Episode 2 – Your Book Group Podcast

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Master of the Moor by Ruth Rendell

Death by Cashmere

Yukim Song Studio

Episode Transcript:

Thank you for joining me in the House of Books – and thanks for joining me in Your Book Group. I’m Catherine, your host. Why two names?  Well, Your Book Group is the name of my website and House of Books is the name of the podcast – that’s confusing.  Why not have both the website and the podcast with the same name? I put too much time and money and years into Your Book Group, and so I don’t want to change that name. House of Books is relatively new, and so it’s fairly seamless to just change the name to Your Book Group. You’ll still be able to find House of Books, but for future episodes you’ll have more luck if you search on Your Book Group – and I’ll let you know when that transition is complete. Speaking of book groups, do you have one? Have you joined one? Do you lead one?  Are you looking for one? Well, every book group is different. If you find a group that’s a good fit, that feeling’s almost magical because – you know, reading is such a solitary activity. Storytelling is not! Storytelling is a social activity where you listen and respond, and the Storyteller is gratified by your expressions of sadness or wonder or happiness as they tell their story, and you are gratified by the sound of their voice, and you’re waiting for the next word. But when you take the Storyteller out of that and you change voice to words on a printed page, reading does become a little bit of a solitary activity; and so we look for ways that we can engage with others to talk about and share those same reactions. A book group is a great way to do that; so how do you find a book group? Well, the best place to start is at your local library; they almost always offer their own book groups, and some, I suppose, might also have bulletin boards with existing book groups in the community. My library doesn’t do that,, I don’t think but some might. Most independent bookstores, however, do have that – so you can check out your independent bookstore. I know that my bookstore here in town, Schuler Books and Music in Grand Rapids, does have a very active book group board and even a book group table, and if groups are open to membership you can call them or email them and start going to those book groups. You know – everyone is different – every book group is different – and the fit is not always perfect, but when it’s there it’s there, and it’s actually pretty magical. You’ll feel like you found your tribe. It’s kind of tricky sometimes to join a new group but just like with any other group, you kind of read the room; you’re a little bit quiet until you know when it’s appropriate to speak and what’s expected of you, and then you just jump in share that love of literature and that love of reading.

So I’ve been reading quite a bit; I’ve let go of some of my other obligations and I’ve been focusing on my day job, a little bit of food prep – made some good lentils today – and also my reading. I posted three books reviews recently on your bookgroup.com. The most recent one is called Hamnet – that’s like Hamlet but with an n h a m n e t. That is a story by Maggie O’Farrell, who imagined how William Shakespeare’s actual son named Hamnet died (because nobody knows) and she wrote a book about it – beautifully, so beautifully. So she is very good at wrangling time; she takes us back and forth in time – and she also makes sure to keep us right in the present when we need to be in the present, even if we would rather leave. Wonderful book. You’ll want to learn more about Shakespeare – and by the way good luck with that, because there’s not very much out there; we just don’t know that much about the man – but the book itself fantastic I listened to the audio version narrated by Ell Potter and what a perfect narrator she was fantastic as well. (A lot of fantastic! it’s just fantastic! that’s what I’m going to say today.)

So the next book that I posted a review for is called Death by Cashmere. It’s a cozy mystery. It’s part of the seaside sitter Mysteries and of course – sorry it’s part of the Seaside Knitters Mysteries, and of course you would expect that a book like that would be cozy and entertaining; the cover is very inviting- it’s ball of yarn instead against the ocean  – oh, what could be more relaxing- and that’s really why I picked up the book –  but it is just so many repetitions of a meal with friends and description of the salad the main course the vegetables the delicious bread the wonderful wine.  I describe it like this: if Death by Cashmere were a car it would be idling and neutral for the first 80% of the book before it finally slips into drive and reaches its conclusion. You might like the book; I enjoyed the interaction between people but it was not enough to keep my interest – and so that’s why I slipped to that last chapter so I could find out who the killer was – and I was right about who the killer was, so I consider that also a fault in the book, if I can figure out the killer based on three sentences in the second chapter or third chapter of the book.

I also reviewed Master of the Moor by Ruth Rendell. That’s part of the Ruth Rendell Mysteries, by the way, streaming on Britbox, and the first few episodes of the Ruth Rendell Mysteries are the story of Master of the Moor starring Colin Firth. I’ve mentioned that before much different from the other mystery that I talked about just now. So beautifully written; there is not a single word out of place in this book she chose every word carefully. The prose is beautifully written,, it is spare and the descriptions of the moor are beautiful and sometimes terrible in their beauty. The Colin Firth character, his name is Steven – I’m sorry I know he’s not really Colin Firth, he’s just Steven but I can’t forget about Colin Firth – at any rate, Steven is the main character in this book he loves the more he walks the more frequently and it’s basically almost more of a character study of Stephen and then it is a mystery. It’s a wonderful book. I believe it came out in the in the 1980s at some point, maybe late 1980s, but the series came out in 1994.

So circling back to the book group to the website Your Book Group – I did want to point out that I don’t only review books; I also write book discussion questions. If you go to Your Book Group.com and you hover on Book Club books you’ll see 11 books,, soon to be 12 that I recommend to be read and discussed in your book groups – and that’s a year -that’s a year’s worth right there, folks – and then if you also hover over book discussion questions, you’ll see the discussion questions for all those books as well. My questions are not written for English majors; I’m not an English major; I was a business major. They are questions that you can apply to your life or that you can just wonder about and use your imagination – just kind of, you know, look at the book from different perspectives. I don’t go after literary themes, comparing people to other authors – it’s not an English class; it’s just a fun list of discussion questions. Those discussion questions are free for your use with your own book groups, but I do ask that instead of printing and distributing them or emailing them if you would please just send the link to them so that they can visit my website and take a look at those questions for themselves I would appreciate that very much today’s episode is brought to you by Yukimi Song Studio – literally. Yukimi is my podcasting instructor and mentor, and without her this show would not exist. If you’re interested in learning to podcast visit yukimisongstudio.com/lets podcast – especially if you’re a woman over 40; that is her focus – and of course I’ll post all of the links to everything that I talked about today on the website, so you go to your bookgroup.com, hover over Podcast, choose Your Book Group and choose episode 2, and there you will find the notes for this podcast. They probably won’t be out for a few days because I got a day job, but I’ll be sure to get those updated as soon as I can.

As always, thanks for listening to House of Books and Your Book Group. It makes sense to subscribe to Your Book Group even if you’re subscribed to House of Books, because soon House of Books will no longer have new episodes and you won’t be able to find me. You may need to do a little bit more in-depth searching, just because this is such a new podcast, Your Book Group   but please do find me, Your Book Group and subscribe if you enjoy the podcast.

 I would also appreciate a five-star review because more positive reviews mean more visibility and more books put in front of more people. Thanks for listening!