6 Years of Book Club

Six years.  11 regular members (although we’ve had as many as 13).  70 different books (we skipped two months).  Math is not my strong suit but even I can see that 11 x 70=770 individual books.  Some were borrowed from the library, but the vast majority were purchased in paperback, on Kindles, on Nooks, and on iPads.   That’s a whole lot of purchasing!

.

We talk and talk and talk about the books we read.  We dissect them.  We dog-ear them and mark them up.  Some of us go crazy with highlighters, others prefer post-it notes.

.

We share recommendations with each other.  We pass books around from member to member and have side conversations about those books.  Gone Girl is currently making the rounds, and before that it was The Help and before that, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Most of us have read those books now even though they were never actually selected for book club discussion.

.

When one of us falls in love with an author, we fall hard.  We’ll read their next book and we’ll read all their previous books.  We’ve discussed Lisa See’s books 3 times.

.

We tell our friends about the books we’ve discussed.  We blab about them at hair salons, grocery stores, offices, our kids’ schools.  We talk books at parties and backyard BBQs and family dinners.  We encourage people to read the books we love when we’re in a bookstore or staring at the stacks of books in Costco.  We gush about them on Facebook.

.

browniesI understand now why publishers court book clubs.  Book club members love books, book clubs buy books and book clubs sell books.  If any publishers would like to court us and donate a set of 11 books to help us celebrate our 6th anniversary in March, we would gladly accept, wink wink ;)  You would not have to twist our arms.

.

Six years.  770 books for our little club, plus countless more that were purchased by others on the pure enthusiasm of our 11 members.  Book clubs really are a powerful force!  And we also like to eat.  Pass the brownies.

CLICK HERE to see which 70 titles we’ve read in our first 6 years!

Saturday Snapshot(s)

My youngest daughter, Kelly, and her BFF have the kind of effortless friendship that I always wished I would find as a kid, but never quite did.  They’ve known each other since they were babies and their time together is filled with laughter, inside jokes, imaginative ideas, and non stop conversation.  They make their own fun and don’t need to be entertained.  I love listening to them talk and laugh- they are hilarious. Last Saturday, as they played on the beach, I read Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister in between watching my daughter’s joy at being with her friend.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.  It’s easy to participate – just post a picture that was taken by you, a friend, or a family member and add your link on Alyce’s site.

Sunday Salon, November 6, 2010

What?  Activity on my blog??  Shocking, I know.

Also shocking- my oldest became a teenager this week.  I am the mother of a teenager. This is.. unsettling.  Moreso because she was doing teenager-ish things all weekend.  On Friday night her junior high band played with the high school band at the high school’s football game.  She tried to leave the house wearing eyeliner- I made her take some of it off (the black line under her eyes) because I just can’t stand her looking older than she is.  Naturally she got mad, talked back, stomped around and ranted about how “everyone wears it,” but then finally took it off.  Her “friend who is a boy” (NOT a boyfriend!!) wanted to go to the game, too, but didn’t have a ride, so she begged me to pick him up and I finally agreed.  (My husband said, ‘What the heck is this, a date?”)  On Saturday night she went out to a movie (PG-13, of course!) with a group of kids (all teenagers) and stayed out past 11 pm.  Today she’ll be competing in a swim meet.  Right now she is sleeping until the last possible minute- typical teenage behavior and NOT typical of her as she has been an early riser since birth.

My head is swimming with the fact of my kids growing up so quickly.  I swear they were just babies, recently, but by December 2011 I will be the mother of TWO teenagers, yikes.  It feels like they got old overnight.  I know there are many parenting joys still ahead, but I am mourning the end of their childhoods.  I’m sure there is a silver lining someplace (more reading time for me as my kids need me less??) but it is certainly bittersweet.

Speaking of reading.. I’ve been doing some here and there in between running the newly minted teenager and her ‘tween sister to all their various social engagements and activities.  I finished ROOM by Emma Donoghue this week; I loved it and immediately passed it on to my mother.  It would make such a great book for discussion with my book club but alas, we only read paperbacks, cheapskates that we are, so that will have to wait a year or so.  But at least if my mother reads it we can talk about it right away.  It’s one of those books that begs to be discussed.  I also finished Dear Mrs. Kennedy for my TLC Book Tour stop tomorrow and  Dracula, My Love by Syrie James for our book club discussion next week, and started reading our December selection, People of the Book by Geraldine March.  The teenager is reading The Miles Between by Mary Pearson and my ‘tween is reading Eragon by Christopher Paolini.

I hope you all enjoyed your extra hour of sleep last night.. have a wonderful, relaxing Sunday and a great week!

Review: The Girls by Amy Goldman Koss

Title: The Girls by Amy Goldman Koss

Pages: 128

Genre:  YA/Middle Grade fiction

Where did you get it? Purchased on The Nook

Why did you read it? I wanted to pre-read it before giving it to my 12 year old daughter

What’s it about? It’s about a clique of middle school girls lead by a very popular “Queen Bee” type named Candace.  Maya is part of the ‘in’ crowd until one day Candace decides that she is “out.”  The group turns on Maya simply because Ms. Popular decides she is boring and doesn’t like her any more, and the other girls in the clique do whatever Candace wants because they feel lucky to have her as a friend.  Whatever Candace decides is right, because if you disagree, she might turn on you too.  Although some of the girls are conflicted, they all turn on Maya.  One of the girls asks another girl in the group why they don’t like her anymore, and she acts like it’s personal and if Candace wanted her to know, she’d tell her.  The truth is, she doesn’t know either and is just going along.

What did you like? Well, it was very realistic.  School is a warzone, and lunch (with no teachers to watch over) is a minefield.  The author has clearly spent time around this age group.  I could feel Maya’s pain at being excluded, and boy did I ever want Candace to get her comeuppance.  Girls can be unbelievably mean to each other.  I felt like cheering when a couple girls in the group started to think for themselves and realized that they actually did like Maya and didn’t want to be told who they should hang around with.  Yay for brave, independent actions!!  My hope is that reading this kind of book will empower my own daughter to be independent and not go along with the herd mentality of the crowd.

What didn’t work for you? I can’t think of a thing- it was excellent with so many great lessons for kids.

Share a quote: “Everyone in the cafeteria could see me sitting with Candace Newman.  I could feel all their eyes on me, and it felt fantastic!  But I kept cool.  At least I tried to.”

Who would enjoy this book? Educators, middle school readers, parents, and anyone who remembers the horrors and cruelty of middle school girls, and the fear of rejection by the popular crowd.  It would be a fabulous book for a mother/daughter book club or a classroom discussion.

Who else has reviewed it? I couldn’t find any blog reviews!

Anything else to add? This one will mentally put you right back into the halls of middle school- the scariest place on earth.

Sunday Salon – September 19, 2010

nose in a book

And here is the age-old question.. does BBAW rhyme with Hee Haw?  Or do YOU say the individual letters B… B… A… W?

I say it rhymes with Hee Haw.

Even though I’ve taken a step back from blogging, I’d have to be living under a rock (I’m not, just FYI) to miss all the Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) excitement.  All the craze and praise has been really fun to watch!  It’s inspiring to see all the enthusiasm for blogging and books and so.. here I am again after a two month hiatus.  Thanks, BBAW, for helping me remember why I love blogging and how it’s just about the most fun you can have on a computer.  And a big enthusiastic Congratulations! to all the winners and nominees, many of whom I count among my friends.  Congrats, too, to Amy, the tireless force behind BBAW, and her hardworking team for another hugely successful awards week!

I marvel at the time bloggers put into their blogs.  I’m guessing (well, actually I know..) a lot of them don’t have kids.  Many do, of course, and it is really THOSE bloggers I marvel at the most..  I’m not sure how they keep up.  Maybe their kids aren’t as demanding as mine or don’t have tons of activities to be shuttled around to, maybe they don’t help with homework, maybe they have no friends IRL, maybe someone else cleans their houses and cooks their meals, maybe they don’t work or need 8 hours of sleep at night.. I really don’t know!  But between blogging and Twitter and Facebook, who has time for trivial stuff like laundry, grocery shopping, or in-person conversations?

I think about that.  I think about the amount of time my children spend online, time that could be spent hanging out with other kids face to face deveoloping their social skills, or time just being bored and thinking.  I remember a lot of time like that as a child- free time where I had to find something to do or where I could work something out in my head- time to be creative or at least creatively solve the problem of being bored.  This is when imagination kicks in.  My children need to be entertained, all the time, and they have zillions of options for that, with 500+ channels on cable, iPods and phones, Wii and the internet.  They can’t stand to be bored.  Which is why I regularly unplug them from everything (my favorite form of punishment, actually).  You’d think I was hacking off an arm the way they carry on about it.  But I look at it as I’m giving them a gift- the gift of boredom.  I tell them, “Go develop your imaginations!” to much groaning and foot stomping.  My husband tells them, jokingly, “When I was your age, we played with sticks and rocks!”  They roll their eyes and say, “Daaaaaaaaaaaad! That was back in the Stone Age.”  But before long they find something to do that doesn’t involve earbuds or keyboards or remotes.

But it’s hard to unplug kids when I’m always online.  I’m modeling the very behavior I’m trying to change in them.

So that’s what the last two months were about.  With my kids home for the summer, I’d work (online) while they slept in or played- I was online only as much as I needed to be. And I think that’s my new plan- no blogging in the summer or during school vacations.  I’d rather feel guilty about ignoring my blog than about ignoring my kids.  Priorities..

We had Back to School Night at my  youngest daughter’s school this week.  This is my 6th grader, my reluctant reader, the one who whines about her 30 minutes of assigned daily reading, the one I have to set a timer for just to get her to crack open a book, the one who claims to hate reading.  So imagine my shock and awe when I was told that based on her Accelerated Reader score she is reading at an 11th grade level.. what?!?!  How can this be?  That’s a full FOUR GRADE LEVEL jump over last year.  She has to get 69 reading points this semester, and if you’re not familiar with the program, let me just tell you- that’s a lot.  She’s going to have to pick up the pace considerably to make her goal.  She grabbed a book from the library called My Fair Godmother- 14 points- and started it at school but has yet to sit down with it this weekend.  The AR books I pulled out of our bookshelves for her are stacked up and gathering dust.  She wants to pick her own, which I understand, but she’s going to have to actually start reading them.

My older one would rather read than eat or do homework.  So we have the opposite problem with her.  She gets in trouble at school for reading when she’s supposed to be listening to teachers or doing her work.  She reads in the car, she reads in bed, she reads everywhere, oblivious to her surroundings.  It’s hard to get mad about it when I understand it so well- she’s exactly like me.

As for my reading, I’m currently enjoying Honolulu by Alan Brennert for book club.  I read Molokai a few years back and loved it, so was thrilled when this one got voted in.  It’s about a young Korean “picture bride” who comes to Hawaii to marry a Korean man and have a chance at a better life and education in the early 20th century.  Naturally, things don’t turn out as planned.  Most of this book is being read while sitting on the bleachers in the hot sun at the pool where my older daughter practices with her swim team 6 hours a week.  She can’t read while swimming, but if there was a way, I’m sure she’d try.

So.. we’ll see how this goes.  It’s nice to be back.  Hopefully this won’t be my last post for another two months!

What are you doing this weekend?  What are you reading?

Happy Sunday..

I’m Not Dead

goofy kid stuff

Don’t you hate it when bloggers give a bunch of reasons/excuses why they haven’t been updating their blog lately?  Yeah, me too.  So I won’t do that.

But I did want to pop in to let you know that I’m not dead.

Lots ‘o reading has been going on (books & blogs).  Just not a lot ‘o review writing.  My apologies.

I’m re-reading The Hunger Games right now for my book club.  In general I’m not a re-reader and was only planning to skim it to refresh my memory before our meeting, but I couldn’t resist. It’s like brain candy- so fun and fast.  When I read it last summer, I was completely Team Gale, but I think I’ve switched camps.  Peeta is sweeta the second time around.

The girls get out of school in about a week.  Our summer will be filled with swimming and tennis lessons, sleep-away camp for them (on alternating weeks- not at the same time.  Poor planning on my part!), a family camping trip to the Mammoth area with friends, trips to the local water park and the beach, plus lots of ‘nothing days’ to fill in with bike rides, lemonade stands, neighbor kids, reading, sleeping in, and laziness.  It’s good to be a kid, but I’m in a bit of a panic, trying to figure out how I will work from home with kids all around.  Any suggestions from other work-at-home parents?

For my reading.. this summer I plan to get to The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli, So Much for That by Lionel Shriver, How to Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway, 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan, Let the Great World Spin (for book club), the Eric Clapton biography (also for book club), and City of Refuge by Tom Piazza (book club).

What are you reading this summer?

Spring Reading Series: DEAD END GENE POOL Discussion Questions

Hello Spring Readers!

This month we’re reading Dead End Gene Pool, a memoir by Wendy Burden, the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt which, according to her website, ‘qualifies her to comment freely on the downward spiral of the blue blood families.’ For anyone interested in the super-rich, this is a fascinating and witty account of growing up surrounded by tremendous wealth, but it’s also a tragic tale of family dysfunction and parental neglect.

We are so fortunate to have Wendy joining us in real time, right here at Books on the Brain, on May 18th at 5 pm PST. If you’ve read Dead End Gene Pool or are curious about it, please mark your calendars and join us as we discuss the book with Wendy!

Here is a synopsis of the book, followed by a few discussion questions:

For generations the Burdens were one of the wealthiest families in New York, thanks to the inherited fortune of Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt. By 1955, the year of Wendy’s birth, the Burden’s had become a clan of overfunded, quirky and brainy, steadfastly chauvinistic, and ultimately doomed bluebloods on the verge of financial and moral decline-and were rarely seen not holding a drink. In Dead End Gene Pool, Wendy invites readers to meet her tragically flawed family, including an uncle with a fondness for Hitler, a grandfather who believes you can never have enough household staff, and a remarkably flatulent grandmother.

At the heart of the story is Wendy’s glamorous and aloof mother who, after her husband’s suicide, travels the world in search of the perfect sea and ski tan, leaving her three children in the care of a chain- smoking Scottish nanny, Fifth Avenue grandparents, and an assorted cast of long-suffering household servants (who Wendy and her brothers love to terrorize). Rife with humor, heartbreak, family intrigue, and booze, Dead End Gene Pool offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of old money and gives truth to an old maxim: The rich are different.

SO READERS- let’s get the discussion started! These are just a few questions to get you thinking- you don’t have to answer them all. Please feel free to add your own questions, and respond to each others answers, too.

1. What was your overall view of the book? Was it what you expected?

2. Were there parts of this book that were difficult to read?

3. What aspect of the book did you enjoy most?

4. In the synopsis it says that Dead End Gene Pool gives truth to an old maxim: The rich are different. The rich ARE different, but in what ways are they different? How are they the same?

5. Wendy’s grandparents placed a higher importance on her brother’s education than on hers. Have you experienced that type of inequity in your own family? If so, was the sibling relationship damaged as a result?

6. Do you think Wendy’s mother was essentially ‘bought off’ by the grandparents, bullied into making her children available to them for long stretches of time, over holidays, etc? Or was she just a really neglectful parent?

7. Who do you think was the most influential adult in Wendy’s childhood? In what way?

She'll be here for our discussion-ask her anything!

8. Wendy almost seemed to raise herself. How did she cope?

9. Often you hear about people who have come into money either through inheritance or the lottery, and blow through it really quickly. They sometimes find the money doesn’t make them any happier. Why do you think unearned money can be so difficult for people to manage?

10. What adjectives would you use to describe this book?

We can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Dead End Gene Pool. Thanks for reading along with us. And don’t forget to join us on May 18th for our discussion with Wendy!

Do you have questions for Wendy? Leave them here in the comments or email me with them and I will pass them along, for her to consider before our discussion.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 87 other followers