Category Archives: Book Club

An Invisible Thread – Book Club

Wendy suggested this month’s book and I enjoyed it tremendously. Such an inspiring tale to be told. Don’t forget to check out what Wendy says about An Invisible Thread.

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11 year-old panhandler, a busy sales executive, and an unlikely meeting with destiny

by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski

An Invisible Thread

A busy, noisy street corner in New York is not exactly the place where you imagine life changing for ever. But it did for Laura and Maurice one Monday afternoon. Maurice was begging for a small amount of change, enough to get something, anything, to eat. Laura walked past but then, for a reason unknown to herself, she turned around and talked to the youngster. She ended up taking him to McDonalds and spending some time with him. She thought that was the end of it until she could not stop thinking of him. She was able to find him again, as unlikely as it was in New York, and that is how her interactions with Maurice came to change both of their lives.

Laura knew nothing about just how different their lives were. After all, she had never experienced anything like that. But danger, drugs, prostitution, and a slew of other illegal activity were just part of life and survival for Maurice. As Laura and Maurice got to know each other, he opened up to her about his life. Laura struggled to know just how to maneuver the relationship – she wanted to help but she didn’t want to take over; she wanted to influence but she did not want to discredit those who were in his life already (as bad as it was, he loved his family); she wanted  him to dream of something different than he knew but not feel that she was looking down on him for where his life was right then; she wanted him to experience a fuller, richer life but she didn’t want it to be hard for him to cross back over into the life he actually had to live every day. And then, how were others going to see her?

She continued to be a committed influence in Maurice’s life and to do her best to help him change his own circumstances, knowing she could not change them for him. She helped him experience life beyond the walls he knew and to see the possibilities. With family, she exposed him to holidays that he had never celebrated, baseball games with afternoons of joy, and time to concentrate on school instead of survival. And it mattered.

Laura didn’t have an easy life either, though hers did not involve poverty. It did, however, involve alcoholism and abuse. This was something that allowed her to relate to Maurice and for Maurice to see that you can overcome what life hands you to start with. When Laura shared parts of her life with him, he was able to see that Laura really did understand difficulty to some degree. And it bonded them.

The finest part of the book comes at the end, where Maurice writes his own tribute to Laura, who made a difference to him. He tells of the moments that stuck out during their years of friendship and how her belief in him helped him to believe in himself. His letter is extremely touching.

One of my favorite parts is where Maurice sees Laura’s niece and brother-in-law interact. The little girl is very upset and crying hard. Her dad, Laura’s brother-in-law crosses over to her, and Maurice fears what he just knew to be coming – a beating and abuse. But he is shocked to see Laura’s brother-in-law crouch down, talk calmly and reassuringly to her, and to hug her. It was a changing point in Maurice’s life – he saw something possible for the future that he didn’t even know existed.

The book’s title is based upon an Asian proverb that talks about an invisible thread that binds people together, bringing them into each other’s lives. Laura believe’s this invisible thread brought Maurice and her together and allowed them both to live richer, fuller lives because of it.

The book was not hard to read as far as words go. But to read about the life Maurice had to endure, and to escape? That was hard. I know that life exists but I am blessed to never have lived anything even remotely close to that. But to read about the influence that started with a simple meal? That is huge and touching and inspiring. Now to take that and move ever more boldly forward. . .

Next Month – Unbroken by Laura Hildenbrand

 

Don’t forget to visit Wendy over at Ladybug Daydreams to find out all that she offers on her blog and to read about her thoughts on the book.

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Keep Moving – Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

Keep Moving and Other Tips and Truths About Aging

by Dick Van Dyke (published 2015)

Keep Moving

In this memoir, we get to see the spirit of Dick Van Dyke and what has kept him young-at-heart through the years. He talks in length about his attitude toward life and others, his activity, and the way he has kept on keeping on. Mr. Van Dyke has shown us through his funny and insightful writings that life gets better as you age and experience things. When he wrote this book, he was in his ninth DECADE of show-business. Now that is longevity!

Old age is something that Mr. Van Dyke should be very familiar with yet he tells us several times in his book that he finds himself looking around and thinking “Am I old?” He has decided that age is just as number and you only feel as old as you let yourself. He encourages the read to be active (dance is best, of course), take changes with a smile, and live the life you want to life; don’t let fear or society talk you into something less than your dreams.

Now, with that being said, he also does not allow for excuses. If something doesn’t work out, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and give it another go or change your dream. He does not allow excuses to dictate any of his life.

I found that one of the things that stuck with me most about Mr. Van Dyke is the measuring stick he uses for choosing which projects he would be a part of. He said that if he would not let his children see that work, he should not be doing it. In this way, he never participated in anything that he regrets. That says a lot to me about the type of person Mr. Van Dyke is.

I also really enjoyed the chapter he titled “Ninety Year – A Report Card.” In this chapter, he talks about memorable things from various years of his life. From important books to movies, from his own work to the work of others who influenced him (think Laurel and Hardy or The Benny Goodman Orchestra), this chapter was in interesting overview of the years and things that happened. And each one received a grade – A to F.

This book was a fun, enjoyable read that brought many laughs and smiles, just like all of his work. A witty way with words makes the book a pleasant way to spend your time. This is a read that I highly recommend to everyone. It is clean and fun.

Visit Wendy at Ladybug Daydreams to read what she thought about Keep Moving.

An Invisible Thread

Next month’s selection is

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11 year-old panhandler, a busy sales executive, and an unlikely meeting with destiny

by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski

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Austenland – Book Club

Austenland book club

This month’s selection was a quick, easy read that I stumbled across in the used book store: Austenland by Shannon Hale. The title caught my attention because I have long enjoyed reading Jane Austen’s works. There have been a number of novels written about people who have been caught up in the story’s Jane Austen wrote and this is one of those. Wendy agreed that this one might be fun so on I read!

Summary:

Meet Jane – a young woman who is single and always seeming to meet men who just don’t live up to her dreams. Of course, when your dreams are centered around Pride and Prejudice and the “perfect” man of Mr. Darcy then meeting someone who is just right is just hard. Jane’s great-aunt sees through Jane’s troubles and decides to bequeath her a trip that will immerse her in the time period and style of Pride and Prejudice.

Jane takes the plunge, going to Austenland for 3 weeks, to be fully immersed in the time period that she has always seen as perfect. But once she arrives, she begins to question what she has always thought. Is Mr. Darcy actually perfect? Will Jane meet the right Mr. Darcy at Austenland or will she just meet Mr. Right? This is a sweet, fun read that helps us see that perfect is not always perfect and Mr. Right is probably completely different from your dreams.

There is a Reading Group Guide at the back of the book. The questions seem to be the same ones from LitLovers. I picked a few questions from there for this post.

1. Austenland opens, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a thirtysomething woman in possession of a satisfying career and fabulous hairdo must be in want of very little, and Jane Hayes, pretty enough and clever enough, was certainly thought to have little to distress her” (1). How does this sentence set the stage for the novel? Compare it to the famous first sentence of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Which of these universal “truths” is actually true, if either?

Neither is true. It is clear that when making a broad statement that it does not fit every person or ever situation. Everyone experiences difficulties and nothing physical can make the determination that you need something or someone in your life.

2. Austenland, besides chronicling Jane’s stay at Pembrook Park, lists all thirteen “boyfriends” she’s had in her lifetime. How well does the reader get to know Jane’s past? How much has she changed from her first relationship at age twelve to the one that is now just beginning?

This listing definitely shows a bit of who Jane is. We see a change but then, if we didn’t, we would be considering just how realistic this character is since age 12 to her present “thirtysomething” is a significant time period.

3. Jane observes of the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice: “Stripped of Austen’s funny, insightful, biting narrator, the movie became a pure romance” (2). What would Austenland be like without Jane’s own funny, insightful, biting narration?

Without being able to follow Jane through Austenland, it would not be as real of a place. Jane helps us see life’s stumbles, how we weave in and out and around the people we come into contact with.

4. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs. Bennet, is known for her determination to marry off her daughters and for her frequent social blunders. How does Miss Charming, Jane’s fellow visitor to Pembrook Park, resemble Mrs. Bennet? What are some of Charming’s funny faux pas and verbal blunders?

Miss Charming is so anxious to be a part of the false world created at Pembrook Park that we see an overzealous, anxious person who doesn’t care a whit about those around her. She seems to overshadow the others as she pushes her way through the experience.

5. Jane’s great-aunt Carolyn set the whole Pembrook Park adventure into motion. What Austenlanddo you think Carolyn’s intentions were in sending Jane to this Austenland? Do you think Jane fulfilled those expectations?

I believe great-aunt Carolyn’s purpose was to help Jane find the real world, to have authentic relationships, and to see herself for who she really was. I do believe that Jane was able to do much of that.

6. Jane comes to wonder what kind of fantasy world Jane Austen might have created for herself: “Did Austen herself feel this way? Was she hopeful? Jane wondered if the unmarried writer had lived inside Austenland with close to Jane’s own sensibility—amused, horrified, but in very real danger of being swept away” (123). Is it possible to guess at Austen’s attitude toward romance by reading her work? Why or why not?

I do not believe that we can guess at Austen’s attitude at all. She was a writer and most novel writers seem to be very good at creating an ideal land without it being remotely related to their own real world.

7. What might Jane Austen think of Austenland, if she were alive today? Could she have possibly anticipated how influential her novels would become, even for twenty-first-century audiences? Could she ever have imagined a fan like Jane Hayes?

I can only imagine that writers would be horrified to find people who have immersed themselves so fully into the story and the imagined lands that their real lives are filled with troubles, false ideals, and broken relationships.

If you choose to read this, I hope you find it a simple, fun book. It is not as deep as these questions try to make it, which is probably the biggest issue I have with questions related to books and stories. Sometimes, it is just an enjoyable story and that is okay. I feel this way about this particular book. Just enjoy it.

I found the official site of Shannon Hale pretty funny but I also appreciated this Q&A about whether this book is appropriate for youngsters. (I would probably not mind an older teen reading it but it is not for my 13 year old.)

As a side note, I just saw that this was turned into a movie in 2013. Interesting. May have to check it out as something fun to watch.

Don’t forget to head over to Ladybug Daydreams to see what Wendy has to share about Austenland. We’ll see you next month for the next selection.

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The Dragon of Lonely Island ~ Book Club

The Dragon of Lonely Island by Rebecca Rupp was an interesting, fun read. I stumbled across it in the juvenile fiction section of our library and picked it up. Turns out to be a wonderful find! There were plenty of twists and turns to keep the story interesting and all three of the giggly girls enjoyed it as a read-aloud.

SUMMARY:
The three children, Hannah, Zachary, and Sarah Emily, find themselves on a lonely island for the summer and are not exactly pleased about it. Mother will be occupied writing her book so the children have to entertain themselves. Luckily, Aunt Mehitabel, whose house they are borrowing, send them a cryptic message and a key. This is the beginning of discovery and travel through story. Finding themselves face to face with three-headed dragon, they learn much about dragon lore, history, and themselves. Transported through time and history through the stories each of the dragon heads tell, the children find that the summer flies by.

When I was reading this to the girls, they just did not want me to stop reading. We had to read several chapters at a time due to the cliff-hanging endings to some of the chapters. You just can’t leave things dangling like that! This is one every family needs to add to their read-aloud pile!Dragon of Lonely Island

I found some questions on Sweet On Books . . . where reading is a treat.
• How would you describe the siblings’ relationships?
At the beginning of the book, they are pretty strained. Hannah is growing up and struggling to find how that fits into the world she has always known with her brother and sister. At the end of the book, they are bonded. They understand each other, watch out for each other, and help one another. It is a neat transformation.
• Which sibling do you relate to the most and why?
I can see part of each sibling in myself. Not all of it is things I like. I find myself struggling against the selfishness that Zachary overcomes. I see myself lacking confidence as Sarah Emily does. I also see myself as the protector, as I see Hannah being sometimes. I think that is the beauty of these characters – we can find a bit of ourselves in each of them.
• Do you think that inequalities for girls still exist today?
In some ways, yes. But that is not bad. Inequality does not lessen the importance of the person or their abilities. I think this is one of the worst issues with out world today. We expect everything to be even and equal. We were not created that way and we should not pretend that this is how things need to be.
• Do you believe in dragons? Would you like to meet one?
No, I don’t believe in dragons. But if they did exist, I would LOVE to meet one that is as friendly and interesting a Fafnyr.
• Which of the three dragon stories did you like the best, and why?
I liked all of them. I think they all move the story along nicely, connecting the past to the present. Each of the stories presented and moral to be learned. I enjoyed that aspect of the stories.

Wendy will be getting her post up  shortly and I will link that here. We have also not decided on next month’s read. Guess it is past time to do that. Sorry to all my readers about neglecting that. I’ll share a quick post with the title when we decide.

Holler back at me once you have read this one and tell me what you think about it. I was pretty pleased to have stumbled across this. It was a fun, easy read that really transported the imagination around.

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Circus Mirandus – Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

Welcome to the Book Club for July, hosted by myself and Wendy over at Ladybug Daydreams. The book selection for this month was Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. The back cover of this book says it all

Circus Mirandus back cover

If you do not like to include magic in your book reading, stop here. This book is all about magic. But it is not magic like anything you can imagine. Fanciful, imaginative, full of power and might – all good.

Many people have the idea of “seeing is believing.” But with Circus Mirandus, you will not see if you do not believe. This is the story of Micah and the amazing stories his grandfather Ephraim has told him regarding the Circus Mirandus. Micah loves to hear the stories of the magical circus his grandfather would tell him. However, those stories are few and far between now because his grandfather is very ill; he is dying.

Micah believes what his grandfather has told him and wishes more than anything to be able to call in the miracle that is owed to his grandfather from many, many years before. But can Micah ever visit Circus Mirandus? If he does, can he convince the Lightbender that his grandfather’s miracle is still viable and that it is time, now, to call it in? Micah must succeed. His grandfather’s life may well depend on it.

Cassie Beasley has written a wonderfully magical book that stretches the imagination and helps us to see what life is really worth. And, surprisingly, it may be exactly what we are expecting. Friendships formed over school assignments, struggling to help others really see, knowing just what someone needs and fighting hard to get it for them, finding forgiveness and getting your heart’s desire – these themes are found in the storyline and really endure Micah to the reader, as these are things the reader can relate to.

Circus Mirandus front cover

Discussion Questions (found on the Texas Bluebonnet Award 2016-2017 site)

  • The Lightbender owes Grandpa Ephraim a miracle. If you were promised a miracle, would you take it right then or ask to save it for later? Explain.
    I think I would take it right then. It would be incredibly hard to have such power at my fingertips and not use it. So many good things could be accomplished. Then again, I might ask to save it for later precisely because so many good things could be accomplished that I would want to think about them first and be a good steward of the opportunity.
  • Chintzy thinks there is a serious failing of character because she is not offered a snack. Of Jenny, Micah and Chintzy, which do you believe has the failure of character? Defend your answer.
    I think Chintzy has the failing of character. It is very selfish to expect to be offered a treat, a refreshment, or anything. Expecting to be treated the way you want to be treated is not very considerate. Now, at the same time, Jenny and Micah should have thought to be hospitable and offer some refreshment but I think their negligence can be overlooked in the circumstances.
  • Ephraim had to choose between the miracle of having his father home from the war or doing the right thing and have him stay and save lives. What would you have chosen? What does this tell you about Ephraim?
    I believe that I would have chosen as Ephraim did and have him stay and help many others, though that decision would be extremely difficult. This choice in the young Ephraim tells us that he is capable of seeing the greater good and has the character to understand it and desire others to be helped. He is generous and considerate and benevolent.
  • Why does the ticket taker say the quipu is not a ticket but an invitation? Which is better.
    The invitation is definitely better, though I am not sure why the ticket taker was able to differentiate. An invitation is better because you are offered the opportunity to join something, someone wants you there, while a ticket is you saying you desire to be there.
  • Would you have brought Jenny to the circus if you were Micah? Explain.
    Yes. Micah wanted Jenny there. She was his support and his confidence provider. She believed in Micah, even if she didn’t believe in the circus. Micah needed that support that she provided. And Jenny needed to be there for Micah so that she could have her mind stretched.
  • Ephraim says some of us aren’t brave enough to find our specialness and some of us make mistakes along the way. Explain.
    It takes a great amount of courage to be different, to be special, and to try the necessary new things to find just where that lies. In the process of trying new things, we will make mistakes. But eventually, we all find our uniqueness if we continue to search for it.

Circus Mirandus is a wonderful book that I definitely recommend. If you are looking for activities and discussion questions, here are some resources for you. We will be using this book as a read-aloud in a couple of months and I will definitely be using some of these resources and ideas.

Texas Bluebonnet Awards 2016-2016 – discussion questions, resource link list for many topics included in the book (war, knot tying, breathing difficulties, etc.), and a list of other books that might be enjoyed

Penguin Books – educator’s guide with lesson plans, ideas, and discussion questions

Storypath – a faith-based site that looks to connect faith to the book; includes some interesting questions and discussions

Circus Mirandus Ideas – not exactly sure where this one is from but this came up in a Google search; has some good ideas and is in PDF format

WILD(er) About Reading – links to the discussion questions that were used for their book club

This was a fun book. I hope you choose to read it. It was definitely enjoyable.

Please visit Wendy to see what she thought about Circus Mirandus.

Dragon of Lonely Island

Next month we will be discussing The Dragon of Lonely Island by Rebecca Rupp. I think I will be using the discussion questions found on the blog Sweet On Books.

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Women Heroes of World War II – Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

This month’s selection is Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue. It is written by Kathryn J. Atwood. These stories all have one thing in common – concern/love for  others who are not being treated right. Each of the 26 women in this book stood up when there was evil being done and said, in her own ways big and small, “I will not take this.” And then she did something about it.

Many of these women joined others in formal resistance organizations, but not all. Most of these women lost their lives for standing up for what is right, but not all. All are heroes and all are being remembered for staying the course, even in the face of things I cannot fathom.

I was to highlight just a few, though I encourage you to read all of their stories. It will bring both delight and encouragement to you. And, if you want to read more, each individual has a small box at the end that tells you about other books and articles that have been written about them.

Women Heroes of WWII

Sophie Scholl from Germany – Sophie was involved with an underground publishing group sharing leaflets in Germany and encouraging students to not tolerate the Nazi beliefs that were being forced on them. She is quoted in the book as saying “Somebody had to make a start! What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don’t dare say it out loud!” What bravery and courage it must have taken to state that. Having seen the growth of the German forces, she knew that it was not right and determined to make a stand. She was executed after a trial in which she was found guilty of possessing The White Rose pamphlets and distributing them. A tribute to her and others from The White Rose came when Allied forces reprinted some of The White Rose pamphlets and dropped them from the air over Germany.

Noor Inayat Khan from Great Britain – Noor was a gentle, quiet spirit who enjoyed writing and illustrating, especially children’s stories. When the war began, she joined the WAAF and became a radio operator. This was the beginning of her quiet, unsuspected assistance in the resistance movements. Her special training allowed her to join the SOE (Special Operations Executive) which sent agents into Nazi-occupied countries to fight secretly. She was a radio operator for this, sending messages from other agents back to London from France. She was a very successful radio operator but was betrayed and arrested. She was eventually executed at Dachau but not before she sent additional encouragement to others who were in the prisons with her.

Fernande Keufgens from Belgium – This was a teenager who did might work and kept her cool in many close situations. One of my favorite related in the book is when she was able to get a five year old child to safety, even after being directly questioned by the Gestapo. She evaded capture very narrowly several times but always continued helping the Resistance. She survived the war and her story lives on.

Josephine Baker from France – Josephine was an elegant singer who entertained many. What they didn’t know was that was also a spy for the Deuxieme Bureau, a military intelligence group. She was able to move about from place to place and no one would suspect an African-American-turned-Frenchwoman to be gathering intelligence to pass along to the military while she was singing and dancing. She was able to gather many important bits of information and often knew more about the war than the servicemen she was performing for. She was an encouragement and help to many in the war efforts.

Without these and many, many others, the war could have drug on more many more years. I am so inspired by those who stepped up when they could have just turned away. They didn’t ignore; they didn’t hide their faces; they didn’t walk away. The said “not on my watch” and did something. Every little thing helped.

What lessons there are in that for me today. I need to look around for ways to assist and then to boldly do so. I challenge you to do the same as these women.

Head over to Ladybug Daydreams to see which women Wendy chose to highlight. We’ll see if any caught both of our attentions. So many to choose from, each very special.

Join us next month for the book club selection of Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. It will post on  July 6.

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Book Club for June – update

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If you are looking for the Book Club post for June, well, it isn’t here. Yet.

The selection is Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue and it is written by Kathryn J. Atwood. The discussion will post next Thursday, June 8, due to life happening for both Wendy and me.

We will each discuss a couple of the ladies from the book who were inspirational for one reason or another. Join us next week for the discussion on Women Heroes of WWII.

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