December Book Club

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For December, we read Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross. Here are the thoughts from the group:

  • Only one person didn’t read the book and one person didn’t finish it before book club.
  • Some people liked the distance in the book, meaning the lack of emotion. It made the difficult subject matter easier to swallow.
  • Many people thought the book was too convenient, especially the deaths involved.
  • Almost everyone thought the book was slow-paced most of the time and then rushed in other parts, especially the end.
  • Most people thought the ending was very anti-climactic.
  • Some people really like the idea of Joan existing and others don’t care.
  • Because none of us come from a Catholic background, most people thought the hierarchy was confusing.
  • Some people agree with Joan’s choice not to give up her independence to go with Gerold and others thought she was stupid and that’s what got her killed.

Have you read Pope Joan? If so, what did you think? Do you agree or disagree with any of the group’s thoughts?

For next month, we’re reading Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys.

I Met the Dread Pirate Roberts and Lived to Tell the Tale

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On Monday, I had the amazing opportunity to meet Hollywood legend Cary Elwes (aka The Dread Pirate Roberts). For those of you who don’t know, he recently wrote a book about his experiences while filming The Princess Bride. The book is titled As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, and one of his stops on his tour was at our very own The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City. But, because the staff knew the event would be huge, they held it at Rowland Hall at St. Marcus’s.

When I found out Cary Elwes was coming to Utah, I jumped at the chance to go. I also recruited a few of my bookish buddies to go with me. So, Suey, Suey’s daughter Tori, Kami, and I went to the event together! We arrived an hour early to make sure we got good seats. We were center stage and eye level with him!

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During the event, he was interviewed on stage by local author Ann Cannon. She had read the book before the event and asked him questions about some of the experiences in them. He talked about Andre the Giant, Billy Crystal, Wallace Shawn, and his and Mandy Patinkin’s experience in learning how to fence for the movie. Once their little interview was done, the audience was able to ask a few questions as well. I couldn’t think of anything good to ask, so I just let others do that.

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Afterwards, we were all able to get in line to have our books personalized by him (they came pre-signed to the store so save his hand just a bit). Once it was my turn, he asked my name even though it was written on a post it note on the book (signing venues do that to help the line go faster), he shook my hand, and Kami snapped a picture of me talking to him. I told him I was nine when The Princess Bride was released in the theater and I remember going to see it with my family. I also told him that one of my high school best friends and I used to watch Robin Hood: Men in Tights all the time because we loved it so much. I also thanked him for helping make my childhood awesome. He smiled and said, “You’re very kind. Thank you for coming. Merry Christmas.” I responded by telling him thank you for coming and he said, “My pleasure.”

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After I got my book signed, it was Kami’s turn. I snapped a picture of her too. She was a little starstruck and could hardly speak to him. She answered his questions with one-word answers. It was kind of funny. Then, we waited until it was Suey’s and Tori’s turn to get their books signed. (They had reserved their book later than I did, so they were further down the alphabet in the signing line.) Unfortunately, Suey’s and Tori’s experiences were a little rushed because the venue closed at 9:00 and they still had a lot of people to get through. But, Suey said she remembers his, “My pleasure,” to her thanking him for coming.

It was such a fun experience and I’m so glad I got to go. I can’t wait to read the book and now I want to watch The Princess Bride again.

Top Ten Tuesday


Top-Ten-Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is “top ten books I read in 2014.” I had a bit of a hard time narrowing down my list to ten. But, here’s my list:

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  1. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  2. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton
  3. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (I haven’t actually finished this yet, but I assume it will be on my list)
  4. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
  5. Shutter by Courtney Alameda (review coming in February)
  6. Defy by Sara B. Larson
  7. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien (yes, I cheated)
  8. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  9. Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter
  10. Cut Me Free by JR Johansson

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What about you? What are your top reads for 2014?

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk CrossTitle: Pope Joan
Author: Donna Woolfolk Cross (Website)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 434
Publisher: Broadway Books
Format: eBook
Buy on Amazon • Add to Goodreads • Add to Shelfari
For a thousand years men have denied her existence--Pope Joan, the woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to rule Christianity for two years. Now this compelling novel animates the legend with a portrait of an unforgettable woman who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.

When her older brother dies in a Viking attack, the brilliant young Joan assumes his identity and enters a Benedictine monastery where, as Brother John Anglicus, she distinguishes herself as a scholar and healer. Eventually drawn to Rome, she soon becomes enmeshed in a dangerous mix of powerful passion and explosive politics that threatens her life even as it elevates her to the highest throne in the Western world. Summary from Goodreads

I read Pope Joan for book club this month. At first, I wasn’t sure I’d like it. The title really did nothing for me. But, when I read the synopsis, it sounded like it could be an interesting tale.

I didn’t love Pope Joan, but I did like it. I really felt for Joan. I hated that no one would let her do anything simply because she was a woman. I know that’s how life was in the 800s, but it still angered me. I also hated reading about the religious intolerance. Any person at any time could be accused of heresy or witchcraft simply because they acted, spoke, or believed different. It didn’t sit well with me.

At first, I was a little creeped out by the romance between Joan and Gerold because she met him when she was 14. When I realized Gerold loved Joan romantically, I just couldn’t get on board with it because he was 31 at the time and had a daughter older than Joan. Once they were driven apart and found each other 15 years later, I was much more on board because the age gap at that point wasn’t as troublesome as it had been since Joan was no longer a child.

The story’s premise was very interesting. I wonder if it’s true at all or if it is just a legend. It seems like it could be true because, of course, if there had been a female pope at that time, she would’ve been stricken from the records. But, how likely could any of this happen? I don’t know. I’d really like to find out, but of course, all we can do is speculate and wonder.

The reason I didn’t love Pope Joan is because of the writing. It’s not that the writing was bad because it wasn’t. It just wasn’t as rich as other historical fiction romances that I’ve read. If this story were written by Philippa Gregory, I think I would’ve liked it more because Gregory’s emotions and characters are so rich and deep and I thought Cross’s felt a bit shallow. And, even though I really liked Joan and felt for the injustice she endured, I could’ve been more invested in her life as a character if the story hadn’t gone by so quickly. And, at the same time, the ending seemed so rushed compared to the rest of the book. She was only pope for 3 chapters, yet the title is “Pope” Joan.

I know it seems like I’m contradicting myself, but I can’t quite frame the words to describe my feelings. Simply put, the book was compelling and I did like it. I just didn’t love it. I would, however, give Cross another chance and read another one of her books. This is her debut after all and writers often improve with subsequent novels.

three-starsthree-starsthree-stars

North and South Read-Along Signup and Schedule

North and South Read Along

Join Suey (It’s All About Books), and Kami (Kami’s Library Thoughts), and me in a North and South Read-Along! We’ll be reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell in January.

Schedule

  • Chapters 1-28: January 1-10
  • Chapters 29-35: January 11-20
  • Chapters 36-52: January 21-31

Discussion Posts

Each discussion post will go up on either Suey’s, Kami’s, or my blog at the end of each section.

We’ll have linkies to link up your posts. You can also use the above image Suey created for the read-along. Here’s the code for the image:

The Deets

large_free_use_twitter_illustrationWe’ll have 3 Twitter chats throughout the read-along. They’ll be announced with their dates and times during the kickoff posts! While we’re reading the book, we’ll post our thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #NorthSouthRAL.

Suey, Kami, and I will also be hosting a movie party to watch the North and South BBC mini-series after the read-along ends. (We’ve done this for Pride and Prejudice and it was a blast!) We’ll announce the date and location in our kickoff posts. There will be refreshments and we can all chip in for pizza if people are willing. If you’re in Utah and you want to come, let us know in the comments so we know who’s interested.

Our kickoff posts will go up on our blogs on January 1! We hope you join us AND spread the word!