Sunday, May 30, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Discussion Questions for American Wife


In Brief
On what might become one of the most significant days in her husband’s presidency, Alice Blackwell considers the strange and unlikely path that has led her to the White House–and the repercussions of a life lived, as she puts it, “almost in opposition to itself.”

A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice learned the virtues of politeness early on from her stolid parents and small Wisconsin hometown. But a tragic accident when she was seventeen shattered her identity and made her understand the fragility of life and the tenuousness of luck. So more than a decade later, when she met boisterous, charismatic Charlie Blackwell, she hardly gave him a second look: She was serious and thoughtful, and he would rather crack a joke than offer a real insight; he was the wealthy son of a bastion family of the Republican party, and she was a school librarian and registered Democrat. Comfortable in her quiet and unassuming life, she felt inured to his charms. And then, much to her surprise, Alice fell for Charlie.

As Alice learns to make her way amid the clannish energy and smug confidence of the Blackwell family, navigating the strange rituals of their country club and summer estate, she remains uneasy with her newfound good fortune. And when Charlie eventually becomes President, Alice is thrust into a position she did not seek–one of power and influence, privilege and responsibility. As Charlie’s tumultuous and controversial second term in the White House wears on, Alice must face contradictions years in the making: How can she both love and fundamentally disagree with her husband? How complicit has she been in the trajectoryof her own life? What should she do when her private beliefs run against her public persona?

In Alice Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld has created her most dynamic and complex heroine yet. American Wife is a gorgeously written novel that weaves class, wealth, race, and the exigencies of fate into a brilliant tapestry–a novel in which the unexpected becomes inevitable, and the pleasures and pain of intimacy and love are laid bare.
(From the publisher.)

1. The novel opens and closes with Alice wondering if she’s made terrible mistakes. Do you think she has? If so, what are they?

2. Alice’s grandmother passes down her love of reading. How else is Alice influenced by her grandmother?

3. To what do you attribute Dena’s anger at what she calls Alice’s betrayal? Do you believe her anger is justified

4. Is Charlie a likable character? Can you understand Alice’s attraction to him?

5. Does Alice compromise herself and her ideals during her marriage, or does she realistically alter her behavior and expectations in order to preserve the most important relationship in her life?

6. What would you have done in Alice’s situation at the end of the novel? Do you think it was wrong of her to take the stance she did?

7. How do you think Laura Bush would react to this novel if she read it?

If you have any other questions you'd like to raise post them in the comments! Can't wait to hear what everyone has to say!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

June Book Club Suggestions..

Hey all! What do you recommend for our first summer selection of our book club?

Our Past Selections are....

Pride & Prejudice
The Awakening
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
I See You Everywhere
The Reader
American Wife

What will it be for our 8th month?

This will be open for suggestions through Saturday the 29th.. Poll will be posted over the weekend and the selection will be announced on Tuesday the 1st!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jane Austen Ruined My life... where I rant about love.. Description: English professor Emma Grant has always done everything just the way her minister father told her she should -- a respectable marriage, a teaching job at a good college, and plans for the requisite two children. Life was prodigiously good, as her favorite author Jane Austen might say, until the day Emma finds her husband in bed with another woman. Suddenly, all her romantic notions a la Austen are exposed for the foolish dreams they are.

Denied tenure in the wake of the scandal and left penniless by the ensuing divorce, Emma packs up what few worldly possessions she has left and heads to England on a quest to find the missing letters of Jane Austen. Locating the elusive letters, however, isn't as straightforward as Emma hoped. The owner of the letters proves coy about her prize possessions, sending Emma on a series of Austen-related tasks that bring her closer and closer to the truth, but the sudden reappearance of Emma's first love makes everything more complicated.

In the end, Emma learns that doing the right thing has very little to do with other people's expectations and everything to do with her own beliefs. Laced with fictional excerpts from the missing letters, Jane Austen Ruined My Life is the story of a woman betrayed who uncovers the deeper meaning of loyalty.

I will start by saying the review I am writing is a different review than I had in my head. My feelings for the novel took a dramatic turn on page 261. Up until then, I was most certainly going to write about how it was a ridiculously predictable tale about a woman who is unlucky in love and makes stupid decisions that don’t help her at all. She marries the wrong guy and is oblivious to the good guy in love with her yada yada yada. Not to say that page 261 is so life altering that it negates the ridiculous eye rolling that preceded it. But page 261 is redemption from turning this into a, I can’t believe I wasted my afternoon to a, I get, I really do.

“Heartbreak is more common than happiness. No one wants to say that, but it’s true. We’re taught to believe not only that everyone deserves a happy ending, but also that if we try hard enough, we will get one. That’s simply not the case. Happy endings, lifelong loves, are the products of both effort and luck. We can control them, to some extent, and though our feelings always seem to have a life of their own, we can at least be open to love. But luck, the other component, well, there’s nothing we can do about that one. Call it God’s plan or predestination or divine intervention, but we’re all at its mercy. And sometimes God doesn't seem very merciful. “pg. 261…

This paragraph resonates so much with me. There are so many factors that determine who you meet, how that meeting will go and if you meet again. So many factors that dictate mutual like and respect. Mutual attraction, availability and willingness to work through obstacles are just a few factors that determine who you ever even begin a relationship with. And even more that determine how long it lasts.

I am a firm believer that there are many people you could be happily in love with forever, but love takes work. It’s not easy. It takes two people who work super hard to make it happen. And as the male characters point out, it’s not a happy ending that women should be seeking out; it should be the happy BEGINNING. Because if finding the person you want to be with your whole life is the end, what is the point? How good can life together be if that is the ending? Life is just beginning. There are so many new adventures to go on. To be hung up on a happy ending is quite ridiculous. Yet many women are raised to believe in this notion.

I see so many friends turn down opportunities to meet people or go on another date with someone for STUPID reasons. They are looking for that knight in shining armor instead of a decently nice guy. They find ANY imperfection to not pursue something. I want to grab them and shake them and tell them THE REAL WORLD IS NOT LIKE THAT.

Here is me being completely honest. I love my husband. Do I think he is my true love? No, because I don’t believe in true love. I think I could have easily fallen in love with someone else. He is not the only one out there for me. But, I made a commitment and it may not be an easy one and some days I may wonder what the heck was I thinking, but I did this. This is what I chose. Could I have made other choices and have been equally as happy? I think so. Did I have other options? Yes. But love is all about choosing and time. And a little luck.

Do you believe in happy endings?

This book was read for the 10 books picked by my readers for me to read in 2010!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Help

Wow. This was a fantastic beautifully written novel. I am quite shocked that this is Kathryn Stockett's first novel. Her characters were carefully developed and the dialogue was authentic. I could feel the heat of Mississippi, the fear of the maids, Skeeters frustration and the unhappiness of the women of Jackson. Very well done.

I know I am late to the party on this, but the premise for those of you also in the dark about this novel...

Skeeter Phelan returns from Ole Miss with a degree and an itch for something more. She notices the unhappiness and ridiculousness of her married Junior League friends. She feels the brunt of her mother's nagging about EVERYTHING and she notices how badly her friends treat the help. Skeeter is fed up and befriends her close friends maid and they, with the help of others write a book. A book that could all get them killed.

1960s Jackson, Mississippi has been discussed multiple times in history books and movies, but The Help definitely enlightens you to an intimate perspective. I don't want to say too much for those who HAVEN'T read it, but let me tell you, the pieces slowly develop which to me makes me love it more.

At the end of the novel Stockett includes this quote by Howell Raines in her personal except: There is no trickier subject for a writer from the South than that of affection between a black person and a white one in the unequal world of segregation. For the dishonesty upon which a society is founded makes every emotion suspect, makes it impossible to know whether what flowed between two people was honest feeling or pity or pragmatism.

This point is evident throughout the book when maids and white women and especially Skeeter are trying to figure out how to act around each other and if the kindness is an act or does it mean something? In 1960s Jackson, it was not socially acceptable to befriend or help the 'coloreds.' (I use this word only because it is in the book and how they were referred to at this time.. the word colored really bothers me).

As moving as this book is, it is also extremely funny. There are some great situations, such as a crazed man flopping out his penis and giving a show to a maid and her boss! Or an unfortunate incident with a chocolate pie.

I am so glad I read this and so thankful for Tameka for sending me this from her giveaway!
If you have read The Help, and would like to discuss it in the comment section I am all game for it. I loved it and would really enjoy talking to people about it!

If you haven't read it, go out and buy it!

What is your favorite book about Southern women?

Monday, May 24, 2010

American Wife..Lisa's Thoughts..

Greetings, readers! It’s Lisa from Lisa’s Yarns. Emily is letting me take over her little corner of the interwebs to talk about our May book club selection – American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.

When I checked this book out from the library and realized it was 558 pages long, I almost audibly sighed… Lately I have been gravitating toward books in the 200-300 page range. As the weather shifts toward being summer-like, my attention span also shifts and I was worried I would not be able to finish this book by the end of the month. It was the book I had suggested for the month, though, so I was bound and determined to get through it by the end of the month.

Little did I know I would finish it in less than a week! This book turned out to be such a page turner! I fell in love with the main character, Alice, and as she was being swept away by Charlie Blackwell, I was swept away by the book!

The central theme of the book is the relationship between Charlie and Alice Blackwell. The book is based upon the life of Laura Bush – and wow did it spark my curiosity about her! I am hoping to read her autobiography sometime this summer.

In the book American Wife, we learn that Alice is actually a Democrat – so subscribes to a different political ideology than her husband. That is a challenge in itself. Now imagine having different political beliefs from your husband when he is the president of the United States.

There is a somewhat long passage of the book that I would like to quote that I think sums up the struggle of choosing between love and your political beliefs:

“If I were to tell the story of my life, … and if I were being honest, … I would probably feel tempted to say that standing that night just inside my apartment, … I made a choice: I chose our relationship over my political convictions, love over ideology. But again, this would be false honesty; it would once more contribute to a narrative arc that is satisfying rather than accurate. My convictions were internal – I’d rarely seen the point in expressing them aloud, and if I had, my entire political outlook could have been summarized by the statement that I felt bad for poor people and was glad abortion had become legal. And so I didn’t choose anything in this moment. I had met Charlie a matter of weeks before, and already the idea of living without him made me feel like a fish flopping on the sand. To go from being a Democrat to a Republican, or at least to pretend, through smiling obfuscation, that I had – this was a small bring to pay for the water washing back over me, allowing me to breathe. (p. 204)”

Alice chose love over her political beliefs. Could you do the same? Is it possible to have a healthy, loving, and sustainable relationship when your beliefs are so polarized?

Thank you Lisa! I too, read this book very very quickly. One snowy weekend to be exact! To answer Lisa's question.. I could NOT choose love over political beliefs because my belief's are a little more exact than "I feel bad for poor people.." I have dated multiple people with differing views and it seemed those guys that were as passionate as me and I would NEVER work. I remember freshman year of college debating whether we should invade Iraq or not with my very new boyfriend. We had exact opposite opinions and we couldn't really get around that. It angered me so much how he could care so little for other people/truth. Now my husband and I both agree on what I would classify on the important stuff for me, but even with us I am more outspoken! He just nods and smiles at me and I do know that his economic beliefs are far more conservative than my own, but if we differ too much he stays silent and lets me rant, like a good husband. I probably wouldn't be as nice!!! ;) Thanks again Lisa!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Have a Facebook rant?

I am guest posting over at Love Every Day Life today with a snapshot of my Facebook pet peeves.

And yes, I don't NEED to be on there and I could stop. But I mean who am I kidding? It's hours of gossip, entertaiment and stalking galore!

Repost if you like this blog!! hehehe..

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More Nashville Photos..

Better late than never right???

the inside of the Opryland Hotel.. before the flood

Jack Daniel's Distillery! Great tour.. and the drive to Lynchberg was beautiful

Mr. Jack

the bridge over yummy water as we dubbed it!

mmmm... yummmm...

Historic Lynchberg has seen better days!

We stopped at Kix Brooks' winery on our drive back and were very disappointed.. it did have a great view.. the wine was eh.

the boys walking up to the Opryland Hotel..
I can't wait to go on another vacation! Even if it is in my state.. or in Pittsburgh for the Buffett concert this year! (Possibly..)
Where is your favorite local place to vacay? Where is your favorite long drive away place to vacay? What about favorite place to vacay that requires a plane??

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - The Help

"But then a week after you lose your job, you get this little yellow envelope stuck in your screen door. Paper inside say NOTICE OF EVICTION. Ever landlord in Jackson be white and ever one got a white wife that's friends with somebody. You can start to panic some then. You still ain't got no job prosects. Everwhere you try, the door slams in your race. And now you ain't gt a place to live." ~ The Help pg. 188

Thanks to Tameka for this great book. I won this through a giveaway on her blog THIS winter and am just getting to read it now. ;)

I know a lot of you have read this book, which has kept me from suggesting it as a group read, but man would I love to discuss this one! I am on page 204 right now and am loving it!

For those of you who have read this, who was your favorite character? Did anyone else crave a Coca-Cola? Or envison themselves wearing cute little 60s era dresses? And then remember that their mouths would probably get them into a lot of trouble in the 1960s South!!??!!

I do have to say the 1960s is a decade that I would like to revist in a time machine bubble.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This weeks book haul..

In the past week I have added four books to my physical TBR pile. The best part? I only spent a quarter on them and my friend threw in another quarter. I received 2 books thru an exchange with some ladies and the other two I picked up used at garage sales this weekend!

Here is what I got...

Prayers for Rain - Dennis Lehane
I got this at one of the garage sales. I loved Mystic River and I really want to read Shutter Island by him, so I figured this would be a great read too! I didn't realize it is in the middle of a series featuring a couple of detectives, but I am hoping this is like a James Patterson series where it doesn't matter TOOO much what order you read them, you just kind of miss out on character development.

Goodreads blurb: Karen Nichols was pert, blond, in love with her fiance and her life when Patrick Kenzie first met her. But six months later, she jumped naked from Boston's Custom House, leaving behind a downward spiral of drug abuse, depression, and sexual misadventure. She was an utterly different woman—and Kenzie wants to know why.

What he finds is almost incomprehensible: a depraved stalker who carefully targeted Karen and slowly, methodically, exploited her every weakness, stripped away all that mattered to her, and then watched her self-destruct. Now as Kenzie and his former partner Angela Gennaro begin a psychological battle against a master sadist the law can't touch, they discover he's starting to learn their weaknesses, their loves and he's determined to tear their world apart.

Twelve Times Blessed - Jacquelyn Mitchard
I read Cage of Stars by her and liked it and have another one of hers that my husband got me for Christmas a couple years ago that is my TBR pile. It looks pretty decent and something I may want to take on my camping trip this summer!

Goodreads Blurb: Though True Dickinson was widowed eight years ago, her young son, her thriving business, and her loving friends give her a full life. Still, her forty-third birthday party, on a snowy Cape Cod night, is cause to reflect and lament her dwindling youth, beauty, and chances at romance.

But everything changes the moment True slides into a ditch on the drive home and comes face-to-face with an opportunity to let love back into her life.

Twelve Times Blessed is the story of one year of transformation in a woman's life, and an unforgettable tale of the perils and pleasures of love in the modern age.

Such a Pretty Fat and Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster

I have heard such GREAT things about both of these books. They sound hilarious and I am very excited to read them! Thanks to Lauren for sending them my way!

Have you read any of these? What new books did you get this week?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

American Wife Check in...

Who is reading?

Are you liking what you read so far?

How far into the book are you?

I remember when I read it, my favorite part of her life was her childhood/teen years... I also enjoyed her younger married years.

Any complaints?

Any favorite quotes?

I like this excerpt..

"I did not care if Ella went t Princeton, if she was exceptionally pretty, if she grew up to marry a rich man, or really if she married at all - there were many incarnations of her I felt confident I could embrace, a hippie or a housewife or a career woman. But what I did care about, what I wanted most fervently, was for her to understand that hard work paid off, that decency begat decency, that humility was not a raincoat you occasionally pulled on when you thought conditions called for it, but rather a constant way of existing in the world, knowing that good luck and bad luck touched everyone and none of us was fully responsible for our fortunes or tragedies. Above all, I wanted my daughter to understand that many people were guided by bitterness and that it was best to avoid these individuals - their moods and behavior were a hornet's nest you had no possible reason to do anything other than bypass and ignore." - American Wife

I really like this ideal and really wish it was me, instead of the bitter ole hag that I am!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

True Colors by Kristin Hannah Description: The Grey sisters had only each other when their mother died years ago. Their father provided for them physically on Water's Edge, the ranch that had been in their family for three generations, each of them however, longed for their father's love.

Winona, the oldest, knew early on that she could never get it. An overweight dreamer and reader, she didn't exhibit the kinds of talents and strengths her father valued.

Vivi Anne, the youngest, had those things. And it was Vivi Anne who only ever saw a glimmer of their father's approval.

When Vivi Anne makes a fateful decision to follow her heart, rather than take the route of a dutiful daughter, events are set in motion that will test the love and loyalties of the Grey sisters.

With breathtaking pace and penetrating insight, Kristin Hannah's True Colors is a novel about sisters, vengeance, rivalry, betrayal-and ultimately, what it truly means to be a family.

A co-worker let me borrow this book over the weekend and I read it quickly because I wanted to get it back to her before school break. I was not really impressed. The writing seemed sub-par and some of the storyline unbelievable. Let's just say if Henry Grey was my father, we wouldn't be speaking anymore and I sure as heck wouldn't be living in the same town as him!!

There is a LOT of family drama in this one and a lot of it could be stopped with some honesty and some getting over yourself and not letting sibling rivalry get waaaay out of control.

It was a very quick read and perfect for a rainy day but coming right after Firefly Lane, this just did not seem as good.

Anyone else read it? Have you ever been disappointed when you read an author's other work after liking what you've already read by them? I hope that made sense!! ;)

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Last Child by John Hart

I apologize for my extreme lack of posting this week. It has been crazy. I have been busy after work every night and I came home today and immediately put on my sweatpants and went about catching myself back up.

I read The Last Child very quickly last weekend. The Last Child is centered around Johnny Merrimon and his search for his lost sister. His sister has been missing for a year and there have been no leads. His dad left and his beautiful mother has become addicted to pain meds and drinks a lot. She also has a boyfriend, Ken, who pushes both Johnny and his mother around. Johnny has been getting into trouble by ditching school and has been checking out the local pedophiles in hopes of finding his sister.

The book opens on a day where Johnny is skipping school with his best-friend and in the course of this day he happens about an accident that isn't really an accident and a dying man who speaks.. 'I found the missing girl," right before Johnny has to run off to avoid being caught by a killer. He also stumbles upon an escaped convict who he then thinks is somehow mixed up in his sisters disappearance.

This book is full of action and keeps you thinking and involved in the story. I will admit that I figured out the whodunnit before it was revealed and there are clues riddled about. There are also side stories like the history of Johnny's great-grandpa and the local area history of North Carolina. I kind of didn't agree with the delivery but it was a pretty good action/mystery book! I think I may have read too many. It sort of reminded me style wise like Dennis Lehane.

I received this book from a giveaway.

What was the best mystery/thriller you have read?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May Group Read is...

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield! I read this back in January of 2009 and really really liked it! I am not going to have enough time to re-read, but I am sure you allll will enjoy it! If anyone would like to guest blog about it, you may contact me at pinkflipflops44 at gmail dot com. I will be sure to post some discussion posts along the way! Description: A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice Lindgren has no idea that she will one day end up in the White House, married to the president. In her small Wisconsin hometown, she learns the virtues of politeness, but a tragic accident when she is seventeen shatters her identity and changes the trajectory of her life. More than a decade later, when the charismatic son of a powerful Republican family sweeps her off her feet, she is surprised to find herself admitted into a world of privilege. And when her husband unexpectedly becomes governor and then president, she discovers that she is married to a man she both loves and fundamentally disagrees with–and that her private beliefs increasingly run against her public persona. As her husband’s presidency enters its second term, Alice must confront contradictions years in the making and face questions nearly impossible to answer.

I really can't tell you enough how good it is! I always liked Laura Bush because she seems so danged nice and just not who I would think the devil er I mean George Bush should be married too! I am going to be reading The Perfect Wife (which is about her) and I want to read her new auto- bio that is coming out!

Enjoy! Oh and 18 days of school left.. not that I'm counting.. not that my sanity may be diminished.. not that I want to be done testing and .. and ... and...

So sadly, I may not be posting too much right now as I am just going out of my mind crazy.. though I do have a review that I need to type up soon!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Group Read Poll...

It is up! Make your selection.. Poll ends Tuesday at noon... I do so up to be better at posting this stuff ahead of the month over the summer when I do not have work to get in the way!

Anyone readin anything good this weekend? I am reading The Last Child by John Hart and so far it is good!