The Sunday Salon: Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!  Mine is a double whammy-it is both Mother’s Day and my birthday, which is a little like having your birthday on Christmas-you get a lot of 2 for 1 presents.  But I’m not complaining-  next to the lilacs my mother brought over for me I see a vase filled with tissue paper flowers my 3rd grader made in school, a hand painted mug she made in Brownies, and assorted gifts wrapped in bright green paper.  Once everyone wakes up we’ll have cake and ice cream for breakfast, a sweet birthday tradition at our house.  We will be celebrating later with extended family at The Chart House for brunch. 

It was a good week for reading.  I finished Matrimony and worried that my review might upset the author, who I’ve been emailing with since his guest post.  It’s a really good book, but there were things that bothered me, and I almost didn’t post the review at all for fear he might be offended by some of my comments.  To my relief he was fine and did not take offense.  I’d never been in a situation like that before and it made me think about reviews; why we do them, how important it is to be honest and what we should be concerned about when we’re writing them.  Matrimony will be discussed on May 22nd at Every Day I Write the Book and at the end of June at Planet Books.  

Speaking of planets, I received an amazing little collection of short stories from Blog Stop Book Tours called Springtime on Mars by Susan Woodring.  These stories are pitch-perfect and I absolutely loved them; I laughed, I cried, I emailed the author and gushed like a schoolgirl!  The author is doing a virtual book tour and will be stopping by on June 6th.  She is also planning a guest post for Books on the Brain about why a short story collection is a great pick for a book club.  I can’t wait to read her thoughts on that.  My copy doesn’t have discussion questions for reading groups, but later versions do. 

My mailman is going to be busy the next couple of weeks, loaded down with the books I’ve acquired all over the internet.  I’m waiting on a bunch of ARCs and free books from various places:  Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan from B&N’s First Look program, The Wishing Year by Noelle Oxenhandler from Library Thing’s Early Reviewer Program, Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs from the publisher, The Safety of Secrets by DeLaune Michel and The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds Page from Avon A-the contemporary Women’s Fiction division of Harper Collins, Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe by Jennie Shortridge (I LOVED her book, Eating Heaven), and Netochka Nezvanova from Penguin Classics.  I think there are a couple more but I’ve started losing track.  I’d put all the links in, but it’s my birthday and I just don’t feel like tracking them all down!  

My book club is reading Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks for our June 8th meeting, and it is also the May choice for the online book club at The Inside Cover.  Year of Wonders is about the decimation of a British village by the bubonic plague in a single year 1665-1666.  I haven’t started it yet, but I’m going to tonight.  If you’ve read the book and want to join in to the online discussion, be sure to head over to The Inside Cover for details. 

Don’t forget about my giveaways:  The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski and Matrimony by Joshua Henkin.  Leave a comment on the above posts by Thursday, May 15th for a chance to win a copy.

Have a great Sunday, and Big Hugs to all you moms on Mother’s Day!  

10 Ways to Spice Up Your Book Club Meetings

Are you doing everything you can to keep your book club meetings fun and interesting? Do your members look forward to each meeting with great anticipation, or is attendance lagging? Is your book club becoming more of a chore than a joy? Check out my suggestions to help put the spark back into your meetings.

1. Feed them and they will come! Our book club always enjoys good food together, typically pot luck. We meet in each other’s homes so it’s easy to bring a dish. Some books lend themselves to a food theme, which is fun and adds to the experience (for instance, Chinese food for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Italian for Eat, Pray, Love). The format we like best is to eat and socialize first, talk books in the middle, then end with dessert. Even if the book is a dud, there is always chocolate!

2. Liquor them up and they will talk & laugh! In the past year, we’ve had only one meeting without wine (at a coffee house). The conversation did NOT flow. ‘Nuff said.

3. Give stuff away. I sign up for tons of contests and giveaways online and receive several free books each month from publishers, authors, other bloggers. I arrive at book club meetings loaded down with books to share, and they are much appreciated! We also pass along books we’ve read and enjoyed throughout the month.

4. Celebrate! Do a book exchange and talk about your favorite books of the previous year for an anniversary party. Distribute a member list with general info about each member, including their birthdays. Make a point to remember each of them with cards. Have a BBQ and invite spouses to read along one month (it could become an annual summer event). Make a club donation to the local library or put together a book basket for a daycare center at the holidays.

5. Consider a book that has been (or will be) made into a movie. Our group saw The Other Boleyn Girl together, and a couple of us went to see Into the Wild, The Kite Runner, and The Jane Austen Book Club. We just learned that Eat, Pray, Love will be made into a movie starring Julia Roberts. Seeing a movie together after reading the book can be great fun.

6. Don’t get into a rut with book selections. Suggest books that are slightly out of your comfort zone. Do your homework when it’s your turn to choose and look for books that are sure to spark conversation. Try different genres- fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, classics, historical fiction. There are so many to choose from. Use websites like bookmovement.com and readinggroupguides.com to get ideas. If every book you read is about women’s issues or if you only read chick lit, it won’t be long before your meetings are a snorefest. Branch out.

7. Diversity is good! Look around at your meetings. Are all your members about the same as far as age, gender, race, religion, socio-economic status, marital status? If so, you might want to invite a few more people who aren’t EXACTLY LIKE YOU! One of the best reasons to be in a book club is to get a different perspective on a shared reading experience.

8. Author chats are awesome.. and surprisingly easy to arrange. These chats can be the highlight of your book club year, adding depth and understanding to your club’s selections. And it’s fun-don’t be intimidated! Authors enjoy discussing their books and many are willing to attend book club meetings by speakerphone. Most have websites with contact info. Send an email and see what happens. Random House has a website full of information and authors who enjoy participating in author chats.

9. Discussion Questions are helpful.. but sometimes the best discussions morph from a single question-Which part of the book did you like most (or least) and why?

10. Try something new. Ask members to read their favorite passages aloud. Or speculate on a better ending to the book. Or “cast the movie”. Or critique the cover. Read a bit of dialogue and ask members to guess which character said it. I like to have fun, but I do have to draw the line at dressing up like the characters from a book. Nope. Not doing it. Although maybe other clubs are adventurous in that way. The point is..be creative, but most of all, have fun!

Don’t have a book club yet (what!!??)? Here are some ideas on how to get started: Be Trendy-Start a Book Club!