Friday, May 22, 2015


If you could have a surgery to be outrageously beautiful would you do it?  The people in the futuristic society in Uglies live to be pretty.  Once you turn 16 you are operated on, become gorgeous, and go live in New Pretty Town where you party all day long.  Sounds nice doesn't it?  Tally Youngblood can't wait to turn pretty.  After an unexpected journey, she learns there are severe consequences to becoming a pretty.

Not only is it a fun read, but there are so many interesting things in this book to think and talk about.  Here are some of the questions that we discussed...

Book Club Questions:
1.  Who was your favorite character and why?
- Most of the people in our book club liked David. We thought that he was a teenage girl's ideal man. He was not like the people in her society (which gave him an air of mystery), he wore a leather jacket (that he made himself), and he was strong. No one in our group voted for Tally as the favorite. Some of the members of our group really disliked her and felt she was a liar. Others thought she was just a flawed person who was forced to make difficult decisions.

2. Have you ever had a friend like Peris, who abandoned your friendship after they moved away? What makes one friendship stronger than another?
- Every member of our book club has had a friend that they are not close to anymore. It happens a lot. It was interesting that some people we meet when we are young we lose track of later, some we stay close to, some we don't see for a long time but when we do see them again we are still just as close as if we had never left. We decided that whether or not you stay close depends on the depth of things you talk about. Those who you can talk deeply with you have stronger ties to in the future. We also mentioned that it's easier to make and stay friends as a kid than as an adult. When you are an adult you have to go out of your way to work harder to maintain friendships.

3. At first, did you hope Tally would get the operation? When did you change your mind? (Or did you?)
- We all had differing opinions on this question. Many of us didn't want her to get the surgery and "lose her identity." Others wanted her to get it because she wanted it so badly. We all agreed that some of the things they do in the surgery sound really painful.

4. Have you ever felt discriminated against because of how you look? Have you ever found yourself trusting someone more or paying more attention to what they said not because they deserved it, but just because of their looks?
- We had a couple of interesting stories about being discriminated because of looks. My friend shared one where her mother grew up on Tonga. Her mother was the only white, skinny, blonde girl around and she was not considered pretty. When she moved back to America as a teenager she couldn't understand why she was suddenly getting attention. I shared a story about how I tried out for drill team in junior high. They told me that I could be a part of the team, but that I would have to dye my naturally red hair so that I wouldn't stand out. I said I wouldn't do that and so I was not allowed to join the team. Another book clubber talked about how she is small and blonde and people don't take her opinions seriously because she looks too young. One of the group told us that because she is short people would always say she was "so cute and little" and she hated it.

5. The futuristic society in Uglies places extreme importance on physical beauty. Do you think that our society places too much emphasis on physical beauty? In what ways do you think our society makes us feel we are ugly? What are some extremes that people go to in order to look "pretty"?
- We agreed that all societies place high value on physical beauty. We talked about how Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice was considered ugly because she had a tan and now having a tan is what everyone wants. We also mentioned China and how they used to bind feet to keep them small and how there are nursemaids who will nurse a child for a woman so that she can stay young and beautiful. Briefly, we talked about plastic surgery, Botox, and other operations of that nature.

6. If you had the chance to be made pretty, would you take it? What if everyone was being turned pretty--would you still want (or not want) to be made pretty? Would you give up your ability to think independently in exchange for being happy, beautiful, perpetually healthy, and rich?
- Our club decided that we wouldn't want certain aspects of the operation, but that having perfect vision, strong teeth, and healthy bodies would be nice. We talked about how some procedures are now the social norm - like having dental work done or laser eye surgery - but that these surgery's fix something. They aren't just for beauty itself. The intent behind the procedure is important. If you are doing it just for cosmetics or to make yourself prettier than someone else then it is selfish, but not necessarily bad. If you are fixing to help you feel more confident then we agree that it is a good thing.

7. Do you think it was significant that the operation took place when a girl or boy as 16 years old? When you were 16 do you think you would have gotten the operation?
- It was very interesting that they chose to do the surgery while the uglies are teenagers. Thinking back on our own lives, many of us would have chosen to have the surgery because we were self-conscious and being pretty was valued. Think back on high school. Those who were pretty were the ones who "ruled the school." Occasionally there would be those who weren't attractive, but had something else to make up for it (like ego, athletics, or money).

8. Other than the pretty operation, what are the main differences between the pretty society and our own? (Are there any ways in which the pretty society is healthier than ours?)
- In the book it mentioned that they didn't use oil anymore. That was a big difference. But, we all agreed that we would like some more details on how they society fixed the problem of oil. What did they use instead? We get hints that there are things like the street sweeper that run automatically, but other than that, our curiosity about how to make our world better remains unsatisfied.

9. Uglies shows a lot of new technology, including toothbrush pills, hoverboards, dehydrated food, and interface rings to track the uglies. Does this book show that technology is positive, or negative, or a little of both? Are there certain types of technology that are more positive than others in this book? Are there any patterns you can see in what makes good technology vs. what makes bad technology?  Which new technology would you like to have?
- All of us agree the hoverboards are awesome and it would be nice to have a toothbrush pill. As mothers, it was mentioned that it would be nice to have a bridge that lets us know if our kids were leaving when they shouldn't be. Having food and clothes appear whenever you wanted would be sweet! We didn't really go much into the negative technologies.

10. If Shay could go back in time and never have met Tally, do you think she would?
- Not knowing how the next books are going to end, we decided that how things shape up for Shay aren't that great. Tally takes David away from her and she ends up getting the operation even though she didn't want it in the first place.

11. The Rusty civilization collapsed because of its dependence on oil. In what ways is your lifestyle dependent on oil and gasoline? How easily would you survive if it all disappeared one day?
- We spent a lot of time talking about this one. Some of us would do better than others. Some have more food storage and some know how to "rough it" better than others. We decided that if things like oil or electricity were to go there would have to be a massive re-educating. We would need to collaborate to learn many basic survival skills again. Most of us would live closer to family because it would take so much longer to communicate with each other.

During a lively discussion it is always fun to have a little something to snack on.  

Tally eats SpagBol on her trip to the Smoke...

So we had SpagBol cupcakes.  I found the recipe HERE.

We had some toothbrush pills as well.

In Uglies Tally and Shay create morphos of themselves.  These are options of what they could look like when they are turned into a pretty.  I found a fun little app that lets you take your picture and see what you would look like if your face was perfectly symmetrical.  

Check out my results:

Here I am.

This is me with two left sides of my face.

Here I am with two right sides.  Pretty crazy!

There are a couple of questions we didn't get to talk about that are still worth considering:

1. What do you think of the different ways that people live in the city vs. the way they live in the Smoke? Does your life seem more like the city-life (uglies going to school, pretties partying, older pretties doing jobs) or like the Smoke (everyone working)? What do you think of the different attitude toward stuff--with the city folk getting whatever they want and throwing it away easily, and the Smoke people fixing and trading their old stuff?

2. Before Tally and Shay go to the Smoke (and learn about the brain lesions), who do you agree with? Do you think the world would be better if everyone were pretty (like Tally argues)? Or do you think that this sort of surgery is dangerous to identity (like Shay argues)? Did you ever agree with both of them? Or neither?

3. What do you think it would be like to live in a society in which everyone gets to choose exactly how they look? Would most people choose to look different? Why or why not? What would you choose?

4. Other than the pretty operation, what are the main differences between the pretty society and our own? (Are there any ways in which the pretty society is healthier than ours?)

5. Dr. Cable says that the city lets uglies do tricks in order to develop their "creativity and independence"(13.53). Why would the city want the uglies to do that? Are there other reasons why the city would let the uglies do tricks? Tally later says that tricks are "a way for uglies to blow off steam until they reached sixteen, nothing but a meaningless distraction" (42.14). Is this alternate explanation surprising? Who do you think is right, Dr. Cable or Tally? If you were running the city, would you let the uglies do tricks?

6. How did you feel about the language that the characters used, especially the slang that gets tossed around?  Was there ever a moment where you had trouble understanding the slang? What about the terms "littlie,""ugly,""pretty"—did they ever confuse you? How did you figure out what they meant? What about Shay's use of strange (to Tally) terms like "Barbie," terms that we know?

7. To what extent did Tally decide her own fate, and how much did other people decide it for her?  Tally is faced with a difficult decision: betray her close friend or stay "ugly" forever. What would you do in Tally’s situation? Imagine that you grew up in the same society. How hard would it be to leave and never have the operation?

8. Let's ignore the existing sequel for a moment—if you were to write a sequel, what would you write? What should happen to Tally after she turns herself in? Is there anything about the end of this book that you would want to change if you were writing it? And, if you knew about the sequels, did that change the way you read this first book?  What do you think will happen in this next book? Will Tally stay pretty? Will she resist the pills that Maddy has created or be swayed by her own written submission to the experimental drugs?

Did you like the book?  Why or why not?

Sources for the book club questions:

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Shepherd of the Hills

Sitting down to read The Shepherd of the Hills is like sitting down with a friend.  You feel like you are right there on the Matthews' porch listening to their conversation.  It is a little tricky learning the accent of the people in the book at first, but once you get past that the book is a calm, delightful read.

We started off our book club with a crossword puzzle to see if we remembered the names of the characters.  I read the book over a month ago and couldn't remember a single name.  (Perhaps that is why I can pick a book up a year later and feel like I'm reading it for the first time.)

Book Club Questions:
1. Who was your favorite character?  Why?
Some of our book club's favorite characters were Young Matt, Aunt Mollie, and Dad Howitt.  We liked Young Matt because he was strong, but humble.  It was interesting to us that even though she didn't have any formal schooling, Aunt Mollie was the lady in the area that everyone looked up to.  She didn't need the schooling to have the heart of a true lady.  And who couldn't love Dad Howitt?  He was patient, kind, and wise.

2. One of the main themes of the book is redemption.  Discuss the different ways each character received redemption and why it was important.  
Dad Howitt's redemption comes when Old Matt is able to forgive him for what his son did to their daughter.  We were really impressed with Old Matt being willing to forgive Dad Howitt.  At the beginning of the book he was so angry he threatened to kill the person who caused his family so much sorrow.  After getting to know Dad Howitt he looked past the hurt at the character of the man and was able to forgive although it wasn't easy.

Redemption came for Mad Howard when he finally got the chance to tell the Matthews what happened before he died.

We decided that Sammy had more of a growth or enlightenment rather than a redemption.  We loved how Dad Howitt taught Sammy to find a person's true character.  

3.  What was your favorite "scene" or part of the book?
The love triangle between Sammy, Ollie, and Young Matt was fun to read.  It seemed so obvious that she should be with Young Matt that it would have killed us if she didn't end up with him.  We liked that when he came back to court her, she gave him a chance even though he wasn't what the people in Mutton Hollow thought was a "real man."  He wasn't big and brawny, but she took the time to learn about his character to see if she could live with him for the rest of her life.  We found that commendable.

When Young Matt nearly decided to step out of the picture when it came to Sammy because of all of her learning we were in agony.  We are glad he didn't give up and tried to better himself as well.  I have to add my two cents here: I was hoping for a nice, juicy kiss after all of that emotional torment.  I understand it probably wasn't proper for that time period, but I wanted it anyway.

My favorite scene is when Young Matt rushes to Dad Howitt's house to protect him from the gang.  It was bravery at it's finest.

After an enjoyable discussion we had some absolutely DELICIOUS berry cobbler and ice cream.  Thank you Elsa for hosting and introducing me to one of my new favorite books to read!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Maze Runner

We had another wonderful book club meeting this month.  What is it about sitting around with other people and discussing books that is so enjoyable?!

Book Club Questions:
1. Did you like the book?
It's always so fun to get a group of people together to discuss books.  There were lots of mixed opinions about The Maze Runner by James Dashner.  Some of us wanted a more complete ending at the end of the first book.  They felt there were more questions than answers.  We did decide that there was an ending of sorts until you read the letter.  But that just leaves you with even more questions!  (Guess we'll have to read the next two books to find out the answers.)  Do you like that approach or do you think every book in a series ought to be able to stand on its own?

2. Who was your favorite character?
I thought it was interesting that Thomas wasn't really anybody's favorite character (although we did like that he had good qualities and was a protagonist we could rally around).  Most of our group liked Chuck, Newt, and Frypan.  Chuck humanized the gladers for us, Newt is just awesome, and Frypan is the nurturer.  *Newt is my favorite and I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I'll just say this -- NEWT!  (Like I said, you'll have to read the next two books.)  

3. Discuss the differences between the book and the movie.  What worked?  What was left out?
No telepathy?!  What's up with that?  We decided that they did a decent job cutting things down to fit into the time frame.  The grievers were certainly different than the slug-like creatures you read about in the book.  For some of us a more spider-y griever had a greater scare factor.

4. Did it matter that Teresa was a girl?  Could they have thrown in another boy and said he was the last one ever and gotten the same results?  What do you think?
We talked about the fact that they threw in a girl right at the end instead of at the beginning of the experiment.  We decided that if she had been there from the beginning they would have been self-sustaining and not as motivated to find a way out of the maze.  But did it make a difference that it was a girl last?  Perhaps for the shock factor - to help the boys realize that things are really changing.

5. Did you want more insight from the eyes of the people running the experiment to understand why they were putting the kids through these insane trials?  What were the observers learning?
Quite a few of the members of our group wanted more psychological answers in this book.  They wanted to better understand what was going on in the world outside to make them put the children through such drastic experimentation.

6.  Do you like the use of the glader's slang?  Did it enhance the book or was it an easy way to get around using actual swear words?
Again, our group had mixed feelings on this.  Some thought it was a clever way to avoid swearing.  Others wondered if they already had the English language, why would they need to invent new swear/slang words?  But then again, they are teenage boys and we all know that teenagers use strange words (just read a text message).

Photo by Lauren Raeder
I just had to post a picture of these darling Maze Runner treats from book club yesterday.  They are so clever!  Just look at those cute Peep grievers (complete with toothpicks sticking out of them).

So, do you like The Maze Runner?  Most of our group did.

Thank you Michele for hosting book club this month.  You did a fabulous job!

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Hey book clubbers!

I have updated the "Books Discussed" section of the blog.  Check it out and let me know if I've missed any books.  I would hate for someone's book choice to have been left out.

Don't forget to send me a list of your favorite books to add to the "Favorites" section!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

I love book club!  I love how it gives me the opportunity to read amazing books that I have never even heard of.  The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom is one of those books.  This book is a quick, thought-provoking read.

For our discussion we talked about each of the lessons Eddie learns from the five people he encounters.

Here are the lessons:
The Blue Man - There are no random events in life; everyone is connected in some way.
The Captain - All sacrifices, no matter how big or small, are important.
Ruby - Forgive.
Marguerite - Love is not lost in death.
Tala - Eddie's life was not for nothing; He protects children.

What do you think of all of the lessons learned?

Each of the different heavens in the book are very interesting-from the diner in the snow to never-ending weddings.  What would your heaven be like?

Did you like that Eddie's heaven ended at Ruby Pier after he wanted nothing more that to get away from it the entire book?

I found this book intriguing - although difficult to get into at first as you figure out the writing style.

What did you think of it?

Thanks Nancy for the read, the popcorn, and those delicious almonds!

The next book is Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson.  I started this at midnight and stayed awake until 2:30 AM to finish it--it is THAT good.  See you Sept. 18th @ 8:00 PM!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


The book for the month of June was 1776.  Lauren always picks such good books - and her apple crisp was super tasty!  (Lauren, we need that recipe!)  For those of you who couldn't make it I am sorry.  You missed out.  

I am still working on reading this book, but those who read it seemed to like it.  Aubrey brought an awesome version of the book with pictures, notes, maps, etc.  It was super neat!

Here is a list of questions Lauren had for us to discuss:

1. Did you like the book? If yes, why? If no, why not?
2. Did this book alter your opinion of George Washington? What about King George III? 
3. Why do you think that McCullough chooses to begin 1776 with King George III of England? 
How does this set the tone for the historical events about to unfold? 
4. What qualities made General George Washington a successful leader? Do you think that there was 
anything in particular about Washington that enabled him to turn a lost cause into a victory? 
5. Do you think the war could have been won if George Washington had not led the Colonies? 
6. There was a lot of regional prejudice in the Continental Army. Are any of those feelings still 
with us today? 
7. What was the effect of the Declaration of Independence on the army? 
8. Were you surprised by anything that you learned from this book? 
9. Does this book relate in any way to the current state of the world and the United States? 
10. Did the untrained, impromptu existence of the Colonial army give it any advantages over the 
British? What kind of insight into the military experience do the wealth of letters and other first 
hand sources cited by McCullough provide? 
11. Do you think the men and women of our generation could have fought the way the colonists 
did during the revolution? 
12. What kind of men were Nathanael Green and Henry Knox? What was their role in the success 
of the military? Why do you think Washington depended on these two untrained men above 
others and despite his distaste for New Englanders?
13. How did you find the pace of the book? Did McCullough’s method of having events unfold 
make you feel you were living in 1776? 
14. What do you think might have happened if England had retained the Colonies? 
15. Are there any questions you would like to ask?

(Some questions taken or adapted from the Madison Public Library, Madison WI: 

My favorite question Lauren asked was: "Do you think that we still would have gone to war if they didn't go to war back then?"  

What do you think?

We are looking forward to Lost December by Richard Paul Evans at Angie's House.  Book club will be Wednesday, August 26.  Don't miss it!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Not Without My Daughter

For April book club Sarah chose Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody.  I think the quote on the cover summed it up pretty nicely: "Fascinating, if disturbing."

This book was a page turner from beginning to end.  In my wildest dreams I would not have thought that something like Betty's story could happen in today's world.  (Shows you how naive I am.)

Here are some questions that Crissi came up with.  We discussed a few, but it's nice to see them in writing to really think through some of them:
  1. Do you think keeping his wife and daughter in Iran was wrong?  Why?
  2. Was it wrong of Betty to take her daughter and kidnap her back to America where Mahtob could not see her father?  Then why did Betty think it would be wrong for Moody to do that and take Mahtob to Iran?
  3. If a Brazilian woman took her son out of the US and returned to Brazil without the husband's permission would that be wrong?  What circumstances would make it right or wrong?
  4. Would you have tried to escape if you were Betty?  Or do you identify more with Ellen and why?
  5. What would you have done differently than Betty?  What actions are you critical of?
  6. What did you learn about the Islamic faith?  What are parts you liked vs. disliked?
  7. Contrast the turban man with some of Moody's other male relatives.
  8. What do you think of the dress code for women in Iran?  Is it really their choice to be modest or forced?  How much do you think is cultural vs. religious beliefs?
  9. How do you think the events in Iran will shape Mahtob's view of human rights, women's rights or family relations?
  10. Do you think the Lord expects the people of Iran to follow the laws of the land?
I also wonder about the question of nature vs. nurture?  Do you think if you had grown up as a young boy in Iran you would treat the women in your life the same way Moody treats Betty and Mahtob?

We had a very good discussion and I'm sure there was so much more we could have talked about.  Leave your comments if you want to discuss it more.

Thank you Sarah for hosting!  The book was exciting and the treats were delicious!

You can also watch the movie on Netflix.  They've tamed it down a lot, and naturally it's not as good as the book.  But it's a fun watch nonetheless.

*Next month's book: The Davinci Code by Dan Brown.  Crissi Farnsworth will be hosting.