Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

lolita-blog2 Loved It
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• I loved it. Nothing like a classic! – Sarah
• I didn’t finish, so I can’t say I disliked it with qualification. I felt very uncomfortable reading about a pedophile protagonist and worried deeply about my daughters. – Steph
• I enjoyed this book a lot. I was surprised how the story portrays Lolita not as an aggressor but more of a flippant, flirty child and how the current pop culture reference to Lolita is more of aggressive jail bait. – Danica
• Although I am not done yet, I’m loving it. – Melissa
• Although there were many, many disturbing scenes, and flippantly dropped tidbits, I love Nabokov’s play with language. He manages to portray a cynical, despicable madman. Oh… and Lolita was a brat. – Marlo
• Very interesting. I’m glad I have a better knowledge of the Lolita reference. – Kerry

Conclusion: This was the first meeting where we had the person who brought the book in lead the discussion. I think it worked out really well. Those of us who had read it actually did get into quite a nice discussion about the content, writing style and pop culture references.

Reading Group Guide

October 2008 – What We Didn’t Choose

We decided to continue with regular votes but was interested to see if last month’s vote was an anomaly. After agreeing that the regular vote would be the one we used to determine which book we will be reading, we did a passion vote to compare.

The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
2 regular votes, 8 passion votes

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
1 regular votes, 4 passion votes

If I Am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus
2 regular votes, 4 passion votes

Steph brought these in and Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri was chosen as our book for February.

Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic

51JMGHD2M1L._SX283_BO1,204,203,200_Loved It
1 Liked It
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1 Disliked It
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• Didn’t get into it. – Carrie
• This book is not for everyone. There are no characters to get emotionally attached to and it has to be read like a bunch of short stories. – Sarah
• I read the first of the three sections. There just wasn’t enough of an interest there to keep me wanting to read more. – Danica
• Although I started this with high hopes and good intentions, even trying alternate methods to read through it, I decided I could make better use of my time by reading an encyclopedia or dictionary. – Marlo
• Another one I didn’t read : ( Darn kids! – Steph

Conclusion: Only one member actually made it through the book – while we sometimes have pretty bad statistics, this is really really bad stats!

September 2008 – What We Didn’t Choose

We started a new experiment with voting. We voted with our usual one person, one vote as well as a passion vote where one person has three votes to put in any combination they see fit. Where we expected the two voting schemes to line up, they came back as completely opposite. We ended up having a run off vote on the two books that won the separate votes.

Away by Amy Bloom
2 regular votes, 7 passion votes

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
3 regular votes, 6 passion votes

Tami brought these in and Dreams of My Father by Barack Obama was chosen as our book for January.

Welcome Aaron Michael!

Aaron Michael was born on August 28th at 6:08 pm. He was 7 lbs. 5 oz. and 20 in. long. Mom and baby are doing great. Tami snuck into West Hills after hours, saw him and took this photo. He is absolutely gorgeous and loves his mommy.

This now officially concludes Baby Boom 2008!

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

516Y1RGiynL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_2 Loved It
3 Liked It
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2 Disliked It
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• I first read this in high school and loved it then. Re-reading it has been so much fun. I’m seeing everything with a new perspective. I love the story and creativity behind it. It will always be one of my favorites. – Carrie
• This book was a waste of time, paper and ink. – Sarah
• I couldn’t push through it. Too many unnecessary details. – Melissa
• Ditto. Couldn’t finish it. Got bogged down. – Brandi
• I went into reading this book with very low expectations and the content as a complete fantasy, I think that helped me enjoy it and get more involved with the characters rather than the details. – Danica
• I really, really like this book – only got 1/2 way through. If I finish it, I think I might “Love It”. – Steph
• I am enjoying it but as usual, not done : ( – Tami
• This has been one of my favorites since junior high. The characters are so well described that I feel like I actually know them. I even enjoy the extensive description of the local flora & fauna. Can’t say enough about this one. – Marlo
• I couldn’t get into it. – Kerry

Conclusion: All I can say is that the group was extremely polarized by this book. It seems like you either love it or hate it…

Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende

33001 Loved It
4 Liked It
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• Way too much history – I just did not care. – Sarah
• Although I love her style and enjoyed the story, it was too heavy handed on the history. – Melissa
• This book ranks among my top favorites. I love the writing style, and just felt completely immersed in the adventure. Inez was such a strong, spunky lady and her storytelling had me completely captivated. This second read was as enjoyable as the first. – Marlo
• I really enjoyed the story, but I got lost with some of the history. At times it felt like a history book, with a story entwined. – Carrie
• I enjoyed the book although not as much as some of her other books. I know she did extensive historical research but she did not strike a good balance between the fiction and the history. – Danica
• This was not the usual type of book I read, but I really enjoyed it. The writing was great and the story fascinating. I found the history very disturbing. – Hillary
• I’m a fan of Allende and went to the book reading when this book came out. I enjoyed her and the book very much. – Kerry

Conclusion: As mentioned by Kerry a small group of us went to a signing and author talk when this came out. Allende is a great speaker and anytime there is a chance to see her speak, we highly recommend the trip. As for the book club, we mostly enjoyed this one although the consensus with those who are her fans was that this was good but not her best work. We had a great discussion about the history, and the viewpoint of both the Conquistadors and the Native Americans.

Reading Group Guide

Tar Baby by Toni Morrison

51F+lPK61KL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Loved It
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1 Neutral
3 Disliked 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

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