Up next: A Wrinkle In Time

Join us May 8th for a discussion of A Wrinkle In Time at 7:00pm.  This year we’re adding a new, fun twist to our Young Reader month discussion! If you have a daughter that has read the book they are welcome to join us and get a taste of what their Mama does every month on book club Thursday!

We’ll be back at Paradise Bakery and Cafe at HTC…. which we might technically call: Panaraise, according to the other Sarah. The sign still says Paradise, but they sell Panara food. You have been warned, in case you were hoping for a Paradise cookie. 😉

*Heads up for next month. We don’t want Les Mis to sneak up on you, go ahead and start it now. I’m almost half way and really enjoying it! I’m learning long books are not intimidating.

The Good Earth Tea Party

At first glace this book might seem like just the story of a guy’s life in rural China at the turn of the century. (Not this most recent turn, the one before that.)

Bad stuff happens, good stuff happens, just like it does in real life.

However, it really is so much more than that! I’ve seen it on many book lists, but it isn’t one of those classics that everyone “should” read and no one likes.  I actually enjoyed it!!

There is a character list that you can print off in bookmark format, or here’s the list of characters for quick reference:

Wang Lung: A farmer about to start his own family 
Wang Lung’s father: Approximately 70 years old, retired from work as a farmer 
Uncle: Wang Lung’s father’s sly, younger brother
Cousin: Uncle’s son, close to Wang Lung’s age 
Old Lord Hwang: A rich landowner; keeps many slaves and concubines 
Ching: A small, quiet man; Wang Lung’s neighbor
Elder brother: Known as Nung En; “Nung” means one whose wealth is from the earth
Second son: Known as Nung Wen 
Liu: A successful grain dealer in town

O-lan: A kitchen slave in the House of Hwang
Lotus Flower: A “tea house” prostitute with bound feet 
Pear Blossom: A young slave girl Wang Lung buys
Uncle’s wife: Overweight, lazy and manipulative
Old Mistress Hwang: Addicted to opium
Cuckoo: Old Lord Hwang’s clever chamber slave

I hope you enjoy the book, and we’ll see you for the tea party!

April 12th @ 7:00pm
My house. Contact me for directions:
sarahronk (at) gmail (dot) com

Discussing Emma

Sharing a little food for thought here before our Emma discussion this Thursday.  The last question is enlightening, as I heard from many that you had trouble getting into the book this month.

  1. About Emma, Jane Austen famously said, “I’m going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” Do you like Emma? Why or why not?
  2. Austen makes an unusual choice by selecting as her main character the most privileged woman in the book, the woman with “little to distress or vex her.” The Jane Fairfax story line (which W.J. Harvey has called the “shadow novel-within-the-novel”) has more traditional elements of tension and drama than Emma’s story. How did you feel about this novels want of incident and romance? Would you have rather read about Jane?
  3. Early in the book, Emma tells Harriet she doesn’t plan to marry. But the other women all embody, in one way or another, the serious economic consequences of staying single. The book is filled with women at risk. Discuss with reference to: Miss Bates, Jane Fairfax, Mrs. Elton, Harriet Smith, Miss Taylor.
  4. Class issues run through every plot line in Emma. How would you describe Mr. Knightley’s views on class and privilege? Harriet Smith is “the natural daughter of nobody knows whom.” Which fact—her illegitimacy or her undetermined class standing—is more important in effecting her marital prospects? How do you feel about Emma’s hopes to see Harriet married above her expectations? How does Emma’s relationship to Harriet change over the course of the book?
  5. Two characters, Mrs. Elton and Frank Churchill, come into Highbury from the outside and threaten the little community with change. Mr. Knightley likes neither of them. How do you feel about them?
  6. One effect of the hidden (Jane Fairfax/Frank Churchill) story is to undermine the omniscience of the narrator. Some critics have suggested that the narrator controls the reader less in Emma than in most Austen books. Because of this, Reginald Ferrar has suggested the book improves on rereading. “Only when the story has been thoroughly assimilated can the infinite delights and subtleties of its workmanship begin to be appreciated.” He suggests that rereading Pride and Prejudice allows you to repeat the pleasure you had at the first reading, while rereading Emma always provides new pleasures. (He also says that “until you know the story, you are apt to find the movement dense and slow and obscure, difficult to follow, and not very obviously worth the following.”) Do you agree with any of this? Do you like a book in which the writer’s intentions are not always clear and there is space for the reader to take charge or do you like to know what the writer wants you to be feeling and noticing? How do you feel about the idea of a book that has to be reread in order to be enjoyed? Is Emma such a book? 
See you Thursday @ 7:00 @ Paradise Cafe 

 Questions from Penguin Group
Photo from BBC 2009 Emma production

Happy to be Here

With the hum of a cafe all around we sat at our circle table, happy to be here there, enjoying some good old-fashioned read-alouds.  For me, this book was a little hard to wade through.  But it stretched my comfort-zone of reading and I almost made it to the end.  (I do plan to finish up the last few short stories I missed.)  A few ladies found the book more humorous than others.  A few favorites we discussed were:

Jack Schmidt, Art Administrator
The Slim Graves Show
The Tip-Top Club
My Stepmother, Myself
Your Transit Commission
After a Fall

As it is with most books we read for book club, no matter how much I like or don’t like the book I ALWAYS like it more after book club Thursdays.  Insights I missed, deeper characters and plot than I thought, or finally understanding the humor of Keillor that I just “didn’t get” when reading it on my own are just a few reason I love book club discussions!

When you combine reading great books, a night out with friends (and making new ones!) and talking about something we all have in common is a recipe for success in my cookbook for a good time!


I have a feeling March will prove to be a full house for “book club Thursday” as we revisit a past popular author and discuss Jane Austen’s Emma on March 8th at 7:00.  Be sure to RSVP to the evite, we might be moving locations if it looks like we’ll have a big crowd.  (If you didn’t get the evite, let me know broadenedhorizonsbookclub {at} gmail {dot} com)

Happy To Be Here

Keeping with our name and purpose statement, you know that we read from a variety of genres. February we’ll be reading a collection of short stories. Hopefully they will bring a smile to your face and maybe even encourage a laugh.

by Garrison Keillor

The work focuses mainly on the everyday lives of ordinary people, especially in Minnesota and North Dakota. Among them are musings about trains, baseball, politics, farming, marriage, and the rights of shy people. (source)

Grab your copy of the book, arrange for that sitter, if needed, and we’ll see you February 9th at Paradise Bakery and Cafe at 7:00pm.

Bring a Friend Night: Recap!

Bring A Friend Night was definitely a success! A record-breaking 16 women showed up to discuss The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

 We ended up breaking up into 3 groups for discussion so that we didn’t have to shout so much.

(Infants are always welcome!)

As usual, we had our TableTopics Book Club questions on hand to liven up discussion! 

We talked about our favorite characters, moments, and naturally, how the book was so much better than the movie.
I didn’t, until now, appreciate the timeliness of our discussion on racial inequality then and now. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
Revenge. Always a good topic! Would you have done the “terrible awful” thing that Minnie did? Some said, YES! haha. My favorite quote was from Gwynne who said, “I’ve never been on board with poo as a revenge tool.” I agree, friend!
As usual, if you want in on the full discussion, you have to come to the event! Join us next month, February 9th, for our discussion of Happy to Be Here, by Garrison Keillor.

The Help Discussion Questions

Book Club Thursday is fast approaching! Here are a few discussion questions, straight from the author herself, to get you thinking before our meet up this week!
But before we get to these questions here are a few reminders:
  • This month is Bring A Friend Month. Did you invite someone? Also, remember to RSVP, I’m going early to block off our seats at Paradise.
  • On Thursday one lucky person will win next month’s book, Happy To Be Here by Garrison Keillor.
  • For a chance to win a $10 giftcard to Amazon to buy more books leave a comment and share your reading goal for 2012.
And now, without further ado, the questions:

1. Who was your favorite character? Why?

2. What do you think motivated Hilly? On the one hand she is terribly cruel to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes that she can’t control her. Yet she’s a wonderful mother. Do you think that one can be a good mother but, at the same time, a deeply flawed person?

3. Like Hilly, Skeeter’s mother is a prime example of someone deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic. She seems to care for Skeeter–and she also seems to have very real feelings for Constantine. Yet the ultimatum she gives to Constantine is untenable; and most of her interaction with Skeeter is critical. Do you think Skeeter’s mother is a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? Why?

4. How much of a person’s character would you say is shaped by the times in which they live?

5. Did it bother you that Skeeter is willing to overlook so many of Stuart’s faults so that she can get married, and that it’s not until he literally gets up and walks away that the engagement falls apart?

6. Do you believe that Minny was justified in her distrust of white people?

7. Do you think that had Aibileen stayed working for Miss Elizabeth, that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother? Do you think racism is inherent, or taught?

8. From the perspective of a twenty-first century reader, the hairshellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of “beauty” changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what’s the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?

9. The author manages to paint Aibileen with a quiet grace and an aura of wisdom about her. How do you think she does this?

10. Do you think there are still vestiges of racism in relationships where people of color work for people who are white? Have you heard stories of parents who put away their valuable jewelry before their nanny comes? Paradoxically, they trust the person to look after their child but not their diamond rings?

11. What did you think about Minny’s pie for Miss Hilly? Would you have gone as far as Minny did for revenge?


The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

January 12, 2012 @ 7:00pm

Paradise Bakery and Cafe

Reading Challenge 2012


According to Random.org the winner of the $10 Amazon giftcard is commentor #1! Congratulations Wendy!!!

I’m writing today to extend a challenge. But keep reading, this isn’t going to hurt.

We are halfway through our fourth year together as a book club. Some of you have been here from the beginning, some joined along the way, and others of you have yet to make your first appearance.

You’re the same today as you’ll be in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read.” -Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

The Challenge: Create a reading goal for your year.

See, that’s pretty simple, huh? It could be something as simple as reading four books this year or all twelve book club titles. It could be that you’d like to come to three book club discussions or maybe ten.

It doesn’t have to be a book club related, it could be a personal reading goal. Maybe you don’t call yourself a “reader” yet. Check out Audible.com and listen to books while you’re cleaning or exercising. Did you get a new iPad or Kindle for Christmas? Maybe you can try to read two books a month or what about 52 books in 52 weeks?

I’d like this challenge to be a way to encourage you, not to create stress.

Last year my goal was to read 30 books. I met that goal around October or so, I ended the year with 38! GoodReads.com is my favorite way to keep track of what I’ve read. A simple easy site, plus there’s a free app for my phone. If you join GoodReads, come find me (Sarah Ronk) and our book club (Broadened Horizons). It’s fun to look back at your year through book titles!

This year my goal is to read more biographies and fiction. It looks like my year won’t have as much free time as 2011, so I’m not making a numbered book goal. These two genres are ones I enjoy, but I just don’t get too very much.

Now, what do you say? Leave a comment and share your goal! One of you lucky lady will win a $10 Amazon giftcard! If you join (or are already a member of) GoodReads leave an another comment for an extra entry! (Sorry, this giveaway applies to local book club ladies only. You must be present at our Jan. 12, 2012 meeting to win. Contest ends Jan. 11th.)

Good luck and happy reading!!

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett

January 12, 2012 @ 7:00pm
Paradise Bakery and Cafe

About the Author: Kathryn Stockett

The Help is the first novel for this month’s author, Kathryn Stockett, and as her career as a novelist is just beginning, there is little fodder for this month’s post.

However, she used her own childhood experiences in writing the story, and she wrote a bit about how her childhood compared to the novel as a postscript. I think. I already gave my copy away to someone else to read so I can’t say for sure. But assuming you have a copy yourself, you should just go ahead and read that part at the end. I remember enjoying it, so I’m sure you will, too!

I can’t wait to see what she will write next. I imagine she’s feeling a lot of pressure in that regard since her first novel has been on the NY Times Bestseller list for more than 100 weeks. I’m reminded of a TED talk that I really enjoy by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) on Nurturing Creativity that she gave in the aftermath of her own success. This is my advice to you, Kathryn, and I hope we can read more from you in the years to come!

I hope you’ll join us for our discussion on January 12th at 7pm at the Paradise Bakery at Hamilton Town Center. This month is “Bring a Friend” month, and somebody will win a copy of next month’s book at the discussion!

Introducing… The Help

For one summer during college I worked at a country club in one of the ritziest suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. I worked in the “play room” where I essentially babysat the country club members’ kids while they ate lunch, went to the pool, or attended a workout class. I didn’t mind watching the kids (most days), but I definitely felt like a second-class citizen working there. We could only enter through the laundry room door (never the front), we had to stay as out-of-the-way as possible and cut through the locker rooms to get to other places in the building instead of walking through the halls, and on really busy days at the club like the Fourth of July, we had to park out in a field and walk about a half a mile to the building so the members and their guests could use the staff parking spots. We were expected to try really hard to address all of the members by name, but I had people whose kids I watched very regularly who would introduce their kids to me every time they were dropped off, which showed they didn’t even notice the same person was watching their children over and over again. Later, when I would tell people of my experiences working there, I would jokingly refer to the myself and my fellow staff members as “the help,” since it seemed like that was how the members viewed us.

Although I had that summer feeling like “the help,” my experience pales in comparison to the characters in our January book, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, the book focuses on the relationships of several African-American maids and their white employers. For the maids, their employment is more than just a summer college job—they have few options to do much else. They also have to deal with a culture where racism is deeply embedded, which affects how they are treated in their work. The book tells of what happens when the daughter of one of the prominent white families in the town begins to realize how differently her friends’ maids are treated from the ways white people are treated.

So what about you? Have you had an experience that helped you identify on some level with the characters in The Help? If you’ve finished the book already, what do you think? If you haven’t gotten the book yet, there’s still some time to put it on your Christmas list. We hope you can come join us on January 12 at 7 p.m. at Paradise Bakery and Café at Hamilton Town Center. Don’t forget that it’s also “Bring a Friend Month.” This is the perfect book to get someone plugged into the Book Club. We can’t wait to see you all there.

Happy reading!