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 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!