Murder on the Orient Express: Recap


We all love reading, but getting together is definitely my favorite part of book club.  Even though this is our second Agatha Christie book to read as a club, we still had plenty to discuss, and for many it was their first taste of her writing. I don’t want to say much about the book, Murder on the Orient Express, but I will encourage you to go read it! (Or any other Agatha Christie novel.) They are fun and easy to read.

April is tea party month, and we are reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. What a name, right? But don’t judge this book by it’s title; I found it to be witty, unexpected, and enjoyable. I hope you’ll join us!


Recap The Old Curiosity Shop

Last week we met and discussed Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop. It’s not one of his most well known stories. As with many of his novels, this was written as a serial. The chapters were being published as he was writing them, so there was no going back and changing the story!

A few of our members reviewed the book, and I have linked to them below. I apparently liked the book more than they did, but I’m a pretty big fan of Dickens! I like his foreshadowing, flowing sentences, and just the general way he paints a picture in your mind. This story has some pretty wacky characters in it, and we shared some pictures and quotes that made us laugh as we were reading along. Even though it wasn’t a favorite, I think most people enjoyed it at least a little bit, and we had a lively discussion.

More reviews can be found at: A Spirited Mind, The Deliberate Reader, & Simply Sarah


As always, babies are very welcome at book club! Next month we are discussion Sense & Sensibility on Valentine’s Day.


Recap of The Hiding Place/ Intro to Ivanhoe!

We had a great discussion a few weeks ago on The Hiding Place  by Corrie ten Boom. Who doesn’t love her name, by the way? This book is the story of her life- particularly during World War II- and is a must read for pretty much everybody. We all got a little stuck on Betsie, her sister, and how inspiring she was with her heart full of love especially for her captors and her ability to give thanks in ALL circumstances. While I reminded everyone that we should also look to Corrie’s example of courage and willingness to serve and Nollie’s commitment to obeying the Word of God, I still can’t stop reminding myself to be thankful even for fleas. Thanks again, Sheila, for hosting!

Next Up! Ivanhoe

Set in the 12th century, this is the oldest time period by far that we’ve read as a book club. The good news is that it was written in the 19th century so it should look like English to all of us 🙂 Ivanhoe is, sadly, not about ice cream, but there are knights and swineherds and melee. So says all the highlighted blue words on the Wikipedia page. Most importantly there’s also Robin Hood. I have no idea where he fits into the story, but I’ve always liked him. I blame Disney. Also, this is one of my favorite songs. I plan on getting my read on very soon, and then you can check the facebook page for other random videos and thoughts on things that probably have nothing to do with this story.

The best reason to read this book, though, is that it’s dinner party month!!!! You don’t want to miss out. So grab your copy and join us!

I can’t believe they kicked us out!

Well, actually, I can. We stayed about an hour after they closed! It turns out that our new “Panaradise” closes at 8pm not 9pm. Whoops.

Before you get bored with my yammering and stop reading, what you need to know is that next month we will be meeting at Shelia’s house! Her address will be in the e-vite.

Confession: I totally forgot to take photos. #photographerfail

Instead, here are some of my favorite quotes from Nature:

“When we speak of nature in this manner, we have a distinct but most poetical sense in the mind. We mean the integrity of impression made by manifold natural objects. It is this which distinguishes the stick of timber of the wood-cutter, from the tree of the poet. The charming landscape which I saw this morning, is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape. There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all the parts, that is, the poet.” (emphasis mine. i read on my phone and have no page numbers, but it’s an essay for crying out loud. find the page yourself. :D)

“Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other’s hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man.” (again, emphasis mine. he had a habit of using lots of illustrations and then wowing me with a really poetic point at the end of the paragraph. i felt like this read a lot like poetry, actually.)

“Willingly does she follow his steps with the rose and the violet, and bend her lines of grandeur and grace to the decoration of her darling child.” (i have no recollection of what he was talking about, but the visual is stunning.)

“good thoughts are no better than good dreams, unless they be executed!” (amen.)

“What noble emotions dilate the mortal as he enters into the counsels of the creation, and feels by knowledge the privilege to BE!” (here. here.)

“Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us. Certain mechanical changes, a small alteration in our local position apprizes us of a dualism. We are strangely affected by seeing the shore from a moving ship, from a balloon, or through the tints of an unusual sky. The least change in our point of view, gives the whole world a pictorial air. A man who seldom rides, needs only to get into a coach and traverse his own town, to turn the street into a puppet-show. The men, the women, – talking, running, bartering, fighting, – the earnest mechanic, the lounger, the beggar, the boys, the dogs, are unrealized at once, or, at least, wholly detached from all relation to the observer, and seen as apparent, not substantial beings. What new thoughts are suggested by seeing a face of country quite familiar, in the rapid movement of the rail-road car! Nay, the most wonted objects, (make a very slight change in the point of vision,) please us most. In a camera obscura, the butcher’s cart , and the figure of one of our own family amuse us. So a portrait of a well-known face gratifies us. Turn the eyes upside down, by looking at the landscape through your legs, and how agreeable is the picture, though you have seen it any time these twenty years!” (great photography advice. 10 points if you know what a camera obscura is without having to look it up :D)

“The true philosopher and the true poet are one, and a beauty, which is truth, and a truth, which is beauty, is the aim of both.” (i think this is actually the origin of the phrase, “beauty is truth, truth is beauty.” agree? disagree?)

“I have no hostility to nature, but a child’s love to it. I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons.” (fantastic. my favorite quote. hilarious, too.)

“As a plant upon the earth, so a man rests upon the bosom of God; his is nourished by unfailing fountains, and draws, at his need, inexhaustible power. Who can set bounds to the possibilities of man? Once inhale the upper air, being admitted to behold the absolute natures of justice and truth, and we learn that man has access to the entire mind of the Creator, is himself the creator in the finite.” (basically he’s yammering on about nature poetically. i love it. if you don’t like nature or poetry, this might not be the essay for you.)

Walking by Thoreau:

I found so much truth and hilarity in this essay. Yes, it does just sound like an old man yammering on about how much he loves to take walks. BUT I LOVE TAKING WALKS. If you like walking or even the idea of walking, you might like this essay. I sort of went overboard on Emerson quotes, so I’ll spare you here.

Both essays are in the public domain I believe, so there’s no reason not to track them down if you’re intrigued!

Next month is a DEFINITELY going to be a winner. It’s The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. A memoir. Rachel says it’s her all-time favorite book. But you don’t have to take our word for it. (butterfly in the sky… i can go twice as high. you’re welcome.)

Next Up: Emerson & Thoreau

We’re taking it easy this month (because we know you’re busy running through the sprinkler and attending barbecues) so we’re reading two essays. Weird right? Who reads essays besides teachers? Well, we do. It fits our goals to read things we wouldn’t normally and challenge our minds.

blah, blah, blah-what you really want to know: so far I think “Waking” by Thoreau is hilarious. I don’t know if he meant it that way, but I’m going to pretend he did. He romanticizes and gets “all poetic” about taking a walk. I dig it.

I think both essays might be a challenge for our entertained minds to focus on and sort out their complex, philosophical language. So, read them outside in the sun without too many distractions. This is a great month to challenge yourself if this kind of reading is hard because they’re quite short. Also, they’re free (in the public domain). So read up and join us! July 12 7pm location TBA.

About the Author: Victor Hugo

Before we talk about Victor Hugo, I wanted to share a bit about why we’re reading this book…

When we sit down to choose the books for the year, we (Gwynne, Sarah R. and I) come together with our own lists of what we want to read during the year and try to mesh them while keeping a good amount of variety and challenging ourselves. I told them I felt we needed to go big this year. We needed to read one of the big guns. And I wanted it to be French. (It was either that or a big Russian book, and none of us really wanted to go there :D) We picked Les Miserables in particular because it is such a classic, AND because it’s being made into a movie- yet again- this year. Lucky for us, the trailer came out recently. Take a peek:

Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Amanda Seyfriend. WHAT. and it’s directed by the guy who made The King’s Speech. I am so excited! We might just have to make it a book club event 🙂

So, Victor Hugo. What an interesting man. His life would be an excellent soap opera. His parents ended up on two different sides of the political drama. His mother’s lover was arrested (at his mother’s house) and executed for his role in said drama. His brother went insane at Victor’s wedding (because he, too, loved the bride) and never recovered. Three of his children died before he did, and the only survivor was institutionalized for more than 30 years for insanity. He and his wife were separated and each had long-term extramarital affairs- his wife with Victor’s best friend. He was always political, but transitioned from his mother’s Royalist leanings to being an advocate for a republic. He was exiled for 19 years for his political activity. During his exile, he spent some time involved in seances that had a significant impact on his opinions and beliefs for the rest of his life. He also wrote Les Miserables during his time in exile. Upon returning from exile, he was elected to the Senate on at least two separate occasions.

Despite all the eventfulness of a lifetime, he is revered. Seriously. He’s considered a Saint in the Vietnamese religion of Cao Dai. The French consider him one of their best poets. The world recognizes him for his efforts on behalf of the poor. His two major novels are well-known and continue to inspire (Les Miserables and Notre-Dame de Paris aka: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). He campaigned world-wide against the death penalty resulting in changed policy in Geneva, Portugal, and Columbia. He attempted to save the lives of John Brown (USA abolitionist) and emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, but failed. However he was successful in saving the lives of 6 Irish terrorists in the United Kingdom. He even played a role in the development of the copyright, and while he never pursued it as a career, his drawings are fascinating.

I am currently not very far into the book. I am GOING to finish it before our meeting or I’m sure Sarah and Gwynne will have my head for putting it on the list and not finishing it! Haha. But 57 pages in, I know it will be worth the effort. So we’ll see you there! At our yearly picnic? Thursday June 14th, 7PM at Geist Park BYOT (Bring your own tableware) and a salad of any kind to share (green, fruit, pasta, etc.). We’ll be providing dessert and drinks.

*Normally I  find my information for these posts only from wikipedia, but this time I also used information from the beginning of my abridged version released by Barnes and Noble- provided by Laurence M. Porter.

A Wrinkle In Time: Discussion Questions

I had a hard time finding a good list of discussion questions online. I had to go 3 pages deep in google, and still nothing! It was such hard work I fell asleep. True Story.

So, change of plans- we’ll see you tomorrow for the discussion, and in honor of this being our young reader- there will be a quiz. (That’s why I can’t tell you what the questions are, duh.)  It’s for your sake, really, because anything I come up with while I’m awake will be way more fun than what I’d come up with right now. 🙂

I hope to see you tomorrow for the party at the “Panaradise” (Paradise Bakery) at Hamilton Town Center at 7pm.

The Good Earth recap: It was a tea party!

Previously, our tea parties have been at Tea’s Me. A place we absolutely love, by the way. We’re just trying to meet more in homes, and they’re not open in the evenings. (Instead we bought their tea and brought it to the party!)

We like to bring out grandma’s china anytime we can.

We had some requests for recipes, so here they are…
Cucumber Feta Rolls
Caprese on a Stick
Strawberry Buttermilk Cake
Coconut Shortbread Cookies

Spinach Dip recipe at the end of the post .


Babies are always welcome!

A really good story!! I’m not talking about the book. Well, we did like the book. But the one we’re listening to here was really entertaining!

Hi friends!

Spinach Dip

1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained [I used a package marked 16 oz, and by the time it was drained, it had about 10 oz of spinach]
1 container (16 oz) sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 package (dry) KNORR Vegetable Soup Dip and Recipe Mix
1 can (8 oz) water chestnuts drained and chopped (optional) [I didn’t include these this time]
3 green onions, chopped [I substituted fresh chives]

In medium bowl stir spinach, sour cream, mayonnaise, soup mix, water chestnuts, and green onions until well mixed.
Cover, chill 2 hours to blend flavors.
Stir well. If desired, spoon into round bread bowl. Serve wilth cut up vegetables or chips.


Next moth: A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle
@Paradise Bakery, Hamilton Town Center 7pm May 10th

June: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Summer Picnic! Start reading today- it’s a long one!

Pearl S. Buck

I asked Sarah to pretty please trade me posts this month. I was supposed to write the intro post, but as I haven’t yet read the book, I thought someone who loved it should write that post. Undoubtedly, when I learn more about a book/author/movie/artist, their work becomes more interesting to me.

This beautiful woman is Pearl S. Buck. I think the S stands for Sydenstricker, her maiden name. Considering that both her names are concrete nouns, I think the S was a good idea. With that observation, I immediately started to like her. She must have good judgement.

Then I read that she won both a Pulitzer and a Nobel prize. Woah. Way to go! The Pulitzer was for this month’s book The Good Earth, and the Nobel prize for her body of works, rather than one specific piece. I did a bit more reading and found that usually the Pulitzer for a novel is given for a work about American life, so I found it particularly noteworthy that she won for a story on rural Chinese life.

I am not surprised, though, that she decided to write on Chinese life. She was the daughter of missionaries to China which perfectly poised her to share their lives with us. She was more than an author, though. She has commendable bibliography, but she also founded the first international and interracial adoption agency. WHY HAVEN’T I HEARD OF HER BEFORE?

She spent the later half of her life bringing light to then unpopular issues such as, “racism, sex discrimination and the plight of the thousands of babies born to Asian women left behind and unwanted wherever American soldiers were based in Asia.” (Wikipedia)

I am so impressed by this artist (writer), humanitarian, and political activist. So I’m going to go read her Pulitzer prize-winning novel. You should too. Then, join us for our annual spring tea party Thursday, April 12 at 7pm. (Leave a comment if you need location information.)

Emma: About the Author

I have SO MUCH to tell you about this month’s author, Jane Austen. When I first found out I would be writing this post, I thought, “This is our 4th Jane Austen book. There won’t be anything else to tell them about her! I’ll have to think of something else to write.”

Except we didn’t start writing About the Author posts until more recently, and there’s only one other post on this dear woman which I wrote in a characteristically lazy manner. So lazy that I said nothing about her! I claimed it would spoil the book or some such nonsense. Ha.

After thoroughly chastising myself, I set about to laboriously research our favorite writer by combing through her Wikipedia article. I’ve seen Becoming Jane. What else could there possibly be to know? And then I chastised myself some more.

She’s a sneaky one. You see she purposefully had many of the documents that could have told us about her life destroyed. How did she know anyone would care? She wasn’t actually famous per se during her lifetime. I mean, the books were well known, but she published under the name “A Lady.” Although some people must have known she wrote them because she was invited to visit the Prince Regent, George IV, who requested she dedicate her next book to him. Since she felt she had no choice but to do so, she did- sarcastically- with Plan of a Novel.

We do know some fascinating tidbits about the timeline of her life. Apparently she decided at the age of 13 to be a serious writer, and from that young age worked consistently on her craft. In her early twenties she began putting the characters of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey on paper. Lack of fortune, want of connections, and- I’m going to guess- war, all had their hand in preventing her from publishing anything until she was 35 years old. Well, that, and a cranky publisher who bought the copyright to Northanger Abbey when she was 22 and never published it. Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion were all written towards the end of her life which ended so early at the age of 41. In fact, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey  were published posthumously with a note from her brother Henry which revealed her as the author of the novels.

Although it has been quite some time since I’ve seen Becoming Jane, I do remember James McAvoy’s character, and indeed there was such a man in her life. Well, Wikipedia didn’t really tell me enough for me to know that she was in love with him, but they did cause some trouble together and apparently his family felt the need to keep them apart, so there must have been some attraction. We also know that she was engaged for one day to a family friend who is also a character in the movie, but unlike the movie, he apparently was, “a large, plain-looking man who spoke little, stuttered when he did speak, was aggressive in conversation, and almost completely tactless.” If we know anything about Jane from her stories, we know there is no way you could convince her to marry such a man.

After all my careful toiling through Wikipedia, I have come to just that conclusion: We know Jane from her stories. We know her sensibility, prejudices, and persuasions. She told us herself. I’m enjoying her sense of humor in Emma. I need to get going though, and finish the book. I’ve spent way too much time on this blog post for you all! If you need to find out more for yourself you can always check Wikipedia, but if you really want to know, you’ll read her writings for yourself.