This Made Me Laugh

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This pic was snapped as the band was setting up to perform at my sister in law’s surprise birthday party.  The name kills me!  Can anyone guess what kind of music they play?  We weren’t able to attend the party (we live on the wrong side of the country) but I hear the band was great!

Ho Ho HO

I swore I’d never be one of those bloggers who apologizes for their laziness and lack of blog posts- I’m not delusional enough (yet) to believe anybody truly cares that a week has gone by since my last post- but rather than apologize I’ll attempt to explain.  

Coupled with the usual holiday crazies and being a HO I’ve felt much more foggy than bloggy lately.  The time I normally spend reading or blogging (late night and early morning) I’ve spent sleeping, planning, worrying, or eating (oink).  We’re dealing with some big issues at my house and I’ve been turning to food as a crutch and a comfort from the stress, which doesn’t really matter if I stay in my bathrobe for the rest of my life but is a bit of a problem if I want to fit into my actual clothes.  I was talking to a friend about this last night at a neighborhood party- maybe friend is too strong a word- anyway, as she nibbled on a baby carrot she said, “When life gets difficult, I turn to exercise.  I always feel better after a run.”  I wanted to slap her, but instead I smiled, nodded, and excused myself to make a second trip to the chocolate fountain. 

Opening gifts OMG!  THAT"S SO CUTE!

Opening gifts OMG! THAT"S SO CUTE!

The last week has been a whirlwind of doctor appointments (4) and party preparations.  My youngest turned 10 Saturday and we had a slumber party with 7 giggly wiggly girls.  They screamed, played games, laughed, screamed, sang karaoke, went on a scavenger hunt, screamed, and ate tons of junk food.  Why do 10 year olds respond to everything with a scream?  It started the minute the girls began to arrive.  “I GOT A GUINEA PIG FOR MY BIRTHDAY.”  “NO WAY!!!”  “OMG THAT IS SUCH A CUTE SKIRT!”  “I LOVE YOUR MONKEY SLIPPERS!!!!”  “WHO WANTS TO PLAY A GAME?”  ME ME ME!!  SCREAM SCREAM SCREAM  The one thing I forgot to buy for the party was a set of earplugs for my husband and me! 

img_1626The picture is from a game my daughter invented-Pin the Lips on the Jonas Bros.  This game elicited more screams and peals of laughter than anything else they did all night.  I have to agree that the Joe Bros are pretty cute, even if Joe’s eyebrows look like they were drawn on with a black Sharpie.  The gaggle of girlies finally collapsed into sleep around 2 am.  

The next morning we took my daughter and two friends out for a round of golf.  It was a Southern California postcard kind of day- imagine palm trees against a brilliant sun, blue skies, puffy white clouds- we were very lucky as it was the only sunny day in an otherwise cold and rainy week. 

As for this week’s reading- I finished Chez Moi by Agnes Desarthe (review tomorrow) and was able to read about half of Swim to Me by Betsy Carter.  Next up- The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg.  It just seems appropriate. 

What are you reading this week?

Guest Post: In Praise of Book Clubs, Volume 2

 Tara from the lovely blog Books and Cooks writes about her book club and what makes it special.

April 5, 2001. I remember it well. This was the first official meeting of  my bookclub. The book discussed was The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende and we all wondered if the girl’s hair was really green or if it was meant to represent something else. We sat around the living room, somewhat awkwardly, and finally someone said, ‘maybe we should go around and say whether or not we liked the book.’ Thus began our journey together that continues today. We still go around the circle but it’s less of a yes or no question and more of a platform to speak your mind, uninterrupted.

Our bookclub is about the books, but those books are also the medium that brings together a diverse group of women who might not otherwise have much in common. Now in our eighth year together, we have experienced much of life together. Breakups and marriages. Pregnancy, birth, as well as infertility and miscarriage. Job changes, house changes and now divorce. It could in fact be a book in itself. But through it all, we meet once a month (except for December and January) to discuss a book and our lives. In this way we have come to know and respect one another, to be able to predict how each other will respond to the books discussed, and to eat fantastic desserts.

There are things about my bookclub that I find challenging. No one else reads as much as I do, so many of the books chosen I’ve already read. Often books are chosen that don’t seem terribly ‘discussion worthy’. Sometimes I wish our books were more literary or our discussions more serious. But, it is obvious to me that our club is more than a sum of it’s parts, that the fact that we are discussing is sometimes more important than what we are discussing.

Our bookclub has evolved over the years. We are now six, including 4 original members. Over the years, we’ve had guests who are usually friends of members. We have found it humorous that people think we’re intimidating because we actually read and discuss books. We have loads of traditions, from how we select books, to how we discuss them. One of the best things we’ve done is start a journal. Occasionally we read aloud from past meetings and literally cry from laughter at the various quotes people have jotted down. I personally have stated “This might be the worst book we’ve ever read” several times. We celebrated our five year anniversary by going to a fancy steak restaurant and answered 5 questions that I came up with including favorite and least favorite books. Some of our best discussions have resulted from books that people greatly disliked, some of our worst from books that we all adored. We just hope to keep on having discussions for many years to come.

Blogger Bio:  Tara met her husband D in 1997 when they were both living the post-college single life in Chicago.  They moved to the Twin Cities, married in 2000, and have a six year old daughter.  Tara began writing her blog Books and Cooks in December 2006 after discovering the vast book blogging community.  When she’s not reading or in the kitchen, Tara works part-time as a pharmacist.

***Would you like to share about your book club here at Books on the Brain?  If so, leave a comment and I will get in touch with you about a guest post!

For previous volumes of In Praise of Book Clubs, click HERE

For more info on starting your own book club, click HERE

For fun ways to make your book club better, click HERE

To win a copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin, click HERE by May 15th.  Josh would be happy to do an author chat with your book club!

To win a copy of The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski, click HERE by May 15. You can contact Jill at her website about setting up an author chat.

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!