Monday, 31 December 2012

Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris

Only one of the bookclub members had heard of this author prior to reading this book. From the views voiced during the meeting i have to say i don't think anyone will be picking up another of his books. We were all really disappointed at the complete lack of laugh out loud moments we were promised from the book jacket reviews. Having said that we did have a few laughs when we were discussing the funnier moments during the meeting. Maybe the way that Sedaris writes just isn't funny enough, even though the things he's writing about actually are pretty funny.

We had a discussion about whether we felt the book was self-mocking or whether Sedaris actually does feel he's much better than everyone else. While looking at this we tried to think about how different nationalities would feel about the book. We came to the conclusion that as Europeans we find it a bit snide, however, Americans may find it quite offensive.

We enjoyed that short story aspect to the book, but felt that there are some much better examples, for example Mrs Bridges. The little snapshots of Sedaris' life were easy to pick up and put down because they really didn't flow on from one another. This could be seen as a positive if you only had a little time to read, and also a negative as nothing really seemed to connect.

There was one element which we found really interesting, that of the performance artist who has his assistant shoot him in the arm. The only reason for this was that this also appeared in the Family Fang book we read earlier in the year. Apparently this did actually happen,

Overall we gave this book 4 out of 10.

Me Talk Pretty One Day - Questions

I hope you're all enjoying the book so far. Don't forget that we're meeting to discuss this book on Thursday 13th December. This means you only have 2 weeks to finish the book, or at least make a good crack at it. Here are some questions to think about:

- Are there sections of the book you feel are snide or mean-spirited? Perhaps his criticism of Americans who visit Europe dressed "as if you've come to mow its lawns." Or perhaps the piece about his stint as a writing teacher. Is petulance a part of Sedaris's schtick...his charm?

- David Sedaris is a descendant of Woody Allen's brand of humor—personal idiosyncrasies or neuroses raised to an art form. What does Sedaris reveal about himself, his insecurities, angst, secret hostilities, and do you find those parts funny or somewhat touching, even sad? Actually, do you like Sedaris as he reveals himself in his book?

- In one chapter Sedaris details the way our beloved holidays are celebrated…quite differently…elsewhere. Were you aware of any of these variations on our traditions? Do you see our holidays in a different light now that you’ve read this?

- Were you aware the rights to a film version of four of the stories in Me Talk pretty One Day had been sold to Columbia Pictures and had a completed script when David asked director Wayne Wang to quit? What would you have envisioned for a film version? Which actor would make a good David?

See you all on the 13th! Don't forget to let me know if you want to bring something to the potluck.

Questions from LitLovers

Sarah's Key - Tatiana De Rosnay

All the bookclub members at the meeting had finished the book, and they all said that the book was very thought provoking and incredibly sad.

We all felt a little bit let down by the links within the book, we felt that there should have been more of alink between Julia and Sarah. Overall we found it hard to see why she was so determined to discover more about Sarah and the house. Perhaps it would have been more understandable if it had been a member of the French family trying to discover the history of their house rather than a slightly random American woman.

Most of the bookclub felt that the first part of the book was far more enjoyable while we were watching both Julia and Sarah. Once the historical element of Sarah's story had finished the book lost a little of its interest. This was probably because we found the story of Sarah's key to be more engaging than the story of Julia and her search for answers. We also felt that some of things that Sarah did towards the end of the book weren't exactly things we would expect her to do.

We also discussed the other characters in the book especially comparing the 10 year old Sarah with Julia's young daughter Zoe. We wondered whether the War had made Sarah into the resilient child she was, would Zoe be just as tough in those circumstances. Luckily she will probably never have to discover this for herself.

Overall we felt that the book was essentially a narrative about Julia and her life with a few incidentals about Sarah. It's basically all about Julia and how she feels about things, even her talking about the War was all very one sided. She didn't talk about how the Frnech police felt, or even tried to discover any of them as survivors to balance out the story she was discovering about Sarah.

We found it interesting that this story was based on a true story about the French involvement with the invading forces during the second World War. It was something we hadn't thought of previously and something that many of the bookclub would like to read more about.

It was also interesting to find out that this book although written in English feels like a translation, the reason for this being that the author normally writes in French. We didn't discover this until quite a way through the book, but it does makes sense when i mention that some of the bookclub members found the writing to be a little clunky.

Overall we gave this book 6.5 out of 10.

Sarah's Key - Questions

Here are some questions for you to look at over the next few days until bookclub on the 22nd November:

- Were you surprised by what you learned about Sarah’s history? Take a moment to discuss your individual expectations in reading Sarah’s Key. You may wish to ask the group for a show of hands. Who was satisfied by the end of the book? Who still wants to know—or read—more?

- What did you know about France’s role in World War II—and the Vél d’Hiv round-up in particular—before reading Sarah’s Key? How did this book teach you about, or change your impression of, this important chapter in French history?

- The rue de Saintonge apartment is a key element to this stoyr, bringing past and present together through a secret tragedy. Discuss how you would feel living in such a place. Do you think walls remember?

Hope you're all enjoying this months book.

Questions from LitLovers

Friday, 23 November 2012

Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane

Everyone in the club had finished this book and one person had watched the film version as well. We decided this was a difficult book to review without giving away massive amounts. So apologies for any accidental spoilers ... you have been warned!

Overall people enjoyed it more than they expected. A lot of the book club members were worried going in that it might be a bit scarey having seen the film trailers. However, it turns out that the book is not as atmospheric as the film so not quite as scarey as we anticipated. The atmosphere in the book we felt was very filmic, we imagined that it would make an excellent film which would maybe make it a little more suspenseful than the book version.

We all felt that it took a while to get going but once it did it was quite gripping, although not to the extent that the blurb on the cover mentioned. We didn't feel it was very suspenseful, but it did have a few elements that we wanted to find answers to. Once we did find the answers we weren't entirely sure we were happy with them. The ending could be seen as very ambiguous, and this is probably how the author meant it, which does fit with the main themes of the book but wasn't very satisfying. It was meant to be an electric thriller, which we didn't quite feel was right. It was more of a slow build mystery rather than a flat-out thriller.

The bookclub members felt that at the end some of the story didn't really make sense, such as the treatment of some of the patients. The staff seemed to do a lot of work just to try and figure out how to cure certain patients while others seemed to be treated as prisoners. There were also some grusome descriptions of some of the ways in which the doctors went about "curing" some of the patients, however, this is very realistic for the time. Some of us were interested to find out more about the different ways in which psychiatry has developed since the period this book is based in.

Overall we gave this book 5.5 out of 10. We found it very quick and easy to read and quite enjoyable.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Shutter Island - Questions

Hello everyone,

Here are some questions for you to think about for the next meeting on 25th October 2012:

- Both Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule arrive at Ashecliffe with different motives than their official one, which is to find a missing patient. What are their underlying reasons in coming the the asylum?

- How does Lehane make use of Teddy's psychic state to create tension and uncertainty and to drive the plot?

- The plot of Shutter Island is filled with cryptic clues, twists, turns, and complications. Looking back, at what point were you thrown off track? Was there any point when you began to fit pieces of the puzzle together? Or were you mystified from start to finish?

- What was your experience reading this book? Was it difficult to put down? Were you on the edge of your seat? Does Shutter Island deliver—does it live up to its reputation as a mystery-thriller? . . . Or did you find the story predictable and/or manipulative?

Questions from LitLovers

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Family Fang - Kevin Wilson

This was definitely a marmite book, people either loved it or hated it. Many people in the bookclub didn't enjoy it because they couldn't empathise with or understand the characters. This was probably because emotions weren't often described or discussed, leaving the reader to decide how the characters were feeling. They also felt that it was really predictable, they knew were the story was going so there wasn't any reason to keep reading. Also, the fact that it keeps hopping backwards and forwards in time was not something that some of the club felt was useful to the story. Although others felt that this gave us a little bit of back story, just enough to undestand the characters a little more.

The parents in the book made some people react very strongly as it was felt that they traumatised their children, they didn't really seem to love them as they should just when the children did something the parents felt was worthy in their artistic world.

Other members of the group felt that the parents did seem to care for their children in their own way and that they children would never have turned out to be brilliant actors and writers if they hadn't experienced what they had during their childhood. Also, the children would never have been as resiliant to life as they were if they hadn't survived their childhood, it made them much stronger as adults. We discussed the question of creating adults from our children and whether we should molly-coddle them or whether being harsher with them teaches them to be better adults.

We felt that the central themes of parents and children is very similar to a lot of the other books we've read during bookclub. It is something that many authors seem to enjoy exploring, trying to discover the perfect family perhaps?

There were a lot of really funny moments in this book as long as you are happy with the complete chaos surrounding them. We decided this book was like modern art, either you are happy with a picture that leaves you to decide how to interpret it, or you aren't. The same is true of this book.

Overall we gave this book 5.5 out of 10.

Book Picking for 2013


I've come up with an idea to make next year a little more interesting in the book club. Basically we're sticking with me sending out a list of books and you picking a certain number with the books with the most votes being the ones we then read. However ... the twist is that i will be sending out the list in a set of genres and you will need to pick one from each genre so we then end up reading one book from each genre. This is intended to stretch us all in terms of what we normally read.

What do you all think? Worth a try? If you can think of anything you'd like to see in the list give me a shout and i'll have a look at what you suggest.

The Family Fang - Questions


Here are some questions about the next bookclub book "The Family Fang" for discussion on 27th September.

- Are these parents cruel...or clueless...or what? How would you describe them and their style of parenting? Do you find the two amusing?

- At some point in all of our lives, we come to see our parents, not as demi-gods, but as human beings. When did that occur to you...and what precipitated the insight? Does the new understanding of one's parents lead to (or come from) maturity or disillusionment...or both?

- The book often alludes to who is “the favorite Fang” or “the best Fang” despite them saying that they’re all exactly alike. Who was your favorite Fang and why?

- What did you think of Wilson’s writing style and storytelling? What about the structure of the performance piece chapters interspersed with the narrative?

I hope everyone is enjoying this book. And don't forget that you can send me any suggestions for new books to look at in the next book choice list.

Questions from Litlovers and PPH Bookclub.

The Last Werewolf - Glen Duncan

Not many of the group finished this months book, this seemed to be because they didn't enjoy the writing style. They felt that the writing was very depressing, that it was all dragging on with no real reason so it came across as boring. The main character, Jake, did come across as very depressed, and considers his own mortality over and over again in the first half of the book.

Those that did manage to finish really loved the style of writing. They liked the fact that it was the complete opposite of so many of the urban fantasy novels out there. That the writing was hard to read made it feel like you had achieved something, giving a sense of satisfaction. They felt that the imagery and the descriptions were so vivid that you had to stop every so often to catch your breath.

Many people in the group mentioned that they prefered the writing style after the first half as various characters were lost to the story and others were introduced. It seemed to change the way that Jake felt, which then affected the style of the book.

There were definite changes in the writing style when Jake was a human compared to when he was a wolf. The wolf seemed to see things in a much cruder way with a lot more descriptions of death, sex, interspersed with a lot of swear words. We felt that this language was deliberate, that Glen was trying to jar the reader to remind them that a werewolf is an evil presence, and that Jake is clearly unhappy when in his wolf form. Even the descriptions of sex scenes were very different when you compared the human ones with the wolf ones, the wolf ones were much more animalistic not as soft or loving.

We had a short discussion about whether Jake was freer as a man or as a wolf. He seemed to be freer as a wolf, but he was compelled to carry out acts like killing humans, so maybe he wasn't that free after all. However, if he remained a wolf then he wouldn't feel the guilt that he has as a human who has just murdered someone, so maybe he is freer as a wolf.

We also wondered whether the fact that he is a wolf is incidental to the main story, that of trying to find meaning in life. We as humans try to do this on a regular basis, especially when faced with something life-altering like becoming a werewolf, or discovering you have cancer.

Those that finished the book felt that this book did have the feeling of being a first book, merely a prologue to the next in the trilogy. Having said that, those that enjoyed the book really would like to read the next one, just to see how everything pans out.

Overall we gave this book 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Last Werewolf - Questions


I hope you're enjoying this months bookclub read. Here are some questions to guide your reading:

- Werewolves have a long literary lineage, in folk tales and works of fiction, and they loom large in popular culture. In what ways does The Last Werewolf remain faithful to the genre and at the same time bring something new to it? In what ways is it innovative?

- The Last Werewolf is a tremendously sensual novel. After making love in a Manhattan hotel, Jake and Talulla lie on the bed, "warm as a pot of sunlit honey." What are some of the novel's most erotically charged passages? What are some other examples of the sensuousness of Duncan's prose?

- In talking about Quinn's journal and why he tried to find it, Jake tells Talulla: "It's the same old shit. The desire to know whence we came in the hope it'll shed light on why we're here and where we're going. The desire for life to mean something more than random subatomic babble." Why might a werewolf be especially concerned with the origin and meaning of his life? Does Jake really feel it's foolish to want answers to those questions?

- What is the irony of America's Next Top Model playing in background as Jake and Tululla devour music producer Drew Hillard? Where else does Jake make references to pop culture? In what ways does the novel present a critique of pop culture while at the same time participating in it?

See you on 30th August!

Questions from Random House

The Last Werewolf - Another Podcast!


Apparently we picked a popular bookclub book. Here's another podcast, this time from Australia:

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Last Werewolf - Podcast

Hello everyone,

I know that a lot of people are away during August so i thought i'd send this out early. The podcast is in 3 sections, the first two of which have no spoilers so they're safe to listen to if you haven't read the book as yet. The third section is full of spoilers so best not listen to that until you've read the book.

I hope everyone enjoys this book or at least gives it a good 100 pages (at a decent font size on Kindle).

Next Of Kin - David Hosp

This months book is actually part of a larger series, and it isn't the first book in that series. One member of the bookclub has read the previous books and she felt that this may have given her a little more insight into the characters. Everyone else felt that the book mostly stood as a book in its own right so could be read without investing the time needed to read all the books in the series.

With regard to the fact that this part of a series, many of the bookclub members felt that they could have done with a bit more of a back story for most of the characters. However, maybe this was a writing device to make us want to read the other books to find out more about each of the characters. As with a lot of thriller novels the writer usually aims most of their writing skill at the plot, Hosp did this but he also seems to be aiming to have great characters as well. Maybe he should focus on one thing or the other to get a better novel.

We thought that the main theme of this book was very obviously that of family. Whether blood relatives are more like family to us or those we choose to surround ourselves with in the form of friends. As with a lot of books that choose this as a theme we felt that friends turned out to be better family than actual relations. The only real divergence from this would be Koz and Lissa and their relationship with their child. However, in this book Koz and Lissa were very peripheral characters, they seemed to have taken a more central role in previous books.

Throughout this thriller there were clues at the ending, but they were buried quite deeply and hidden very well with plenty of red herrings. Most of the bookclub tried to guess the ending but we were all completely off course at the very end. Overall we felt that it was a very interesting twist in the end of this tale.

Overall we gave this book 7 out of 10. It wasn't a massively deep book, but it was entertaining and a good read for the summer holidays.

During this months meeting we welcomed two new members. If you work for Hwel Dda Health Board you are welcome to join the bookclub. If you do not work for Hywel Dda Health Board you are welcome to write any comments you have in the comments section at the end of each blog post.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Next of Kin - Questions


Here are some questions to guide your reading with this months bookclub book.

- There are a lot of familial relationship in this book, fathers and sons, mothers and sons, and displaced children. What are your thoughts on the different relationships portrayed?

- There are plenty of twists and red herrings in this novel, did you try to work out the ending while you were reading, and if you did try did you succeed?

- Did you read the previous books in the series? Do you think they are meant to be read as a series or as stand alones? How do you feel about reading books from a series in bookclub?

- As a thriller do you think the author paid equal attention to both the plot and the characters, or did he focus his writing energy on one more than the other?

See you all on the 26th!

Questions from PPH Bookclub. Feel free to re-use but don't forget to attribute!

Next of Kin - Richard and Judy Podcast


Here's a quick video of Richard and Judy interviewing David Hosp and his book (and our bookclub book) Next Of Kin. It is a little bit bad with regard to the sound but it is quite interesting.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

The book group have one major thing to say about this book, and that is you must read the prologue to the book! Possibly read the prologue after having read the book as well as before. This ensures that you go into the book understanding that it's a parody and not something that is as funny as a stand alone novel. Having said this there are a few moments in the book that are laugh-out-loud funny but mostly towards the end of the novel. For example, we all found it hilarious when Urk charged out of the farmhouse with Merium.

Once you realise this is a parody there is an awful lot more to laugh at including the massive amounts of references to gothic books of the time with people "taking to their beds" something i  think we would all like to do at one time or another. Also the fact that not all the secrets were revealed is very gothic, we thought more of the time that the secrets were nothing big and scary but just a literary device. For example, the something in the woodshed secret was probably someone making use of the woodshed with their special friend. Also the story changes as Ada Doom thinks about it going from a woodshed to a cowshed to any number of other outbuildings. Maybe nothing happened at all!

The use of *'s is also explained in the prologue, again this would have made the reading of the book more enjoyable had we all read the prologue. Basically the *'s are there to "help" the reader to notice passages of particular literary merit in the eyes of the author!

We all decided that Flora was a bit of a Mary Poppins type character, going into this falling down farm and odd family and tidying it all with what seemed to be little effort. We also thought Flora could be compared to Jane Austens' character Emma with her meddling in the lives and loves of everyone she comes across.

We felt it was a little tricky to date what with the use of video phones and everyone taking planes everywhere. But this was in contrast to the very Austen feel of Flora getting only £100 a year and going down to London to get things like clothes etc. It was, however, easy to place the story in the countryside simply because of the use of strong accents. Some of the book club readers did find it a little taxing to read in those accents especially as many of the words were made up.

We decided to give this book a mark both before and after we had been told that it was a parody. Before we knew we gave it 5 out of 10, after we knew we gave it 6 out of 10.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Cold Comfort Farm - Questions


Here are some questions for you all to think about before our meeting:

- Several 'secrets' remain unanswered by the end of the novel, such as what Aunt Ada saw in the woodshed, what Flora's rights were, and what wrong was done to Flora's father. Were you disappointed that these questions were never answered?

- This is one of the books on the Mood Boosting Books list, did it work for you?

- This book is a parody of many of the books set in the country that were also published at around the same time. Did you find it funny at all? What makes it so funny?

- There are some quite strong accents in the book did you find these helped or hindered your enjoyment?

- Gibbons wrote a few sequels to CCC, would you be interested in reading any of these eg. Christmas at CCC, and Conference at CCC.

Questions by PPH Bookclub. Feel free to re-use but don't forget to attribute!

Cold Comfort Farm - Podcast


Here's a link to the First Tuesday Australian book club video of a discussion of Cold Comfort Farm.

One Day - David Nicholls

Firstly we discussed the book choices for the next few months, these have been added to the blog for everyone to see.

Many of the bookclub members didn't enjoy this book as much as they thought they would. Maybe we had high expectations as it had been made into a film. A lot of us were very disappointed in the ending of the book, it all came as a bit of a shock that we weren't very happy with. It's pretty tricky to talk about the end of the book without giving away a massive plot twist but you will know once you've read it why we weren't pleased.

We discussed the two main characters and why we thought they behaved the way they did. We decided that Dex wasn't deliberately nasty, he just didn't know how to think of others before himself as this wasn't something his mother had taught him. She had taught him to be her little prince so he thought he could do no wrong and didn't appreciate it when he was told he was doing things wrong. His way of dealing with feeling bad in anyway was to go completely off the rails until someone picked up the pieces. Emma was someone who seemed to enjoy being a matyr, doing a job she didn't enjoy and picking up the pieces when a broken Dex came to her. Emma even seemed to enjoy keeping herself looking dull and unattractiveand having very few relationships with men much like a nun! One thing we didn't quite understand was how the two remained such strong friends after only having met on the last day of university term. It was put forward that maybe they remained friends because they didn't get a "moment" during their first encounter so they had that as an extra frisson to the normal friendly relationship. Another interesting suggestion was that they were using each other as a back-up plan in case they turned out to be lonely and unmarried in their old age.

The main bulk of out discussion was around whether men and women can be friends in a platonic sense without anything sexual going on in either ones minds. Luckily we have a man in our group so we could get the story from both sides with some interesting discussion going on. We also wondered whether the same thing happens to homosexuals as with heterosexuals in terms of being friends with someone of the sex that you would generally fall for. We thought that people may behave differently if they're trying to be friends with someone rather than trying to become their partner. We came to the conclusion that sometimes men and women can be friends but it does often happen that things progress beyond the platonic.

We found it interesting to see how Dex and Emma changed their wants out of life from their highly idiological ideas of life after university on their last day at university to the last few entries where they were 30 year olds.

Overall we gave this book 5 out of 10.

One Day - Questions


Here are a few questions for the months bookclub:

- The When Harry Met Sally question: What do you think - can a single man and a single woman ever truly be "just friends," or does one of them always want more?

- Do you think Dexter and Emma would have been happy had they admitted their love and devotion to each other much earlier in their lives? Is their love a product of their long, off and on friendship through the years, or could it have been realized even if they'd gotten together earlier? Do you know people who have had a similar relationship?

- Do Emma’s musings about where life has taken her [p. 381] resonate with you? What do Emma and Dexter at forty have in common with the people they were on graduation night? How does Nicholls simultaneously capture the ways people change and the persistence of individual characteristics through the passage of time?

- What demands does the unusual structure of One Day make on the reader? Discuss how the yearlong gaps between chapters; the focus on sometimes-mundane happenings rather than “big” events; and the alternation between Dexter’s and Emma’s journeys within each section increase your curiosity and engagement with the novel.

Questions from and Random House.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Book choices and Meeting dates

Hello everyone,

Just before the big jubilee weekend i thought i'd let everyone know about the book choices and the meeting dates for your diary.

30th August - Last Werewolf Glen Duncan
27th September - Family Fang - Kevin Wilson
25th October - Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane
22nd November - Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
13th December - Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris

Hope everyone has a brilliant weekend!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

When God Was A Rabbit - Sarah Winman

 Most of the book club really enjoyed this light-hearted novel about relationships between family and friends. We all agreed that it wasn't a very deep book, it probably wasn't ever written to be deeply studied, however, it was a good read.

There were a lot of laugh out loud moments in the book, particularly towards the beginning of the book. We all loved the section about the Nativity play, it was hilarious in parts but totally believable. These highly funny moments were then heightened by the addition of very short moments of darkness. These dark moments tended to be very short, and not especially worrisome, they just served to highlight the lighter moments. We thought that everyone has moments of darkness in their lives, but they are quickly forgotten when a humorous moment occurs. The author seems to enjoy juxtaposing two very different elements in this book, for example the dark and light moments, and also the slightly magical and the completely realistic moments. This is done with a very light hand and makes the book the enjoyable narrative that it is.

We all enjoyed reading this novel because it wasn't full of terrifying or thought provoking drama, there are moments that make you wonder, but not too deeply. The more thought provoking aspects weren't really very overt, they were mostly alluded to which made them less dramatic. We did wonder how wise it was to include present day events such as the 9/11 element, but we came to the conclusion that they were treated sensitively even though they weren't actually necessary.

One element we didn't really understand or see the need for was the big gap in the middle of the novel. We felt that there had been gaps in time during the first half of the novel so there was no real need to make such a dramatic first and second half. Maybe there was a reason we didn't notice.

We enjoyed each of the characters, even though they were slightly one dimensional, with quirky being their main characteristic. They were very dysfunctional and hilarious in the main with the odd moment of sadness thrown in to the mix. Although we noticed that the younger characters seemed to be mimicking the older ones with regard to their relationships, the brother sister plus partner one in particular.

Overall we gave this book 7.5 out of 10

When God Was A Rabbit - Questions


I hope you're all enjoying this months book, i know i am. Here are some questions for you to think about while you're reading:

- In the prologue of When God Was a Rabbit, Elly recalls a coin trick Jenny Penny showed her when they were children. What does Elly learn about faith, loyalty, and magic from Jenny? How does this scene introduce their friendship, and how does it foreshadow the problems that the girls will face?

- Part Two of the novel picks up fifteen years later, in 1995. How has Elly changed? In what ways has Elly failed to come to terms with her past? How will she mend her two closest relationships --- with her brother and with Jenny --- in Part Two?

- Consider the ties among family members, friends, and lovers in When God Was a Rabbit. Which bond seems strongest for these characters: family, friendship, or romance?

See you on Thursday (26th April).

Questions from Reading Group Choices.

These Things Hidden - Heather Gudenkauf

This book was enjoyed by everyone who read it, everyone who started it has finished it or they intend to finish it in the near future. We would all recommend this book to our friends and family as a good easy to read book.

We enjoyed the fact that the chapters were nice and short, plus the narrator changed with each chapter making us want to read on to see how each character was getting on throughout the book. It was interesting hearing each characters different voice, each of which was easily recognisable. It was also interesting to see how each of the characters saw themselves and each other, for example, it was hard to reconcile the two descriptions of Christopher coming from his sister and Allison.

We discussed the role of relationships in the book, those between family members and those between non-blood relations. We thought that Gus was the best at parenting, although he wasn't actually a blood relation to anyone in the book. Unsurprisingly we decided that Charm's mother was the worst at fulfilling her role as a mother, she was far too selfish to care for her children. Having said that Alison and Bryn's parents although they wanted the best for their children, only seemed to take any notice of them when they were achieving things. This did seem to bring out the worst in both girls.

The story is rather contrived but we all enjoyed it non-the-less, it isn't a work of great literature but it is very enjoyable along the lines of a Jodi Picoult. Many elements of the story ring slightly false, the way the characters behave in one situation seems completely the opposite of their normal reaction. However, some of the situations might bring about odd changes of character in normal people, who knows how they would react in similar circumstances.

Overall we gave this book 8 out of 10.

These Things Hidden - Questions

Hello everyone,

Here are some questions for the next bookclub meeting (29th March 2012).

- We see glimpses of Allison and Brynn's parents through each girl's eyes. How have their parents shaped each girl? How have their roles in their family defined their relationship? How have your parents shaped you?

- How does public perception of Allison and Brynn differ from how the sisters view themselves—and each other? How does this change throughout the book? How did your perceptions of Brynn and Allison change as you learned more about each character?

- In These Things Hidden, several characters take on the role of a parent—for example, Devin, Olene, Gus—for a child to whom they are not biologically related. What makes a good parent? Has there been anyone in your life who has represented the role of a parent for you? Have you done this for anyone in your life? I hope you all enjoyed the book and can make it to the bookclub.

Questions from All You.

Friday, 2 March 2012

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Aimee Bender

This book did not go down very well with the book group, almost everyone disliked it for various reasons. The main reason being confusion with regard to the magical elements. Most of the group felt this was a very odd thing to have in a book, there didn't seem to be much of a point to it. Although the basic idea was very interesting we felt that it wasn't explored in a very substantial way. We were left wondering why things had happened and wondering what we were meant to feel at the end of the book.

The group found the descriptions of the different places the food had come from interesting, however, they did not like the way that the other members of the family showed their magical powers. We were wondering whether these abilities were genetic in anyway, or whether other people in the neighbourhood had any odd abilities. We would have liked to have a bit more from Joseph about his ability and how he felt when he was using it. Whether he had much control over his ability, or whether it just happened to him like Rose.

Overall we gave this book 2 out of 10.

The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake - Questions


I'm sorry to say i shan't be with you for the next meeting. I hope everyone is enjoying this months read, here are some questions for you to think about:

- It seems as if most of what Rose tastes is negative. Do you think that most hidden feelings are actually negative?

- How did you experience the scene in Joseph's room, when Rose goes to see him? What did that experience mean to Rose? Is there any significance to Joseph choosing a card table chair?

- What is the impact of Rose's discovery about her father's skills? Did this change the way you see the father?

I hope you all enjoyed the book and that you enjoy the meeting too.

Questions are from

Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

The first part of this months meeting was taken up with the decision about the next few months books. We decided to read
These Things Hidden (Heather Gudenkauf)in March,
When God Was A Rabbit (Sarah Winman) in April,
One Day (David Nicholls) in May,
Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons) in June
Next Of Kin (David Hosp) in July.

This month practically the whole book group finished the book, and most seemed to enjoy at least a part of it. Many people in the group had already read the book either at school or because it appealed to them. Most found that reading it now as compared to when they were younger gives them a very different view point. Reading it when they were younger they saw it mostly as a gothic romance, now they could see some of the adult themes running through the book.

The group seemed a little split as to whether they enjoyed the first part or the second part of the book, not many seemed to enjoy the entire book equally. Those that prefered the second part of the book said it was because they wanted to know how all the secrets would pan out. Whereas those that enjoyed the first part of the book tended to find their empathy with Mrs DeWinter was waning towards the end of the book and this spoiled their enjoyment.

We could all see the similarities between this book and Jane Eyre, and we mostly agreed that Mrs De Winter wasn't as strong as she could have been with regard to her husband and the staff in the house. However, this was the point of the book, to show that although Rebecca was no longer alive she was still hugely powerful as a presence in the house. Interesting Daphne Du Maurier strengthened this power of Rebecca over the entire book by not giving the new Mrs De Winter a first name. More interestingly is the fact that not many people notice this unless it is pointed out.

Along with the theme of strength of character we also saw the theme of truth as being very strong. If many of the characters in the book had told the truth then much of the tragedy would not have happened. Almost every character in the book was holding a secret, some became more obvious than others as the book progressed. For example, although not clearly stated we guessed that Mrs Danvers harboured a secret love for Rebecca.

Overall we gave it 7.5 out of 10.

Rebecca - Questions

Hello everyone,

I hope you all enjoyed this months book. Here are some questions to get you thinking before Thursday meeting.

- Du Maurier admitted that her heroine has no name because she could never think of an appropriate one—which in itself is a telling comment. What effect does it have on the novel that the new Mrs. de Winters has no first name?

- What is the heroine led to believe about Rebecca? In what way does the dead woman exert power over Manderley? At this point, what are your feelings about the new Ms. de Winter? Are you sympathetic toward her plight...or impatient with her lack of assertion? Or are you confused and frightened along with her?

- In the end, what really happened to Rebecca? What is the full story of her death? Is it right that Maxim is absolved of any crime? Was he caught in an untenable position? Was Rebecca simply too evil—did she end up getting what she deserved?

- Now return to the beginning of the book. How would you put into words, or explain, the sense of loss and exile that permeates tone of the opening? (You might think about a spiritual as well as physical exile.)

Questions are from LitLovers.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Kiss of the Spider Woman - Manuel Puig

It is safe to say that not many bookclub members enjoyed this book. It was something which stretched a lot of us beyond our book reading ability. This is not to say that it's a bad book, it's just very different to our usual reads. We found it to be too literary for our bookclub. It may also be more enjoyable had the reader seen the film, or the stage show.

We all found it very tricky to keep up with who was speaking as each line spoken just started with not indication of speaker. We also got the two prisoners confused a great deal of the time which didn't help with the flow of the book. We also found the footnotes to be very distracting and didn't add much to the actual story. Although they did offer an interesting insight into how people thought about certain things in the time period this book is from.

Overall we gave this book 2 out of 10, although because many people hadn't finished it not everyone voted.

During this meeting we also decided to change the way we choose books. We have decided that for the months March - June we will do the following. The librarian will create a list of 10(ish) books from other bookclub suggestions such as Richard and Judy etc. This will be sent out to the group who will each choose 4 books from the list. The 4 books with the most votes will be the next 4 months books.

Kiss of the Spider Woman - Questions


I hope you're all enjoying this months book! Here are some questions to think about:

- In "Kiss of the Spider Woman," in what ways do Molina and Valentin express that they each belong to two different cultures simultaneously?

- What might be the symbolic significance of eyes in Kiss of the Spider Woman?

- What is the relevance of the "Kiss of The Spider Woman" to the present society?

Questions from eNotes.

Little Bee / The Other Hand - Chris Cleave

Almost all the members of the bookclub finished this book. We all thought it was an interesting story, although we weren't sure that it lived up to the hype about it on amazon and on the back of the book.

We thought that it made us look more closely at the way we in the West live our lives. Little Bee had a great way of showing us how foolish certain aspects of our lives are, for example, why is it ok to have topless women in our newspapers but it's not ok for women to wander the streets topless. Surely if it's acceptable in one place, it should be accepted elsewhere. We also thought it interesting that obviously people native to Little Bee's country are constantly being persecuted and killed, however we in the West very rarely hear about it. We do hear often about white people or Westerners who have been taken hostage in these countries and how much we are willing to do and pay to get their freedom. This gave us something to think about.

We compared prisons with detention centres during our discussion because we felt that both remove liberty and can be used for the right or wrong reasons. They make humans into numbers rather than individuals. We weren't sure which side to take with regard to believing or disbelieving asylum seekers, there are always those we should believe and those we shoudln't. It's a very difficult issue to make a definite decision about.

It was very noticable that there didn't seem to be one good man in the entire book, this was interesting because the book is written by a man! However, his ability to get within the female psyche is not that great. The female reaction to sex expecially didn't ring true with the bookclub members.

Overall we gave this book 5 out of 10. We felt that this book was probably more of a starting point to reading more indepth discussion about the issues brought up in this book. This particular book hops around the issues too much without actually going into them in enough detail for the reader to get a proper handle on them.