Monday, July 9, 2012

Meeting Notes: Ender's Game

At the most recent book club, we had two things to celebrate: book club and Marissa's birthday! Courtney hosted, and she made delicious pizza squares and cupcakes. The cupcakes were homemade banana bread with cream cheese frosting—yummy—and were in honor of Marissa's big day.

She also made a pear vanilla cocktail found on our friend Dulcie's blog. Unfortunately, our book club is cursed, so that even if the days prior to and following it are beautiful, it is always chilly and rainy at our bookish get-togethers. Still, the summery drinks were enjoyed by all.

Here is the gift basket we made Marissa. Because she was so busy with school and work, we wanted to give her a variety of things to help her relax and/or get her mind off things, like (obviously) The Hunger Games.

You see that Courtney had to throw on her fancy rain coat before we went out due to the inclement weather (after the official meeting/discussion portion of the evening had concluded). One of these days, we'll get to have a summery backyard book club.

Only one of the Bookworms finished Ender's Game before the meeting. One of us was in the family way, one was finishing up her semester, and the other two were just plain lazy. Well, that and they weren't totally taken with the novel. Ender's Game is a novel about children in a future world where aliens (called "buggers") are a real threat are brought up to be vicious soldiers. It won the Hugo and the Nebula awards, two of science fiction's highest honors. But for whatever reason, it just didn't draw all of us in. Courtney's husband heard what our next read was and said, "Yeah, that's a great book if your a seventh-grade boy." We didn't feel quite that way about it, but still I wouldn't say it was our favorite read. Which brings us to ratings: Kayla gave it 3.8 stars (out of 5), I gave it 3, and Courtney gave it 3.5, and the words we associated with it were "giant," "bugger," and "simulation."

To be more specific, some of us were a little bored by all the mock-battle scenes, of which there are a lot. I personally cannot visualize the battle maneuvers the book describes, so those became a great opportunity for me to zone out. This sentiment wasn't universally felt by all the Bookworms, nor was the next. Some of us had a hard time relating to the main characters, including Ender. I think we found the children's cold intellect, aloofness, and violent tendencies unlikeable. But, we also wondered how much of that was supposed to be due to their society and their experiences at the relentless battle school (nature versus nurture). After all, it was their society that placed such value on those characteristics and their society that created the battle school they attended. On the other hand, Ender's brother never attended battle school, and he was basically a psychopath, and Ender himself killed another child before he ever started serious training. Ender does become more vulnerable at the end and reveals his desire for love and affection, which he's never received. Courtney wondered if there were religious undertones, e.g., everyone is capable of great evil but must fight those tendencies. We weren't sure if the name Peter (Ender's brother) had religious undertones, and a quick Internet search told me that Peter showed a lack of faith or courage on a couple of occasions, but ultimately he never stopped believing in Jesus and was fundamental in establishing Christianity after Jesus's crucifixion ... for what that's worth. On another positive note, there are a few twists at the end that make it more interesting, and we've also heard that the second book is much more engaging.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bookshelf Series: Kayla

The bookshelf is a unique personal space for any book enthusiast. We'll show you how we arrange ours.

Many books never make it onto my bookshelf. For pride reasons, certain books just don't don't make the cut. The likes of Dan Brown and Emily Giffin I'll read, but nobody needs to know that when they come into my home. Don't get me wrong, I have some books up there (How to heal the hurt by hating, Barbie loves L.A., Position of the Day) that aren't exactly scholarly. The books I keep on the shelf are books that I would read again, and that look nice on display. I'm very visual, so my shelf is arranged by color. I can easily find any book I'm looking for because the cover art somehow sticks in my mind. I also like to break up the monotony of the shelf by stacking some books in piles. They're a little bit harder to get to this way, but I like the way it looks.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Meeting Notes: The Tiger's Wife

Our last book was The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht. We met at Bess's house for Sangria and bruscetta.

Kayla wore her awesome tiger shirt, complete with a braided tail on the back.

Sassy, right?

Here is Bess's summary of our reaction to the book:

Honestly, the bookworms were ambivalent about the much-praised The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht. Book-clubber Melisa had read an online review that said the book was boring. It may have tainted her read, but she had to keep asking herself, "Am I bored?" though the answer turned out to be no, not exactly. I also read a review, in the Guardian, and a line it ("[A]fter meeting innumerable exotic characters, it dawned on me that the back-stories stand in for a story, and style stands in for emotion.") ran through my head again and again while reading. At the same time, I'd say this book gave the bookworms so many things to talk about and, I would say, resulted in one of our best discussions yet. In my opinion, it's a fantastic book with layers and layers of meaning, one you can't understand fully on the first reading--but it lacks a strong central story that keeps readers engaged.

The story is about a young doctor whose beloved grandfather, also a doctor, has just died. His death was expected (by her at least), but it occurred in a strange town hundreds of miles from his home. Rather than openly mourning, she privately decides to figure out what he was doing in that town and why. She accepts a short-term medical position in a town "across the border" as she embarks on this emotional journey. While there, she confronts the reality of her country's political and cultural situation while also learning more about her grandfather, and the political and cultural forces that shaped his world.

The Tiger's Wife is really a story about a region ravaged by a seemingly never-ending war and the effect that has on generations of people. The main character learns regional folktales as she goes as she remembers stories her grandfather told her, and the one thing these stories have in common is war. As a result, the effect of war becomes one of the central themes of the novel. One line stood out to me: "When your fight has purpose--to free you from something, to interfere on behalf of an innocent--it has hope of finality. When the fight is about unraveling--when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event--there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed on it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them. Then the fight is endless, and comes in waves and waves, but always retains its capacity to surprise those who hope against it." She obviously believes her country's wars are of the latter variety, and the result is mistrust, confusion, disallusionment, and meanness of spirit ... but hope seems to remain.

Another central theme covered is whether a history book is a more accurate representation of history than a person who lived through the events in question. Obreht never gives the name of her country, the names of surrounding countries, or the names of the leaders who initiated the violence. We decided this must be because she doesn't want to be responsible for giving us a history lesson, but instead wants to share what it felt like for real people to live through several periods of peace and war. Knowing that the author lived in Serbia until age 12 allows you to surmise that she's talking about that region of the world. That's a nice thing to know when reading, but you do understand the author's message without knowing the locale. A connected question is what is more real, our beliefs about reality or the physical laws of the universe. Obreht shares a lot of unbelievable stories: a deathless man; a tiger who lives quietly beside a small village; the tiger's wife, a young woman who is able to befriend the tiger. The narrator never says if she believes the stories or not. She just lets them sit there for us to decide. We thought this got at the power that stories have for people. The narrator goes on to say, "It's possible to reduce the tiger's attachment to some predictable accident of nature, to make him as mysterious as a bear rummaging through a pile of overturned trash cans--but that is not my grandfather's tiger; that is not the tiger on whose account my grandfather carriedThe Jungle Book in his pocket every day for the rest of his life, the tiger my grandfather kept at his side during the war, and the long year he and Mother Vera struggled in the City...." Her grandfather needed to believe the story of the tiger. I think it reminded him that humans, animals, and even nature can survive terrible things, even when those terrible things are piled upon us--not always and not indefinitely, but it is possible.

Toward the end of the night, Courtney said, "I like everything you guys are saying right now." I think that sums up our experience of the book. It was interesting to read, and even more interesting to think and talk about.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ready, Player, Go!

We've been sharing our book reviews with the Donnybrook Writing Academy, which is so exciting. This month, it's Ready Player One. We're giving them a new spin to work on that site, so even if you already read our review of the book on this blog, you still might want to check out the review over there.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Satisfying Hunger

This weekend we took a much anticipated book club field trip to the movies. Bess ordered our tickets online as soon as they were available. You guessed it - The Hunger Games. The Suzanne Collins trilogy was a favorite of ours before we ever started the book club. I'm not saying we started the craze that's everywhere right now, just that we've been fans since the beginning. Love it. All of it. If you haven't seen the movie yet, definitely go because it's great. Just read the book first.

Inspired by the imagery of the Katniss braid, I did my own short hair in the best braid I could. Refinery 29 posted a fun tutorial so you can whip up your own fancy braid. So pretty.

Melisa, Bess, and I all got Mockingjay inspired jewelry when the books came out. The mockingjay is such a huge part of the series, but also a really meaningful symbol.          


There is so much HG inspired art and jewelry to be had on Etsy. Bess had on her necklace for our field trip.                          

Courtney made a HG inspired treasury on Etsy, where she curated a collection of items that reminded her of things from the book. Check it out here .

The movie captured the crazy Capitol culture, and the over the top wardrobes. Elizabeth Banks as EffieTrinket was perfect. And these Alexander McQueen boots from the movie?  Real or not real?