Talk Now (avoid regrets)

May 2018 @ Liz’s House (missing Mary, Karen C, Sue, Kitty…did I miss anyone?)

NEW MEMBER:  Welcome, Rose S.!

GENERAL CHATTER – So… I’ve been putting off writing this entry due to general busy-ness. And now I’m going to plead the same & pretty much skip this part. Suffice it to say, the food (apps, gazpacho & TWO sides, dessert) were yummy and we’re all doing pretty well. Here are some major announcements:

  • Liz’s Son #1 is engaged!
    • Surprise, surprise: she won’t kowtow Google’s mom-of-groom To Do list
  • Viv & Family US citizenship status continues to progress!
  • If there was something else major, I missed it. Apologies!

THE BOOK:  Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey Ways to Disappear

Viviane picked this book mostly because she likes to select non-American books that aren’t too lengthy and have a rather artistic or at least rather literary bent. This one filled the bill perfectly.

Most of us read it or were pages away from finishing. And we said (paraphrasing):

  • the book’s light, deft, breezy prose delivered increasingly diabolical plot twists and character reveals; not a fun read (for plot, esp.)
  • the translation seemed quite adept and nuanced (we also trusted it due to the author’s other profession)
  • Viviane opined that the setting is an exaggeration – it’s not all mafia thugs and grit
  • did the author/mother ALWAYS write so oddly (and get rescued by her one Super Editor)? or did the latest manuscript reflect her degrading mental status? We leaned toward the former (as in, she was never well…at least since her daughter was conceived)
  • we didn’t seem to really care about the romance (son/brother & translator); it was integral to some plot/character points & not poorly written…but somehow meh
  • one of the most vivid moments/reveals is when the editor explains how and why he finally caved to extortion to save his loved one – a microcosm for why the status quo remains for so many (at least in this book’s geographical reach)
  • interesting contrast to how the translator tries to disappear from her US-based life and doesn’t succeed very well (her fiancé tracks her down pretty easily; she’s often pushed aside as the interloper between siblings or to keep her invisible to the darker forces at hand)
  • wanted to know more about the ‘rich relatives’ who supply some of the author’s funding… some sort of witches around a kettle…er, pile of money???
  • some debate on how author/mom got into such bad debt… was it all due to writer’s block? remorse over hard truths left unrevealed and festering so many years? or just plain desperation/addiction? no clear resolution, but probably all 3
  • some other debate  if the ending equates to the author’s permanent demise or if there’s room for a sequel; we were leaning to the latter


NEXT MEETING:  June 28th at Mary’s

Liz’s pick:  Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison


Family Matters

April 2018 Meeting @ Viviane’s  (missing Kitty, Karen C)

Chit Chat

  • Viviane’s new furniture (her family is 110% wrong about the chairs) & the window (!) when it’s still light outside; also a recap of the wall-tearing-down she did to elevate the space (upon move in); PLUS:  dish chargers & platters & entrée w/rice…basically, her taste is IMPECCABLE
  • Liz has her A Game launched for flat shoes (silver sequined sneakers to start); no heels ’til next year (a lemons to lemonade scenario)
  • Viv’s NYC girls are surviving each other (precious: ‘but if I pay all the rent at once I only have $200 left’ …’go out less, walk more’ = perfect)
  • Margaret’s MFA reading approaches…good thoughts to her! (and submit to Poet Lore, girl!); enjoy the event, Mom Marie
  • David’s Yard Sale – he sells all the stuff his parents gave him (yes, he truly has a knack for business)
  • Mary & Kevin go to the Caps game – sure, the Caps won (a wow & esp. for her first game); more important:  they bagged Sunday work to have FUN
  • Sue hoping to host us in Florida in September. Sorry, not a likely scenario…
  • Our kids travel so much more than some of us do (e.g. Katelyn & Michael:  Europe; David, Matt:  everywhere)
  • Karen S arrived quite long after her salad (yum!), but once starvation was quelled she relayed a delightful Grandson’s 1st B’day Recap. And explained with such ‘unfettered joy’ about Christopher’s plans to take her camping [insert side eye here].

So Much More Than Chit Chat

  • Shelley’s family news added an entirely new dimension to ‘family’
  • genetics and generational tracking of features – a cool & fun hobby
  • Ancestry DNA – caveat emptor… as in, be ready for what you asked for

THE BOOK:  Chemistry – a novel by Weike Wang Chemistry

Marie picked it because

  1. It was short and easy to manage in a foreshortened picking period.
  2. She likes reading books of young women resolving family ties issues.
  3. The format was appealing.
  4. Marie likes reading debut novels…perhaps because of the not-so-thinly veiled autobiographical elements

Most of us read most-to-all of it.

  • overall, a thumbs up – mostly for the voice & text format or point of view
  • many did not like the main character – so much whining & not nice to boyfriend
  • but… she was bucking family mores & scared, depressed about lack of direction when science career bottoms out, and short on coping skills
  • the unwinding of the science career scenarios were very well written!
  • why did boyfriend stay with her? he did fall in love when things were steadier and won’t abandon her now; any attention is better than none; it’s nice to be needed
  • Tyler dates a woman who is Chinese…does she think Shelley & Ron are laughingly doting? [yes]
  • post-meeting question 1:  did any of us realize this is  marketed as a Young Adult (maybe New Adult) novel? does that even matter? [no]
  • post-meeting question 2:  is the title just ‘Chemistry’ [probably] and did the cover designer or editor add ‘a novel by’ in front of her name so the SEO wouldn’t think it was a text book? [probably] Related note:  like it better as part of the title, fwiw


Next Book – Viviane’s Pick:  Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey

Meeting at Shelley’s, date tba

OTHER Next Meeting tba:  Viv’s hubbie & a daughter get citizenship soon; Viv awaits her letter for her (oh-so-solemn) swearing-in date. LAS GRINGAS WANT TO ATTEND!!!usa-1439858_1920

The Baby Will Declare

March 2018 @ Marie’s (technically met in April)
– Missing Sue and Shelley, but full house otherwise…yay! Since they were traveling on the meeting date, we are due some fine bookmarks (Rule 67-#B2.34x).


  • speaking of house… Kitty’s sold! So fast – including a quick-change to Family 2. Will Barry now stop ‘haunting’ the yard & stay put in their cute (tiny) condo?
  • To better focus on PT and ‘life,’ Liz is transitioning out of The Writers Center exec. position:  ‘happy to have done it & happy to be done’
  • Karen C. juggling three jobs, mastering all (despite one boss’s quirky managerial style), and waiting to see which one comes up roses (or has fewest thorns)
  • Marie prepping to launch Bootleg’s Deployment Care Package – details tba; Margaret is single & getting bad naming ‘advice’ from her MFA program; Daniel cruising along fine
  • Karen S. relatively low on News, but just one photo of the Adorable Grand Boy (and Proud Papa on the side) says it all
  • Viviane, Mary, and Katie – are we sublimely quiet or a bit boring???
  • Maisie – very well behaved, especially when faced with the Oh, Dread Tin Trays & Pie Pans (or allowed to gnaw on treat-packed things and yummy bones). Good Dog.

The Book:  Juniper – The Girl Who Was Born too Soon by Kelley & Thomas French Juniper K&T French

Katie picked it because:

  1. She heard an interview with one of the neonatologists and the medical aspects of such a young life (22 weeks at birth!) were fascinating.
  2. Read the book and was engrossed in the medicine and caregiving PLUS wanted to see if the parents (authors) told the story ‘straight’ or with any agenda.
  3. The phrase, “The baby will declare; follow the baby,” was so appealing to me and rather brilliantly conveyed.
  4. Bonus points to Harry Potter’s role…


  • most everyone got very involved with how much they did not like the Frenches, esp. before they became parents – questionable morals, narcissism; one of us did not read past ~30 pages since they were so icky
  • medical condition and symptoms were trying to read – some kept at it ONLY since they knew Katie picks ‘Disney endings’
  • everyone maintained varying levels of suspicion about the French’s motives for writing the book but agreed they did an excellent job conveying the day-to-day highs and lows as well as the sweeping changes and medical brilliance involved
  • luck, insight, the right expert reading Juniper at the right time, and miracles were all integral to the story and Juniper’s survival
  • was Juniper in ‘too much’ pain? was it ‘too hard?’ maybe. or apparently not since she ‘had many chances to die’ and seemingly declared that she would not
  • so many resources for one small life, is that a dilemma? all life is priceless AND so much expertise is gained for so many other patients when this kind of rare (but increasingly do-able) success occurs; also, no guarantee that a ‘normal’ birth will yield an ‘affordable’ or ‘low risk’ kid
  • many of us wanted more Epilogue – is Juniper really thriving? without any significant learning or growth issues?
    • See for yourself:  she stars in Hermione Granger and the Midwestern Muggle Chickens (a very sophisticated family home movie).
    • Young Juniper (in the starring role) has trouble saying ‘Rs’ and a few other blends and has some ‘goofy little kid’ about her, but her memory, physicality, and spell casting seem on par.

Next Book:  Marie’s pick – Chemistry by Weike Wang

Next Meeting:  at Viviane’s house, April date tbd


Life Gets in the Way of Life

February 2018 Bootleg @ Katie’s House with Viviane, Shelley, Marie, Liz, Mary, & Karen S
– we missed the others (such movers & shakers they be)

So. We had our normal chatty preliminaries. But the tinier details were swept away on a current of Big Things Happening in Real Time. LIFE was interrupting life.

To recap:

  • We started with an upbeat interruption of Grand Celebratory proportions.  Mary reported on her mom’s 100th Birthday Party. She shared the oh-so-clever postcard invitations, goodie bag graphics, pink kitty party ears, and happy anecdotes from the day. Such a great gathering of so many lives – all for one wonderful lady.
  • Then there were the phone calls and texts. Most of us got at least one; this is normal. Yet one family was having a bigger case of Life. Real-time angst over roommates, job, and general I’m-still-new-at-adulting issues that demanded multiple cycles of Mom Input (or maybe just listening) to manage. Not a problem for us, but it did impact conversational continuity for the digitally attached mom. Life on the daily sometimes gets messy. #momstotherescue
  • Marie reported that Robert is deployed ‘somewhere remote,’ where apparently there’s no good coffee (among other things). Understandably, she’s finding his deployment (which some may say is to defend life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) weighs on her mind as she goes about each day. To alleviate & support, she’s asked us to bring care package items for Robert & his mates to the next Bootleg meeting. Details TBA.
  • Then the sad news of a Clearbook Lane neighbor’s impending passing was shared (after a 2-year but not-announced illness). Several Bootleggers even left early to sit at the hospital with the husband that night. It was one of the ill neighbor’s last, so that kind community effort was well-timed, for sure. Sometimes the end of life has its own slow and then sudden schedule.
  • Except when somebody pre-empts that schedule. Another Bootlegger received a text from her young-adult child about a recent roommate’s suicide of the night/day before.  It was a shock to all (of the person’s loved ones, mainly. But also to us). And a hard moment for our Bootleg mom to not be able to comfort her own in situ (due to distance). Thankfully, there were others there who could.
    • This incident reminded others of suicide tragedies, too.

So. The book pick was beyond apropos since life truly interrupts life.

Karen S. picked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford because…

It was on her To Be Read pile & coincidentally (well, maybe the fact it’s not a 50-pound tome helped) she grabbed it on her way out for a business trip to…Seattle, the book’s primary setting.

Before the Meeting: Katie was struggling to read the distinctly wrought medical scenes, so she asked Marie if cancer remained a theme throughout the book. Marie replied, ‘No, don’t worry. And it gets much better once they’re in the internment camp.’

Um… Try finding that last sentence uttered or printed anywhere else in the Universe.

Marie meant there’s less emphasis on cancer, which is true. Yet if you’re sensitive to the topic don’t read this book now (its lingers through the final pages).

General CommentsHotel Bitter & Sweet

  • good writing! we liked it!
  • so rich with the mélange of cultures, blues/jazz, school yard bully scenarios played out against (and because of) WWII atrocities, American heart vs citizenship vs loyalties, small-minded business moves vs long-term business goals, romance vs traditional marriage, scholarshipping vs school of hard knocks
  • alternating timelines (’42 and ’86) worked quite well in terms of flow and engagement; hard to see first-hand the older Henry’s (& Keiko’s) lost chances as they play out in his teen years
  • interment camp realities seemed well-described; regarding earlier ‘it gets much better’ there statement:  it seems that at least this one in Idaho (seemingly) managed to allow families to re-create lives (school, outings, Girl Scouts) in some fashion…
  • effectively portrayed such HUGE themes (parenting, political moves, large swaths of history, citizenship both heartfelt and legal, etc.) through the small actions of two teens and their small cohort >>> well done! also, this could be a middle school & up reader, for sure
  • we are so accustomed to thinking of San Francisco when China Town is mentioned, that we all kept having to recalibrate to being in Seattle
  • so much time passed for Henry without Keiko (and vice versa), yet they both lived full lives with much to be proud and happy about…so lovely that they found each other again…life circled back for them – how rare and delightful
  • we all liked the new discoveries Henry’s son was making thanks in part to his fiancé’s impetus (she’s a keeper!); finally, Henry figures out something about transitioning roles/seasons as a parent…Sheldon and Keiko’s parents planted seeds
  • Sheldon! the whole night club scene was awesome; his final message to ‘fix it’ was nicely done on all levels
  • the scene where the news and joyous noise of the war ending sweeps over the hills and consumes everyone as it goes is written gorgeously; Sheldon’s musical homage to the empty corridors is fitting, too
  • the preserved history of the Panama Hotel itself and its basement contents is very cool, esp. since it seems to be true (the Tea Room, too)
  • we agreed it really was Keiko at the Panama Hotel witnessing Henry’s proposal (not just a writerly illusion/allusion): the entire novel’s angst (at least the relationship part) was encapsulated there
  • So, did Henry’s and Keiko’s lives get in the way of their life? Yes. And no. For example, Henry would not have this son if things had gone another way.

Next Meeting:  Marie’s House, most likely the last Monday or Tuesday of March

Next Book, Katie’s pick:
Juniper:  The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon by Kelley & Thomas French

Sneak Preview:  Karen S already announced her next pick (yes, that’s approx. 10 months ahead of time). Title not recalled (sorry). She also will have the author as a guest to the meeting. It’s a thing she (Karen S) does.


Just Say No to Loki

January 2018 @ Karen S’s House w/Mary, Liz, Marie, Sue, Kitty, Shelley, & Yours Truly

  • SPEED PREP CHAMPIONSHIP STATUS – Karen S. continues to hold the title after  arriving home 10 minutes before Go Time and barely batting an eyelash. It’s all in the prep work and established routine. Delish stew! Another win for Karen S!
  • BEST ENTRANCE EVER:  Shelley in Viking helm with ‘Ride of the Valkyrie’ blasting
  • BEST WINE SAVE EVER:  Kitty (ahem…finally) arrives with white wine, but top is misaligned and won’t unscrew. After several great minds (ahem) & rubber-gloved hands attempt feats of strength, Karen S. operates successfully – with the $hitty knife – to ‘slice’ open the perforations. Happiness ensues.

    Bootleg wine surgery 2018.jpeg

    Successful wine bottle surgery. Don’t try this at home (unless it’s Karen’s home).

General Stuff

  • 4 dogs, count ’em:  4 (good night to miss, Karen C). Well, you can’t count the littlest; she’s hiding upstairs. And Maverick’s glued to Shelley as she fusses and photos him all night. The other 2 are on floor, ball, and bark patrol. Dog-sitting  is what happens to Karen S. when she sends both Daniel (+ all her men) to Montana and Kelsey + Grand Baby to KY. Actually, it first happens upon sending Daniel to college… Liz had cane at the ready, but she’s actually a dog person now (#Boomer).
  • Fashionable, ‘hot executive’ attire vs. business clothes. Discuss. Or just go to Shelley’s shop to find ideal-fitting options.
  • Mary’s Michael is happy, esp. when carrying 10-foot PVC pipes through Manhattan. Catherine is happily ensconced with a roommate (cousin of a friend, yay! #connections #vetted) in Chicago. Loooong commute to current client, but otherwise fine. IKEA furniture worked; Mary’s extra day (snow cancellation of flight) got things started. “First, you  label!” Says Mary, always…
  • IKEA Hack:  Promise to just do the step you are on and it all works out beautifully. Most fun is assembling ONLY with the hex wrench (do you have the right sizes?). If you must, skip it and buy ‘generic’ from a resale shop.
  • Sue wants to retire. For the zillionth time – we support her. PICK A DATE, already! Feb. 2nd:  Florida grandbaby birthday & maybe new property fun. Dogs seem healthy as can be – still!
  • Kitty moves in <10 days to a one BR apt. in the BEST location in Bethesda. Will she and Barry survive the tiny space living? Work on the house, list it by March 1st, and hopefully buy something in Annapolis soon.
  • Book Donations:  WJ needs them & takes boxes. KP Library ditto on need, not on boxes. NIH Patient Library would love actual CLEAN ones (but too few understand what the word ‘clean’ means).
  • Liz’s boys each have a favorite part of Mary Poppins – how practically perfect of them. Megs is an A student again & working PT for her bro at Sysarc (you know, the place with the really cool office & genius pit). Hip is better, but a ways to go. Work is a #(%storm of hiring/firing – she can see the fun stuff, just blurred behind the dust not quite settled on other debacles. Does this constitute a Failed Retirement?
  • We’re pretty sure Shelley’s kids & life are fine. And she’s well accessorized (see above) and looks great, as usual. Nothing’s confirmed though, as she’s quite focused on making memes of Maverick.
  • Marie was in San Diego – sans cool black jeans but also sans the flu (after a wise 4 days of pre-travel recovery). It was fantastic from A to Z – girlfriend, location, her welcome, Robert’s happiness, the weather (‘only’ 65, but it was 6 OR 5 here), and event the travel. Margaret says Robert will marry only when GF is pregnant. WHAT?? Odd trend:  weddings are so ‘hard/grand/pricey,’ this is the ‘solution.’ Not just Robert, but ‘everyone.’ Yeesh.
  • Katie’s birthday dinner outing odyssey:  Silver Diner cuz it’s yummy. [Side bar:  ‘Silver’ is overpriced says the Peanut Gallery] and mostly b/c restaurant Week & its extension hindered the big trip to Barrel & Crow. It’ll happen. Bootleg Birthday cake (with an icing book!). Thanks, All! Tip: DO go to Jenny Cakes for more of the same yumminess. Don’t necessarily consult with Liz on flavor of finishing mixes… #overwhelmed (for the record:  final result was perfect).
  • Other books to try:  My Life with Bob; any others? Katie seeking ‘good nonfiction’ on Ghandi (she just saw the movie). Somewhat more current movies were discussed by those who viewed them:  3 Billboards in XYZ, MO; The Post; and [Something Else]


Katie chose Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman because:Norse Mythology

  1. He writes so well and typically puts an intelligent, off-kilter twist on everything.
  2. Family connections, so curious about how Norwegian history/culture survived and/or  was conveyed via the myths.
  3. I read some of Snori Sturlurson’s versions and it was a bit of a slog -wondered if it was the translation or just me.
  4. I like the Justice League, Thor, etc. sci-fi movies & wanted a comparison, esp. with the upcoming release of Ragnarok.


with My Reading Arc (only b/c I made notes before) & Gaiman interview bits:

  • 6 of 8 read all (Karen S. even drove to Olney for her copy!). One read “67%” after deciding it was survivable to go more than halfway. One read none percent (but she still knows the author, of course….).
  • First 30 pages:  This is tedious and lacks rhythm. Bootleg is going to kill me.
  • The glossary was great! Learned so much about word origins. Pretty cool how so much lasted from the misty past. But do all the weekday names really track (e.g. Sunday)?
  • Bonus for word lovers:  Shelley’s pronunciation guy (link below).
  • Am I missing something or are the Norse gods a bunch of dolts who depend on the apparently smarter elves and esp. the dwarves? And what about the clearly more-powerful giants?
  • Why does everyone keep believing Loki?
  • Man, is Thor dumber than we ever thought.
  • Cool to know that Loki is really Odin’s blood brother.
  • Or maybe…  Do the gods just hang out ‘like normal folks’ until their true selves are actually needed? Cuz it’s more fun or relaxing that way?
  • Great reading this after reading Gaiman’s American Gods. So much more makes sense and that book seems even better now.
  • Some discussion on if these myths DO or DO NOT explain how nature works or came to be. After a few examples (water, volcanoes, etc.) we seemed to tilt toward YES, the myths have a consistent thread of explaining nature.
  • This is not to be overshadowed, however, by the preponderance of 10-year-old boy potty humor. Examples galore. Oh, goody.
  • What is it that today’s oh-so-hip/sophisticated Norwegians & their somewhat recent/modern generations find so compelling about these myths and gods? Do they evoke pride or other positive vibes? They just don’t stack up – character-wise – to Johnny Appleseed, John Henry, Paul Bunyan, etc. Not to mention other world  myths clearly conveying wisdom or morals. And narrative flow is stilted (is that just eons of translation tics?). [Related note from the Gaiman interview (link below]:  These myths don’t explain Nature. They do tell who the Vikings were, the original storytellers. Told in a setting of extremes (light/dark, feast/starve, party/kill). Vikings have ‘good death’ (battle & Valhalla…daily valor) or ‘bad death’ (age, birth, illness, weakness & Hel’s kingdom…gloom). Peaceful co-existence and endings don’t exist in the Norge of 1500 years ago.]
  • Reads quickly. Or at least you can set it down feeling progress was made. Easy to get back in, even after pausing a bit. Didn’t call to be read obsessively, but certainly picked up flow and appeal by ~1/3 of the way through. Then ended with a bang.
  • Almost done:  Still not sold on literary niceties, but overall, there is insight and commentary on foibles of man as reflected by goofy, greedy, violent, illogical gods. But still seems less than godlike.
  • Some discussion on if females kept getting short end of the stick. Loki always at the center of trouble, so in some ways the answer is yes simply because of him. But consider Freya, the giants. So maybe not.
  • Seems to be equal opportunity for highs and lows across male/female and different levels of godliness. So that’s good, I guess.
  • Loki. He’s terrible. Is he created that way and has no choice or does he do it because he likes it? Or is it the only way he sees clear to the ultimate power grab? Are they forgiving him between episodes? Forgetting (how much time passes for them anyway)? Or biding time & tolerating him – as in, better the devil you know than the one you can’t see (butchered metaphor…deal with it).
  • LOKI – Why do they tolerate him? Why so many chances? So much power? Is it intentional or lack of ANY short-term memory? There’s nothing redeeming about him…is that his Giant side or just Loki? Is he just a ‘poetic/mythic device’ so “they” can create absurd adventure tales that are very memorable? So many questions.[Interview note:  Movie version is this somewhat appealing god of Mischief/Evil/Tricksiness. ‘Real version’ has more layers; thinks he’s cleverer than he is; gets gods into trouble all the time; a blowhard sneak who has to back peddle a lot; gets darker & darker]
  • Nordic people had LOTS of dark, so maybe they just wanted crazy plot twists. As in, trying to get a rise or a gasp out of listeners in the murky dark. This is far different than trying to teach lessons.
  • Also, our centers don’t align. Their norm is ‘boring violence’ (going to Hel) or ‘fun violence’ (going to Valhalla). That mindset must create a different lens than our for appreciating/understanding these myths. (Well, except for 10 yo boys)
  • Finally starts to read like a novel in the last fifth. [Interview note:  Gaiman wrote the stories out of order, as the muse struck. After writing Ragnarok story he realized there was a novel structure & he re-ordered accordingly.]

Related Resources:

Karen S. picked is Hotel on The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford

  • Marie is a LIBRARIAN, for goodness sake… Listen to her (IF you can hear her…without a Viking helm hearing horn) when she names the book’s author.

NEXT MEETING:  TBA (Kitty may switch months with somebody since she’s  moving)

Happy Families

November 2017 Nobody Hosts Meeting @ Liz’s
– A recovery set back…we switched from Chinese restaurant to delivery at her home
– Karen C., Marie, and Viviane were missed (to manage their family priorities).


  • Katie brought electric tea kettle and Chinese green tea to keep with the original (location) plan. Mary brewed it up ever-so-nicely.
  • Oh, dang it! most of us forgot our homework – a title for the January Read draw. Mad searching on Liz’s (weird, slightly uncooperative) laptop and other phones
  • This set up various sidebar conversations & levels of focus that lasted until we sat down, so not all interactions will be noted.
  • Also, Yours Truly took over ordering for everyone. There was some general head-nodding and calls of ‘chicken’ or ‘not too spicy’ with one definitive ‘my kids like Happy Families’ (not a philosophical statement, but a favorite menu item…& now, an appropriate blog post title), but the process again took away from general chatter recording. #excuses #legit
  • Who watched Gilmore Girls & was it because your girls did? (Pretty much, yes). What other shows were family favorites? (a mixed bag)
  • Liz’s Injury Recap:  hip painkillers masked chronic back warning twinges >>> back pulled while making bed (proposal: that bed is dangerous; burn it). And, yes, she’s overdoing it as a general state of being.
  • Sue’s Retirement Mansion in Florida – a few more details…the more we learn, the better it sounds. C’mon, Steve…get ready to retire soon.
  • Mary’s Catherine moving to Chicago by January. Moving ‘everything’ in the car & driving her out. Oh, the fun.
  • Karen S’s Christopher back from a NZ adventure. Harvey being fabulously Harvey.
  • Some crazy boys (KS’s Daniel, Liz’s David, & anyone else from Bootleg DNA???) going Wild Boar Hunting somewhere in Appalachia #ofcourse (which state?) with a ‘responsible, adult’ guide. #ihearbanjoes
  • Kitty’s house goes on the market in ~February. They’ve seen great options in the Annapolis area. Local goal for the work week:  Bethesda digs within 2 blocks of Kitty’s office. All the better for Kitty to continue to NOT go out with the ‘hundreds of millenials’ she works with (and who continue to invite her).
  • Katelyn finishing NYC Marathon (with Katie & Catherine & others) cheering her on. [Katie didn’t make the entrance lottery; she did her 26.2 race in DC the week prior.]
  • Shelley making various funny comments all while madly trying to find ‘a Canada book’ for the January pick in honor of Kirstie staying in the Great White North (well, Toronto).


The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss hearts of horses molly gloss

Katie picked it because:

  1. Volunteering at Gentle Giants triggered a Renaissance of All Things Horses for Katie.
  2. Didn’t want to read Horse Whisperer, Black Beauty, War Horse, or anything that dwells on the ugly. Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes (Me Before You) seemed just a bit too chicklit for Katie & Bootleg.
  3. Just read The Summer Before the War by Simonson and …Horses is of a very similar era and focuses on similar yet very different kind of young women in a very opposite setting from The Summer... upper class Edwardian England. So the compare/contrast was a rich opportunity.
  4. Katie had just watched ‘Buck’ about the real horse whisperer, Buck Brannaman, and wanted more horse life & training insights like this (but couldn’t find any of his nonfiction books in the library).


  • Everyone read at least most of it. Karen S. couldn’t get a copy in time but plans to read the copy she finally got. We did a pretty complete plot summary.
  • Overall, thumbs up from everyone. Even Viviane made a point to share positive comments (after the meeting). It’s such distinct slice of American life and time. The ‘realness of real people’ struck all of us (in a manner akin to The Bartender’s Tale).
  • Family dynamics & fortitude also reminded us of The Glass Castle and even more directly of Half-Broke Horses, both by Jeannette Walls.
  • PHEW! (says Katie) – It was a huge risk doing a ‘horse book,’ esp. with Kitty sounding an email alarm about fearing a sobfest. But while this one did not shy away from harsh realities and how some so-called horsemen broke horses, it did a great job of staying with Martha’s methods and demeanor – esp. when sharing details and horse development
  • We enjoyed how ~90% of the book had an easy, looping style of present, past, future – no rush to share details, but all attended to and accounted for (like Martha Lessen)
  • The last bit just before she agreed to marry certainly was faster than the rest. Was this a page count thing? Or did it reflect Martha’s pattering heart or some other aspect of her transition to community & happy family life?
  • Martha’s appearance, ‘style,’ goals, and book-loving ways = so appealing
  • Horse how-to info very satisfying and inspiring; yet also not all prettied up or modernized. Ugly reality laced in (but not overwhelming)
  • Great contrast to The Summer Before the War (several of us had read this independently of Bootleg); & similarities like women’s rights, patriotism, hardscrabble life of the un-rich, freedom from negative family, local politics, charming romance
  • Tom/cancer- painfully accurate (Katie had to skip a lot); horrible and beautiful
  • Riding the circle to train horses was a cool concept and also a great writer gimmick to bring in all the families
  • Changing POV was good
  • Eastern Oregon – ‘wild west’ is less wild than Martha wants, but still wild. Does this reflect Martha, too? She vows to never marry & seems rather rough, but she actually segues into community life and romance quite readily. She keeps her standards, but is somewhat surprisingly quick/quiet to acquiesce on some issues (esp. marriage & continuing to ‘ride out alone’).
  • George & Louise Bliss, El Bayad, Will Wright, the old sisters Emma Adelaide & Aileen, Henry Frazer (beau), German family (Belgians over the cliff with wagon), Rumer (?) family (ptomaine poisoning & broken arm; drunk) – All these characters were well-liked (or thoroughly and appropriately disdained) by us. Their arcs were real. Dialogue was, too. Each brought out another facet of Martha and of life in that setting, time, place.
  • Insights on medicine (cancer, doctor’s hours, awaiting help, birth/delivery) were distinct yet integral to plot and/or character development. (Yes, there was a birth, Liz). Such an interesting period of some knowledge, but mostly hardscrabble grit as a key part of the ‘healing’ process.
  • Title okay, but did not really delve into the horses’ hearts – saw some good evidence, though of this (e.g. the German couples’ horses that had fallen off the road…no panic, strength, patience).
  • Martha’s romance – really was sweet (even the rather obvious foreshadowing didn’t ruin it). The dance, the skating party & hike to Native Am art – all good scenes. But, did she enter too easily? Give up too many dreams? We think not and the ‘epilogue’ seems to confirm that it works out.


  • Yours Truly must say so herself:  Dessert was awesome. Fresh, triple chocolate brownies with 3 toppings choices:  whipped cream, caramel sauce, and/or homemade maple icing (thx, Katelyn E). We all had it all. #yum #dangerous
  • Picking the January Title
    • Several cries of, “You all are going to be so mad if you pick mine!”
    • Same exact pieces of paper (thx, Mary). But, wait! How do we fold them to be identical. One fold? Two? Origami (you’re so funny, Karen S.)?
    • Pick #1:  Mary selects. She passes it for another to read, but… ACK!!! Two papers are slotted together. Mary is vindicated; the multiple fold is in order.
    • Pick #2:  It’s Shelley’s pick! She’s happy! She’s worried! It’s so new, she knows nothing about it. Tension builds as Sue checks…it’s NOT in the library. Alas.
    • Pick #3:  All goes well. It’s Katie’s pick & she’s not even sure if it’s a full Gaiman story or an anthology of myths that have been Gaiman-ized. We all shall see… NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman
  • December:  Liz had wanted to do a Bootleg Bookless Tea again. Her status may preclude this. So, we are awaiting a Last Minute Call (if she feels up to it). Also… for those of you who actually read these minutes… Katie could host a Tea. Comment or email, if this appeals.
  • January:  Date tbd. It seems Katie and Karen S. (host) need to decide on it. Anyone know when a winter storm is predicted to come?

Details: obsession vs. vicarious impact

Note:  In Februrary, this post was inadvertently added as a page. It appears here now (11/1/17) as a correction to that error. 

February 27, 2017 @ Kitty’s House w/Viviane, Karen S, Mary & Yours Truly

Life & Family news:  Katie’s Dad continues the fight; Kitty’s sister’s son & daughter-in-law have twins by surrogate; Karen S Big Baby Boy in 2 months… L’chaim, everybody!

Oscars Chatter:  dresses, jewelry, etc.
Kitty’s great uncle – portraitist; new book (so cool); fascinating art talk by Viviane… bonus:  art class/samples by Viv (how colorful is YOUR white?)

Young Men & Fire by Norman MacLean

Karen S picked it due to coincidences:
– Christopher reading a lot about MT/fire watching
– CFO interview >>talked about Mann Gulch & this book
– She liked A River Runs Through It

  • Oh, Norman, how we wish you could have lived to properly edit this
  • long, draggy; REDUNDANCIES (with a few more reveals each time, yes, but the re-looping was so tiresome)
  • MacLean was rather OBSESSED that his love of research drowned out his literary skills in this ‘draft’
  • many descriptions of people & motivations were so excellent
  • historical context (behind/beyond the event) was enlightening
  • details like parachute design were edu-taining

SO… we turned to Literary Listography – My Reading Life in Lists
Randomly chose:  “Historical Period I Vicariously Lived Through” (based on Bootleg reads & what we considered ‘eras,’ not just ‘settings’) –

  1. Year of Wonder (plague)
  2. Devil in the White City (World’s Fair  & pre great CSI)
  3. In the Garden of the Beasts (Hitler rising)
  4. The Prize Winner of Defiance, OH (1950s wifery)
  5. The Help (pre Civil Rights)
  6. Nothing to Envy (North Korea, sadly still)
  7. Warm Springs (polio/iron lung transition)
  8. Elephant Company (humane training; WWI-WWII heroism)
  9. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (small scale WWII)
  10. The Color (NZ gold rush 2)
  11. The 19th Wife (est. cult of Mormonism)
  12. The Red Tent (Old Testament)
  13. The Dove Keepers (Masada)
  14. Memoirs of a Geisha (culture…is this an ‘era?’)
  15. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Cultural Revolution)
  16. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (cusp of DNA discovery)
  17. [we ran out of time…]

No, You Don’t Understand

October 2017 – Katie’s Meeting @ Liz’s House b/c Liz broke & we brought the party to her. Kitty, Marie, Sue, Mary, Shelley, & Yours Truly. We 7 missed everyone else. Also:  Team Brennan duly setting up Halloween décor – even if Liz won’t be scaring anyone in 2017.

The Liz Report:

  • Sparkly wedge shoes, a speedy exit from the Anthem, and ever-so-slightly uneven walking surface made for a Gravity Wins moment. Various contortions to avoid falling may have worsened the torque or impact. Lots of pain. Carried to the car.
  • No ER, please…home. Several days of RICE and crutches. She definitely overdid it at work a few days despite intermittent stretches of feeling better. So, she made a doc appt. for the next week and she packed for the gang’s fall leaf peeping trip.
  • Sadly, another trip interfered – thanks to crutch + foot + bed leg + more gravity. Another fall – wrenching, blinding, hip-searing, immediately immobilizing pain.
  • This is when Liz’s constant refrain, ‘No, you don’t understand… I can’t do [xyz] because I’m in too much pain.’ started in earnest.
  • EMTs NOT prepared to deal with her pain level, thirst, stairs, and more. Much hemming and hawing later, they ‘taco-ed’ her in a stretcher & off to Suburban.
  • EXTREME pain not managed well at all in ER. A patronizing air about getting in the system and doing certain paperwork before discussing pain meds = bad, bad, bad. Liz persisted, doc gave some Rx. Scan taken, doc upped to Max Load Rx for pain.
  • Waited all night for surgeon to mosey in… Tim trying to sleep in the chair…. Ugh. Surgical nurse pops in at 7:30 a.m. ‘READY!’ and Liz hasn’t spoken with surgeon yet. Tim at home. Flash forward – all players gathered, surgery commences.
  • Diagnosis:  hairline fractures from first fall (like the shell of a hard-boiled egg); ‘exploded’ hip joint from second fall
  • Surgery was the one hour (easier-than-3-hours) version because small incision to use leverage/traction worked to realign femur + 3 screws in hip joint area.
  • PT & OT + 6,000 other people showing up in her (private!) room at all hours. Some semi-useful. None the doctor. Most in a big rush. Timing food, meds, and actual therapies for best combined impact – not a thing on any treatment orders. But when the experienced  PT shows up, confidence and positive options abound! The foot harness to move the leg! Realistic options for walking!
  • Released earlier than expected (um…family’s in Baltimore helping David move). Home is good. Megs is FT caregiver. Bed in Apt. B is a very negotiable height. Padded chairs, a walker, PT visits to home & oh, yes – morphine. She’s on her way to getting ready to get ready to be better.
  • Goal:  ‘normal’ in 3 months.

Real Estate Report:

  • Sue’s Florida Home! They close Thanksgiving weekend. North of Tampa, closer to Stephen than Stacy. 4 BR, 3 bath, a pool. All kinds of wonderful features. Let the home décor shopping begin (well, after they close)
  • Kitty’s Moving! Yes, it’s a familiar story, but with some new tweaks. Already listed with friend realtor. Will rent a small apt. near 20895 for work. Goal to own a small house near Annapolis.
  • Marie is hosting her ‘other’ niece. It’s been fun and upbeat.
  • Basements rock. Even if you stuff too much junk into them. Sorry, parts of country that don’t have the pleasure. Earthquakes & high water table count as good excuses.
  • Alana A (Parkwood realtor & resident) donated blood marrow over the summer & just heard her match (still anonymous via the registry) is ‘stable.’ Awesome.

Book Report:

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple semple 9780316403436

Sue picked it because …Bernadette was so funny and she wanted something lighter than last month’s slog.

  • Today’s understatement:  We did not like Eleanor Flood. Some of us couldn’t even read the whole book because she was so ugh.
  • Her day filled with angst-y, anti-social habits and flashbacks where she played the victim or drama queen to just about everything made most of us want to holler, “No, YOU don’t understand!” As in this is not how life works. Note: this use of the phrase is the polar opposite of Liz’s aforementioned campaign for comfort & care. [This could be some sort of irony or twist. Cuz, you know…we’re that literary book club in the ‘hood.]
  • Some acquiesced to the idea that she had tiny glimmers of trying to do right. Or maybe she warranted a bit of empathy for making choices out of fear or depression. But then she’d just do something (or reveal an old something) that was thoughtless, selfish, etc. And… ugh
  • Writing style was very readable. Witticisms were tight, astute…but just so barbed.
  • Commentary on Seattle demographics added to humorous tone. At least we had that from …Bernadette.
  • Why did her husband still love her? A testament to his faith… and maybe something we just don’t get to see of her.
  • We all sighed over Timby. Don’t really want to read any sequel of his teen years.
  • Book covers are covered with great praise from all points. Are these excerpts from the complete statements which reveal less sunny opinions? As in, “It’s a masterpiece [missing bit:  of unpalatable narcissism]!”
  • The last scene does offer a bit of hope/sweet relief. Maybe a lot of tomorrows later  (not today) it will be better for Eleanor.

NEXT MEETING:  November is hostess-free. So we’ll meet at a restaurant. Location & date TBD via email when Katie spreads word of her book pick.


Family Ties that Bind & Gag

September 24, 2017 @ Sue’s with Mary, Liz, Viviane & Katie (oh, and Charlotte, the spider); we missed the rest of you!

Car Talk – north

  • It’s legal to travel with alcohol in closed containers (relevant info while using the Brennan Always-a-Party Bus
  • The One-Thing-After-Another for Viviane’s Family Saga – good news:  all are safe, many while driving her a bit nuts –in the best way possible! –  while staying at her house. Saga includes escaping socialism, Miami hurricane, Mexico City earthquake, & a 3-year-old in need of peers (and maybe a light saber)
  • The value of unpaid internships. This is becoming the new topic to replace Schoolitics and Poolitics. (sadly, nothing seems to replace actual politics)
  • No, don’t get on Rt. 70 to get to Sue’s. Really. Stay left. LEFT.
  • Some of us blatantly ignore or accidentally-then-on-purpose ignore club rule 11828 about bringing our own towels (Liz, Katie). Others go above & beyond by wearing her suit (Viv).
  • Paperwork:  Vivian taking the test to become a US citizen (almost ready!). Kirstie & Canadian residency/citizenship. David moving to Baltimore (a girl, the commute).

Chit Chat @ Sue’s

  • The WEATHER. Perfect. Warm, Long-lasting, gorgeous melon-ish pink sunset. NOT shivering at hot tub time. Drop the mic.
  • The FOOD. Sue not only provided a book-themed, yummy dinner of Indian cuisine, she did the same for appetizers. Such an array of dips and flavors, etc. She’s been charged with providing her menu (i.e. Wegman’s shopping list) so we can recreate and ‘save ourselves a trip to an Indian restaurant.’
  • Kudos to Liz for getting her fulltime-4-days-a-week position (those MFA-type people are not good at math) voted in – just today.
  • Sue & Steve almost got a Florida second home to rent then relocate in 1 year (Sue)/4 years (Steve); more house hunting to come. Kudos to Sue for reaching 30 years & I Can Retire Anytime status.
    • champagne for all of the above (well, barely more than a thimble for Wimp Katie and of course fizzy juice of another sort for Cheapest Date Mary)
  • Who’s reading what? A brief interlude while Sue put finishing touches on super-yum dinner. Biggest rave:  Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. For those seeking some mental fluff-that’s-not-vapid:  Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
  • We did not talk about the Redskins. Or whatever you choose to call them. No, we did not.
  • Word choices, Part A – What’s the word for adult children? Offspring is too stuffy. Heirs just sounds silly. Son & daughter work, but not as one-word aggregates if you’re kids are boy & girl. Spanish:  hijos (includes both genders); French:  just don’t say enfants after they turn ~17.
  • Word choices, Part B – Language-less children (deaf & isolated) who have learned language late in childhood & only have the verb ‘think’ are less capable at paper-based thinking tasks (e.g. comprehension, conclusions, inference) than those who also have words like ‘remember,’ ‘believe,’ ‘wonder,’ etc. So…having more words to think about thinking makes one a better thinker. Oh, the brain!
  • Poetry sucks. Poetry is awesome – it can take you so many places. Bob Dylan to baseball and beyond. PSA:  song lyrics are poetry.
  • The Emmy’s – yada yada yada. Oh, and what WILL the Oscars do this year? There are no good movies – yet. The movie industy plot thickens..
  • English is crazy. Here’s a post-meeting addition to acknowledge that fact (& fulfill a request. ‘The Chaos’ poem by Gerard Nolst Trenité

Hot Tub re-cap – Overall – so nice to not be shivering!!! That giant spider going up & down & up & down will do no harm. Creepy yet elegant. It’s Charlotte, right? Tiki torches, color-changing lights, awesome water jets at all stations. Ahhhh. A nearby farm’s recent spreading of the manure pile to fertilize fields? Not so great. Physics lesson: the hot tub steam really helps to effervesce that aroma. #farmlife  New neighbors – fencing in for goats, chickens, horses, and emus. That’s how they do it from South Africa.

THE BOOK:  The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy god of small things

Viviane chose this book because Eva recommended it. All of us read (listened to) at least more than half. Only Viviane finished. The rest of us ran out of time (for the record – chasing your book from here to NC to the library actually does not count as an excuse; napping does) OR chose to stop b/c…

  • It was just so dang bleak. And it was next to impossible to truly care about the characters – at least enough to want to read the full details of Sophie’s &/or everyone else’s demise
  • No real plot. Well, not one with any pace or appealing rhythm. Yes, stuff happens, but it’s all at the end. And it requires slogging through some very, very dense and swirly and sloggy stream-of -consciousness from pretty much all characters.
  • Don’t care how somebody eats a mango the 39th time… As in:  the blurb is so much better than the ‘agonizing uncoiling’ of events.
  • GORGEOUS writing abilities.
    • Poetic and crystal clear in small spots
    • Such clever wordplay:  kid-centric mash ups ‘sourmetal smell’, All Capital Letters for Emphasis, Re-Returning
    • Conveying the surreal twin-connectedness – sometimes with actual whimsy
  • So many layers – family roles & rebellion, caste system, modern Indian history/politics, abuse & impacts…but less intricate interplay than jumble of perspectives
  • Listening with accents and all the unfamiliar (and oft similar) names – a challenge
  • We forgot to discuss the title. Is it good? What could be better?
  • The Big Reveals in the final chapter – too much, too late:  affair, incest, murder/cover up.
  • It won the Booker because it’s depressing and because reviewers want ‘artsy’ (are they bored with clarity?). Okay, okay…the writing is quite good in stretches.

Car Talk – south

  • Kudos to Mary for driving the Giant SUV all the way home.
  • Yes, it’s still dark way out here in the country. Esp. with the little moon sliver. No, we don’t have to fork off. No, we don’t recall/know how or why or if that bridge thing was higher on one side or even there last time.
  • Who hosts in October? Katie? Liz will set straight.
  • No November host/book picker. So…do we need another member? Who? Or can we devise a Random Title Picking Game – played in November for our January read?
  • Saving the World & Getting Pregnant On Time – <<brush with eugenics deleted>>
  • Who’s working more now than they intended to be 3 years ago…and why? Center stage: Mary. Close 2nd:  Liz.
  • Term limits >>> limited discussion
  • Home by 10:15-ish. Thank you and goodnight.

The Importance of Being

August 2017:  We meet at China Gourmet because Hostess Viviane has newly-freed birds of a feather coming to rest in her nest. Hooray & Amen!

All attending, save Sue. We missed you, Sue!

Houston, oh, Houston. We wish you well.

Chatter, actually a round up of great & fun news (shared w/ varying levels enthusiasm):

  • the GOOD Harvey photos (Karen S’s grandson); middle name (Daniel), anyone???
  • Kitty & the vegan wedding – a few plans not planned, but a grand result overall
  • It’s raining jobs on Liz. It’s a tricky wicket.
  • Karen C. is fully finished. Her perfect position is coming; bridge consulting gig ok
  • Katie enjoyed the Project Run ALS events in NYC & beach (anyone wanna learn more or donate:
  • Marie’s Robert’s girlfriend and co-condo owner is adorbs; they’re so happy!
  • Mary’s Michael is ensconced in his fancy (?) NYC digs > he has a full BR wall!
  • Shelley spilled everything (or was on the receiving end) and her hair remained perfect – as usual
  • Viviane trumps all – we toasted to new life & freedom

After the great Zucchini Confusion we did a rather efficient job ordering delish entrees for all to share (including all food-etarian needs). Brilliant split of checks by booze and food, Liz. And Karen S for bringing Order By Number to the fore. Hooray for Lazy Susans (and the housemate of that lazy wench who invented the table spinner for us)

***NEWS*** The Official Chinese Menu Item is the Pineapple Triple Delight

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde the importance of being earnest

Karen C picked it because she’d read it, ‘her’ 2017 pick was swept out from under her (Hillbilly Elegy), it’s a classic, it’s easy to read on the beach.

  • we liked it – it was the keystone for all witty repartee to follow
  • the wordplay remains rather unique even today and the ironic twists, too
  • intelligent banter movies & sitcoms owe this one (Philadelphia Story, Big Bang Theory); the modern versions have more layers & subplots, but this play is why
  • Shelley did scenes in HS & recalled them so well = Fun!
  • Some of us have seen it. Others heard it while reading (in a good, non-hallucinatory way). Others of us wished to be seeing it (over reading it) since SO much would be conveyed by skilled acting. Of course dialogue speed would be fierce, so reading first may be best after all
  • now THIS is satire – such skewering of social norms and reversing of roles and vapidly astute (yes, really) changes of heart
  • shout out for the pun: earnest/ernest
  • Who knew of and who read the 4th act? Some of us. Definitely better without it. Good decision, Oscar

Dessert – Yummy chocolate cupcakes from Karen C’s neighbor who has a baking business with no name. With a chaser of Chinese Statement Cookies. Oddly amusing.

September Meeting @ Sue’s – most likely Sept. 23 or 24; book TBD (Viviane)