Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal - Book Cover
Source: Goodreads

Far Far Away

Tom McNeal

 
Pages: 384 | Audiobook: 10 hrs 58 min
Published June 11th 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published 2013)
 
A National Book Award Finalist
An Edgar Award Finalist
Audie Award Finalist
A California Book Award Gold Medal Winner

A dark, contemporary fairy tale in the tradition of Neil Gaiman.

It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn't even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he's able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it's been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn't been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm.

Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings...

Veteran writer Tom McNeal has crafted a young adult novel at once grim(m) and hopeful, full of twists, and perfect for fans of contemporary fairy tales like Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Holly Black's Doll Bones.

Sources: Goodreads and Amazon

 

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Carol's Rating: ★★★★

This is not my standard genre but I must say, I was thoroughly captivated this book. Like a good Grimm's tale, there are children. Children at play. And a ghost. And a Baker. It is delightful. And then it isn't. It turns grim, of course! It is scary but not too scary. That's coming from me, an absolute lightweight when it comes to scary and dark.

I listened to the Audible version narrated by W. Morgan Sheppard, who delivers a fantastic performance. His voice is grandfatherly. It's light and fun then perfectly cautious, creating suspense yet, at the same time, a sense of safety.

I was completely taken aback by how entertaining I found this tale to be and was reminded that sometimes a good old, Grimm-type fairytale is just what's needed.

About the Author

Tom McNeal Author image
Source: Goodreads

Tom McNeal

Tom was born in Santa Ana, California. His father was a native Californian who raised oranges, and his mother grew up on a farm in northwest Nebraska, where Tom spent his childhood summers. After earning a BA and a teaching credential from UC Berkeley, Tom moved to Hay Springs, Nebraska, taught high school English, drove a school bus, substituted briefly in a one-room schoolhouse, and began work on the novel Goodnight, Nebraska. Tom holds an MA in creative writing from UC Irvine and was a Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.

His short stories have been widely anthologized, and "What Happened to Tully" was made into a film. He is the author, with his wife, Laura, of four critically-acclaimed young adult novels published by Knopf—Crooked, Crushed, The Decoding of Lana Morris, and Zipped, and the solo author of FAR FAR AWAY (a finalist for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature). His adult titles include Goodbye, Nebraska, winner of the California Book Award, and To Be Sung Underwater, published by Little Brown in 2012 and named one of the best books of the year by the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

He lives with his wife and two sons in Southern California.

Sources: Amazon and Nationalbook.org    

 

Book Trailer, Inspiration, Secret Passageways, and More

Book Trailer

Random House Kids | Published on Apr 17, 2013

Young adult veteran Tom McNeal (one half of the writing duo known as Laura & Tom McNeal) has crafted a novel at once warmhearted, compulsively readable, and altogether thrilling--and McNeal fans of their tautly told stories will not be disappointed.

Secret Passages

Q & A with Tom McNeal
By Kate Pavao | May 29, 2013

In an article in the New York Times, you (Tom McNeal) talked about having secret doors in your house – which seems a bit like a fairy tale. Do you think this has any influence on your work or your creative process?

That inclination for the secret passages must align in some way. I don’t exactly know why. I know the history of it. The house in which I was raised had walk-in closets with incomplete walls – the walls went up like 6 or 7 feet, but didn’t go to the ceiling. My brother, sister and I would climb over those walls all the time to get into the next room.

I always knew I wanted to build a house and I always knew when I built a house I wanted a secret passage in it. When Laura and I married we finally did that. I think it all goes back to the fun of not leaving your room to go into the hallway, but sneaking into your brother or sister’s room.

We’re building a house right now and the boys are finally going to get their own rooms – and just like the other house, this will have a not-so-secret passage. They will have bookshelves that roll away or swing out. That will lead to a ladder that leads to a trap door to the attic. They are very keen on this, of course. So now they are going to get the bug too.

Source: Publisher's Weekly

 

More Q & A with Tom McNeal

Source: Kidsreads.com

In FAR FAR AWAY, a boy named Jeremy Johnson Johnson finds himself to be the outcast in a small town. Not only does he have double the same last name, he also claims to hear voices. But he can hear a voice --- the voice of Jacob Grimm, one half of the famous Brothers Grimm. With his help, Jeremy tries to save the family bookshop, survive an unsavory adventure and find his place in the world.

In this interview, Tom McNeal shares his inspiration for this unique ghost story, what he likes most about fairy tales and what he's working on next!

1. What inspired you to write FAR FAR AWAY?

I’d fallen into reading about the Grimm Brothers, and the circumstances of their story was fascinating to me --- Jacob and Wilhelm united throughout their lives, working together, Jacob living with Wilhelm even after Wilhelm became a husband and father, the awful death of Jacob’s young nephew (and namesake). Jacob outlived his younger brother and was the more somber and rigid of the two. The more I read about him, the more curmudgeonly yet sympathetic he seemed, and I began to think of him as the right conduit for the story. And so, before very long, Jacob Grimm became my ghost, and FAR FAR AWAY became his story.

2. What kind of research did you do on fairy tales, since you bring so much of Jacob Grimm's life into the story?

I read a lot of biographical and critical material about the Grimm Brothers and their tales. I took notes, marked up the tales and could’ve kept at it even longer, but, you know, sooner or later you have to start writing. The most famous Grimm scholars are Jack Zipes and Maria Tatar. She’s a professor of Germanic Languages at Harvard and her ANNOTATED BROTHERS GRIMM provides all sorts of really interesting context and biographical references in the margins of each of the tales.  Tatar's writing is also beautifully lucid and engaging.  I'd think that anyone at all interested in the Grimms would have a lot of fun with that book.

3. What is your favorite aspect of fairy tales?

I like the way fairy tales let you peer into your darkest fears (dark forests, wicked stepmothers) or fondest dreams (complete a quest, win the princess). In FAR FAR AWAY, there are twin quests.  Jacob is trying to figure out The Thing Undone and Jeremy is trying to find his place in the real world.  Though their aims are different, as the book evolves, their paths converge. What allows Jacob finally to escape the Zwischenraum --- his mentorship and affection for Jeremy --- is also what allows Jeremy to move forward in the world with a fuller idea of who he is.

4. Which fairy tale story is your favorite? Do you have a favorite fairy tale storyteller?

I think I answer this differently every time I’m asked. This time I’ll say, “Rapunzel,” because it’s not only strange and romantic and evocative, but also because the first Grimm version was basically R-rated, and then the brothers cleaned it up. This funny evolution comes up in the book, by the way.

I was attracted more to the Grimms’ collection because of the darkness in so many of their tales.  And, too, because of their rough justice. In the end of a Grimm tale, goodness and generosity is generously rewarded and cruelty is cruelly punished. Very satisfying.

5. In FAR FAR AWAY, fairy tales and reality seem to blur for Jeremy Johnson Johnson: he does hear Jacob Grimm's voice, but it's not certain if there is magic in the prince cakes. Do you believe there's a certain amount of blur in real life, too?

Oh, sure. I think one reason I've always liked a good ghost story is because I don't find it completely impossible that spirits can linger. And this is probably because my own mother told me some stories about telepathic visits from the dead that she didn't believe were fictional. So you can see how it could begin to take root.

6. Jacob Grimm tries to pull Jeremy towards his studies and Ginger tries to pull him toward fun throughout the story. Which direction would you try to pull Jeremy? Which way do you usually turn towards in your life?

Toward the end of the book, Jeremy promises that he will study hard in Jacob’s absence. Jacob responds, Study, yes, but also enjoy. Of course the complement of this is, Enjoy, yes, but also study. Even for me as an adult, I find the balance between the two a difficult thing

7. What you like readers to take away after reading this book?

In the last years of their lives, Wilhelm & Jacob Grimm undertook the compilation of an authoritative German dictionary, a massive project that they could not complete. The last word that Jacob worked on before his death was frucht, or fruit, which, as Jacob points out in the book, derives from the Latin fructus: to enjoy.

8. What should readers expect to see from you next? Are you working on anything right now?

At the moment I’m working on an adult book told from the p.o.v. of a caretaker of an avocado grove.  With any luck, it will be less boring than that sounds. As for another YA book, I’d love to do something more with a ghost, and have a couple of things in mind.

Book Club Chat with the Author

VLCPhotoProductions
Streamed live on May 20, 2013Published on Apr 26, 2009

In this fun conversation with Tom McNeal, he jovially answers question from book club members and gives a glimpse into his personal and writing lives. The sound quality is a bit lacking but the interview is well worth the listen.

Discussion Questions

Source: Novel Gobblers Book Club

  1. Have you read other books by this author?
  2. Did this book remind you of any other books you've read?
  3. What do you think of the book cover? Does it represent the book well?
  4. Was the story what you expected it to be? Were you pleased or disappointed?
  5. If you listened to the audiobook, did you enjoy the narrator? Why or why not?
  6. Was the plot predictable? What were some of your predictions and were they correct?
  7. What did you find unique about this story?
  8. Were the characters believable and lovable?
  9. Were there any moments in the book surprised you? Did you feel suspense? Did the story hold your attention?
  10. Who were your favorite secondary characters?
  11. What did you like or dislike about this book?
  12. Is there a moral to this story?
  13. What do you imagine Prince Cakes taste like?
  14.  Do you have any favorite quotes from the book?
  15. Will you look to read other books by this author?

Happy Reading!

You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs

You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs

 

You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs cover

You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas

Augusten Burroughs

 
Hardcover, 206 pages | Audio: 5 hrs 59 min
Published October 27th 2009 by St. Martin's Press (first published October 1st 2009)
 
You’ve eaten too much candy at Christmas…but have you ever eaten the face off a six-foot stuffed Santa? You’ve seen gingerbread houses…but have you ever made your own gingerbread tenement? You’ve woken up with a hangover…but have you ever woken up next to Kris Kringle himself?

Augusten Burroughs has, and in this caustically funny, nostalgic, poignant, and moving collection he recounts Christmases past and present—as only he could. With gimleteyed wit and illuminated prose, Augusten shows how the holidays bring out the worst in us and sometimes, just sometimes, the very, very best.

 

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Carol's Rating: ★★

My book club chose this for our November read, getting us into the holiday spirit early. I mean, how festive is that cover? And the opening line: "It's not that I was an outright nitwit of a child." Nitwit? No. Bizarre? Definitely. I'm glad his frontal lobe took so long to develop or we may have missed out on these zany stories surrounding Christmas, the author's FAVORITE holiday and yet, a day that always turned out horribly for him. 

Aside from a disturbing chapter involving a French Santa, I enjoyed most of his stories. Burroughs writes beautifully; his descriptions paint vivid images and I often felt as though I was sitting with him as he recounted these stories directly to me. I found myself responding, "Why on earth would you do that???" and "Good grief! Turn the water off already!".

There are some great lines in this book, many that made me laugh and many that were heartfelt and insightful. For example, "Therapists, I felt, were like poodles; there were simply too many of them for all to be good." And this one: "There were people who had so much strength that you could borrow some, just being in the same room with them." 

It reads quickly, too. Had I focused myself I could have easily finished this book in one or two sittings even being the slow reader that I am. Overall, I thought it was an okay book but not something I'd rave about. Even so, I'm glad I read it and if you enjoy short stories about a non-nitwit kid making comical mixups between Santa and Jesus, along with stories of love, sacrifice, and loss, you might give this one a try.

 

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Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff
The City of Thieves David Benioff Cover
Source: Goodreads

City of Thieves

David Benioff 

 
Pages: 258 / Audio: 8 Hrs 34 mins
Published May 15th 2008 by Viking Adult (first published 2008)
 
From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour, a captivating novel about war, courage, survival — and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime.

During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.

By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, City of Thieves is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

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Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

"Calm yourself, my morbid little Israelite. I won't let the bad men get you."

There was nothing about this book that I couldn't love; the main characters, the plot, the pace, the writing -- it was all fantastic. I was hooked from the first sentence. I think what stands out most to me is the writing. The words flow effortlessly. They are smooth and descriptive. I was not reading so much as I was mentally seeing the story play out like a movie. I could see, hear, and feel the emotions, events, environment, and the characters. David Benioff is an amazing writer and storyteller. This is a book I could read over and over and enjoy it more each time. 

About the Author

David_Benioff_Author
Source: Goodreads

David Benioff

David Benioff (born David Friedman but changed his name to take his mother's maiden name) was born and raised in New York City and attended Dartmouth College and the University of California at Irvine. His father, Stephen Friedman, is a former chairman of Goldman Sachs and current Chairman of the United States President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. 

Before the publication of his first novel The 25th Hour, Benioff worked as a club bouncer and high school English teacher, until his adaptation of The 25th Hour into a feature film directed by Spike Lee led to a new new career as a screenwriter, including the screenplays for "The Kite Runner". 

Stories from his critically acclaimed collection When the Nines Roll Over appeared in Best New American Voices and The Best Nonrequired American Reading. His latest novel is City of Thieves. He is also a co-creater of the award winning HBO series, "Game of Thrones". He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Amanda Peet, and daughter.   Source: Bookbrowse.com

Revealing Interviews

City of Thieves was my first exposure to David Benioff. I don't follow Game of Thrones -- I know, I know. Oh, the shame! However, after reading City of Thieves and loving it as much as I did, I was fascinated with this author and had to learn more about him. Below are some wonderful interviews discussing his books, his writing process, fears, other authors, X-Men, Game of Thrones, and more.  Such a genuine, talented man.

David Benioff on Writing:
Game of Thrones, City of Thieves & Telling Lies for Grown Ups

Published on Jul 8, 2013

In this interview with Rich Fahle of Bibliostar.TV, writer, screenwriter, and Producer David Benioff explains how the Game of Thrones books helped him rediscover his fantasy roots, his love of the New York filmmakers of his 1970s youth, the story behind his own successful novels, and the challenges of adapting beloved stories for the big screen.

 
Writers' Confessions

Published on Jul 18, 2010

David Benioff discusses screenwriting and other aspects of the writing process. Shot during the 2008 International Festival of Authors at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.

 
A Conversation with David Benioff

Source: Penguin Random House

Q. City of Thieves begs the question: Did all this really happen to your grandfather?

No. My grandfather was born on a farm in Delaware. He became a furrier and died in Allentown, Pennsylvania. My grandmother (unlike the non-cooking grandmother in the book) made the best chopped chicken liver in the state. Neither one, as far as I know, ever visited Russia.

Q. David notes, “Truth might be stranger than fiction, but it needs a better editor.” (p. 4) How much “editing” did you do?

See answer to number one. A whole lot.

Q. How much additional research did you do to write this novel?

I had a wonderful teacher once, the novelist Ann Patchett. I asked her about the research she did for The Magician’s Assistant, and she told me to choose the single best book on the given subject and study it obsessively. Writers are always tempted to track down dozens of books to help give our make-believe stories that tang of authenticity, but often the problem with too much research is a writing style that seems too researched, dry and musty, and eager for a history teacher’s gold star of approval.

Unfortunately, my will was not strong enough for me to follow Ann’s advice. I did end up reading dozens

 
Words & Wine: David Benioff - City of Thieves

Published on Apr 26, 2009

David Benioff joins Warren for another evening of Words & Wine where they measure the importance of talent, place a friendly wager, and stress the importance of bowel movements.

 

The City of Thieves David Benioff Cover

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Discussion Questions

Source: Penguin Random House

  • David wants to hear about his grandfather’s experiences firsthand. Why is it important for us to cultivate and preserve our oral histories? Do you have a relative or friend whose story you believe should be captured for posterity?
  • Lev’s father is taken—and almost certainly killed—by the NKVD, yet Lev himself stays behind to defend Leningrad. How do you think he reconciled his patriotism to his love for his father?
  • In the midst of a major historical moment, Lev is preoccupied with thoughts of food and sex. What does this tell us about experiencing history as it unfolds?
  • From the cannibals in the market to the sex slaves in the farmhouse, there are numerous illustrations of the way in which war robs us of our humanity. In your opinion, what was the most poignant example of this and why?
  • Kolya tells Lev that the government should “put the famous on the front lines” (p. 67) rather than use them as the spokespeople for patriotic propaganda. Do you agree or disagree? Can you think of any contemporary instances of this practice?
  • Aside from the sly pride that Lev notices, are there any other clues that give Kolya away as the true author of The Courtyard Hound?
  • Do you think Markov’s denouncer should have remained silent about the partisan’s presence? Did either of them deserve to die?
  • Even moments before Lev pulls his knife on the Sturmbannführer, he thinks: “I had wanted him dead since I’d heard Zoya’s story. . . . [But] I didn’t believe I was capable of murdering him” (p. 228). Do you think everyone—given the right motivation—is capable of killing another human being? Could you?
  • Lev takes an instinctive dislike to Kolya yet comes to consider him his best friend. What was the turning point in their relationship?
  • Lev says that Vika “was no man’s idea of a pinup girl,” (p.149) but he is instantly infatuated. Would he have been drawn to her had they met in different—safer—circumstances?

Happy Reading!

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

 

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris, Cover
Source: Goodreads

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

David Sedaris

Hardcover, 275 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by Little, Brown and Company
 
Sedaris's latest essay collection possesses all of the wit, charm, and poignancy his readers have come to expect.

His usual cast of delightful characters returns; including a flashback of his father in his underpants berating a schoolboy or, more recently, hounding David into getting a colonoscopy. Many pieces involve travel, animals, or both: his sister Gretchen totes around an insect "kill jar"; in a Denver airport, David engages with a judgmental fellow passenger; and visiting the Australian bush, he has encounters with a kookaburra and a dead wallaby. Seeking a stuffed owl for a Valentine's Day gift leads him to a taxidermist shop where he is shown gruesome oddities and confronts difficult questions about his curiosity. Another essay explores the evolution of David's 35 years-and-counting of keeping a diary and provides some great insight into his writing process.

In addition to the personal essays, there are six satirical monologues in which he assumes the role of a character with a ridiculous message. One in particular involves a man's ludicrous response to the legalization of gay marriage in New York, believing his own marriage is now "meaningless".

This is a must-read for fans of smart, well-crafted writing with a sense of humor.

Agent: Steven Barclay Agency. (May)  Publishers Weekly via Barnes & Noble

 

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Carol's Rating: ★★

This collection of essays was my introduction to David Sedaris. These essays range from humorous observations of quirky behaviors to downright snarky attitudes to utterly dark, disturbing thoughts and actions. 

What did I like? I liked that I could finish the short essays quickly and start with a fresh one the next time I picked up the book. I liked that some of the lighter essays had me busting out with laughter. And I liked his writing style; It's clear that he is a witty, talented writer.

What didn't I like? The majority of these essays were far too dark for my taste. 

Our reading group was split on this one; some loved it while others felt as did. It's possible that I might like his other works more, but it's unlikely that I'll eagerly seek them out anytime soon.

 

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Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

The Waves by Virginia Woolf

 

The Waves

Virginia Woolf

Club Selection for September 2017

Pages: 297
Published June 1st 1978 by Harvest Books (first published October 1931)
 
The Waves is often regarded as Virginia Woolf's masterpiece, standing with those few works of twentieth-century literature that have created unique forms of their own. In deeply poetic prose, Woolf traces the lives of six children from infancy to death who fleetingly unite around the unseen figure of a seventh child, Percival. Allusive and mysterious, The Waves yields new treasures upon each reading.

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Carol's Rating: ★★★

This was my first Virginia Woolf novel. By definition, it really isn't even a novel. It was an experiment with writing the streams of consciousness of the characters at specific moments in time rather than the traditional writing of plot and dialogue between the characters.

I was intrigued by the concept and idea of following the characters from childhood to death and found it interesting to see the character's thoughts evolve from distracted observations of childhood to deeper contemplation as adults, but from the first sentence it was clear that this would not be an easy read. I had to work hard at placing myself in the mind of each character and the language was difficult for me interpret; It is more like poetry than prose. 

If you like poetry and content that requires deliberate effort on the part of the reader, this may be a great choice for you. For me, it required more effort than I wanted to put into it and finishing it became more of a personal challenge than it was for the enjoyment. This is one I'd like to come back to in the future and see if I can do better with it.

About the Author

Virginia Woolf author image

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, original name in full Adeline Virginia Stephen (born January 25, 1882, London, England—died March 28, 1941, near Rodmell, Sussex), English writer whose novels, through their nonlinear approaches to narrative, exerted a major influence on the genre.

While she is best known for her novels, especially Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927), Woolf also wrote pioneering essays on artistic theory, literary history, women’s writing, and the politics of power. A fine stylist, she experimented with several forms of biographical writing, composed painterly short fictions, and sent to her friends and family a lifetime of brilliant letters.

Her works are considered unique as they go deep into the psychology of a character, and show the way of their thinking. She published novels and essays as a public intellectual, and received both critical and popular success. She used to self-publish most of her works through the Hogarth Press which she had co-founded.

Throughout her life, she suffered from mental illnesses, probably including bipolar disorder, and she took her own life in 1941. She was 59. Her posthumous reputation suffered after the Second World War, but it was re-established with the growth of feminist criticism during the 1970s. Woolf’s novels can be described as highly experimental: a narrative, frequently uneventful, and commonplace, is seen to be refracted, or dissolved, in the receptive consciousness of the character.

Source: britannica.com and famouspeople.com

About Virginia Woolf's Writing

Had I watched either of the videos below before I attempted reading this or any Virginia Woolf novel, I would have had much greater appreciation for her words. The 4 minute video below is loaded with powerful insight into her writing and what she was trying to accomplish. The narrator, Sue Asbee, Senior Lecturer in English, offers profound, thoughtful descriptions of her experiences with Virginia Woolf's writing and begins the narration with a completely relatable statement:

I first discovered Virginia Woolf as a student. I found the text completely baffling. I think I'd opened Mrs. Dalloway expecting a story and what I got was a flow of ideas. Memories."

I, too, found the text completely baffling. The difference is that I stayed in that mindset for the entire book. In contrast, Sue Asbee looked beyond the text and discovered something I wish I would have discovered:

When I began to understand what Woolf was trying to achieve in her writing, it made me rethink how memories from childhood, inconsequential moments, have actually come to be the basis of my own identity. There is always a desire to make the fleeting moments something permanent. And that's what she does in her patterning, the structure of her work, in her repetition of images. And the writing, once you stop looking for a story, is stunning."

 

Virginia Woolf Video Image
A discussion of Virginia Woolf’s writing. © Open University (A Britannica Publishing Partner)

 

 

 Literature, by The School of Life

 

This video, too, provides us with brilliant descriptions about Virginia Woolf's thinking and writing.

 

Here's a few quotations from this video that I feel truly expresses the spirit, vision, and intent of Virginia Woolf's writing.

"In her novels and essays, Virginia Woolf captured the intimate moments of the 20th century like no one else. She opens our eyes to the neglected value of daily experiences."
 
"In order to stand on the same intellectual footing with men, women needed not only dignity but also equal rights to education, an income of 500 pounds a year, and a room of one's own."
 
"Woolf was probably the best writer in the English language for describing our minds without the jargon of clinical psychology."
"Books like Woolf's, which aren't overly sarcastic, aren't caught up in adventure plots, or cradled in convention are a contract. She's expecting us to turn down the outside volume, to try on her perspective, and to spend energy with subtle sentences. And in turn, she offers us the opportunity to notice the tremors we normally miss and to better appreciate moths, our own headaches, and our fascinating, fluid sexuality."

 

A Tour of Virginia Woolf's Enchanting Home

A country retreat, gardens, inviting spaces, readings from passages of Virginia Woolf's writings...

This 4 minute video of a visit to Monk's House by readingbukowsi beautifully captures the essence of Virginia and Leonard Woolf and their humble home in Sussex.

What a lovely place and a tender, charming visit!
 
 

Book Club Mojo

Prior to our book club meeting a friend and I briefly discussed The Waves over coffee one day. We were talking about how the text was written as a stream of consciousness rather than a story with a plot. She mentioned that the thoughts of the characters jumped around so much that it was difficult to follow and that she was sure her own stream of consciousness did not jump around like that.

This sounded like a the perfect fixings for an experiment to me and hence, the birth of the following book club activity.

Stream of Consciousness Hip-Hop
  1. Set a timer to go off at a random time during the meeting. Be sure it's after everyone has settled in and conversation is flowing.
  2. Hand each member a blank slip of paper and a pen and announce to the group that when the timer goes off, they are to quickly write down what they were thinking about at that very moment. Fold and place slips of paper into a bowl.
  3. Mix them up then pass the bowl for each member to select one slip, preferably not their own, and read it aloud.
  4. Were they as random and jumpy as the thoughts of the characters in the book seemed to be?

Our Results

The Waves by Virginia Woolf Stream Of Consciouness Hip-Hop

I have to say, this made us laugh - Virginia Woolf sure knew her stuff!

 🙂   🙂   🙂

Discussion Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

Source: Schmoop.com

  1. What is the significance of the book's structure? Why does Woolf begin each chapter of with an italicized introduction describing an ocean landscape at a particular point in the course of a day?
  2. The Waves presents six very different narrators (and describes a seventh main character, Percival, in great detail) but then suggests that their perspectives are somehow related or part of a larger whole. What do you think Woolf is trying to say about individuality?
  3. Bernard gets a lot more "air time" than the other characters; indeed, the entire last chapter is written from his perspective. What makes him so special?
  4. Percival is clearly central to the narrative, but he never serves as narrator. Why?
  5. The Waves uses a lot of natural imagery, but it also highlights technology (e.g., the repeated references to trains) and other aspects of modernity. How does the book make use of images of the natural and the modern? Are the references to each balanced? Is one more valorized or demonized than the other?
  6. The novel makes frequent references to language and art, alternately highlighting its power and emphasizing its impotence. Ultimately, does one of those perspectives take precedence? Is "making phrases" powerful and meaningful, or ultimately futile? Why or why not?
  7. What's with the frequent references to death? Why is this an obsession for the novel's characters, even before Percival's death?
  8. The book is one of Woolf's most experimental, breaking a lot of the conventions of traditional plotting, narrative, and characterization. Do you think it counts as a novel? Why or why not?

Happy Reading!

Down the Garden Path by Beverly Nichols

Down the Garden Path by Beverly Nichols

 

Down the Garden Path by Beverly Nichols
Source: Goodreads.com

Down the Garden Path

Beverly Nichols

Hardcover, 290 pages
Published December 13th 2004 by Timber Press (first published 1931)
 
Down the Garden Path has stood the test of time as one of the world's best-loved and most-quoted gardening books. Ostensibly an account of the creation of a garden in Huntingdonshire in the 1930s, it is really about the underlying emotions and obsessions for which gardening is just a cover story.
 
The secret of this book's success---and its timelessness---is that it does not seek to impress the reader with a wealth of expert knowledge or advice. Beverley Nichols proudly declares his status as a newcomer to gardening: "The best gardening books should be written by those who still have to search their brains for the honeysuckle's languid Latin name..."
 
As unforgettable as the plants in the garden is the cast of visitors and neighbors who invariably turn up at inopportune moments. For every angelic Miss Hazlitt there is an insufferable Miss Wilkins waiting in the wings. For every thought-provoking Professor, there is an intrusive Miss M, whose chief offense may be that she is a 'damnably efficient' gardener. From a disaster building a rock garden, to further adventures with greenhouses, woodland gardens, not to mention cats and treacle, Nichols has left us a true gardening classic.
 
 

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Carol's Rating: ★★★★

A Gem of a Story and a Book to Treasure

In this entertaining story, the first volume of the Allways Trilogy, Beverly Nichols leads you down the path of his own gardening journey. He doesn't claim to know everything. In fact, he does just the opposite. He flat out tells you he's a gardening novice and to our pleasure, that doesn't hold him back at all. He has the desire and motivation to jump in with both feet and see what happens. You're the lucky one that get's to ride along as he puts plans into action that often leaving you scratching your head in dismay yet always smiling at the outcome.

He loves puttering in his gardens and walking the paths, which he insists on traveling start to finish because that is when you discover miracles. His determination in finding tiny, blossoming treasures in the winter snow is a delight as is his dry humor regarding neighbors that range from the nosy to the flirtatious to the gardening nemeses. He's the friend that keeps you in stitches because he's bold enough to say exactly what you're thinking but didn't dare say out loud! 

The book has some wonderful special touches that I loved such as the sketched map of his gardens and the touching illustrations that divide the book into the four seasons. There is also something very curious on every 16th page of this book; Just below the last line of text and along the left margin is a single uppercase letter in small print. They appear in alphabetical order. Any ideas why this was done?

If you don't have an appreciation for gardening or flowers or persnickety personalities now, you will by the time you finish this story. It's easy to understand why this book, first published in 1932, has never been out of print!

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Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

 

War-of-Art Audio Cover Steven Pressfield
Source: Audible.com

The War of Art

Steven Pressfield

Pages: 168 / Audio: 2 Hrs 56 mins
Published July 13th 2011 by Recorded Books (first published 2002)
 
Winning the Creative Battle
 
Internationally best-selling author of Last of the Amazons, Gates of Fire and Tides of War, Steven Pressfield delivers a guide to inspire and support those who struggle to express their creativity. Pressfield believes that “resistance” is the greatest enemy, and he offers many unique and helpful ways to overcome it.
 
 

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Carol's Rating: ★★★★★

Perfection.

This book was recommended to me by my friend, writer Mo Parisian, whose first novel, What We Know Now, will be released on Amazon November 25, 2017.  Yes, a shameless plug, yet I don't care because I am so excited about it! Back to the War of Art - Mo succinctly described this book as "Perfection".  I completely agree!

It's short and powerful. It's life-changing. No matter who you are, you'll feel the author is speaking directly to YOU. We all have talents and creative abilities and yet we minimize them, deny them, procrastinate, sabotage, and make ourselves miserable -- why??? Steven Pressfield frankly and humorously addresses these issues and exposes all of our excuses. He can. He's waded through the muck and come out clean on the other side.

I listened to the audio book, which was fantastic. I've also ordered the hardcopy so I can reference it often. It's always a good time to read and re-read this one. What are you waiting for?

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About the Author

steve-pressfield-author
Source: stevenpressfield.com

Steven Pressfield

 

Steven Pressfield is the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Last of the Amazons, Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign, Killing Rommel, The Profession, The Lion's Gate, The War of Art, Turning Pro, Do the Work, The Warrior Ethos, The Authentic Swing, An American Jew, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, and The Knowledge.

His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was adapted for screen. A film of the same title was released in 2000, directed by Robert Redford and starring Matt Damon, Will Smith and Charlize Theron.

His father was in the Navy, and he was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943. Since graduating from Duke University in 1965, he has been a U.S. Marine, an advertising copywriter, schoolteacher, tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout, attendant in a mental hospital and screenwriter. 

His struggles to earn a living as a writer (it took seventeen years to get the first paycheck) are detailed in The War of Art, Turning Pro, The Authentic Swing, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, and The Knowledge.

There's a recurring character in his books, named Telamon, a mercenary of ancient days. Telamon doesn't say much. He rarely gets hurt or wounded. And he never seems to age. His view of the profession of arms is a lot like Pressfield's conception of art and the artist:

"It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior's life."

 
Source: Amazon.com
 
Happy Reading!

Novel Gobblers Book Club icon

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Still LIfe With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Source: Goodreads

Still Life With Bread Crumbs

Anna Quindlen

Club Selection for August 2017

Pages: 252 / Audio: 6 Hrs 50 mins
First Published January 28th 2014 by Random House
 
New York Times Bestseller

A superb love story from Anna Quindlen, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rise and Shine, Blessings, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life

Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined. 

 

“[Anna] Quindlen’s seventh novel offers the literary equivalent of comfort food. . . . She still has her finger firmly planted on the pulse of her generation.”—NPR

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Carol's Rating: ★★★

Anna Quindlen writes beautifully and this story flows along smoothly like a lazy river; It feels uneventful for the most part, even when important events happened. The characters were likable and the story interesting enough to keep me turning pages.

There was good deal of internal dialogue, which I loved but at the same time found hard to follow because the narrator's thoughts jumped around so much. It made me realize how it confusing it must be for others to carry on a conversation with me at times -- we'll be talking about a subject and suddenly I think of something else (squirrel!) so I jump to that topic for a bit. Thankfully, the narrator of this story always came back to complete the original thought.

This was a nice, easy read with moments of intrigue. I wanted to love it as much as I do the cover art (Oh,that beautiful cover!) but all in all, it was better than ok but not fantastic.

 

About the Author

Anna Quindlen Official Author Photo for Still Life with Bread Crumbs
Photo Credit: Maria Krovatin

Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen is the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and bestselling novelist who wrote the books One True Thing and Object Lessons.

Synopsis
Anna Quindlen was born on July 8, 1952, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At age 18, she worked as a copy girl at The New York Times. After college, Quindlen became a reporter for The New York Post before returning to the Times in 1977. She was promoted to deputy metropolitan editor at the Times and wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning op-ed column from 1981-1994. After leaving the Times in 1995, Quindlen has written several bestselling novels, including One True Thing.

Career Highlights
Writer Anna Marie Quindlen was born on July 8, 1952, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Anna Quindlen joined The New York Times at age 18 as a copy girl. After graduating from Barnard College in 1974, she was hired as a reporter for The New York Post. She returned to the Times in 1977 and was named deputy metropolitan editor in 1983.

As a columnist for The Times from 1981 to 1994, Quindlen was only the third woman in the paper's history to write a regular column for the prestigious Op-Ed page. Her column, "Public and Private," won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992. Other columns included "About New York" and "Life in the 30s." In 1995, she left the paper to devote herself to becoming a novelist.

Quindlen's body of work includes fiction, non-fiction, self-help and children's books. She has written five best-selling novels, three of which were made into movies, One True Thing, Black and Blue and Blessings. Thinking Out Loud, a collection of her "Public and Private" columns, was also a best-seller. She currently writes the Last Word column for Newsweek magazine.

Anna Quindlen and her husband, attorney Gerald Krovatin, live in New York City with their three children.

Source: biography.com

Revealing Interviews

With each book you read, aren't you curious to know the inspiration behind it or to understand more about the research,  creative, and editing processes?

Well, we're in luck! Anna Quindlen gives us the inside scoop to these questions and more in these revealing interviews.
 

A Q&A with Anna Quindlen, author of Still Life With Bread Crumbs

Random House: Reader's Guide
November 21, 2013

Anna Quindlen author - Still Life With Bread CrumbsPeople love to know where the inspiration for a novel comes from. Would you say something about Still Life with Bread Crumbs in this regard?

It’s not one thing. It’s never one thing. I’ve thought a lot about the nature of art, and why women’s art, particularly if it arises from domestic life, is minimized, or denigrated—why, for instance, we pay less attention to the work of Alice McDermott, a genius miniaturist whose novels reflect the quiet everyday, then we do to the more sprawling, outward-facing work of Philip Roth. Some of my thinking on that is embodied in Rebecca’s photography and public reaction to it. I’m 61 years old, and I’ve thought a lot about aging, and the stages of a woman’s life, and that’s in there, too. From a purely mechanical point of view, I try to do some essential thing in each novel that I haven’t done before. In this book it was twofold: I’ve never written a love story, and I haven’t written a book with a happy ending, and this material lent itself to both. ...[Read the full interview]
 

 

Anna Quindlen Spins A Tale Of Middle-Aged Reinvention

NPR Author Interview
February 2, 2014,  6:05 AM ET
Heard on Weekly Edition Sunday | Listen 6:32

Rebecca Winter is at a crossroads. The famous photographer had been living off of sales of one particular photograph for years. When the money stream starts to dry up, she reluctantly decides to rent out her Manhattan apartment and move to a small, rural town far from her seemingly fabulous New York life. It is here that she tries to map out her next chapter. No longer married, no longer needed as much by her grown son, no longer as successful as she used to be.

That's where we meet the main character in Anna Quindlen's newest novel, Still Life with Bread Crumbs.

Quindlen tells NPR's Rachel Martin, "I'm really intrigued by the idea that we now live long enough to get to reinvent, rediscover ourselves over and over again, and that's definitely what's happening to Rebecca."

Interview highlights include details on why Rebecca leaves New York for the country, on the love story at the heart of the book, on taste and art, and staying down to earth.

Listen to the interview below or read the transcript.

Book Club Mojo

Inspired by Sarah, one of the characters in the book who runs the English-themed Tea for Two cafe, DeeAnn prepared a beautiful tea party for us!

She treated us with tea (Winter Chocolate Spice and Dancing Sugar Plum), wine, appetizers of meat, cheese, and shrimp, an entree of cucumber sandwiches and scones, and a dessert of sherbet and cookies.  

Loads of laughs, delicious food, and interesting conversation made for an evening of sheer delight!

Pin Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen - Mojo 6

Discussion Questions

Novel Gobblers Original Questions

1.Rebecca's story reminds us that it's important to leave behind people who destroy our dreams and hopes and to find the right people in life. Who were these people in her life? Why did she leave them or embrace them?

2. At one point in the story, Rebecca says to her son, Ben, that she used to be Rebecca Winter. What do you think Ben meant when he replied, "You'll always be the Rebecca Winter."?

3. How might this story be a coming-of-age story for Rebecca Winter, a 60 year old woman?

4. Which of the five W.H. Auden verdicts fits this story for you? Why?

1. I can see this is good and I like it.

2. I can see this is good but I don’t like it.

3. I can see this is good and, though at present I don’t like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it.

4. I can see that this is trash but I like it.

5. I can see that this is trash and I don’t like it.

5. Did you make any predictions as you read this story? What were they? Were you right?

6. Anna Quindlen has stated that she wanted to write a love story. Do you think she succeeded?

7. How did this story make you feel? Who would you recommend it to and why?

 

Questions Issued by the Publisher

Source: Litlovers.com

1. What part of Rebecca Winter’s life do you relate to the most? How did the way Rebecca handled her hardships compare to decisions you’ve made in your own life?

2. One of the themes of Still Life with Bread Crumbs is discovering how to age gracefully. What has been one of your biggest struggles when entering a different stage of life? What is something you’ve enjoyed?

3. Rebecca finds herself living far outside the comfort zone of her former New York City life. What do you think is the most difficult part of moving somewhere new? Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you handle it?

4. At one point in the book, Jim says that he believes that people live in houses that look like them. How does your own house or apartment reflect your personality?

5. "Language had always failed her when it came to describing her photographs…There was nothing she could say about the cross photographs that could come close to actually seeing them." Rebecca realizes this after speaking at the Women’s Art League event. Do you ever find it difficult to describe the effect that art --- photographs, paintings, writing --- has had on you? What might that say about the power of artwork?

6. Throughout the book, Sarah is often the perfect antidote for Rebecca’s unhappiness. Do you have a person like this in your life? Think about one of the times that you were most grateful for him or her.

7. One of the turning points for Rebecca is when Ben tells her, "You will always be Rebecca Winter." How has Rebecca’s personal identity become entangled with her identity as an iconic artist? What helps her to ground herself?

8. The dog gradually becomes a bigger part of Rebecca’s life as she moves further away from her past self—the "not a dog person" city girl. The dog pictures are even the catalyst for Rebecca’s break with TG. What do you think the presence of the dog means in Rebecca’s life, especially after she discovers his name is Jack? How might the constant company of an animal have a different effect from that of the company of people?

9. When Rebecca finally learns the meaning of the crosses, she wonders if the great artists had ever considered "the terrible eternity of immortality" for their subjects. We live in a culture of camera phones and constant photography. Was there ever a moment when you were particularly grateful to have a certain photograph? Do you ever wish that our lives were less documented?

10. O. Henry’s short story and the story of Rebecca’s mother’s Mary Cassatt both have a bittersweet quality to them. Think about a moment in your life that might have been upsetting or sad. Was there someone who helped you see beauty or happiness in that moment instead?

Happy Reading!

Books of the Month – June 2017

Books of the Month – June 2017

Books of the Month - June 2017

Books of the Month - June 2017

June 2017 Books of the Month

June was another banner month in my reading life.

I polished off four top-rated books and haven't been able to stop talking about any of them!

Which of these books have you read? Did you learn anything new?

Was it impossible not to talk to everyone about them? Do tell!

 

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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Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman book cover

 

The Dovekeepers

by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to love this book as much as I loved its cover, but alas, I did not. Sigh... Nonetheless, I'm glad I read it because it stirred my curiosity about the Masada Massacre and motivated me to learn more. Click HERE for my book review, some great intel about the author, Masada, fun book club mojo, and more!  🙂

 

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Winds of War , War and Remembrance book covers

The Winds of War  & War and Remembrance

The Henry Family Series Vol 1 & Vol 2 

by Herman Wouk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fantastic series! Granted, it took me a while to work my way through its nearly 2000 pages, but I was completely absorbed and I loved every moment of it. Plus, the author is 102 years old this year and is still sharp as a tack!

Click HERE to Discover 5 Reasons This is the Best History Book Ever. Period.

 

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

 

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

by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who knew that learning how not to be a jerk could be so entertaining and enlightening?

This is for YOU. Yes, YOU.

Click HERE to read my review and discover loads of interesting facts about the authors, the Enneagram personality typing system, and why you should care.

 

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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!

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron
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. What did you already know about this book’s subject before you read this book?

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

3.  What is your Enneagram number?

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

5.  Did anything surprise you?

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

7.  What questions do you still have?

8.  How did reading this book make you feel?

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

10.  What else have you read on this topic?

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

 

Happy Reading!

The Winds of War & War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk

The Winds of War & War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk

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 by Alice Hoffman

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
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.

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

 

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.

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

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 - May 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 by Jennifer Wright

Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright

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.  🙂

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

 

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.

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

 

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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