Tuesday, July 5

Pulitzer Worthy...

Book Review of “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan
This month we wanted to read something on the Pulitzer list and selected “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan which one the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  Generally, when you think of a Pulitzer Prize Winner, you think 300+ pages, subject matter will be well above Harry Potter, and has anyone really even read it.  In fact, is it even “good” if no one even knows about it?  Come on ladies, you know you have thought it...  But you might be surprised to know that there are actually some great novels that have won - “The Color Purple,” “Tinkers” (won last year), “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “The Stone Diaries” to name a few.  The novel, “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” is possibly like no other novel on this list.  So much so, that it left us wondering “What qualifies a book to win a Pulitzer?”  I did some research, and here is what I found out.
For Fiction, a book has to be published in Hard Cover or Paperback for sale to consumers, and it has to be submitted to the Pulitzer Prize Board by a certain date of its original publication.  The author must be a US Citizen.  The Pulitzer Prize was established by the first Joseph Pulitzer at Columbia University - where it remains today.  Columbia University awards the prizes based on the recommendations from the Pulitzer Prize Board.  They recommend three per category.  There are currently 18 people on the board who have positions ranging from Dean at prestigious universities and colleges to editors from the top newspapers.  As far as criteria goes, I think this from the FAQ section of the main Pulitzer website www.pulitzer.org explains it best - 
‘6. What are the criteria for the judging of The Pulitzer Prizes?
There are no set criteria for the judging of the Prizes. The definitions of each category (see How to Enter or Administration page) are the only guidelines. It is left up to the Nominating Juries and The Pulitzer Prize Board to determine exactly what makes a work "distinguished."’
As you can see, there is not a plethora of criteria.  Which, if you think about it, is probably a great thing as any book by an American author can be submitted for review by the board.  Which is how we get to “A Visit from the Goon Squad.”  As we’ve now learned, it qualifies for a Pulitzer in Fiction.  
So what is this book all about.  “A Visit from the Goon Squad” is a collection of stories from numerous characters that are vaguely connected to one another in some way.  The back drop is the music industry.  Each chapter is from the perspective of a different character and may be told in the past or present.  Although it is slightly difficult to understand just what “present” is since the timeframe hops around so much, even going  into the future in the end.  The topics range from drugs, sex (I mean we are in the music industry), affairs, kleptomaniac’s, parenting, and the music industry itself.  Overall, it received mixed reviews from the group.  Which, with a book of this nature, is probably to be expected.  With so many characters though, you are bound to find one that you can either relate to (although if you relate to Sasha, I would like to know!), or at least empathize with.  At the end of the day, check it out.  You’ll at least have read a Pulitzer Prize Winner.

Bariola's Pizza Restaurant June Book Club

Thursday, May 26

YA Books to Movie Trend Continues...

Attention all Young Adult Readers, (And please, let's not kid ourselves that we are all out there!), the latest Trilogy Series has been picked up by Disney and Offspring Entertainment.  It is the trilogy by Ally Condie.  Only the first book in the series, Matched, is out at this time.  The second book, Crossed, is set to be released November 1, 2011 and the third book (name yet to be released) is set for November 2012.  Yes, a full year and a half away!  See attached link for the full details.

You might be unfamiliar with this trilogy since only the first book,
Matched, has been out.  I fell in love with the book, the characters, and the story.  It is similar to The Hunger Games Series with the consistent YA "formula" (special thanks to CC for identifying that one).  It makes you think what life would be like without any choices.  For you to be born with all decisions, including who you are to spend your life with (hence the title), has been decided for you based on facts and science.  As a single person, the idea of having my mate decided for me has some natural appeal!  But, this is more than just that one decision, it is about EVERY decision.  Its about do you follow, or do you lead...  I plan on following (pun intended!) this trilogy to the end and to the theater.

Check out the writer - Ally Condie http://www.allysoncondie.com/category/crossed/

Tuesday, May 3

A must read memoir...

I just finished a book that I never thought I would read, let alone thoroughly enjoy.  It is A LONG WAY GONE Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah, and what an amazing story it is.  AMAZING.
Something is to be said for stepping out of your "boundaries" and trying something new.  This book was actually selected for me.  And not in the "I think this looks like your type of book" kind of way either.  I mean if you have been reading this blog, then you have caught on as to the types of books that I typically read, so surely anyone close enough to me to select a book for me to read would pick up on that subtle (okay, not so subtle) clue.  This was definitely a book that the anonymous selector would read for themselves.  So, sidebar moment, let someone pick a book out for you now and then.  You might just find a true gem!
I knew that this story would be sad going into it.  The cover has a young boy carrying a weapon walking with broken flip-flop's for Pete's sake.  BUT sad is an understatement.  The details that he was able to remember and describe are so specific with so much emotion and depth that you feel you are right there.  Which is scary as this is about a war in Africa.  Scary or no, you will find yourself not able to put this book down for there is a hope that is spread throughout the book.  It is this hope, hope of a child nonetheless, that keeps you captivated throughout the story.
I won’t give away the details, but I will say that the story is about Ishmael Beah as he is a young boy and the start of the war in Sierra Leone.  It is about his travels through the war, his experiences before, during, and after, and how he saves himself at the end of the day.  Ishmael Beah is a true storyteller and an amazing survivor of what can only be described as a horrific tragedy (and that might even be an understatement).  So pick up this pick and read it, buy it for your friends to read, whatever.  You won't regret it.

Wednesday, April 27


This month's book, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, was another home run read for our group.  Recommended by one of our members (thank you Renee!), everyone was excited to read it as we had all heard very positive things about it.  But I am not sure that we all expected the book to have the impact on us that it did.  Not because we are not familiar with life in the South or because we haven't lived, read, or watched all about it, but because this book really hit your heart as a mother, daughter, singleton, and as anyone in any sort of women's only club!
As the title elude's, the book is about the help that white people in the 1960s would hire to help clean the home, cook dinner, and raise their children.  This last part had a significant impact as it was very eye-opening to say the least.  To learn how Abileen and all of the other maids had such a significant role in raising the children that these children were closer to them than their own mother was something.  And specifically Abileen's role with Mae Mobley, well, that just about broke your heart every time it came up in the book.  When Abileen would tell Mae Mobley that "you kind, you smart, you important" because her own mama would never tell or teach her these things, I think we all stopped and thought Am I doing that? 
The book is great as it explores both sides, if you will, of the story.  I think there is one quote that sums up the perspective that white women and men had from that era, and it is from Miss Skeeter - 

“They say it’s like true love, good help.  You only get one in a lifetime.”  

This is being rather positive, as there are obviously some very racist view points described throughout the book, and even in real life, but I think this best explains the point of The Help.  Now the quote that I believe sums up the perspective from the black women and men from that era is when Abileen addresses Mae Mobley’s question about why she is colored, 

“Cause God made me colored...And there ain’t another reason in the world.”  

Need we say more...

Some additional memorable quotes that our group enjoyed were:
Ch 3 Miss Celia, "I want him to think I'm...worth the trouble."
Ch 19 Callie (a maid being interviewed), "If any white lady reads my story, that's what I want them to know.  Saying thank you, when you really mean it, when you remember what someone done for you...it's so good."
Ch 24 Abileen "All I'm saying is, kindness don't have no boundaries."
Ch 27 Skeeter "I always thought insanity would be a dark, bitter feeling, but it is drenching and delicious if you really roll around in it."
Ch 27 Skeeter "Everyone's asleep in this town in every way possible."

Ch 33 Skeeter "Wasn't that the point of the book?  For women to realize, We are just two people.  Not that much separates us.  Not nearly as much as I'd thought."

As you know by now, our group has a way of finding the funniest quotes and putting them to good use.  Here are some of those, and yes, for some reason the word 'shit' seems to be in most of them!
Ch 6 Mister Golden describing Miss Myrna to Skeeter - "Miss Myrna's gone shit-house crazy on us."
And this has a "shit-house crazy" story to go along with it.  Our beloved CC ran across this quote first and sent it to me to tell me a story about it.  Low and behold she sent it to the wrong person!  Another Jennifer Pratt.  Who knew that was even possible.  I hope that she has as good of a sense of humor and loves books as much as this Jennifer Pratt!!
Ch 13 Miss Skeeter when referring to her date with Stuart - "shit-dog drunk"
No worries, we weren't "shit-dog drunk" while discussing this book!
Ch 24 Minnie describing Miss Celia "...a juke joint hussy"
I am sure we all know a few of these lovely ladies...

So please read this book if you have not already.  It is eye-opening, inspiring, and down right hilarious!

Tuesday, April 26


Just this week the movie "Water for Elephants" premiered to rave reviews (yes, totally my interpretation!).  Our book club wanted to make sure we read the book prior to the movie release, for, as all book lovers know, the movie is never quite as good as the book.  We are, of course, holding out hope for this one though as the movie premiers are what hooked several of us into wanting to read the book in the first place.
As you all have most likely heard by now, the book is mainly about the love story between Jacob and Marlena and one could even say with Rosie, the elephant that, from everything I have read, steals the scenes in both movie and book.  More on this later...
But the story has so much more that will have an impact on your mind and your heart.  The story is set in modern time with the elder Jacob (is he ninety or ninety-three...) telling the story through his memories of when and how it all came about back in 1931.  This alone adds two elements.  The elderly and how they are treated at the end of their life and The Great Depression.  
We all have thought, read, watched movies about the elderly and what life might be like at the end, who can forget Cocoon.  Don't we all hope that we could get our groove back just by swimming in a pool?  But in Water for Elephants we find ourselves immersed in the grim but true details of life after "life.”   This is the first chapter of the book, and I must say, it will take the breath out of you.  From eating "mushy peas"..."tapioca"...and, my personal favorite line, "gravy that must have been waved over a piece of beef at some point in its life.”  I mean so depressing, right?!  Naturally, the book makes you think, and we all discussed this at our meeting, what are we going to do with our parents?  Or with ourselves?  As a single person this is the sole reason my niece gets fantastic gifts for any, and all, holidays.  I clearly have to line up my care-taking with years of spoiling!  But is this what life can really be like?  Infrequent visits by your family, forgetting their names or the day of the week...or worse, year?  Do we really send our family off to live out their remaining years to only be "filed away like some worthless tchotchke"?  The answer is yes.  Everyday.  Personally, this part was not only sad to think about the major lack of respect society as a whole has for our elderly, but it also was rather eye-opening into what the future can really hold for us.  We were not afraid to all say, "SCARY!".  But, it is also inspiring to hope that one could live a long life of love, happiness, and hope as Jacob had.  Again, more on this later...  
And then there is the second element, the Great Depression, in an era of 1931 when times were hard and people made unthinkable sacrifices just to survive.  We all know that work was rare, money scarce, causing food to be little to nothing.  But the backdrop of the Benzini Circus brought a whole new meaning to the word 'sacrifice".  There were many times when I was literally disgusted with the aspects of circus life.  In fact, I am not even going to go into it here.  Suffice it to say, it has a lot to do with their creative means for feeding the animals.  Props to Sara Gruen for her over-the-top descriptions in this regard.  But the point was most likely for us to get a sense of how serious The Great Depression really was.  I can say I will never doubt that again...
So finally, the love story.  From Jacob and Marlena to Jacob and Rosy, it is hard to pick which one we all loved more.  But it is safe to say that the elder Jacob is what makes us fall in love with their story.  From the very beginning when he tells us that she died of cancer and says, "Losing her was like being cleft down the middle.  It was the moment it all ended for me, and I wouldn't have wanted her to go through that."  Well...that sold it right there.  I mean, isn't that what we all want when we say we want to find our one, true love?  Love that after sixty-one (yes, sixty-one!) years, finds you wanting to be the survivor just so they don't have to suffer life without you?  I mean, yes, we do get enamored with the young Jacob and hope he can be the hero somehow and save Marlena from being the wife of what one can only describe the man as Evil reincarnate himself.  And yes, we do fall in love with Rosy herself.  This animal has a way of making you smile and laugh, and she cannot even understand English.  But, in the end, I have to think that the whole point of having the elderly Jacob tell the story from his perspective is to show us that love, true love, can last and make it all the way to the end.  And when you find it, like Jacob and Marlena did, you must grab it before it passes you by.  Before you miss your chance...

Wednesday, February 23

February Book Club - Picture of Dorian Gray

While we should all be used to the month of February having the least amount of days in it, February book club was upon us before we knew it (along with about 16" of snow!).

This month we read the classic novel Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.  And while we new it was considered "scandalous" for its time, I don't know that any of us were prepared to find it relative to today's world or, more importantly, to enjoy it as much as we did.

Now, that's not to say that this book was splendid or captivating the entire way through.  We all admitted that there were some parts not to our liking.  One member (Rachel) had a great point that there were parts where it was like we were eavesdropping on a conversation that went on and on and on about nothing but nonsense.  So true!  But the overall story definitely made up for it in the end.

Let me first explain the history of this book.  It is known for aiding in the conviction of Oscar Wilde in 1895 for homosexual offenses.  He received two years in prison as a result.  TWO YEARS for writing this book and having an unapproved lifestyle.  And now it is considered a classic that should and must, in the literary world, be read by all.  It is amazing what 100 years can do...

On the flip side, it has been over 100 years, and we are still obsessed with beauty and trying to stay young forever.  There are more ways now (injections, diets, creams and lotions, and who all knows what else) to try and stay young than there are people to try them.  And why?  Well, the obvious answer is who likes wrinkles? Certainly not me, but seriously.  Have we all gone too far?  This was the case for Dorian Gray. It became his obsession.  As it has for so many in today's world.  And anyone or everyone dealing with this issue should really read this book.  And when you get to the very, very end of this book, if that doesn't make you stop and think twice, then read it again!

It would not be a book club without much laughter and lot's of discussion, and this month was no exception.  In fact, we even had a prop...  One of our members (Renee) had actually been to Oscar Wilde's tomb in Paris (see below).  How great was that to have her explain her experience!  People are to leave roses and/or to kiss the tomb for good luck and for love.  Yes, I have already tried to express that right on over here...no luck.  Those Parisians are pretty fond of their history!!

There are really two great things about this book - how relative it still is over a 100 years later and the vast array of poignant quotes that are still popular today.  In fact, there are too many quotes to list, but I've pointed out some of our favorites.

Quotes from the book:

"...beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins." said Lord Henry - This sparked quite the conversation at dinner.  I mean, who defines beauty?  And this suggests that one cannot be both smart and beautiful.  Really???  With six wonderfully smart (they are in book club after all) and beautiful women discussing this topic, we were the life of the restaurant, no doubt!

"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." - said Lord Henry

"She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm."

"Punctuality is the thief of time."

"Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing."

"Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious: both are disappointed." - said Lord Henry

"It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But it is better to be good than to be ugly." - said Lord Henry.  And this would be the premise of the book and why Dorian Gray is willing to give up his soul to remain youthful and beautiful.

"To be in love is to surpass one's self." - it is this quote that gives the reader hope.

Favorite quote from the meeting:

"We're going to Urban Dictionary the s*!% out of this book" - said by our Renee.  God love you girl.  So funny.  One member was discussing how she kept translating the verbiage into our modern day lingo.  We, of course, began immediately translating quotes.  I'd list them out, but I don't think I can repeat all of it and be considered PG-13 still!  We were clearly revved up by this point.

In closing, another great classic read and marked off our list.  Someone (Renee) pointed out that reading classics aren't as hard as to read as we might think.  It is so much easier to discover the themes, purpose, symbolism, and moral lesson than in new books.  Why is that I ask?  Have we lost the need or desire to have a purpose behind the book?  I don't think so.  Maybe we just cannot see what is right in front of us and writing in our own words must be so obvious that we miss it.  More reasons to continue to pick up those classic novels.

Oh, and where did we meet this time?  We ate at a great new restaurant in Downtown Rogers - The Rail.  Pizza was delicious as were the breadsticks.  We'd all recommend checking it out!

218 S 1st St

Rogers, AR

Monday, January 24

January Book Club

Just last week, we had our very first book club meeting for the year, and what a great start to 2011.  Not only did we double our size at our very first meeting in 2011, but we have trippled our membership base!  Thank you ladies for bringing along your friends and welcome new members!

My favorite part about our book club is that the group continues to be diverse bringing a fantastic mix of opinions and knowledge to each meeting.  Well, we all do have one thing in common...our passion for reading.  Actually, there are two things as I cannot leave out our love for wine!

FAVORITE QUOTE of the Meeting:  "It's not shallow it's eclectic" (CC)

For January, we decided to start the year off with everyone getting to select their own book for the month to read.  And speaking of diversity, we had everything covered in this group - Young Adult, Bestselling Fiction, Comedy, Romance, Christian Fiction, and Biographies.

Here is a list of what everyone read and what they thought about the book.  If there isn't at least one book on here that you can relate to or find to enjoy, then you might be (dare I say) on the wrong blog.  As I said, I think we have every potential subject covered.  Or at least the important ones.  Great job ladies!

  • Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family                                 by Condoleezza Rice  - "Literally gave me chills!"
  • Someday by Karen Kingsbury - "Cried all the way through this one!"
  • Jane by April Lindner - Remake of Jane Eyre for the teen audience.
  • Matched by Ally Condie - Follows the Young Adult "formula" (I am hooked & bought it myself to read)
  • The Strain by Guillermo del Toro
  • Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks - "Suspenseful"
  • Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin - "All time FAVORITE author."  Good read.
  • The Reef by Nora Roberts
  • The Bride Quartet Series by Nora Roberts
  • The Confession by John Grisham - "Last third of the book kept me on edge."
  • Straight Talk, No Chaser by Steve Harvey - A great follow up to the first book.
  • Room by Emma Donghue - "Not worth all of the hype."
  • Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler - "Funny"  It is Chelsea after all!
  • Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi - "Graphic, detailed, and eye-opening"
  • Helen of Pasedena by Lian Dolan - A thumbs down...
  • Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick - "Really good.  A smutty Little House on the Prairie."
  • Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding by Jessie Sholl
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - Did not find this as good as the first two.