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

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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:

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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

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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. 

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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.

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The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

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14-year-old Lily Owens has little memories of her mother.  The one memory she does carry, is that she is responsible for her mom’s death.  Her father, T. Ray, is distant and both physically and verbally abusive.  When Lily finds a town written on the back of an image of a black Madonna that belonged to her mother, Lily and her friend Rosaleen decide to leave on a search for clues to who Lily’s mom was.

When Lily finds a product in a store called Black Madonna honey, the same black Madonna that is in the picture that was her mother’s, she is directed to the home of the creator of this honey.  Lily meets the three Boatwright sisters, April, May, and June, three black women who harvest honey.  Lily feels strongly there is a connection between these women and her mother, and plans to stay until she can find out, knowing that back home her father is just learning that she is gone and his anger for her betrayal will fuel him forward to find her.

 

 

The Secret Life Of Bees is a warm southern read which if it carried a scent I believe it would smell like bread right out of the oven with fresh honey dripping down thick slices with a background aroma of lilac and clover.  This book gives me flashes of that warm feeling I had when I read Beth Hoffman’s Cee-Cee Honeycutt.

I was actually a little surprised how much I enjoyed this book/audio.  I do not know what held me back from it all of these years as I clearly know now that I was missing out.  Lily is a delightful protagonist.  She has been forced to grow up quickly in a world without her mom and a dad who has no idea to be anything but angry. 

I can’t think of anything I’d rather have more than somebody lovin’ me.”
Lily Owens, The Secret Life of Bees

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Narrated by Jenna Lamia, who also narrates in The Help, and both of Beth Hoffman’s books as well, the audio flows smoothly as Jenna has no trouble taking on the young voices of Lily and Rosaleen, as well as switching it up to the older Boatwright sisters. 

If you have not yet treated yourself to The Secret Life Of Bees I encourage you to do so.  You are in for a sweet experience.

Now…. I get to watch the movie! 

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The Secret Life Of Bees filled South Carolina for this challenge

 

 

Morning Meanderings… Book Club and Office Shenanigans

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Good morning happy Tuesday and all that it will bring!  Tonight is Bookies book club so I am *SUPER* excited about that!  We are reviewing The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.  Yes, surprisingly most of us had never read it, including myself.  I listened to it on audio and am excited to report that it was a wonderful narration!  My review of the book will go up later today and tomorrow I will share the Bookies thoughts and the book club goodies we added to the review. :D

That takes me to my office….

When I went into the office on Monday this was by one of my co-workers desks:

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We are in a building where there are many businesses.  This actually belongs to the yarn lady downstairs from us.  I am guessing that maybe she left her items in the hallway over the weekend and someone picked them up and brought them up to us so no one stole them or knocked them over.  When I sent this picture to my co-worker (who does not work until Wednesday) with a “?” he responded that he left a ransom note for the yarn lady to come and get them. 

Well….

by Tuesday this is what happened:

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“Miss Mabel” as I have come to call the mannequin bust, has been moved onto the said co workers chair now and has taken over his desk.  Surprisingly… I had nothing to do with this one, although I am a little annoyed that I did not think of it (stupid head cold!).

Final thoughts this morning, well… err…. I mean for this post.  Hopefully not final thoughts for the morning as I am on my way into work and that would leave me much like Miss Mabel… just sitting there….  ;)  Anyhoo…. final POST thoughts, we had a 53 degree day yesterday here in Minnesota.  Seriously – a heat wave.  Doors and windows were open and spirits lifted.  It is supposed to remain in the 30′s all week.

Hazah!

 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – Bookies Review

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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 :)

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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

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Picture this. 

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

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

Always.

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. 

AND THAT…

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

Bookies Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

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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?

 

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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. 

Morning Meanderings…. The Bookies Christmas

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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:

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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:

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Ladies Night by Mary Kay Andrews

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Grace Stanton is living the life.  With her life style blog bringing in thousands of views a day and advertisers lining up to be a part of it, as well as a super hot husband… well, what more could she want?

Then one evening she catches that sweet husband with her so-called trusted assistant and the next thing you know Grace has driven his sports car into the pool.  Seeking sanctuary at her mother’s house while she clears her head, Grace learns that hell hath no fury does not only apply to women….

Suddenly Grace finds her bank accounts closed, and her blog passwords changed.  As Grace’s husbands name is on everything, he is shutting her life down one gold card at a time and now Grace is left with the clothes on her back and the change in her pocket.

Forced by the divorce judge to attend mandatory “divorce recovery” sessions weekly, Grace finds herself among a group of disgruntled women… surprisingly all sent to this same quirky divorce recovery by the same judge… something does not seem to be on the up and up. As the women in this group start to bond they find they have a lot in common and “Ladies Night” comes out of the ashes of their messy messed up lives and something new begins to grow…

is it hope?

 

 

 I so enjoyed this read!  Light and funny, Grace is a woman who has been wronged.  As a blogger myself… I can only imagine what it would be like to lose my rights to my own site…. grrrr :razz: 

Mary Kay Andrews writes Grace as a strong female character who gets knocked down, but finds her way back up.  In a fun fast paced read that will have you laughing and cheering, Ladies Night is Women’s Chick Lit at its finest.  Grab a glass of wine and pull up a chair!

Bookies Thoughts:

The Bookies reviewed this book for our November read.  We had a lot of fun setting up our food and drinks as the “Sandbox”, the name of Grace’s moms bar.  For the most part, the girls really enjoyed the book giving it an above average score overall. 

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I made the corn crab chowder they described in the book

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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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