Category Archives: Monthly Reading

September 25th Meeting

We met last evening to discuss Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo Da Vinci. Nine members of the club were in attendance. Several members were absent but sent reviews and scores to me before the meeting.  Kyle also returned to the book club after a bit of a hiatus and it was good to have him back.

Dinner last night was an Italian theme. I made Lasagna, Salad and Garlic bread.  The drinks consisted of Italian beers and some very nice Chianti all supplied by Damian.  To finish off the evening we had a great Tiramisu.

During dinner we discussed the possibility of distributing the responsibilities of hosting and providing dinner and drinks across more than one member for a meeting.  Damian and I split the responsibility this month in that he supplied the drinks and desert and I supplied the house and the dinner.  It was a nice division of labor.  The reason we were thinking this is that are book club is growing ( 15 members ) and as such not every member is able to host ( due to size ).  So this allows for everyone to contribute.   To this end I will create a web page that the members can sign up for hosting or providing other parts of the meeting for the nine months that we meet.  Once I get it finished I will send everyone an email with the instructions. That doesn’t mean a member can’t take on all the obligations of the meeting if they so choose, but if you would rather work together with another member it will give you the option.

The discussion of ‘Leonardo’ started with the obligatory introduction of the author.  My first comment of the night was how accomplished Walter Isaacson was.  He and I are the same age and it made me wonder what I have been doing all my life 😊.

One of the first ideas we explored was the question of how all these talented individuals ended up in the same areas at the same time.  Leonardo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Reubens, and many more all in Florence, Milan, and Rome at the same time.  Was this chance?  What we came to decide is that, like the current Silicone Valley, that the patronage doled out by the Medici’s, Borgia’s and the Sforza’s must have been what drew and fostered the talent in the area.

We spoke many things from the book. Leonardo’s obsessions, his paintings and how he was never able to finish a project. While we all felt that Isaacson was able to give us an understanding of Leonardo and his life in Renaissance Italy, he also filled the book with minutia that distracted and made parts of the book plod along.  Most members said they skipped parts that went on and on. Both Jeff (Steve Jobs)  and Damian (Benjamin Franklin), who had read other Isaacson book’s said that ‘Leonardo’ was not as good.

I heard from both Craig, who liked the book a lot, but thought it was to long but gave it an 8, and Wayne who said ‘good book but although interesting it was a little lengthy and too much detail about brush strokes, light, etc. I learned a great deal but it was more a course study than entertainment .  I had to put the book down a couple times and read a couple quick action fictions between finishing Leonardo. Good author that added extra interest to otherwise tedious descriptions. Even though it was a long, hard, and academic read it shows a quality and professionalism in its updated research and authors style. Rating = 7 .’

The ten members who rated the book averaged a 5.7

See You in October

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May 29th Meeting

We met last night at Jack Y’s house to discuss the May book ‘Red Platoon’ by the Medal of Honor recipient Clinton Romesha. The book describes the battle for Camp Keating, a forward operating base in Nuristan province of Afghanistan on October 3, 2009.

Jack had the meeting catered by his favorite caterer Raphael 🙂

Jack started off the discussion by telling us about the Author, as is our custom.  Romesha is a thirty something former Army Staff Sergeant.  This is his first book and I think we all agreed that it was well written and very engaging.  Some of the members felt that the amount of detail he provided of the firefight was more than necessary, and unless you had a good picture of the compound was pretty confusing. But aside from that most of us felt he did a good job in describing what happened that day. Mike P mentioned that it was the first book that he read that speaks of war that he felt accurately describes what battle must feel like.

All of us felt that the Army’s decision to place a FOB where they did was a bad decision which then led to a discussion of why we are in Afghanistan at all.  It has been 17 years and there is still no end in sight.  I think we all agreed that we need to bring our service members home.

While no one gushed over the book the book was well rated. The nine members who rated the book averaged a 7.5

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April 24th Meeting

The bookclub met last Tuesday evening at Jack T’s house to discuss the book for April  “American Heiress” by Jeffrey Toobin. This is the story of the 1974 kidnapping and subsequent bizarre events of Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army.

I was not present for the discussion butyI had a hard time getting through the book. Was a story at the time but seemed dated and as such didn’t hold my interest for most of the book.

Jack did provide a write up on the discussion from the night. He said :

It was a good meeting everyone except Tom Cawein enjoyed the book.  Damien refused to make any comments because the author wrote for the New Yorker.  Everyone believed Patti Hearst was guilty and should have spent more time in prison.  Many of us remembered the news headlines and were surprised at the many unknown details. Most of us felt she should have never been pardoned and would still be in jail if she was black.

Rating 6.8


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March 27th Meeting

We’ll the group met on Tuesday at Harry’s daughters house to discuss our March book which was ‘The Snowman’ by Joe Nesbo. I wasn’t available that night so Wayne was kind enough to provide the synopsis for the book.

We had a great meeting and were able to celebrate Harry’s 92 birthday. Summary below

We started meeting with a brief discussion of liberal Scandianavian political, social and cultural characteristics that led to the myth of a bland but utopian society with equality for all and an absence of crime, corruption, racism and sexism. This superficial perspective led to the rise of the currently popular NORDIC NOIR or SCANDI CRIME FICTION that criticizes the liberalism of the Nordic model and exposes the dark secrets and hidden hatreds of a failed social system.
The book was generally well received with some saying it was skillfully written, informative, rich in content, complex, intense and made you think. It wasn’t an easy book to read due to the unpronounceable names/places, excessive characters, numerous twist and turns, and unnecessary length. Making you concentrate so much took away from the enjoyment!

The last question was..Would you read another Nesbo or Nordic Noir novel? About half of the group said yes.

A total of 12 votes averaged a rating of 6.8

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February 27th Meeting

The book club met last night at Tom’s house to discuss the February book ‘the woman in the window‘ by A.J. Finn. Since I was unable to attend Tom was gracious enough to provide the commentary for the discussion and pre-discussion happenings.

“Seven members showed up plus myself, although Jack T. fell ill and left before dinner.  Hope he is feeling better today.  The red wine was flowing in honor of Anna Fox, the protagonist in the book.  The BBQ pulled pork and chocolate cake were taken down, although I do have some nice leftovers!  (Note- This is not a shrimp cocktail eating crowd!  Guess what I’m having for lunch and dinner tonight?)

Here is how the discussion went:

                -A.J. Finn is actually a pseudonym for Daniel Mallory, an exec with William Morrow.
                -He was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder for 15 years so he had plenty of experience with drugs and doctors.
                 -Being in the industry he knew how to generate the hype for this book as it was number one on the bestseller list the first week it came out, which is unheard for a first time author.
                 -His next book will be set in San Francisco.

Comments about the book:
                -Several members thought the first 300 pages were too long and drawn out but the last 100 pages made up for it.  Several claimed they had a hard time putting the book down the closer it came to the end.
                -A few of us thought A.J. was a female author and were surprised to learn “she” was a “he”!
                -We thought the part about the wine and pill addiction seemed spot on, probably due to the author’s own medical problems.
                -Everyone seemed to like the plot twists with the young boy as the villain being a nice surprise.
                -As Craig wrote to me, most of the characters were not that likable with the exception of the “good cop”.  We all agreed.  The good cop was the most likable character.
                -I think Paul D. made the comment that he thinks the movie being made from this book should be a really good one.  Maybe we should have a group outing to go see it and drink some merlot!!??
                -Some thought it was a good read but would not become any kind of classic.  It was nice reading at the time but soon forgotten afterwards.
                -Overall, I think the members enjoyed the book.  As Jack Y. told me, it’s the kind of book he probably would not have read on his own but he was glad he read it and he learned a few things.  That was a very insightful comment and should be one of the tenements of this club.

                -We had one 4.0 rating.  All the others were between 6.0 and 7.5 with the overall average at 6.4   Not a bad showing for a first time author.

Thanks to everyone who attended!  It was a pleasure hosting you.

Tom Cawein”

In addition to Tom’s recap of the night I did receive comments from both Craig and Jeff since they were  out of town as well.

Craig – “As to the book: I enjoyed reading it and thought it was a good selection for our group. Wasn’t a great piece of literature that made you ponder the meaning of life, but then it wasn’t supposed to be. It was a thriller and a rather good one.  That said I give it only a 6, for two reasons: 1) Except for maybe the police detective, Little, I didn’t really like or relate to any of the main characters, especially Anna, and found it hard to be deeply interested in what was happening to/with them. And, 2) As exciting as the last 100 pages were, I thought that there was maybe one too many plot turns/twists. I personally think a better ending would have been to leave you wondering who of the many suspects actually did it, or if she really did make the whole thing-up?”

Jeff – “It’s almost hard to believe this is his debut novel.  After reading the book and reading about Daniel Mallory, I thought it brilliant that he submitted his book under the pseudonym AJ Finn to the publishing firm he worked as a VP and Executive Editor.

His descriptive word choice makes this book beautifully written; I think his decade in England contributed to this, using words that are not typically spoken in the United States.

In reading the first 2/3 of the book, I wondered how this woman became agoraphobic and I thought it an odd twist that she participated and advised other agoraphobics on the web chat forum.   Like all of us, we found out.  I did not see the teenager being the killer of Jane and how he was able to lure Anna in through the Agora webpage.   I also like the reference to the old black and white movies which makes me want both watch for the first time and re-watch some of these classic movies. 

Overall I enjoyed this easy to read book.   I rate it a 7.  “



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January 30th Meeting

For our first meeting of 2018 we met at Craig’s house to discuss ‘Born A Crime‘ the autobiographical account of the early life of Trevor Noah.   Craig and Marcy served Italian Beef sandwiches from Portillo’s. Being from Chicago I was most pleased with the menu selection :-).

We had a few members missing for the discussion, Damian and Mike were unavailable and Paul and Tom V had car troubles on the way (Carbecue).  Mike and Damian sent emails with their ratings and comments which were included in the totals.

All of the members that were there enjoyed the book.  Craig pointed out that this is really more a book about his mother than himself.  Her strong influence and how if effected his life in such a positive direction was the real story.  Jack T mentioned how this was a universal story in that it depicts so many of the struggles and foibles that we all encounter growing up. But, it was unique in that it is set against the backdrop of apartheid.

Instead of reading this book I actually listed to it on Audible.  Sine it was narrated by Trevor Noah, it added an extra dimension to the story. Hearing his accents and inflection made the story that much better.  If you liked the book,  I would suggest you give it a listen as it adds a lot to the story.

Rating 6.75

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November 28th Meeting

We’ll sorry it’s taken this long to get the post up.  Been a busy Holiday Season so far so I am just now getting around to posting notes on our discussion of the November book, ‘Ghost of the Innocent Man’ by Benjamin Rachlin.  We met on the 28th of November here at my house and had a almost a full house.  I believe Mike K was the only one missing that night.  He did provide a rating and feedback (He wasn’t overly impressed with the book).

So, I decided to cook  Mexican for the night, good fit for that many attendee’s, and then we sat down to discuss the book.  I started off by mentioning that this was his first book and so he may have been inclined to fill the book to a particular page count, which would account for the amount of detail that was included in the book.  We were all in agreement that the book could have been 100 pages smaller and not hurt the story.  That said, most of us enjoyed the book.  The two stories told in concert, was an interesting way to present the book.  It was interesting that about half the group preferred Willies story while the other half preferred the story of the creation of the Innocence Commission. In either case I felt, as did most members, that we learned something from the book.

We are off for the month of December, and will be back in January reading Trevor Noah’s book ‘Born a Crime’.

Happy Holidays to all.

Rating 7.4


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October 24 Meeting

Last Tuesday we met at John’s house to discuss the book ‘A Gentlemen in Moscow’ by Amor Towles. Before the discussion began we dined on Beef Storganoff and salad.  Nice night so we all were seated outside by the pool overlooking DP and out to the ocean. It was a great dinner and a great discussion.  Many thanks to John and Barbara for hosting.

We came in for the discussion and John led it off by providing a synopsis of the authors biography as is our custom.  I think the most common comment I heard over the course of the discussion was in reference to how well Towles writes.  The book, while I felt dragged a bit at times, flowed so well with great character development.  I think the whole group felt the respect and civility ( to use Towles idea ) with how the count interacted with all the characters throughout the novel.  Even given his circumstances, being under house arrest, he remains at all times a Gentlmen.

We had eleven members of the group for the evening, including Mike Puales. This was Mikes second meeting with the group. So welcome to our newest member. So with all eleven members scoring we had a average score of 7.6

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September 26th Meeting

We met last Tuesday at Mike’s house to discuss the summer books ‘Sapiens’ and ‘Homo Deus’  by Yuval Noah Harari. Mike provided sandwiches, salad, and drinks for the evening, which were much appreciated.

Mike was the discussion leader for the night. After the  Author introduction we launched into a discussion  of the first book ‘Sapiens’.  Several of us commented on how much text book like it seemed, but regardless most members felt we learned something from the books.  As a matter of fact, that was the most often heard comment I took away from the meeting. We discussed his ideas of Myths, which is one of the interesting ideas of the book, his obsession with Hunter Gathers and his personal bias that really does permeate both books.


The discussion then morphed into the second book, which projects his ideas into the future. I think the general consensus was that this was the more interesting of the two books. While recapping points from the first book he then goes on the describe his view of mankind in the future. However, again his personal bias come to the forefront.  Animal rights, technology and medicine all come into his sights.

All in all it was a great discussion.  The fact that most all members mentioned that they learned some things from the books which they did not know and it prompted as much discussion as it did is a telling sign.

Next month we are at John’s and will be reading ‘A Gentlemen in Moscow’


See you then




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May 30th Meeting

We met last Tuesday at Jack Y’s house to discuss the May book ‘The Long Walk’  by Slovomir Rawicz.  In addition to liquid refreshments, Jack served some great chicken and a variety of salads for our dinning pleasure.  Thanks to Jack and Judy for hosting our last meeting before our summer hiatus.

Paul took up the discussion leader duties for the book and after the  introduction to the author we all were asked our opinions on the book.  I think all of us were of a mind that a large part of the book is more fiction than fact.  Craig brought up a second book ( Finding Mr Smith ) which attributes the tale of the journey to an altogether different person than the author.  So the believability of the story ( to include the Yeti sighting 🙂 )  left most of us in doubt about the veracity of the author.

However that said most members liked the story quite a bit.  John commented that he found it entertaining as did most members of the group.  So while not very believable it was an entertaining tale. Even if it did wrap up very quickly.

For the Summer we are going to read ‘Homo Sapiens‘ by  Yuval Noah Harar.  The book was suggested by Mike and he will be hosting when we return after the summer break.

Rating 6.5

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