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Tar Baby by Toni Morrison

51F+lPK61KL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Loved It
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• The main story line is OK, but there was a lot of stuff I just did not get. – Sarah
• I read about 100 pages and just couldn’t identify with the characters and get into the story. I didn’t like it and put it down. – Danica
• Not a fan of this one. There were some interesting ideas, and as always, beautiful language, but I felt the story was a bit disjointed. It just didn’t engage me. – Marlo
• Beautifully written, but slow going. The ideas were interesting, but I didn’t feel any connection to the characters. – Hillary

Conclusion: Most didn’t finish this one because no one could get into the story. For us, it was a dud. There was some mention that we should have read one of Morrison’s other works.

Rashi’s Daughters, Book I: Joheved by Maggie Anton

41wE5smdEML._AC_UL320_SR212,320_8 Loved It
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• Though I haven’t finished it, I love it! – Stacey
• I have not finished it! I loved it though. It will be finished. Looking forward to the wedding. – Tami
• I liked it, a fun read. It made me remember a lot of my religious learning from when I was a child through the talmud learning in the book. It also made me realize why I approached my studies and thesis the way I did in grad school. It seemed natural to me at the time whereas now I see that it was the way I was taught to approach learning in general. – Danica
• Again, historical fiction is always a favorite of mine. I really connected with the characters. – Melissa
• This was a new subject matter for me, and I found it so interesting. I learned a lot. – Kerry
• I really enjoyed this book. Looking at the female side of this time period was enlightening. I have already finished book 2 and anxiously await book 3. – Carrie
• Since I am newly married to a Jewish man, I find that I’m fascinated by the Jewish religion and I keep wanting to learn more. This book helped me explore my thirst for knowledge. Plus, it was great historical fiction – well developed characters within an interesting setting. – Rachelle
• I’m loving it so far! Can’t wait to finish it! – Brandi
• Very much a woman’s book. I enjoyed the intimate relationships I was able to have with the family in the books. The characters are relatable and enjoyable to spend time with. – Marlo

Conclusion: We really enjoyed reading this especially because we got to meet with the author! We had a wonderful meeting and a great time speaking with Maggie.

Reading Group Guide

In anticipation of our author visit with Maggie Anton, we have emailed a list of questions to her. Since the list is so long, she has emailed some of her responses already. Here are the questions with the answers that we have received. Ms. Anton’s answers are noted with an “MA:”

1. Where did you find your inspiration for the character traits of each daughter?
MA: Each of the daughters is based on my own different traits.

2. Was Rashi known to have a temper? How much is known about him and his family?

3. Judaism praises and mandates modesty in all aspects of life, from business to love. What really happens especially when it comes to wealth and modesty is another discussion altogether… How do you reconcile including such explicit sex scenes into a relationship that more than likely was healthy however would have been much more modest living in such proximity to the rest of the family?

4. Which character is your favorite? Does one resonate more closely to you than another?
MA: As I write each book, that character becomes my favorite.

5. When you finish a book, do you “miss” your characters?
MA: Haven’t finished the series yet.

6. What is your best writing tool? ie: quiet room? lucky typewriter? cat in your lap?
MA: Quiet room with no interruptions. Instrumental music is OK, but no singing or talking.

7. How did you decide which talmudic passages to include?

8. Have you been to that region of France?
MA: Yes, for 3 weeks in March 1998.

9. You wrote the characters to be very similar in ritual and practice to today’s Orthodox Judaism however the everyday interactions and relationships seemed much more liberal in comparison. Do you feel that the Jews of that period were not as separationist, strict and regimented in all aspects of life as today’s ultra Orthodox community has become in the last 20 years?

10. What do you feel you gained/learned the most in writing this story?

11. Do you have any advice for an aspiring novel writer?

12. Can you compare/contrast the roles of women in Judaism then and today?

13. The inclusion of the demonology surprised me because it seems to have fallen away as such a strong element of Judaism and life today. Do you feel that it was a reflection and influence of the time? or a part of the religion that has fallen away to make room for more modern thought?

14. Did differing views/interpretations of the Talmud cause disharmony within communities?
MA: Sometimes.
Were accepted interpretations consistent in schools, communities, geographical areas? MA: No.

15. Can you clarify the issue of Kashrut that Rashi disputed? Specifically, if there were, why were there different slaughtering laws or customs for different communities?

16. Why was the term “Christian” not used?
MA:”Christ” means Messiah; so Jews, for whom the Messiah hasn’t come yet, never use it to refer to Jesus.

17. You noted on your website that you were surprised to learn that few Jews made a living as moneylenders. Why do you think that is a common perception?
MA: Maybe Shakespeare and his character Shylock? But there are many misperceptions about how Jews lived in 11th-12th century Europe.

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

515yua2M8oL5 Loved It
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• I cried practically through the entire book. It was deeply moving. I also enjoyed the attention to historical detail. – Melissa
• I totally enjoyed this book. It was fun, interesting, sad and everything all into one. – Sarah
• I liked this book so much! I didn’t finish it – but I will soon… – Steph
• I loved this book. I got so attached to the main character. The history was fascinating. Very moving! – Carrie
• I read this book a long time ago. Beautiful story! – Kerry
• I have not finished it, but I love it and will finish it soon! It is a great story! – Tami
• This was a really interesting book to me as I’ve never read anything about this subject. I felt like I really knew the characters and that they were real people rather than characters. So much was heartbreaking yet I also understood a society wanting to contain a contagious disease that wasn’t understood at the time. – Marlo
• I immediately was sucked into this story. I loved it all the way through! -Danica

Conclusion: This was very well liked by all the members. I definitely would recommend this to other book clubs.

Reading Group Guide

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

three_cups_cover1 Loved It
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• Couldn’t get pat the 1st 3 chapters. I don’t have time to try to get into a book. Writing style was too journalistic for me. – Carrie
•The story could have been shorter. I just did not care. It also had too many details about hiking. – Sarah
• I thought the story was very inspiring although it was also very overt it its call for donations. It also felt very biased but it was nice to get some perspective on fundamentalism and poverty in that area. – danica
• I enjoyed this book and what it’s about – caring about what happen to people halfway around the world. – Kerry
• This was a very inspiring story. It was great to read about what a big difference one individual could make, without even starting with financial resources. It was also nice to get another perspective of the rise of extremist Islam. I was definitely ready to be finished at the end, but enjoyed the story immensely and recommended the book several times. – Marlo

Conclusion: Those of us who liked it had a lot to say. We didn’t have an immensely engaging conversation but some of us did carry it over after the club broke off into socializing. One thing that did come up was that this was the hot book of the moment – some of us couldn’t understand why it is spreading like wildfire.

Reading Group Guide

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Like_Water_for_Chocolate_(Book_Cover)3 Loved It
5 Liked It
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• I really liked how the story is told through food. It is really different and a good story. – Sarah
• Watching the love story unfold was really great. Beautiful and sad. – Melissa
• I enjoyed (and actually finished) this easy read. I wish we would have learned more about Pedro, I didn’t feel his character was worthy of her love. – Brandi
• So far, so good – I hope it has a happy ending! (I’m in July). – Steph
• I found this one to be very thought provoking, despite being an easy read. There were several themes that tie together such as cold or temperature. This is the type of traditional style voices I enjoy, similar to the tone used by Sandra Cisneros in the House on Mango Street (but turn of the century.) There was a nice evolution of characters and depth of plot line. – Marlo
• I really enjoyed it. Did not finish it, but will tomorrow. It is a great love story. – Tami
• I really liked the unique writing style. The story was fun and very creative. I read it overnight. – Carrie
• I had read this when I was a teenager and fondly remembered it. Reading it again, I enjoyed it just as much. – Danica

Conclusion: Liked by all, we had a great conversation about it. A definite recommendation to other book clubs!

Reading Group Guide

Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs

128757Loved It
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• Finally I read a book. I heard it was an easy read. It was. I enjoyed the book. Figuring out the mystery was fun. A great book to read when you have a new baby at home. – Tami
• It was pretty good. Nothing deep or totally amazing. – Sarah
• While I was very excited because it was of a different genre than what we usually read, it completely was a bust. I did make it through the whole story but the writing style made me crazy and for a fun romp, there were just too many stories going on at the same time. I much prefer a legal thriller by John Grisham. – danica
• I felt like I was reading a really good episode of CSI. – Melissa
• I didn’t like it at all – the story wasn’t that good – the writing was bad. The characters were 2D and unbelievable – I am so surprised that some (most) people liked it! – Steph
• It was a quick read. Didn’t need to really think about it while you’re reading. It was an interesting story. – Carrie

Conclusion: While some liked it, we didn’t really have much to talk about with this one.

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

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• I loved this book. You really identified with the characters quickly. – Sarah
• I wanted to finish, but ran out of time. I liked it so much for so many reasons. The brevity of the chapters – change of voice was great. The stories and perspective were really good – different than I’ve ever heard before… – Steph
• I found the book intriguing… especially with the surprise twists. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m looking forward to the ending. – Rachelle
• I enjoyed this book. I think the story of the author is so interesting. – Kerry
• This has been one of my most favorite books in a long time. I read it cover to cover, all the end notes, addendums etc. This is another look at WWII from a perspective often forgotten, the occupied. Sure, when WWII comes up, you think about the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, the atomic bombs in Japan, D-Day, but this is about reacting to, coping and living with an occupying force. I loved it and am still thinking about it a week and a half later. – danica
• I’m loving it so far. Will absolutely finish it! – Brandi
• Despite not wanting to keep picking this up, I did finish it. However, I do find myself thinking about certain situations – specifically the exodus from Paris. I didn’t care for the majority of the characters, but it was interesting to contemplate the reality of enemy occupation. – Marlo

Conclusion: Although we had a lot of other things to occupy us this book club, we did have a REALLY good discussion about this book. It brought up WWII family stories, what we would do today if something like that were to happen here. We even talked about fleeing natural disasters. It made for a great book club.

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