Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Review: "For Such a Time" by Kate Breslin

For Such a Time Kate Breslin
Published: April 1, 2014
ISBN: 0764211609
Genre: Christian Fiction / Historical Fiction
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 2 / 5

In 1944, blonde and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric's secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz. Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric's compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy. Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp's prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?

My Thoughts:
I should start by saying that I read Christian Fiction with a different eye than I do other forms of fiction.  Whether this be right or wrong, I feel that Christian Fiction has a different aim and, because of that, I need to look at it with that aim in mind.  Because of this, I can overlook some things that would really, really bug my in other genres.  Still, the fact that this is Christian Fiction does not give it a free pass.

The idea of re-telling the story of Esther and setting it during the Holocaust is intriguing and problematic.  The setting definitely works--both the Biblical account and the Holocaust center around the persecution of the Jewish people.  Breslin does a very good job of pacing this book along with the Biblical account so that they line up.  I found that the general arc of her story was fascinating and it kept me interested in the book.

Breslin also had a very good grasp of the main character of Hadassah/Stella.  She had a lot going on--she was rescued from one concentration camp and then put into the employ of the kommandant of another.  She had to hold up the facade of being a gentile while watching her fellow Jews, including her Uncle, suffer.  Breslin was able to effectively communicate all the inner struggles of this woman in a believable way.

All this being said, I found two rather big problems with this book.  One has to do with the fact that it is Christian Fiction and Breslin had to struggle with how to make it "Christian" while dealing with non-Christian characters.  On this count, I don't feel that she completely succeeded.  I believe that she tried to remain respectful to the Jewish faith--but having a main character in kind of a limbo land between Judaism and Christianity just didn't work.  I think she still could have told this story in a "Christian" tone by focusing on Aric's faith instead of Hadassah's.

The second issue was far more troublesome to me.  The relationship between Aric and Stella was just outright uncomfortable to read.  The idea was that Aric was in love with Stella (at first sight, of course) and that is what led him to rescue her from a firing squad and that she fell in love with him as she discovered his good heart under his SS uniform.  Unfortunately, that is not how the relationship came off.  Instead, it came across more like a frightening case of sexual harassment couple with Stockholm Syndrome.  I was incredibly repulsed by the whole situation--and the fact that what I find stomach turning from this book is the love story and not the fact that it was set in a concentration camp should tell you something.

Honestly, Breslin could have told this story in a way that conveyed a believable love story and I think that is probably the biggest failing of the book, which is too bad because the overall story is quite good.

I might recommend this book to others--but only to those with an interest in Christian fiction and who were willing to overlook a badly written romance in order to see a fascinating re-telling of Esther.

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

For Such a Time
by Kate Breslin

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review: "West of the Moon" by Margi Preus

West of the Moon Margi Preus
Published: April 1, 2014
ISBN: 1419708961
Genre: Children's Fiction (Middle Grades)
Source: Library
Rating: 5 / 5

After being separated from her sister and sold to a cruel goat farmer, Astri makes a daring escape. She quickly retrieves her little sister, and, armed with a troll treasure, a book of spells and curses, and a possibly magic hairbrush, they set off for America. With a mysterious companion in tow and the malevolent “goatman” in pursuit, the girls head over the Norwegian mountains, through field and forest, and in and out of folktales and dreams as they steadily make their way east of the sun and west of the moon.

My Thoughts:
I first heard about this book from a publication at our library and I thought it might be a good read aloud book for my 5 year old daughter.  To be sure, I decided to read it myself first--which is a good thing, because it is definitely in the "middle grades" and up age range and not a book my daughter is ready for!  However, in reading it for myself, I was completely enchanted.

Think of it as magic realism, Scandinavian style (if they can have a princess who can shoot winter out of her hands, they can have magic realism).  Preus tells the story of Astri and her sister Greta by relaying it back to Norwegian folktales.  Most of these stories were ones I had never heard, so that was an added treat.

Astri quickly became one of my favorite characters in fiction aimed at girls.  She's scrappy and feisty, but still vulnerable.  From the first page--which is about when she gets the first blow--you root for her.  Many of the other characters are little more one-dimensional, but that really doesn't matter as this book is squarely about Astri.

I will admit that I went into the book already interested in the topic--as an American of Norwegian descent, I read whatever I can on the immigrant experience.  However, this is probably one of the most unique books I've read in a long time and I'm sure my daughter will enjoy it as much as I did when she reads it in a few years.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

West of the Moon
by Margi Preus

Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review: "One Thousand Porches" by Julie Dewey

One Thousand Porches Julie Dewey
Published: November 1, 2013
ISBN: 1492315834
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Author
Rating: 2 / 5

Set in the majestic yet untamed Adirondack Mountains of New York more than a century ago, an extraordinary story unfolds about a little known town called Saranac Lake. The town is home to a man with a disease known as consumption, white plague, or as some called it, the red death. It is here that Doctor Edward Livingston Trudeau finds a hopeful cure for tuberculosis in the form of open air. 

Trudeau’s patients vary in age, gender, class, and race, but they have one thing in common. They must all choose to embrace life, even in the face of death, if they wish to heal at the Sanitarium.

Christine, a woman at the helm of her family, has already lost two children to the dreaded plague. But when her daughter, Collette, contracts the disease, she is determined to keep her alive. Venturing into unknown territory, Christine risks her own health and that of her unborn child, as well as her marriage, to help her daughter seek a cure that to many is absurd. Christine embarks upon a life-changing journey as she moves from caregiver to patient. In the face of adversity she must find the courage to sustain herself. 

When Lena, a factory worker and mother of three, begins coughing up blood she is faced with a decision no mother wants to make. She either stays with her family and risks her own death, or leaves her loved ones behind while she goes off in hope of a cure at the Sans.

Big Joe, once a strong man for a traveling circus, seeks a quiet place to live out his final days in hiding. When he is sent to the Sanitarium, he is terrified to learn he will be housed with fellow circus performers for he is a hunted man. Gaunt and thin, he can only hope no one from his past recognizes him in his current state.

Little Amy, a six year old child, must care for her entire family of seven, all whom are afflicted with different forms of plague. When she is diagnosed with a very rare form herself, she is sent to the Sanitarium and put under the care of Dr. Trudeau. Alone and afraid, Amy faces her fears and allows herself to dream of a future. 

With a cast of characters so vivid, One Thousand Porches is a heart warming and engaging story that will instill hope and faith in even the most pessimistic reader.

My Thoughts:
Julie Dewey generously sent me an electronic copy of this book after I reviewed her previous novel, Forgetting Tabitha.  In that review, I had expressed my concern about the editing of the book--that there were so many grammatical and historical errors.  While these do still appear in One Thousand Porches, there are far fewer of them.

However, I had other issues with this book.  The book has several different narrators and, frankly, I'm not sure why that is.  I felt that this constantly switching voice was keeping me from really getting into this book.  I wish she had streamlined things more and stuck to one or two story lines.  If she wanted to use multiple points of view, I wish she had chosen fewer characters--such as just Christine and Colette.  As it was, it was sometimes confusing to switch between the characters and I had to continually remind myself who was speaking.  I also felt that some of the characters didn't need their own sections.  Lena, for example, only really appears in the chapters she tells and then disappears.  Big Joe really only needed to be a character in Christine's narration as his chapters felt superfluous.

Dewey includes a great deal of medical information, which I appreciated.  I know very little about tuberculosis or how it was treated in the 19th century.  However, I wish she had massaged these sections more into the book.  As it is written, it seems like all of a sudden the book turns into a medical text for a few pages and then reverts back to being a novel.

There were parts of the story that I found hard to believe--most notably Christine's relationship with her first husband and Amy's relationship with Daniel.  While I don't question either relationship, I do believe how they unfolded were unrealistic, especially in the former case.  As for Amy and Daniel, it just seemed too quick and easy.

While this book was not for me, I appreciate Dewey's efforts to write about this chapter in our history--and I did learn quite a bit.  I think that Dewey is developing into a good writer and I do plan to read any future book that she writes.

I was given an electronic copy of this book by the author, without an request for a review.  I received no compensation for this post and all opinions are mine and mine alone.

One Thousand Porches
by Julie Dewey

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

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 – 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 and

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

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.


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 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


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 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.