Monday, July 24, 2017

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas: Week Three Discussion & Challenge

Welcome to week three of discussion and challenges for THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas!

CHAPTER 13:  We learn more details on Khalil's decisions and current circumstances.  Knowing this extra information, does it change how you view him?

CHAPTER 14:  Comment on this quote.
"That's the problem.  We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us.  What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?" (252)

CHAPTER 15:  Let's talk about the friendship between Starr and Hailey.  It seems to be on edge, even before the death of Khalil.  Starr's mama recommends she makes a list of pros and cons.  What do you think Starr will discover if and when she makes this list?

CHAPTER 16:  Starr is being interviewed for a TV special.  The chapter ends with her final blow, and it was the first time her parents have heard some of the details she discloses.  What did you think of the interview as well as the potential reactions to those listening?

CHAPTER 17:  The big dance has arrived, but it does not get off on a good foot between Starr and Chris.  Comment on the night's events.

CHAPTER 18:  The night before her appearance in front of the grand jury, Starr's home is targeted by a drive-by shooting.  Who do you think was behind this violence?  Why?

CHAPTER 19:
"Brave doesn't mean you're not scared, Starr," she says.  "It means you go on even though you're scared.  And you're doing that." (331)
Starr's mom leaves her with this advice before she enters the grand jury room. Do you think Starr was able to internalize this message?

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WEEKLY CHALLENGE

Reading can help build empathy and take readers into the shoes of those different from themselves.  Find a favorite book that will take a reader into a world unbeknownst to them and pass it on to a friend or stranger.

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ICYMI:  

Next week, we will be chatting about the remainder of the book.  Don't forget to share your thoughts, comments, and challenges using the hashtag #12mos12rals!

Monday, July 17, 2017

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas: Week Two Discussion & Challenge

Welcome to week two of discussion and challenges!  This book is seriously sending me on a roller coaster ride of emotions, so let's just dive right into the questions today.

CHAPTER 8:  Khalil's funeral celebrates him, until the Lords show up and place a handkerchief on his chest.  Starr is shocked.  How did this make you feel?

CHAPTER 9:  Choose one quote listed below and comment on it.
"Bullets don't know where they're supposed to go." (137)
"I can call Garden Heights the ghetto all I want.  Nobody else can."  (139)
"Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong.  The key is to never stop doing right."  (154)

CHAPTER 10:  This chapter delves deep into many topics, from Harry Potter as a book about gangbangers to Tupac's music and the Thug Life.  Share your thoughts and comments as you read.

CHAPTER 11:  Starr's worlds continue to collide at the beginning of this chapter when a protest breaks out at her school.  Share your thoughts on the protest, the reasons behind it, and the characters' reactions.  OR, take on the second half of the chapter instead and address the encounter between Starr's dad and the police.

CHAPTER 12:  Starr decided to talk, to ensure that Khalil's life matters.  As you read this chapter, what did you think and/or feel?

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WEEKLY CHALLENGE

This week's readings had me writing down so many quotes that really impacted me.  Let's run with that this week for our challenge as well.  Find your favorite quote addressing social justice and put it out in the world.  Share it via social media, create it on an index card and drop it around your community.  You decide how you want to share it, spreading your quote and social justice love.

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ICYMI:  

Next week, we will be chatting about Chapters 13-19.  Don't forget to share your thoughts, comments, and challenges using the hashtag #12mos12rals!

Monday, July 10, 2017

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas: Week One Discussion & Challenge

Welcome to the first week of discussion for THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas!  I am so excited to start discussing this one with you, but first I have got to know what your initial thoughts are about the book.  Are you enjoying it?  Do you feel it is a page-turner?  Does it make you have certain feelings or thoughts while reading it?

Now, for the official discussion questions.  This month, I have decided to try something a little different.  I have listed one question per chapter.  I wanted to break down this book into a little more detail, and it gives the extra added perk of being able to answer questions at your own reading pace.  As per the usual chatter, I encourage you to answer any or all of the questions, whichever may strike your discussion fancy.

CHAPTER 1:  Our main character Starr writes, "Funny how it works with white kids though.  It's dope to be black until it's hard to be black." (11)  What do you think she means with this statement?

CHAPTER 2:  Starr had two talks growing up:  the birds and the bees and the other being what to do if she was ever stopped by a cop.  She hoped Khalil had that talk too.  Comment.

CHAPTER 3:  The day after the shooting, life goes on as usual.  How do you find Starr coping?  How about those around her?

CHAPTER 4:  Starr wakes to find her Daddy and Uncle Carlos fighting about whether she should report her evidence from the night of Khalil's death.  Take one side of this argument and share your own thoughts on what Starr should do.

CHAPTER 5:  We get to see the other side of Starr - Williamson Starr.  Out of the blue, both worlds collide as she is talking to her boyfriend, Chris.  She has a flashback of the night Khalil dies.  Discuss both the separation and the collision of her worlds.

CHAPTER 6:  This chapter ends with "This gonna be some bullshit."  What feelings does this incite?

CHAPTER 7:  "Chris didn't pull us over, he didn't shoot Khalil, but am I betraying who I am by dating him?" (106)  What thoughts and/or feelings does this quote leave you with?

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WEEKLY CHALLENGE

As I mentioned in the introduction post, each week I am going to leave you with a challenge.  Some of these challenges will encourage you to act.  Others will simply encourage you to ponder.  Hopefully, all of them will challenge you to consider where you are currently at, what you believe, and how you can make this world a little better place.

This week, share other books addressing social justice topics.  You may share by listing titles in the comments.  You can share recommendations on social media or give personal recommendations.  Then, take it one step further and consider . . . What will you do to take those social justice issues beyond the book?

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Next week, we will be chatting about Chapters 8-12.  Don't forget to share your thoughts, comments, and challenges using the hashtag #12mos12rals!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Join Us For THE HATE U GIVE and a Challenge!

Good Morning, and Welcome to July!

This month here at Book Bloggers International, we are going to be chatting about THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas.  We are not only going to be chatting about this book this month and how it relates to our current state of the world, but I am also going to be throwing a challenge out there for you each week.  But first, let us look at the book we will be reading together (description from Goodreads) . . .
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Each week, we will read a select group of chapters and then discuss the content in those chapters.  Some may feel that they need to fly through the book without sticking to the schedule.  That is okay.  The only thing I ask is that we do not share spoilers for the parts of the book that we have not yet discussed.  In other words, you can read ahead, but don't discuss ahead of the schedule!

July 3: Introductions & Reading Schedule 
July 10: Chapters 1-7 
July 17: Chapters 8-12 
July 24: Chapters 13-19 
July 31: Chapters 20-26

Before we close out, there are two additional items we need to address . . . introductions and our weekly challenge.

INTRODUCE YOURSELF:  If you will be reading and/or discussing along with us, chime in on the comments below.  Or, post about it on your own blog and share the link in the comments.  Tell us where you will be sharing any additional thoughts in the social media world as you read (i.e., Twitter, Instagram, etc.).

WEEKLY CHALLENGE:  As the name of the title implies, we are going to be addressing HATE.  Let's start out our month and our readalong with a little bit of LOVE.  I challenge you to perform one random act of kindness this week, then check in below in the comments section and let us know if you completed it.  You do not need to share details because that kind of defeats the purpose of the random act of kindness, but do let us know that you performed an act of some sort and your own personal response.

Happy Reading!  I look forward to reading this one with you all this month!

Monday, June 26, 2017

A TRIFLE DEAD Week 4 Discussion

a trifle dead livia day

This week marks the end of our A Trifle Dead readalong. I hope you all had fun with this quirky mystery! I'll share some concluding thoughts on the book at the end of this post. Don't forget about Tif's readalong of The Hate U Give coming in July.

This final discussion post contains SPOILERS. I tried to be as vague as possible as to the identity of the Trapper, but it's impossible to discuss what happened without a few major plot reveals, so if you haven't finished the book yet you may want to avert your eyes. In the meantime, you can read the discussion posts for chapters 1-8, 9-14, and 15-20.



royal tasmanian botanical gardens hobart
Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens in Hobart
Photo by Sally Cummings via Flickr
I thought the conclusion of A Trifle Dead was really well-done, even though I had guessed the identity of the Trapper about halfway through the book. I think if there's one thing we've learned from this novel, it's not to trust people who eat their side salads.

One of the funniest scenes in this section is when Tabitha gets cranky about the sandwich her kidnapper makes for her:

He came back a while later with a doorstop dark rye sandwich on a plate, looking pleased with himself. ‘I know you like pesto, and smoked salmon, and semi-dried tomatoes, not sun-dried. There’s some baby spinach in there, too.’ Hipster food. My stomach gurgled anyway. Talking about murder raises an appetite... Best not mention that I hate the combination of smoked salmon and semi-dried tomato. Could have been worse. Could have been capers.

Whatevs, girl, capers and salmon are a god-given combo. Tabitha also takes issue with her tea:

He had put sugar in it, which annoyed me. I only take sugar in coffee. For a stalker, he sure hadn’t been paying much attention to my actual likes and dislikes.

Ha! How inconsiderate of him. Wth is hipster food, though, I wondered. Naturally Buzzfeed is here to give us (me) the answer, with a supes-helpful listical showing "regular food" versus "hipster food." Including hipster sandwiches! After reading that Buzzfeed post, I don't think Tabitha has ANY room to complain about hipster food, considering what she serves at her café. Miss ‘tofu and ricotta salad roll, deconstructed.’



Moving on, do you guys have any idea what a "blueberry syrup cake," the cake Tabitha made for Bishop before she was kidnapped, is? When I googled it I mainly got recipes for blueberry syrup. Is it like a poke cake with blueberry syrup poured in the holes, or more like this recipe where the syrup is mixed into the batter before baking? Or just cake covered in blueberry syrup? It sounded more unstable than that.

But in positive news, we FINALLY get Tabitha's trifle recipe in the final chapter. Her recipe for espresso cup mocha trifles is:

Chocolate jelly. Coffee custard. A dash of sour cherry curd, for contrast. Tiny specks of tiramisu sponge dotted throughout, and whole marinated cherries sitting fat and juicy on top of the cups.

There were also some more trifle recipes at the end of the book, although I have no idea where they came from. Day's readers? Friends and family? It would have been nice to have an introduction to that section, but maybe I missed it. What I do know is those recipes sounded like a lot of work.

Personally I enjoyed A Trifle Dead more than a trifle (see what I did there?). It was really fun, fast-paced, super quirky, and I loved the setting and the food talk. I also appreciated that there were other mysteries about the characters outside of the central mystery of who the Trapper was. I didn't care a ton about those mysteries, but they added layers to the book that made it more than a silly mystery.

One frustrating aspect of the novel was the whole Bishop/Stewart situation. I cooled on Bishop during the second half of the book for various reasons, but I'm not really feeling Stewart either. Meanwhile, Tabitha seems to be feeling both of them equally. PICK A SIDE!


What did you think of A Trifle Dead? Did you try any of the trifle recipes? Notice anything I missed? Let us know in the comments and thanks for reading along with me this month!

Monday, June 19, 2017

A TRIFLE DEAD Week 3 Discussion

a trifle dead livia day

We're nearing the end of our June readalong of A Trifle Dead by Livia Day. I hope you're enjoying this quirky book! Today we'll be discussing the food and happenings of chapters 15-20. You can check out the entire readalong schedule in our June newsletter, and read our previous discussions for weeks 1 and 2 on this blog.



milk bar sydney
Sydney Milk Bar, 1946
Image by State Record Authority of NSW via Wikipedia
Not a lot of noshing or cooking going on in this section of the book, since Tabitha shuts her café down in the hopes it will flush out her absentee landlord. But she does go to a catered party and immediately starts hating on the hors d’oeuvres. There's "sushi made with semi-dried tomatoes and pine nuts," which admittedly does sound pretty disgusting; and vegetarian sausage rolls (seems like an oxymoron) that "looked like something had died inside them." Yum. Tabitha also has issues with "toothpick food," I guess because people put the used toothpicks back on the platter and then they roll around and touch the uneaten food? The aesthetic and sanitary implications of eating food with toothpicks isn't something I've ever considered, to be honest. Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to catering?

In addition to investigating the Trapper, some personal revelations came out in these last few chapters that makes this passage particularly poignant:

When I was a little girl, Dad used to take me out to his favourite milk bar near the station (probably the last place in Hobart that called itself a ‘milk bar’) and order me lime spiders in glasses so tall I had to stand up to drink them through the straw. It’s basically lime syrup, ice cream and lemonade, thoroughly disgusting, and they never fail to cheer me up.

A "milk bar" is an Australian store that serves as a corner store-cum-delicatessen and serves things like fish and chips, milk shakes, etc. They're not as popular as they used to be, but according to Wikipedia they're still a common sight in most Australian suburbs.



As for lime spiders, these things look incredible! I don't even care if they're disgusting, I want to try one based on looks alone. For a more adult version of the drink, you can use lime cordial in place of lime syrup.

And now for a more serious topic: Tabitha's choice of pizza. Apparently she's a fan of pineapple pizza. I know this is a divisive topic and there are a bunch of people who think pizza with pineapple isn't "real pizza." I've never had a chance or desire to try it. What do you think? Real pizza or no? (As an aside: Speaking of weird pizza–and weird sushi–I saw a sushi pizza on TV the other day that actually looked pretty good.)

What do you think of the mystery so far? To be honest, I found the last few chapters fatiguing because it seems like Tabitha's dashing about with no solid clues or logical train of thought. I have a suspect in mind, but only because s/he seems the least likely person, not because there's any evidence pointing to them.

It is curious how the Trapper stuffed Tabitha's fridge with ping pong balls, though. I'm thinking s/he filled a giant trash bag with ping pongs, put the bag in the empty fridge upside down with the top loosely twisted closed, then shut the door just enough that the balls wouldn't roll out, but they'd still be able to pull the bag away as the balls slid out. Any other ideas? You could also get a large sheet of plastic or cardboard, use it to cover the open fridge with space at the top to pour in the balls, then shut the door and pull away the board.

Obviously I've put a lot of thought into this.

herb soup
German herb soup
Back to the food! Some other foods Tabitha mentions are peach meringue roulade, another dessert like pav that's usually served during the holidays; friands, small almond cakes similar to financiers; and Bavarian herb soup. The herb soup really caught my attention because I love soup (who doesn't?), but I've never seen it made entirely with herbs before. It looks absolutely delicious. In Germany, it's traditionally served on Holy Thursday, or the Thursday before Easter, which is also called green Thursday. This super green soup is perfect for that holiday, no? I really want to try it. For a Mediterranean-style version, see Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe.

What did you think of the book this past week? Have any ideas who Tabitha's mysterious tormentor is? Spotted any foods I didn't mention? Tell us in the comments or paste your link into the linky below!

Next week will be our final discussion, when all will be revealed!






Monday, June 12, 2017

A TRIFLE DEAD Week 2 Discussion

a trifle dead by livia day

It's time to kick off our second discussion for our June readalong book, A Trifle Dead. We're discussing this culinary mystery through food! Today we'll cover chapters 9-14. To see the full schedule, check out our June newsletter. You can find the previous week's discussion post here.



west hobart
"Mellifont Street West Hobart" by Graeme Bartlett
via Wikimedia Commons
This segment of A Trifle Dead was light on the foodstuffs, since Tabitha spent most of the time going to parties with Stewart, the slightly sketchy Scots reporter, and Ceege, her cross-dressing flatmate (OF COURSE Tabitha's roomie is a cross dresser. See: quirky). I was super jeals of her Oscar party, though – I've always wanted to throw an Oscar viewing party like that! Have you ever thrown an Oscar party and was it up to Tabitha and Ceege's standards?

tim tam
Photo by slgckgc via Flickr
One food item mentioned in this section are Tim Tams. I'd heard of Tim Tams, but never bothered to find out exactly what they are. UNTIL NOW. It turns a Tim Tam consists of two biscuits with a cream layer in the middle, covered by chocolate. And as of 2017 you can actually find them in the US!

Another junk food Tabitha has a weakness for are jaffas. They're candy-coated chocolates, kind of like M&Ms, except the coating is orange-flavored. The name jaffa comes from the jaffa orange. They're hugely popular in both Australia and New Zealand.

A post shared by Dedric Lam (@dedlam) on


echidna
"Echidnas on the march"
Photo by Cazz via Flickr
Finally, when Tabitha and Stewart go to the Hobart Coffee Festival in Salamanca Market–a non-existent festival, by the way–Tabitha mentions in passing seeing "chocolate-coffee-bean echidnas." What is an echidna? It's not a food, it's an adorable animal native to Australia and New Guinea that's distantly related to the platypus. They look a bit like a hedgehog and are sometimes called spiny anteaters.

That's all I have for this section, except that I loved this description of one of Hobart's suburbs:

West Hobart is a steep, multi-hill suburb between our little city and the first bushy slopes of the mountain. Most days, it’s green, leafy and cheerful, despite the freezing wind that cuts straight from Antarctica.

What did you think of the food in this section? Have you had a chance to try jaffas, Tim Tams, or anything else? Let us know in the comments or paste your link into the Mr. Linky!




Monday, June 5, 2017

A TRIFLE DEAD Week 1 Discussion

a trifle dead by livia day

Welcome to our first discussion for A Trifle Dead by Livia Day! Today we'll be covering Chapters 1-8, focusing on the delicious foods we read about this past week. To see the full schedule, check out our June newsletter.


salamanca market hobart tasmania
"Salamanca Market at Salamanca Place, Hobart, Tasmania"
Image by Jes via Wikimedia Commons
The first few chapters of A Trifle Dead have been fun and very fast-paced, with short chapters and a ton of quirky characters. And I mean **QUIRKY**.

Tabitha Darling is the owner of a café in Hobart, Tasmania, that serves updated and hip versions of classic desserts. This is much to the consternation of her parents' friends, a bacon-and-eggs crowd who continue to crave Tabitha's mom's cooking. When a dead body is found in the flat above the café, Tabitha's Nancy Drew instincts kick in and she starts poking around, with a little help from a cute Scots blogger and more than little discouragement from Sergeant Bishop, her high school crush.

So! Onto the food. One of the first things Tabitha mentions are salad rolls. In the US, "salad rolls" are basically Thai spring rolls, but it seems in Australia they're just, like, a sandwich?

When I was growing up, a salad roll was a confection-like sticky bun filled with cheese, tomato, lettuce, beetroot and sliced egg, all glued together with a mock-mayonnaise.

Sounds like a sandwich to me. The Food Pornographer has photos of a salad roll that looks similar to Tabitha's description, or if you want to check out a more modern version of the salad roll, there are some yummy pics of Sweet Gossip's salad rolls, supposedly the "best in Australia."

humming bird cake
"Hummingbird cake"
Photo by ulterior epicure via Flickr
Another dessert that made me reach for The Google was hummingbird cake. I'd never heard of hummingbird cake and thought it was a weird Australian thing, but turns out it's a spice cake that originated in the good ol' US of A! It's especially popular in the South and is made with banana, pineapple, cinnamon, pecans, and vanilla. Think carrot cake but with bananas.

Speaking of cake, what did you all think of the muffins Tabitha brought Crushed Velvet, the up-and-coming band that's only eating blue food as a publicity stunt? The parmesan and onion savory cupcakes sounded soooo good, and I love the idea of blue velvet cupcakes. This recipe from Marilyn's Treats looks almost exactly like Tabitha's.

But the real culinary stars of this section were Bev's pav nude sculptures. LITERALLY FOOD PORN. Fortunately, thanks to Mandy, I already knew what a "pav" was and didn't have to google it. Pav is Aussie for pavlova, a meringue-based treat covered in fruit that was named for the ballerina Anna Pavlova. It's one of Australia's and New Zealand's national dishes and is usually served during the holidays.

Here's the always delightful Mary Berry to show us how to make it!




Have you had any of the desserts or sandwiches mentioned so far in A Trifle Dead? Find some recipes you want to try? Let us know in the comments or paste your link into the Mr Linky below!

Also, bonus question: Are you Team Bishop or Team Stewart?



Monday, May 29, 2017

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie: Week Four Discussion


Welcome to the final week of discussion for THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie!  What a month of reading it has been, so let's wrap up this conversation!

IN LIKE A LION starts with a conversation about the power of expectations.  "They expected me to be good.  And so I became good."  Do you believe that expectations can set up a child for both the good or the bad?

Alexie writes that the biggest difference between Indians and white people is the amount of funerals they attend throughout their lifetime.  Indians attend a LOT more.  Comment on this statement.

On page 217, Junior/Arnold shares all the tribes that he is a part of.  What tribes would you say you are a part of?

Throughout the book, Alexie shares many things ... laughs, raw art, controversial opinions, truth about life as an Indian, teen boy thoughts, and so much more.  By the end of the story, he also shares a lot of heartbreak.  What are some of your most memorable moments from the story?

On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the lowest, 5 being the highest), what would you rate this book?  Why?

Thanks so much for joining in the conversation about THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN.  Be sure to check back later this week for more information on our next readalong for the year!

ICYMI:
Week One
Week Two
Week Three

Monday, May 22, 2017

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie: Week Three Discussion


Welcome to the third week of discussion for THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie!  This week we are chatting about the chapters through, but not including, IN LIKE A LION.  Let's do it!

"You have to dream big to get big."  This is what Arnold's dad told him to encourage him to try out for the basketball team.  What is one thing that your parent(s) said to you to provide you encouragement when you were doubting yourself.

Let's talk about the chapter REINDEER GAMES.  Within this chapter, there were so many little quotes and themes that we can chat about.  We will stick with two . . .

Arnold writes, "I've learned that the worst thing a parent can do is ignore their children."  There was really so much more to the parenting conversation than this comment, but let's stick with this quote for now.  Do you agree or disagree with this statement?  Why or why not?

Family was a huge theme to this chapter.  Family values differ across groups and cultures.  What are one or two values that you hold in regards to family?  How is this important to your own culture?

Let's end with on lighter note.  At the end of this section, Arnold begins sharing lists; writing lists were his way to grieve through his loss.  Choose one of these lists, and share what would be on your own list:  people who have given you the most joy in life, musicians who have given you the most joyous music, favorite foods, favorite books, or favorite basketball players.

Next week, we will be discussing the rest of the book!  Read to the end, and let's chat about our overall thoughts on the book.

Monday, May 15, 2017

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie: Week Two Discussion


Welcome to the second week of discussion for THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie!  This week we are chatting about the chapters through, but not including, DANCE, DANCE, DANCE.  Let's just dive in!

Throughout this section of the book, we really get to look in on an Indian's point of view because Junior heads to Reardan for school ... the only Indian in the school besides the mascot.  It is here that we get this first exchange between Junior and his dad . . .
"Just remember this," my father said.  "Those white people aren't better than you."
But he was wrong.  And he knew he was wrong.  He was the loser Indian father of a loser Indian son living in a world built for winners.
Shortly after this exchange, Junior shares one of his comics featured in the photo below.


These two items are in the first chapter from our reading for the week and speak so loud to a theme found throughout.  Share your thoughts on these two items, as well as your first reactions to Junior's first exposure to Reardan High School.

Junior meets Gordy, and eventually they become friends.  One of the conversations that helps to cement their relationship is one about books.  Gordy shares with Junior that books give him a boner!
"Well, I don't mean boner in the sexual sense . . . I don't think you should run through life with a real erect penis.  But you should approach each book - you should approach life - with the real possibility that you might get a metaphorical boner at any point."
What was your reaction to this passage?

Lastly, compare and/or contrast the friendship between Junior and Rowdy versus Junior and Gordy.

Next week, we will be discussing through, but not including the chapter, IN LIKE A LION.  

Monday, May 8, 2017

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexia: Week One Discussion


Welcome to the first week of discussion for THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie!  This week we are chatting about the chapters through, but not including, HOW TO FIGHT MONSTERS.  Let's just dive in!
  1. Have you previously read any work by Sherman Alexie?  If yes, what books have you read?  If no, what do you think about his writing style so far?
  2. Alexie does not beat around the bush in his writing, and is not afraid to tackle some hard topics.  In the first chapters of the book, he addresses race, poverty, and masturbation, to name just a few.  Did any of these (mentioned or not) cause you discomfort while reading?  Let's hear the details, as you feel comfortable sharing.
  3. Hope.  Junior's parents define hope as white.  He believes it to be nothing more than a mythical creature.  How would you define hope?  How has your experiences contribute to this definition?
  4. We end our weekly reading with Junior's best friend, Rowdy, becoming his worst enemy.  How did you respond to these words?  Now, let's consider his illustration that accompanies these words?  How did this addition affect your reaction?

Next week, we will be discussing through, but not including the chapter, DANCE, DANCE, DANCE.  I find the book to be an easy read, so it will be hard to stop reading here!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Introducing THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie

It's May, and what better way to celebrate the beginning of a new month than with the beginning of a new readalong!  Woohoo!!

This month, we will be reading THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie.  Before I get to the schedule, let me share the description of the book courtesy of Goodreads . . .
Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

I believe this will be a fairly quick read, but I want us to take it slow and really appreciate the work of Alexie.  Therefore, we will be breaking the book up throughout the entire month.  If you cannot resist and must read on, feel free to do so.  Just be cautious of sharing spoilers within our conversations here on the blog based upon the selected readings.

Now, for the schedule . . . In this book, the chapters are not numbered; therefore, the chapters listed are what we will read TO each week. Once you get to the chapter noted, STOP reading (if you can) and join in the conversation.

May 8: How to Fight Monsters
May 15: Dance, Dance, Dance
May 22: In Like a Lion
May 29: END!

Grab your copy of THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, and come join in the reading fun!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Discussion: THE VEGETARIAN by Han Kang

the vegetarian

Welcome to the April readalong discussion of The Vegetarian by Han Kang. I managed to read the whole thing during the Readathon, which officially makes it the first and only book I've ever started and completed in one Readathon. Yay! If you chatted about it online with me, thank you! I hope you had a chance to read it and that you'll participate in our discussion.

There is A LOT going on in this under-200-pages novel. Like any brilliant story, the setup is deceptively simple: Yeong-hye, a seemingly ordinary wife, decides to stop eating meat. NBD, right? Well, as her husband says, it wouldn't be a big deal if she was doing it for "socially acceptable" reasons like losing weight or because her doctor told her she should. Instead, she does it because she had a dream–a dream that gradually seems to infect and wreak havoc on the lives of those around her.

And now, onto the discussion questions! Feel free to answer any or all of these, or post your own burning questions in the comments.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS


  • First of all! What did you think of the book in general?
  • We never get to hear directly from Yeong-hye except in brief snippets of dream and memory. Why do you think the author tells her story through the lens of other people? Do you think this is effective?
  • Yeong-hye says she stopped eating meat because she had a dream. What do you think the dream was actually about?
  • Vegetarianism and fasting has been used as a form of social protest in the past, particularly among women (see, for example, "The Awakened Instinct: Vegetarianism and the Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain" by Leah Leneman and The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J Adams). Do you think this is what Yeong-hye is doing? Is she refusing to eat meat in order to stick it to the goddamn patriarchy?
  • As the story goes on, Yeong-hye seems to be transforming into a plant herself (or at least wanting to). Is this an art-imitating-life situation? It seems like her husband treated her as little more than a plant to begin with.
  • Yeong-hye's brother-in-law may seem more sympathetic to her than her husband, but is he?
  • There's a surprising amount of violence, both sexual and physical, in this book. Why do you think that is?
  • There are a lot of themes in the novel: obsession, dreams, conformity and acting "normal," choosing to act morally and choosing not to. Which of these themes stood out for you the most?
  • Finally, what did you think of the ending? Does it negate the previous sections of the book?


Before putting this discussion to rest, I HIGHLY recommend you read this review of The Vegetarian by an actual vegetarian familiar with Korean culture.





Thanks for your patience this month and get ready for May, when Tif will host a readalong of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Announcing Our First Ever Live Readalong!

the vegetarian

One of the reasons why I picked The Vegetarian by Han Kang for our April readalong was because it sounded like the perfect Readathon book: something short and fast enough that you could read it in one sitting.

Well, the Readathon is only a few days away and, because the library holds gods have not been kind to me, I haven't had a chance to read The Vegetarian yet. So I had a thought: since the whole idea behind The Vegetarian was to read it during the Readathon anyway, why not do a live readalong on Saturday??

I'll be using #TheVegetarianBBI during the Readathon to track my progress (in addition to the #Readathon hashtag) and I hope you'll join me on any platform you prefer: Twitter, Facebook, Litsy, Instagram, whatever!

Already read the book or aren't planning on participating in Saturday's 24 Hour Readathon? No worries, I'll have a traditional discussion post up here, hopefully before Sunday.

Thanks for your patience this month and chat with you all on Saturday!

Monday, March 27, 2017

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead: Week Four #12mos12rals


It's the final week of discussion for THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD!  Can you believe it?  Time flew by this month!  This week, we are finalizing our discussion with the last three chapters/sections of the book, including INDIANA, MABEL, and THE NORTH.  As usual, I encourage chatter addressing these questions, but you can always bring up your own topics that I may have missed.


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INDIANA

  • In this section, we slowly discover what happens to Cora after Ridgeway.  How does Cora change once arriving at Valentine's farm?
  • Throughout the story, the underground railroad created by Whitehead features actual trains.  At the Tennessee location, we see "the most splendid locomotive yet" complete with a passenger car and jolly engineer.  What is the significance behind Whitehead's interpretations of the railroad and the differences among the different forms of transportation?
  • "Work needn't be suffering, it could unite folks . . . Freedom was a community laboring for something lovely and rare."  Respond to this quote.
  • "We are not one people but many different people.  How can one person speak for this great, beautiful race - which is not one race but many, with a million desires and hopes and wishes for ourselves and our children?"  How can this quote relate to our modern day?

MABEL
  • We finally learn the fate of Mabel, Cora's mother.  How does knowing her fate affect the rest of the story?

THE NORTH
  • Each of the sections titled by a location begins with a sort of classified ad looking for lost property.  Let's talk about this final ad, Ran Away.
  • Homer stands by Ridgeway's side until the very end, creating a complicated relationship throughout the story.  What are your thoughts on his character?  Do they change throughout the story?
  • Cora's travels through the underground result in her miraculous escape.  What hopes do you believe she holds in her future?  What hopes do you have for her?

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Stay tuned for our next readalong in April ... THE VEGETARIAN by Han Kang hosted by Tasha!


Monday, March 20, 2017

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead: Week Three #12mos12rals


Welcome back to another week of discussion for THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD!  This week, we are going to discuss the three more chapters/sections of the book, including ETHEL, TENNESSEE, and CAESAR.  Please read on for specific questions to address, but please feel free to chat about anything beyond these questions that you deem fit.


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ETHEL

  • We get a little glimpse into Ethel's life in this chapter.  Does this change your initial impressions of her based on the last section?  Why or why not?
  • Last week, I asked if you thought Ethel had give Cora kisses while she was sleeping through a fever.  We discover here that those kisses are real, but are accompanied by "two kinds of feeling."  What kinds of feeling do you think they might be?

TENNESSEE
  • The appearance of Homer adds an interesting relationship to Ridgeway and the story in general.  Share your thoughts on his appearance and/or role in the story.
  • Cora was rescued by three "runaways."  What do you believe was their story?

CAESAR
  • We finally get to learn more about Caesar, his past, and his intentions.  With this new information, what do you take away regarding the man and his character?

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Next week, we will be back on Monday to chat about the next three sections:  INDIANA, MABEL, and THE NORTH.  This is our last round of chapters, and I am looking forward to reading the conclusion and chatting with you all.


Monday, March 13, 2017

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead: Week Two #12mos12rals


Welcome to another week of discussion for THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD!  Today, we are here to discuss the next three chapters/sections of the book, including SOUTH CAROLINA, STEVENS, and NORTH CAROLINA.  Please read on for specific questions to address, but I encourage you to take your own route if you so desire.


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SOUTH CAROLINA
  • Cora's life changed drastically after getting on the underground railroad.  In addition to getting used to her new name of Bessie, what other changes did she have to get used to?  What do you believe would be the hardest change to become accustomed to?
  • "Stolen bodies working stolen land."  Comment.
  • Dr. Bertram shares the truth of the hospital's work with the black population, and Sam passes on the information/warning to Cora and Caesar.  While reading this, my mind flashed to the biography THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS.  What similarities do you see between the medical stories?

STEVENS
  • A new character is introduced: Stevens, a medical student and body snatcher. What are your impressions of this man? 
  • What is the meaning of the following quote in your own words? "And if you could make a study of the dead, Steven's thought from time to time, you could make a study of the living, and make them testify as no cadaver could."

NORTH CAROLINA
  • Martin's father left him a treasure when he died.  "The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad.  Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all, but it was not what Martin expected."  What do you imagine was Martin's initial reaction to discovering this treasure?  Comment on freedom as currency, and the underground railroad as treasure.
  • Cora did not see Ethel beyond the first night she arrived.  That is, until Cora became ill and Ethel became her caregiver.  Cora imagined a motherly kiss while she was in the midst of fever.  Do you think the kiss was real or imagined?  Why or why not?
  • What are your thoughts at the conclusion of this chapter?  Do you feel any hope for Cora?  How about Martin and Ethel?

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Tell me what you are thinking of the story so far, whether you answer the specific questions or not!  I am excited to chat more about this book!  

Next week, we will be back on Monday to chat about the next three sections:  ETHEL, TENNESSEE, and CAESAR.  This is a shorter week of reading, so if you are behind in reading it's a great time to catch-up.  See you all back again next week.


Monday, March 6, 2017

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead: Week One #12mos12rals


Welcome to the first week of discussion for THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD!  Today, we are here to discuss the first three chapters/sections of the book, including AJARRY, GEORGIA, and RIDGEWAY.  Please read on for specific questions to address, but I encourage you to take your own route if you so desire.


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AJARRY
  • In this first chapter, we are first introduced to Cora.  What are your first impressions?
  • The bulk of the chapter explores Cora's grandmother, Ajarry and her story.  How much of Ajarry's story influences Cora?
  • Comment on the opening and closing of the chapter:  "This was her grandmother talking." vs "This time it was her mother talking."

GEORGIA
  • Let's talk about Jockey.  What is the importance of his character to the story within this chapter?
  • How did the Hob affect Cora, both positively and negatively?
  • What was it that caused Cora to step in between Chester and Terrance at Jockey's party?  Why did Chester not want anything to do with Cora after she tried to save him?
  • What attracted Caesar to Cora?  Why did he choose her to run away with?
  • Comment on your initial reaction to the underground railroad.  Was it described as you expected?  Why or why not?

RIDGEWAY
  • In this chapter, we meet Ridgeway.  What are your first impressions of him?
  • It was Ridgeway that was the lead behind finding Cora's mother when she escaped.  Now, he is on the case of Cora herself, and is determined more than ever to destroy the underground railroad.  Why does he feel so strongly about this destruction?

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Feel free to answer any or all of the questions listed above.  Feel free to address any that you feel that I have missed.  Feel free to link up below, or feel free to just comment here at the bottom of the post.  

Next week, we will be back on Monday to chat about the next three sections:  SOUTH CAROLINA, STEVENS, AND NORTH CAROLINA.  See you all back again next week.


Friday, March 3, 2017

BBC Releases FREE Audiobook of THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD!!


ICYMI:  We are reading THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead this month for our #12mos12rals.  What could be better timing than a little FREE copy of the audiobook?!?  You have only 18 days left to take advantage of this offer (from the time this post goes live)!

I discovered this fun little surprise thanks to an announcement from Book Riot, but you can find the direct link here.

Click here for our full reading schedule for the month.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Introducing THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead #12mos12rals


Today is the first of March, which means another readalong for #12mos12rals here at Book Bloggers International!  During March, we will be reading and discussing the National Book Award Winner, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.  For those who may not be familiar with the book, here is a description from the publisher, Double Day Books . . .
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. 
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. 
Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

For those joining in the week-by-week reading, here is the official schedule.  Feel free to read just the selected reading listed below, or read ahead because you can't put the book down.  Then, come back and discuss the book using the guided questions and conversation that I will share every Monday.  The only thing we ask is that you do not share spoilers past the noted readings for those that read ahead.

Monday, March 6: p. 1-82 (Ajarry, Georgia, Ridgeway) 
Monday, March 13: p. 83-188 (South Carolina, Stevens, North Carolina) 
Monday, March 20: p. 189-236 (Ethel, Tennessee, Caesar) 
Monday, March 27: 237-306 (Indiana, Mabel, The North)

If you have questions, just let us know in the comments section below.  If you are joining us, give us a little wave.  I look forward to reading with you this month!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Week 4 Discussion: BORN A CRIME by Trevor Noah #12mos12rals

born a crime

Welcome to our fourth and final discussion of Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I hope you all enjoyed reading this book this month! I know I did. Be sure to come back Monday for our March readalong of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

But before that happens, let's wrap up Born a Crime!




  1. Did you like the book? What were some of your favorite passages or chapters?
  2. In Part III, the book's chapters get longer, and darker, as Noah goes from being a teenager to a young man. What struck you most about these chapters? Would you call the book a coming of age story?
  3. In Chapter 16, "The Cheese Boys," Noah writes,

    ...crime succeeds because crime does the one thing the government doesn't do: crime cares. Crime is grassroots. Crime looks for the young kids who need support and a lifting hand. Crime offers internship programs and summer jobs and opportunities for advancement. Crime gets involved in the community. Crime doesn't discriminate.

    What do you think Noah meant by this and do you agree?
  4. In "My Mother's Life," Noah says children have to learn how to love their parents unconditionally and that it's not automatic or instinctive. Do you agree with this statement?
  5. Do you watch The Daily Show? If you do, has reading the book changed how you see Noah in any way?
  6. Are you left with any unanswered questions you're wondering about?
  7. Anything else that caught your attention or you want to discuss?


Monday, February 20, 2017

Week 3 Discussion: BORN A CRIME by Trevor Noah #12mos12rals

born a crime

Welcome to our third discussion for our Born a Crime readalong. This week we'll be discussing Part II. To check out our previous discussions, please see our week 1 and week 2 discussion posts.




  1. This past week was Valentine's Day, and appropriately Part II features not one, not two, but three stories from Noah's tragic misadventures in romance. Which one of these was your favorite? Which the saddest? Did they remind you of any of your own teenage heartbreaks? Juicy details pls!
  2. In Chapter 9, "The Mulberry Tree," Noah says that's it's easier to be an outsider trying to fit in than an insider who doesn't. Do you think this is true? How do you think that experience shaped how Noah related to the world going forward? How did you react to the actions of Abel?
  3. Trevor Noah: entrepreneur or hustler?
  4. One of the most tragi-comic stories in the section, I think, is Chapter 13, "Colorblind." What were some of your reactions to the story? Noah never tells us what happens to his friend–why do you think that is?
  5. Anything else you found interesting or want to discuss?




Thanks for participating in the readalong so far! If you posted about this section on your blog or anywhere else on the internets, be sure to link back to it here so we don't miss it. Otherwise, feel free to discuss the book in the comments section.

Next week Tuesday, the last day of February, we'll be closing our readalong with a discussion of Part III. See you then!