Spoiler Warning

Book reviews and discussions may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dear SRBC

Dear SRBC;

This is going to be a little disjointed....Michelle is in a drug-induced fog and Sam is half asleep.

We totally fell in love with this book when we read it. We were REALLY excited when you voted for it, because, even though we thought the teenage spy book was fun, this book was one of the best we've read in ages.

We find ourselves envious of the kind of relationships that people in small towns have, especially in a situations where they've endured some kind of adversity together. It's not the same as working in the next cubicle with someone. We love all the quirky personalities, their lack of pretense. They are who they are. Kind of reminds us of our ward here in Prunetucky. It made us really want to visit Guernsey, it seems such a lovely place with lovely people. And reading this book gave us more of a feeling of what this period in time was really like, much more so than a history book.

But, before we even knew the characters we found a great sense of nostalgia over that type of letter writing. The authors did a good job of making the letters sound like they were written in that era. As someone who has actually written actual letters...being of a pre-internet age....and received actual letters, we have to say that the world of email, IM and facebook is not the same. Something about sitting down to actually handwrite a letter, and to think about how to convey what one wants to say while making it entertaining and interesting. Now we just dash off emails and instant messages and don't edit ourselves at all...or very little, anyway.

It was interesting also to show the German point of view of being stuck on this island with people that hated them being there and kind of being in the same boat; not enough food, boredom, etc. We loved the story of moving the dead pig around, counting it as dead several times so that they could hide a few more live pigs. And twist of the Oscar Wilde letters. And especially the stories of Elizabeth's spirit and bravery.

The authors really portrayed the impact the books had on people's lives. It made us want to go look up all the books they mentioned and read them, too. And she was right, reading good books really ruins you for the bad ones.

One surprising thing we liked about the book was that it was unpredictable. We never really knew how it was going to end....(other than Juliet was NOT going to end up with Mark..he reminded Michelle of this guy her sister used to date that we called Mr Hairspray. Too perfect.) We thought it was kind of unpredictable in the way that real life is unpredictable. Kind of like Sam and Michelle can't believe that nearly twenty years after they met, they'd be married to each other and living by a beach. Or that Markie guy who was attached at the hip to Cherie in high school would be her brother in law. Life is weird.

OK, that's enough of our ramblings for now. We're glad to see that so many of you liked it as much as we did. We love our little literary society, we've known most of you since diapers...but we've met some new friends, too. We're still irritated over the outcome of the SF trip...we really wanted to see you guys. Maybe next time you should come visit a small country town similar to Guernsey, but closer...like Prunetucky!


Sincerely,

Shel, Sam and the Megster

To the SRBC from Landee


31st January, 2010
My Dearest Book Club Members,
What a sheer delight this novel was!  In every nook & cranny I found wit, charm, humor, depth & characters with whom I fell in love.  I am infatuated with how it was written entirely through correspondence (though I was often befuddled at how quickly the mail got from one place to another).  I should like to give you my thoughts on a few of the characters as I have imprinted on them & they are now a part of me. Who wants to meet me in Guernsey?
Juliet.  What can be said of our incorrigible main character?  She’s so likable and charming I desire to be her BFF.  So, I suppose that means I want to be Sophie (except not live in Scotland…Gty cannot pull off the kilt look).  Aside from misreading Dawsey’s cues she was smart & always on top of things (quite a departure from previous heroines we have read).  I adored how she called off her engagement because he had packed up her books to make room for his sporting trophies.  And then how she dumped that oily bohunk with handmade shoes.  ::patooie:: Who needs him?
Sidney.  Dear sweet Sidney.  I will admit to wanting Juliet to end up with Sidney for over half of the book.  I suppose that is what the authoresses intended.  And, in hindsight, all the signs were there for him being homosexual…he was described as tan & fit, after all.  I guess I just didn’t realize there were stereotypical gays back in the ‘40s?  The point is the news blew me away, threw me for a loop, and knocked me upside the head.  It couldn’t be and yet it was.  Now I just want to be his BFF.  So now I want to be Juliet.
Dawsey.  The strong, silent type.  The introspective thinker.  Not my kind of guy but he’s perfect for Juliet.  I will say that of all the characters I was supposed to fall head-over-heels for, Dawsey did it for me the least.  I loved that he was kind & had a calming effect on everyone but I wish they would have forced me to love him more. I still adore him but, you know, at arm’s length. 
As for the rest of the islanders, I enjoyed being around them immensely.  Each one added to the story in a real way and no one was just for showing off (ahem, SMeyer).  And the story being told!  Heart-breaking.  Every time I read a book set during this era I can NOT believe this ever actually happened.  It seems unfathomable to me.  The abuse, the starvation, the slavery, the camps… so amazingly unthinkable.  How did these people ever recover?
But I digress. 
There were a couple of lines which I found insightful & delightful.  The first is on page 40 when Juliet is describing Mark Reynolds to Sophie.  She says “He’s got that way of believing his opinion is the truth, but he’s not disagreeable about it.  He’s too sure he’s right to bother being disagreeable.”   That told me everything I needed to know about Reynolds.  I know people like that.  And they are annoying.
The other line I loved was in one of Isola’s letters to Juliet (page 53) where she is talking about her first experience reading Wuthering Heights and how it changed her tastes in books.  She said “Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.”  That is exactly how I’m feeling about this month’s selection.  It has upped my expectations in books.  Not as much as Hunger Games.  But enough to be noticeable.
I will tell you, SRBC, the other reason I loved this book.  It reminded me of getting to know all of you.  If you recall, we all got to know each other strictly through the written word.  We wrote back & forth in emails, comments, blog posts & the like.  And, just like in this book, we couldn’t wait to meet each other in real life.  And when we did finally meet, we felt as though we already knew each other!  It was magical.  This book reminded me of that magic some year and four months ago when we began our own “Blogspot Literary and Diet Beverages Society.” 
Yours ever,
Landee
PS Why was potato peel pie mentioned in the already long & difficult title?  It was hardly mentioned in the book and definitely not pertinent to the story.  It’s hard telling people what you’re reading and having to spit that mouthful out.  I have yet to do it without stuttering/starting over.
 

From Markie to M. Shaffer & A. Barrows

From Markie to M. Shaffer & A. Barrows

25th January, 2010

Dear Mary Ann & Annie,

What a great little book you two ladies wrote. It was touching, funny, and educational. Your characters were so real and endearing; and what a great idea to introduce them, and share their story through their letters. It just made it all seem so more personal.

It’s a sign of great writing that I grew to love these characters and feel for what they had to endure. I loved learning more about this little piece of history. I have to admit that it started out kind of slow for me. I didn’t realize how much I had come to care for these characters until I read about Elizabeth’s death while riding the bus home, and suddenly found myself choking back tears. I’m sure if I was alone while reading that part I would have been bawling like a baby. As it was I had a lump in my throat all the way home.

I also loved how forming this little book club, even though it came about almost by accident, helped them to cope with unthinkable hardships. I am also part of a Literary Society, and while my problems are incomparably insignificant compared to those inhabitants of Guernsey Island, it’s easy to see what a comfort it would have been to them. Just as Juliet made some great new friends like Dawsey, Isola, Amelia and Eben; I’ve made new friends through ours, including Flem, Landee, and Mother of Stand.

Well, thanks for writing such a great story, and thanks to our book club for once again getting me to read a book that I otherwise would never have picked up, but thoroughly enjoyed.

Sincerely, Markie

Guernsey Discussion times....

OK, sorry I didn't get back to you earlier on the time for the discussion. We have been attacked by germies (as opposed to Germans) at our house and, one after the other, have gotten a nasty cold. It's my turn and I've just been coughing and groaning and not doing much else.

I do still have to go to Stake choir tonite, regardless...good thing I don't sing. However, I fully intend to hustle home and back to my warm little bed immediately afterward.

Consequently, even though I was leaning toward doing the discussion tonight, I think I'm just too wiped out. So, it'll be tomorrow (MONDAY) at 8 pm PST. That gives most of you time to get FHE done first. We do ours on Sunday most weeks, but I think this week we're just going to have a coughing contest. I'll have my review up sometime today.

Toodles...

“If we’re going to be the…(Smart Remarks Book Club)…we have to look literary”


I don’t think I could pick a better book to mirror what I imagine in my mind our own little SRBC to be. Do we not “goad the listeners into wanting to read the books themselves”?….”argued over books and become dearer and dearer to one another”?….and “our evenings together become bright, lively times”?

I loved this book with all of my heart. A novel composed entirely of letters is BRILLIANT. It gives such a unique and varying perspective on all of the events and characters. I felt as if I knew all of the characters intimately. And I am in love with all of them. For me, this book was all about them. Don’t get me wrong, the storyline was fantastic and I love me a little historical fiction. But this is what the book means to me:

Juliet: Intelligent, compassionate, witty and not afraid to be her own person, despite what the world thinks. My favorite lines of hers:

“I much prefer whining to counting my blessings”

Speaking of Mark Reynolds..”He’s too sure he’s right to bother being disagreeable.”

“I do have a tiny infant of an idea, much too frail and defenseless to risk describing, even to you.”

“I knew that all children were gruesome, but I don’t know whether I’m supposed to encourage them in it.”

Speaking to Remy of Elizabeth….”(It would have been better for her not to have such a heart). Yes but worse for the rest of us.”

“Oh bless Speranza for giving her son such a preposterous name as Oscar Fingal O”Flahertie Wills Wilde”

“You may even preen in my presence—this one time, but never again.”

“Would you like to marry me? I’m in love with you so I thought I’d ask.”

“This obsession with dignity can ruin your life if you let it.”

Dawsey: Gentle, kind, humble and selfless. He doesn’t recognize what a leader and example he is to others. There’s more to him than meets the eye and I found that I was left wanting to know even more about him after the book was over. ::sigh:: My only fave line of his was when he swore and fell down the ladder, spraining his ankle, when Juliet proclaimed her love for him. And then they had “the freedom of the shrubbery”.

Isola: I’m asking for a friend like her for my birthday this year (that and a ride in Will Thisby’s cart….he’ll bring a cushion). Quirky, na├»ve, passionately loyal, and adoringly backwards in many ways. And we all know that “Isola needs little encouragement to bang her hammer. Here are my favorite Isola-isms:

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books”

“..as to who would not desire to have their innermost workings—good and rotten—revealed by the Science of Phrenology? No one, that’s who.”

“I still trust the truth of lumps. It’s just that I’ve read the head bumps of everyone I care for. and it can get tedious.”

“Mrs. Taylor has a rash on her arms. What or who from? Tomatoes or her husband? Look into further.”

“What a blessing that I have no imagination and am able to see things clearly.”

Of course, I enjoyed all the characters. But these were my favorites. I even loved to HATE Miss Adelaide Addison! “I hear that you and the pig farmer are going to regularize your connection. Praise the Lord!” I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say with your “quick wits and silver tongues”. And a special thank you to Michelle for recommending this book for January. I intend to recommend it to anyone and everyone who reads.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Potato Peel Pie Discussion

So, does anyone have a Potato Peel Pie recipe that sounds better than that one down there???

Srsly, though, I can't do the SRBC book club discussion on Sunday night due to Stake Choir practice. I'm the pianist, so they sort of notice when I don't show up. I tried to explain that the SRBC is more important, but sadly, they didn't see it my way. And, Sam didn't come last night, and our basses are pathetic without him, so he's not missing next week.

So, this is the deal: We can either 1)Have the discussion at the usual time without the CA Baileys :0( or 2) Have the discussion Sunday night, but kind of late, like 9-ish PST (which is when we get home) or 3) Have the discussion at 7:30 pm PST on Monday night (that's 8:30 for Utah folks. Nevada and Colorado you gotta figure your own out, I can't remember what time zone ya'll are).

I say we take a vote and see when we would get the most people...and if it's Sunday at the regular time, I promise not to cry. Too much. I will still have our review up on Sunday morning (I hope).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pretty pleaaassse....with sugar on top

Hi Everybody,
I would like to read this month's book but I haven't gotten a copy of one yet. Does anyone around Boise have a copy of the potato peel book that I could borrow?
Thanks,
Amanda

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pig Roast

Directions for roasting a pig, should you be hiding one in your basement:

Step One: Find a Pig. The phone book or an internet search is a good start. Most places that sell whole pigs also rent roasters. You will probably need a trailer hitch to haul the roaster home.

Step Two: Determine the Size. A 50 pound pig will serve 80-120 people depending on their appetites.

Step Three: Decide If You Want the Pig Mounted on a Spit. We have gone both ways on this. Once we bought the pig from a farmer and rented the roaster separately. We had to stick the pole through the cavity and tie the pig to the spit. Not really that fun. Then we had to remove the legs so it fit in the roaster. Also not that fun.

Step Four: Timing. The pig needs to be slow roasted. Our experience has been the longer the better. Plan in plenty of roasting time. Once it is roasting there is not too much to do except keep the fire going. We add more coal every hour. If you want to start it early in the morning you will need to keep it cold overnight. Spread some plastic on the garage floor. Set the pig on it and pack it with plenty of ice. They first pig we did we used a child’s swimming pool.

Step Five: Carving and Serving: Now it is show time. Your guests have been watching and smelling the pig roast and the anticipation is building. Some people will not want to watch and others will be fascinated by the process. Some parts will be tender enough to just slice and other parts will need to be shredded with forks.

Monday, January 4, 2010

And the Winner for January is:



But, really they are both such easy reads, you could probably do them both. I'll try to come up with some kind of extracurricular thingy to make it more interesting. But, I'm sure you love it, and I tend to forget about stuff. Someone might wanna send a reminder about the discussion night, btw. I'm liable to forget about that, too. The combination of getting older and my general forgetfulness is not a good combination.

Sam and Meg and I LOVED this book, we though the style was fun, the characters were even more fun and the stories of life under the Germans interesting.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Discussion for The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The Half Read, Half Cliff Notes on Tape Review

So I tried, really I did.  I tried to read it.  But the holidays and the baking and the froofiness of the writing all got in the way.  I read the first half and then had Stands tell me what happens. 

FHS Edith!  WHY the descriptions?  Whyyyyyy?

But srsly tho....poor Archer....no, poor MAY... no, poor ELLEN...no wait, poor fat old lady Mignott!  Can you believe she built her house in those slums near Central Park?  Appalling. 

These indulgent pompous jagbags don't deserve any of our pity.  This is what happens when you worry more about what other people think than what you really want out of life, OR what the right thing to do is.  It was exhausting trying to keep up with all the social by-laws.  I wouldn't have survived in that society, believachoome. 

As far as the writing goes, I did find it somewhat interesting.  If only I had 2 years to read it I would have enjoyed it much more.  Reading this under a deadline was no bueno.

I'm putting the movie on hold at the library right now.  Michelle Pfeiffer better deliver the performance of her life as that hussy Countess Olenski. 

I'm off to the opera now.  I hope my wrist doesn't accidentally show.  All the menfolk will flip out. 

"...each word, as it dropped from her, fell into his breast like burning lead."

I read this book in high school and I loved it. However, as I read again for a second time, it felt more long and boring, I think because Twilight has ruined me for good. I'd never read YA fiction before reading the Twilight series last year and it's weird to go back to this kind of literature (although I also really enjoyed it). I was frustrated with myself that I didn't have it read in two days and that I kept falling asleep as I read.

I kept a pencil in hand as I read and marked up all my favorite parts throughout the entire book. I love the way Edith Wharton builds characters, themes, and conflict. I also loved the bits of foreshadowing. I love how her writing lets you make your own conclusions about who the characters are and what's important to them and what it's like in their world. I also love her she sends messages (I say 'messages' plural, because there were so many) without lecturing and allows you to deduct your own reasons how and why what happened, happened.

My favorite pages were 168 to 174 where Newland and Ellen finally communicate their desire for one another and realize at the same time that they can never be married. Tragic and ironic at the same time.

I think Ellen has a lot of class. I liked how she had all the power in their relationship. I also quite enjoyed the feministic themes throughout the book. "Women ought to be free--free as we are."

I think Newland is an idiot. Are you a non-conformist or not, Newland? Are you liberal or conservative? Are you a puppet or not? Make up your mind, man. I was frustrated at how he thought himself so much better than all around him, yet he was just as guilty at falling into line. He was so critical of others, but he was really no different. In fact, I found him more stupid because he was so aware, yet he lacked courage and real authenticity.

The end, though disappointing, was probably correct. Sometimes our dreams and fantasies are best left to our imagination.




In the mood for some heavy reading?

The Age of Innocence review by JennyEspy

This is no innocent summer beach read. And I also wouldn’t recommend trying to conquer this book during the busiest month of the year (when you may only have time to pick it up here and there) as it requires the reader to retain thick masses of information. January might the best month to read it. Or maybe February. The thick paragraphs aren’t easy to read in bits and pieces. But, beneath the muck of social commentary and the seemingly endless parade of characters—some who impact the plot, and some whose purpose might only be to illustrate late 1800s New York society—there is an enthralling and tragic story. It kind of creeps up on you, and you don’t even realize how enthralling it is until you read the last sentence.

Newland Archer—I disliked him right off the bat. I found his awareness of his own social hypocrisy, hypocritical. I grew to despise him even more as the book went on. I hated every decision he made, especially since he believed his choices to be self-sacrificing, which they weren’t. I eventually began to tolerate him, pity him, and then hope he would at last find some happiness in his life. When he longed for the day May would die and set him free, I hated him again. However, the last two chapters were painful from his perspective. I felt so sad for him, despite it all being his fault.

I have more to say, but as always, I waited until to last minute to write this up and have no time left, so I’ll say it in the discussion.

FYI:

I put the first chapter of AoI in the Flesch-Kincaid reading grade level calculator, and it’s at a grade 16 (which is a senior in college). It’s readability, on a scale of 0-to-120 (the lower the number, the harder to understand), the readability is 35. To put that into perspective:

Reader’s Digest: 65

Time Magazine: 52

Harvard Law Review: low 30s.

Quite laborious reading. Be proud if you finished it.

Any Other Reviews?? Here's Mine.

This book was hard. I actually had to concentrate. I needed peace and quiet to read. There were too many words that I either couldn’t pronounce or couldn’t define. I feel so old and under-educationed. (hee hee). One of the first things in the book that made me laugh and shake my head was:

“Mercy, how pale you look, Newland!” Janey commented over the coffee-cups at breakfast; and his mother added: “Newland, dear, I’ve noticed lately that you’ve been coughing; I do hope you’re not letting yourself be overworked?” For it was the conviction of both ladies that, under the iron despotism of his senior partners, the young man’s life was spent in the most exhausting professional labours – and he had never thought it necessary to undeceive them.”

In a lot of ways I enjoyed this book. It reminded me that I used to love literature so much when I was about 18. Some of the descriptions were longer than I wanted them to be – but she really was thorough in creating such an interesting web of socially connected people, along with their proper expectations and way of doing things. I huffed at the idea that Newland and May needed their engagement period to ‘get to know each other.’ I was disappointed in how much ‘the young man’ saw May as a robot, basically. Without a brain and moving through her life just as everyone had programmed her too and doing all that they expected of her. How fascinating at the end of the book to find out that she knew what was going on all the time and so quietly and discreetly took care of the situation, that Archer had no idea until his grown son told him so. Newland may have been head of the house, but May was definitely the neck. (giggle)
I also found it fascinating to think that a woman’s arm, visible to the elbow, could be such an improper and stimulating thing at that time; that simply being alone with a woman was scandalous; and the closest Archer ever got to intimacy with Ellen was either kissing her hand, kissing her shoe, or the one time she threw her arms around his neck and finally – really kissed him. I can't say I would enjoy that level of innocence in my own life - but wouldn't mind it so much for my kids. Yeah, right. It is fascinating.

I got tired of names like, Madame Olenska; Gorgon; Mrs. Manson Mingott; van der Luyden; Mr. Sillerton Jackson. UGH!! Sorry – but it just got tiring. I looked up Gorgon btw. It was, in Greek mythology, a terrifying female creature. Such as, Medusa.
Another quote; something I thought quite romantic, in fact:

“Don’t be afraid of me: you needn’t squeeze yourself back into your corner like that. A stolen kiss isn’t what I want. Look: I’m not even trying to touch the sleeve of your jacket. Don’t suppose that I don’t understand your reasons for not wanting to let this feeling between us dwindle into an ordinary hole-and-corner love-affair. I couldn’t have spoken like this yesterday, because when we’ve been apart, and I’m looking forward to seeing you, every thought is burnt up in a great flame. But then you come; and you’re so much more than I remembered, and what I want of you is so much more than an hour or two every now and then, with wastes of thirsty waiting between, that I can sit perfectly still beside you, like this, with that other vision in my mind, just quietly trusting it to come true?”

Ironically, it turned out that the scandalous reputation Madame Olenska had was really, I think, unwarranted and undeserved. But that reputation, in part, pulled Archer in, and drew him toward his own scandalousness. He became obsessed with her. The night that he showed up and startled her as she was getting into her carriage – stalkerish, no? Ellen may have liked him or even loved him, but she was not willing to take it as far as he wanted to and eventually had to decide for him that they would not. The poor woman had to run away to Europe to save herself from him. I’m sad that he spent so many years and children and everything with May so unsatisfied and empty. He actually described May as,

“so lacking in imagination, so incapable of growth, that the world of her youth had fallen into pieces and rebuilt itself without her ever being conscious of the change.”

I have to say – that I think he was wrong. May was the one who grew up. Who stayed with him despite his obsession with another woman. Who loved him, took care of him. He seemed so much more to just wallow and tread the dead-inside steps that were required of him.

Girls. After all that. After years and years of unhappiness. His one opportunity to finally see Ellen again…he simply walked away and that was the end? What the crap? I thought that was a cruel and terrible ending. But then, Newland Archer was cruel to himself. He was, I believe, much more in love with her than she was with him.

FHS, why couldn’t Madame Olenska have said, 'I just think it means something more to you, that’s all.' That would have been, actually, kind of perfect.
If you haven't finished reading The Age of Innocence and you would like to participate in our discussion tonight I would suggest watching the movie. I think you can watch it online. The movie follows the book really well so you'll be able to join in the discussion.

Also, I need to begin tonight's discussion one hour later than usual, if that's okay with everyone. My husband is out of town and my kids never get to bed on time. Could we begin at 10pm MST?