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.

The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc

September’s book pick was The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc by Kimberly Cutter. Book pick was brought by Jill.

Book Synopsis:

“Was she a saint or a witch? A visionary or a madwoman? Or an extraordinary peasant girl who, at God’s bidding, led an army, saved France, and paid the price by burning alive? . . . Kimberly Cutter’s portrait of ‘Jehanne’ as a strange, gritty teenage tomboy and true believer is compelling.” —USA Today

It is the fifteenth century, and the tumultuous Hundred Years’ War rages on. France is under siege, English soldiers tear through the countryside destroying all who cross their paths, and Charles VII, the uncrowned king, has neither the strength nor the will to rally his army. And in the quiet of her parents’ garden in Domrémy, a peasant girl sees a spangle of light and hears a powerful voice speak her name: Jehanne. 

The story of Jehanne d’Arc, the visionary and saint who believed she had been chosen by God, who led an army and saved her country, has captivated our imaginations for centuries. But the story of Jehanne—the girl whose sister was murdered by the English, who sought an escape from a violent father and a forced marriage, who taught herself to ride and to fight, and who somehow found the courage and tenacity to persuade first one, then two, then thousands to follow her—is at once thrilling, unexpected, and heartbreaking. Rich with unspoken love and battlefield valor, The Maid is a novel about the power and uncertainty of faith and the exhilarating and devastating consequences of fame. 

Book Discussion:

I think today seems like a good day for a recap!  I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats awaiting a recap from The Maid discussion in October so here it goes.
A few of us met early at Seaboard to give Shobha a chance to visit two of the many establishments in her new town of Matthews.  Shobha was enjoying a brew (Seaboard is a brewery and wine bar/shop) when the girls from Waxhaw arrived (just a touch late).  The weather was beautiful though I had been concerned about the temperature and had multiple conversations with the staff/owner at Sante, our restaurant destination, to determine the best dining area for us.  The owner finally convinced me that dining outdoors would be lovely for the evening and I chose the back courtyard.  He was right, it was perfect weather for dining al fresco and we had the courtyard to ourselves which is always a plus.  Since I’d had so much interaction with the Sante folks already I didn’t want to be late for the reservation so Susan and I manned up, chugged our wine and headed on down the street to Sante.  
Once everyone arrived, we ordered some appetizers as usual; luckily talking Shobha out of the escargot.  Wine all around and on to The Maid.  Generally everyone knew of Joan of Arc but not much about her or why she happens to be the patron saint of France. I found the story very interesting and we had a fairly in depth discussion about whether she was delusional, or was actually sent from God on her journey.  A mixed bag of feedback there that generally followed the level of religious faith each person has.  The more faithful among us do believe God has chosen ones to do his bidding (and I truly hope if that’s the case Susan gets picked next because I’ll know then she’s not crazy); while those of us with a more minimal amount of religious faith leaned towards the crazier side of Joan’s story.  Having said that, there is no doubt that she led troops to battle, she survived a fall from high up in a castle with no injuries, turned the tide of the 100 years war and in the end was burned at the stake.  As for the words we used to describe her (per Jenn’s inquiry) Brave, Crazy, Faithful…there are others but my memory…  The book was overall thumbs up with a couple thumbs down thrown in.  On to picks, hopefully you all know by now we are reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.   

The Language of Flowers: A Novel

August’s book pick was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Brought by Suhanti.

Book Synopsis:

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

Book Discussion:

Venue was Suhanthi’s house screen porch.  Food was from Inchin Bamboo Garden. Jill, Amy and Sondra came on time. Amy brought flowers she picked from her garden – lilies (majestic) and dahlias (dignity/ elegance).  Thank you Amy. I placed a food order to be delivered for the very first time and it was a fiasco.  I ordered and was supposed to get a confirmation email, but never did.  So called the restaurant and the never received the order.  Then I place a takeout order for just the main course as the food would not be ready for 75 minutes.  

As children and their attitude towards household chores was being discussed, I whipped a couple of appetizers – peanut salad which was a big hit and pakoras. Waiting to hear how Jill’s version of the salad with cashews turn out.  As we talk about the book while waiting for Shoba to come to start the discussion per her request, I send Kamesh to pick the takeout.  While he is on his way, I receive a text that the food has been delivered on my front porch.  Then I had to argue with the restaurant about canctthe takeout, I was ready to start drinking.  Phew.  Never again am I ordering food to be delivered.  Now that I have acknowledged my challenged capability (rather the lack of) to order food let’s move on.

Jill as usual pulled out a list of discussion questions and ensured that we got through them all.  She had to bang on the wine glass to bring the culprits (Shobha and me)to get on track with the discussion.  This was one of those books which entailed a lot of discussion.  Final verdict was a thumbs up (3 thumbs up, one down and one sideways).  In ending, to answer the question about what flowers would you give to someone important in your life, Jill said she would give all the Dine and Opiners freesias as they signified lifelong friendship. Luna decided to interrupt the discussion to get some love and then eventually settled down to serve as footrest.

Shoba brought Kheer and I served Moong dal Halwa For dessert which were combined by some.  Jill was shushed into handing the book picks when she started providing context around her selection.  She handed the 3 and did not have to use the two titles she had as back up.  The winner was “the maid: a novel of Joan of Arc” by Kimberly Cutter.  If you haven’t seen the group text, it is available on Hoopla.

Everyone made their way home around 11 after making plans to get Henna done.  Was a fun evening.  

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!

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!