Murder on the Orient Express

Up next::

March 14th @ 7pm
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
@ Hamilton Town Center’s “Panaradise”

Join us as we discuss this well-known mystery by Ms Christie.

I can say for sure I’m horrible at guessing “who dun it?” Really, it’s quite comical how wrong I was, wait till you hear my thoughts as I read the alibis of all  Poirot’s suspects. I’m blaming my pregnant-brain-fog. 

Hope to see you in about a month,
Happy Reading!


Hemingway is next!

We had a great meeting last Thursday discussing The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Everyone gave the book a thumbs up and would recommend it if you haven’t already had the pleasure of reading it. I’m not a big fan of mystery and crime books, but this was light and entertaining. I just got an email from the library today saying book two in this series that I’ve reserved is in. I recommend having the second book in the series handy for when you finish reading book one.
November 8th at 7:00pm we’ll gather again for A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway at Paradise Bakery & Cafe.  Happy Reading!! See you next month!

An Ivanhoe Dinner Party

We had a wonderful dinner and evening full of fellowship and conversation at our Ivanhoe meeting. Not all of us were able to finish the book before the meeting but I think by the time we left we were all excited to finish reading it or watch the new Ivanhoe movie due in theaters next year!!

This week we’ll be meeting on Thursday at Paradise Bakery for the discussion of The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. This was a quick read for me a few weekends ago while we were on a mini-vacation. I was kicking myself for reading it so fast without having the next book of the series with me! I’m first on the waiting list for book two from the library. Can’t wait to read more of the story!

On my personal blog I’ll be blogging this month about how our book club works in a series called Reading Is Social. If you’re new here or curious to know more of the behind-the-scene details I hope you’ll check it out!

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!

Introducing The Hiding Place

August Book: The Hiding Place

By: Corrie Ten Boom

Time: 7:00pm

Location: Shelila’s House (address on Evite)

Have you started The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom? I just finished it for a second time and I am still in love! This true story is about Corrie and her family and how their lives transpired while living through World War Two. The story can seem a bit depressing yet very moving, one which keeps you turning the pages. I could go on and on about how much I love this favorite book of mine but will leave you with these descriptive words about the book.

Fascinating      Powerful Novel     Spiritual Message      Pleasant Domestic Life in Holland       A Secret Room      Amazing Faith      False Paper      Ration Cards      A Hidden Bible      Concentration Camps      Dutch Resistance      Miraculous Surivial      Moving Story      Suffering      Triumph      Joy

Ps. 119:114 You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.

Guest Post By Rachel

That Book Is HUGE! (An Introduction to Les Misérables)

Undoubtedly they seemed very depraved, very corrupt, very vile, very hateful, even, but those are rare who fall without becoming degraded; there is a point, moreover, at which the unfortunate and the infamous are associated and confounded in a single word, a fatal word, Les Misérables; whose fault is it?

So far, this month’s book Les Misérables is way different from what I expected. And that is not a bad thing. I have to admit, that I was in no way familiar with the story line. When the Broadway musical was at the height of its popularity, I never saw it or heard more than a song or two from the soundtrack. I thought it was about the beginning of the French Revolution (wrong!), and the story is turning out to have way more suspenseful moments than I would have thought. I certainly didn’t expect a novel that would address so many themes. As Victor Hugo tells the story, his involvement in politics shows as he explores poverty, patriotism, justice, oppression, social justice, and redemption, among others.

One thing I did know, though, was that this book is HUGE! I received my copy for Christmas, and it looked like brick sitting under the tree with my copy of The Hiding Place that I also received as a gift.

Les Mis Comparison

My abridged version weighs in at a hefty 829 pages (and that is with pretty small print). I’m not usually intimidated by giant books (I count Gone with the Wind and it’s 1,037 are among some of my all-time favorites), but for some reason, this one seemed scary. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s abridged, or maybe it’s the French title. However once I’ve gotten deeper into the story, I would say it has been worth confronting my fear and diving into this novel. Perhaps you’ve had some similar fears of large novels, or maybe you tend to get bogged down when reading books of this kind of size. If so, I thought I would include some suggestions for reading big books, in particular, this one.

  1. There is no shame in reading the abridged version. Especially in the case of Les Misérables (see the page count I mentioned above). Hugo is a very descriptive writer, and he has a tendency to wax poetic for multiple chapters about topics like French society and the Battle of Waterloo. While brilliantly described, I am sure, these types of details aren’t really necessary to the backstory or moving along the plot. Judging from his critical essay included at the beginning of my edition of the book, the guy that did the abridgement was really smart, and I trust his judgment that what he decided to cut out (or summarize in an italicized paragraph) was probably OK to cut.
  2. Skim if necessary. As I mentioned before, Hugo is a very poetic author, so he often has very lengthy descriptions of scenes and characters. This helps create a very vivid visual picture, but in most cases these descriptions aren’t integral to the plot. If you get bogged down in the descriptive sections, go ahead and skim them so you have a basic idea of what is going on without getting stuck. If you miss a key detail, you can always go back.
  3. If it helps, take notes. There are a lot of characters in the novel, and some go by different names at different points in the story, so you might find it helpful to keep a list of who is who. Or you might want to make notes of key plot points.
  4. Make use of SparkNotes (or something similar). Les Misérables follows several main characters whose stories all overlap. You might find it helpful to look at SparkNotes or another outside resource for the plot summary after you read a chapter to make sure you didn’t miss anything important. If it is easier for you to read a book when you to know where the story is going, read ahead in the plot summary, or you might find it helpful to use the information to do your own “abridging” to skip some of the more flowery sections and jump ahead to where the action picks up.
  5. Give it a fair chance. Personally, I find that with a lot of books, it takes a few chapters or more to really get a feel for the author’s writing style, some of the characters and the overall “feel” of the book. Some of books take quite a bit of time (and pages) to set the stage and the scene before they really pick up. Les Misérables definitely falls into this category. Hugo takes great care to introduce you to the setting and his characters, which may seem tedious at times. Hopefully if you find it tedious, you can find some appreciation for his gift of description. This gift carries into the more action-oriented sequences of the novel, which makes him a master at building tension and suspense.

How about you? Have you found the book to be what you expected? Do you have any tips for reading this, and other large novels? I hope you give Les Misérables a fair chance and come and join us on June 14 at 7 p.m. for our discussion and Summer Picnic at Geist Park.

Happy Reading!

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

Emma: Do YOU like her?

Title Page from Emma

Title Page from Emma

Before her novel Emma was published, Jane Austen said about the title character, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” Emma Woodhouse is “handsome, clever and rich,” but also has tendencies toward being selfish, spoiled, snobby and meddlesome. The real trouble begins when Emma decides she is going to try her hand at matchmaking, taking the very naive Harriet Smith on as a project of sorts in order to bring Harriet into higher society and find her a husband.

While Emma schemes and goes about her daily life in the small village of Highbury, it is the interesting cast that brings life to the novel, and this work of Austen’s seems to have one of the largest assortments of quirky characters:

  • Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse, who is very fragile in health and always seems to think the health of others is every bit as fragile as his own and that they should follow his habits.
  • Harriet Smith, who is impressionable and flighty and will do anything for Emma’s approval.
  • Mr. Elton, who is a master at schmoozing and turns out to be a social climber.
  • Mrs. Elton (formerly Miss Hawkins), whom Mr. Elton marries to achieve higher social standing. Although she has money, she has horrible manners.
  • Miss Bates, who is an incessant talker.
  • Frank Churchill, who is an “auntie’s boy.”

And then there’s Emma herself. She’s very concerned about people’s rank in society, she schemes to get her way, and she has decided that she doesn’t like Jane Fairfax for what seems like no good reason. Although she has her faults, in some ways, she is like Scarlett O’Hara, where you can’t help but root for her throughout the book.

So, as you’re reading though Emma, who do you think is the quirkiest character so far? What do you think of Emma? Do you like her, or do you think Jane Austen was right?

Hope you can join us for our discussion of Jane Austen’s Emma on March 8 at 7 p.m. We’ll keep you posted on the location. Happy reading!