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Writing Bliss

"If they do not write the kind of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves." -C.S. Lewis

Month

September 2016

Themed Book Club: September Blue Books

book-club

The College, Career, and Coffee Book Club is a monthly book club that meets at the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville, North Carolina. I’ve talked about the concept of a themed book club here, and it was very well received. If you are local to the Statesville area, STOP BY! Or join the discussion here on my blog. Happy reading!

The birthstone for September is sapphire, and because blue is a gorgeous color, the College, Career, and Coffee  Book Club decided to read books with blue covers.

Natalie’s book was Keeper of the Stars by Robin Lee Hatcher about a girl who loses her brother in a tragic car accident and is forced to come to reconcile with a member of her brother’s band in order to move on from the tragedy. Natalie appreciated the writing style of the author and enjoyed that the chapters were from different perspectives, including the dead brother as he’s growing up. She admitted this was not the type of book she would normally pick up, but the cover was blue and the plot sounded intriguing. Overall, she found the read very emotional and found the conflict between love and family very engaging.

Sam was unable to make our meeting this month, but she read one of the books that Becca read which was The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. Becca truly enjoyed reading this book and she went with Sam to see a special screening of the upcoming movie in Charlotte this past week. The book is about a couple who lives alone in a lighthouse on an island. They have been trying to have a baby but the woman continues to miscarry. When a dead man and an infant wash up on shore in a small boat, the woman sees this as her chance to finally be a mother. They take the child in and raise her for several years before they get caught. This is a heart wrenching tale about family and doing the right thing. Becca enjoyed this read and said the movie was very true to the book. There were several plot twists throughout the book, and just when you thought you knew how it was going to end, something would happen to prove you wrong. It was a page-turner, for sure, and Becca rated it four stars on Goodreads!

Becca’s second book was The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty by Amanda Filipacchi which, for a lack of all other descriptions, she referred to as “weird”. The idea behind this book was to focus on beauty and man’s idea of beauty and how it can be detrimental. This book was about a girl who was beautiful and her best friend fell in love with her. When she did not reciprocate, he killed himself and from that day on, the girl saw her beauty as a weapon and strived to make herself undesirable by wearing a fat suit and in various ways making herself unattractive. Becca liked this concept and was looking forward to a good book. Things started getting weird about halfway through the book and despite its promising beginning, ended up with a two star rating on Goodreads from Becca and a highly DO NOT recommend status.

Becca’s third book was Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover. Although not Becca’s normal preferred genre, she said this one was decent and the writing was good. It got a little “50 Shades-esque” at some points, but the story was not bad. The cover was definitely a pretty blue so it qualified, and in good sport fashion, she finished the read and gave it three stars.

Lisa read two books. She started us off with her favorite book of all time, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This is her favorite book because she identifies with the author. This book is about an independent woman in the 1950s who defies tradition and does not want to be married. Lisa loves the author’s descriptions. Sylvia Plath was actually a poet and her ability to describe transferred into her prose. Lisa read a few passages for us so we could understand and appreciate the intimacy of the novels words. Becca took Lisa’s recommendation and picked up this book as well. Lisa also read Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood, which, like Natalie and Becca’s books, is not something Lisa would normally read. It is a mystery that takes place in the 1920s and the lead character is a woman who goes undercover as a flapper. This character is also independent and sassy which is why Lisa really enjoys this series.

Shellie, like Becca, decided to try and be an overachiever by reading three and a half books. First, she read A Dog’s Purpose by Bruce Cameron, which was “AMAZING” according to her. This was a must-read for dog lovers. This story is about a dog who lives multiple lives, coming back as a puppy after each life. Each life teaches the dog new lessons that he carries with him into his next life. This book made Shellie cry constantly (in the best possible way), and she is greatly looking forward to the movie release in January. Her second book was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne about a young boy whose father is the SS Commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Told from the perspective of a nine-year old, this book holds all the innocence of what a boy that age would see but not understand, which makes this book even more powerful to adult readers. Shellie loved this book and the movie, even though the subject matter is something that is very difficult to read sometimes. She said what struck her the most was the fact that we all begin life so innocently. It is the world that provides us with the opportunity to hate. Bruno made friends with a Jewish boy on the other side of the fence and had no idea what the consequences of such a friendship could be.

Her third book was Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes, which is the first of a new series that is a new take on the legend of Peter Pan. For anyone who watched the ABC show Once Upon A Time, the idea of an evil Peter Pan is not new. In fact, even for those who haven’t watched the show, it is not a stretch to turn a character who represents rebellion, eternal youth, and a life without responsibility into a bad guy. But in this book, Pan is really bad and Wendy must break the enchantment of Neverland, regain her memory of her previous London life, and rescue her brothers to take them back home. There was some teen angst in this book (which is to be expected in a YA book), but interestingly, the angst served its purpose well. In a perfect example of how this book club is supposed to function, Lisa took the book off Shellie so she could read it next!

Our newest member Laurene came to her first meeting and told us about her book The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson. A mystery writer, Davidson writes about a caterer who stumbles upon murders and subsequently solves them. Laurene said it was a nice easy read, similar to last month’s beach reads theme, but she enjoys the twists and turns of a classic whodunit. There are also delicious recipes in the back of the book and Laurene brought homemade goodies to share with us! Laurene, you are welcome back any time.

Join us next month for a new theme. October is National Reading Group month so we thought it would be fun to read books that have been read and discussed within other book clubs. You can find online books clubs, Oprah’s book club list, or find a book from the Iredell County Public Library book club section in the Statesville library. Join us for books, discussion, snacks, and COFFEE Thursday, October 6th at 7:00pm.

Don’t live locally and want to participate in the discussion? Comment below and join the fun of our monthly themed book club! What have you read this month with a blue cover??

Book Review: Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

necessary-lies

This was a wonderful book that covers the very controversial topic of the North Carolina Eugenics Program which lasted until the 1970s; longer than any other state in the nation.  I had mixed emotions throughout this entire book. On the one hand, I was not opposed to the option of sterilization, especially for those women who wanted it, could not care for the children they already had, or had limited capacity to care for children. On the other hand, a government sponsored sterilization program should not be abused and in the case of the Hart sisters, it most definitely was. I highly recommend this book and I understand why so many book clubs have picked this up.

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I have five required criteria in order to earn the coveted 5-star review on Goodreads. This book definitely has all five.

  1. Characters- I have to be attached to the characters. From the very beginning I loved these characters; Jane with her naive expectations of life and the world, Ivy with her independent yet care-giving spirit, Mary Ella with her simple-mindedness and innocence. I instantly wanted good things to happen to these characters, and was sad when I immediately saw that it was not a guarantee, or even a likelihood.
  2. Research- Diane Chamberlain definitely did her research when writing this book. The Eugenics Program in North Carolina was a devastating time for families, and many were unaware that they were even affected by it. A story like this can only be told with accuracy. Blending history with just the right amount of fiction went a long way in making the story believable and the characters realistic.
  3. Story- Anything that can make you cry, scream, curse, and laugh all at the same time is worthy to be considered a good story. This book was a page turner from the very beginning and I could not put it down. When I stay up until 1am just to finish, you’ve certainly earned a seat at the table of “good stories.”
  4. Writing- Chamberlain is a great writer. The story opens with an interesting present-day character, Brenna, and closes with her story while in between reverting back and forth between Jane’s and Ivy’s perspectives. There were not too many characters to keep track of, I always knew where I was in the story and never felt confused, and more importantly, the story flowed together in a way that felt superbly natural.
  5. Relevance- I usually don’t put any of these criteria in any particular order, but for this book, I’d say relevance is the most important criteria that it meets. This story is extremely relevant today because these problems have not gone away. Sure the Eugenics Board no longer exists, and the victims of the program have been since compensated by the North Carolina government, but that does not mean the problems of this story have been solved. Far from it! We still have a welfare program which is both abused by many families across the country, and not available to others who need it. There is a huge divide between classes, and the middle-class is getting poorer, tightening the gap between it and the poor while the upper class continues to grow exponentially. There are still hundreds of social workers who use the system as a crutch to get out of helping the truly needy, and not enough Janes who care “too much” and actually attempt to make a difference. This story carries a message; that one person can make a difference, and it does not matter who you care about, but care. And care enough to make that difference.

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