Category Archives: Book Club

GIANTS : The Dwarfs of Auschwitz – Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

This month, Wendy and I decided to read separate books to share about. We have very different tastes, which is really good. However, she had one she really wanted to read and I did, as well. So, we each read our own and are sharing about them today. Wendy wrote about The Girl On The Train.giants-the-dwarfs-of-auschwitz

GIANTS: The Dwarfs of Auschwitz – The Extraordinary Story of the Lilliput Troupe
by Yehuda Koren & Eilat Negev

In most books, I don’t read the Foreword or the Introduction. This one, however, was filled with fantastic information. Telling the background of how this story came about was fascinating. So, I start out by saying, “Don’t skip this.”

Meet the Ovitz family. Meet each of the interesting people, these unique souls. It begins in 1866, long before the horrors of the story come about. We meet the ancestors who formed the character of the Ovitz family and the fortitude with which they faced life.

The Ovitz family was made up of seven dwarfs and their tall family members. They are an all-dwarf performance group during the 1930s and 1940s in Eastern Europe (Transylvania, specifically the town of Rozavlea). They traveled all over and we very well known.

However, one major problem arose for this well-known and loved group – they were Jewish and they didn’t fit the Nazi German idea for a normal person. This family was rounded up with so many millions of others and sent to a concentration camp – Auschwitz to be specific. They stayed together, as their mother so often had reminded them to do before passing on from this life. And that probably saved their lives. Seven dwarfs in a single family arrived together and caught the attention of those who were told to watch for twins for Dr. Mengele.

Dr. Mengele was very happy to have a group of so many dwarfs, along with their tall siblings, to add to his medical experiments. While the dwarfs lives were spared for these experiments rather than being sent to the gas chambers or the incenerators like 9 out of every 10 who arrived at  Auschwitz, their lives were made absolutely miserable (not a good word but no other word comes to mind) by this doctor. They were poked, proded, injected, had specimens taken from them, and a million other variations of private invasion to see if the doctor could determine just what he wanted to know.

This family survived and were able to leave the concentration camps but they still had a long road ahead of them. These who were so well-off before the Nazi invasions were now destitute. And in a world where everything they needed had to be specially made, this was a great hard-ship, even with their able bodied siblings alongside. Moving to Israel, the family begins the slow process of rebuilding their lives.

My thoughts:
This story was absolutely fascinating, though incredibly difficult to read at points. I still struggle to understand how the world had something like the Nazi regime occur and how the atrocities that went on were approved of by men who thought themselves right. The awful, disgusting experiments that were done on the Ovitz family and so many, many others are unbelievable. But this story is one that will touch you deeply.

The love of the family for each other and for their heritage and religion is beautiful to read. I enjoyed reading about the Ovitz family because it brought another layer of understanding to my knowledge of WWII. To read about the world this family came from and the one they died in and all that was between is to read and feel the human story of life in some of the brightest days and some of the darkest of humanity.

I highly recommend this book to adults. There is certainly too much in it for most teenagers to be reading when it comes to the detail of the experiments that were performed. But it is a good book to read and see the resilience of humanity and the neighborliness that can exist, even when things are dark.the-whistler

Next Month:
In April, we will posting about the book The Whistler by John Grisham. This will be interesting. I used to love to read John Grisham so we’ll see if I still enjoy it. 🙂

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Beric The Briton – Book Club

This is going to be pretty short. I have not finished Beric The Briton so I don’t have tons to say about it. Two reasons I didn’t finish: 1) life and 2) Henty gets kind of wordy sometimes. 🙂

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Beric is really quite interesting but the first 150 pages of the book (PDF format that I have) took quite a bit of work to get through. Interesting and informative and necessary to understand the rest of the book but difficult, none-the-less. There are lots of names, many unusual, in this story and Henty doesn’t clearly identify who is who and how they are related or which group of people they belong with. Once I got past that and understood who all of the people were, I have really started to enjoy the story.

Beric takes place in England (Briton) when Rome was taking over the world. The native peoples of Briton had been beaten previously in battle and Beric, the son of one of the chiefs, was taken prisoner. As a prisoner of Rome, he was treated really well. He was educated with a Roman tutor and taught Latin and their beliefs and understandings. He grew to understand them very well. After several years, he was released to his people.

Several actions on the part of Rome happen that cause the Britons to rise up against Rome. Many battles take place and the Britons are eventually beaten pretty severely. Beric is taken prisoner again but this time, he is going to be transported to Rome.

The point I am at in the story is where Beric is being taken to Rome. They are not there yet.

I find that I really enjoy the Henty novels because they are laden with history, viewpoints you don’t get from history books, and perspectives that help you view others differently. They are so full of learning and ideas. But, they can be difficult to really get into. Once you do though, they are very much worth the effort of having pushed on.

I would really enjoy hearing from you if you have read any Henty novels. Which have you read and which was your favorite?

The book club had some hiccups this month so I don’t believe that Wendy got a post up but I do believe that next month we will be reading The Whistler but John Grisham.

EDIT: We will post about The Whistler on April 6. The March post (March 2) will be whatever you want. I’ll have to decide what I am going to read and share. I’ll throw up a quick post soon in case someone wants to read along with me.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

It’s that time again – Book Club. This month Wendy challenged me. A lot! She asked if we could read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I admit that I almost told her no, even after knowing that her son had read it. You see, I had picked the book up before and thought it sounded really interesting. Then, I opened it. I was really creeped out by the photos. So badly that I put the book back on the shelf and resolved not to pick it up again. Visual things stick in my mind for a long time, even well written descriptions, so I avoid things like this for my peace of mind. I figured if the photos creeped me out so badly what would the book and all its detailed descriptions do? Then, Wendy brought the request to read it for this month. I decided that part of the challenge of the book club was to read and experience genres and books that I wouldn’t necessarily choose to read of my own accord. This one certainly fell in this category. So, I decided to be brave, said yes and here we are, pleasantly surprised.

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Synopsis:

Jacob Portman has been told stories all his life. As he grew, he quit believing they were real. But what if they were? What if his grandfather’s stories were not fairy tales about peculiar children that could levitate? Or were invisible? Or could create fire? Or all those other strange abilities? When Jacob grandfather is killed, Jacob struggles with what to believe, with who to believe. Perhaps a trip to the island his grandfather always talked about would help remove the mist from the stories, to put these peculiar children and their pictures behind him and allow Jacob to get on with his life. Or perhaps the trip will turn into something much, much more.

As always, a spoiler warning is in effect. The questions come from LitLovers.

1. What effect did the photographs have on how you experienced this novel? In fact, what was your reading experience of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? How did it make you feel? Were you disturbed…or fascinated…or something else?  Did the book hold your interest?

As I mentioned above, I was NOT going to read this book simply because of the pictures. But, I was able to get around that when I checked the ebook out from the library and read it using the OneClick app on my Kindle. I was able to skim past the photos without looking at them. There was enough description in the book that there was no need for me to spend any time on the pictures. The book was fascinating and the story propelled me along without the photos and I am thankful that I didn’t need them to get through the story.

2. What’s wrong with Jacob Portman? What’s his problem?

I don’t think anything is wrong with Jacob Portman. I think he is just a kid trying to figure life out.

3. What about Abe Portman, what kind of character is he? What kind of a world does he create in his stories for young Jacob? Why do the stories intrigue Jacob so much?

Abe Portman was a grandpa who loved his grandchild. He wove stories for him, teaching him things he needed to know in a way that wasn’t scary. His stories brought to life much of what he went through and wanted to prepare Jacob for. It was a fun, fascinating, wonderful world that he taught Jacob about. He did such a good job telling his stories that it was hard to differentiate between the real and the unreal.

4. As he moves into adolescence, why does Jacob begin to doubt the veracity of his grandfather’s stories? In what way does he think they may be connected to Abe’s struggle under the Nazis?

He begins to doubt the stories because he is trying to connect them with things that he is being taught as fact, as truth, as real and possible. Yet much of the stories cannot be connected with fact and truth, real and tangible, because too many people don’t know it. It is difficult to continue believing something when the majority of people tell you it is made up.

5. What makes Jacob think his grandfather’s death is more sinister than what the official miss-peregrines-homeversion claims?

He saw the scene and the creature. He talked to his grandfather during those last moment of his life, when his grandfather was going through trauma and extreme fear.

6. Talk about the house in Wales. When Jacob first lays eyes on it, he observes that it “was no refuge from monsters, but a monster itself.” Would you say the house serves as a setting to the story…or is its role something else—a character, perhaps?

I did not see the house as something bigger than a setting. It was a foundation for the story, anchoring what Jacob knew to what he was seeing and experiencing throughout the story.

7. Are you able to make sense of the “after,” the time loop? Can you explain it? Do you enjoy the way Riggs plays with time in his novel?

The time loop was hard for me to understand the first time it was experienced in the story but after that, it made sense and was interesting. It played a pivotal role in how the story works and to have come up with that idea, to employ it in this way was interesting. The ability to pass through or manipulate time has long been fascinating to mankind and I think Riggs does a wonderful job of using the ideas of time travel and what can be done through it in his story.

8. Were you surprised by the direction that the story took? Were you expecting it to go elsewhere? Were you able to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy the story’s turn of events?

I can’t say that I was surprised, except by the lack of ending. It just stopped. But as for expectations with the twists and turns of the story, I didn’t really feel like I was expecting something but rather just enjoying the ways the paths ran through the story.

9. Talk, of course, about the peculiar children. Which of their oddities and personalities do you find most intriguing?

I don’t know that I liked one more than another. Each was unique and added a lot to the story. I will say I found it rather disturbing that the author spent such time thinking up strange and creepy ways for these children to be “peculiar.” It did make the story interesting in a way it could not have been with normal, ordinary children.

10. Some readers have complained about the inconsistency of the narrative voice, that it was perhaps too sophisticated for a young boy, even an adolescent? Do you agree, or disagree? Does the narrative voice change during the course of the novel?

I kind of liked the way the narrative grew and changed as the story unfolded and Jacob experienced more and more, realizing where reality lay. As he matured in his knowledge of the stories of his grandfather, I think is right that his narrative voice would mature as well.

11. Does the end satisfy? Are loose ends tied up….or left hanging? This is the first book of a planned series. Will you read future installments? Where do you think Riggs will take his readers next?

Leaving the story unfinished was pretty lousy, in my opinion. I like to have reason to continue reading the next book but I don’t like it when the story is left completely unresolved, with more questions than it even began with. I don’t know if I will read the next ones or not. It was a fun and pleasant read but I don’t have a burning desire to follow the story, even with everything left in a shambles.

Visit Ladybug Daydreams to read Wendy’s thoughts on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Did you read along with us this month? If so, we would love to hear what you thought. You can connect with us by writing a comment or if you wrote a blog post about it, link it up in the linky. Then go visit others to read what they thought about the book.

Thank you for joining Wendy of Ladybug beric-the-britonDaydreams and myself on this journey through literature we might not dare on our own.

Next month, we will be reading the GA Henty novel titled Beric the Briton. I have read three other Henty novels and loved them. This one ought to be fun as well. Hope you will join us for that discussion, posting on Feb. 2, 2017.

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Someone Knows My Name – Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

My, oh my, y’all. . . this was a book. I know – not a very intelligent statement but I’m finding it hard to write a good opening line because this book is so full of amazing contrasts. It was such a good read: easy and flowed well and grabbed my attention while being one of the hardest books I have ever read due to the content. It was an emotional book to read: touching, heart-wrenching, gut-punching, joyful, exciting, scary. The ups and downs were so big and so unexpected. It was a masterfully told story, a fictional account, of one of the most real, alive people I’ve ever encountered. It grabbed hold from the beginning and did not let go, even after the writing had all been read. I read way, way past my bedtime more than once because I could not put this book down. But be prepared, it is tough because this is real life being described. someone-knows-my-name

It is not about a real person. It is a novel. However, it is based on the lives of millions of people abducted from their homelands and brought to America as slaves. Aminata is the central character of this story and she was abducted from her home, amidst a very violent, deadly episode, when she was only 11. I. Can’t. Even. Imagine. Everything you have ever heard about slavery is brought to clear, distinct detail in Aminata’s life. She is so very real that the horrors inflicted on her throughout her life are clear, almost as if you are seeing them happen right before your eyes.

We agreed to discuss the questions from LitLovers for this book. I picked some of the questions but there are others that might be interesting for you to explore.

1 – What is the significance of the title Someone Knows My Name?your-past-didnt-matter-quote

One of the important statements that is brought to life throughout the book is that one’s name is a recognition of them as a human, as a person. So to know someone’s name is to recognize them as a real person and to show them some respect. I think one of my favorite scenes for this was when, as slaves aboard the ship bringing them to America, they would sing their names, loud and clear, proclaiming who they were and not allowing that to be lost, through all the rest of the losses that were occurring.

2 – What is your opinion about Hill’s suggestion that Aminata’s very youthfulness at the time of her abduction enables her emotional survival, even as some of the adults in her world show signs of crumbling?

This truth is seen over and over again, though accidents and injuries and all the other things in this world that try to rip us apart. The children seem best able to mold into what is needed for the next step of our life’s journey. The youthfulness of Aminata allowed her to see that she could change, to remember her father’s and mother’s instruction, and to continue on, full of survival and life.

3 – Aminata suffers some horrifying cruelties at the hands of her captors, but her understanding-others-quoterelationships with her masters aren’t always what you’d expect. How does Aminata’s story reveal the complex ways that people react to unnatural, unequal relationships?

Fear and misunderstanding drives a lot of the communication barriers that exist. I think this is clear with the story, as well. Aminata’s first master in  America was fearful and didn’t really know how to react amid that kind of fear. It almost seems that he knew how reliant he was on the slaves and was fearful that he would lost his standing without them. Yet her second master didn’t really treat her like a master. He treated her like an employer who was unsure and fearful. He wanted to do right but didn’t really know how to in the social climate they lived in. We often make decisions based on emotions and emotions do not always lead us in the way we need to go.

4 – During the course of the story, Aminata marries and has a family. Although she is separated from them, she is reunited from time to time with her husband and one of her children. What does the work tell us about the nature of love and loyalty?

Love and loyalty are natural, God given blessings that provide us with strength and courage when we choose to embrace them. Aminata was often driven forward by the loyalty she felt to her family, enveloped by the constant hope that she would find them again one day.

5 – Aminata struggles to learn and master all sorts of systems of communicating in the new world: black English, white English, and Gullah, as well as understanding the uses of European money and maps. How do her various coping mechanisms shed light on her character?

Aminata has a flexible, eager mind that allows her to learn and to continue to learn. She was encouraged to learn by her father and mother and she never forgot that. She knew that learning was a way in which she could move forward, even when she didn’t know where “forward” was leading. This ability to learn made her very valuable to others because she could help them while helping herself.

6 – What does the novel tell us about survival? Which characters fare best and why?if-i-spent-my-time-hating-quote

Survival is making it through. The characters that fare best are those who are willing to try, to keep an open mind (or at least one that is willing to allow for other’s dictation), and to see that there is more out there. Many of the characters that survive do so by pushing forward in spite of the hardships, cruelty, or severity of inequality they faced. They were willing to look forward towards that unknown possibility of something better. They had HOPE.

7 – What do you think would be the challenges involved in writing a realistically painful novel that still offers enough light and hope to maintain the reader’s interest and spirit?

I’ll be honest with you – when I first started reading this and realized it was not quite what I thought it was going to be, I just about quit. I was forced to read a very graphic, very disgusting novel in high school about slavery and it has turned me off to reading anything about slavery. That novel from high school was designed to create disgust, hatred of slavery, and elicit sorrow for the slaves. While those are not bad ideas to foster in the reader of a novel about slavery, it was done by sensationalizing the horrors of slavery, the mistreatment of slaves, and more. It was terrifying to read and I remember having trouble sleeping because of it. I have looked with disdain on all books about slavery because of it.

Hill’s book has changed that for me. He has done an amazing job of creating disgust over the treatment and abduction of millions of innocent humans, hatred of slavery, and eliciting sorrow for all of those swallowed up by slavery. However, he did it by creating a human character that tells the story in an emotional way that the reader can connect with.  Hill created Aminata in such a way that her HOPE resonates throughout the story, even through those darkest time, sometimes through those she has shared HOPE with when she cannot feel that HOPE herself. This story needed the drastic detail but it is done with care and concern, recognizing that these were people being treated in such horrendous ways. The detail does not sensationalize the events but rather treats with honor and respect the characters going through horrific events, eliciting that honest sorrow for the character.

Truly, I thoroughly enjoyed this books and will highly recommend it to anyone who asks. I am thankful to Annette from A Net In Time for the review she originally published about it and the discussions we had about it while she was reading it. She opened my mind to it and then suggested it while I was trying to decide on a book for this month to suggest to Wendy. This has been a great read.

Please visit Wendy at Ladybug Daydreams to read about her experience with this book and her thoughts. She will be answering some of these same questions. I expect Annette from A Net In Time to join us as well.

For January, we will be posting on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. This one, I’ll admit, I am going to be brave about. I’ve picked it up before and thought the synopsis was interesting but the pictures? Well, let’s just say the induced me to put it right back down. I’ve agreed to be brave and give it a fair shot for January though. Will you join us?

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The Bronte Plot – Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

Welcome to the Book Club, hosted by myself and Wendy from Ladybug Daydreams. This month’s selection was fun and easy for me. The novel focused on a lady who loved books. She sold antique books at a very reputable antique dealer. Her reputation was growing and the influence and advice of the antique dealer (Sid) was helpful. With the help of her books, she met and fell in love. When she met his grandmother, her world began to change. How much she doesn’t know until her becomes the escort for the grandmother on an overseas trip. Will her life ever be the same? Will her love survive the changes? Will she?

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We chose to use questions from Reading Group Choices, but these are the same questions that are in the back of the book. There are actually 13 questions in the book, but we will stop at 10. Don’t forget to check out Wendy’s discussion on the book and see her answers to the questions.

  1. The Lewis quote at the front of the book describes an aspect of Lucy at the beginning of this story. Why do you think she’d lost the power to enjoy books? Is there something in our lives that we can fail to see clearly and lose enjoyment for?Lucy has lost the power to enjoy books because her focus had changed. She was no longer reading them herself but trying to persuade others of their value. For me, music has kind of taken on the same status. I struggle to enjoy it like I used to and a big part of that is because of a change of focus.
  2. Sid is one of the author’s favorites. What character trait do you think she found so attractive? She doesn’t tell you a lot about his background—any thoughts as to his story?Sid is quirky and unique and has this massive ability to bring joy. That is very attractive. I imagined him as one without family but plenty of friends. That’s about as far as I took the thought.
  3. Was James justified in feeling so hurt when he found the forged inscription? How did he perceive Lucy’s struggle? Was it a betrayal, like he claimed?I do think James was justified in his hurt because he had trusted Lucy’s word. I don’t think that he really understood the internal struggle Lucy was having. For that reason, I think he was wrong in calling it a betrayal.
  4. Why did Helen hold on to the watch? Was she really afraid to let go? What did it cost her along the way?I think Helen held onto the watch at the beginning because it was a connection she wanted to hold fast to. She wasn’t ready to break that connection since it ended in a way she wasn’t prepared for. In the end, it cost her giving her all in her relationships.
  5. In London both women begin to change. Why? Do you think James is right that “strings pull tighter at home?”This statement is pretty true but it is clearer to me when I think about it as fitting into a mold. We act certain ways at certain places and that can be hard to change. Being in a new or different place allows us to think and see things differently.
  6. Lucy talks about “boiling a frog.” What does she mean?This refers to the illustration that is used when someone gets used to something difficult little by little. It is said that by place a frog in cold water and turning the heat up, the frog doesn’t notice that the water is changing temperatures little by little and so does not know to jump out or it will be boiled to death.
  7. What changed in Lucy at Haworth, even before her wandering to Top Withens? And at Top Withens, why did Edward Rochester’s journey make such sense to her?At these places, Lucy was able to clearly see how she had let all the little choices lead to bigger ones that were more impactful; how the “little” untruths had led to much more harmful ones. She was more clearly able to see herself. She saw that she had to find a way to go back so she could start over. She declared she would rise again.
  8. Do you agree with Lucy that each person has his or her own worldview? How did hers change? How did James’? Helen’s?Yes, each person has their own worldview because a worldview is shaped by faith, beliefs and experiences. No two people have exactly the same of all of those so their worldviews are not exactly the same, though they could be very, very similar.Lucy has changed by acknowledging the hurt that existed, the wrongs done. She stepped forward, choosing a new worldview shaped by truth- from her and how she saw things after meeting her father. No more rose-colored glasses for her outlook.

    James’ changed by acknowledging the struggle Lucy had and all that his grandmother had dealt with and was dealing with. It also changed when he acknowledged how he wanted to approach the world with his work.

    Helen’s became more joyful as she let go of the past and faced her future with truth and courage.

  9. How do you think Helen’s journey will affect her final days with her family?Helen’s journey helped her let go of the past and see a clear, joyful future with her family. It allows her to have frank, open discussions with her family. It changed her and her relationships for the better.
  10. This story is one of choices. How do you see them playing out with each character? In your own life? Are the choices not made as powerful as the ones we consciously make? Is there a difference between them?Choices, made or not made, affect our life. To choose not to act is still a choice. Life is made of choices. Some are bigger and some are seemingly small but every choice has the possibility of massive impact.  The choices made in the story, especially the more conscientious ones, are what drives the plot. But the ones made unconsciously without much thought are strangely impactful and help us to see the human side of the characters.
     

This was a fun read and it did not take a lot of brain power. At least not until I tried to answer questions about it. Don’t forget to visit Ladybug Daydreams to see what Wendy has to say about these questions. And this month, our friend Annette from A Net In Time is joining us as well.

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Next month, we will be reading Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill. This book was published in Canada under the titled The Book of Negroes. The discussion questions, along with an author bio and more, are found on the LitLovers site.

 

 

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Book Club – announcing next read

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

We took the month of September off due to some craziness in schedules. We are now back. Our next post will occur on the 3rd of November. The book for that discussion will be:

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The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay

This is a fiction story that someone had recommended to me. So, I grabbed it without actually knowing much about it. I think it was a good recommendation. More about that next month. . .

 

 

For this month, I want to encourage you to read Ben-Hur, written by Lew Wallace. Ever read it? I hadn’t even thought it is on that imaginary list of “everyone should have read.” Goes right along with that same kind of list for movies, doesn’t it?

ben-hur-coverWell, I decided to read Ben-Hur and I am so glad I did. Lew Wallace was one the governor of New Mexico but I didn’t even know that until a short while ago. Once I knew that, I was more determined to find time to read this epic book. The full title is Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

Wow! Never knew that part, either. A Tale of the Christ. I was shocked about how much Bible history was included in this story. Parts of it I know are embellished or the details of created but it was still a terribly enjoyable read.

I know from background reading that I did that Lew Wallace knew a lot about what he wrote and so I believe that a lot of the details, such as how merchants did their work and how messengers would have been dispatched and how “inns” worked, etc., are accurate. This was a fascinating part of the story to me.

And really, the part that I knew about – the chariot race – really isn’t what this story was about at all. Everyone seems to have focused on this part of the story but it is a very small portion. While it is a driving force in parts of the story, it isn’t the focus of the story.

Ben-Hur begins with the wise men trying to find the child that the star is propelling them to. It goes all the way through time until after the crucifixion. It is a compelling read.

Definitely high on my list of recommendations. I found a copy free for the Kindle. I am certain most libraries would have it. Want to read what is written about it on Wikipedia? Click here.

Now, I need to find a copy of the movie and see how well it echoes the true story by Lew Wallace.

Please join Wendy and me this month in reading The Bronte Plot then pop back over here on November 3rd and share your thoughts on the book, either in the comments or by writing a blog post and sharing the link with us.

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Julie & Julia – Book Club

Book club:Ladybug Daydrams and At Home where life happens

This month’s selection was Julie & Julia. Wendy and I have not yet had any discussions about this selection so I am interested in what she has to say about it. I have to say I was rather disappointed in this book. Glad to have read it but not really one I will recommend. It isn’t bad, though, I wish her language was better. It was all the belly-aching and depressing comments and finding so many things wrong with life rather than finding fulfillment in achievement and a loving husband. Pretty sad.

The premise of the book is based on a blog that Julie Powell wrote during a single year. In that year, she determined to make, for better or worse, all of Julia Child’s recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. A noble feat to attempt and I imagine it was really quite an interesting year. She blogged each morning after having cooked the night before. I would love to have read a ton more about the actual process of the cooking and the successes and failures of the recipes. This book really skipped most of that, though.

Julie & Julia cover

So, the discussion questions now. (These questions are from LitLovers.)

1. Julie has such a remarkable relationship with Julia Child, despite never having met her. What did you think of the relationship that Julie built in her mind? And why does it not matter, in some sense, when Julie finds out that Julia wasn’t an admirer of hers or the Project?

I don’t really consider what Julie has in her mind as a “relationship.” She has created this image of a person, expectations of her, based on a book and I don’t guess there is anything wrong with that. If a book is well written, especially if the person is well known as Julia Child is, then there is a tendency to assume you have a relationship/friendship with that person when really it is just all in your head. I think that is why it doesn’t really matter in the end that Julia Child did not care for The Project that Julie undertook. It was a personal project that had nothing to do with Julia Child, really; The Project was all about Julie.

2. Throughout the book, various people become involved with the Project: Julie’s husband, her friends, and several of her family members. Discuss the different roles each played in the Project. Which people were most helpful and supportive? Who was occasionally obstructionist?

Julie’s husband was a definite support for her. He worked her through some of her down days and disappointments, keeping her going when it really might have been better to throw the towel in. Her friends and her husband, and even her brother some, went to incredible lengths to hunt down ingredients, eat disagreeable foods, and sit through late night waits. Her mother, on the other hands, was definitely not a support for her, telling her she was going to fail.

3. Did you find Julie to be a likeable character? Did you relate to her insecurities, anxieties, and initial discontent? Why do you think it is that she was able to finish the Project despite various setbacks?

I did not find Julie likeable at all. Her language was a big disappointment and she spent a large portion of the book complaining and talking about how bad life was. The only reason she undertook this project was because she was depressed and then she bellyached about it all the time. I have no idea why she finished The Project. She didn’t seem proud of the fact that she did. It seemed to be unsatisfying to her that she accomplished that huge goal.

4. If someone were to ask you about this book, how would you describe it? Is it a memoir of reinvention? An homage to Julia Child? A rags-to-riches story? A reflection on cooking and the centrality of food in our lives? Or is it all (or none) of these?

I would describe it, honestly, as a depressing book about someone’s disappointments in life. I don’t think any of the descriptions in the question are good for this book. It is nice that Julie completed such a huge undertaking and that she accomplished something. It is nice that she got a book deal out of it. But, really, the story itself is depressing and not very enjoyable.

5. Did Julie’s exploits in her tiny kitchen make you want to cook? Or did they make you thankful that you don’t have to debone a duck or sauté a liver? Even if your tastes may not coincide with Julia Child’s recipes, did the book give you a greater appreciation of food and cooking?

None of these really fit how this book made me feel about cooking. Reading Julia Child’s memoirs definitely made me want to cook more and appreciate all of the wonderful helps we have but this book? Not so much.

6. At various points in the book, Julie finds that cooking makes her question her own actions and values. What did you make of her lobster guilt, for example, or her thoughts on extracting bone marrow? Have you ever encountered these issues while cooking, or while going through other everyday motions of life? Have you come to conclusions similar to or different from Julie’s?

I thought that her thoughts regarding the lobster and bone marrow were disturbing. It is an animal. Nothing more. To equate that with murder and to try to make so much out of it? That seemed more like a plea for attention that any true feelings. I skipped a large part of that chapter because it seemed so pathetic.

7. When Julie began the Project, she knew little to nothing about blogging. What do you think blogging about her experiences offered her? Does writing about events in your life help you understand and appreciate them more? Do you think the project would have gone differently if the blog hadn’t gained so much attention? Who was the blog mainly for, Julie or her readers?

Blogging definitely helps you get your thoughts and emotions out of your head but this book was not at all about the blogging. It mentioned it a couple of times but that was probably the biggest disappointment about this book. It really didn’t talk about the cooking or the blogging. I would have loved to have read her blog entries. Maybe they would have been more interesting. I am certain that the blog helped propel her through those difficult recipes that she really didn’t want to do and knowing folks were out there rooting her on was helpful.

Final thoughts?
This one is not worth your time. There is so much out there that is a much more enjoyable read. Head over to Ladybug Daydreams now and read Wendy’s thoughts about this book. I haven’t read them yet so I will be heading over there right after I hit publish on this one. 🙂

The month of October I will be posting some thoughts about Ben-Hur, which I just finished reading. We are not going to have an official book club selection because this is going to be quite a busy month for both Wendy and I. So we’ll take the posting date in October off but I will be sharing the next selection at that time. You won’t want to miss it!

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