Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama

Michèle was our host for this April meeting.  She provided veggies with a dip, cheese and cocktail meatballs.  We also had a wonderful Persian Love Cake. The recipe is below.  

We discussed Marg's book choice The Light We Carry  by Michelle Obama.  This book is a follow-up to her  book Becoming that we read in September 2021.  Michelle Obama, as we all surely know,  was the First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2015.

While we all enjoyed her first book, most of us were dissappointed with this follow-up book.  Becoming is an excellent autobiography, and very well written.  This book The Light We Carry is more of a book on how to improve your life, with anecdotes from her life repeated from the first book.   

For young women, certainly some of the anecdotes and suggestions on how to approach life may be useful but for women of a certain age, it is not much us.  

Thank you Marg for the book choice.  All of us were anxious to read it after Becoming.  

Recipe for the Persian Love Cake

Almond Cake With Cardamom and Pistachio

(Persian Love Cake)


This moist and springy Persian almond cake is generously spiced with ground cardamom (two full teaspoons). We like it with fresh berries. If you want to serve it for Passover, be sure to use kosher for Passover confectioners' sugar.


Yield:One 9-inch cake (10 to 12 servings)

  • ½cup vegetable oil, plus additional for pan
  • 7 large eggs, separated
  • 1cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 3½cups /420 grams almond flour (see tip)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped pistachio nuts, for garnish


1.      Step 1

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9-inch round or square pan and set aside. Using a stand mixer, whisk egg whites until stiff but not dry, and set aside.

2.      Step 2

In a medium bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar, and whisk to blend. Whisk in almond extract and oil. Add almond flour and cardamom. Gently stir a third of the whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest until just incorporated.

3.      Step 3

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and finish cooling on a rack. To decorate, dust with confectioners’ sugar and chopped pistachios.


  • If you want to grind your own almond flour, start with 3 cups nuts. Using a large food processor, pulse almonds until very finely ground, stirring once or twice to prevent them from turning into a paste.


·       If you found the recipe online, you will see that it calls for 4.5 cups of almond flour. However, if you measure by weight, 420 grams is only 3.5 cups and that is what I used.  The batter will be very stiff and not as moist  if you use 4.5 cups. 



Monday, April 8, 2024

Five Little Indians by Michelle Good - March 25, 2024

Carla hosted this evening’s meeting with Beth, Marilyn, Shirley, Linda, Colette, and Betty in attendance. We were treated to our first ‘butter board’ along with a hot artichoke dip and a variety of nibbles. Dessert was a fresh fruit salad with mini lemon tarts.

Marilyn’s book choice this month was Five Little Indians by Michelle Good. Michelle Good is a Cree writer and a member of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. After working for Indigenous organizations for twenty-five years, she obtained a law degree and advocated for residential school survivors for over fourteen years. Good earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia while still practising law and managing her own law firm. Her poems, short stories, and essays have been published in magazines and anthologies across Canada. Five Little Indians, her first novel, won the Harper Collins/UBC Best New Fiction Prize, the Amazon First Novel Award, the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Award, the Evergreen Award, the City of Vancouver Book of the Year Award, and Canada Reads 2022. It was also longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

It was unanimously felt that while this was a difficult, grueling, and emotional book, it is also a well-written, important book that should be required reading and made part of school curriculum. For those of us who have never undergone the horrors of residential schools, this book gives a glimpse, better understanding, of what we, as a society, our government and our religious orders, did to those who were here in this land before us.

Michelle Good has written a fictional story that is based on true events. She has taken what happened to thousands of indigenous children and given us an account through five children who have been isolated from family and society since they were very young and follow them as they are released from the school to face uncertain futures with no life skills, no money, no support network, no family but with the memories of the trauma they underwent at the school. 

We see how the quiet, sensitive but strong Lucy escapes the hospital with her baby before the Social Worker could claim it and survives by channeling her emotions into counting and cleaning. We see Kenny trying to be a good partner and father but hides his trauma in drink. Howie, the quiet one, spends time in prison for beating up one of his tormentors and refusing to say he was sorry for it. Maisie seemed as if she had her life together, but she was living a falsehood and a double life; she committed suicide. We feel the anger Clara channels into her work with various Indigenous movements but after meeting with Maria and her sweat lodge, she becomes a court worker and is able help some who would otherwise spend many years jailed.

There was mention of the writing style as being simplistic and difficult to follow. But is this not a reflection of the five we are following? The education that was lacking in their upbringing? It may also be that Michelle Good wanted this book to be readily available to all, including young children, so that there can be no excuse for not understanding the trauma that was faced by those who attended residential schools. And perhaps Good was forward thinking in making this book suitable for inclusion in a school curriculum as our group believe should be done.

Five Little Indians was a hard book to read, particularly for those of us who grew up in the vicinity of residential schools but with no knowledge of the trauma that was being brought to bear on the children. It is an embarrassment to white society, our government and religious orders and, as Michelle Good undoubtedly wished, it was felt by all.

Thank you, Marilyn, for your enlightening book choice; an historical novel filled with truths that are hard to accept

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams - February 26, 2024

Shirley was our host for this February 2024 meeting. Present were Beth, Carla, Colette, Linda, Marg, Marilyn and Shirley.  Betty was not at the meeting but sent her review to Shirley. We discussed Colette's book choice, The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. 

Pip Williams was born in London in 1969 to a Brazilian mother and Welsh father. She grew up in Sydney, Australia. Her first published work was at the age of 15, when she wrote a poem called Fifteen, and submitted it to a local magazine. She found out that she was dyslexic at the age of 17. In order to help his daughter, her dad gave her three dictionaries. Pip feels that this may be one of the reasons that she had such an interest in the compiling of the Oxford Dictionary. Ms. Williams has a PhD. In Public Health. She worked as an academic researcher and she feels it equipped her well to write novels. 


She and her family purchased a hobby farm and she began writing, leaving farming to her partner. The first book she wrote was One Italian Summer published in 2017 and popular in Australia.  She was inspired by the novel The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words by Simon Winchester, taking the part of this novel that dealt with the making of the Oxford English Dictionary as the basis for her new novel, The Dictionary of Lost Words that was published in 2020. It has been very popular worldwide and she has won several literary awards.  She has since written a third novel, published in 2023, The Bookbinder of Jericho. 

Our members, in general enjoyed the book and has a historical novel, found it interesting.  They did find, especially the beginning to be slow and tedious.  Most were surprised by the "unscientific" method that was used to make the dictionary.  The description of the scriptorium was quite interesting and added to our knowledge.  The description of the town of Oxford was particularly interesting to some of our members. 

Both Esme and Lizzie were well described and Lizzie, though illiterate was very smart.  The addition of the activities of the Women's Suffrage Movement was interesting and gave us information on how and when it began. The addition of this information, the description of the town of Oxford and the impact of World War I on Esme, Lizzie added to the interest of the book as a historical novel.  

Thank you Colette for presenting an interesting novel that generated a good amount of discussion. 


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict - January 29, 2024

Marg was our host for the first meeting of the 2024 year.  Present were Beth, Betty, Carla, Colette, Linda, Marg, Michèle and Shirley.  Betty presented the book The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict. 

This is the second book we have read by Marie Benedict.  Most of her novels are based on true women and tell the story of women that may not have been known. This novel is about the 11 day disappearance of the author Agatha Christie.  It is written in a different style than her previous books. Agatha had been challenged by her sister to write the unsolvable mystery.  Was this 11 day dissapearance the manuscript of this drama?

Marie Benedict tells the story of Agatha's life, her marriage to Archie Christie and the difficulties of the marriage.  She relates the search for Agatha that was the big story in Great Britain.  Is the story of her disappearance as it is written  what really happened? As this is a novel, we don't really know what happened during those 11 days and why Agatha dissappeared.  

It left us as readers, wondering what really happened.  They divorced and Archie's lover, Nancy Neele was named in the divorce decree as Agatha insisted.  This gave Agatha custody of her daughter.  Has Marie Benedict, in this novel managed to get to the truth of Agatha's disappearance?  We will never know. 

Thank you Betty for this recommendation. 

Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray - November 29, 2023

Michèle was our host for the November meeting and we also had, after our discussion a pot luck dinner to celebrate  the 25th Anniversary of the existence of the Muse & Views Book Club.  We began our meeting with a glass of bubbly offered to us by Janet's husband.  After our discussion we had a great meal provided by all of us! 

Present were Beth, Betty, Carla, Colette, Janet,  Linda, Marg, Marilyn, Michèle & Shirley.  All were present.  Shirley presented our book for November, The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray.  

Marie Benedict is an American writer and lawyer.   She writes principally fictionalized novels of real women.  Her first book was The Other Einstein, the story of Mileva Maric Einstein, who was Albert Einstein's wife and a brilliant physicist herself.  She has written 9 historical novels about women of this world who had extraordinary lives.   For The Personal Librarian, she partnered with Victoria Christopher Murray a business woman and an author of 30 books.  

The Personal Librarian is the story of Belle da Costa Greene who was the personal librarian of J.P. Morgan and who maintained and built up the collection of rare manuscripts, books and artwork for the Pierpont Morgan Library.  Belle had a closely guarded secret, she was from a family of "coloured folks" but he skin was pale enough to pass as a white person.  Belle became well known in New York High Society and soon had close acquaintances in her professional and personal life, none who knew her secret. 

Most of the members found the story intriguing, many saying it is a "page turner" and also enjoyed the historical aspects of the book.  We could easily visualize the characters, especially the 2 main characters. J.P. Morgan, such a strong character who dominated everyone, both family and professional colleagues.  Belle da Costa Greene, from the beginning was confident in her abilities and knew, for example, how to convince J.P. Morgan to acquire a particular manuscript or artwork that she believed would be worthwhile for the library.  Several members mentioned how the business relationship grew so each had confidence in the other.  

A couple of our members thought that her anxiety and fear that her secret would be divulged was too often repeated in the story.  Every time she met J.P. Morgan's daughter Ann, her fear and anxiety came to mind.  When she was home with her family, the topic was often part of the conversation.  It was a way for the authors to emphasize how important it was for her to keep her heritage a secret, but some found it repetitive.  

Marie Benedict has written 9 books about women, all true stories and several members had read more than one of her books and enjoyed them.  Thank you Shirley for introducing several of us to an interesting author. 

Monday, November 6, 2023

Albatross by Terry Fallis - October 23, 2023

Betty was our host for the October meeting.  Present were Betty, Carla, Colette, Linda, Marg, Michèle and Shirley.   Betty served some lovely cheese including a very tasty cheese ball with crackers and olives.

This month we discussed Linda's choice, Terry Fallis' book Albatross.  We have read several of Terry Fallis' books.  He is a Canadian author and after his studies in Engineering at McMaster University he worked on Parliament hill, working on Jean Chrétien's federal election campaign and then working on the political staff of the Honorable Jean Lapierre.  His work on the Hill was the inspiration for his debut novel The Best Laid Plans.    He has published 9 books and is presently working on his 10th book.  He  twice won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour.   

Albatross is a book about golf, relationships and commitment.  The book was generally enjoyed by the members but few saw it as his best effort.  The story is about a young student in his last year of high school who discovers through his gym teacher that he has the perfect body measurements to be an extraordinary golfer.  The student, Adam Coryell knows nothing about golf and is much more interested in writing.  Along with his girlfriend he plans to study English Literature and Writing at the University of Toronto.  His teacher Bobbie, convinces him to try it and he becomes an almost immediate excellent golfer, winning a sports scholarship and winning almost every tournament he plays.

Most enjoyed the books finding it charming and sometimes funny, well written .  The characters of Adam and his teacher Bobbie were well developed and the relationship between the two was  heartwarming.  

Members enjoyed the end, all loose ends were tied up.  He used his money that he won for good.  The romance with his high school sweetheart re-kindled and she became a well-known author.  There is no big drama in this book, just a nice sometimes funny story.  

Thank you Linda for giving us a good summer read. 


Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery - September 25, 2023


We were a small group again this month, Beth, Betty, Carla, Marg and Michèle.   Michèle had homemade blinis with smoked salmon, a lovely garlicky dip and vegetables and olives.  Dessert was chocolate cupcakes with blue icing.

We discussed Carla's book choice, The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery.   L. M. Montgomery, as she was known in the publishing world wrote 20 novels, almost all for young adults, numerous short stories and poems.  She was best known for her series of books Anne of Green Gables and those that followed all set in Prince Edward Island.  They are still widely read in many countries throughout the World.  The Blue Castle is one of a very few adult novels she wrote.  

The story is set in small town Ontario, one of the only books she wrote not set in P.E.I.  It is about a single woman of 29 years old who lives with her mother and aunt and feels stifled by their criticism.  After receiving a life changing medical diagnosis she decides to free herself of family and we follow her life through work she takes on and love.  Ms. Montgomery also, as in her other books, describes the surrounding nature in a way that we can easily visualize, lush woods and serene lakes.

The novel was unanimously enjoyed by everyone present and those who sent us their comments.  It was felt that it described well the often claustrophobic lives of unmarried women in the early 20th century, and struggles they had to live an independent life when it was possible.  Many felt that this is essentially a romance novel but with an interesting plot and great characters.  Once Valancy breaks from her family, she learns to problem solve on her own, she does not allow others to dominate her and she learns to love.  

It is a well written story, characters are well developed and dramatic.  The story ends well with Valancy finding herself with her favourite author as her lover.   Several of our members especially enjoy a story that ends well.

This book is filled with "quotable" quotes and this is one that is particularly popular:

‘”John Foster says,” quoted Valancy, “If you can sit in silence with a person for half an hour and yet be entirely comfortable, you and that person can be friends. If you cannot, friends you’ll never be and you need not waste time in trying.'”

Thank you Carla for proposing this wonderful summer read. 

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Books and Meetings 2024

  This list will be updated as members make their choices.

January 29 - Betty's choice, Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict, Marg hosts

February 26 - Colette's choice, The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams , Shirley hosts

March 25 - Marilyn's choice Five Little Indians by Michelle Good, Carla hosts

April 22 - Marg's choice,  The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama, Michèle hosts

May 27 - Michèle's choice,  Poetry, Linda hosts

June 24 - Beth's choice, The Zone of Interest  by Martin AmisColette hosts

September 23 - Carla's choice, Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt, Marilyn hosts 

October 28 - Linda's choice, The Day the World Came to Town 9/11 by Jim Defede,  Betty hosts

November 27 - Shirley's choice, The Frozen River by Ariel Lawhon, Beth hosts