Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Great Gatsby

With all the flurry around the film (however quickly it came and went) we picked The Great Gatsby as our classic for the year.  (Being as it is so short, we will do another short classic for Ocotber, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).

This book gave us a lot to discuss- mainly because there are so many great guides and questions posed online.  As usual, I am not going to go into these here because this blog is more of a pulse on whether or not the book made a good book club book, and whether or not we found things to discuss.

For a detailed list I recommend this list of discussion questions found at Reading Group guides.
There are also several articles that discuss the symbolism in the book- from the color of what the characters wear or are surrounded by, to the temperature of the scene they are involved in, there are symbols here that are well placed and well thought out.  The obvious ones (like the all-seeing eyes) are just as fun as the not so common (even the names of the girls imply innocence or guilt.)  Unfortunately, I found a detailed article for our club, but since the release of the movie it has been swallowed up in the web and I can't find it- but don't worry, there is plenty more out there to be found, you will just have to do the digging yourself.

One thing that caused quite a stir at our club was the symbol of Gatsby as a Savior like figure. While some of us were able to roll with it (he does take the blame and carry the sin of Daisy, and he dies for the sin) others found this too difficult a jump to make.  The author says in Chapter 6 that he invented himself, he was a 'son of God" and later notes he would be 'about his father's business', so it could well be argued that the author intended to make this connection.... but, as one of our members pointed out, then what does this say about Fitzgerald?  For Gatsby was no saint- he was troubled, obsessive, and dishonest, all to get the thing he desired...does this reflect the authors view of Christianity?  As you can see- this opened up a whole tangle of discussion that never really came to a decisive conclusion (the best way to leave book club, I think).

We quoted plenty of lines, enjoying the turn of phrase and citing feelings of disgust with the 20's roaring lifestyle.  It was a good book to discuss with a whole new take if you had seen the film. (I saw the movie first, and personally loved the imagery as I was reading many of the scenes).

Overall rating 3.5 stars out 5.
Out of the 9 at book club only one reader did not finish the book.

Not an amazing story, really, but interesting enough and short (bonus for many) and one most of us should have read in high school but may have skipped.  It was fun to revisit it as a club.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Reviews "Killing Lincoln" and "Many Ways To Say I Love You"

Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly

This book tells the details and workings of John Wilkes Booth and his manipulations behind the assassination of President Lincoln.  As a group we all agreed the book started a bit dry, with battle scenes and details that felt very text-book like.  As the book dives deeper into the mind and life of Booth, however, it picks up steam and intensity.

Booth was definitely motivated and definitely delusional, and the violence around this act, with the other murders planned to clean up the leadership of our nation, feel haunting at times.  While the writing may feel weak to some and at times be over simplified,  readers not familiar with the events around this assassination will most likely find this book is a great place to start that journey.

Out of our 9 members 2 did not finish the book.  A couple of readers would have rated it higher if the 'war chapters' had been better written, or skipped altogether, and one reader noted she loved the 'present tense' style of the book, as the format added to the intensity. Great photos add a touch of reality and put faces to the names you are reading about.

Book average by group 3 1/2 stars.

*Book is ideal for the reader who loves history but is short of being a history buff - may appeal to the YA student and teen crowd*

Many Ways To Say I Love You by Fred Rogers

This is a sweet little compilation of various quotes, poems, and song lyrics by Fred Rogers noted over the years.  This is part of a series, and they have been published since the death of Fred Rogers.  For readers who grew up watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood this book is a cozy little reminder of a gentler time, when TV was soothing and we all had a friend on TV. 

The quotes are thought provoking and insightful, however this isn't really a 'pick up and read cover to cover' type of book.  It is probably best enjoyed bits at a time, but also, for our group this was sort of a 'bonus read'.  We pick little side books every once in a while to add to what we are reading, and that is what this book was.  One of our former group members had mentioned she enjoyed reading this book as a mom and thought we might like it too. 

Personally, I enjoyed it, but I sort of wonder where a book like this fits in our world of reading today.  A lot of members didn't really have time to get to it, and because it isn't a driving story I do think this type of little book gets overlooked sometimes.  Here is our group breakdown:

5 of our 9 members finished the book
average rating 3 stars

*Book would great as a gift to new parents or grandparents*

Coming up : Book Store and dinner field trip - discussing Wolf Hall by Hilary Matel

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Club Reviews "It's Just My Nature" and "I Don't Have to Make Everything Better"

In January our book club reads a self- help or life improvement book of some sort.  If the book is an easier read we may throw in an extra, just to keep us plowing through the month.  Most of us read everything assigned, and such was the case this month.

Our first pick was an energy profiling book (which the author says is not to be confused with a personality test) designed to help you see the driving force between different energy types. It is called "It's Just My Nature" by Carol Tuttle.

In the book she basically introduces 4 energy types that tend to be motivating factors in a person's life.  There is upward and fun energy Type 1, connecting and subtle Type 2, active and accomplishing Type 3, and the perfecting and fine tuning energy of a Type 4 (very basic nutshell, there!).  The author herself is a Type 3, so we had to laugh when our own Type 3 member Peggy showed up in an outfit already hanging in her closet.


The book made for an interesting discussion (and a special guest who has taken courses from Tuttle came to help us decipher our questions) as we probed the idea of what drives us.  Tuttle also explains how not living true to your driving force (for instance trying to be active and finish projects for everyone when your true type is to be more subtle and detailed) can bring a lot of confusion to your life and even trigger anxiety and depression.  This is a wake-up call to be true to your inner self and quit apologizing for your tendencies.

For some of us, that is exactly what we didn't like about the book...a few of our readers feel we should always be growing and changing and working on ourselves.  The other half (I felt we were split on this book) loved the idea of embracing your natural energy and allowing the space for others to be themselves.  I personally have found this book to be an eye-opener in my marriage and my husband and I have loved the insight we got in understanding each other.

Some of really struggled with the author's style.  She tends to write and speak in a way to trigger reactions (mission accomplished) and is blunt and even harsh in her words sometimes. A few of our readers didn't love her example stories from her own life, as her personality tends to be a little 'in your face'  (comparable to a Dr. Laura phone call).

Overall, however, there is a lot to be learned from this book and freeing yourself to wake up every day and be who you were born to be.  For a group of women (even employees) it is a great tool to dig into each other's minds. Recommended for people who like figuring out what makes people tick.

Our second pick was "I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better" by Gary and Joy Lundberg

Again, we were sort of split on this book in it's entirety.

What we LOVED about this book is the idea that we need to stop trying to fix each other's lives.  How many times do you just want to vent to someone, and they rush in with  a million fixes? They have all sorts of ideas for you with "You should have done this....." or "I would have done that....."  these 'suggestions' can sometimes make people feel misunderstood or even pressured to measure up.  In reality, most of us just want to be heard, and deep down we really know what we should do in most situations, anyway.  This book really walks you through the steps of being more of a sympathetic ear, and letting your relationship do the supporting- not your advice.

As a whole, our book club loved that idea. We all agreed this could be a strengthening concept, even a relief in some cases, and it is easy to see how hard it can be to give people room to shift through the emotions of their own experiences. It works in all relationships, from your children and spouses, to your best friends, and even your co-workers.

What we didn't like was the length of the book. It is very repetitive and could be edited down to about half it's own length.  The same thing is said so many ways, it gets a little tiresome.  For me personally, I think there is a time and place to sometimes give a tip or two- probably because I have so many clients that are seeking advice- and these authors make you feel like you should never offer your opinion. On top of that I do think sometimes repeating back sympathetic phrases or mirroring in conversation can feel condescending.  The trick is to carefully choose when you are truly being sought after for advice and trying to give it with a sympathetic heart.  The take away from this book is a valuable one.

Overall we enjoyed this book and it's ideas, and recommend it to readers who appreciate an easier self-help read that encourages you to be more listening and open and less 'fix everything' when relating to others.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Adding this recap on a few of my favorites from 2012-
watch for January book club recap and review COMING SOON

Several years ago I discovered setting a goal for how many books I could read in a year sort of pushed me to read more than usual.  While I love and the groups they have to promote this idea- the group "50 Books in a Year" is very daunting. 

I have never read quite that many (unless you count picture books to the kiddos), but I have found that 35 is a nice number that pushes me to read a little quicker and try different genres.  This also includes any audio books that I listen to, usually that is about a half dozen a year.

I did hit 35 this year- and I am going to weed through them and give you my top picks. (Not in any particular order, I can never pick a 'favorite' because that changes day to day.)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

This is a great little book with a strange twist on the retired life.  When Harold receives a mysterious letter from a friend that he knew decades ago, his life of chair sitting and TV watching gets turned upside-down.  I loved this sweet book, it was unexpected, simple, and warm.  It leaves you to ponder what parts of yourself you give up when you don't live life with a purpose, and it leaves you inspired by an every day man who decides to walk for a cause.  Lovely sentences such as "He walked so surely it was as if all his life he had been waiting to get up from his chair."  and "Everyone was the same, and also unique, and that was the dilema of being a human being."  remind you not all writers are created equal. Perfect to warm your heart on a wintry day.

The Night Circus by Erin Mortgensen

I read this book completely blind, meaning I had no true review or summary to go off of.  I loved it that way, so I will say very little here, too. You probably have heard people talk about it by now, anyway...suffice it to say it is different from most books you have probably read this year.  It is imagiative, luxurious, and sensual (but not graphic in any way), and written in a way that makes you want to read it all the day you pick it up.  The plot isn't necessarily stellar or shocking, but there is enough other bits of story telling fun and written loveliness that you won't care. After ward, enjoy the Night Circus pins and fan based trailers all over the place online.  Pure escapism......

Born To Run by Christopher McDougal

My brother has been trying to get me to read this for a year- and this was the summer I tackled it.  It is amazing, with feats of fitness described that are almost unbelievable, statistics that will leave your jaw on the floor (the more you spend on running shoes the greater your chance of injury???really????) and just  loads of inspiration that will make the runner happy and the non-runner want to run.  Lots of non-fiction trivia that is informative and interesting.  I did enjoy this a lot. (bit of language peppered throughout) It got me running again, even if it's just slowly, after almost a year hiatus.

For the historical fiction fan who loves stories about stories read:
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

For the new age thinker who wants to deepen their thinking of self read:
A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

The Best-Seller you should skip:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Unrealistic, vulgar, raunchy and unbelievable.
Twist and turns, yes, but you hate everyone so bad who cares which way they go anyway?

Happy Reading!

see my complete book shelf and read more full reviews at