Read With Me

Pages read in 2018 : 553.

This isn’t a competition or anything, but who is winning? Me or you? One of those books was poetry, so even I, the self-proclaimed reading champ, knows it shouldn’t count as full pages. Let’s not get hung up on the details. I just finished a book this morning at 5:30 AM, yes, I’ve been staying up that late early and it was so weird and wonderful and confusing that I really need to talk it out with someone. Thankfully, a friend loaned me the book so I can call him, but what about the next book? Who will be there to discuss? I’m trying to head this proposed catastrophe off by asking you to read with me

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Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness Discussion

Fair warning, this discussion (and probably many of the comments) will have *SPOILERS* so please don’t read this post if you haven’t finished the book yet.  After you’re done, feel free to revisit this post and share your thoughts with us.

Hey book worms! Have you finished reading Alexandra Fuller’s Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness? (Don’t feel too bad, Katie hasn’t finished it yet either.) Today we asked our mom to share her thoughts on the book.  We thought it would be fitting because she finished reading the book before both Katie and I and since this book is largely about Fuller’s mum, we thought it’d be interesting to hear our mom’s thoughts on it.  If you missed our discussion of Fuller’s first book, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, you can check it out and participate here.

Before we get to that, I also wanted to introduce our autumn book club pick!  Katie started reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and is absolutely loving it so we decided everyone else (including myself) should join in on the adventure.  I actually saw the movie in theaters last week.  I’m excited to compare notes with Kate and it will be interesting to dissect our thoughts and perceptions of both the book and movie since we’ll be consuming them in the opposite order. If you’d like to join our discussion, go grab a copy and start reading!

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Now onto our mom’s thoughts on Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness

The Live Seasoned sisters have asked me to lend a hand on this book discussion, as I finished the read on our 23 hour trek from Raleigh-Durham to Boulder. Let me first give you my perspective on novel reading. We sit down and watch tv and everything is laid out for us, no deep thought involved, just entertainment or trying to solve the puzzle before the end of the show. When I read a novel, I am constantly in the moment thinking about the characters, their situation, and then I am usually carried off thinking about my reactions if I were the character in that their particular situation, or it makes me think of situations related to my own life’s journey.

When the Live Seasoned sisters respond to their book selections, they are looking through the eyes of the child and in the case of the books they have selected thus far, the novels are written from the point of view of the child. This will be a switch since I am viewing the book through the eyes of the mom…the crazy mom, of which I have some experience.

I can’t imagine being Nicola Fuller living with the threat of war around her, losing a child, no less more than one child…I think she has earned the right to be somewhat crazy. She relies on liquor to escape and to keep going…who does she have to turn to, to rely on?  I wonder if she keeps somewhat of a distance between herself and her girls to try to make their loss bearable, in case it would come to that? I wonder about what changed, what went wrong around the 40s and 50s, that women needed to find a coping mechanism…liquor, darvon, Valium, marijuana, heroine, oxycodone? The sweet and funny times in my life are in my memory, at times forgotten, but when we are together, those memories are pulled out like woolen sweaters from a cedar chest. But, the tragic sorrowful times have made scars that constantly pinch me. I think this is what brings about the craziness in me and in someone like Nicole.

While looking through the discussion questions for this book one that is interesting to discuss is the relationship between Nicola and Tim…two opposites that attracted. Isn’t it the opposite, the mysterious, that attracts us? What happens when the novelty wears off? Tim goes off and does his thing while Nicola carries on the best she can at home…no back-up…deal the best you can. It’s interesting how men can do their thing and be so oblivious and disconnected to the goings on and the needs of their families. Isn’t it funny that raising a family, something so important, is a total learn by doing, somehow we are expected to have those instincts.

I read these stories and wonder what goes on in the hearts and heads of the characters, but who really knows what experiences have piled up upon them to steer their thoughts and actions. I am unable to recall specific events in the novels I read! as I constantly relate the moment to my own experience, helping to explain or validate my feelings and reactions, and then I move on…just as Nicola does…you just keep moving on. I must say, though, one moment that really stood out to me, is when she dressed the girls for Halloween, I think it is kind of funny that the novels chosen by my daughters are about crazy mommas. Are they trying to figure out this crazy momma…I can’t even do that. We pick and choose the moments to remember, I have many sweet and tragic and funny that come together to steer me along the way, all the while trying to stay sane.

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Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight

Today we’ll be chatting about our summer book pick, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller.  Like last time, we each wrote our thoughts below, just thinking about what stood out to us when reading the book and commenting on each other’s posting. We hope this format isn’t too difficult to read and respond to, as we would like to continue the discussion in the comments throughout the day.

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Fair warning, this discussion (and probably many of the comments) will have *SPOILERS* so please don’t read this post if you haven’t finished the book yet.  After you’re done, feel free to revisit this post and share your thoughts with us.  If you have finished, why not join us in reading Fuller’s follow up –  Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and if you can’t get enough, here’s a great book talk with Fuller.

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Summer Reading!

Did you have a fun weekend? Sarah and I had a blast, albeit, doing very different things in different parts of the country. Her weekend started with a celebration of her birthday, complete with an adventure with Ca$h that deserves to be shared. My weekend involved our first every family road bike ride up the mountain to Maroon Bells.

Today we’re taking it easy and planning for the week ahead. One thing we’re thinking about is Friday’s post. Rather than our semi-regular links post this Friday, we’re going to discuss our first summer read, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood.

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Did you have a chance to read it yet? Sarah and I both loved the book, definitely not because it was a fairytale, but because of its amazing power to transport us to a time, place, and situation that we’ve never experienced.

If you haven’t read it, we strongly encourage you to pick up a copy and join us on Friday. The Kindle version is under $8.00, and totally worth it.

If you have or are reading the book, here are some discussion questions that we came across and thought would make for an interesting discussion:

  • Given their dangerous surroundings in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia and a long streak of what young Bobo describes as “bad, bad luck,” why do you think the Fuller family remains in Africa?
  • What do you think of Fuller’s mother and father? How would you describe them? Do you think they were good parents?
  • Animals are ever present in the book. How do the Fullers view their domesticated animals, as compared to the wild creatures that populate their world?
  • Consider Fuller’s interactions with black Africans, including her nanny in Rhodesia and the children she plays “boss and boys” with, as well as with Cephas the tracker and, later, the first black African to invite her into his home. Over the course of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, how does the narrator change and grow?
  • By the end of the narrative, how do you think the author feels about Africa? Has the book changed your own perceptions about this part of the world?
  • The back cover calls the book “unsentimental and unflinching”. This is especially true of her description of the racial attitudes of white settlers: she does not apologize for them nor explains them away, but neither does she justify or excuse them. Do you find this this unsettling or do you appreciate the honesty. How do you react to this choice?

We hope you’ll join us on Friday! And until then, we have some good stuff planned for this week.

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Seasoned Book Club: Summer Pick

Hey there! How did you like the beautiful weather this past weekend? Our family got together along Virginia’s eastern shore and, aside from a day of fishing that involved a lot of water in the boat, we had a fairly relaxing weekend.

With a few idle hours on the beach to motivate us, we’re here today to announce our summer picks for the Seasoned Book Club. That’s right, this season we have two books lined up, both are by Alexandra Fuller. The first,  Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood is about her childhood in Africa. The second, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness explores Fuller’s parents’, and particularly her mother’s, life in Africa. Our plan is to read Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs first and discuss it sometime in mid-July. Then we’ll pick up Cocktail Hour and discuss it towards the end of August.

What inspired these picks? Sarah and I love to travel, and we particularly love international trips where we can immerse ourselves in another culture. Unfortunately, after a whirlwind of travel in 2012, it seems that we’ve both suffered from a cold-spell and are starving for something exotic. With nothing big on the horizon (yet!), we’re turning to books to get our fix. Granted, these books contain some heavy material and aren’t a fairy tale view of the land, but we think the material will make for a really interesting read and discussion.

Having never traveled to Africa, we are both so excited to jump into this adventure, and we hope you’ll join us!

Cover images from Amazon.
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Where’d You Go Bernadette?

Today we’ll be chatting about our spring book pick, Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple.  We both flew through this book and enjoyed every minute of it! Did you?

We each wrote our thoughts below, just thinking about what stood out to us when reading the book and commenting on each other’s posting. We hope this format isn’t too difficult to read and respond to, as we would like to continue the discussion in the comments throughout the day.

wpa_bookclub

Fair warning, this discussion (and probably many of the comments) will have *SPOILERS* so please don’t read this post if you haven’t finished the book yet.  After you’re done, feel free to revisit this post and share your thoughts with us.

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Seasoned Bookclub : Spring Pick

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Reading is always in season, right? Or do you find yourself to be a beach blanket reader or maybe you’re a curled up under the comforter reader?  I used to be a star summertime reader, saving up all my book picks until the warmest months of the year and then devouring them during my college break.  I would read like it was my job.  If I wasn’t at work, my days including nothing but sipping tea, lathering on suntan lotion and reading up a storm.  Those days have passed, but only because my life no longer consists of only two seasons: college and summer.  Now that I don’t have mounds of required reading, I can read all the books I want. Yipee! I know you’re fist pumping right now or raisin’ the roof with two books in your hands, well let me give you something else to cheer about. Two words: book club.

That’s right my friends, Katie and I are taking our books to the blog.  We want to open up a little dialogue about the great books that are out there and we sincerely hope you’ll join us.  I always hear people say, “I don’t have the time” or “I don’t know what book to read.”  Let us suggest a book for you and come onnn, you don’t have the time?  When was the last time you watched a really dumb TV show or checked your email, facebook, pinterest, blah, blah, blah. You do have the time! Once you start reading I promise time will pop up out of nowhere and beg you to pick up your book. So just do it, commit to reading one (yep, only one!) book per season with us.  We promise you’ll have a good time and you might even learn something along the way. Have you seen this vocabulary test by the way? If that left you feeling a little deflated (I’m talking about me here) then check out Free Rice where you can take vocabulary quizzes among a bunch of other subjects, my favorite being geography.  It’s run by the United Nations World Food Program, which means every correct answer is a donation of 10 grains of rice! I digress, back to our Spring Book Club Pick, drum roll please! (pats hands on thighs in quick succession because I was serious about that drum roll)

Spring Book Club Pick

Spring Book Club Pick

For our first ever book club pick, we’ve decided to go with Maria Semple’s, Where’d You Go, Bernadette.  Katie and I have heard only great things about this extraordinary fiction novel so we had to see for ourselves what all the praise was about.  I knew I recognized the author’s name, but it wasn’t until I read the cover that I realized she wrote one of my favorite sitcoms, Arrested Development.  Side note: were you disappointed by the 4th season? I need to know if I’m the only one.  Semple also wrote for Mad About You (do you guys remember what a great show that was?!) and Ellen, so be prepared to laugh at the insanity that lies within these pages.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a novel about seemingly insane yet all too accurate accounts of growing, parenting, aging and making a life for oneself.  You’ll read about personal struggles with both identity and family relationships and while there are some serious undertones, this book will make you smile.  It will snap you out of whatever fog you’re in and somehow encourage you to get it together and start living the life you intended for yourself.

Spring Book Club Pick

Spring Book Club Pick

Taken from the back of the book: “When fifteen-year-old Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, her fiercely intelligent but agoraphobic mother, Bernadette, throws herself into preparations for the trip.  Worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Bernadette is on the brink of a meltdown.  As disaster follows disaster, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces.  Which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together emails, invoices and school memos to reveal the secret past that Bernadette has been hiding for decades.  Where’d You Go, Bernadette, is an ingeniously entertaining novel about a family coming to terms with who they are, and the power of a daughter’s love for her imperfect mother.”

Here are some of the rave reviews:

  • “In a time when everything is a version of something else, how extraordinary-and exciting- to read a novel that subverts conventions to create an experience that feels so fresh.” –The L Magazine
  • “You’ll laugh your pants off, and love the takeaway- that a life gone off the rails can propel you in a bright new direction.” –Redbook
  • “A crackingly smart family dramedy.” – Time

There are soooooo many more similarly raving reviews, but I want you guys to decide for yourself and let us know how you think this novel rates.  Ok, one last word about how great this book is: Where’d You Go, Bernadette was named one of the year’s best books by the San Francisco Chronicle, Kansas City Star, Entertainment Weekly, Miami Herald, People, Denver Post and Philadelphia Inquirer.  I’ve worked in a newsroom (Philadelphia Inquirer) and I’ve seen the dozens of books piled on reviewers’ desks, so it speaks volumes when so many have deemed it one of the year’s best.  Ok, I promise I’m done praising it!

Kate and I think it would be super fun if you’d read along with us and then we can all chat about it.  Who doesn’t love a good book chitchat? It’s guilt free gossiping.  You get to flex those judgment muscles (which we hope you don’t do too often!) and talk about fictional characters with us and hey, you might even learn something about yourself along the way.  Sometimes I buy the kindle version, but because of the unorthodox formatting of this novel, I suggest buying the paperback. Oh, and don’t forget about the library option!  That was my plan, but both times I went all three copies were checked out! Probably because this book is all the rage right now, now READ ON! (Head bangs and raises book to the sky)

WPA image provided by the Library of Congress.
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