Category Archives: Being Bookie

Bookies Review: A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra



A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was our book clubs April 2014 read.  Amazon describes this book as:

In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.

This book was a bit heavier than anything we have read recently.  Some of us stumbled through a deeper read with names (like Ahkmed, Khassan Akim, Maali,) and words that caused your mind pause as you sorted through the sound and meaning.  Admittedly, several Bookies were lost along the way and stopped early on in the read not finding their way around the words or the drawn out nature of the authors way of writing. 

On the flip of that – a few Bookies loved the challenge of the language and wholeheartedly embraced this fictional and historical read based around the Chechnya war.

“At the kitchen table she examined the glass of ice. Each cube was rounded by room temperature, dissolving in its own remains, and belatedly she understood that this was how a loved one disappeared. Despite the shock wave of walking into an empty flat, the absence isn’t immediate, more a fade from the present tense you shared, a melting into the mast, not an erasure but a conversion in form, from presence to memory, from solid to liquid, and the person you once touched runs over your skin, now in sheets down your back, and you may bathe, may sink, may drown in the memory, but your fingers cannot hold it.”
Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Whatever side of the book you fell on, yay or nay – we all had to admit it made for an interesting and engaging discussion.  Usually when I bring up a discussion question during the group’s time together one or two of us will respond with our thoughts and we move on, but this time,this book, brought out more discussion, some heated, some pained, much filled with facts,mixed with the facts of this war and the historic beauty as well.  I found myself as the “note taker” of the group, just sitting back and listening to the conversations of what each person found within this books pages.  Their discussion and enthusiasm made me want to dig in more.

We were, for the most part, touched that the books events actually happened in our lifetime… and in the end we were able to pull out themes in the books such as connectedness and the importance of it, humor within a dark world, author Anthony Marra pulls a deep passionate look at a war-torn country in this debut novel.

Of course we had food…


The pudding, while quite to the point of the book – was pretty impressive.  I made the upper right hand corner Chechnya spicy chicken from the culture and the 4th picture down of the wheat pasta to tone done the strong taste of the chicken.  Lemon rice (2nd picture down) was mentioned in the book, the Gnocchi Salad (3rd picture down) was culturally correct, and the yummy desert on the bottom… well… yummy. :)

What will book clubs like about this book?

A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena will bring up some all so real discussion of what this was war must have been like to live through.  Discussion can lead to just what a fragile society we are, by removing resources we could just as easily experience something like this.  This is a book that caused conversation and emotion to flow freely -for our group, I barely needed to ask questions to stimulate conversation, we were talking about the book from the moment we walked in the door. 

While not a light fun read or discussion, it is one that will cause your group feel that they just read something very important and most likely come out the other side knowing a little more about our world. 

Personal note:  as of this writing, I sadly admit I have not thoroughly read this book myself.  In a busy month and finding the book more work to get into than some, I skimmed the pages getting the feel for the discussion.  I would also like to note after listening to my group share their thoughts on this book, I know I will be going back and reading it properly because hard read or not… I think this one is important for me to get a strong feel for this book…. something tells me, this one may move on  to something more and I do love being ahead of the media. :)  ~Sheila

Bookies Review and Fun: The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd


A few days ago I read and reviewed for the first time, The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.  This week, our book club The Bookies had the opportunity to discuss it.

On a scale of 1 – 5 (5 being the highest) the book rated mainly between 3.5 and 4.  The girls all agreed that they enjoyed the book.  While it was not one of those “WOW” that blew me away reads, it was an overall pleasant read with a nice mix of mid 60′s southern culture, and fats about honey and bees.

We discussed Lily’s home life situation with her father, and the loss of her mother.  We discussed the culture of the 60′s in South Carolina and what that meant at the time for a white girl to live among an African-American family.  (This still shocks me that this was really, not so long ago….)

Of course, we themed food and I found a fun little website called Book Menus that had a list of ALL the food in The Secret Life Of Bees.  Seriously, how cool is that?  We had pulled pork sandwiches and I made ham.  One of the girls had coleslaw and added peaches to it (delicious!) as peaches play a role in this book.  We had a pineapple strawberry upside down cake, orangeade, AND….

we had to try the coke and salted peanuts together like the y had in the book:

March cokew peanuts

Bookies, trying the coke with salted peanuts as Lily and August loved in the book, Secret Life Of Bees

Why is this a great book for book clubs?

The Secret Life Of Bees brings out some good discussion topics such as abuse, the loss of a mother and women who stand in as “mothers” in our lives.  There is also the topic of racial hatred and relationships among those of different backgrounds and color.  The book brings with it wonderful southern foods to try as well.

Morning Meanderings… What Makes A Book Club Work


Yes, it is about that time of month again when I talk book club.  I can’t help it.  I love that group of girls so!  Tuesday evening while we sat around chatting before the review with plates full of food from the book ‘The Secret Life of Bees” and salted peanuts in coke (more on that later….), one of the girls said something that really touched my heart.

She said that she loved our book club and had to tell us why.  She had been in a book club before that just did not work.  She said that the group would have a book they would read but some would read it, most would not.  The group would gather and have wine and talk and rarely get to the book.  There was no one who brought questions to the group about the book or kept a discussion on track.

It’s no secret I love my book club. We have such an amazing group of ladies who each bring something to add to the group.  They are willing to dig in and discuss the hard topics, and laugh about the fun stuff. 


It’s not always easy pulling off a book club night, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I love planning the food around the book and it has stretched me to make new things and try different cultures.  Each book, even before I open that first page has me thinking, “what will I learn?  How can I implement that into the meeting?  What foods will me encounter?  What music?” Where can I get a skeleton?”  (Ok just kidding on that last one… at least so far ;) )

I love doing the extras for book club.  I love to fully experience the book.  Bookies has come a long way in our almost 13 years.  I wouldn’t trade a moment. 

Next book up…. A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra….

Oh the possibilities.


Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – Bookies Review


This past Tuesday the Bookies gathered to discuss Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  This is a book that will be hard to discuss here without spoilers so I will keep this light.  To see a review with more detail and a spoiler page, see my review of Me Before You here, and for another great review by our Queen (front and center in picture), see it at her blog By Book Or by Crook.

A brief synopsis of Me Before You: (Setting – London village)  Louisa Clark has recently lost her day job and at 27, still living at home but trying to get moving on life – this is not cool.  She applies for a temporary position at a nearby castle for a rich boy who is not wheelchair bound due to an accident.  Extremely unqualified, Louisa is shocked when she is given the job.  Will Trainer (ie. “Rich boy”) is a bitter 30 something.  He once had the world at his finger tips; skiing with friends, trips to beaches and around the world… now confined to the limitations of movement and a chair.

Louisa (probably due to her lack of professional training for this type of work) will have none of Will’s attitude.  At first she is careful and shy but soon finds she is dealing with a sort of spoiled whiny baby who’s toys have been taken away.  By Louisa calling Will out on this, Will develops a respect for Louisa and a friendship slowly grows.

Louisa soon discovers why her job taking care of Will is temporary and this knowledge changes everything.  Now Louisa’s drive is to show Will that this new world of wheelchairs and limited movements is worth living in – and she only has so much time to convince him.


The Bookies rated this one fairly high.  We seen “5″ ratings out of people who rarely if ever give 5′s.  (We rate on a scale of 1 – 5, 5 being the best).  A book such as this brought out (as I had hoped) some deep discussion.  We discussed choices and when do family and friends have a right to step in, and if they do – how much is permissible… how much is too much.

We were surprised to learn that we have a girl in our group who has a relative that has a similar story of living a full vibrant life and then an accident causing her to become a quadriplegic.  To actually hear about someone who has gone through this was interesting and brought the book even more fully in focus.

Of course… we had food and wine with our discussion :)



Why is this a great book for book clubs? 

There is great discussion points within this book.  Hard questions come to the surface that will make for a lively and passionate discussion on both sides.  If you like books that can get a rise of emotion out of your group let me say this is a book that will do just that. 

Morning Meanderings… The Morning After Book Club


Picture this. 

Hair in my eyes, sleep pants and slip on sandals (I know… I know…), face still sleep lined but smile intact.


That’s what the night after book club looks like.


After an evening of sharing food together, discussing the book, a glass of wine (or two), choosing the next book and just hanging out with a great group of girls…I always come home spent. 

BUT in such a good way.

I marvel at this motley crew of girls from different backgrounds, assorted ages… and we all gather in a room and we send a book through the process of well.. whatever we do with it… love it – hate it – in between.  Together we have shared tears, laughter, anger…  but the cool thing is –

we genuinely care about one another. 


is the BEST part of Bookies. :D

We reviewed Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  I knew it would be a great discussion.  And afterwards we decided to use our book in the bag money we collected (A library program where ten copies of the same book are checked out at once for groups) and purchase Me Before You so other groups can discuss this one as well.

Next up…  Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.  An older title but I do not believe any of us have read it yet. 

On another completely (COMPLETELY) random note – I bought a Modern Family calendar in January.  I bought is because I LOVE the show and they are so funny… I have been meaning to put the quote each day up here and I forget.  I will put today’s up now – and if you do not get it – you MUST watch the show…. even if you do get it – you must watch the show.  Hilarious :D

Claire:  Nothing from the mini-bar, and no pay-per-view

Manny:  Can we at least -

Claire:  No, you can not send things out for pressing.

Have an AWESOME start to your day :D

What Makes a Good Book – Book Discussion Worthy?


Books.  There are great books out there.  As readers, we are quite familiar with these books.  Perhaps they are beautifully written and each word creates a full picture in your mind of the scene, the scents, the heat (or lack there of) in a room.  They can create great emotions – from joy to pain; laughter to anger.  (Come on, admit it – haven’t you ever thrown a book down on a table or across a room because of the emotion it evoked?  No?  Just me?  Well… this is awkward…. :razz: )

My question I present today is what types of books lead to great book discussions?  Not all great reads make for great discussion.  I know personally from my own book club experiences, some are really hard to group review other than just opening the room up to discussion.  No hot topic questions come to mind… no great emotion.  The book may be perfectly fine, there’s just really not much to say.  :shock:

I love books that stretch us.  That make us think differently.  They cause a difference in opinions within the group – love or hate the protagonist; lets talk about it.  Hot topics of today and/or in the past… lets discuss. 

SO I toss this question out to you.  Many of us are in book clubs or book discussion groups. 

When choosing a book that you think would be great to bring to the group to read, what do you look for within that book? 

Do you look for something in the synopsis that you think will work great for a group discussion, or is that not a part of it? 

When you select a book for a reading discussion have you already read it? 


I am excited to hear what your group does. :)

Bookies Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight


In past years I posted my book club book review along with my book club thoughts in one post.  Starting this year I will be posting my personal review of the book club books and my book clubs thoughts separately.  Click here for my review of Reconstructing Amelia.

This past Tuesday the Bookies Book Club gathered to review our January book, Reconstructing Amelia.  As anticipated, the book made for a wonderful discussion.

Reconstructing Amelia is about a 15-year-old girl who joins a coveted undercover group at her Private School called the Maggie’s.  If you are tapped to be a Maggie, you do not say no.  The book centers around coming of age issues such as; parent/child relationships, trust, friendships, sexuality, fitting in, bullying, social media and oddly… adults in high position roles who act in the most inappropriate ways.  When Amelia dies early on in the book (not a spoiler, this is part of the books synopsis on the back cover), her mother is left to figure out the pieces as to what happened.  Through a series of emails, texts, and Facebook posts, things start to come together to a shocking conclusion.

Reconstructing Amelia is a tangled weave of dishonesty and rabbit trails that cause you to think things one way… only to wonder (even in the end) if it was not something completely different.  This sort of writing can be both exciting and frustrating as our book club discussed. 

What discussion topics can Book Clubs pull from this read?

There is so much that makes for good group discussion here. 

  1. Peer pressure…. how hard is it at 15 to say no?  How important at this age is it to fit in?
  2. Social media… how much worse can social media make it for teens?  Now when friends disagree it can be posted for everyone’s eyes. 
  3. In a world where we know everyone’s business… how much is too much?  Where do we as parents draw the line when it comes to internet, social media, texting, emails, dating….
  4. Bullying is such a  huge topic right now.  How can we protect our children – especially when they are at the age where they do not necessarily come to us with problems.
  5. Single parenting is common.  How does a single parent juggle maintaining a job, a home, the bills, and relationships with their children?
  6. What about these clubs in schools like college?  The ones that include hazing.  Is it a right of passage?  Is there reason for concern?
  7. How important is it to keep communication with your teen child?  Do you have a limit to what you want to know?  If you do not, do you give off the impression that you do?



Top left: As the center pic sign says, Amelia’s favorite food was Hibachi and that was what I tried my hand at. It was good – lots of seasoned chicken and fresh vegies as well as home-made hibachi sauce.
Center row: left is a spinach bacon salad and far right is an assortment of wines that we called Maggie hazing potions… you must drink!
Bottom: center is a pea and cheese salad and far right in a New York Cheese cake as the book is set in New York.


The Bookies had a vibrant discussion over these topics, occasionally even talking over one another.  Many of us had stories of our own kids being bullied.  Social media is another fire conversation.  For a group of women who grew up for the most part without Facebook and cell phones and instant pictures; we are concerned as to the “where does it go from here.”  So little is considered taboo now, what does the next generation have going on?

Reconstructing Amelia scored well with the Bookies overall.  On a scale of 1 -5 (5 the best), Amelia landed at a solid 4 rating out of the 17 of us who rated the book.  Over all the bookies found the book to be hard to put down, it kept you guessing as to what actually happened all the way to the end. 

Book clubs looking for a fairly quick read (the pages of texting and Facebook posts make for some quick chapters) with great discussion topics are encouraged to choose this book.  Reconstructing Amelia will leave you with some questions, and either intentional by the author or not, most of the Bookies were not bothered by this unknowing. 

Book Club People – How Do You Choose Your Books?


Recently I was reading an awesome post of Elizabeth’s at Silvers Reviews and she was talking about book club books.  She was saying that her book club puts book choices for a year in to a bowl and each month they draw out of the bowl and choose their next read.  She said this kept people from becoming hurt if their book was not chosen as everyone has a title in the bowl.

For us (The Bookies!)  We have had a tried and true system that I really enjoy since we began in 2001. We encourage each person to bring a book suggestions with them to the group.  When it is time to pick we go around and everyone who brought a suggestion gets a chance to give a little description of the book.  We ask that it follows this criteria:

  1. It should be a newer release (unless it is classic month) as there are 18 of us and we have to find copies

  2. It can be paperback or hard cover as long as it is under $15

  3. If you can share where to find it and at what cost that is a plus (such as “the library has 4 copies in book and also an audio version” or “Target currently has this one for $8.99 and there are about 12 copies available.”


When the nominees are in we go around the room and we each have two votes.  The two votes stems back to when we were a very small group and we didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings; the two vote thing sticks to this day. :)

The book with the most votes is what we read for the next month.  In the event of a tie, the decision goes to the Queen (oh and that is another post entirely….hee hee)

I like our system as we are not eliminating the possibility of choosing a book that just came out or to our attention.


If you are in a book club or reading group, how do you choose what you will be reading?  It seems like every one I talk to has a different way of doing it and I am fascinated by all the ideas out there. 

Please share here how your book club picks its books :D

Morning Meanderings…. The Bookies Christmas


Good morning! This post was supposed to go up yesterday morning but I over slept, missed my morning work out and by the time I prepped the pictures it was time for me to get read for work.

Ahhhh… the best laid plans…

Tuesday was our Annual Christmas party for the Bookies.  Along with our review of The Christmas Grandma Ran Away From Home by Nancy Warren, we had a fun home made gift exchange.

Review first…. “meh”.  I will not be doing a full review here as I did not read it.  We accidentally chose a book that was an e read only and when I heard it was only 45 pages I thought I would read it a few days before our meeting… and then…. life happened, busy with other things and I did not get it done.  Shortest book in Bookies 12 year history and I do not finish.  :shock:  For those that did read it they said it had many holes and felt unfinished.  It wasn’t a bad read, just not great although those with busy loves like me were grateful that it was such a  quick book.

The gift exchange was a lot of fun.  We have always done a gift exchange but this year we added the twist of it having to be homemade.  Insert *gulp* here.  While not a crafty person really, I did come through in a inch with the Christmas bulbs filled with snowflakes from the Same Sweet Girls book and my first attempt at homemade caramels which came out AWESOME!  :D

Below you will see what everyone wound up with:


The pic of me is me wearing my gift (SCORE!)  It is a nice thick knitted head band that covers my head and ears – great for outdoors.  LOVE IT!!!!

IN fact… I love it so much…. I wore it to work on Wednesday:


Giants In The Earth by Ole Edvart Rolvaag (a Bookies Review and Oh you will love this!)


In the later 1800′s, Norwegian settlers took to the Great Plains to find for themselves a better life.  Dreams of great farm lands and prosper propelled them forward and Per Hansa, was not an exception.

Per Hansa, his wife, Beret, and their two sons head out into the wide open space hoping to catch up with the group they had started out with and begin to build their dreams.  While Per Hansa almost vibrates with his desire for something to call his own, Beret keeps quiet to her dreams of staying where they were with, with family and friends and all she ever knew of as home.

When they do meet up with the others and stake their land the whole family experiences first hand what it is like to start with nothing.  A house built out of sod, and their cow living under this same sod roof.  The planting of food to eat and to sell and the hope and prayer each season that the crops will prosper and drought, weather or plagues do not take what they have put blood, sweat and tears into.

The land is hard and the life style to match but Per Hansa thrives in the environment of working from before sun up to after sun down.  As other settlers pass through and the native Americans come calling, Per Hansa comes across many situations he was not prepared for…. yet onward he goes, trusting in God and the land.

We read Giants In The Land for our classic read.  Around page 11 I thought I was in trouble… when our author started explaining the sound of the grass I thought “oh oh…. I have over 500 pages of this?”  Yet I settled into the book to get through it, and found that I was enjoying it in no time.

Per Hansa is a go getter.  At times to the point of ripping your hair out, but it seems like everything he tries and touches turns out for the better.  Beret, is another character all together.  Left mainly to tend to the house and the children, the time alone only wears on her.  Although their are other women near by, Beret is far too sheltered within herself to go out and make the relationships she needs to keep her going. 

The real beauty in Giants In The Earth is that the land and the weather is just as much a character as Per Hansa, Beret and the other settlers.  The land and weathers role is a bit one.  It can give, and it can just as quickly take away.  Everything in this environment depends on both.

I flew through this read.  It was so far different from anything I had read and I could imagine what the times had to feel like, make it or break it, you had to keep moving forward day after day.  It is a book that will remain on my shelf to be referred to again.

Bookies thoughts and fun:

We had a blast being able to have our review in an 1851 cabin that is on the property of one of our book club gals.  (Thanks Brenda!).  We dressed the time period and ate the food that they ate:  lefsa, potatoes, cider, stew, goat cheese…  It was a great time.


6 of us dressed up for the occasion. I am the 4th one in from the left. While we tried to remain straight faced, I kept smiling. The more I tried not to smile… the more I smiled.



The cabin. The base is original. Roof and upper floor have been added on.




What a great time!  The Bookies over all rated it a high 3 (almost 4!) out of 5.  Most of us enjoyed the time period and the idea of the early settlers.  A few of us struggled getting into the book and found it too dry.


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