas, the middle child, Monica found out in the search of the book, was a software programmer inventing children's games.

Friday, September 14, 2012

September Book Club Selection

Tuesday, Sept 25 we will meet at the Park Grove Branch library from 6:30-8:00 p.m. to discuss Anne Tyler's book Saint Maybe  (click on this link to go to Amazon).  Monica made this book her suggestion, saying that it was "one of about 3 or 4 novels that I come back to again and again."  Nothing is better than losing yourself in a good novel, and I think as much as I have read of this book, I might be agreeing with Monica! 

If you have any questions regarding our Book Club, please see one of the librarians at the Park Grove Branch.  Read the book and join us.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Where is the Hiding Place that Corrie Ten Boom speaks?  There were several thoughts about where we found "hiding places" through out this book.  Corrie Ten Boom shares with us her view as she, a single 50 year old woman, started hiding people in her family's home, people who were being persecuted by the Nazi's as they invaded The Netherlands.  The book goes forward, to Corrie's 10 months of her own "capture," then to the years following the war, and to a rehab center that Corrie opened, as Betsie, Corrie's sister, had seen in her visions while at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp.

One hiding place was in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp as the women were not bothered in their barracks by workers who thought the residents had "fleas."  Betsie and Corrie were able to read and share God's word because of this.  The hiding place was prominent in Corrie's family's home.  A room only 2 1/2 feet wide was created within Corrie's small bedroom, and was host to many, including six people that were left behind after Corrie & her family were taken away by the Nazi. They were safe, as Corrie found out later.  Another thought was that Jesus was hiding in their heart.  By hiding in Jesus, through His Word, through His inspiration, they were able to survive the concentration camp, the horrors that they experienced, felt and saw.

What did we think as we talked about this book?  Most of us loved the book and thanked Freda for picking this book for us to read.  A few found it difficult to read, knowing that it was a true story, the subject matter was hard to avoid, and the horror of it.

Corrie's father tells her that he pities the Nazi's: "They have touched the apple of God's eye."  What did this mean to us?  Our discussion:  "The Jewish people were God's eye, his chosen people.  Nazi's were going against God's eye.  He loved the Jewish people, his first people" we agreed.  We saw that Corrie's father, Casper, was well loved in Harlem, and respected all people and loved all people, had a love for God, and knew that the Jewish people were God's first chosen people.

Another question had us discuss what we felt the kind of woman Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie were. What sustained them during their ordeal in the concentration camps? To what do you attribute Corrie's courage and survival in the face of so much death and hardship?  We felt that Betsie was perfect or at least perfect in Corrie's memory.  She found the good in others and prayed for others that Corrie would have never thought of.  Betsie said "pray every day that love is greater." What sustained them?  Reading the Bible every night, their upbringing, they could recall verses.  They also had learned from their dad.  We also agreed that Corrie was strong, hopping on her bike to deliver and get news and items needed, when there were many dire situations.  We agreed there were lots of miracles through out this book. 

We also found it interesting of Betsie's vision materialized for Corrie to help with rehabilitation after the war.  Betsie said "have to forgive to go on."

How is Corrie like her fathers clocks?  We answered with "reliable, fine tuned, adjustable like the pendulum, precious, tending to it, and taking care of it at all times."  We talked about why Corrie chose to start the book much earlier then the war years.  We felt it helped lay down about the family, about their belief and was needed in this book.

We discussed how hard it was for Corrie to get back to Harlem after being released from Ravensbruck.  We were amazed that she was able to get some of her items back, the good booking that were kept on these prisoners.

We had some discussion of WWII and Hitler's affect on the German people.  We also discussed that Corrie ten Boom went out to share her story of Hope and Forgiveness world wide.  As a teen I remember reading this book, and hearing Corrie ten Boom speak.

Feel free to add more thoughts to this discussion, your own, or those that we discussed the night of book club!  Thanks again, to Diane for opening her home for this special evening, Freda for leading the discussion and the group for bringing the eats!

Corrie ten Boom's web site has a great page of History.  Click on the word History to read more.

The Healing by Jonathan Odell

All loved the novel.  Someone said "If I can see it as a movie, it must be well written."   We had also read, as a book club, Someone Knows My Name, which we felt shared a different aspect of the slavery issue, maybe more actual accounts?

We talked about the healing, healing out of slavery, which was more then just papers.  We thought there would be confusion about what freedom really was.  We agreed there were isolation aspects because slaves didn't move in and out of this plantation, like other plantations in the south.  Polly Shine, as a healer was $5,000 back in those days.  This was a big plantation back in 1847.  Polly treat causes, not just the symptoms.  Polly would whisper hope in the ear of the one she worked on healing.  We felt Polly worked with body, mind and soul.  We were reminded that the white doctors back then wouldn't treat the southern black.  Polly recognized in Granada the same gifts.

Granada was taken under Polly's wing, finally found the respect for Polly.  When Granada spoke to Violet, she questioned whether she had made the right choice, not leaving with Polly.  She said some of us picked wrong. 

We talked about the characters, the monkey Daniel Webster, the snack, the part Silas played in the plantation and with Polly, and Charity's granddaughter Violet helping to finish the journey.

We acknowledged in the book the "tangled web" that was spoken and weaved through out the book. In Chapter 43, Polly says: "She say, the difference in weavers is, some see the tangle and others see the weave. The ones that can't take their eyes off the tangle, they never rise above it." "It's the weave you got to remember, Granada. It's bigger than you and me leave this place and go to wherever it is Rubina is waiting. Just a tangle, Granada. The next chapter talks about Granada thinking "about the threads that stitch folks together. About daughters and mothers and mother's mothers touching through time."

There is so much more to discuss in this book, many aspects that we did touch on.  I hope that anyone that was involved in the discussion or if you have further discussion, please share your thoughts.

I will add that we would agree on one thing. "If I can see it as a movie, it must be well written."  It was.

Behind the Beautiful Forever by Katherine Boo

Will update soon!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Read

Nothing is more relaxing in summer then reading a book, while on the beach or in the backyard on the patio!  What are you reading this summer?  Any good book suggestions you want to share, new or old?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

To Kill A Mockingbird

We had a group of sixteen participants discussing this month's book, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Thirteen members liked or loved the book, a few saying it was their all time favorite, and many thanking Cora for choosing this book to read.  One person said "It wasn't as good as I remember," and another said it was an "engaging story, but didn't get the whole fuss."  Even with a classic novel it is good to have diverse views and thoughts.  Someone said it would be good to have a sequel or more to the book, but this is Harper Lee's only published novel.  She received a Pulitzer-Prize for it in 1960.

Cora, our leader, shared with us, that the story reflects some aspects of Harper Lee's life as a child.  Harper Lee's father was an attorney and a state legislator paralleling to what Atticus was in the novel.  The well spoken, articulate young Scout declared her love for Dill, who visited in the summer, and was beholding to her and would marry her someday.  Cora shared that the character Dill was similar to Harper's real next door neighbor Truman Capote.  After listening to Cora, I did read online that Truman Capote also said that Boo Radley really did put items in the tree, and lived just down the street from them.

This is such a great discussion book.  We felt the storyline was very detailed and descriptive. We read that life was routine, and at times, life was unbearable.

We agreed Atticus Finch was way ahead of his time.  Their maid, Calpurnia was a strong part of their family.  Scout and Jem even went to where Cal lived, although it was in a separate part of town.  We also observed that she was different in their home than she was at church or with folks while away from her work. We discussed how we adapt to our environment and take on characteristics, like our speech and language, of those we are with.

We saw that Atticus taught his children that all people are created equal.  He also could see from others' perspective, even someone who disagreed with him.  We were glad when Atticus sister came to help with the family, and that Calpurnia stayed.  Cal, Atticus and his sister, "Aunt Alexandra" as Jem and Scout called her, worked together to help their family during the busy trial time.

"There's four kinds of folks in the world. There's the ordinary kind, like us and the neighbors, there's the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes."  This is a comment someone mentioned even the youngsters knew there was a pecking order.  After Jem's comment, Scout said she believed that there was just one kind of people.

We did talk about prejudices through out this book and also who were the "Mockingbirds."  Jem and Scout received their air guns and Atticus said they can shoot the blue jays, but it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.  Besides the injustice to Tom Robinson, we felt that Mayella Ewell also was trapped in her life.  She couldn't leave her house, just like Boo Radley couldn't leave his. 

I want to add, that although this is just a small part of what we discussed, the book brought many more thoughts and comments than we could put down in writing.  One of the best reasons for being a part of a group, like a book club, is that we are thinking out loud, with one another, sharing comments and thoughts freely, and learning while we discuss.  We share what we have seen in our lifetime, and how it may have affected others or ourselves.  The discussion enriches our interpretation of a book.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May Book Club Discussion: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is our book that we will discuss on Tuesday, May 12.  What a great classic book to begin our new year.  The book is an easy read, one you will hate to put down.  Jump in, read it, and join us for a lively discussion!

A New Year Begins for Park Grove Library Book Club

A new year begins for the Park Grove Library Book Club.  We met in April to decide what we would like to read for the coming year and half, as we have books scheduled through June, 2013.  Feel free to contact the Washington County Librarians to connect with our Book Club leader, or just show up.  We schedule our meetings at the Park Grove Library for 6:30 p.m.  We may have some meetings off site, like our Holiday Party!  Would love to have you join in our group at any time you can.  This is the schedule for the upcoming year.
  5/22/12 -- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  6/26/12 -- Behind the Beautiful Forever by Katherine Boo
  7/24/12 -- The Healing by Jonathan Odell
  8/28/12 -- The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
  9/25/12 -- St. Maybe by Anne Tyler
10/23/12 -- Mrs. Robert E. Lee, The Lady of  Arlington by John Perry
11/27/12 -- Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
12/18/12 -- Share a Book You've Read/Book Swap
  1/22/13 -- Rez Life: An Indian's Journey through Reservation Life by David Treuer
  2/26/13 -- Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
  3/26/13 -- Night Circus by Eric Morgenstern
  4/23/13 -- The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
  5/21/13 -- The Red Tent by Anita Diamont
  6/25/13 -- Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann Ross

Friday, April 6, 2012

Book Club Selection -- Moving Forward

This next month has us looking at our future book club selections.  We have used a system in the past that has worked well for us.  We individually chose  2 or 3 books that we would like to recommend to the book club.  We could find books through different reviews, Best Seller lists, Book Store lists, recommendations from friends, what other book clubs are reading (look at the Washington County Library Book Club site to other clubs) or if you were in our club, books we didn't choose in years past.  The books we've read are on the left of this blog.  You don't have to, and it might be better not to have read this book ahead of time.  Read it with the group.  WE WILL EMAIL THE LIST TO DIANE by April 17, with a summary that Diane will forward to the rest of the group.  When we come to the Book Club meeting Tuesday, April 24, we will discuss which book we would like to read.  We vary with our selection, mystery, fiction, or non-fiction, maybe a memoir.  We also will read a book suggested by WCL for the County Selection.  We are flexible with this, as we don't know as of yet, when or what book will be selected.  If you are interested in joining the discussion for the upcoming year selection and haven't yet connected with the Book Club, please contact Carol Warner (click Carol's name) at the Park Grove Library.  She will forward the info to Diane, our leader!  All are welcome to share in the love of books and discussion.

Ava's Man by Rick Bragg

At our March discussion, there were eight of us that said they liked the book, one person shared that she thought it was ok, but wouldn't recommend it.  Rick Braggs won a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1996 for his work at The New York Times.  We agreed his use of description in this book was outstanding.  You could even smell daily life, and clearly see  the visual images he brought forth.  He describes well the slice of life they used to survive the depression.  His phrases were well used to describe the scenes.  One participant said that he is vernacular in his language, writes it the way people speak it.  We all agreed he knows how to describe a scene so we could use our senses to see it as he would see it.

Rick Braggs brings a book to life describing his Grandparents and their family.  His first book All Over But the Shouting was about his home life, his mother, his alcoholic father and his work towards becoming a journalist.  This second book, goes further back into his heritage, which I believe, many of us would like to do more research on if we could.  We were introduced to Ava and her man, Charlie Bundrum in the early 30's and read about their adventure as they raised a family and tried to keep their family feed through those lean years.  We have a description of Charlie as a "rail thin" man, but one who was very strong.  (Picture in front of our book shows Charlie with a big fish!)  They didn't have much to eat, and we noted, that Ava & Charle would make sure the children would be fed before they ate. 

Charlie moved the family around, renting houses, finding work doing roofing jobs, trying to keep the family happy.  We acknowledged that Charlie's family was most important to him, he had sense of love and obligation to his own kids, even with flaws in his character.  He wasn't a waffler.  He did like his likker, which he made and shared (I think that he kept a pint for each gallon of likker he sold).  This was one of several reasons that lead to Charlie moving Ava, the family (including Hooter) around to different parts of Alabama & Georgia, renting houses as they went.  The law would try to find that likker!  Charlie was a talker.  At one point in the book, Ava said any woman can appreciate a pretty man, but not every woman can appreciate a talking one. Ava liked that about him but we felt she probably wasn't very happy with his likker dealings.  We talked about back then, women didn't get a divorce or leave their marriage (at least very much).  But Charlie loved his family and loved Ava, protecting them against all evils in their journey together.  Charlie died at 50, and years later when grand kids asked Ava about getting a new man, she said "No, hon, I ain't gonna get me no man, I had me one."

Some of us cried, in fact one participant said it brought her to tears when Charlie died, and she is one hard nut to crack on those tears!  Another said she didn't like Charlie, didn't cry at all.  I think most of us saw Charlie as a man who would do anything to protect and provide for his family, during a time of living in the "hard" south.  They had their joys and their sorrows, and Rick Bragg brought us along with the journey. 

***If you would like to add any comments about your thoughts of this book, please share!  I didn't post all of our discussion in this book, but some of the highlights.  I wasn't able to finish until a bit after our discussion, but I wanted to finish before I wrote this blog.  I've recommended it for another book club that I am involved in, as I enjoyed it immensely.  We had quite a few thoughts and enjoyed the discussion.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Two Local Plays Snare Library Book Lovers

Two local plays share with us, it's viewer, the love that we have of books and also, the love of libraries.  Babel at the Nimbus Theatre in NE Mpls (on Central) has an interesting play about architecture, knowledge and libraries!  It is a quaint, small theatre that even offers old wooden theatre seats.  This play ends March 25, 2012.  Tickets -- $10.  If you go, please post your thoughts on this production.  Underneath the Lintel is the other play that caught my eye at The Cabaret at Camp Bar in downtown St. Paul.  A reclusive librarian finds a book 123 years overdue and tells of his worldwide quest to track down the borrower.  This play is $14-$19. Thurs, March 29 - Sunday April 1 are performance dates.   If you order through Groupon March 19-21 (if still available) tickets are 2 tickets for $19.  For those of us that love reading "the word", it is fun to see "the word acted out."  Please share your thoughts.  If you chose to post Anonymously, would you please post your name.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ava's Man -- Tuesday, March 27

We will be discussing Ava's Man, Tuesday, March 27 at the Park Grove Library from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.  Please join us!  April, 24 we will be selecting new books for the coming year.Washington County Library Web Site

A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White

A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White was a novel we liked. Part of our discussion was about the differences that step-sisters, Ruthie & Julia, had after their parents, Naomi & Phil (Phil was Julia's step-father) died in a plane crash.  We felt that Ruthie took the best out of San Francisco and her time with her aunt, and Julia took the worst of the time with her dad & step mother in a small Virginia town.  Although Julia had a very hard life and treatment, we felt this helped develop her as a writer.  It brought us to our own discussion of having a will for our children (5 had legal wills -- 3 did not), and where our children would go.

We also enjoyed discussing how creative the girls were, and making up their own games when they were younger.  We felt this helped Julia in her creative writing.  This brought us back to our childhood and what fun games we played and how things are different now.  Many of us freely ran around the neighborhood playing many different games with our siblings, friends and neighbors. 

We talked about their life growing up and how differently it was.  When Julia wrote her story, she talked about her sister's abortion, which caused much havoc when Ruthie found out.  Did she cross the line by bringing this into her story?  We agreed Julia wanted to share how different their caregivers helped them through issues.  Ruthie had a loving aunt to help her through her abortion, but Julia's dad had her in this terrible treatment facility, very different results.  We felt, though, that Julia had crossed the line, she didn't stop to think about her sister.

One comment made was about Ruthie using alcohol for her problems.  Each daughter survived and with the plane crash at the end confirmed their connection, yet.  We ran out of time discussing!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Academy Award Winner For Animated Short Film

Academy Award Winner - Aminated Short Film was The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore Click on the film to see it!  I found out about this by going to Washington County (MN) Library (click on it to go to site) on facebook.  Thanks, Washington County for posting this.  Glad it won!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thank You Cindy, our Blogger

We have been so fortunate at our Park Grove Book Club to have Cindy M. posting to the blog.  Cindy has taken a leave at this time, and I, Natalie S., will be completing this new task.  I know I speak for all of us at our Book Club that we have been so thankful to Cindy for all her work over the years of keeping up with this blog.  She has done an excellent job!            
  • Thank You Cindy M for your years of direction & volunteer work!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Updated Reading List for 2012

Hello Book Clubbers!

These two books have been selected for this year's reading:
  • For meeting on Feb. 28: A Place to Land, by Rebecca White
  • For meeting on Mar. 27: Ava's Man, by Rich Brags

In April the meeting will include selecting books for springtime reading. This is a good time to suggest titles of those books you've been wanting to read.