Friday, April 18, 2014

Saturday Snapshot - April 19

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

While we were in Athens, we took a side trip to Delphi.  My husband told me he had originally planned to propose here, but I'm not sure how that would have worked out since we were going on our honeymoon.  Oh well!  Anyway, it was well worth the trip!


This was the stone the Oracle was said to touch when she was prophesying.



One more post to go!


West Metro Mommy Reads


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: "The Collector of Dying Breaths" by M.J. Rose

The Collector of Dying Breaths
Published: April 8, 2014
ISBN: 1451621531
Genre: Historical Fiction / Suspense
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Rating: 4 / 5
♦♦♦♦

Summary:
In 1533, an Italian orphan with an uncanny knack for creating fragrance is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. To repay his debt, over the years RenĂ© le Florentine is occasionally called upon to put his vast knowledge to a darker purpose: the creation of deadly poisons used to dispatch the Queen’s rivals.

But it’s RenĂ©’s other passion—a desire to reanimate a human breath, to bring back the lives of the two people whose deaths have devastated him—that incites a dangerous treasure hunt five centuries later. That’s when Jac L’Etoile—suffering from a heartache of her own—becomes obsessed with the possibility of unlocking Rene’s secret to immortality.

Soon Jac’s search reconnects her with Griffin North, a man she’s loved her entire life. Together they confront an eccentric heiress whose art collection rivals many museums and who is determined to keep her treasures close at hand, not just in this life but in her next.


Set in the forest of Fontainebleau, crisscrossing the lines between the past and the present, M.J. Rose has written a mesmerizing tale of passion and obsession. This is a gothic tale perfect for fans of Anne Rice, Deborah Harkness, and Diana Galbadon.

My Thoughts:
This is the 5th book, I believe, in M. J. Rose's Reincarnationist series.  I read and reviewed the fourth book, Seduction, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it (even though it creeped me out). Because of that, I had high hopes for The Collector of Dying Breaths.

I am glad to say that this book lived up to my expectations, but it wasn't exactly what I expected.  While Seduction had an almost sinister feel, this one was more romantic in nature.  I will say that I found Jac to be a bit more interesting in Seduction, but I'm giving Rose a pass on this.  This character is in mourning in this story and her mentality and actions is consistent with that, even if it less compelling. The other characters of the book are interesting, but a bit one-dimensional.  The exception to this, however, is Rene, the 16th century perfumer.  He was a very well-drawn and complex man dealing with the difficult situation of being torn between duty and love.

This book is truly a maze with twists at every turn.  While I could usually tell when the story was about to take another direction, I was very rarely able to predict what that direction would be.  And although I didn't find the end to be especially surprising, it was a fulfilling conclusion to this entertaining story.

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.



About the Author:
M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of fourteen novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com. The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.




Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: "Sinners and the Sea" by Rebecca Kanner

Sinners and the Sea Rebecca Kanner
Published: April 2, 2013
ISBN: 9781451695250
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Rating: 4 / 5
♦♦♦♦

Summary:
The young heroine in Sinners and the Sea is destined for greatness. Known only as “wife” in the Bible and cursed with a birthmark that many think is the brand of a demon, this unnamed woman lives anew through Rebecca Kanner. The author gives this virtuous woman the perfect voice to make one of the Old Testament’s stories come alive like never before.

Desperate to keep her safe, the woman’s father gives her to the righteous Noah, who weds her and takes her to the town of Sorum, a haven for outcasts. Alone in her new life, Noah’s wife gives him three sons. But living in this wicked and perverse town with an aloof husband who speaks more to God than to her takes its toll. She tries to make friends with the violent and dissolute people of Sorum while raising a brood that, despite its pious upbringing, develops some sinful tendencies of its own. While Noah carries out the Lord’s commands, she tries to hide her mark and her shame as she weathers the scorn and taunts of the townspeople.

But these trials are nothing compared to what awaits her after God tells her husband that a flood is coming—and that Noah and his family must build an ark so that they alone can repopulate the world. As the floodwaters draw near, she grows in courage and honor, and when the water finally recedes, she emerges whole, displaying once and for all the indomitable strength of women. Drawing on the biblical narrative and Jewish mythology, Sinners and the Sea is a beauti­fully written account of the antediluvian world told in cinematic detail.

My Thoughts:
I have always loved the story of Noah and the Ark.  I remember as a child seeing a TV movie of it (I remember nothing else other than I saw this), I've always wanted to see the musical Children of Eden, and my husband and I made sure to see Noah on opening weekend.  On that last point, we probably should have seen Divergent instead.

Anyway....

Sinners and the Sea is touted to be in the same vein as Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, which made me a bit nervous--such comparisons are usually unfair and incorrect.  While I wouldn't say that this book brought The Red Tent to mind, I did greatly enjoy this book.

The story is told from the point of view of Noah's wife (traditionally named Naamah, but she is unnamed in this work).  I felt rather stupid while reading this book--I never thought about the role of Noah's wife in this whole story but, really, she is practically a second Eve--the mother of all--if you take a strict interpretation of the story.

What I like best about the character of Noah's wife is that she is very dynamic--she grows during the course of the book and she does in a natural way.  Many times, when a book is sort of centered around a character's growth, it doesn't come across realistically--but that is not the case here.

I also really enjoyed reading the character of Noah.  He started out not being at all the way I've always imagined Noah.  I always pictured Noah as being sort of hermit, living away from all the sinners.  Instead, here he is living among them and trying to "save" them.  There is more than a bit of fire and brimstone about his tactics, but that begins to make sense as we get to know more about his character.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I did have a few quibbles.  There were a couple--literally only 2 or 3--times in the book where the narrative of the action got a little muddy and I had to read the passage more than once to be sure I knew what was going on.  There was also a minor plot point, in fact it may have been more of a detail, near the end of the book that was just too much for me and I found it a bit ridiculous.  However, in the grand scheme of things, I found this to be an entertaining book that I will be recommending to others.

About the Author
Sinners and the Sea is Rebecca Kanner’s debut novel. Rebecca is a Twin Cities native and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Washington University in St. Louis. Her writing has won an Associated Writing Programs Award, a Loft mentorship Award and a 2012/2013 Minnesota State Arts Board Grant. Her personal essay, “Safety,” is listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2011. Her stories have been published in numerous journals including The Kenyon Review and The Cincinnati Review.

Along with other authors including Anita Diamant, Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks and Ron Hansen, Rebecca will be featured in the upcoming title Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists.


You can learn more about Rebecca, and find links to selected stories and essays, at www.rebeccakanner.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.




If you would like to read more about this book, please visit some of the other stops on this tour:

Tuesday, April 15
Review at Cheryl’s Book Nook

Thursday, April 17
Review at A Bookish Girl

Friday, April 18
Review at Reading the Ages

Monday, April 21
Review at Booktalk & More
Review at Judith Starkston

Wednesday, April 23
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Friday, April 25
Spotlight & Giveaway at Caroline Wilson Writes

Monday, April 28
Review at JulzReads

Tuesday, April 29
Review at The Most Happy Reader

Wednesday, April 30
Review & Giveaway at Book Lovers Paradise

Friday, May 2
Review at History from a Woman’s Perspective

Monday, May 5
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, May 6
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, May 7
Review at Ink Sugar Blog

Friday, May 9
Review at Our Wolves Den

Monday, May 12
Review at The Calico Critic

Tuesday, May 13
Review at From L.A. to LA

Wednesday, May 14
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, May 15
Spotlight at The Tower of Babel

Friday, May 16
Review at Layered Pages

Monday, May 19
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Wednesday, May 21
Review at My Reader’s Block

Friday, May 23
Review at Seaside Book Corner

Tuesday, May 27
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, May 29
Review at bookworm2bookworm’s Blog

Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, I have a copy of this book to giveaway to one reader.  This contest is open to US Residents, aged 18 or older, only.  This giveaway ends at 11:59pm PST on April 19, 2014.




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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Book Blast: "The Towers of Tuscany" by Carol M. Cram

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and author Carol M. Cram are excited to announce The Towers of Tuscany Book Blast! Join us from April 7-13 as The Towers of Tuscany is featured around the blogosphere, along with a chance to win one of three copies of this amazing new novel! Called "a beautifully crafted masterpiece of historical fiction", "lush", and "page-turning" Cram's debut novel will appeal to readers who enjoy a strong female lead who, against great odds, dares to follow a dream. The Towers of Tuscany includes a Reader's Guide making it a perfect Book Club pick! In honor of the Book Blast we are giving away three copies to three lucky readers, see below to enter. The Towers of TuscanyPublication Date: January 23, 2014 New Arcadia Publishing Formats: Paperback, Ebook Genre: Historical Fiction Set amid the twisting streets and sunlit piazzas of medieval Italy, the Towers of Tuscany tells the story of a woman who dares to follow her own path in the all-male domain of the painter’s workshop. Sofia Barducci is born into a world where a woman is only as good as the man who cares for her, but she still claims the right to make her own mistakes. Her first mistake is convincing her father to let her marry Giorgio Carelli, a wealthy saffron merchant in San Gimignano, the Tuscan city of towers. Trained in secret by her father to create the beautifully-crafted panels and altarpieces acclaimed today as masterpieces of late medieval art, Sofia’s desire for freedom from her father’s workshop leads her to betray her passion and sink into a life of loveless drudgery with a husband who comes to despise her when she does not produce a son. In an attack motivated by vendetta, Sofia’s father is crushed by his own fresco, compelling Sofia to act or risk the death of her soul. The choice she makes takes her on a journey from misery to the heights of passion—both as a painter and as a woman. Sofia escapes to Siena where, disguised as a boy, she paints again. When her work attracts the notice of a nobleman who discovers the woman under the dirty smock, Sofia is faced with a choice that nearly destroys her. The Towers of Tuscany unites a strong heroine with meticulously researched settings and compelling characters drawn from the rich tapestry of medieval Italy during one of Europe's most turbulent centuries. The stylishly written plot is packed with enough twists and turns to keep readers up long past their bedtimes. READ AN EXCERPT.
The Towers of Tuscany
 

Praise for The Towers of Tuscany

“The Towers of Tuscany is a delightful escape to the Siena we all love. Carol Cram has crafted a delicious story about a strong woman torn between her secret past, her love of painting and the forbidden charms of her rich patron. Hard to resist and highly recommended!” - Anne Fortier, Author of The Lost Sisterhood and the New York Times bestseller, Juliet “Carol Cram's lush descriptions and intriguing characters bring this dramatic tale of medieval Tuscany to life. If you love Italian art, a feisty heroine, and a page-turning plot, you will adore this novel.” – Deborah Swift, Author of A Divided Inheritance "The Towers of Tuscany has all the elements of a wonderful historical novel?a talented, frustrated heroine, a treacherous, feckless husband, and a promise to a dying, much loved father who orders the heroine on a dangerous mission. Carol is a first rate storyteller. The research is well done. Every chapter displays a fine knowledge of painting technique of the 14th century, and customs and mores of the age. The details of dress, fabric, food, are flawless. The clever dialogue and fast pace make the novel zing along." - Roberta Rich, Author of The Midwife of Venice and The Harem Midwife “Sofia will set your heart racing as she attempts to find what we all, in our own ways, strive to seek: love, resolution, and artistic freedom. The legacy of this story will leave you yearning for more.” – Cathleen With, award-winning author of Having Faith in the Polar Girls’ Prison

Buy the Book

Amazon (Ebook) Amazon (Paperback) Barnes & Noble Book Depository IndieBound

About the AuthorCarol Cram

Carol M. Cram has enjoyed a great career as an educator, teaching at Capilano University in North Vancouver for over twenty years and authoring forty-plus bestselling textbooks on business communications and software applications. She holds an MA in Drama from the University of Toronto and an MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Carol is currently focusing as much of her attention as she can spare between walks in the woods on writing historical novels with an arts twist. She and her husband, painter Gregg Simpson, share a life on beautiful Bowen Island near Vancouver, Canada.

Author Links

Website Blog Goodreads Facebook Twitter

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, April 7 Literary Chanteuse Bibliophilia, Please Cheryl's Book Nook A Bibliotaph's Reviews Confessions of an Avid Reader Tuesday, April 8 Mari Reads Peeking Between the Pages History From a Woman's Perspective Wednesday, April 9 Reviews by Molly Susan Heim on Writing Oh, For the Hook of a Book Thursday, April 10 Passages to the Past Book Lovers Paradise To Read or Not to Read Curling Up With a Good Book Friday, April 11 Words and Peace The Mad Reviewer Historical Fiction Obsession Saturday, April 12 Book Nerd Layered Pages Princess of Eboli Kelsey's Book Corner Sunday, April 13 West Metro Mommy The True Book Addict Caroline Wilson Writes

Giveaway

To enter to win one of 3 copies of The Towers of Tuscany please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open internationally. Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on April 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter. Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter on April 14th and notified via email. Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. a Rafflecopter giveaway  photo a62b1feb-5b43-4c2a-a17c-9644bf70d54e.png

Friday, April 11, 2014

Saturday Snapshot - April 12

To participate in Saturday Snapshot: post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.

From Rome, we took a quick flight over to Athens, which was our final destination before heading home.  We spent our first day hitting the major site, the Acropolis.

I believe this was the theater of Dionysus but, again, I don't have the guidebook handy.

So, it's a straight uphill climb...we needed to take some breaks!

My husband got quite good at the art of the selfie on our trip!

This was a temple dedicated to the god of arts and crafts.  My husband, however, was more impressed with the prickly pear cactus.  Apparently, he thought those only existed in Arizona!


West Metro Mommy Reads


So You Want to Start A Book Club, Part 5 - Fun Stuff for Book Clubs

So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 1 - Joining an Existing Group
So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 2 - Starting Your Own Group
So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 3 - Your First Meeting
So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 4 - Some Books to Get You Started


First of all, thank you all for sticking with this series throughout the week.  I've had some really great feedback, enough that I may do another similar series in the future (any suggestions?)

To finish up this series, I wanted to give you all some fun ideas you could do with your book club that are a little out of the ordinary.

The What Not To Read Book Club Meeting
Disclaimer, I've never done this.  I recently read it at Book Riot and thought it was a fabulous idea.  For this meeting, everyone brings a book (either the actual book or a print off of the summary and vital info from a site like Amazon or Goodreads) about a book that they hated.  Two things will come out of this.  For one thing, it is just loads of fun to complain about books.  I know that sounds a little sacrilegious, but let's face it, it's true.

However, you will also find out that one person's trash is another person's treasure.  When everyone has the same opinion of a book, it is sometimes hard to hear everyone's actual opinion.  It is when people disagree that you really get to hear what other people think.

The Book Scramble
This one is simple.  Everyone brings books they've read and want to unload, dump all the books on the table, and then go at it.  Of course, this only really works if you are in a group with people who tend to buy books rather than buy them.

The Cook Book Meeting
On of my old book clubs used to do this about once a year and it was a great time.  Everyone makes a dish to share out of their favorite cookbook.  Then, they bring the dish for a potluck AND the cook book to discuss (and, if you want, copies of the recipe you made).  There is usually a little organization needed so that it doesn't end up that everyone brings dessert or the such.

The Book to Movie Meeting
This is another thing we did with my old book group*.  We normally scheduled this for December, but we would choose a book to discuss that had been made in a movie.  Because we met a people's houses, it needed to be a movie available on DVD.  Then, at the meeting, we'd watch the movie and then discuss both the book and the movie.

*Now, I have to admit to a little bait and switch.  I just gave you some fun ideas, and now I'm going to talk about something not fun: the Death of the Book Club.

Look, nothing lasts forever.  I've been in groups that have died, but for different reasons.  Sometimes things just fizzle.  I referred to my "old book group" a couple of times.  That particular club is an example of one that just drove its course.  For various reasons, people had to leave the group until it ended up with just myself and 2 friends.  Yes, we are still friends--good friends--and one of them has joined my current book club (the other has been invited but the schedules just haven't worked).  The thing was that we were already great friends AND we all had similar tastes in books that it just made it hard to keep the group going.  We tried to invite more people but, honestly, I think the fact that there was a core group of 3 people who knew each other so well may have been off-putting to some people.  We also tried to keep the group going with just the 3 of us but, because we knew each other so well and had such similar tastes, we just weren't challenged the way that we felt we needed.

I've also been in groups that ended more abruptly--mostly, the leader just quit.  I firmly believe that if you start a book club, you should not feel that you are tied to it.  However, there was no "transfer of power," which I do think should at least be an option when a leader decides to leave a group (my own book club just went through this as our fearless leader and founder moved away--the transition was incredibly smooth!).

I guess what I'm saying here is that unless your group ends because you are the last remaining member, you need to treat the group with respect.  A book club is about more than just books.  It's about relationships and friendships.

I hope you enjoyed this series!  Please let me know if you have any further comments or have any suggestions for a future series!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 4 - Some Books to Get You Started

So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 1 - Joining an Existing Group
So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 2 - Starting Your Own Group
So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 3 - You First Meeting


I'm going to share a secret with you that all members of book clubs know...not all "good," or even "great," books make for good discussions.  It's true.  There will be times when your discussion won't last past much everyone saying they liked the book.  And that's okay...it gives you all time to visit about other things and just enjoy time together.

There are also times when your club will read a book that will be universally hated.  Honestly, these meetings can actually be quite fun!  But, you wouldn't want every book club meeting to centered around a disappointing book.

To help you all get started, here are 11 books that have led to some fabulous discussions in groups I have been in.  To be honest, I had a horribly difficult time narrowing down this list and, I could probably recommend dozens more...but here you go.  The links for each book will go to the GoodReads page, unless I've previously reviewed it on my blog--in which case it will go to my review.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
We read this one within the past year and most people enjoyed it, although some members of my book club were very troubled by it.  In any case, there was much to discuss!

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
This one is for some of the more ambitious book clubs, as it clocks in at over 700 pages.  That being said, it is fascinating and has one of the best endings I've read in a long time.  Think of it as a vampires for smart people!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
If your club is open to or interested in non-fiction, this would be one of my top recommendations.  Skloot tells a fascinating story about a complex situation in a way that will keep pretty much anyone's attention.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This is probably a pretty obvious one--it is especially popular since the movie (which I have yet to see!).  But it is a great allegorical book that isn't too high-minded.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Okay, I get it.  This book deal with one of the most unsavory subjects possible and, honestly, it wasn't exactly "fun" to read.  However, the very best book club discussion I ever had was about this book.  We're talking over 3 hours...of talking about the book!  So, if your group can stomach it, this is great book club fodder!

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Jeffrey Eugenides is really hit and miss with me, but this is his hit--in a big way.  There's much to discuss in this book, and it is incredibly fun to read.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is one of those books that is incredibly original, a bit creepy, and great fodder for discussion.  I won't say more about it than that...

Quiet by Susan Cain
This would be my other must-read non-fiction book for book clubs.  If you choose to do this, it is fun to have your members take a Myers-Briggs test before the discussion!

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
About 5 or so years ago, every book club was reading this one.  I'm not sure if it is still popular, but it should be.  It's the story of Dinah from the book of Genesis--and a wonderful feminist take on it.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
I'll come clean...this is probably my favorite book, not just in terms of book clubs.  I've read it with every book club I've been in, except for the two I'm currently in--and one of those will be reading it in October.  Yes, it's that good.  And it is dark and twisty...a good October selection!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Let's be honest...this list would not be complete without this book.  'Nuff said.

Tomorrow, I'll finish up this series with some fun ideas for your book club.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

So You Want To Start A Book Club, Part 3 - That First Meeting

So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 1 - Joining an Existing Group
So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 2 - Starting Your Own Group


Let's say that you've amassed enough people to start a group and now it is time to get things started!

Now, you can just say that you are the leader and decide exactly how the group is going to work.  I know of clubs that work that way, but I would strongly, strongly recommend that you start with an "organizational" meeting with members to iron out the details of how your club will work.

Unless you know everyone in the group, I would recommend that you hold this meeting at some sort of public place.  You know, it is a safety thing.

Below are a list of items you'll want to discuss at this meeting.  Every group works differently, so I'll include my suggestions for what has worked well (or not) in groups I've belonged to in the past.  Again, these are just suggestions to get you thinking.

How Often and When Will You Meet?
This is actually a two-part deal.  Not only do you want to decide how often to meet, but when.  Most, but not all, clubs meet monthly and some decide to take summers off (one of my club meets every month of the year and one only during the school year).  My tips:

  • I would decide, not on a specific date, but rather the same time of each month, quarter, etc.  For example, the second Wednesday.  However, you will need to be flexible if you start running into holidays and such.
  • Also, try to keep your meeting time the same for each meeting.  Trust me, this will cut down on A LOT of confusion.  This is also where you are going to want input from your other members to find the best time.
Where Will You Meet?
There is really no right answer here as it really depends on the group.  Some groups like to meet at each other's houses and maybe incorporate a potluck, others like to meet in public places.  I think a good place to start is to look at the geography of the members of your group.  If you all live relatively close, maybe meeting at someone's house will work better.  However, if you are more spread out, you might want to pick a central location or locations, such as a coffee shop or a library, that is approximately equidistant for everyone.  

You may also want to keep factors such as kids and pets (and allergies) in mind.  If you have a cat and you have members who allergic to cats, maybe meeting at someone's home is not a good idea.

What Types of Books Will You Read?
This one is pretty obvious, but it is pretty good to get this out in the open.  There is no right or wrong answer here, but there are right and wrong ways to handle it. It is best to decide up front what the club will be reading, but don't get too detailed so that you can't be flexible.  Here are some other things to consider:
  • Do you want to try to stick to shorter (say, less than 400 pages) books?  
  • Do you want to stick to books that are in paperback?
  • Will you include young adult and/or children's literature?
  • What about fiction and/or nonfiction?
When Will Decide on What Books to Read?
This is one of those topics that a lot of book clubs don't deal with up front and then have to "clean up the mess" later.  Some groups decide each month what they will read next month while others will decide once a year what they will read.  Personally, I hate choosing the books each month.  This can cause problems when you don't have time to read the books or, if people gets books from the library (because many people do!), they can't get the books in time.  Both of my groups have one meeting each year where we don't discuss a book, but rather decide on the books for the coming year and that works very well.  I've also been in groups where we've done it on a quarterly basis, which also works.

How Will You Decide on What Books to Read?
This is an essential, but essentially easy, issue to figure out.  Do you vote on books or does each member choose a book for a month and then lead the discussion that month?  Again, the only big thing about this is that you decide, as a group, up front how to deal with it.

How Will You Administer the Group?
With smaller groups, just emailing each other may work.  However, I think using some kind of group or scheduling tool really, really makes things easier.  
  • If you set up your group through Meetup, you already have those tools at your disposal as part of your membership.
  • Facebook Groups work well, although they don't have a very good calendar tool.
  • I think that some groups have worked through GoodReads, although I have no experience with that.
  • One of my book groups uses BookMovement, which is free and really gives us exactly what we need.
Who Will Lead the Group?
So, if you started this...guess what!  You are most likely the leader!  The good news is that book groups don't really need that much leadership.  However, I would recommend that you have a helper or vice-reader to help with things.  

If you take the time to work through these issues at the genesis of your group, you will definitely have smoother seas to sail!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 2 - Starting Your Own Group


Yesterday, I wrote about how to find an existing group to join.  If you aren't able to find a group, you can always start your own.  While starting a book club isn't difficult, there is a bit of work involved.  In my mind, I divide starting a club into 2 parts--getting the group together and then organizing the club.  This post will deal with the first step.

The first thing you need to do is decide, in very broad terms, what you want your group to be.  This is not the time to get detailed--that will come later.  However, you do need at least a mile high view of what you want your group to look like.  Here are some things you should decide on at this point:

  • What sort of books the group will read.  Stick to broad categories--fiction or nonfiction (or both).
  • How many times a year will your group meet.  Monthly is the norm, but I know of some other groups who meet quarterly.
  • How many people do you want at book club get-together.  This is NOT how many members your club will have.  It is rare that everyone in a book club will make a book club meeting, so your actual membership will be higher.  I would say that you should increase this number by 15-25% for your total membership.  

One necessary component to book clubs is other people!  After all, that is the point of it all...

You can either start a group with people who know or with strangers.  In my experience, it works best to first try to start a group with people you know.  Don't worry, you don't need to have a dozen friends who all love to read and all want to be in your book club (although that would be great).  If you have even just a few friends or acquaintances, that is enough--other members will also invite people and then, voila, you have a nice sized group.

But, let's say you are not able to pull together a group on your own.  If you only have one or two other people willing to start a group--or no one else--you can always try to find some "unmet friends" to join.

I'll come right out and say this....Meetup.com is the best way to go.  Since it is easy to navigate for the person looking for groups, it is a great way to get truly interested people.  I've used it on the "organizer" side and found it quite simple to use. The one drawback, however, is that it costs money.  I believe it is $12 per month per organizer--if you run more than one group, then you can spread that $12 among the different groups.  While you will probably want to have your members help cover the cost but, if you are starting a group, you'll have to pay the first bit of money yourself.

If the money part of Meetup scares you off, there are other venues.  As I mentioned yesterday, many indie bookstores have bulletin boards for advertising book clubs.  Grocery stores also frequently have these boards.  I would strongly recommend you NOT advertise on Craig's List.  Because, you know, it is Craig's List.

Whether you choose to use Meetup or some other way to get the word out about your group, you will want to have a date and public location set for your first, and organizational, meeting.  Trust me, it will be MUCH easier if you start out with "this is the date!" instead of trying to find a date after you have enough people willing to join.

But, we'll talk about the organizational meeting tomorrow....



Monday, April 7, 2014

So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 1 - Joining an Existing Group

No surprise, but I talk about books all the time.  And not just on this blog--whenever I can.  Luckily, I have the social skills to recognize when my listener starts with the blank glance, but few things are better topics of conversations for me than books.

Because of this, I have many people saying that they'd love to be in a book club, but they can't find one or they don't know how to start one.

I've been in book clubs for several years.  I'm currently in two--one that I was invited to join by a friend from my MOPS group and one through my church.  Since I don't have any reviews scheduled for this week, I decided to do a little mini-series on book clubs.

As Julie Andrews said, let's start at the very beginning.



You are not in a book club, but you want to be.  At this point, you have 2 choices.  You can either join an already established group or you can start your own.  The rest of this series will be focused on starting your own group, but I wanted to devote this first installment about joining an established group.

Honestly, this is the method that I would recommend.  As you'll see in my next two posts, starting your own group isn't always as easy as it sounds.  Plus, if you join an existing group, the wrinkles are (usually) already ironed out.

How to find an established book club.

Friends and Acquaintances
So, the good thing is that book clubs are everywhere.  You probably know at least 5 people who are in book clubs, which can make this task very simple.  If you know someone who is an avid reader, the chances are good they are in a book club.  I would say to ask people who share some of your other interests first--you will be more likely to find a book club that is a good fit.

However, please don't be hurt if someone says their book club is not accepting new members.  Some clubs feel that they operate better with a smaller group--and this is wise.  If someone says that there "isn't room" in their book club, don't take it personally and just find another group.

If finding a club through a friend doesn't work, don't worry...there are still other ways.

Groups and Organizations
As I said, one of my book groups is through my church.  While it isn't universal or even usual for places of worship to have book groups, it certainly is not heard of.  I will say that Church/Temple/Whatever clubs do tend to focus more on the spiritual side--either by reading spiritual works or finding the spiritual in secular works--so keep that in mind.

I have also heard of groups at places of employment.  This usually isn't something "sponsored" by the employer, but put together by other employees.

Bookstores and Libraries
Libraries frequently host book clubs.  My library has at least 3 going--one in the daytime, one in the evening, and a mother-daughter group which I plan on joining with my own daughter in a few years.  These groups are usually pretty well advertised--just ask at your library or grab their newsletter.

Another option is to head over to your local indie bookseller.  Many of them keep a community board where book groups "advertise."  I have yet to see anything like this at Barnes and Noble (although to be fair, I rarely go to B&N).

Check the Internet
Many book clubs are organized through Meetup.com.  The advantage is that you will be able to find exactly what kind of club it is, when they meet, and how they operate before even really expressing interest.  Also, these groups should only list themselves as "open" if they are accepting new members.  However, many of these clubs also charge a small fee to cover the Meetup charges.  I would say anything less than $5 a year is probably reasonable.

I've also seen book clubs listed on Craig's List.  Honestly, I would consider this a last resort.  I'm not really a fan of Craig's List in general and, really, I'd consider Meetup a far better venue.  But, hey...if you are comfortable with Craig's List, feel free to give it a try.

So you found a club....now what?

I would suggest asking the club if you can "check out" the group before you actually join.  If they say no, then I would recommend staying away from the club.  Honestly, that is just common sense.

If you have time before your "trial meeting," make an effort to read the book.  You'll get a better feel of how the discussion works if you can actually participate in it.  Of course, that isn't always possible--but it is nice.  Also, ask about what books they've read in the past to get a feel of what kind of books they like.  If they read mostly mysteries and you don't like mysteries, this probably isn't the best group for you.

Be sure to trust your gut.  If you feel that you just don't "fit" in the group, look for another one.  In a perfect world, people should always be nice and welcoming but, alas, we do not live in a perfect world.  If you don't feel welcome, find a group that is welcoming.

Make sure you know the schedule of the book group--what days and times do they meet?  If you won't be able to be at least a semi-regular participant, then you really should reconsider joining that group.  After all, if you decide to become part of a group, you owe it to yourself and to the other members to be as active as possible.

Well, if you still can't find a book club that works for you, come back tomorrow