Book Club Books

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

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Comments:
• 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

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Comments:
• 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

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Comments:
• 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

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Comments:
• 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

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Comments:
• 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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Comments:
• 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.

Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes

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Comments:
• I liked the author’s voice, but I thought there were too many characters. I didn’t know enough about any one to relate to. – Kerry
• I had a difficult time connecting to this story. I felt that the symbolism (double meaning of the title) was weak. – Melissa
• I enjoyed this book, although I was really ready to be done by the end. The different character voices were interesting but I felt that Valuable was rather annoying rather than someone who inspired any sympathy. – Marlo
• The main storyline is pretty good, but the author takes too long to get to the point. – Sarah
• I started, got 50 pages in and just was not feeling it. – Danica

Conclusion: Most of our members didn’t finish the book because most had problems getting attached to the characters.

Reading Group Guide

All the four new babies made it to book club this month. They were oh so cute!
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The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

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Comments:
• I really liked 2/3 of the book. I thought the last part could have been condensed much more as a “Where are they Now” type of thing. I found the part where they were in the village the most interesting and I really didn’t need much else past the escape. – danica
• It was a good story that I really liked. – Sarah
• At first it was difficult to get into the many different chapters/characters, but overall I enjoyed it. – Melissa
• I really enjoyed the concept and story. I thought it dragged in the end and jumped around too much in time periods. Overall, I did like the book. – Carrie
• Although I’m a slacker and haven’t finished, I am truly enjoying this book. Each character is so interesting, evoking a differrent emotion or reaction. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. – Marlo
• This is one of my favorite books. I read it years ago and was glad to have the opportunity to read it again. I love the characters and themes of this story. – Kerry
• One of my very favorite books! – Steph

Conclusion: This one was well-liked overall and the discussion, once we actually got to it, was really interesting in a very good way. Everyone was engaged in the conversation which doesn’t always happen!

Reading Group Guide

Bob Dylan: Intimate Insights by Kathleen Mackay

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Comments:
• Wasn’t able to finish it… didn’t feel it gave any insight and the descriptions were too flowery with regards to the other artists. It felt like she was kissing the artist’s rears as a thank you for doing the interview. – Brandi
• This book was OK. I liked the overall theme of Dylan’s contribution to music, but the chapters and interviews were inconsistent in their contributions. – Kerry
• The book was fun to read. I didn’t especially care for the style of writing, but the memories of childhood it conjured was pleasant – of course, I just dated myself. – Stacey
• Didn’t finish this one – my time is too valuable. The writing seemed completely unfocused with an occasional tidbit of Dylan. – Marlo
• I was really excited about this book because I am a big Dylan fan. Boy, was I disappointed. I kept thinking I should just stop reading but once I made it halfway, I just kept going. She made Dylan’s autobiography sound really interesting when she quoted it, I wish I had read that instead. – danica

Conclusion: This one landed with quite a thud! If we hadn’t won our copies, I think the group would be rallying for a refund.

The Girls by Lori Lansens

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Comments:
• I have no words to convey how much I hated this book. I just don’t care. – Sarah
• Didn’t really like the book (not as strong of a reaction as Sarah). Didn’t enjoy “Ruby’s”writing style. – Stacey
• An easy read. Not very interesting. – Melissa
• It was OK. Nothing spectacular, but I read it. Parts were interesting. – Brandi
• I loved this book! Both characters were interesting albeit due to the “freak” factor. This was a quick read for me since I didn’t want to put it down. – Marlo
• I read it and didn’t hate it but I also didn’t like it either. I did like the way the two personalities were portrayed through the writing but not enough to actually like the book. – Danica

Conclusion: This definitely didn’t go over well although it wasn’t a slam dunk stinker. We didn’t really have a great conversation about it either.

Reading Group Guide

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

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Comments:
• I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I really loved hearing the women’s perspective and watching her exploration through the religion. I have already recommended this to many people. – Carrie
• I was initially concerned that it would be SO anti-Muslim, but she presented herself so well. I enjoyed reading about the emotional dilemma between her religious beliefs and her morality regarding the treatment of women. – Brandi
• I was fascinated by Hirsi Ali’s story. Even though I’m not sure I agree with everything she says, she definitely brings up a lot to think about – and discuss. – Kerry
• The first half of this book made me feel very overwhelmed by the realities of the world and religion. The second half made me feel like she had a very specific agenda and included only that which supports it. Past that, on a whole I liked it and have thought a lot about my own cultural experience since finishing it. – danica
• Though I did not finish it, I have enjoyed her story so far. I plan on finishing it this week. – Tami
• Ali’s plight was fascinating. Her journey from being a Muslim girl to an independent, free-thinking woman was inspiring. – Rachelle
• This was an eye-opening experience. Very graphic at times. – Melissa
• It was OK. Some parts were sad. – Sarah

Conclusion: Most really liked the book and we had a very good conversation once everyone settled down. We definitely recommended it to other book clubs.


4 of our members are pregnant, with 2 due in the next month, so we decided to take this picture before the new little members arrive!

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

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Comments:
• Touching story at the end, but the first zoo pages made me want to barf. – Sarah
• I really enjoyed this book. It was at times sad, but I enjoyed the love story. It was the first book I finished in awhile, I am glad this is the one I finished. – Tami
• I loved reading this story! The characters were unique and striking. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the young man just starting his adult life and the old man, with his wry sense of humor, trying to hold on to himself in the face of an impeding death. – Melissa
• I really enjoyed this book. Such a unique story, looking at circus trains during the depression era. I also loved the first person of the old man, hearing his perspective on late life. – Carrie
• I really enjoyed the book. Nice transitions between the time periods. I thought it was a little rushed at the end. Very good. – Brandi
• It has been awhile since I have really liked a book. This renewed my enthusiasm in reading, I thought I was getting bored with everything. This kept me going. – danica

Conclusion: Everyone attending had finished the book. That says a lot these days! We all seemed to like it.

Reading Group Guide

Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

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Comments:
• Was not as good as Wicked. – Sarah
• I felt that too many loose ends were left flapping in the wind. – Melissa
• I tried, that is about all I can say for myself. I didn’t like Wicked and if this was not a book club book, I would have never even started this it. I made it 140 pages in and was just not motivated to pick it up. -danica
• I liked it better than Wicked, but was not happy with the ending. Too many questions left unanswered. – Carrie
• Didn’t get to read it… – Steph
• Rather blah – Hard not to compare to Wicked and find this one lacking. Much of the storyline remained unfinished without enough substance for another in a series. – Marlo

Conclusion: This was by no means a success. We barely even spoke about it. Most didn’t finish it. We did have a good time though at California Pizza Kitchen and Borders, buying books to donate to The Wonder of Reading.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

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Comments:
• The book was too long. The main story was good but all the extra stuff sucked. – Sarah
• I enjoyed it. I could do without the “Blind Assassin” (aliens or whatever), but really liked the main story. – Carrie
• Couldn’t get through it. Tried to muscle through, but just couldn’t bear it. – Brandi
• Yawn. Like it OK, but prefer the “present day” story over the novel within the novel. – Marlo
• I tried and made it to page 300 but I just couldn’t get into it. – danica

Conclusion: Most didn’t read this one and those of us that did, most didn’t like it and didn’t even finish it.

Reading Group Guide

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

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Comments:
• Good book but the first part about the fair was slow – but after that, it was good – loved the contrast between the two plots. – Stacey
• I liked the tidbits about things from the fair. My favorite parts were about the “devil.” – Kerry
• It was OK. The stuff about the fair was way boring. They could have made it a really short book about a murderer. – Sarah
• I definitely got bored in many places. What kept me going was the serial killer parts of the story. I didn’t care as much about the trials and tribulations that went into the architecture of the fair. There were some interesting facts about what debuted and who worked on it though… Overall it was just OK. I made it through so there is that… – danica
• Got a bit long-winded about the fair, but found the part about Holmes interesting… I kept reading it although a few parts dragged. Decent read. – Brandi

Conclusion: Only about half of us actually read this one and it was received as just OK. Our conversation was pretty good and it interested even those that didn’t read the book. It was a jam packed meeting with a lot of personal announcements – almost half of our members are pregnant, throw in an engagement and some charitable giving and that pretty much sums up our March book club.

Reading Group Guide

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

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Comments:
• The author thought much more of this book than I did. – Kerry
• I only got through a few chapters. Too close to the movie (almost verbatim). I probably would have liked it if I hadn’t seen the movie first. – Carrie
• I really loved this movie, but I have not seen it in years however, I remembered more that I thought. I liked the book although I could not help but see how Palahniuk weaved the eventual plot twist throughout. I could not tell whether it was just more explicit in the book or if my knowledge clouded the story. When I saw the movie, I was totally surprised by it – if I read the book first, I don’t know if I would have been as surprised. – danica
• Liked it better than the first time through, but the second time I could see signals earlier in the book. – Stacey
• I thought the book was more predictable than the movie. – Sarah
• It was an easy read. Since I saw the movie, it was hard to read because I knew the ending. It was word for word to the movie. – Tami
• I liked the book because it was different than other books we’ve read. Short chapters, easy read. Also, I liked how it was written from a mentally disturbed person’s point of view. – Rachelle
• I enjoyed it. Saw the movie only days before reading the book, so I head Edward Norton;s voice reading all the lines. “I am Joe’s broken spleen.” – Brandi
• I enjoyed the book. It had been years since I had seen the movie. Such a dark story. Easy read. – Melissa

Conclusion: One thing is for sure, if your copy has a forward, afterword or acknowledgments, do not read them – he comes off as way too much of an egotist and it taints the book.

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