The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
Source: Goodreads

The Road Back to You:

An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery

Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

 
Pages: 238 / Audio: 9 Hrs 17 mins
Published November 17th 2016 by Inter-Varsity Press,US
 
Ignorance is bliss except in self-awareness...

What you don't know about yourself can hurt you and your relationships―and even keep you in the shallows with God. Do you want help figuring out who you are and why you're stuck in the same ruts? The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system with an uncanny accuracy in describing how human beings are wired, both positively and negatively.

In The Road Back to You Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile forge a unique approach―a practical, comprehensive way of accessing Enneagram wisdom and exploring its connections with Christian spirituality for a deeper knowledge of ourselves, compassion for others, and love for God. Witty and filled with stories, this book allows you to peek inside each of the nine Enneagram types, keeping you turning the pages long after you have read the chapter about your own number. Not only will you learn more about yourself, but you will also start to see the world through other people's eyes, understanding how and why people think, feel, and act the way they do. Beginning with changes you can start making today, the wisdom of the Enneagram can help take you further along into who you really are―leading you into places of spiritual discovery you would never have found on your own, and paving the way to the wiser, more compassionate person you want to become.

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Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

"There are others [personality typing systems] that describe and encourage you to embrace who you are, which isn't very helpful if who you are is a jerk." 

This is wonderful introduction to the Enneagram Personality Typing System. The authors break down a complicated subject into a clear, concise, and entertaining guide to self-discovery. The authors tell it like it is and provide relatable and often humorous examples.

As I read through the different personality types searching for myself, it seemed at first that all of them held pieces of me. But then I came to the chapter that powerfully resonated with me.

How did it make me feel? 
Relieved. Understood and accepted. Liberated. Empowered. 

It explained why I see the world the way I do, why I do what I do, that I am not alone, and provided manageable tips to save me from my self-defeating self and move toward my wiser more compassionate self.

What I like best about this typing system is that it removes judgement from the equation and focuses on the motivation behind the behavior. But it doesn't stop there. Accountability is addressed, too. "...once you know your Enneagram number it takes away any excuse you might have for not changing."

When we learn to recognize behaviors and understand the root of them, doors will open to healthier communication and relationships. This book leads you to the glorious, attainable path of becoming your best self.

 

About the Authors

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery
Source: theroadbacktoyou.com

Ian Morgan Cron

Ian Morgan Cron is a bestselling author, Enneagram teacher, nationally recognized speaker, psychotherapist, and Episcopal priest. His books include the novel Chasing Francis and spiritual memoir Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me. Ian draws on an array of disciplines—from psychology to the arts, Christian spirituality to theology—to help people enter more deeply into conversation with God and the mystery of their own lives. He and his wife, Anne, live in Nashville, Tennessee.

Source: Goodreads

Suzanne Stabile

Suzanne Stabile is a highly sought after speaker and teacher, known for her engaging laugh, personal vulnerability and creative approach to Enneagram instruction. Suzanne received her B.S. in Social Sciences from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas where she also completed additional graduate work in the Schools of Sociology and Theology. She has served as a high school professor, the first women’s basketball coach at SMU after Title IX, and as the founding Director of Shared Housing, a social service agency in Dallas.
When she is not on the road teaching and lecturing, Suzanne is at home in Dallas, Texas with her husband Rev. Joseph Stabile, a United Methodist pastor with whom she co-founded Life in the Trinity Ministry and the Micah Center. She is the mother of four children and grandmother of six.

Source: nacr.org

Book Trailer, Podcasts, & Other Cool Stuff

If there's anything that makes learning about ourselves fun, it's having a sense of humor and Ian Morgan Cron definitely has one! His wit and humility makes delving into self-awareness an entertaining and enlightening experience. Here is a great article that includes a short except from the book - just to give you a taste of what you're in for when you read this book.  🙂

It's Called the 'Enneagram': How This Thing Could Save Your Life

Neuroscientists have determined the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is associated with decision making and cost-benefit assessments. If MRI brain scans had been performed on my friends and me one summer’s night when we were fifteen, they would have revealed a dark spot indicating a complete absence of activity in this region of our brains.

That particular Saturday night a group of us got the brilliant idea that streaking a golf banquet at an exclusive country club in my hometown of Greenwich, Connecticut, was a wise decision.

Other than certain arrest for indecent exposure, there was only one problem: Greenwich isn’t a big town, and it was likely someone we knew would recognize us.

And that would have been the end of it if it weren’t for my mother.“What did you and the guys do last night?” she asked the next morning. “Not much. We hung out at Mike’s, then crashed around midnight.”

I instantly had an uneasy feeling. “What did you and Dad do last night?” I said brightly. “We went as guests of the Dorfmanns to their club’s golf banquet,” she replied in a tone that was one part sugar, one part steel.... [Read More]

Self-awareness is an obligation I have in the world to truly love other people." - Ian Morgan Cron

 
Podcasts

For some interesting background into the history of the Enneagram and how the authors learned about it and ultimately began teaching it, take a listen to these two podcast episodes with guest host Luke Norsworthy, host of the popular podcast Newsworthy with Norsworthy.  The authors also host their own podcast on iTunes entitled Looking at Life Through the Lens of the Enneagram.

Discover Your Enneagram Type

Source: exploreyourtype.com

"What most of these tests conveniently forget to mention is that the accuracy of personality tests depends heavily on the test takers’ level of self-awareness, and the degree to which they're willing to answer truthfully. But wait— didn’t we take the test in part because we know we need to be more self-aware and honest with ourselves?
 
You get my point.
 
All to say, Enneagram tests can be helpful first steps so long as you don’t rely on them to always be 100% accurate. You alone are the only person who can determine your Enneagram number, and that involves more than taking a test. Take advantage of our resources to help you on your journey toward becoming your best, and truest self. See you on the road!"

Take the Assessment

I thought this assessment was fun and I was especially pleased that the results matched what I had ascertained from reading the book - I'm a five! I asked many of my friends to take it as well.  I will tell you though, in order to take the quiz you have to submit your email address. If this doesn't bother you, great! Have some fun with it. You can always unsubscribe. But if you do decide to unsubscribe, be sure you're thorough about it; there are several layers to the thing that require unsubscribing from.

Discussion Questions

 

1.  Was your "type" quickly evident to you as you read the book?

2.  What is your Enneagram number?

3.  Did you try "typing" others as you read the book?

4.  Did anything surprise you?

5.  What insight or introspection did this book bring about for you?

6.  How did reading this book make you feel?

7.  Did the content prompt any great discussion with your friends any family?

8.  Did you recommend this book to anyone? Who was the first person?

 

Happy Reading!

The Winds of War

The Winds of War

The Henry Family Series by Herman Wouk

2 Volumes

Source: Goodreads

A Masterpiece of Historical Fiction-The Great Novel of America's "Greatest Generation" Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II, which begins with The Winds of War and continues in War and Remembrance, stands as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers. Like no other books about the war, Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events-and all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II-as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom.

The Winds of War

Volume #1

 
Pages: 896 / Audio: 45 hrs and 53 mins
Published February 5th 2002 by Back Bay Books (first published November 15th 1971)
 
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War and Remembrance

Volume #2

 
Pages: 1056 / Audio:56 hrs and 8 mins
Published February 5th 2002 by Back Bay Books (first published 1978)
 

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"The purpose of the author in both War and Remembrance and The Winds of War was to bring the past to vivid life through the experiences, perceptions, and passions of a few people caught in the war's maelstrom. This purpose was best served by scrupulous accuracy of locale and historical fact, as the backdrop against which the invented drama would play."  ~ Herman Wouk in Notes by the Author

Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

Fantastic! This is How History Should be Told

If you're looking for an impactful, compelling, unputdownable, entertaining family drama packed with historical facts leading up to and into WWII, this is the series! I learned more about WWII from this book than from any other. Most history books tend to be a snooze for me, regardless of how badly I want to learn the information. But not this one. Herman Wouk is a masterful storyteller. His telling of history works because he humanizes it. You experience it through his characters.

Members of the fictional Henry family are completely believable characters; some lovable, some admirable, some total morons, and all with flaws we can relate to. As the members of this military family are spread across the world, we learn about the struggles of those affected by the war be it due to location, heritage, or personal convictions. We learn about the political players and strategic political plays. We learn historical details from different characters with different perspectives. I especially enjoyed that some chapters were devoted to Victor Henry's translation of "World Empire Lost", a history book written by a fictional German General, Armin von Roon, and to which Victor Henry offers his own insights.

My review hardly does justice to this series. But believe me, you don't want to pass this one by.

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About the Author

Herman Wouk
Source: geni.com

Herman Wouk

Born in 1915 into a Jewish family that immigrated from Russia to New York City, Herman Wouk is the author of such classics as The Caine Mutiny (1951), Marjorie Morningstar (1955), Youngblood Hawke (1961), Don't Stop the Carnival (1965), The Winds of War (1971), War and Remembrance (1978), and Inside, Outside (1985). His later works include The Hope (1993), The Glory (1994), and Hole in Texas (2004).

Among Mr. Wouk's laurels are the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Caine Mutiny; the cover of Timemagazine for Marjorie Morningstar, the bestselling novel of that year; and the cultural phenomenon of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, which he wrote over a thirteen-year period and which went on to become two of the most popular novels and TV miniseries events of the 1970s and 1980s. In 1998, he received the Guardian of Zion Award for support of Israel.

In 2008, Mr. Wouk was honored with the first Library of Congress Fiction Award, to be known as the Herman Wouk Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Writing of Fiction. His more recent works include The Lawgiver (2012). His autobiography, Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author, came out on his 100th birthday (January 2016). He lives in Palm Springs, California.

Source: bookbrowse.com

5 Reasons This is the Best History Book Ever. Period.

I have always wanted to understand the causes and events of WWII better, but most history books are painfully dry and quite honestly, far over my head. Not so with this book! The history is delivered in such a way that I was able to connect with it. I not only learned a ton but enjoyed it, too!
 

1. It clearly explains some of the causes behind WWII.

Of course, there are many factors but here's a big one.

 

The Treaty of Versailles

Quote from the book - Chapter 21 pg 16

The Versailles Treaty, said the Fuhrer, had simply been the latest of these foreign efforts to mutilate the German heartland. Because it had been historically unsound and unjust it was now dead."

The Treaty of Versailles (French: Trait de Versailles) was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919 in Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Of the many provisions in the treaty, one of the most important and controversial required "Germany [to] accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage" during the war ....and forced Germany to disarm, make substantial territorial concessions, and pay reparations to certain countries that had formed the Entente powers.

The result of these competing and sometimes conflicting goals among the victors was a compromise that left no one content...

Source: Wikipedia


Video Source: Produced by the Department of Defense [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

An American silent film. "Shows views of the Palace of Versailles and of the gardens; the arrival of Fr. For. Min. Pichon, Premier Clemenceau, Robert Lansing, Gen. Bliss, Herbert Hoover, Fr. Gen. Mounory, Gens. Allen and Pershing, Col. House, Arthur Balfour, Ignace Paderewski, Lloyd George, Baron Sonnino, Amb. Hugh Wallace, and Pres. and Mrs. Wilson; Clemenceau addressing the gathering; the U.S. and British delegates signing the treaty; and Lloyd George, Premier Orlando, Clemenceau, and Pres. Wilson posing and being greeted by huge crowds."

 

 
2. It explains how Hitler was able to gain the position of power that he did.

Herman Wouk explains this rather brilliantly, through the memoirs of his fictional character, German Brigadier General Armin Von Roon, who directly served the Fuehrer, attempted to assassinate him, and was eventually sentenced to 21 years in prison for war crimes.

How Hitler Usurped Control of the Army

Quote from the book - Chapter 17 pg 6

In 1938, he and his Nazi minions did not scruple to frame grave charges of sexual misconduct against revered generals of the top command. ... the Nazis managed to topple the professional leadership in a bold underhanded coup based on such accusations. Hitler with sudden stunning arrogance then assumed supreme command himself! And he exacted an oath of loyalty to himself throughout the Wehrmacht, from foot soldier to general. In this act he showed his knowledge of the German character, which is the soul of honor, and takes such an oath as binding to the death."

Our staff, muted and disorganized by the disgusting revelations and pseudo-revelations about our honored leaders, offered no coherent resistance to this usurpation. So...the German army...came to an end; and the drive wheel of the world's strongest military machine was grasped by an Austrian street agitator."

 

 

3. It explains the roots of Hitler's anti-Semitism; his hostility toward Jews. Besides his being nuts.

A conversation between Byron Henry (youngest son of Victor & Rhoda Henry) and Leslie Slote (with the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland) cleared this up for me.

In an attempt to better understand the German people, Byron reads Adolf Hitler's 1925 autobiography, Mein Kampf (My Struggle) that describes Hitler's anti-Semitic views and political ideology. I was completely impressed (and envious) of Byron's ability to sum things up so succinctly.

Hitler's Anti-Semitism and Political Ideology - Mein Kampf

Quote from the book - Chapter 14 pg 15

Well, that's why I've been reading this book, to try to figure them out. It's their leader's book. Now, it turn out this is the writing of an absolute nut. The Jews are secretly running the world, he says. That's his whole message. They're the capitalist, but they're the Bolsheviks too, and they're conspiring to destroy the German people, who by right should really be running the world. Well, he's going to become dictator, see, wipe out the Jews, crush France, and carve off half of Bolshevist Russia for more German living space. Have I got it right so far?"

A bit simplified, but yes -- pretty much."

 

 

4. The author has stated that telling the history of the holocaust through the frame of WWII was his main task in life. I think he nailed it!

The theme and aim of The Winds of War can be found in a few words by the French Jew, Julien Benda:

Peace, if it ever exists, will not be based on the fear of war, but on the love of peace. It will not be the abstaining from an act, but the coming of a state of mind. In this sense the most insignificant writer can serve peace, where the most powerful tribunals can do nothing."

 

 

5 . Lastly, the family drama portion of this story. Oh yeah 🙂 It includes the good, the bad, the ugly, the naughty, the honorable, the adventurous, the vain, the foolish, the busy-bodies, the morons - and I loved every moment of it.

With that in mind, I just have to share my impression of Natalie Jastrow's behavior in Volume 1. Thankfully, my opinion of her improved in Volume 2.

 

Intriguing Interviews & Videos

Herman Wouk Says He's a 'Happy Gent' At 100

NPR Author Interview
January 14, 2016 |by Lynn Neary
Heard on All Things Considered | Listen 4:52

Herman Wouk 100 Winds of War

Herman Wouk has written a lot of well loved novels like The Winds of WarWar and Remembrance and The Caine Mutiny, which won him a Pulitzer Prize. But his latest achievement is a rare one Wouk reached a milestone that few of us will ever see: the age of 100.

Many years ago, a well known biographer approached Wouk about writing his life story. He gave her access to his journals, but after reading them, "she said, your literary career would be wonderful material and I'd love to do it," Wouk recalls. "But there is a spiritual journey running through your volumes which only you can do." ... Read more or listen below

 

Herman Wouk on CBS

by Nate Bloom | 

CBS Sunday Morning aired on July 2 an interview with author Herman Wouk, 102. Wouk's last book, the memoir Sailor and the Fiddler, was published in 2015. Now he says he will write no more new books, but he does write in his diary every day.

Frankly, the CBS interview seemed like the last word from Wouk. Just two years ago, in photos that accompanied a Sailor and Fiddler review in the New York Times, he was wearing nice, casual clothes (including a Panama-type hat) and was sporting a long, well-groomed white beard. However, in the CBS interview, he is in a bathrobe, in a wheelchair and has an oxygen tube up his nose. His beard is a bit ragged and he wears a simple yarmulke on his bald head.


Still, his mind is still sharp. He quickly discusses his most famous work, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Caine Mutiny (based on his World War II naval service). And he talks about the aim of his central life work: to fix down in literature what happened in World War II and the Holocaust. Besides The Caine Mutiny (1951), Wouk also wrote Winds of War (1971) and War and Remembrance (1978). The latter graphically depicted the Holocaust and was the foundation for a 1988-89 TV miniseries of the same name.

TV Miniseries Promo Trailers

Discussion Questions

1. Do you feel you came to know the characters personally? Some characters more than others?

2. Has reading this book helped you feel closer to any of your friends or family members or helped you gain a better sense of what they may have lived through?

3. Do you believe the author gives an accurate account of history and human nature?

4. What has the author stated was the "main task of his life"? Do you feel he accomplished it?

5. Have you watched the television mini-series based on this book series?  Does it follow the general rule that the book is better than the movie or is it an exception?

6. What were the most enlightening things you learned from reading this series?

7. Who were your favorite characters?

8. Which characters do you feel experienced the most growth and development? Give examples.

9. What do you think is the overall take away from this series?

10. Were you in Natalie's shoes throughout this story, would you have made similar decisions in her circumstances?

 

 

 

Happy Reading!

The Dovekeepers

The Dovekeepers
Source: Goodreads

The Dovekeepers

Alice Hoffman

Club Selection for June 2017

Pages: 504 / Audio: 19 Hrs 01 mins
Published October 4th 2011 by Simon and Schuster
 
Blends mythology, magic, archaeology and women. Traces four women, their path to the Masada massacre. In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived.

Four bold, resourceful, and sensuous women come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her twin grandsons, rendered mute by their own witness. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman, who finds passion with another soldier. Shirah is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power.

The four lives intersect in the desperate days of the siege, as the Romans draw near. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets — about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love.

The book was recently, 2015, made into a multi-episode TV movie starring Maia Laura Attard, Rachel Brosnahan, Cote de Pablo and Kathryn Prescott.

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Carol's Rating: ★★

 

This was one of our reading club selections and to be honest, I was reluctant to read it. My experience with a different Alice Hoffman novel, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, led me to believe this author focuses on the dark and macabre, which isn't my cup of tea. However, as I looked into the plot and topic for The Dovekeepers, I became intrigued with the events of the last Jewish revolt and the siege of Masada. I decided to give this author another try by listening to the audiobook.

From the beginning, I had trouble getting into the story. I was confused by the sudden changes to different female characters telling their story and I couldn't grasp what they had to do with each other. The story felt like drudgery and the characters seldom experienced joy of any sort in their lives. On the rare occasion that they did, such as the birth of a child, joy was fleeting and the focus quickly returned to the burden of being alive. The last quarter of the book picked up steam and had some clever twists, which was nice, as I became more interested in the story - just in time for it to end.

The concept had so much potential. I was eager to learn the history of the siege of Masada but I just couldn't connect with the characters, the story didn't hold my attention, and I really didn't learn anything more than already I knew going in - that only a handful of the Jews survived. The story left me depressed. Were I a baby born into this story my crying would not be for milk but a plea to please drown me at birth rather than have me endure the utter hopelessness for females portrayed within this story. Too harsh? Apologies.

In all fairness, I may have enjoyed the story more had I read it rather than listened to the audiobook. With the hardcopy I would have understood the format - that it was divided into four parts told by separate characters. Still, this simply was not the book for me.

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About the Author

Alice Hoffman

Born in the 1950s to college-educated parents who divorced when she was young, Alice Hoffman was raised by her single, working mother in a blue-collar Long Island neighborhood. Although she felt like an outsider growing up, she discovered that these feelings of not quite belonging positioned her uniquely to observe people from a distance. Later, she would hone this viewpoint in stories that captured the full intensity of the human experience.

After high school, Hoffman went to work for the Doubleday factory in Garden City. But the eight-hour, supervised workday was not for her, and she quit before lunch on her first day! She enrolled in night school at Adelphi University, graduating in 1971 with a degree in English. She went on to attend Stanford University's Creative Writing Center on a Mirrellees Fellowship. Her mentor at Stanford, the great teacher and novelist Albert Guerard, helped to get her first story published in the literary magazine Fiction. The story attracted the attention of legendary editor Ted Solotaroff, who asked if she had written any longer fiction. She hadn't — but immediately set to work. In 1977, when Hoffman was 25, her first novel, Property Of, was published to great fanfare.

Since that remarkable debut, Hoffman has carved herself a unique niche in American fiction. A favorite with teens as well as adults, she renders life's deepest mysteries immediately understandable in stories suffused with magic realism and a dreamy, fairy-tale sensibility. (In a 1994 article for the New York Times, interviewer Ruth Reichl described the magic in Hoffman's books as a casual, regular occurrence — "...so offhand that even the most skeptical reader can accept it.") Her characters' lives are transformed by uncontrollable forces — love and loss, sorrow and bliss, danger and death.

Hoffman's 1997 novel Here on Earth was selected as an Oprah Book Club pick, but even without Winfrey's powerful endorsement, her books have become huge bestsellers — including three that have been adapted for the movies: Practical Magic (1995), The River King (2000), and her YA fable Aquamarine (2001).

Hoffman is a breast cancer survivor; and like many people who consider themselves blessed with luck, she believes strongly in giving back. For this reason, she donated her advance from her 1999 short story collection Local Girls to help create the Hoffman Breast Center at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA

Source: litlovers.com

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

 

A Tale Of Forgiveness From The Tragedy Of Masada

NPR Author Interview
November 5, 2011  3:29 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered | Listen 7:43

"When I was there, I felt so moved and so connected," author Alice Hoffman tells Laura Sullivan, guest host of weekends on All Things Considered.

Hoffman was so struck by the beauty of Masada's rocky terrain, she says, that she chose to make it the backdrop in her new novel, The Dovekeepers.

 
The Dovekeepers CBS (Trailer Official)  TV Mini-Series 2015

Based in Alice Hoffman's historical novel about the Siege of Masada, the miniseries focuses on four extraordinary women whose lives intersect in a fight for survival at the siege of Masada.

This TV miniseries stars my favorite actress from NCIS - Cote DePablo! I haven't watched the minisereis yet, and there are loads of mixed reviews. What's you take on it? Did you see it? Did you enjoy it more than or less than the book?

 

The Siege of Masada (73 AD) - Last Stand of the Great Jewish Revolt

Ok. Soooo, while the book is advertised to be about the Siege of Masada, it really didn't provide much regarding the actual siege itself or events leading up to it. This left me disappointed and set me on the prowl for more details. My hunt was successful.Thank you, Invicta for your fabulous documentaries! Here is a terrific fact-filled video that satisfied much of my curiosity about this historic event.
 
Published on Oct 2, 2016

In 73 AD Masada, the impregnable mountain fortress in the Judaean desert, stood as the final holdout against the onslaught of Rome’s legions. The siege that followed would mark the final, bloody suppression of the Jewish revolt with an encounter whose awe inspiring remains can still be seen in the desert today!

 


 

Book Club Mojo

Dawn is certainly the hostess with the mostest! She prepared a beautiful, tasty meal of turkey lettuce wraps (recipe coming soon) with plenty of fresh fruit, veggies, cheesecake and of course, wine!

Summer has been so full only one of us was able to finish the book by the time we met. So we discussed it as much as possible without spoilers.

It was fun to discover how different each of our experiences were with the book. Some of our members loved the women characters and the language used to convey their stories. Others were not as fond of the book but we all felt the characters were interesting. Which characters were your favorites?

 

 

 

Discussion Questions

Source: Alicehoffman.com

  1. The novel is split into four principal parts, with each of the main characters—Yael, Revka, Aziza, and Shirah—narrating one section. Which of these women did you find most appealing, and why? Were you surprised to find you had compassion for characters who were morally complex and often made choices that later caused guilt and sorrow?
  2. Yael describes her relationship with Ben Simon as “a destroying sort of love” (p. 46). What does she mean by that? Are there other relationships in the novel that could be described in the same way?
  3. From Yael’s setting free the Romans’ lion, to Shirah’s childhood vision of a fish in the Nile, to the women’s care of the doves, animals are an important component in the book. What did animals mean to the people of this ancient Jewish society, and what specific symbolic forms do they take in the novel?
  4. The figure of Wynn, “The Man from the North,” who comes to serve the women in the dovecote, is based upon archeological finds at Masada. In what ways does Wynn come to bring the women together? Compare Yael’s relationship with Ben Simon to her relationship with Wynn.
  5. How do spells function in the novel? What is the relationship between Shirah’s Jewish beliefs and her use of magic? If you have read other Alice Hoffman novels that include mystical elements—such as Practical Magic or Fortune’s Daughter—how do they compare to The Dovekeepers and its use of magic?
  6. How do Shirah’s daughters react to the intimate friendship that develops between Yael and their mother? Is Shirah a good mother or not?
  7. What do you make of Channa’s attempt, essentially, to kidnap Yael’s baby Arieh? Is Channa different from the other major female characters in the book? Do you find your opinion of her changes?
  8. “You don’t fight for peace, sister,” Nahara tells Aziza. “You embrace it.” (p. 343). What do you think of Nahara’s decision to join the Essenes? Is she naïve or a true believer? Do you see similarities between the Essenes and the early Christian movement?
  9. Why is the Roman Legion preparing to attack the Jews at Masada? From historical references in the book, as well as your own knowledge of history, explain the roots of the conflict. Do you feel the lives of the women in The Dovekeepers echo the lives of women in the modern world who are experiencing war and political unrest?
  10. Revka’s son-in-law, the warrior known as “The Man from the Valley,” asks Aziza, “Did you not think this is what the world was like?” (p. 378). Describe the circumstances of this question. After all her training for battle, why is Aziza unprepared for the experience of attacking a village filled with women and children?
  11. In the final pages of the book, Yael sums up those who perished at Masada, remembering them as “men who refused to surrender and women who were ruled by devotion” (p. 478). Do you agree with her description?
  12. For the women at Masada, dreams contain important messages, ghosts meddle in the lives of the living, and spells can remedy a number of human ills. How does their culture’s acceptance of the mystical compare to our culture’s view on such things today? Do mystical and religious elements overlap? How do they compare to your own views?
  13. In the note on page 507, Hoffman explains that the historical foundation of her story comes from Josephus, the first-century historian who has written the only account of the massacre. How does knowing that the novel is based on history and archeological findings affect your reading of the book?
  14. Women’s knowledge in The Dovekeepers is handed down from mother to daughter, sister to sister, friend to friend. Why do you think it is so difficult to know what the lives of ancient women were really like? Do you see any connection with the way in which your own family stories are handed down through the generations?

 

Source: Bookbundlz.com

  1. Were there any particular quotes that stood out to you? Why?
  2. Are there any books that you would compare this one to? How does this book hold up to them?
  3. Have you read any other books by this author?
  4. Were they comparable to your level of enjoyment to this one?
  5. What did you learn from, take away from, or get out of this book?
  6. Did your opinion of the book change as you read it? How?
  7. Would you recommend this book to a friend?

 

Happy Reading!

Books of the Month – May 2017

Books of the Month – May 2017

Books of the Month - April 2017

Books of the Month - May 2017


Well, if this month is any indication of the summer to come, it's going to be a busy one!

This month I only completed one book, which was a club pick entitled Get Well Soon: Histories Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them. It was a change of pace to read a non-fiction selection and one that was listed as "humorous" to boot.  See my review below and be sure to click on the book to discover more fascinating bookish booty or you can access it via our The Book & Beyond section. Have you read Get Well Soon? What was your "favorite" plague? Leave a reply at the bottom of the post - we're eager to get your take on it!

I'm still working my way through War and Remembrance (The Herman Family Volume 2), which I'll be finishing soon and will review in a separate upcoming post.

Note: Some of the books I read are featured in our The Book & Beyond section.  That's where you'll find interesting things about and even beyond the book. I'd love to feature every book I read in The Book & Beyond section but truth be told, it will only happen for those books that really stir my curiosity.  🙂

Another Note:  My adorable owl calendar is by Debbie Mumm. I absolutely love it and decided early on that it would be the backdrop to each "Books of the Month" post for 2017. 

 

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Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them

by Jennifer Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a bit to get into this book but once I did, I liked it. It's one of those books that you find yourself pondering long after you've finished reading it. I was aware of many of the diseases discussed in the book but was surprised to discover that I had no idea how gruesome they really were. This is important stuff to know. It's easy to pass them off as though they could never happen again but that is simply a false sense of security. It's critical that we act responsibly in order educate and protect ourselves and our communities from the spreading of disease.

It was interesting that things that are common sense today, such as cleanliness, was the culprit of many of the epidemics in early history. (Really? You think it's a good idea to throw your sewage into your basement?) I also find it fascinating that when fear kicks in, people will grasp for anything to help, even nonsensical and usually quite disgusting practices in hopes to cure what ails them - this even happens in the world today.

I wasn't sure what to expect regarding the humor but soon discovered the sarcasm to be pretty entertaining at times. Her references to the X-men, Mumps Matilda, Meningitis Mathew, etc had me giggling. In the end, I learned a lot from this book and I agree with the author's overall message that sick people are not villains to be shunned and isolated. They are simply unwell. We need to be smart and more compassionate. We need to separate the disease from the diseased and "give a damn about our fellow man".

Kelly hosted our meeting and led and great discussion as well as serving a scrumptious meal. Click HERE to get the inside scoop!

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Hungry for more? Check out  The Book and Beyond and The Books We've Read. 

Follow me on Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, and now on Facebook!

 

Happy Reading!

Get Well Soon

Get Well Soon

Get Well Soon

Jennifer Wright

Club Selection for May 2017

Pages: 336 / Audio: 7 Hrs 43 mins
Published February 7th 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
 
A witty, irreverent tour of history's worst plagues—from the Antonine Plague, to leprosy, to polio—and a celebration of the heroes who fought them.
In 1518, in a small town in Alsace, Frau Troffea began dancing and didn’t stop. She danced until she was carried away six days later, and soon thirty-four more villagers joined her. Then more. In a month more than 400 people had been stricken by the mysterious dancing plague. In late-seventeenth-century England an eccentric gentleman founded the No Nose Club in his gracious townhome—a social club for those who had lost their noses, and other body parts, to the plague of syphilis for which there was then no cure. And in turn-of-the-century New York, an Irish cook caused two lethal outbreaks of typhoid fever, a case that transformed her into the notorious Typhoid Mary.

Throughout time, humans have been terrified and fascinated by the diseases history and circumstance have dropped on them. Some of their responses to those outbreaks are almost too strange to believe in hindsight. Get Well Soon delivers the gruesome, morbid details of some of the worst plagues we’ve suffered as a species, as well as stories of the heroic figures who selflessly fought to ease the suffering of their fellow man. With her signature mix of in-depth research and storytelling, and not a little dark humor, Jennifer Wright explores history’s most gripping and deadly outbreaks, and ultimately looks at the surprising ways they’ve shaped history and humanity for almost as long as anyone can remember.

 

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Carol's Rating: ★★★

"The purpose of this book is not to scare you. Instead, like all good books, it is intended to distract you from the screaming baby one aisle over from the airplane where you are currently trapped for the next five hours."

It took me a bit to get into this book but once I did, I liked it. It's one of those books that you find yourself pondering long after you've finished reading it. I was aware of many of the diseases discussed in the book but was surprised to discover that I had no idea how gruesome they really were. This is important stuff to know. It's easy to pass them off as though they could never happen again but that is simply a false sense of security. It's critical that we act responsibly in order educate and protect ourselves and our communities from the spreading of disease.

It was interesting to me that things that are common sense today, such as cleanliness, was the culprit of many of the epidemics in early history. (Really? You think it's a good idea to throw your sewage into your basement?) I also find it fascinating that when fear kicks in, people will grasp for anything to help, even nonsensical and usually quite disgusting practices in hopes to cure what ails them - this even happens in the world today.

I wasn't sure what to expect regarding the humor but soon discovered the sarcasm to be pretty entertaining at times. Her references to the X-men, Mumps Matilda, Meningitis Mathew, etc had me giggling. In the end, I learned a lot from this book and I agree with the author's overall message that sick people are not villains to be shunned and isolated. They are simply unwell. We need to be smart and more compassionate. We need to separate the disease from the diseased and "give a damn about our fellow man".

 

..........................................................................................................................................

About the Author

 

Jennifer Wright Author

Jennifer Wright

Jennifer Wright is a columnist for the New York Observer and the New York Post, covering sex and dating. She was one of the founding editors of TheGloss.com, and her writing regularly appears in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Maxim. Her breakup cure is gin, reruns of 30 Rock, and historical biographies. She lives and loves in New York City.

Source: us.macmillan.com

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

 

Jennifer Wright author "Get Well Soon" on "BookTalk" Radio

Published on Feb 9, 2017

Doug Miles talks with Jennifer Wright ("It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History") about her new book "Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them" on "Talk Across America" (www.dougmilesmedia.com)

 

 

There are many heroes and a few villains mentioned in this book. Here's a just a handful of the most memorable ones.

 

Father Damien with lepers
Father Damien with lepers quarantined on the island of Molokai. "Father Damien is reminder that you don't have to be genius or a brilliant scientist or a doctor to help in the war against disease; you just have to be someone who gives a damn about your fellow man."

 

Typhoid Mary Mallon
Asymptomatic Typhoid carrier Mary Mallon, dubbed Typhoid Mary in 1909 by reporters, was forcibly taken by the government to a small island in New York's East River, where she remained isolated and confined for most of her life.

 

Walter Freemand II

 

Walter Freeman II, a consummate showman, traveled the country in his Lobotomobile and performed lobotomies to treat everything from "excessive eating" to drug addiction to alcoholism. And to make it even more unbelievable, people were lined up to get one!

...lobotomies, the scariest procedure that you never want performed. This is a plague induced by human stupidity, not disease..."

 

 

 

images of Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin admitting vaccines to children.
Jonas Salk (left) and Albert Sabin (right) administering their polio vaccines to children. Salk developed the killed virus vaccine while Sabin developed the live one. The two became bitter rivals, with Sabin referring to Salk as merely "a kitchen chemist." Fortunately for all of us, both vaccines worked.

 

 

Here’s what to do when the next big plague hits humanity

New York Post |February 11, 2017

Runny nose? Sore throat? Wheezing? Painful joints? No — you are not going to die. It is just a winter flu. Probably. Bolstered by antibiotics, brandishing an inhaler and slurping chicken soup, you will likely live to fight another day.

Not so in the past. Then a sore throat could mean death by dinner time. Nearly every generation has had to deal with a widespread infectious disease that swiftly strikes down otherwise healthy individuals. Plagues kill a whole bunch of people. And they can take society and the economy down with them.

The notion that in this interconnected world we’re not likely to experience a massive epidemic is too good to be true. Maybe not this year. Maybe not in your lifetime. But it’s not a question of whether humanity will face another plague. We will. And then we will be faced with how to handle that plague when it comes. Will we respond with science, stoicism and compassion? Or will we just burn our neighbors as witches?

The answers to these questions likely come from the past. Here are some of the most gruesome plagues from my new book “Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them” and what we can learn from them.

[Read full article]

 

 

How Would Donald Trump Handle A Plague Outbreak?
‘Get Well Soon’ author Jennifer Wright has the answer
NYLON | February 07, 2017
 
There’s a common enough sentiment right now that we’re confronting apocalyptic times. It’s hard not to think that. After all, here in America, we currently have a commander in chief who is basically taunting other world leaders with threats of invasion, to say nothing of his ongoing insistence that climate change is a myth and that vaccines are something about which we should all be skeptical. What a time to be alive, right?

Well, if you’re looking for something to read that will simultaneously stoke and soothe your fears, look no further than Jennifer Wright’s excellent new book, Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them. In it, Wright recounts civilization’s many epic biological disasters. From leprosy to the bubonic plague and the Spanish flu to cholera, Get Well Soon acquaints readers with some of the most deadly periods in human history. And while this might sound like it makes for some pretty depressing reading, Wright manages to make the most dire of topics not only incredibly compelling but also, often, hilariously funny. ....

...We recently spoke with Wright about her new book, why it’s important to laugh during even the most tragic times, and how she thinks our new president would handle an outbreak of the plague. Read on! And try not to get too scared.

[Read full article]

 

Book Club Mojo

Kelly hosted the meeting and provided a fun, relaxing evening full of great discussion, great food, and great drink! We had a thought provoking discussion about the things that fascinated and surprised us most about the plagues. The epilogue topic of AIDS was also discussed and really had us thinking about the possibilities of future plagues, how our leaders would manage (or deny) the situation, and what we believed would be the best course(s) of action. 

 

image of the gang
Novel Gobblers (left to right) Donna, Dawn, Carol Ann, and Kelly. We sure enjoy these opportunities to catch up with each other and chat about books (and pretty much everything else!). We all come away from the meetings having gained new perspectives and sometimes a few extra pounds!

 

Just look at all this deliciousness! Treat your friends and family to Kelly's Taco Salad, Bacon-Wrapped Pepper Poppers, and Keto Cheesecake Tarts. They'll love you for it. Pass the guacamole, please!

 

 

Discussion Questions

Source: Kelly

1.  What was your initial recation to the book? Did it hook you immediately, or did it take some time to get into it?

2.  How do you think would Donald Trump handle a plague outbreak?

3.  What did you think about the humorous aspect of the book?

4.  What surprised you the most when you were reading this book?

5.  Which of the plagues did you find most intriguing and why?

 

List of Chapters

Antonine Plague                         Cholera

Bubonic Plague                           Leprosy

Dancing Plague                           Typhoid

Smallpox                                       Spanish Flu

Syphilis                                         Encephalitis Lethargica

Tuberculosis                                Lobotomies  

Polio


Source: Nylon article (above) entitled "How Would Donald Trump Handle a Plague Outbreak?" by Kristin Iversen

 

1.  This book is centered around some of the deadliest, most devastating plagues to wreak havoc upon civilization. Why would Jennifer Wright choose a topic so dark?

2.  How did the author manage to keep things witty when covering such dark periods in history?

3.  Which were the author's favorite plagues? Why?

4.  In times of epic disaster, what separates the heroes from everybody else?

5.  Which of the historic figures mentioned in this book do you most admire?

6. Who are history’s straight-up villains when it comes to dealing with plagues?

7.  How do you think Trump would be equipped to handle a disaster of that magnitude?

Happy Reading!

Keto Cheesecake Tarts

Keto Cheesecake Tarts
Print Recipe
Get your cheesecake on the go with this quick and easy recipe for cheesecake tarts!
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Keto Cheesecake Tarts
Print Recipe
Get your cheesecake on the go with this quick and easy recipe for cheesecake tarts!
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Prep Time
30 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and start off by combining your melted butter with almond flour and mixing until it’s crumbly, but combined.
  2. Line a muffin tin with paper or silicone cupcake liners and press about 1-2 teaspoons of your almond flour crust mixture into each liner.
  3. Let these crusts bake in the oven for about 5-8 minutes or until you see they’ve turned golden brown.
  4. To make the cheesecake filling, beat 12 oz. of cream cheese with an electric hand mixer until soft and then add in 1 egg. Mix to combine.
  5. Then add ¼ cup of erythritol, or your favorite low carb sweetener, and mix.
  6. Next, add 1 tsp of vanilla extract, 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice and ¼ tsp of salt and mix one last time.
  7. Spoon your cheesecake filling onto the baked crusts and bake for about 20 minutes. The cheesecakes will have risen and be set, yet slightly jiggly on top.
  8. Let them cool on the counter for about 10 minutes and then top each one with a teaspoon of sugar-free jam. We used strawberry, but any flavor will work!
  9. Then add some fresh fruit over that. We used 3 blueberries for each mini cheesecake.
  10. Let them chill in the fridge overnight or as long as you can!
Recipe Notes

Each tart is 175 calories - 16 grams of fat - 9 grams of protein - 2.8 grams of net carbs

Recipe Courtesy Kelly via ketokrate.com

Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright

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Bacon-Wrapped Pepper Poppers

Bacon-Wrapped Pepper Poppers
Print Recipe
Delicious jalapeno and sweet peppers and creamy filling all wrapped in crispy bacon. You'll be powerless to stop yourself from popping one right after the other.
Bacon-Wrapped Pepper Poppers
Print Recipe
Delicious jalapeno and sweet peppers and creamy filling all wrapped in crispy bacon. You'll be powerless to stop yourself from popping one right after the other.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds and veins--if using hot peppers, remember to wear gloves.
  3. Fill peppers with cream cheese.
  4. Cut bacon in half lengthwise and wrap each pepper with bacon.
  5. Bake in 350 degrees F oven for 20 minutes or until bacon is at desired crispness.
  6. Serve warm.
Recipe Notes

Recipe Courtesy of Kelly

Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright

 

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Taco Salad

Taco Salad
Print Recipe
Quick, refreshing, low-carb, gluten-free salad.
Taco Salad
Print Recipe
Quick, refreshing, low-carb, gluten-free salad.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Layer meat and toppings over the greens. Serve with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and tortilla chips.
Recipe Notes

Recipe Courtesy of Kelly

Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright

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Books of the Month – April 2017

Books of the Month – April 2017

Books of the Month - April 2017

Books of the Month - April 2017

Books of the Month - April 2017
Here it is June already and I'm only now posting about the books for April. How did that happen??? My usual routine has been turned completely upside down and while I did not read as much as I intended, I did have the good fortune to attend some great author events that I'm super excited to tell you about! Take a look below - have you read any books by these authors or attended live events? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page and tell us about it!

Note: Some of the books I read are featured in our The Book & Beyond section.  That's where you'll find interesting things about and even beyond the book. I'd love to feature every book I read in The Book & Beyond section but it' usually a matter of time and a matter of which books and topics really stir my curiosity.  🙂

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I have wanted to see Garrison Keillor (The Prairie Home Companion, The News from Lake Wobegon, and more) in a live performance for as long as I can remember and was completely bummed when he retired from Prairie Home Companion. Then to my surprise, I discovered he often goes on tour and that he would be performing at a nearby university this year!  I was stoked! I immediately bought tickets and began counting down the days.

Finally the moment arrived. He walked out onto stage in his trademark off-white linen suit with bright a red tie and red high-top sneakers. For nearly 3 hours he completely captivated us with songs, poems, and stories that had us rolling with laughter.  To top it all off, after the performance I had the opportunity to meet him and shake his hand!

This was truly an opportunity of a lifetime for me. I so admire him and have enjoyed his talents for years. I am saddened to think that when he fully retires, it will be the end of a fantastic era; he may very well be the last performer of his kind. I am so thankful I was able to see his performance and meet him. If you have the chance, grab it while you can! You won't be disappointed.

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Stormy CoveStormy Cove by Bernadette Calonego
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I purchased this book after becoming Instagram friends with the author and I so enjoyed it! It reads fast and the story progresses at a nice pace. Bernadette Colonego writes beautifully and her descriptions of the landscape, the town, and the townspeople made me feel like I was actually there. I loved the small town setting where everyone knows each other, no one locks their doors, their lifestyles mirror the harshness and beauty of their environment, they gossip about each other and yet for the most part, support and love each other, too. I enjoyed the bit of romance along with the suspense and mystery of the story where you could never be sure who the bad guy was. I did have trouble keeping the many characters straight even with the help of character list provided at the front of the book. But all in all, it was engaging and unpredictable and would make for a great beach read.

Are you on Instagram? If so, you should definitely start following Bernadette Calonego. She consistently posts the most beautiful photographs of her globe-trotting adventures and research for her books. It's so fun to see the world through her photos.

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Our book club enjoyed reading All the Light You Cannot See in 2015 so having the opportunity to attend Anthony Doerr's live presentation this month was one more opportunity of a lifetime (that's two in one month but who's counting? ME! I'm counting!). Anthony Doerr is a masterful storyteller with an intellectual depth and breadth in science. Combine that with his humor and wit and he can expertly convey his messages in a manner that you'll not only completely understand but that you'll take with you to ponder on long afterwards. He is truly another author that if you have the opportunity to see in person, don't miss him! In the meantime, click here to take a look at all the cool stuff we learned from his book and presentation.

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 Lab Girl  by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl was our club selection for April and I'm telling you, Hope Jahren writes beautifully.  Her story is touching and warm. Our club meeting was fantastic and the our members seemed to really enjoy it. Donna, our hosting member for the month, prepared a fabulous meal with potato dumplings as described in the book along with some delicious salads and Hungarian Stew. So delicious!

 

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Hungry for more? Check out  The Book and Beyond,  The Books We've Read, or See all my reviews on Goodreads .

Happy Reading!

Cucumber Tomato Salad

Cucumber Tomato Salad
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 people 15 min
Servings Prep Time
6 people 15 min
Cucumber Tomato Salad
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
6 people 15 min
Servings Prep Time
6 people 15 min
Ingredients
Salad
Dressing
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Place salad ingredients in large bowl and toss.
  2. Mix dressing ingredients in small bowl; stir to combine well & drizzle over salad.
Recipe Notes

Recipe courtesy of Donna via theblondcook.com

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

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Hungarian Goulash

Hungarian Goulash
Hungarian Goulash
Print Recipe
Hungarian Goulash
Hungarian Goulash
Print Recipe
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a Dutch oven or large heavy pot, sauté onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic, 1/4 tsp. paprika and beef cubes. (For extra flavor, toss beef cubes in 2 tbsp. flour evenly before browning).
  2. Stir well. Add bay leaf. Cover and simmer over very low heat for 1 hour.
  3. Add 1 tsp. paprika and garlic powder. Cover and simmer for another hour or until beef is tender.
  4. 30 minutes before the goulash is ready, stir in caraway seeds and remove the bay leaf. At the same time, add a little more water or beef broth if needed.
Recipe Notes

Variations: May be served over wide egg noodles or boiled potatoes (potatoes cubes can also be added during the last 45 minutes of cooking). Sometimes we stir in sour cream just before serving.

Submitted by: Belle

Recipe courtesy of Donna via Cooks.com

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

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Potato Dumplings

“I have also never eaten anything that tasted as good  as those dumplings, in all my years since.”

Potato Dumplings as described by Hope Jahren in Lab Girl.

Potato Dumplings
Potato Dumplings
Print Recipe
This recipe does not make fluffy dumplings as in what you might be accustomed to for chicken and dumplings. They are a "sturdy" potato dumpling served as a side dish to be accompanied by meat, and usually also served with a sweet sauerkraut with caraway and honey dish as the vegetable.
Potato Dumplings
Potato Dumplings
Print Recipe
This recipe does not make fluffy dumplings as in what you might be accustomed to for chicken and dumplings. They are a "sturdy" potato dumpling served as a side dish to be accompanied by meat, and usually also served with a sweet sauerkraut with caraway and honey dish as the vegetable.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Boil peeled potatoes in a small quantity of water. Drain potatoes thoroughly. Rice potatoes using a potato ricer or a regular potato masher (do not use a food processor or the potatoes will be pasty). Allow potatoes to cool.
  2. On a floured work surface, gradually add flour, working mixture into a dough using your hands.
  3. Shape the potato mixture into a long roll and cut into 10 slices. Drop dumplings into boiling water and boil gently for about 5 minutes or until the dumplings rise to the surface. Remove using a perforated spoon to drain on paper towels.
  4. The dumplings are fully cooked after the boiling process, but traditionally, Czechoslovakians then melt butter in a heavy frying pan, and fry the dumplings until they are lightly browned on all sides.
Recipe Notes

Recipe courtesy of Donna via  Cooks.com

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

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Lab Girl

Lab Girl

Book Cover for Lab Girl by Hope JahrenLab Girl

Hope Jahren

Club Selection for April 2017

Pages: 290 / Audio: 11 Hrs 45 mins
Published April 5th 2016 by Knopf (first published March 1st 2016)
 
Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.
Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

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About the Author

 

Goodreads Author Hope Jahren

HOPE JAHREN

Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist who has been pursuing independent research in paleobiology since 1996, when she completed her PhD at UC Berkeley and began teaching and researching first at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then at Johns Hopkins University. She is the recipient of three Fulbright Awards and is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given in the Earth Sciences. Currently, she is a tenured professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where in 2008 she built the Isotope Geobiology Laboratories, with support from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Institutes of Health.

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

 

 

 
PBS NEWSHOUR
The secret life of plants — and ‘Lab Girl’ author Hope Jahren
May 24, 2016 at 6:20 PM EDT

 

'Lab Girl': An Homage To The Wonders Of All Things Green
April 22, 20165:10 AM ET
Heard on Morning Edition

Listen below or get the transcript here

Book Club Mojo

Donna hosted the meeting for Lab Girl and pulled together a beautiful evening full of great discussion and delicious food themed after the book; Potato Dumplings (a true labor of love) and Hungarian Goulash. She also prepared a fresh Cucumber Tomato Salad and served Pickled Beet Salad from Trader Joes. We were all so busy talking and enjoying the meal that we forgot to take photos of the evening so you'll want to look over Donna's recipes and give them a try to experience Lab Girl more fully!

Discussion Questions

Source: Litlovers

1. How did Jahren's upbringing help determine her dedication to science? Consider her father's background as a science teacher and her mother's love of English literature.

2. One of the literary tropes Jahren uses in her memoir is the comparison of plant life with human life. Talk about the parallels she draws between her subjects and herself. In what ways are we all similar to our rooted, blossoming brethren? Do you see those parallels in your own life?

3. What do you find most remarkable in Jahren's descriptions of the wonders of the natural world? Consider, for instance, the sheer numbers of the plant world. Or how the willow tree clones itself...or the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi...or the airborne signals of trees in their perennial war against insects.

4. Talk about Jahren's struggle with manic depression and how it has affected her life and work.

5. How would you describe Jahren's relationship with her lab partner Bill? What makes both professional and personal relationship work?

6. Describe some of the hardships that make life for any scientist difficult—bucking the status quo, the often endless waiting for results, the grunt work, or the scarcity of funding.

7. Will you ever take a tree—or any plant life—for granted again?

 

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Source: Penguin Random House

1. Lab Girl opens with a detailed description of the laboratory Jahren loved as a child. How does she transform a cinder-block room stocked with scientific equipment into a “castle” (p. 8)?  In what ways do her recollections of her time in the lab and the trips home late at night with her father evoke the mood and magic of fairy tales? 

2. Jahren writes of the emotional distances between members of a Scandinavian family, of “growing up in a culture where you can never ask anyone anything about themselves” (p.11). Are Jahren’s feelings about her family shaped solely by cultural tradition? 

3. Does Jahren’s observation that “being mother and daughter has always felt like an experiment that we just can’t get right” (p. 16) capture something you have experienced, either as a parent or child? Why do you think Jahren dedicated Lab Girl to her mother? 

4. Jahren writes, “I chose science because science gave me what I needed—a home as defined in the most literal sense: a safe place to be” (p. 18).  Discuss and evaluate the combination of elements that determine her choice, including her attachment to her father and the recognition that “being a scientist wasn’t his job, it was his identity,” the acceptance by her science professors of “the very attributes that rendered me a nuisance to all of my previous teachers,” and her simple declaration that the desire to become a scientist “was founded upon a deep instinct and nothing more.”  Compare this initial explanation with the self-portrait she offers in the final chapter (p. 277).
 [eallen1]Per text of book. 

5. In alternating chapters, Jahren forges links between her own life and the plants that have populated it. How does the story of the blue spruce tree (pp. 27–29) set a pattern that is echoed and enhanced throughout the book? What insights do these close examinations of a large variety of plants provide into the needs and the capabilities shared by all living things? Is there a particular topic—for instance, the universal struggle for survival or the interdependence evident in nature—that resonates with you?

6. In recalling her first scientific breakthrough, Jahren writes, “On some deep level, the realization that I could do good science was accompanied by the knowledge that I had formally and terminally missed my chance to become like any of the women that I had ever known” (p. 71).  What are the emotional and practical repercussions of this moment?  Is there a moment in most people’s lives that marks a line between who they are and who they might have been?

7. Jahren describes her struggles with mental illness in a gripping and vivid interlude (pp. 144–47).  Why do you think she introduces this at the midpoint of her book?

8. Jahren’s relationship with Bill is a sustained theme in Lab Girl.  In what ways do Bill’s manner and methods in the lab complement Jahren’s?  What qualities shape their behavior toward each other on a personal level? Discuss the sense of intimacy and tolerance at the core of their friendship, as well as the boundaries they establish.  What do their long conversations, their reactions to institutional rules, and the misadventures they share on their field trips all add to the book?  In what ways does their trip to the Arctic capture the essence of their bond (pp. 195–201)?

9. What previously hidden aspects of Jahren’s character come to light as she describes her meeting and marriage to Clint (pp. 205–209)?  

10. Jahren writes of her pregnancy, “I know that I am supposed to be happy and excited. . . . I am supposed to celebrate the ripening fruit of love and luxuriate in the fullness of my womb. But I don’t do any of this” (p. 217).  How do such factors as her childhood, her professional ambitions, and her mental illness affect her experience? Why does she “decide that I will not be this child’s mother. Instead, I will be his father” (p. 228). 

11. What obstacles does Jahren face in her career as a research scientist?  Are some of the setbacks Jahren faces attributable to her being a woman in a male-dominated field? 

12. Do you agree that “America may say that it values science, but it sure as hell doesn’t want to pay for it” (p. 123)?

13. Science writing is sometimes criticized for seeming to anthropomorphize scientific subjects. Do you think that Jahren avoids this potential pitfall? In what ways do her choice of words and use of metaphor balance the scientific facts that she wants to convey with having the reader understand and even delight in these facts? What facts did you find most interesting?

14. As you read Lab Girl, were you equally engaged with the autobiographical sections and the chapters on plants and trees, or did you find yourself more drawn to one or the other? 

15. Lab Girl makes use of a wide range of language and tones, from the scientific to the colloquial, from biblical references to profanity. Does this range subvert our expectations about how scientists “should” talk? What do the different tones reveal about Hope? How does her varied language help us to see her in multiple lights—as scientist and writer, as friend and human?

16. Memoir is a highly intimate form. Do you feel you’ve gotten to know Hope through Lab Girl? Does she seem similar or different to science teachers you have had? Do you see her as an inspiration for young women who want to pursue a career in science?

 

 

Happy Reading!

All The Pretty Horses

All The Pretty Horses

Book Cover for All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthyAll The Pretty Horses

Cormac McCarthy

Series: Border Trilogy, Book 1

Club Selection for March 2017

Pages: 302 / Audio: 10 Hrs 3 mins
Published June 29th 1993 by Vintage (first published May 11th 1992)
 
The national bestseller and the first volume in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers, cut off from the only life he has ever imagined for himself. With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for in blood. Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction.

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Carol's Rating: ★★★

"Every dumb thing I ever done before in my life there was a decision I made before that got me into it."

Despite the pretty title, this is a tough story. John Grady Cole has lost his grandfather and the ranch will be sold. It's all John has ever known. He's a cowboy and that's all he ever wants to be. So he and his cousin, both about 16 years old, leave Texas and ride their horses across the border into Mexico. It's 1949. In Texas they tie their horses up outside cafes and gas stations. The moment they cross into Mexico, they step back in time. Desert. Cactus. No motor vehicles, few settlements. The people they meet lead them to hard life and hard choices; some of them life threatening.

I am so glad I read this book. There were many things I loved about it but many things I didn't. What did I love? The contradictory nature. The depth of the story and characters yet the direct, no frills conversations with little show of emotion. The action yet the slow pace. The beauty yet the harshness. I loved that once they passed into Mexico, the descriptions of the land and many of the discussions between the characters we given in Spanish. There was a very distinct feel that you were no longer in Texas nor in 1949! I liked the boys and was impressed with their maturity at such a young age.

What didn't I love? The lack of quotations caused a lot of confusion for me about who was speaking. At times the story would jump forward to a new scene, leaving me confused about how we got there. McCarthy offers beautiful language but the story is not a lullaby like the title implies. It's not a happy story and I was I left with a strong hope that John Grady Cole will somehow find his place and his happiness.

Happy Reading!

 

All The Light We Cannot See

All The Light We Cannot See

All The Light We Cannot See

 Anthony Doerr  

Club Selection for March 2015

530 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Scribner
 
Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize For Fiction
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

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.

 

About the Author

Photo from Tweeds Mag http://tweedsmag.org/interview-anthony-doerr/
Anthony Doerr

Anthony Doerr was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the author of the story collections The Shell Collector and Memory Wall, the memoir Four Seasons in Rome, and the novels About Grace and All the Light We Cannot See, which was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Doerr’s fiction has won four O. Henry Prizes and has been anthologized in The Best American Short StoriesThe Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. He has won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, the National Magazine Award for Fiction, three Pushcart Prizes, two Pacific Northwest Book Awards, three Ohioana Book Awards, the 2010 Story Prize, which is considered the most prestigious prize in the U.S. for a collection of short stories, and the Sunday Times EFGShort Story Award, which is the largest prize in the world for a single short story. In 2007, the British literary magazine Granta placed Doerr on its list of 21 Best Young American novelists.

Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two sons. Though he is often asked, as far as he knows he is not related to the late writer Harriet Doerr.

Source: anthonydoerr.com

Interviews & Other Cool Stuff

 

Official Book Trailer

 

 

What Does the Title Mean?

 “It’s a reference first and foremost to all the light we literally cannot see: that is, the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that are beyond the ability of human eyes to detect (radio waves, of course, being the most relevant). It’s also a metaphorical suggestion that there are countless invisible stories still buried within World War II — that stories of ordinary children, for example, are a kind of light we do not typically see. Ultimately, the title is intended as a suggestion that we spend too much time focused on only a small slice of the spectrum of possibility.”    ~ Anthony Doerr

 

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Anthony Doerr sees the world as a scientist, but feels it as a poet. He knows about everything—radios, diamonds, mollusks, birds, flowers, locks, guns—but he also writes a line so beautiful, creates an image or scene so haunting, it makes you think forever differently about the big things—love, fear, cruelty, kindness, the countless facets of the human heart. Wildly suspenseful, structurally daring, rich in detail and soul, Doerr’s new novel is that novel, the one you savor, and ponder, and happily lose sleep over, then go around urging all your friends to read—now.

~ JR Moehringer, author of The Tender Bar

 

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THE RUMPUS INTERVIEW WITH ANTHONY DOERR

BY NANCY SMITH | May 28th, 2014

… I first encountered Doerr’s work a decade ago when I picked up a copy of The Shell Collector at a small bookstore in Seattle. I carried the book to a nearby coffee shop and spent the rainy afternoon reading it. I had recently graduated college, and I’m not sure if it was my uncertain future or the gloomy day, but this collection of stories had a profound effect on me. I found a precise kind of truth within those pages—the kind that captures human experience in only the way perfectly crafted stories can. I reveled in those wonderful sentences that afternoon, and since then I have always looked forward to reading Doerr’s work.

… All the Light We Cannot See is a book that was ten years in the making, and it is a remarkable novel, but perhaps more than anything, it has reminded me of Doerr’s extraordinary ability to bring together the elements—rhythm and imagery and tone—to somehow perfectly capture the most mysterious parts of our experience—love and fear and fate—with something so simple as a sentence. … [Read the Interview]

 

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An Evening with Anthony Doerr

Novel Gobblers Dawn, Carol, DeeAnn, Donna, & Catherine
On April 20th, 2017, our reading group had the opportunity to attend "An Evening with Anthony Doerr", a lecture and dinner for the Idaho Humanities Council's 10th Annual event. For some, this may sound like a torturous evening but I'm here to tell you it was anything but torturous and boring! 
 
Anthony Doerr was gracious, insightful, witty, inspiring, and full of captivating stories that had the audience rolling with laughter. It was such a fun evening! Now we're all eager to gobble down more novels written by Anthony Doerr! 
 
I was especially pleased that his presentation was very similar to that in the video below, which you won't want to miss. Click the play button, sit back and enjoy Anthony Doerr's wit and  enthusiasm for discovery. You'll be glad you did!
  

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A captivating presentation by Anthony Doerr to the John Adams Institute, Amsterdam.  
A Masterpiece. Tremendous. Wow. Overwhelming.

“Just a few characterizations by readers of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. And the literary critics were also unanimous: Anthony Doerr has an immense talent for storytelling.”

 

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An Unforgettable Highlight for the Author

“Among multiple outstanding experiences at Lake Oswego Reads [Feb 12, 2015] (hosted by the amazing Lake Oswego Public Library), an unforgettable highlight was being handed a warm loaf of bread by master baker Dominique Geulin from St. Honoré Boulangerie. I carried it back home, sliced it, and look what we found inside!”

Discussion Questions

Source: Simon and Schuster

1. The book opens with two epigraphs. How do these quotes set the scene for the rest of the book? Discuss how the radio plays a major part in the story and the time period. How do you think the impact of the radio back then compares with the impact of the Internet on today’s society?

2. The narration moves back and forth both in time and between different characters. How did this affect your reading experience? How do you think the experience would have been different if the story had been told entirely in chronological order?

3. Whose story did you enjoy the most? Was there any character you wanted more insight into?

4. When Werner and Jutta first hear the Frenchman on the radio, he concludes his broadcast by saying “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever” (pages 48–49), and Werner recalls these words throughout the book (pages 86, 264, and 409). How do you think this phrase relates to the overall message of the story? How does it relate to Madame Manec’s question: “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” (page 270)?

5. On page 160, Marie-Laure realizes “This . . . is the basis of his fear, all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.” How does this image constitute the most general basis of all fear? Do you agree?

6. Reread Madame Manec’s boiling frog analogy on page 284. Etienne later asks Marie-Laure, “Who was supposed to be the frog? Her? Or the Germans?” (page 328) Who did you think Madame Manec meant? Could it have been someone other than herself or the Germans? What does it say about Etienne that he doesn’t consider himself to be the frog?

7. On page 368, Werner thinks, “That is how things are . . . with everybody in this unit, in this army, in this world, they do as they’re told, they get scared, they move about with only themselves in mind. Name me someone who does not.” But in fact many of the characters show great courage and selflessness throughout the story in some way, big or small. Talk about the different ways they put themselves at risk in order to do what they think is right. What do you think were some shining moments? Who did you admire most?

8. On page 390, the author writes, “To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness.” What did you learn or realize about blindness through Marie-Laure’s perspective? Do you think her being blind gave her any advantages?

9. One of Werner’s bravest moments is when he confronts von Rumpel: “All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?” (page 465) Have you ever had a moment like that? Were you ready? What would you say that moment is for some of the other characters?

10. Why do you think Marie-Laure gave Werner the little iron key? Why might Werner have gone back for the wooden house but left the Sea of Flames?

11. Von Rumpel seemed to believe in the power of the Sea of Flames, but was it truly a supernatural object or was it merely a gemstone at the center of coincidence? Do you think it brought any protection to Marie-Laure and/or bad luck to those she loved?

Happy Reading!

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Red Butterfly

Red Butterfly
Source: Goodreads.com

Red Butterfly

 A.L. Sonnichsen  

Club Selection for February 2017

Pages: 400 
Published February 2nd 2016 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
 
A young orphaned girl in modern-day China discovers the meaning of family in this “heartbreaking, heartwarming, and impressive debut” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) told in verse, in the tradition of Inside Out and Back Again and Sold.

Kara never met her birth mother. Abandoned as an infant, she was taken in by an American woman living in China. Now eleven, Kara spends most of her time in their apartment, wondering why she and Mama cannot leave the city of Tianjin and go live with Daddy in Montana. Mama tells Kara to be content with what she has…but what if Kara secretly wants more?

Told in lyrical, moving verse, Red Butterfly is the story of a girl learning to trust her own voice, discovering that love and family are limitless, and finding the wings she needs to reach new heights.

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Carol's Rating:  ★★★★★

"Don't worry if your new life has been tough.
Remember, it takes a while for a butterfly's wings to dry."

Every once in a while a book comes along that imprints itself in you and changes you forever. This is one of them.

A tender, tragic, relishing story of hope, isolation, adaptation, kindness, and love in a world where harsh political policies have triggered harsh choices and consequences for families and children. Though a fictional story about a young Chinese girl being raised in China as an American, it truthfully tells of ethical decisions faced by many in China since the One-Child policy was placed into effect in 1980. There are many questions about the characters that are answered with flawless timing as the story beautifully unfolds at a perfect tempo, keeping you intrigued, hopeful, and deeply moved. The Author's Note at the end of the book is powerful and added yet another layer of love and understanding to the story.

I borrowed this booked from our local library but it is one of the few that I will buy and place on my own shelf where I will see it, re-read it, and experience it again and again.

Happy Reading!

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Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out & Back Again
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai - Book Cover
Source: Goodreads.com

Inside Out & Back Again

Thanhha Lai

Club Selection for February 2017

Pages: 272 | Audio: 2 hrs 30 min
Published February 22nd 2011 by HarperCollins
 
For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.
 

 

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Carol's Rating:  ★★★

Don't Pass This One By

This is a touching story of Vietnamese family that comes to America for refuge due to the fall of Saigon. Ten year old Ha tells her story in verse, which perfectly conveys the young voice of a child facing mature circumstances and events; her father is missing in action, her mother is doing her best to provide for and protect the family on her own, her country no longer exists, her new home in America is safety yet completely unfamiliar, her family must learn to accept assistance and the generosity of many and overlook cruelties inflicted by others, and Ha must learn to compromise, be grateful, and discover that love and family is the ultimate definition of home.

Ha is an adorable, spunky character that bristles at being told she cannot do something simply because she is a girl. She is smart, yet struggles with feeling stupid due to language and cultural barriers. Her moments in the sunshine are delightful. Best of all, is after having fallen in love with Ha, I discovered she was actually the talented author of this book and these were her experiences.

A wonderful, wonderful story for all ages that you won't want to miss.

Happy Reading!

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Books of the Month – March 2017

Books of the Month – March 2017

Books of the Month - March 2017

Books of the Month - March 2017 - Novel Gobblers Book Club

Wow! March is over already? Did it zip by for you, too? One of the best parts about March was that I finished three books and enjoyed them all. It's my goal this year to work my way through The Henry Family series by Henry Wouk. They are big books so I'm taking my time and trying to absorb as much as I can - it's so interesting! I finished volume one and have now started volume two. I also read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, which was our book club selection and boy, did it ever generate a great discussion. Have you read any of these books? Which books did you enjoy this month?

Some of the books I read are featured in our The Book & Beyond section.  That's where you'll find interesting things about and even beyond the book. I'd love to feature every book I read in The Book & Beyond section but somehow life has happened and I've fallen very behind. 🙂  I promise I'm working to catch up! Even so, you'll want to check out what's there when you're done here - tons of fascinating stuff!

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The Winds of War (The Henry Family, #1)The Winds of War by Herman Wouk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Impactful Must-Read. This is How History Should be Told

If you're looking for an impactful, compelling, unputdownable, entertaining family drama packed with historical facts leading up to and into WWII, this is the book! I learned more about WWII from this book than from any other. Most history books tend to be a snooze for me, regardless of how badly I want to learn the information. But not this one. Herman Wouk is masterful storyteller. His telling of history works because he humanizes it. You experience it through his characters.

Members of the fictional Henry family are completely believable characters; some lovable, some admirable, some total morons, and all with flaws we can relate to. As the members of this military family are spread across the world, we learn about the struggles of those affected by the war be it due to location, heritage, or personal convictions. We learn about the political players and strategic political plays. We learn historical details from different characters with different perspectives. I especially enjoyed that some chapters were devoted to Victor Henry's translation of "World Empire Lost", a history book written by a fictional German general, Armin von Roon, and to which Victor Henry offers his own insights.

My review hardly does justice to this book. But believe me, you don't want to pass this one by. This is how history should be told.

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A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"They say the best men are born of their faults and that they often improve later on, more than if they'd never done anything wrong."

What a delightful read! I thoroughly enjoyed this story. The characters were colorful and true. I enjoyed Backman's writing style; direct, engaging, and beautifully conveys the personalities, trials, and hearts of the characters. A truly heart-warming story of loving people beyond their faults - or maybe even because of them, whether you intend to or not.

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All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy, #1)All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Every dumb thing I ever done before in my life there was a decision I made before that got me into it."

Despite the pretty title, this is a tough story. John Grady Cole has lost his grandfather and the ranch will be sold. It's all John has ever known. He's a cowboy and that's all he ever wants to be. So he and his cousin, both about 17 years old, leave Texas and ride their horses across the border into Mexico. It's 1949. In Texas they tie their horses up outside cafes and gas stations. The moment they cross into Mexico, they step back in time. Desert. Cactus. No motor vehicles, few settlements. The people they meet lead them to hard life and hard choices; some of them life threatening.

I am so glad I read this book. There were many things I loved about it but many things I didn't. What did I love? The contradictory nature. The depth of the story and characters yet the direct, no frills conversations with little show of emotion. The action yet the slow pace. The beauty yet the harshness. I loved that once they passed into Mexico, the descriptions of the land and many of the discussions between the characters we given in Spanish. There was a very distinct feel that you were no longer in Texas nor in 1949! I liked the boys and was impressed with their maturity at such a young age.

What didn't I love? The lack of quotations caused a lot of confusion for me about who was speaking. At times the story would jump forward to a new scene, leaving me confused about how we got there. McCarthy offers beautiful language but the story is not a lullaby like the title implies. It's not a happy story and I was I left with a strong hope that John Grady Cole will somehow find his place and his happiness.

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Hungry for more? Check out  The Book and Beyond,  The Books We've Read, or See all my reviews on Goodreads .

 

Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club Icon

4 Simple Steps to Add Our Speed Button to Your Home Screen

4 Simple Steps to Add Our Speed Button to Your Home Screen

 

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Books of the Month – February 2017

Books of the Month – February 2017

Books of the Month - February 2017

A friend gifted me this adorable Owl Calendar by Debbie Mumm and I love it so much that I decided to use it as the backdrop for my new Books of the Month posts. At the end of each month, I'll post about the books I read that month along with a short review of each.  Have you read them? What did you think?  Join in on the fun and leave us a comment!

Some of these books will be featured in our The Book & Beyond section, too. I'd love to tell you that all the books I read will be found in The Book & Beyond but in reality, that probably won't happen.  Even so, you'll want to check out the ones that do make it - there's tons of fascinating stuff in there!

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HMS Nightingale (Alexis Carew, #4)HMS Nightingale by J.A. Sutherland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Swashbuckling Interstellar Adventures

In this, the 4th volume, Alexis is promoted to lieutenant and given charge of her own ship only to discover her crew to be a ragtag group of misfits with questionable sailing skills. Facing many challenges in her new role, Alexis leads her crew through exciting encounters, many with pirates and some with - Wait! Could it really be? Ghostly Flying Dutchmen?!

Entertaining and intriguing as always, the story is brought to life by Elizabeth Klett's stellar audio narration. While I enjoyed this book, I enjoyed it less than the other volumes. This is mainly because there seemed to be less of an emotional connection developed between the characters and I felt certain phrases were overused. Still, this volume is important in the overall story and ends with fabulous news - more volumes are coming!

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Red ButterflyRed Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Don't worry if your new life has been tough.
Remember, it takes a while for a butterfly's wings to dry."

Every once in a while a book comes along that imprints itself in you and changes you forever. This is one of them.

A tender, tragic, relishing story of hope, isolation, adaptation, kindness, and love in a world where harsh political policies have triggered harsh choices and consequences for families and children. Though a fictional story about a young Chinese girl being raised in China as an American, it truthfully tells of ethical decisions faced by many in China since the One-Child policy was placed into effect in 1980. There are many questions about the characters that are answered with flawless timing as the story beautifully unfolds at a perfect tempo, keeping you intrigued, hopeful, and deeply moved. The Author's Note at the end of the book is powerful and added yet another layer of love and understanding to the story.

I borrowed this booked from our local library but it is one of the few that I will buy and place on my own shelf where I will see it, re-read it, and experience it again and again.

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A Fall of MarigoldsA Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Unpredictable & Unputdownable

Two periods in time, 100 years apart, uniquely linked by a delicate piece of fabric; a scarf, embellished with marigolds, weaving it's way through time and tying together the lives of all whose hands through which it passes. Lovely, delicate, fragile, strong, resilient. These words describe the scarf and the characters that have experienced harrowing, tragic events and work to move beyond the emotional outfall.

At times, I was bewildered by the actions of the characters, which to me seemed foolish and nonsensical. But in contemplation, the reality is that the emotional havoc wreaked on those who experience traumatic events often causes illogical thinking and actions. The story is realistic and lovely, and seamlessly accomplishes the highest objective for the reader - to truly empathize with the characters and experience their story along with them.

Meissner is a masterful storyteller, reminding us that large and small acts of kindness can spark powerful hope and strength in ways that is often unseen by the giver.
"Love is the only true constant in a fragile world."

Read it. You'll be all the better for it.

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Inside Out & Back AgainInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Don't Pass This One By

This is a touching story of Vietnamese family that comes to America for refuge due to the fall of Saigon. Ten year old Ha tells her story in verse, which perfectly conveys the young voice of a child facing mature circumstances and events; her father is missing in action, her mother is doing her best to provide for and protect the family on her own, her country no longer exists, her new home in America is safety yet completely unfamiliar, her family must learn to accept assistance and the generosity of many and overlook cruelties inflicted by others, and Ha must learn to compromise, be grateful, and discover that love and family is the ultimate definition of home.

Ha is an adorable, spunky character that bristles at being told she cannot do something simply because she is a girl. She is smart, yet struggles with feeling stupid due to language and cultural barriers. Her moments in the sunshine are delightful. Best of all, is after having fallen in love with Ha, I discovered she was actually the talented author of this book and these were her experiences.

A wonderful, wonderful story for all ages that you won't want to miss.

Last year we read The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen's 2016 Pulitzer Prize winning novel. It is also set at the time of the fall of Saigon yet gives an adult perspective to the story. It was interesting to compare the differences between the characters and their experiences in these two books. See more about The Sympathizer.

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Hungry for more? Check out  The Book and Beyond,  The Books We've Read, or See all my Goodreads reviews.

 

Happy Reading!