Book Club: The Dragon of Lonely Island

Book Club with Lori

Lori recommended this book, and it’s been a really fun read. I need to borrow it from the library again to read aloud to my boys (not that I don’t have enough of those!).

Three children, Hannah, Zachary, and Sarah Emily, find themselves on a small, lonely island for the summer while their mother writes a book. The family borrows a house from Mother’s aunt, Mehitabel. Aunt Mehitabel has left a skeleton key and confusing note for the children, and they spend the summer trying to make sense of it all. In their quest, they find themselves face to face with a three-headed dragon who teaches them all about the myths of dragons, as well as some history surrounding the creatures.

Lori suggested these questions from Sweet on Books.

How would you describe the siblings’ relationship?

They seem to get along okay – about as well as normal siblings, I’d say. They’re at a tricky stage, though, with Hannah (the oldest) being at a point where she’s starting to outgrow her siblings. Zachary and Sarah Emily seem to be really close, though.

Which sibling do you relate to the most and why?

I think I relate to Hannah the most because I don’t think I’m much fun (lol). I’m definitely the kind of person who wants the kids to do kid things and to be left on my own to do grown up things. Obviously I fight this in order to spend time with my children (whom I adore, and I don’t mean to suggest that it’s a chore to spend time with them – it’s not).

Do you think that inequalities for girls still exist today?

I think things are different for boys and girls. But different is not the same as unequal. Instead of working hard to be “equal” (which by definition means “the same as”) boys/men, girls and women should embrace who we are and appreciate our gender roles.

Do you believe in dragons? Would you like to meet one?

I believe dragons used to exist, but I don’t think they still do. I think they’re really just a variety of dinosaur, and from what I’ve read in the Bible, it seems to support this view. I don’t think they were ever “wise” or able to talk or anything, though. Would I like to meet one? Probably not. I’m not one for creepy things 😉

What would you do if you were stranded on an island? Name three things you don’t think you could live without.

I would be just fine relaxing in a cozy chair and knitting somewhere. The rest of my family would be all about the walking around and exploring. Three things that would be difficult to live without: my phone (some sort of communication with the outside world would be nice); yarn and knitting needles (can’t cozy up and knit without those!); and a pan to cook some good food in.

~*~*~

We haven’t decided yet on a book for next month; I’ll do a short follow up post once that decision’s been made.

Don’t forget to check out Lori’s thoughts on The Dragon of Lonely Island here.

book club button 200

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

Book Club: Circus Mirandus

Book Club with Lori

When Will and I were in the grocery store a few weeks ago, a book in the checkout line caught my eye. There was an elephant on the cover (my absolute favorite animal!) and a tagline that said, “Magic so wondrous,  you have to believe it to see it.” I picked it up to read the summary, and Will asked me if I wanted to buy it. Normally I say no in situations like this, but I wanted to read this book, so this time I said yes. I didn’t realize at the time that it was a children’s novel, but I’m glad I read the book anyway. It was a whimsical tale about a boy and his grandfather and the magical circus that binds them together, even through the ultimate separation.

A few weeks later, Lori and I were emailing back and forth to try to figure out what books to do for book club this summer, and I requested something “light and easy” because of all the stress of our moving and living situation. She suggested two (one of which was the Women of WWII that we did last month), and one is one that her daughters read (which will be up next month). I suggested Circus Mirandus – the book with the elephant and great tagline.

As always with book club posts, Spoiler Alert.

Aunt Gertrudis says bad sense runs in the family. Do you believe bad sense is inherited or learned? Why?

I think “bad sense” is learned. While it might seem that it’s inherited based on the people in our lives that seem to exhibit it on occasion (or regularly…), you can just as often find people from a “bad situation” who have overcome that to become smart and successful. If bad sense was genetic, you wouldn’t see that often, if ever.

Grandpa Ephraim wrote to a lightbender. Is it possible to bend light and if so, how?

Simply speaking, anyone who wears correctional lenses (glasses) bends light every day. The glasses refract the light to help them see better.

You can also bend light with a prism. Or a hose. Both of those allow us to see the bent light in the form of a rainbow.

But someone just bending light on their own, with no tools, I’m not so sure.

Interesting thought occurred to me as I typed about rainbows just a moment ago, though… The rainbow is God’s promise to never destroy the world by water again. The lightbender in the story is Micah’s savior (of sorts). I’m not suggesting that the lightbender is God or anything, but the fact that this is the way in which his powers manifest make it an interesting comparison.

The Lightbender uses a parrot to send messages. What other bird is known for carrying messages and how are they trained?

It seems as though using birds to send messages is a very popular thing for fantasy stories to do. They use owls in Harry Potter. I’m not sure what birds are used for messaging in real life – carrier pigeons, maybe? Being unsure as to whether this is even the right answer, I don’t know how they’re trained.

Circus Mirandus is in La Paz, Bolivia. Find it on a map. How far is it from your city or state?

I know that La Paz, Bolivia is in South America, so I didn’t have to look too hard to find it on the map. I did not, however, know the distance from my hometown – it’s roughly 5400 miles.

Porter can open a door from one part of the world to another. If you had such a door name the one place you would like to use the door to visit and why.

Paris, France. There are a lot of places I’ve wanted to visit (London, Australia, Peru), but Paris is the one that I want to see the most.

Ephraim writes letters to his father during the war. Each letter has Ephraim doing something worse than the letter before, such as cutting school, then robbing a train. Why do you think Ephraim is writing these types of letters? What is his purpose?

I think that young Ephraim thinks that if he’s bad enough, his father will have to come home from the war, and seeing his father again is the one thing in the world he wants more than anything. So it’s worth it to him to behave badly if it means he’ll get to see his dad again – having his father around to punish him for behaving badly is better than not having him around at all.

Jenny pulls Micah into the crafts closet when she thinks he is about to cry. What does this tell you about Jenny and her character?

It shows that she’s both acutely aware of people’s feelings (to have recognized that he was about to cry) and she has a lot of empathy – she wanted to protect him from potential ridicule from other classmates.

~*~*~

There are dozens more questions on this book from the website we’ve used for these questions, but I’m already getting pretty longwinded here, so I’m going to wrap it up. Before I go, just a couple of final thoughts on this book. I really enjoyed reading it, despite the fact that it was a children’s book. Just because a book is written with kids in mind doesn’t mean that it’s not appropriate or enjoyable for adults, and Circus Mirandus proved that to me. As soon as we get moved into our own house again, and unpack the boxes and find this book, my older kids (at least Munchkin – the reader) is going to read it. I look forward to hearing his thoughts on it. This one is definitely something to pick up! But before you do, head over to Lori’s blog and read her thoughts on this book.

Next month, we’ll be reading The Dragon of Lonely Island.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

book club button 200

Book Club: Women Heroes of WWII

Lori suggested this book after I requested something “light and easy” following my delayed completion of Filling Station last month. This was a great choice! It was simple, but still interesting and inspiring. 

Book Club with Lori

The book is split into parts, each of which focuses on one country involved in the war. Each part talks of a few women from that country who made huge impacts for their country, usually as part of the resistance movement. Some of the women I’d heard of, but most I hadn’t. I think that’s what makes the book even more inspiring – it’s largely filled with untold stories.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Sophie Scholl – She is one of the few I’d heard of before, and her story is especially tragic. As a writer, editor, and distributor of The White Rose pamphlets in Germany, she was eventually arrested. Within just a few hours of her arrest, she’d already been tried, found guilty, and executed.

Josephine Baker – An African American who emigrated to France, Josephine was a performer. She used her position as a celebrity to garner information from the enemy and turn it over to her allied superiors. 

Magda Trocme – She was the wife of a pastor who taught that it was important to help those in need, even if it meant legal trouble for you. She took this very seriously and ended up bringing over 5,000 refugees (3,500 Jews) to safety with the help of others in her village. Despite her husband’s arrest, she continued the work in his absence. They both survived the war.

Irene Gut – She was a 17-year-old Polish nurse who was forced to work not only in the hospital but also as a waitress in the military dining hall. She used this position to learn the plans for the Jews and to save them, even using the home of her employer (a German officer) in her quest.

This is a very small sampling of the stories in this book, and all of them are definitely worth reading.

In addition to the stories of the women, each part opens with a brief history of the war in the country being highlighted. Even though the book is an easy one to read (it’s technically a children’s book), it was both informative and enjoyable. Please make sure to read Lori’s post for her thoughts on the book.

Next month, we’ll be reading Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. This book caught my eye in the grocery store checkout line a while back, so I bought it. I’ve already read it, so my post will definitely be on time next month 😉

book club button 200

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Book Club: The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion (part 2)

Book Club with Lori

I cannot believe how long it took me to finish this book! Sheesh. Please believe me when I say it’s not because I didn’t like the book; it was pretty good. I just have a hard time making time for recreational reading these days.

Lori posted about it way back at the beginning of the month; I hope you’ll take a moment to read her thoughts.

Questions are from LitLovers. Spoiler alert is in effect.

A lot of Southern identity is wrapped up in one’s family history. “Now, just who are your people?” is an oft-quoted phrase around the region. Sookie’s biggest crisis comes when she realizes that her “people” aren’t actually who she thought they were. How does Sookie’s discovery of her true family affect her identity?

I think Sookie took the information of her own adoption to a crazy place. It’s one thing to be stunned and to then try to find out more about your “true” heritage, but the way she abandoned her adopted mother for a time and kept going on and on about how she “wasn’t a real Simmons” was over the top. It affected her too deeply, in my opinion. It completely changed her outlook on life and yes, her identity, in ways it shouldn’t have.

Though Sookie tells us that Lenore’s nickname, “Winged Victory,” came from the way she entered a room—as if she were the statuesque piece on the hood of a car rushing in—how might “Winged Victory” reflect Lenore’s personality in other ways? How might the image of a winged woman tie Lenore in with the ladies of the WASPs?

I can definitely understand the nickname Winged Victory for Lenore. She was a very bold person, just the type that would be all about winning things (Victory). Her boldness could also be like that of a bird of prey – and she did seem to prey on the people around her to a certain extent. The image of a winged woman relating to the WASP women is obvious – they flew airplanes, and a “winged woman” would be one who can fly.

Sookie’s best friend, Marvaleen, is constantly trying different suggestions from her life coach, Edna Yorba Zorbra. From journaling to yoga to the Goddess Within group, which meets in a yurt, Marvaleen tries every method possible to get over her divorce. How does Sookie’s approach to dealing with her problems differ from Marvaleen’s?

Marvaleen is all about trying gimmicky things to deal with her issues. Sookie is very pragmatic – she sees a therapist (albeit in secret, kind of). I think that shows that Sookie is more willing to face her problems head on than Marvaleen. While Marvaleen is busy doing yoga or going to fruity self-help groups, Sookie is getting professional help and actually talking over her problems with someone who can actually guide her in helping herself.

In The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, we learn about a mostly unknown part of American history—the WASPs of World War II. These women went for thirty-five years without recognition because their records of service were sealed and classified. Were you surprised to learn about this?

The idea that the records were sealed is unfortunate, but for some reason didn’t surprise me. I’d never heard about the troupe, but it was a really neat aspect of the novel. What I did find surprising about the whole thing was the man at the end of the book who was running a WWII airplane museum, and when Sookie told him about the WASPs, he wasn’t the least bit interested – in fact, he seemed rather snooty about it when Sookie and her daughter suggested he include WASP history in his presentation. That didn’t feel real to me.

book club button 200

So there you go… I really did enjoy this book, and if you’re a fan of the film Fried Green Tomatoes, I recommend reading this book – it’s by the same author.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Book Club: The All Girls’ Filling Station’s Last Reunion (part 1)

Book Club with Lori

Just a quick update on this month’s book club… I’m still reading the book (I haven’t had much time to read since we moved; our family dynamic is a bit wonky from what we’re used to, and things are still meshing into the “new normal”), so I don’t have a full book club report today. But Lori has already finished the book, so she’ll have a post up sometime very soon. I do plan to keep reading the book; I am enjoying it, I just haven’t had time to finish it. When I do, I’ll do a post with my answers to these questions from LitLovers.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Book Club: The Whistler

Book Club with Lori

I mentioned last month that this month’s Book Club would be on The Whistler by John Grisham, and that Mr. Grisham is my favorite author. This is definitely still the case after reading his newest novel; I think it’s even better than some of other recent works!

Synopsis:

A high-stakes thrill ride through the darkest corners of the Sunshine State.
 
We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity is the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the flow of justice.

But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe?

Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. It is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption.

But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined.

And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout United States history. And now he wants to put a stop to it.

His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. When the case is assigned to Lacy, she immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous.

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else. (From the publisher.)

It took me a long time – in terms of days, not pages – to get going in this book (I even ran out of time on my library loan and had to return it, place a fresh hold, and check it out again several days later), but once I did, it was nonstop reading for me. There was one event a little less than halfway through that was enough to propel me through and make me want to just keep reading. I haven’t had that experience in a long time, so it was a welcome one with this book.

Discussion questions for this post are from Lit Lovers. Spoiler alert is in effect.

1. Talk about Lacy Stoltz. Grisham has been accused of ignoring strong females for his lead characters. Does Stoltz satisfy that lack? What do you think of her?

I’m unfamiliar with the accusation of Grisham not using strong female characters, but I suppose it makes sense; one of his other recent novels (Gray Mountain, published in October 2014) had a female lead. Perhaps if he was already “under fire” at that point, that might be the reason he chose a woman main character for that book.

Back to the question at hand, though. Lacy was okay. I neither loved her nor hated her; I was just ambivalent toward her. She wasn’t anything special. I think she reacted in reasonable ways based on the things that were happening to her and the people around her. I’m not sure that makes her “strong,” but it makes her a decent character.

2. Do you find anything enviable about Lacy’s life in the following passage? If so what? If you’re a woman, do you ever envision a life like Stoltz’s?

The truth was that, at the age of 36, Lacy was content to live alone, to sleep in the center of the bed, to clean up only after herself, to make and spend her own money, to come and go as she pleased, to pursue her career without worrying about his, to plan her evenings with input from no one else, to cook or not to cook, and to have sole possession of the remote control.

Generally speaking, I did not envy Lacy’s life in the least. She works too many hours for me, and it despite the relationship she has with her boss, colleagues, and colleagues’ families, it seems like it would be a lonely existence.

However… taking a look at the passage, I could see how it might be nice not to have other people to clean up after. That’s not enough to make me “want to be” her, though.

3. Had you figured out the whistle blower’s motive before the reveal?

No, but I didn’t really try to. That’s not my style of book reading. I tend to allow the author to take me on the ride they want rather than “spoiling” it, even just for myself. So I was perfectly fine to not try to guess who The Whistler was or why he/she was doing the whistleblowing.

4. How does Grisham ratchet up the suspense in The Whistler? What about that mysterious late night meeting near the Tappacola reservation? Realistically, why would Lacy and Hugo have gone?

The scene mentioned in this question is undoubtedly the point that made me want to keep turning pages. What happened “that night” when Lacy and Hugo went to the reservation was the moment I needed to keep reading. (I would have finished the book regardless, but this moment was the one that really was the turning point for me as a reader.) It was definitely the most suspenseful moment in the book (although there was another one involving the “whistler” and one of the antagonist’s hit men near the end was pretty good too). As for why Lacy and Hugo would go there that night, I think they honestly thought the man who called them would be a credible source in their investigation. I don’t think they suspected for even one second that it would be anything other than a reasonable “meeting of the minds” so to speak. Looking at it subjectively, after having finished the book now, I can see that it was probably a bad idea, though. I mean, who asks for a meeting at midnight? In an unfriendly “neighborhood”? No one. So Lacy and Hugo, being the intelligent people they were, should have known better. That said, without this meeting, and the unfortunate fallout that happened from it, the case never would have been solved. So despite the tragedy that occurred as a result of this meeting was absolutely essential to the story.

5. Read other Grisham novels? If so, how does this one compare?

I’ve read (almost) all of Grisham’s novels! (I think the only one I skipped was The Pelican Brief. That, and the smaller, non-law-related ones and the children’s novels.) I think this one is reminiscent of the Grisham I came to know and love many years ago. A lot of his current novels have been “preachy” or just generally not as good as his novels from the 90s. This one was absolutely fantastic. Definitely my favorite one in a long time.

~*~*~

Lori let me know just yesterday that she was unable to get this book from her library in time to read it (the hold list was too long), so unfortunately, she won’t be answering questions on it this month. I hope you’ll head over to her blog and read about some of the things she and her daughters have been doing lately anyway 🙂

We’re still deciding which book to read for next month’s installment of the Book Club, so I’ll make a new post when I know for sure.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Book Club: The Girl on the Train

Book Club with Lori

For Book Club this month, Lori and I decided to do “Freestyle.” This means that we’ve read different books; I chose The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This was one that Lori didn’t want to read, so I decided to do it on my own.

Questions come from LitLovers. Spoiler alert is in affect.

1. We all do it—actively watch life around us. In this way, with her own voyeuristic curiosity, Rachel Watson is not so unusual. What do you think accounts for this nosy, all-too-human impulse? Is it more extreme in Rachel than in the average person? What is so different about her?

I think a lot of us, even though we might be happy with our own lives, like to imagine what it would be like to lead a different one sometimes. It is definitely more extreme in Rachel than in the average person, though – others might imagine things, but she actually acts on them. As far as what’s different about her, I think it’s something as simple as her alcoholism taking its toll. She might not be this “crazy” if she wasn’t a drunk.

2. How would you have reacted if you’d seen what Rachel did from her train window—a pile of clothes—just before the rumored disappearance of Megan Hipwell? What might you or she have done differently?

I’m not sure I would’ve thought much about a pile of clothes on the ground. While it could be sinister, it isn’t automatically so. Therefore, I don’t think I would have done anything.

3. A crucial question in The Girl on the Train is how much Rachel Watson can trust her own memory. How reliable are her observations? Yet since the relationship between truth and memory is often a slippery one, how objective or “true” can a memory, by definition, really be? Can memory lie? If so, what factors might influence it?

It turns out that a lot of her memories aren’t so “false” after all. It seemed to me that her bigger problem was the inability to remember anything at all, not the fact that her memories were incorrect, especially near the end of the book.

I think memories can lie, yes. A lot of the things we “remember” from our own childhoods are actually the memories of our parents, and though they often mean well, parents will often smudge the truth to make themselves out in the best light. Therefore, our memories are lies woven by others in some instances.

4. One of Rachel’s deepest disappointments, it turns out, is that she can’t have children. Her ex-husband Tom’s second wife Anna is the mother to a young child, Evie. How does Rachel’s inability to conceive precipitate her breakdown? How does the topic of motherhood drive the plot of the story?

Rachel’s inability to have children is the entire reason for her breakdown. In a book full of lies, that much is made very clear. If she’d been able to have a child, I don’t think she would have lost her mind, become an alcoholic, and potentially been left by Tom (although, based on how he turned out, that last bit is up for debate). Outside of that one example, I’m not sure the “topic of motherhood” is necessarily a driving point in the story.

5. Other characters in the novel make different assumptions about Rachel Watson depending on how or even where they see her. To a certain extent, she understands this and often tries to manipulate their assumptions—by appearing to be a commuter, for instance, going to work every day. Is she successful? To what degree did you make assumptions about Rachel early on based on the facts and appearances you were presented? How did those change over time and why? How did your assumptions about her affect your reading of the central mystery in the book? Did your assumptions about her change over its course? What other characters did you make assumptions about? How did your assumptions affect your interpretation of the plot? Having now finished The Girl on the Train, what surprised you the most?

In a very basic sense, Rachel is successful in manipulating people’s assumptions about her. At least at the beginning. Her roommate, Cathy, has no idea that Rachel had lost her job a long time before the novel begins, for example. Her riding the train and pretending to be a commuter was a successful ruse. As far as the rest of the questions, I’m not really a good person to answer those; I don’t make assumptions about characters. I tend to read a book with nothing in mind, and I let the author take me on the journey they wish to tell.

~*~*~

Lori read what looks like a really interesting book: Giants: The Dwarfs of Auschwitz. I hope you’ll read her post to learn more about it.

This month, Lori and I are back to reading the same book. We’ll be working through The Whistler by John Grisham. He’s my very favorite author, so I’m excited about this one.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

 

book club button 200

Book Club: Beric the Briton

Book Club with Lori

Regrettably, I didn’t read this book. I gave it a try, but I just couldn’t get into it; it wasn’t my style at all. I encourage you to head over to Lori’s blog and read her thoughts, though.

For the March edition, we will be doing “freestyle,” meaning that Lori and I won’t be reading the same book. I’m going to be reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, which Lori decided was too intense for her. I’m not sure what she’ll be reading. In April, we’ll be posting about John Grisham’s new book, The Whistler.

Happy Weekend!

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Book Club: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Book Club with Lori

For Book Club this month, Lori and I have been reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I suggested it after having seen the movie with my mom (on a “girl date”). The movie was enjoyable enough, so I was interested in the book. Because we borrowed the book from my mom instead of the library, Munchkin and Will also read it this month (we didn’t have to worry about late fees).

In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, here’s the synopsis from the publisher:

A mysterious island…. An abandoned orphanage…. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience.

As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Before I dive into the questions, I want to give a short review of my thoughts on the book. Going in, I wanted to like it. I really did. My mom, husband, and son all read it before me and raved about it, so I thought it would be great. But I found it to be touch on the boring side. It took a really long time to get to the action, and by the time it was there, I wasn’t really sure I cared anymore. I understand that the author wanted to really build up the idea behind the island and the peculiar children (are they real or was Jacob’s grandfather making up stories?), but it was too much in my opinion. It would have been better served making things happen a bit quicker. That isn’t to say the book is bad, it was just slower moving than I’d expected based on the film adaptation.

Questions are from LitLovers. Spoiler alert is in effect.

What effect did the photographs have on how you experienced this novel? In fact, what was your reading experience of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children? How did it make you feel? Were you disturbed…or fascinated…or something else?  Did the book hold your interest?

I enjoyed looking at the photographs, but I don’t think they really effected my experience of the novel. I thought they were rather interesting to see, but the novel wouldn’t have been worse without them. I did think it was a very interesting way of “illustrating” a book. However… I also thought they seemed forced sometimes. What I mean by that is that it seems that perhaps Mr. Riggs found a bunch of random pictures in an attic or estate sale or something and decided to use them as the basis for a story rather than the other way around. I also hated that some pages went unfilled in order to fit a photograph in. It would have been better to run some of the photographs smaller (rather than letting each one take up a full page on a background) and put them at the bottom of the text. It seemed lazy on the part of the book designer to just leave off in the middle of a page, even if it wasn’t at the end of a chapter. There had to have been a better way to lay out the book to include the pictures without compromising the beauty of the book. (Now I sound like the wife of a book designer… which I am.)

As far as whether the book held my interest… yes and no. As I mentioned earlier, it took a really long time to get going. Once it did, and Jacob made it into Miss Peregrine’s house, it was fine.

What about Abe Portman, what kind of character is he? What kind of a world does he create in his stories for young Jacob? Why do the stories intrigue Jacob so much?

Abe Portman (Jacob’s grandfather, who dies at the beginning of the book) was a pretty deep character, despite the fact that he didn’t even make it out of the first chapter. He was talked about by the other characters, and obviously loved by the other peculiar children (children with special “powers” and abilities) in the home, and they were devastated when he left to join the war effort in 1940. The stories he tells young Jacob are fascinating – who wouldn’t be interested in tales of a girl who floats or a boy living with bees inside of him?

The stories are intriguing to Jacob for a couple of reasons. First, they’re being told by his grandfather. He has a wonderful relationship with him, and he wants to trust him – he does trust  him. Secondly, there’s just so much going on in each one that they seem like fantastic adventures, and that’s enough to intrigue any little boy.

As he moves into adolescence, why does Jacob begin to doubt the veracity of his grandfather’s stories? In what way does he think they may be connected to Abe’s struggle under the Nazis?

Jacob’s not a very nice teenager (he’s 16 when the book takes place – the parts about him being a child listening to his grandfather’s stories are told in retrospect only). He’s very worldly and generally rotten. It’s not surprising that a child with that personality would suddenly doubt the truth in the stories his grandfather told. Simply put, he outgrows the stories.

As for the stories being connected to Abe’s struggle under the Nazis, that idea comes about as a way to justify Jacob’s own disbelief.

Talk about the house in Wales. When Jacob first lays eyes on it, he observes that it “was no refuge from monsters, but a monster itself.” Would you say the house serves as a setting to the story…or is its role something else—a character, perhaps?

It’s one of my pet peeves when people suggest that a place is a character in a story. Words have meanings, and “setting” and “character” are not interchangeable. So no, I don’t think the house was a character. It was a setting. Jacob considers it a “monster” because it was such a different kind of place from what he was used to. When he first sees it, he sees the bombed out version, not the lovely place that his grandfather and the other peculiar children know and love. Seeing the destroyed house, which no one in 70+ years bothered to restore or tear down, was a kind of confirmation to Jacob that his grandfather’s stories were nothing but tall tales.

Talk, of course, about the peculiar children. Which of their oddities and personalities do you find most intriguing?

I struggled a bit to keep the names straight among all the different peculiar children because so many of them are mentioned so briefly to be almost just in passing. Obviously Emma is an easy choice because she’s the main character after Jacob himself. I think my favorite is the girl who floats, though (in the movie, this was Emma, but it’s a different character in the book, and I can’t remember her name offhand). I thought it was really great how Mr. Riggs thought of seemingly everything in regards to this character – she wore lead shoes to walk around, she had to be seatbelted to her chair at mealtimes. Perhaps I found her the most intriguing because I’m so short. Being able to rise above things isn’t something I’ve ever experienced (excluding airplane trips, but even that’s been nearly 20 years for me). On a subconscious level, I think I liked the idea of getting to see things from a different, higher up, perspective.

In what way can this book be seen as a classic quest story—a young hero who undertakes a difficult journey and is transformed in the process? Do you see parallels with other fantasy works involving young people?

Definitely a “classic quest” story. Jacob has no idea what to expect – doesn’t even know if he should be expecting anything – and comes across something absolutely beyond what he could have seen in his wildest dreams. He moves from being pretty much a punk of a teenager in the beginning to being one who sees value in his grandfather’s life and stories.

From the very beginning, the book reminded me of the Percy Jackson series, so yes, I saw parallels with another fantasy series.

~*~*~

Thanks for reading along with my thoughts on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Make sure to visit Lori’s blog as well to read her insights. I’m always fascinated how the two of us can read the same book and come up with such different answers to the same questions – that’s what makes this book club so fun!

Our next book is Beric the Briton by GA Henty, which is available for free on Amazon Kindle if you’d like to read along with us.

Did you read Miss Peregrine with us this month? Write about it on your blog? Have you read it before, and want to share your thoughts? Link up with us! Questions are from LitLovers, or you can write your post as more of a “review” style if you prefer.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

Book Club: The Book of Negroes (Someone Knows My Name)

Book Club with Lori

For Book Club this month, Lori asked if we could read The Book of Negroes (previously published as Someone Knows My Name) by Lawrence Hill. She warned me when she suggested it that this would be a difficult book to get through based simply on its subject matter, and she was right. The novel tells the story of Aminata Diallo, a woman who was kidnapped from her African village in the mid-1700s and brought to America as a slave. She was only 11 years old when she was taken, and lived with and worked for multiple families before escaping during the chaos of the Revolutionary War. She moves to Manhattan and then London on her quest to return to her homeland in Africa.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this book (the subject matter is quite intense), but I’m glad I read it. Aminata is a wonderful character that I won’t soon forget.

Questions for this month’s Book Club come from LitLovers. As always, a spoiler alert is in effect.

What is the significance of the title Someone Knows My Name?

Several times throughout the book, Aminata laments that she’s become a nameless black woman. The “buckra” (white people) struggle to pronounce her name, and that’s not taking into account those who don’t bother trying. The ones who care (even just a smidge) give her the nickname Meena, because it’s easier on their American/British tongues and ears. So, for someone to learn, say, and know Aminata’s name is a big deal for her.

What is your opinion about Hill’s suggestion that Aminata’s very youthfulness at the time of her abduction enables her emotional survival, even as some of the adults in her world show signs of crumbling?

I absolutely agree with this assessment, 100%. All of the adults around her (specifically on the slave ship in the beginning of the novel) simply fall apart. Many don’t survive the journey, and it’s implied that the cause for that is emotional as much as physical hardships. One woman who gives birth on the ship even slits her newborn son’s throat and tosses him to sea to avoid bringing him to “wherever they’re going.” Even in the worst of circumstances, sane people don’t do that.

Aminata, though unhappy and horrified by the situation in which she finds herself, simply puts her head down and gets through it. If she’d been older and more mature, she may not have been able to separate herself from what she was going through, and she’d likely have suffered the same fate as many of those she knew in her previous life.

The section of the book set in the sea islands of South Carolina depicts eighteenth-century indigo plantations where African American slaves and overseers are left largely to their own devices during the “sick season”—a good half of the year. To what degree does this cultural and social isolation allow for an interesting development and interaction of African American characters in the novel?

I don’t think there would have much opportunity for character development at all without that time away from the “buckra.” The story is that of a slave, not that of her masters, so it was important to show what her life was like as she lived and interacted with other slaves.

Aminata suffers some horrifying cruelties at the hands of her captors, but her relationships with her masters aren’t always what you’d expect. How does Aminata’s story reveal the complex ways that people react to unnatural, unequal relationships?

It’s definitely true that “her relationships with her masters aren’t always what you’d expect.” Some of them, while not necessarily surprising, were positively despicable. Others weren’t so bad. It was interesting to read how different people react in different ways to the same situations. One master might be a miserable man who rapes his slaves, while another might treat them as members of his own family. There’s not really any way to tell in advance what kind of master one might be until you get into the part of that story where his/her story with Aminata begins.

During the course of the story, Aminata marries and has a family. Although she is separated from them, she is reunited from time to time with her husband and one of her children. What does the work tell us about the nature of love and loyalty?

Simply put, that it (love and loyalty) trumps everything else. Even when her child is brutally stolen from her as a nursing babe, Aminata never stops loving him. Her husband leaves her one day and doesn’t come back, but she never searches for another one. She is a remarkable woman.

Aminata struggles to learn and master all sorts of systems of communicating in the new world: black English, white English, and Gullah, as well as understanding the uses of European money and maps. How do her various coping mechanisms shed light on her character?

I never really considered that her thirst for knowledge was a coping mechanism, but it makes sense that it would be. Her need to cope with her situation is understandable; we all have ways of dealing with the things around us, and learning to be the best she can be in her new life is Aminata’s. They tell us that she’s determined, and that she’s unwilling to let things happen to her. She’s a fiercely independent woman who wants to be in control of her own life, and the best way she can make that happen as a slave is to learn everything she can about living in Carolina.

Aminata is a woman of extraordinary abilities—she is skillful with languages, literate, a speedy learner, a born negotiator. Why did Hill choose this story to be told by such a remarkable woman? What effect do her abilities have on the shaping of the story?

I’m not sure the story would have been as potent with a less extraordinary character. Aminata is a rare breed that can do anything she puts her mind to, and she uses that ability/determination to her advantage. If she’d been a passive character, the novel would have been very different. More subdued, a lot darker, and not nearly as hopeful. Aminata having the personality she did was vital to the story that Mr. Hill wanted to tell.

On another level, I think he may have made her that strong because he named her after his own daughter. Whether on purpose or not, I think he wanted to tell his daughter that she could be as strong as her literary namesake.

What do you think would be the challenges involved in writing a realistically painful novel that still offers enough light and hope to maintain the reader’s interest and spirit?

Ha! I think the challenges in writing this kind of novel are too numerous to name. I’ve written novels in the past (not necessarily very good ones, and they’re not published, but they exist), and I’m not sure I could have pulled off a novel of this magnitude. It would be emotionally difficult to live in this world each day as you wrote it, but you’d always have the knowledge as you wrote that you were moving the character toward something better, and having that hope in your own body would help to shine the light through the story you were writing. I think.

What lessons does Aminata’s tale hold for us in today’s world?

Perseverance is vital for survival.

Determination goes a long way.

Be the best you can be, despite your circumstances.

Love and loyalty can keep you sane.

I’m sure there are others, but that’s what I’ve got off the top of my head.

~*~*~

Thanks for joining me in another month of Book Club! Make sure to head over to Lori’s blog to read her thoughts on the selection. While you’re there, stay awhile and read her other posts. She has a great blog with all sorts of different posts ranging from homeschooling elementary and middle school students (she has 3 daughters around the same ages as my two older boys) to hymn studies to simply sharing about their lives. It’s a delightful place to spend some time.

This month, we’ll be reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. If you want to read along and join the discussion, we’ll be posting answers to questions on January 5th. If you have a blog, you can answer questions there and leave a link with Lori or me. If you don’t have a blog and you still want to read along with us, please do! You can comment on either of our blogs your thoughts about the book. I’ll have at least one special guest for that post, as well – Munchkin and Will have already read the book, so I’m going to present them with questions. I know Munchkin is going to answer them, and Will might, too, so I’ll be sharing their answers along with my own next month.

Thanks again to Lori for stretching my mind with this month’s selection.

book club button 200

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy