“Some things are so frightful that a bit of madness is the only sane response. You know that, don’t you?”

payingguestsTightly plotted and superbly written, Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests gave the Brown Baggers much to discuss. Perhaps not surprising for a novel with a relatively small cast, much of our talk concerned the two main characters, Frances and Lilian. Frances, with her strong sense of duty along with a suffragette background, was an excellent emblem of the changing times: respectable, but with a rebellious streak. It was more difficult for us to pin down Lilian’s true nature. Many felt that she could be naive in some matters, while slyly self-aware in other ways. By the novel’s end, most readers hesitated to definitively categorize her as conniving, but we definitely felt she knew how to take advantage of certain situations. Continue reading

Life In Motion-The Firebird

Life in Motion is a tale of the groundbreaking progress of Misty Copeland, currently only the third African American female to become a soloist at the distinguished American Ballet Theatre. She reveals a story of struggles, discovery, and extraordinary fortitude throughout her life as an up-and-coming Ballerina. Copeland comes from a family with a single mother and began taking ballet lessons at the late age of 13.  She practiced tirelessly and was able to attend several summer programs at some of the best ballet schools. It was undeniable that Copeland possessed a special gift as experts say 13 is an incredibly late age to begin such a craft.

Misty was able to go on to join the American Ballet Theatre and is now one of its principal dancers. The book is an excellent depiction of the breaking of barriers, advances, and the African American experience in the world of ballet.  It was particularly interesting as a biography because it was a very easy read and her story is worth telling. In fact, the book made me admire her even more.  Although I thought the book was repetitive at times, I think she also did a good job at explaining both her personal life as well as introducing those that are unfamiliar with the dance world to dance themes and concepts.


“There is a sharp distinction between what is remembered, what is told and what is true.”


yellow birds JMRL’s newest book club, Books on Tap, meets on the first Thursday of the month at Champion Brewery at 7pm. In January, we discussed Kevin Power’s The Yellow Birds, a novel about two young soldiers, a bloody battle in Iraq, and the fallout of choices made in war.

Our readers noted that the story was universal. While specific horrible things happen to the characters, the novel allows you to reflect on “things you wished didn’t happen” and that “all pain is the same.”  While we debated Power’s intended audience, we did note that the tone wasn’t sentimental. The story felt authentic and didn’t romanticize war or warriors.  While the group didn’t agree with all of the praise heaped on this book by reviewers, we did think it was an important contribution to literature on the horrors of war.

More Information:

Check out other books by Kevin Powers in the JMRL catalog.

Read more about Power’s National Book Award Finalist award at the official website.

Looking for a readalike? The titles below were recommended by book club members. Need more?  Ask for a recommendation through JMRL’s What Do I Read Next? service.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre

Redeployment by Phil Klay

The Things They Carried  by Tim O’Brien

The Best Years of Our Lives (feature film)

Join us on Thursday, February 4th to discuss The Turner House by Angela Flournoy.