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Book Club

Winter Reading List

Book ClubKat RainwaterComment
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I love reading no matter what season it is. Hot outside? Lay out by the pool with a good book. Cold outside? Curl up by the fire with a page-turner. But if I'm being completely honest with myself as much as I love a good beach read, I think winter is my favorite season of reading. There's something magical about a blanket, cup of hot cocoa, the fire going, and a book in hand. What more could a girl want? 

It's been pretty cold in Atlanta so it should come as no surprise that I went on a total Amazon bender last week and ordered all the books I've been coveting lately. I haven't read any of these and the genres are all over the place BUT this is my current nightstand stack for the winter months. I've had a couple of these on my reading list for a while now and I'm looking forward to finally seeing what they're all about. I recommend having a low-key weekend and diving into one of these good reads!

WINTER READING LIST:

What books are you reading right now? See anything that interests you or want to recommend another book? Let's discuss!

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Bupper: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Book ClubKat RainwaterComment

This past Monday was Bupper Club and it was probably one of my most favorite books to discuss yet! It was my turn to host and I decided on The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Needless to say, it was the most perfect fall book. The story is based around a circus and the characters are constantly dining on caramel apples and apple cider, with Halloween next week, and a chill in the air, I couldn’t have planned it better if I tried! I love to run with a good theme and it was fun to try to “recreate” touches of the circus within our living room.

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.” The story follows two illusionists that are bound together in a contest that will span their lives or until someone wins. Marco and Celia have no idea how one wins or what they have to do to win and despite themselves they fall in love. The novel is constantly changing perspective and you begin to learn the ins and outs of all of the different characters within the circus, which only makes you more fascinated by it. Mogenstern is so descriptive that there are moments in the book where you feel like you’re truly at the circus and can even smell the caramel in the air. Simply put – the book is magical. You become so wrapped up in this world that it’s hard to put down and you’re a little sad when it’s over.

You could only be in the group photo if you dressed like a reveur!

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[ the MEAL ]

This book made the meal quite easy. The author described so many treats that I had to pick and choose which ones to make or we all would’ve passed out of a sugar coma. I served spinach and artichoke dip, beer queso, boiled peanuts, and bacon bourbon popcorn as my “salty” foods. The book didn’t discuss many salty foods so I just chose things that went well with my circus theme. For dessert I made caramel apples, chocolate mice, and apple cider.  I’ll be sharing recipes in foodie posts coming up!

[ discussion QUESTIONS for The Night Circus ]

The book had lots of discussion questions at the end and I selected a few favorites to talk about.

1. The novel frequently changes narrative perspective. How does this transition shape your reading of the novel and your connection to the characters and the circus?

2. Chandresh is portrayed as a brilliant and creative perfectionist at the beginning of the novel, yet he slowly unravels as the competition matures. Is Chandresh merely a puppet of the competition- solely used for his ability to provide a venue for the competition- or do his contributions run deeper?

3. Marco asserts that Alexander is a father figure to him (though his paternal instincts aren’t readily noticeable). In what ways does Alexander provide for Marco and in what ways has he failed him?

4. From the outside, the circus is full of enchantments and delights, but behind the scenes, the delicate push and pull of the competition results in some sinister events. How much is the competition at fault for these losses and how much is it the individual’s doing?

5. How do you view the morality of the circus in regards to the performers and developers being unknowing pawns in Celia and Marco’s competition? Do Celia and Marco owe an explanation to their peers about their unwitting involvement?

6. What role do the reveurs play in keeping the spirit of the circus alive outside the confines of the circus tents?

7. Poppet and Widget are especially affected by the lighting of the bonfire. How crucial are their “specialties” to the ongoing success of the circus?

8. Isobel is a silent, yet integral, partner in both the circus and the competition. She has an ally in Tsukiko, but seemingly no one else, especially not Marco. How much does Marco’s underestimation of Isobel affect the outcome of the competition?

9. At the closing of the novel, we are left to believe that the circus is still traveling- Bailey’s business card provides an e-mail address as his contact information. How do you think the circus would fare over time? Would the circus need to evolve to suit each generation or is it distinctive enough to transcend time?

Bupper: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Book ClubCason RainwaterComment

We had another Bupper Club success this past Monday! It was my turn to host and this book did not disappoint. I chose The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins for two reasons. 1. I wanted to mix things up a little bit. We hadn’t read a thriller in several months so I thought this one might keep everyone on their toes. 2. To this day, Gone Girl has been one of our favorite Bupper reads and there was some serious hype about the comparisons between the two. I hope you read along with us because this one was GOOD.

The story follows Rachel who takes the same commuter train every single day. To say her life is a hot mess would be an understatement. Her husband left her, she’s an alcoholic, and things are only going downhill for her. Her commuter train stops every day at the same place where she is able to watch what she believes to be the perfect couple with the perfect life. Then one day, she witnesses something shocking while observing them. She takes this information to the police and let’s just say…things get interesting from there!

[ the MEAL ]

If you read along with us you know that there was absolutely ZERO food in the entire book. The most prominent thing consumed was alcohol. Rachel was basically a closet alcoholic and indulged in everything from gin and tonics to wine. My spin was to create all dishes that had been infused or cooked with alcohol. (I didn’t hear any complaints so I don’t think this was a problem!)

My main dish was Italian so I threw together an antipasto platter to snack on as everyone arrived. This was my first attempt at something like this and it might be my new favorite spread for hosting guests. It’s so easy! Throw together any combination of cheese, olives, fruit, nuts, bread, and olive oil for a no brainer crowd pleaser.

For the main course, I made penne alla vodka with sausage. I used an Ina Garten recipe as the base and put my own spin on it with a couple of extras. If you know anything about the famous Barefoot Contessa, you know everything was from scratch and there were no shortcuts. This was definitely a labor of love – but totally worth it!

I got the idea for dessert from my aunt who fixed these at Christmas this past year. It’s basically a mix of vanilla ice cream, brandy, triple sec, and chocolate liquor. Aka: The Velvet Hammer. SO GOOD. I garnished with a black and white cookie. I’ll be sharing recipes for all of the above in future foodie posts!

[ discussion QUESTIONS for The Girl on the Train ]

1. Were the characters relatable at all? Do you feel sorry for Rachel?

2. How did everyone feel about the male characters presented in the book?

3. Did you know who the killer was before it was revealed? Who did you suspect it was leading up to the end?

4. Were you satisfied with the ending?

5. What are the comparisons you found between this book and Gone Girl?

6. The pile of clothes described on page one, and reiterated again later—what was the significance of it? Was it just to highlight Rachel’s ability to tell a story, or did we miss a clue?

7. On the topic of motherhood – it defined the success or failure of the women in the book. What do you think the author was trying to say? How do you feel about the fact that the women were unemployed and relying on their husbands for income?

8. On the topic of lies, we all lie to ourselves a little bit. Do you think deep-down the women in the novel knew the lies they were telling themselves?

9. Between Rachel, Megan, and Anna, who are you the most sympathetic towards?

10. Who do you think should be cast as Rachel, Megan, Scott, Tom, and Anna in the upcoming film adaptation?

Happy Thursday and happy reading. Until next time…

Bupper: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Book ClubCason RainwaterComment

This past Monday we had another round of Bupper Club magic! (Honestly, magic is an understatement.) Our good friend Kaki was this month’s host and she really outdid herself. I always look forward to seeing how everyone interpreted our latest read and anticipating the meal our host will prepare to go along with it. I have read books that I would have NEVER chosen to read and absolutely loved them.

To catch you up, we’ve been reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr for the past 6 weeks. The historical fiction novel takes place during World War II and follows the lives of a blind French girl and a young German boy whose paths eventually cross. I can’t even begin to express the imagery painted by the author. I think for the first time, maybe ever, I wanted to keep reading a book not only for the storyline, but for the beautiful style of writing as well. I’m not a huge history buff so I admittedly don’t know too many details about World War II other than the obvious. Hitler, the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Hiroshima – that’s what I could tell you. It was both overwhelmingly sad and incredibly fascinating to read about what growing up in that world may have been like.  I won’t go into too much detail for those of you who have not read it, but I would highly recommend curling up with this book on a rainy weekend.

You know you’ve chosen a great book when it wins the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction while you’re reading it. All the Light We Cannot See just joined the ranks of Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird!

[ the MEAL ]

Because most of the book takes place in France, Kaki put a spin on a few French dishes for her meal. Everything. Was. Devine. First we dined on baked brie with a blackberry compote followed by lemon spinach and orzo salad, basil and Gruyère crustless quiche, and chicken cordon blue croissants. Last but not least we enjoyed a peach crumble with vanilla ice cream. This is real life. I got to eat this for dinner on Monday!

Interested in making one of these dishes? Here are some of the recipes that Kaki put her own spin on!

Basil and Gruyère Crustless Quiche: Ina Garten (Kaki skipped the potatoes for her version and cooked in a pie dish.)

Lemon Spinach and Orzo Salad: A Big Mouthful (Kaki doubled the dressing and added a pack of fresh spinach in her version.)

Peach Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream: Bakerella

A big thank you to Kaki for being a lovely host! The Atlanta skyline view from her roof was the perfect spot for a glass of wine and a delicious meal.

[ discussion QUESTIONS for All the Light We Cannot See ]

1. The narration moves back and forth both in time and between different characters. How did this affect your reading experience? How do you think the experience would have been different if the story had been told entirely in chronological order?

2. Whose story did you enjoy the most? Was there any character you wanted more insight into?

3. On page 160, Marie-Laure realizes “This . . . is the basis of his fear, all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.” How does this image constitute the most general basis of all fear? Do you agree?

4. On page 390, the author writes, “To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness.” What did you learn or realize about blindness through Marie-Laure’s perspective? Do you think her being blind gave her any advantages?

5. One of Werner’s bravest moments is when he confronts von Rumpel: “All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?” (page 465) Have you ever had a moment like that? Were you ready? What would you say that moment is for some of the other characters?

6. Why do you think Marie-Laure gave Werner the little iron key? Why might Werner have gone back for the wooden house but left the Sea of Flames?

7. Von Rumpel seemed to believe in the power of the Sea of Flames, but was it truly a supernatural object or was it merely a gemstone at the center of coincidence? Do you think it brought any protection to Marie-Laure and/or bad luck to those she loved?

8. The 1970s image of Jutta is one of a woman deeply guilt-ridden and self-conscious about her identity as a German. Why do you think she feels so much guilt over the crimes of others? Can you relate to this? Do you think she should feel any shame about her identity?

9. What do you think of the author’s decision to flash forward at the end of the book? Did you like getting a peek into the future of some of these characters? Did anything surprise you?

Bupper Club: The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Book ClubKat RainwaterComment

This past Monday was my turn to host Bupper Club. I decided to take a risk and try out an author I had never read before. I did my research and Jojo Moyes came highly recommended! After reading many reviews she seemed like the perfect light-hearted, romance author. If you’ve been to the Target book section recently, you might have noticed that Jojo Moye’s books are everywhere! I read several of her synopsis’s and chose One Plus One. Think Sophie Kinsella meets Liane Moriarty. Clearly, our Bupper Club is really loving the British authors!

One Plus One centers around Jess and her somewhat unique family. Her husband bailed two years ago, she’s taken in her step-son, throw in Tanzie – her math genius daughter, and a really large dog and you’ve got yourself a chaotic life. Tanzie is offered a scholarship to a private school but Jess can hardly make ends meet, much less pay for school tuition. When Jess tries to take Tanzie to an Olympiad competition in hopes that the winnings could cover the cost of tuition she ends up on a life-changing road trip with Ed. You must read to find out more!

If you’re looking for a great book, don’t look any further!

[ the MEAL ]

Jess and her entire crew are road tripping to a math competition a good portion of the book. Jess is quite the penny pincher and won’t allow the family to eat out because it doesn’t fit into her budget. Instead, she stops at the grocery store and picks up a loaf of bread and tuna paste and the family has to make sandwiches for the entire trip. So of course, I made sandwiches! Don’t worry…no tuna paste was involved! I tried out several different recipes and ended up with a turkey bacon pesto sandwich, roast beef on a pretzel roll, and chicken salad croissants. Recipes coming soon!

And I had to represent math in some way- so I decided to order number cookies from this Etsy shop in honor of Tanzie! They tasted as good as they look!

[ discussion QUESTIONS for The One Plus One ]

I pulled all of my discussion questions from the One Plus One book summary in the back of the book. Read at your own risk! (Spoilers!)

1. Even though Marty himself is reluctant, Jess opens her home to Nicky, Marty’s son by “a woman he’d dated briefly in his teens” (p. 9), after his birth mother essentially abandons him. If you were Jess, would you be willing to raise Nicky as your own child?

2. Aileen Trent sells designer clothes at a cut rate to people who could never afford to buy them in the shops. Since Jess strongly suspects that they are stolen, is it wrong for her to buy a few items for Tanzie?

3. Jess takes the money that Ed drunkenly drops in the taxi and decides to use it to pay Tanzie’s registration fees. Would she have made that choice if he hadn’t behaved rudely to her while she was cleaning his house? Does his treatment of her excuse her decision?

4. Is it more difficult for the poor to lead law-abiding lives? To what extent is morality a matter of character or circumstance?

5. Ed’s parents couldn’t afford to send both Ed and his sister, Gemma, to public school, so they sent only him. Was it a fair decision? Is Gemma’s resentment justified?

6. Ed helps Nicky get revenge on Jason Fisher by showing him how to hack Jason’s Facebook page. Since Jason intimidated the witnesses to Nicky’s beating into not speaking out against him, is it a justifiable retaliation?

7. At what point in their journey does Ed begin to think less about himself and more about helping Tanzie and her family?

8. Does Ed’s ignorance mitigate the seriousness of his crime? Should he have spent time in prison, or do you feel he was given a fair sentence?

9. Jess’s mother “had been right about many things” (p. 166), but she never made her daughter feel loved. As a result, Jess makes it her priority as a mother to make Tanzie and Nicky feel loved. What is something that your parents did right? What is something they did wrong that you hope to rectify if you are or plan to become a parent yourself?

10. Do you support Jess’s decision to go into debt to pay for Norman’s hospital bills rather than put him to sleep?

11. Did Ed’s financial success go to his head, or was he self-centered before he was rich? What did he have to learn about himself in order to forgive Jess?

Did anyone read One Plus One? Tell me what you thought!