The Last Mrs. Parrish

July’s pick was The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine. Brought by Amy.

Book Synopsis:

Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces. 

With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent. 

Book Discussion:

Wow!  What a gathering.  (still within state guidelines of course)  After a long six months of not seeing fellow Dine and Opiners, we finally got together in a large way.  So much has happened – graduations/colleges/school starting/a baby!  We definitely had a lot of catching up to do.

With the virus still hanging around, we opted for a backyard format with takeout from Deejai Thai.  We faced mosquitos and George the cat defecating in the flower bed, but let’s move on…

The dress code – black leggings seem to be a common theme.  I have only seen people from the shoulders up since March so I have noted this and already have a pair in my amazon cart.

The book – The Last Mrs. Parish – A two part psycho-marital thriller that everyone actually read and finished!  Most agreed that the part 2 (Daphne) made up for the less interesting Amber point of view.  We discussed the difference between a pyscopath and sociopath – the difference being that a sociopath has a small amount of empathy.  Most agreed that there were not a lot of characters we empathized with (maybe we’re the sociopaths?), but the Mom and Douglas were at the top.  I was really hoping that gun would be put to good use.  Shobha came in late and boldly declared she felt a little bad for Amber.  Let’s just say that was an unpopular opinion.  Overall the book was given a thumbs up- a couple of sideways and maybe a thumbs down.  It was a fun read and would probably recommend, but not sure it deserves a unanimous thumbs up so thank you to the dissenters among us.

The Baby – Baby Vaughn will be making her arrival in February.  Sondra is excited to plan a baby shower and of course there will be books involved.  Think of the books that you didn’t mind reading over and over and over again.  That’s what we’re going for.

The Picks – In true Suhanthi form, she gave us a lot to choose from including actual books.  Three fiction and three non-fiction.  The non-fiction books were all had the Gates name somewhere on them (written by Melinda or Bill endorsing them).  The fiction books included:

-The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

-Life by Lu Yao and others

-The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

We selected The Language of Flowers.

No book club evening would be complete without a picture and overstaying our welcome.  Mark finally got off his Zoom call and was promptly summoned for a picture.  After staying outside the entire evening, we all walked into the house loudly and Sylvia emerged from her room to yell at us. (she was in the middle of a meditation app and we took her away from her zen garden she told me this morning).  I do appreciate the direct feedback versus the usual dirty looks and lights being turned on.  Ahhhh…its great to have the band back together!

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators

March’s Bookclub pick was To Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow. This book was brought to the club by Susan.

Book Synopsis:

In a dramatic account of violence and espionage, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Ronan Farrow exposes serial abusers and a cabal of powerful interests hell-bent on covering up the truth, at any cost.

In 2017, a routine network television investigation led Ronan Farrow to a story only whispered about: one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers was a predator, protected by fear, wealth, and a conspiracy of silence. As Farrow drew closer to the truth, shadowy operatives, from high-priced lawyers to elite war-hardened spies, mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threatening his career, following his every move and weaponizing an account of abuse in his own family.

All the while, Farrow and his producer faced a degree of resistance that could not be explained – until now. And a trail of clues revealed corruption and cover-ups from Hollywood, to Washington, and beyond.

This is the untold story of the exotic tactics of surveillance and intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability and silence victims of abuse – and it’s the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement.

Both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism, Catch and Kill breaks devastating new stories about the rampant abuse of power – and sheds far-reaching light on investigations that shook the culture.

Book Discussion:

The Missing Sister

April’s book pick was The Missing Sister by Elle Marr. Brought by Jennifer

Book Synopsis:

In Paris, her twin sister has vanished, leaving behind three chilling words: Trust no one.

Shayna Darby is finally coming to terms with her parents’ deaths when she’s delivered another blow. The body of her estranged twin sister, Angela—the possible victim of a serial killer—has been pulled from the Seine. Putting what’s left of her life on hold, Shayna heads to Paris. But while cleaning out Angela’s apartment, Shayna makes a startling discovery: a coded message meant for her alone…

Alive. Trust no one.

Taking the warning to heart, Shayna maintains the lie. She makes a positive ID on the remains and works to find out where—and why—her missing sister is hiding. Shayna retraces her sister’s footsteps, and they lead her down into Paris’s underbelly.

As she gets closer to the truth—and to the killer—Shayna’s own life may now be in the balance…

Book Discussion:

Amy: My search for her Killer

February’s book was Amy: My search for her Killer by James Renner. Pick brought by Karie.

Book Synopsis:

In the fall of 1989, ten-year-old Amy Mihaljevic disappeared from the cozy Cleveland suburb of Bay Village. Thousands of volunteers, every available police officer, and scores of FBI officers descended upon the town to hunt for the girl. Her picture was everywhere–anyone who watched the local TV news then remembers the photograph of the girl with the sideways ponytail dangling from one side of her smiling face. That image also became indelible in the mind of an eleven-year-old boy almost fifty miles away. James Renner never forgot Amy. Even at that young age, he vowed to find her. Tragically, Amy Mihaljevic was found dead a few months later. Her killer, however, was never found. The case remains unsolved. That cold case never left the mind of the impressionable young boy, who grew up and became a reporter for an alternative weekly magazine in Cleveland. Fifteen years after Amy’s body was found, Renner picked up the leads himself and began trying to solve the crime. 

Book Discussion:

It was a couple of Firsts for the ladies of Dine & Opine.  *First time for a true crime genre *First Video Conference held Bookclub *First Bathroom video (Cue:  Smoking in the boys room song)
Being that the bookclub was held via Video, it amazed some of us that: Some were still early (Logged in prior to 7pm) Some were LATE! (HOW??? WHY???) Some were not as computer savvy as expected.
Who was in the bathroom? Who was early? Who was late? Who was stumped by their computer? Who Forgot? Who Read the book? And What are we reading next? Fortunately for us, unlike the book, these mysteries will be solved.
 The setting:March 17th, 2020 6:55pm.. I, Karie, open my laptop and follow the instructions sent by our fearless leader, Jill. Once set up, I went and poured a glass of wine. Next, said leader, Jill joins the Virtual bookclub. To keep in theme, she had ordered food and was enjoying sushi throughout the evening. Next, almost at exactly 7pm- Amy joined us… complete with a table cloth and her own “waiter”, i.e. Her husband. As we waited, we discussed how everyone was doing. Tick… tick… tick…By 7:05pm we realize that, seriously, people are late!!! 
DING! Shobha joins us! FROM HER BATHROOM? NO worries. No number 1’s or 2’s were happening. She was hiding out in her bathroom for a bit prior to moving into another room.
Slowly…. The other Dine and Opiners joined. Two stated Technical difficulties, Suhanti and Susan; one thought that we were starting at 7:30, Hetal; and one just forgot! (Gasp….), Jennifer. 
For those D & O Ladies that were early, on time or close to being on time- we began discussing the book. 
One major discussion point, brought up by Amy (Not the dead one), is that there is no ending. The murder remains unsolved. We discussed the details to why it hasn’t been solved. How, if it were to happen today, would it be solved and what, if anything, could be done differently. The fact that the book was not wrapped up at the end, left many unfulfilled. Which is ironic, since at times, many dislike when a story is too wrapped up at the end. And that is part of the idea. This story is a true crime. There are many unsolved murders. Real life is not a story that you can just create the ending and wrap it up with a bowing tying  up all the loose ends. 
Another point of discussion were the amount of potential suspects. As Jill asks, is it weird that there are so many weird people in that small of an area? Myself and Susan quickly explained that Ohio is just that. Many “Unique” individuals. Being that we are both from Ohio we were able to help explain the weirdness that is Ohio. And if a Non-Dine and Opiner is reading this and you are from Ohio… Feel free to take offense, then take a breathe and shake your head- cuz you know it is true. 
After talking about all of the suspects, we each gave our opinions, playing the part of a wanna-be inspector, of who we thought Done-It. We discussed the idea that perhaps it wasn’t any of them and that another bad-person was at the right place, at the right time, to take advantage of the situation (Amy alone and not knowing who she was meeting). If that was the case- talk about timing. We all thought that that scenario was a bit far-fetched. So we circled back to the known suspects. It seemed that there were 2 (Two) suspects that stood out more than the others. One- the Naked Man and the second the boy who killed himself shortly after Amy’s body was discovered.
One item, well actually two items, that made this book discussion were that: 1- I actually went to school with the Author (YES! I busted out a few old school year books), which means that I was around that area when it happened, although not in that town- I was able to recall a little bit of the story albeit I didn’t follow the story like the author. 
2- Mr. Renner was open to answering questions. I sent him a message and he responded very quickly. Dine and Opine has been very fortunate to have authors Skype, meet us and message us! Mr. James Renner is now added to that list of authors. 
Overall the book received a sideways thumb. The book conversation was intriguing and I think the Dine and Opiners will continue with reading books and not become detectives… Although, once we are all out and about again- I think a murder mystery party might be in order.
The next book is- 
Oh good lord…. Did we have some thoughts about what the rule was for a tie. Y’all… RULE 235 paragraph 2 sub-paragraph 2.B states- in the event of a tie, each member is to then vote on their second pick. 😂
The Book that won is Catch and Kill By Ronan Farrow https://www.amazon.com/Catch-Kill-Conspiracy-Protect-Predators-ebook/dp/B07TD413RV
For those who argued the tie break- there are a few rogue D & O’s that will be reading two books (Shhh… I will be as well… I mean- what else are we going to be doing??? LOL) The Second book is Dutch House by Ann Patchett https://www.amazon.com/The-Dutch-House-A-Novel/dp/B07NSJZWY5/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=Dutch+House&qid=1584636871&s=books&sr=1-2

Did I miss anything? 

The Spy and the Traitor

May’s book choice was The Spy and The Traitor by Ben Macintyre. The Pick was brought by Hetal.

Book Synopsis:

The celebrated author of A Spy Among Friends and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Cold War-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union.

If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation’s communism as both criminal and philistine. He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union’s top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6. 

For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States’s nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war. Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky’s name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain’s obviously top-level source. Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets. 

Unfolding the delicious three-way gamesmanship between America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and culminating in the gripping cinematic beat-by-beat of Gordievsky’s nail-biting escape from Moscow in 1985, Ben Macintyre’s latest may be his best yet. Like the greatest novels of John le Carré, it brings readers deep into a world of treachery and betrayal, where the lines bleed between the personal and the professional, and one man’s hatred of communism had the power to change the future of nations. 

Book Discussion:

Instead of having a corona outside, due to corona, we did a zoom meeting 🙁
Joining was Amy (not the dead one), Karie (the lacksiedaisy one), Jen (the prego one), Stella (the one of good hair) and me (the late one)
We didn’t talk about the book for long since there were no questions, but we all agreed that it was “seriously, this really happened” account.  If it was a movie, we would have been like, this could only happen in a movie…but, it happened for real!  Is the CIA and MI6 that stupid for missing things for so long.  So many things to memorize, codenames and signals.  Safeway bags and chocolate bars aside, we agreed that it started out slow but became a great read.  We were all awed by the actual influence Oleg had with thwarting a nuclear war.  The big question was if Oleg had told his wife, would she have gone with him????  Some thought yes, some no.  Everyone gave a thumbs up.
Jen got her doordash so left the call…it’s ok, she’s prego.
On to book picks….Suhanthi, Suhanthi, suhanthi (think Bueller).  Ok, no Suhanthi, so backup was Amy and thank goodness she remembered because none of us did.  Our first vote was 1 vote for each pick, same with second vote!  Third time’s the charm where Amy decides to end the ties and vote for the pick someone else already did. So the book pick for this month is The Last Mrs. Parrish.  We can read about the Kentucky blue people on our own time.
After so much voting, topics veered to school (to remote or not to remote) then teen romance, so much drama!  Karie suggested a new way of picking books for next month, but don’t ask me what cause I was already a bottle of wine down by then.
Was nice to catch up and hope that we can do this outdoors, in-person next month!

1Q84

January 2020’s book was 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. This pick was brought by Shobha.

Book Synopsis:

The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled. 

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s — 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

Book Discussion:

We were lucky to have two recaps written by two of the Dine and Opine ladies! One remained in the outbox for awhile… leaving all of us wondering what was said and discussed in that recap. Finally she shared her recap. So here the recaps- enjoy!

Recap #1 (Suhanti)

Venue was Yama in SouthPark.  

After frantic texts and calls to determine the correct restaurant ( there are 2 with the same name in opposite ends of town ), and being provided the address by both Karie and Amy, I came in time as Jill got ready with the book discussion questions.  She surpassed her own goal on bringing the discussion questions.  She not only brought the questions, she also got the lyrics for the song referenced in the book and list of books by the author read by the characters of the book.  

Seemed like more wine was consumed than actual food this time by the wine drinkers (even Shoba was astonished enough to comment on that).  Everyone opted for salad and sushi rolls. The table next to us with mainly men in suits was a lot louder than the Dine and Opiner’s (given that there were only 6 of us).  The waiter appeared to have given up on us ordering anything more than wine (with Kari gesturing to bring another bottle) and had to be flagged down so we could order desserts.

2 (Jill & Sondra) had finished the book,   Amy was close to finishing and the rest of us were a little over halfway through.  But the discussion was lively ensuing a lot of comments around the amount and description of sex in the book.  We all could not settle on a genre that we would describe the book belonging too.  Everyone felt that the “little people” did not really add much to the book.  Table was divided as to the favorite characters Shoba and Amy votes for Tengo while the rest went with Temaru and the Dowager a close second.

Karie whipped out the book selections and started giving an introduction on how each book was selected.  We quickly hushed her down and asked her to hand out the selection printouts.  There were 3 picks and we all settled on Amy: My search for her killer…. with “The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks a close second.  Jill opined that we should just pick that and mark it off our reading list.    Have to resume my meeting.  Will let others add to this.

Recap 2: (Shobha)

DOBs and DOMBersThe silence! And the apathy- not one of the attendees came to my rescue…  (Update: Suhanthi did) Hence I have decided to call our group DOMB-Dine & Opine Mean Bookclub. 
Book Picks with preambles, prologues, Henrietta Slacks,   Souvenirs etc etc The book for next month is Amy. As in google ‘Amy+unsolved murder+journalist’. Nothing popped up? So add ‘self published’. Still nothing? Then  try ‘made-up-titles by Karrie Greathouse’. There. 
Kidding, just kidding. It’s fun to tease you K- instant gratification. Though I really did google the book with very similar keywords on Wednesday. 
Sondra came bearing gifts. She got us all these gorgeously colorful ‘urns’ from Spain- just beautiful! Think shallow urns, say like ….cereal bowls that aren’t microwave friendly and hence neither dishwasher safe. It was incredibly generous of you Stella – one-upping and overshadowing our bookmarks, easily foldable wraps and scarves we stuff in our bags as gifts to give…the ones with dual purpose of preventing our shoes from being crushed in travel. You instead brought these fragile, Costco paper towel sized packaged earthenware bowls all the way from Barcelona. Or Madrid. Amazing!Just wait- I am going to bring a ‘short- less’ Bollywood hero for you all next. Two of them,  just in case one breaks. 

Restaurant and Desserts and Servers that made me wish Little People really existed regarding the desserts, a quote comes to mind, and I paraphrase here…’there is special place in hell for restaurants serving crappy desserts’. That green tea cheesecake- I swear that’s got to be a mixture of ground up, week old, used great tea leaves with touch of sugar and some unknown, ineffective binding agent. I had to spit out the tiny bite I took and no amount of melted ice cream, spoon of lava cake could get the taste nor the texture out of my mouth. New Zealand café just gained New customer.
As for me being “judgey” about wines and their quantities- that was pure jealousy. Envy. Or both. I wasn’t drunk enough to not care how many were coming along and boy do I miss it. I remember the days when we averaged one bottle/person. Such a pity- I was fun then. 
Book Verdict and middle finger aka Flip the Bird for unanimous decisionsOver all thumbs up- Amy & I, sleep deprived, still deeply immersed were an obvious up.Karie was/is savoring it- no rushing that girl- and so no brainer there either. Sondra was meh- but in a thumbs up good kind of way meh, very laissez flaire (her resting state) in a I-eat-these-kinds-of-books-of-million-pages-for-breakfast way, what’s-so-unique-about-this-book? hashtag it-ain’t-no-Juliet-uhn-uhn way…Jill was just playing hard to get (our only thumbs down) esp if you consider all the preparation & homework she did to bring us the questions, their answers. And then, with a very straight face she says she wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone.??!! How could you not, Jilly Billy? Courtesy of 1Q84 you, mah deeher  listened to Ella Fitzgerald’s Paper Moon song (the one you geekly read aloud too) for the first time- which by the way is beautiful..Amy and I YouTubed it at the table. And finally Suhanthi who was thumbs up too but then changed it to down, I think ..or maybe sideways, just so Jill doesn’t feel like an outcast. Suhanthi, all heart is sap in that way. 
Book, Weird chapter titles, Book Spoilers and just Book ..Jill & Sondra finished it- Amy too, minus 100 odd pages and then plus last few to get the ending.Karie and Suhanthi, who got the book just a week before were halfway through …and I, who downloaded it the night it was chosen barely made it past book 1. That’s 1/3rd for those who have neither purchased nor started on it yet. 
Which reminds me…despite my preemptive steps to deal with spoilers ie choosing to Wikipedia it, logic being that I prefer the end be spoiled on my terms rather than the DOMBers ruin it for me. Well, news flash- you DID ruin it. The fuckers at Wikipedia probably hadn’t read it either. There was no mention of pregnancies let alone an immaculate one (THAT, that wild hand gesturing by you all, indicating across the town, alternate reality or whatever, THAT was worst- the actual ruiner spoiler in case you are wondering).Now I’ll never want to finish this one too. 
As Suhanthi wrote- we all had our favorites in the book. Tengo who was Amy’s and mine, did lose some points with me- when his older married pervy lover squeezed his balls in response to Tengo’s very apt interpretation of her dream. I would have seriously backhanded her then or as soon as she let go of the above mentioned part of anatomy I would have then slapped her silly. And that’s saying something-staunch feminist that I think I am. But really, what was with manhandling of private parts? Everyone was doing it to everyone in this book. And the descriptions..-Ushi’s pubic hair like hair, pubic hair that looks like patchy grass, shapes of boobs, small boobs, big ones, soft penises, hard penises, asking strangers in the bar the size of their penises, scrotums (educational, thanks Jill), lesbian sex fantasies, lesbian sex and the premature ejaculations galore-a particular passage involving white slip actually made me gag, like seriously dry heave.
….definitely pervy. 

 Anywho -on that peculiarly pervy (which would be my 2 word description for 1Q84) note, Tuesday was our usual/unusual evening of fabulous company, good book, passionate conversations, endless and always to-be-continued laughter, decent sushi, shitty cheesecake (Amy’s description is best), rain and at least one solution to fix the issue of our cheating DOBers: in the future the monogamous ones should bring epic 1000+ page book selections. Let’s see how they juggle their philandering activities then. 

An Anonymous Girl

December’s book pick was An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks. This book was picked by Sondra

Book Synopsis:

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.

Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?

But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking… and what she’s hiding.

Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about?

As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime?

An electrifying new novel about doubt, passion, and just how much you can trust someone. 

Book Discussion: Coming soon!

The Alice Network

September’s book pick was The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. This pick was brought by D&O member Suhanti.

Book Synopsis:

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption. 
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, code name Alice, the “queen of spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose. 
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

Book Discussion: Recap curtesy of Shobha

Thanks to Jill stirring up old old memories, I got home with this urge to recap our evening- my first since the unfortunate incident of ‘Lolita’. And as no one was in direct firing range unlike the last time, it seemed somewhat safe to give in. 

So let’s see- 
Book: The Alice Network

Restaurant: Cafe Monte, sweet, well intentioned but slightly ditzy mostly harried server, good food, very good bread, annoyingly dim lighting which even on a non book club evenings makes it hard to see what’s on your plate so just imagine Amy trying to read questions from back of the book written in 8 point Sans Serif font. She looked like a 17th century scholar holding a candle (albeit battery operated one) over an ancient manuscript i.e. adorable. Pictures to follow soon. 

Attendees: entire East Indian wing plus one (our darling Anisha) and two third of the West. If not for Anisha’s effervescent self, East made for a sorry sight: sleep deprived Suhanthi and Hetal, nauseous and cranky because of it me. In the absence of rowdy trio, West wing was low-keyed too, basically we didn’t drive any fellow diners away which was a pleasant change. 

Discussion: Alice Network received one of the most lackluster thumbs up that I had ever seen. It was hilarious now that I think of it- we all surreptitiously looked at each other just to see who’ll raise their hand first, forget the thumb positions! Amy’s was the only decisive thumbs down done in our signature D&O spirit: she came in liking the book but discussion turned her against it. I opted for sideways -trying to make up for my above mentioned crankiness. Plus Jill called me Katie! That hit me really hard, I was devastated- verra ..verra devastated. Don’t worry- she and I made up later over our mutual love for Twilight series. 

What was wrong with the book you ask? Let me count the ways…
 
1. ‘Questions were lame‘ (Anisha), ‘These are stupid questions!’ (Amy). ‘Didn’t we just answer all that?’ (Hetal) ‘Ok, anyone has anything to say about the book?’ (Jill) to which only Karie responded-though for the life of me I can’t remember with what. 

2. Cheesy romance- skin against sweaty skin (Eve w/René), legs hooked or wrapped around (all of them at some point!) errant lock of hair (Finn), lips Iocked (Eve/Cameron) lips lingering (Finn/Charlie) lean, sleek and smooth (René)

3. Disappointing leads- Jill and I hoped that besides Finn & Cameron aka Uncle Edward, René may turn out to be another romantic but flawed hero (he was good looking, excellent and surprisingly not so pervy in bed) ‘He satisfied her sexually!.’ (Suhanthi- cutting to the chase, always bluntly apt). We also thought maybe Charlie’s mom and/or aunt will turn out to have some connections to Alice Network -somehow tying in those infamous pearls as well. That didn’t happen. 

4. Lili’s mischievous smile/look over her shoulder in EV-UH-REE situation- on being told Eve had betrayed her, at the check points, over Eve’s sleeping with Rene, being dragged by the German officers- there was no end to her optimism and flirty French-ness. Then it was Rose’s rosy cheeks, blond hair, impish look, white summer dresses.. goddamn Yank, daisy, my pet, C-words thrown around, pansy, och lass, bonny wee, so on and so on —-ad nauseam, ad infinitum. 

5.  Lack of any secondary characters or sense of place other than maybe old lady outside the burned down church which apparently is word for word from her actual testimony.On a side note- Epilogue/ Author’s note made for much more interesting read. 

6. Clichéd and neatly tied up ending(s)- Eve not being the betrayer, Violette forgiving Eve,  René‘s hand smashed with the same Baudelaire bust, René killed symbolically by Eve, the perfect ever-after with perfect car and grandma’s pearls for Finn and Charlie (a cincher for Amy’s thumb down verdict), pleased and fluttering parents courtesy of car/pearls (to think it took Lord Grantham a whole season and half to accept Tom the chauffeur- but then he didn’t have a Bentley. Or pearls), Eve’s perfect job as a game hunter because killing René and being a spy made her realize how much she ‘liked to stalk, hunt and kill dangerous things’…
‘so random!’ (Anisha) and lots of eye rolls at that end of the table. 
Other than that and incomprehensible reason for all of them settling down in the dreaded town of Grasse (‘Why???’ -Anisha) everything else was fine. I highly recommend reading it, you get yo appreciate books like Lolita, Suite Francaise all the more for it. 

Our next book is The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb. 
We should find some haunted house to discuss it- that’ll be so much fun!

xoxo

SR

Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake #1)

November’s book pick was Dissolution by C.J. Sansom. This book pick was brought by Jill.

Dissolution by C.J. Sansom

Book Synopsis:

Henry VIII has ordered the dissolution of the monasteries and England is full of informers. At the monastery of Scarnsea, events have spiralled out of control with the murder of Commissioner Robin Singleton. Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer, and his assistant are sent to investigate.

Book Discussion: Recap curtesy of Jill.

Book club always makes my holidays happier!  
Fun evening as usual last night at the Village Tavern.  Our waiter, Andrew, was all business.  Well, to start.  Once he warmed up to us everything changed!  For those of you who couldn’t make it, we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have (where is Andrew from?, where has Andrew lived in Charlotte?, what hobby/art does Andrew’s partner do?, how much did Andrew make/lose on his real estate?, so many things we can tell you!).  And if you’re lucky, you’ll get some free whipped cream.
We kicked the night off with bubbles which seemed appropriate for the holiday season.  Please remember, Shobha, lotion and wine don’t mix. Crab dip and home made chips for appetizers.  Book discussion ensued.  Dissolution was met with an even split of thumbs up/thumbs down. More dislike than sympathy for the monks and the hunchback.  Agreement that having lived during that time in history would totally have sucked, though Americans are certainly among the “softest” of humans which could be why we think that.  We learned that many forms of hunchbackness (kyphosis) are curable with therapies but not all – thank you teacher Jenn!  So you know, Dissolution is the first in a series so if you are on the thumbs up side keep reading (they get better!).
Dinner was next – not big appetites; burgers and salads mostly and a switch to red wine. Most of us had not been to the Village Tavern in years so was fun to be back.  Food was goodish, dessert was super yummy – a giant pound cake fruity thing.  Sondra brought book picks. Thank goodness she hates themes because she was leaning towards a self-help theme to kick off the new year. My memory being what it is can not recall any of the books that did not win but I did cheat and bring the winning paper home with me so I am able to let you know the book pick for January is An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen.  
Last but not least…book exchange!  We voted no stealing and took turns alphabetically by middle name.  Unsurprising to some of us that one book was duplicated, Flowers in the Attic.  Amy and I both brought that as our favorite teenage book and I think Karie (or maybe Jenn) and Sondra went home with them (Sondra with the bonus copy that includes the next book Petals on the Wind).  I chose Shobha’s thinking I was getting a Harlequin romance but even better than that received The Thorn Birds.  Amy chose a book of poetry brought by Jenn. Shobha and Jenn were seated furthest from me and I am going to blame that on why I don’t remember what books they chose but I’m sure they were lovely.  Oh wait, Shobha got Karie’s book which was a lovely copy of Wuthering Heights (maybe)?  Well, you can see I have was having a lovely evening and I’m sure if you are interested someone else will share how the book exchange actually came out!
I hope everyone enjoys their holidays, safe travels, and I look forward to seeing you in January!
Jill

The Tale of Halcyon Crane

October’s book pick was The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb. This book pick was brought by Amy

Book Synopsis:

A young woman travels to uncover a past she never knew was hers in this thrilling, modern, ghost story. A letter upends Hallie’s life. She was raised by her loving father, having been told her mother died in a fire. Her mother, Madlyn, was alive until very recently. Why would Hallie’s father have taken her away? What happened to her family thirty years ago?

Hallie travels to where her mother lived, a remote island in the middle of the Great Lakes. Islanders fix her with stares and unabashed amazement as they recognize why she looks familiar and Hallie realizes her family’s secrets are enmeshed in the history of this strange place. In “The Tale Of Halcyon Crane“, Wendy Webb of Minneapolis, USA has created a haunting story of thrills, vibrant characters, and family secrets.

Book Discussion: Recap curtesy of Amy

If you are early, you are on time! (Jill & Sondra)  If you are on time, you are late! (Amy)  If you are late, you are really late! (Jen & Shobha) If you are really late, they might keep the kitchen open for you (Karie & guest Meghan!)  If you are counting, that’s 6 people plus a guest so attendance was not too shabby, but we missed those who could not join us.

The book was The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb.  The restaurant pick was Cajun Queen…for its ghostly reputation.  

So first…best server ever! I think his name was John, but maybe it was Bob or Paul?  It doesn’t matter.  Right away, a wine bottle was at our table and he came by appropriately at the right time for appetizers, food and most importantly refills on drinks which made up nicely for the prior month.  As we finally got around to discussion questions, late comers (who maybe not so coincidentally did not finish the book) rushed to the bar to avoid spoilers.   That left three of us for discussion questions.  Well, three plus a baby screaming in the corner.  For once, we were not the loudest in the room.

Despite the fairly lame questions in the back of the book (not a single question about the mysterious house keeper/witch) overall consensus was a thumbs up.  This is a quick fun read!  Just enough mystery, romance and supernatural and not a major time commitment.  Many of us read this in a weekend.  There was some debate as to whether Hallie jumped into bed too quickly with Will.  A determination was made that she lost her father, found and lost her mother, and inherited a haunted house all within a week so why not?  He’s hot, single and a lawyer. And it turns out they have a childhood connection so there’s that.

We were all waiting on pins and needs for Shobha’s mysterious ghost story about Cajun Queen.  Which turned out she did not see a ghost after all, but really just a weird hair standing up on the back  of your neck feeling when trying to retrieve a lost item from this establishment in the middle of the day.  Was it a a credit card?  A purse?  A shawl? The mystery still remains. Spooky.  By the way, Jill is all-in on a bookclub ghost hunter’s adventure overnight.  Sondra and I – nope. 

Well into our third bottle of wine guess who finally shows up?  Karie and Meghan!!  They lost their tennis match, but are still winners in our minds.  Our excellent server promptly brought their pre-texted meals (despite the kitchen shutting down) and dinner was rounded out by a delicious oreo cheesecake and so-so tollhouse cookie thing.  Jen then tries to wake the now-sleeping baby by yelling at it across the room.

So for next month’s picks, this is where I fail you.  It was Jill’s turn for them.  She brought four selections.  We picked the second one in her stapled packed and I cannot for the life of me remember the name of it!  Somebody help me fill in the blanks! 

As always, it was a lovely evening and we missed those that could not join us.  There’s always next month