Book group 2014

Have I told y'all about my book group? It's only the best ever. Desmama and I started it back in 2007 and then I mourned its absence in my life after I got married and lived too far away. My sister Jenny did pour into my wounded bosom the balm of sisterly consolation, however. (Translation: she let me join her awesome book group.) I returned the favor during her brief stint in Logan by sending her to mine.

Only then I moved back to Cache Valley (why hello again, Smell of Cows!) and one of the things I was most excited about was getting back together with these ladies. It's such a great group. People have come in and out but this great core is still there. We've got single ladies (aaaand cue Beyonce, wow am I current), married ones, Mormons, not-Mormons, SAHMs, working girls (no, not that kind), liberals, conservatives, and everyone is just lovely. It would be great to find a lesbian and a woman of color to really round us out, but this is Cache Valley. There's only so much to work with.

I hosted in January, because we were supposed to read I am Half-Sick of Shadows during the month of December. And now we know not to do that again. Trying to read a book during the holidays, even a light page-turning Christmas mystery about English people, is just a dumb idea. It was probably my idea, which explains the dumb.

Because I was in charge of the food, I decided to make a cake. I did not choose the cake featured in the book, because when I looked it up I realized that like many other English desserts (bless them) the one the de Luce family ate suffered from some kind of inferiority/rationing complex. "If we add raisins and a pinch of sugar to bread we can call it cake! Lovely!" (No, no you can't.)

I made a pound cake instead. I made it from scratch after choosing the best recipe I could find. I put love into that cake. I wiped down the inside of the pan with butter and Pam. It was to be served with fresh blueberries and cream whipped by me. And here's how it turned out:


I texted Jenny to moan about the cake, and she suggested that I take the part that stayed in the pan and, like, glue it to the rest of the cake with frosting.

Here was my response to that:

this was after I ate half the crumbs with my hands because I was just that mad

So much for my cake. The ladies just carried on and ate mangled cake with blueberries and cream, much as an aristocratic English family fallen on hard times would have done (except their cake really would have been just bread.)

We also brought our book ideas for this year. Last year I suggested a spreadsheet voting system (because you know I love me a spreadsheet). I created a Google Drive document with all the suggested titles and a link to the Amazon description/reviews, plus notes about the title's availability. (Some suggestions turn out to be out of print, others have book club sets at local libraries or are really cheap on Kindle.) And, of course, spaces for each member to put an "X" next to the titles they would like to read. People have about a week to decide which books they are most interested in and vote for 11 of them. I count up the votes for each book and the top 11 are our picks. Then people shout out for the month & book they'd like to host (usually this ends up being the person who suggested the title in the first place).

Considering how complicated I made it, I think it's worked out pretty well and we've ended up with a good lineup, last year and this year. Each book has several people who really want to read it. And if a book turns out to be a dud then it's not like one person will feel responsible. A bunch of people will!

Here is what we'll be reading in 2014

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen 
  2. The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles 
  3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 
  4. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn  
  5. A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans 
  6. My Year with Eleanor: a Memoir by Noelle Hancock 
  7. Wonder by R. J. Palacio 
  8. Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn  
  9. USU Common Literature Experience 2014 pick (they haven't announced it yet) 
  10. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman 
  11. Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand

And here are a few suggestions that didn't get enough votes but I'm adding them all to my Goodreads list.

  1. The Hundred-foot Journey
  2. Tale for the Time Being
  3. Life after Life 
  4. A Winter's Tale
  5. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake
  6. Navigating Early
  7. Tiny Beautiful Things
  8. Lean In
  9. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Anybody else want to add what you'll be reading with your group?


Liz Johnson said... [reply]

I am so incredibly jealous of your book group. I had a phenomenal underground book group a few years ago that petered out when we went public (and it somehow became "the ward book group," ugh), and I've been searching ever since. This move has obviously thrown a wrench in things. Gah.

That said, I'm reading like crazy because I have no friends and obligations! So maybe I'll join your book group vicariously and just leave long, detailed, rambling comments on your blog related to that month's book. Deal? Deal. :)

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

And also, I thought "I am Half-Sick of Shadows" was the least-good of all of the Flavia books I've read so far. Completely sub-par. I have high hopes for the one that just came out, though.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Liz, OR we could do a Google+ hangout for any blog friends who want to gab about that month's book . . .

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

I WOULD BE SO ON BOARD WITH THAT. Assuming I can figure out how to do Google Hangout with my ancient computer (do I need a microphone??).

Nemesis said... [reply]

Pretty sure you would need a microphone or webcam. I think.

AmyJane said... [reply]

I haven't had a GOOD book club in so, so long. Seriously. I miss it. I think that kind of thing requires permanency and stuff. Color me jealous.

Lady Susan said... [reply]

I long for a book club. But book clubs usually meet in the evenings and our house is pretty much in lock down at 5 so......

This is why I have no adult friends.

Elsha said... [reply]

I went to my first new book group meeting a few weeks ago. Interested to see how it runs usually! (First meeting of the year so lots of people were there.)

Also, unrelated to books but related to the cake- here's how to get your cake to not stick: whisk equal parts (I use a tablespoon each) of oil, crisco, and flour and use that to coat the inside of the pan. Seriously, your cake will just fall out.

Shoebox Princess said... [reply]

Long time lurker, first time commenting. I love book lists. Thanks for sharing yours. Got a couple of good titles to check out. It took me all of 30 seconds to decide to purchase A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Amyjane, I wish you lived here. You would join the book group and together we would almost be the lesbian couple!

Nemesis said... [reply]

Lady Susan, I don't know what to tell you about that. Want to join an as-yet-hypothetical online Google+ hangout one?

Nemesis said... [reply]

Elsha, I will love you forever if your cake trick works!

Nemesis said... [reply]

Shoebox Princess, welcome! So glad you said hello. And I hope you love Biblical Womanhood too. :-)

Nemesis said... [reply]

Liz, this one and the first are the only two Flavias I've read so far. I need to get caught up.

Kelly said... [reply]

I have the worst time ever getting cake out of bundt pans. Will have to try Elsa's trick too!

Kelly said... [reply]

Oh, also, I read The Sheltering Sky in grad school, so it's almost like you're getting another Masters!

(Adding booklist to Amazon wish list)

Kelly said... [reply]

Sorry, one more, I LOVED Unbroken! It's really brutal in parts, but so engrossing. It's the first book I've read in ages that made me anxious to get back to it when I had to take a break to, like, work and stuff.

Missy W. said... [reply]

The answer to your cake problem was to tear it into bits and layer it with cream and berries and custard in a tall glass bowl :)

Missy W. said... [reply]

Also, my club has read
#1 - a classic fave - obvs
#3 - much enjoyed - we are all looking forward to the movie
# 7 - awesome awesome awesome
# 10 - I gave it a 6/10, but I hadn't had a baby yet, and the moms in the group said it would change how I felt about it. I bought a copy if you want to borrow it.
# 11 There is a reason this has been on the NYT bestseller list since it was printed. The book is freaking amazing, and Laura is an incredible historian. Also have a copy if you want.

This month we are reading The Rent Collector

Nemesis said... [reply]

@Missy W.

A TRIFLE, of course! I hang my head in the shame. I even had Bird's custard . . .

Nemesis said... [reply]


I've held off on reading Unbroken for exactly the "brutal" reasons you mentioned. But this will make me dive in and then I'm sure I won't be able to put it down either.

Cathy said... [reply]

Last year I only read textbooks! So blah! In January I read Midnight in Austenland and remembered again the joy of reading. I want to read these books also and see what the youngins are readin! So thank for the list!
Also, I almost died laughing at your cake. Another way to prevent that is to grease your pan with shortening and then coat with flour. It's a two-stepper though.

Cathy said... [reply]

One of my long lost book groups read Unbroken and it was so good. Just skip the mean parts.

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