The Henna Artist: A Novel

November’s book pick was The Henna Artist: A Novel by Alka Joshi. This book pick was brought by Shobha.

Book Synopsis:

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

Book Discussion:

Coming soon.

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

The House of Broken Angels

The House of Broken Angels

Synopsis:

The House of Broken Angels is a sprawling and epic family saga helmed by patriarch Big Angel. The novel gathers together the entire De La Cruz clan, as they meet for the final birthday party Big Angel is throwing for himself, at home in San Diego, as he nears the end of his struggle with cancer and reflects on his long and full life.

But when Big Angel’s mother, Mama America, approaching one hundred, dies herself as the party nears, he must plan her funeral as well. There will be two family affairs in one weekend: a farewell double-header. Among the attendants is his half-brother and namesake, Little Angel, who comes face to face with the siblings with whom he shared a father but not, as the weekend proceeds to remind him, a life. 

This story of the De La Cruzes is the story of what it means to be a Mexican in America, to have lived two lives across one border. It is a tale of the ravaging power of death to shore up the bits of life you have forgotten, whether by choice or not. Above all, this finely wrought portrait of a deeply complex family and the America they have come to call home is Urrea at his purest and best. Teeming with brilliance and humor, authentic at every turn, The House of Broken Angels cements his reputation as a storyteller of the first rank.

Book Club Discussion:

And so we (Dine & Opine) met. We were going to meet at a new taco place- however after waiting for over 45 minutes for our table (was suppose to be 15) we left and ate at Tavern on the Tracks. Being the only member to finish this book (even though we had an extra week to finish); others were in various sections of the book; I say that this book was… not worth the read. The many characters were so numerous and many not even necessary. It was almost like the author tried too hard. Here is the advice:

Read the First Chapter. Read the Last Chapter…. boom. That will sum up the story.

Needless to say this book received a:

The House of Broken Angels Received a Thumbs Down

Next book was brought to us by Hetal: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. Better start reading!

The Passenger

The Passenger

The Passenger: By Lisa Lutz

Picked by Dine & Opine Susan

Synopsis:

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it…

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

Book Discussion:

Dine & Opine met at Lucky Lou’s Tavern… we try to match something in the book to where we eat. In this case it was a dive bar. We sat down, ordered drinks and after a brief catch-up between everyone in attendance, we began to discuss the book.

I can tell you that we went through many of the questions found on LitLovers. The questions were fairly easy to answer and there was a bit of discussion. However nothing really to write home about. We all thought the book was an easy read and was a good “vacation” read. We did not think that it was a book that “wowed” us. The story was good, characters were mostly developed. That brings up one thing that the group did agree on… Dominic. His character seemed to be one that was left undeveloped. We wished that there would have been a bit more information on him. For his character to respond to Nora that way (Finding her interesting enough, etc) there has to be a back story on his character.

Overall we decided that this book receives a Sideways Thumb. It isn’t a book that we would recommend when asked for a good book you recently read; but it is a book that would be recommended to someone who enjoys an easy read, slight thriller book.

Next Month’s Book: The House of Broken Angels By Luis Alberto Urrea

Book was picked by Jennifer

The Kissing Quotient


The Kissing Quotient By Helen Hoang

Synopsis:

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases—a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice—with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan—from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he’s making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

Book Discussion:

The Ladies of Dine & Opine met this month to discuss TKQ. We met on a lovely Tuesday evening at CO. If you remember how we choose our books and where we eat… you know that we try to match something between the book and the restaurant. If you have forgotten, or are new to this site, check out the FAQ’s of Dine & Opine. This was Amy’s Book pick- so she chose to eat at CO, inspired by the heritage of Stella’s hunk male escort. Quick restaurant write-up. And even though she was in Italy and unable to attend- she was thought of during the meeting) A few “Things to know” 1- they do not take reservations. Which was fine. A few of us ladies seem to always be early. This is a great moment to put your name in and grab a drink at the bar. 2- The food is good. I, Karie, heard no complaints regarding the food. 3- It was a bit noisy (We were surprised for a Tuesday- however A) we don’t mind as we can be loud and B) it didn’t last long, 4- The appetizers are a decent size. Not too big, enough for 5 people to have a bite and sometimes 1 person to get 2. Perfect so you don’t over eat.

OK- Now time for the book. If you have read the book- we used the questions at the back of the book. The discussion began with the conversation regarding whether or not we knew of any Highly -Functioning Autistic adults and if Stella met what we would have imagined a HFAA would react/act. Many of us (I do believe none of us) have knowingly known a HFAA. So that part of the question was hard to answer. I was able to share that personally, I have experience with autism in younger family members and a teen (Who now is an adult). I have been able to see the difference that arises out of those that have/are understood and have a self awareness earlier on than those that receive counseling later in life. In my experience those that (not only themselves, also the family) recognized Autism and worked with it are much more self aware and are able to adjust/take in daily environments.

The conversation then moved onto Stella’s reaction to an intern asking out her co-worker Philip. The overall consensus was that Stella, being brought up by her parents who (Appeared in the book) to be old school. Stella’s response was appropriate. It seems, through clues in the book, that her mother was about being proper, in a 1950’s sort of way… not the 70’s free love way. We discussed whether that might have been a point where Stella saw a social norm (What is acceptable now) and how that helped her realize that she can take charge of that area of her life.

Before diving into the SEX. Let’s discuss Micheal. The idea of his profession came into question and BOY did that start a discussion. Pretty Woman (Yes the movie) was brought to the table as an example. A discussion on Escorts VS Prostitutes was promptly visited. With a divided table we argued the pros and cons of each. One outcome, which I am sure will begin a conversation, was that Men make better clients than women. This being that tendency of women getting attached. I know, I know. It sounds so sexist, so juvenile, so…. so…. yeah… history shows that women have a harder time to separate sex and emotions. Well First off- that just sucks. We all can agree that we love a good romp in the hay. Statistically speaking, many can’t leave the hay and until those statistics change (Which they are slowly).. we are left with that.

The next Michael question was “Throughout the book, Michael worries he’s inherited his father’s “badness,” that it was passed down in his blood. Do you think this is illogical? Are you able to empathize with him? If so, how? ” Well this is was a no-brainer for this group. It is a Nature vs Nurture discussion. Almost. A twist was proposed. When you grow up with a certain behavior around you, even if you are not even in line with that behavior. It does cause a pause. A moment where one is, every once in a while, looking over one’s shoulder. Wondering if they are in the clear or if it is just part of who we are… what we are made of… who we will eventually end up being. Whether it is correct or not… it lies on your mind like a paper weight.

The SEX.. The question asked was “Does it surprise you to see an autistic person exploring a sexual relationship? If so, why?” A few said yes. I said not really. Knowing that Stella was wanting to make her mom happy and she did want to get married, she wanted to, what she thought, was “get better” at sex. She understood that sex is part of a loving relationship and quite frankly needed for reproduction. I think she wanted to learn how to be comfortable with sex. In reality, she learned that sex just isn’t physical, there is a connection that is needed. That no matter how many check lists she made and completed; without that connection and understanding, she would never think that she was “Good” at sex.

Speaking of SEX… We, I do believe unanimously, decided that we would want a Michael over a Christian Grey anytime. That brought up a conversation of a “battle of the books” sort; 50 Shades of Grey vs The Kiss Quotient. I will say that we all agreed that the sex scenes of The Kiss Quotient were better written and, well I will just say it, definitely left the reader wanting more, than 50 shades of grey. The scenes in 50SoG felt repetitive and old after awhile.

Voting: And so it was time to vote. The Kiss Quotient received a:

Side Thumb

The main reason was that even though most enjoyed the book and it was a very easy read… It might not be a book that will get rereads. It is a book that we might pass along (To those 50 shades of grey fans) however it is not one that we believe would come up in conversation.

Next Book: The next book is from a list brought by Susan. The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. Pick up your copy, start reading and check back for the next blog soon!