Monday, December 4, 2017

Holiday Inn


Holiday Inn  (1942 DVD)  With Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire  - To be seen and discussed on            Wed. Dec. 6, 2017 at Geneseo Public Library







In this Irving Berlin musical, Jim (Bing Crosby) and Lila are members of a performing trio who plan to quit and run a country hotel. When Lila says she has fallen in love with the dancer in the act, Ted (Fred Astaire), Jim leaves town with a broken heart. After turning the inn into a holidays-only live entertainment venue, Jim winds up booking -- and falling for -- Linda (Marjorie Reynolds). But when Ted shows up at the place after being dumped by Lila, he too sets his sights on beautiful Linda.




Notes from Nov 2017 group


THE GINGERBREAD COOKIES MURDER by Joanne Fluke – Discussed Wed Nov. 1, 2017, at Geneseo Public Library







When Hannah Swensen finds her neighbor Ernie Kusak with his head bashed in and sprawled on the floor of his condo next to an upended box of Hannah’s Gingerbread Cookies, she discovers a flurry of murder suspects that’s as long as her holiday shopping list. “The Dangers Of Gingerbread Cookies” is written by Laura Levine. Jaine Austen has been enlisted to help with her parents’ retirement community’s play The Gingerbread Cookie That Saved Christmas. Playboy Dr. Preston McCay is playing the role of the gingerbread cookie when he ‘accidentally’ falls to his death during the final act. Now Jaine must figure out if one of the doctor’s jealous lovers was capable of murder. “Gingerbread Cookies And Gunshots” is written by Leslie Meier. When Lucy Stone discovers the body of Rick Juergens, whose five-year-old son Nemo disappeared, she senses foul play. Crumbs from a gingerbread cookie Lucy gave to Nemo are found in the back seat of Rick’s car. With the hours quickly ticking till Christmas, Lucy races against the clock to find a killer before he strikes again.

We tried something different this month.  This book included three murder short stories by three authors.  Here are our comments:   First was by Joanne Fluke.  Our group found the recipes listed in the middle of the story distracting. Otherwise the story was ok.

Second story was by Laura Levine -   This story was laugh out loud funny despite being a murder mystery.  The characters were very interesting.  It was a murder during a Christmas program at a senior living facility in Florida.

The third story was by Leslie Meier.  This one felt like a Hallmark movie.  It was the most realistic of the three – there was a kidnapping then murder.   In all we voted that all stories were  easy to read, but the Laura Levine story was the best one and most enjoyable.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Gingerbread Cookies Murder


THE GINGERBREAD COOKIES MURDER by Joanne Fluke – To be Discussed Wed Nov. 1, 2017, at Geneseo Public Library


When Hannah Swensen finds her neighbor Ernie Kusak with his head bashed in and sprawled on the floor of his condo next to an upended box of Hannah’s Gingerbread Cookies, she discovers a flurry of murder suspects that’s as long as her holiday shopping list. “The Dangers Of Gingerbread Cookies” is written by Laura Levine. Jaine Austen has been enlisted to help with her parents’ retirement community’s play The Gingerbread Cookie That Saved Christmas. Playboy Dr. Preston McCay is playing the role of the gingerbread cookie when he ‘accidentally’ falls to his death during the final act. Now Jaine must figure out if one of the doctor’s jealous lovers was capable of murder. “Gingerbread Cookies And Gunshots” is written by Leslie Meier. When Lucy Stone discovers the body of Rick Juergens, whose five-year-old son Nemo disappeared, she senses foul play. Crumbs from a gingerbread cookie Lucy gave to Nemo are found in the back seat of Rick’s car. With the hours quickly ticking till Christmas, Lucy races against the clock to find a killer before he strikes again.

Discussion Questions:

1.    Did you like /dislike this book?  Why?



2.    Which character did you like the most and why?  The least and why?





3.     Are there any situations you can identify with?  Which one? 


4.    Did you learn something you did not know before?





5.    Did this story evoke emotions for you?



6.    Name your favorite thing about this book?



7.    What you would change in this story?

8.    Did you like the writer’s style?

Notes from Oct 2017 group


At The Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier – Discussed on Wed Oct. 4, 2017 at Geneseo Public Library



1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.
 
1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last. 

We enjoyed the history and traveling of this story.  There were several fictional characters that were based on real life people, and they were interesting. The readers learned information about growing apples and the trees in California.  However the plot was about a very disfunctional farming family.  Our group had mixed feelings about this dark novel, but it generated good discussion.





Wednesday, September 13, 2017

At the Edge of the Orchard


At The Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier – To be Discussed on Wed Oct. 4, 2017 at Geneseo Public Library


1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.
 
1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last. 

Discussion Questions:
. 1.For James, apples are an obsession, a reminder of his family’s home in Connecticut, and for Sadie, they’re both a source of jealousy and of respite from the brutalities of pioneer living. How does that conflict with today, when apples are a homey symbol of America, with “heirloom” varieties nodding to a nostalgia for an earlier time? Discuss James and Sadie’s love for apples as escape, as pleasure, as sweetness—but not really as sustenance—and the ways they tied the Goodenoughs to the land
.
2. Sadie’s mistakes and aggressions are the ones that propel the plot in the first half of the book. What did you think about her character?  Discuss the ways the author makes Sadie’s behavior more understandable or sympathetic. In what ways is James responsible for the family’s strife? What would this novel be like without Sadie?

3. Imagine burying five children, and spending nine years in constant war with your environment just to keep yourself and your family alive, while being mostly isolated from family and from neighbors. How would you hold up under these circumstances? How would your family have dealt with this life? What would your children do? What would your marriage be like?

4. The Goodenoughs end up in Ohio because they get stuck there and their wagon can go no further. There they face malaria, mud, starvation, bitter familial fighting—this could be seen as a darker Little House on the Prairie (or perhaps simply more realistic—Laura Ingalls Wilder’s diaries were far more gritty than the life her novels portrayed). How do you think these realities shaped our history? How does it differ from our typical narrative of life on the early American frontier?

5. Robert’s and Martha’s letters serve as pivot points for the book. Why do you think the author chose to tell big portions of the story in this way? What effect does it have on the emotional impact of Robert’s decision to leave his family? Of Martha’s life after he does?

6. After Robert does not hear from his family for 17 years, he finally gives up trying to communicate with them. Everything about this communication is foreign to us in an age where technology minimizes great distances. Discuss the real costs of leaving your family in the era this book is set. Would you be able to make this kind of choice?

7. Did Robert make the right choice in leaving the family? What might have become of the Goodenoughs if he had not left? How might Martha’s life be different? What do you think would have happened to him?

8. Our mythology of the American west involves expansion to wide open landscapes on the backs of people—usually young men—seeking riches or adventure. But Robert’s story is about running from something. What other things might people have been running from by moving westward? How has it shaped our national character?


9. Think about all the different migrations in this book: settlers moving west, stopping somewhere to make a home or continuing on to the coast; Johnny Appleseed and William Lobb’s travels; all the different paths taken by the various members of the Goodenough family. We don’t think of trees being as mobile as people, but Johnny Appleseed points out to Sadie at one point how much trees migrate from place to place as well, frequently moved by people. How much of the landscape of where you are now is a product of these types of migrations—of humans, animals, or plants?

10. Discuss the transformation of Robert & Molly’s relationship. At what point does it deepen? Would you have gambled on Robert as Molly does?

11. Robert is shocked at Martha’s strength and capability to travel by herself all the way from Ohio to California. Discuss what you would have done in her situation
.
12. Discuss the ending of the novel. Robert’s childhood was clearly traumatic, and his experience of family for most of his life has been full of strife. What does that mean for his new family going forward? What does it mean that he decides to go back to the old world, where his family came from before they set out for the frontier?


Notes from Sept 2017 group


The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg – Discussed on Wed Sept. 6, 2017 at Geneseo Library




As onetime classmates meet up over the course of a weekend for their fortieth high school reunion, they discover things that will irrevocably affect the rest of their lives. For newly divorced Dorothy, the reunion brings with it the possibility of finally attracting the attention of the class heartthrob. For the ever self-reliant, ever left-out Mary Alice, it’s a chance to reexamine a painful past. For Lester, a veterinarian and widower, it is the hope of talking shop with a fellow vet—or at least that’s what he tells himself. For Candy, the class beauty, it’s the hope of finding friendship before it’s too late. As these and other classmates converge for the reunion dinner, four decades melt away: desires and personalities from their youth reemerge, and new discoveries are made. For so much has happened to them all.

This was an easy to read, light book.  We all could relate to the class reunion topic and the cast of characters. Teen years are an emotional time.  We had good discussion on our high school years – what was important and why.  Everyone shared reunion stories.  Our group had mixed opinions on this book.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

At the Edge of the Orchard


The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg – To be Discussed on Wed Sept. 6, 2017 at Geneseo Public Library

As onetime classmates meet up over the course of a weekend for their fortieth high school reunion, they discover things that will irrevocably affect the rest of their lives. For newly divorced Dorothy, the reunion brings with it the possibility of finally attracting the attention of the class heartthrob. For the ever self-reliant, ever left-out Mary Alice, it’s a chance to reexamine a painful past. For Lester, a veterinarian and widower, it is the hope of talking shop with a fellow vet—or at least that’s what he tells himself. For Candy, the class beauty, it’s the hope of finding friendship before it’s too late. As these and other classmates converge for the reunion dinner, four decades melt away: desires and personalities from their youth reemerge, and new discoveries are made. For so much has happened to them all. And so much can still happen.

Discussion Questions:

1. Berg offers portraits of high school "types"—the jock, the cheerleader, the popular kids, the nerds and outsiders. Are her depictions accurate?

2. Which character do you most identify with? Which ones do you find most sympathetic? Which least sympathetic?

3. What do the individual characters want—or hope to achieve —from the reunion? Why are some hesitant to attend?

4. In what ways have the various characters changed over the past 40 years—especially Lester and Mary Alice? Have any other characters truly changed? What have they learned? How have expectations been dashed...or met?

5. One character observes: "Here they are, these people, all these years later just...what? Trying.... Just trying." What does he mean..."just trying" to do what?

6. High school comprises a very short time of our lives; in retrospect, most of us recognize how shallow, cruel, even meaningless, the social heirarchy was. Nonetheless, the memories—the hurts and triumphs—resonate even after 40 years. Why is that? Why are those few short years so potent for so many?

7. If you're "of an age"... or have graduated even just 10 years ago...does Berg's novel ring true to you? Have you attended any of your high school reunions?

8. Does the ending of Berg's novel satisfy you? Are you pleased with how it all turned out?

9.  Would you recommend this book to others?