Ah — The 2013 Book Club List!

I forgot to mention — Our 2013 book club list is out! Here’s what’s on the agenda for our club this year. (And I can’t believe we’re already heading into April! Where is this year going??):

  • Jan – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot (Lauri’s pick)
  • Feb – A Thousand Autumns, David Mitchell (Lauran’s pick)
  • Mar – A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway (My pick)
  • Apr – The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield (Debbie D’s pick)
  • [Skip May]
  • June – The Round House, Louise Erdrich (Mary Ann’s pick)
  • July – A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry (Laura’s pick)
  • Aug – Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana (Rosy’s pick)
  • Sep – Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d’Art (P.S.), Christopher Bleu (Hilarie’s pick)
  • Oct – The Fencing Master, Arturo Perez Reverte (Anne’s pick)
  • Nov – The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, David McCullough (Barbara’s pick)
  • Dec (Holiday Brunch) – Shipping News, Annie Proulx (Lauri’s pick)
  • Jan 2014 – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan (Carrie’s pick)

Have you read any of these? What’s on your reading list this year?

Here’s our 2012 book club list.
Here’s our 2011 book club list.
Here’s our 2010 book club list.
Here’s our 2009 book club list.
And here’s how we come up with our book club list each year.

Pretty Wedding Shower Table

My friend Debbie D. from the book club always does the most beautiful table decorations. (She’s also an amazing cook. … And she also has a gorgeous home. … I think I want to be Debbie when I grow up. …)

Anyway, she threw a wedding shower for Carrie, one of our book club friends, and she decorated the prettiest wedding-shower table.

These adorable bridesmaid’s dress cookies were on every plate, in different colors of pink, green, and white:

And her whole table was a pretty display of the same colors. She had green flowers in glass vases, going down the runner. And I loved the French bar glasses, too:

She always knows how to set a table that makes you want to sit down and linger. (And, er, sometimes we do. … for hours and hours!)

(Resulting Side Note: Don’t use her ideas if you want to clear your dinner party out quickly.)

I’ll try to round up more pictures of Debbie’s pretty table decor (she does beautiful Christmas brunches, too) in future posts.

What Was Your Favorite Book of 2011?

Whew! Well, I finally updated my Currently Reading page.

Here’s what I read in 2011 (in reverse order):

  • Holiday Affair — Lisa Plumley. Another cute contemporary. This one was about Karina and Reid who meet at a holiday B&B during the Christmas season when she brings her kids there — super cute setting and a cute plot, overall. But I didn’t quite buy the character of Reid at all. He didn’t seem to think or talk like any man I ever knew. But I liked the Karina character, who seemed realistic, and her recent divorce managed to seem funny.
  • Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor — Lisa Kleypas. Contemporary about Mark and Maggie, who fall in love on an island off the coast of … um … I can’t remember. … (Washington???). I pictured a lot of Sleepless in Seattle. (They even meet over a little girl that the hero is raising — his niece.) But it was cute and, for a Christmas story, it didn’t rely on tropes. In fact, it seemed like a regular book that simply took place at Christmas (which I liked a lot!)
  • When Beauty Tamed the Beast — Eloisa James. I’m obviously a big Eloisa James fan, and I looked forward to this new book of hers about Piers and Linnet. For the first half of the book, though, I couldn’t get over how similar her hero, Piers, was to Gregory House from television’s House.  (Although Piers is living in a 19th century Welch castle.) Although House has long been a FAVE show of mine (and I always loved the character of House), the similarities were more distracting than enjoyable. I could even hear his voice in all the dialogue. Then I started Googling it, and realized that at the end of the book, James actually SAYS this character is based on House! Somehow that eased my mind from the distraction and I enjoyed the second half of the book. But I think this book would be more enjoyable for someone who didn’t watch so many episodes of House and could “meet” that character for the first time.
  • Storming the Castle — Short Story — Eloisa James. I got this one for 99 cents on my Kindle! This is the story of Phillipa and Wick, and I got the impression there were characters from James’ longer book A Kiss at Midnight, which I didn’t read. (But might soon!) In this one, Wick is pretending to be a butler at his brother’s castle, and he falls in love with Phillipa, who is there pretending to be a nursemaid. I thought the characters were really well drawn for a short story — normally that’s a tricky thing to do.
  • Duchess in Love — Eloisa James. Cute Regency about Cam and Gina, childhood friends who are forced into marriage when they are young teens but Cam flees before the marriage day is even over. They reunite as adults, supposedly to get a divorce, but things rekindle, of course, when they join a weekend-long house party. (Those Regency folk sure know how to party, man.) Anyway, this was okay– for some reason, I wasn’t particularly fond of Cam or Gina, so I didn’t love it as much as I love other books. But there were great secondary characters and the story moved along well.
  • Outliers — Malcolm Gladwell. Nonfiction. Fascinating discussion about what makes one person a success and another person not. I loved all the examples he gave. this is the book where he discusses the 10,000 hours necessary to make anyone an “overnight success.” (His point being that no one is an overnight success — you may not see it, but 10,000 hours of practice went into whatever that person succeeded at.) It makes me want to read Gladwell’s other books, Blink and Tipping Point.
  • The Alchemist — Paulo Coelho. I enjoyed this fable, which made me think a lot about my son in the days when he was deciding his future (where to go for college). It’s a fable about how far you should go in getting what you want, and how to know when you get it.
  • As You Desire — Connie Brockway. This is an older book, but it’s in the top 10 of AAR’s Top 100 Romances list, and it’s the only author I haven’t yet read in the top 10. And, I must say, Connie Brockway doesn’t disappoint. This is a really cute story of “Dizzy” and Harry, set in Egypt in the 1800s. Both are English and are living in Egypt temporarily, but Dizzy wants to go back to England and Harry absolutely doesn’t — he’s fine living in Egypt as a collector, plus he’s got a secret he’s trying to keep. When I read the back of this book, the writing sounded silly and flowery, but when I actually read the excerpt (downloadable on Kindle — you can read the whole first chapter as a sample), I realized the “flowery” writing was actually Dizzy’s attempt to concoct romance writing from that day. Pretty funny. Connie Brockway actually handles the writing quite well, with humor and wit. This makes me definitely want to read the other Brockways on the top 100 list.
  • Call Me Irrisistible — Susan Elizabeth Phillips. This was one I was waiting on with bated breath — I knew the release date was Jan. 18, and I was up that morning, downloading this to the uber-cool Kindle that’s exactly awesome for this very reason. And I did enjoy it. It didn’t topple my other fave SEP, but I liked it. Two things I didn’t like though: (1) I didn’t like that there were so many old characters showing up — it sort of frustrated me and made me feel like I had to remember them all. And, because they’re old characters, they weren’t very well developed in this book. (2) I was disappointed that we didn’t get the alternating point of view between the hero and the heroine, which is usually entertaining when handled by someone as funny as SEP. We finally got Ted’s POV at the very end, but by then I didn’t really like him all that much. I realize that the alternating POV really helps you fall in love with both characters.
  • Blue-Eyed Devil — Lisa Kleypas. Okay, I’m hooked on Lisa Kleypas already. After finishing Smooth Talking Stranger (below) the other night, I went on the Amazon Kindle store and immediately downloaded this one, which is about another Travis. (It occurred to me, later, after reading the reviews on Amazon, that I’m reading these all out of order, but oh well.) This one is even better.
  • Smooth Talking Stranger — Lisa Kleypas. This was my first purchase with my Christmas Amazon gift card from hubby. I’d only read one Lisa Kleypas before, from the AAR Top 100 Romances list (Dreaming of You, a historical, which I liked), but everyone seems to love her contemporaries, too, so I’d always wanted to add one of her contemporaries to my TBR pile. This is the one I picked on Christmas Day. I don’t know why this one, but there it is. And it was a good choice — I really enjoyed it. I’m not crazy about romances in the first person for some reason, but I eventually got past that and just enjoyed the story. This one is about Jack Travis and advice columnist Ella Varner.

I think I probably said this already last year (gah! Am I repeating myself already? I guess that’s what you get after running a blog for four years…), but I really like making a list of everything I’ve read. It’s fun to look back on (and think, gosh, was that just last year???) or to reflect on which books were standouts and which were not.

I woefully read very few book club books (like … er … one??? eek) — I vow this year to read more of those and get involved in the discussions. (When I don’t read the book I still go to the meeting for the wine and good company!) 🙂 This year’s book club list looks great, so I’m really going to make more of an effort. I think I’ve read most of the romances I need to read for research on style and pacing, so now I can read a mixture of genres.

Anyway, did you make a list this year? What was your favorite standout book from 2011?

The 2012 Book Club List!

Our 2012 book club list is out! Here’s what’s on the agenda for our club this year:

  • Jan 2012 – Autobiography of Mark Twain
  • Feb – To Be Sung Underwater, Tom McNeal
  • Mar – Tattoos on the Heart, Father Greg Boyle
  • Apr – A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman
  • [Skip May]
  • Jun – The Paris Wife, Paula McLain
  • Jun – The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
  • [Skip July]
  • Aug – Ape House, Sara Gruen
  • Sep – The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • Oct – Legends of the Fall, Jim Harrison
  • Nov – Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford
  • Dec (Holiday Brunch) – Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann
  • Jan 2013 – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

Have you read any of these? What’s on your reading list this year?

Here’s our 2011 book club list.
Here’s our 2010 book club list.
Here’s our 2009 book club list.
And here’s how we come up with our book club list each year.

Virtual Book Club — Online Discussion of David Nicholls’ ‘One Day’

Our book club’s February read was One Day by David Nicholls. Since some of you couldn’t be at the dinner and discussion, I thought I’d bring the discussion to you! (I wish I could bring you some of Carrie’s delicious Italian casserole and a slice of Lauran’s gorgeous strawberry cheesecake, too, but … well … that might get messy at your keyboard.)

The book, which is being made into a movie right now, is about Em and Dex, an English couple who reconnect every year on St. Swithin’s Day in England. Over a period of 20 years, they each live their own lives and have their own loves, failures and disappointments, but keep coming back to each other with something slightly missing.

Here’s what some of the members of the book club thought:


It felt too much like I was reading about my own struggles at that age, which I do not find interesting enough to read about unless the author can provide me with comic relief or something more than what I already learned on my own, neither of which I felt he did.  The author may have felt that the July 15th annual snapshot was a new and fresh way to present what would otherwise be considered ordinary lives, but to me it just felt gimmicky. I also found the story to be to0 predictable. — Lauran


I read the book and was sorry to miss book club. I enjoyed One Day. I went to college in England just a few years ahead of the protagonists, and I found the early part of the book evocative of the atmosphere around and attitudes among the ‘young set’ in those days. I also appreciated the no-holds-barred presentation of life–almost as if it were happening to, rather than by, the author, and I admire that technique (whatever it is!). However, having said all that, almost as soon as I finished it, I began to wonder whether I’m really going to remember the ‘flavor’ of this book in the future, let alone desire to read it again (these are my principal personal measures of a book). As the weeks go by, I increasingly doubt that this novel is going to stand out for me. — Rosy


What I liked about this book was that it was not a mushy romance, but one with realistic characters who were funny, tender and absolutely hilarious at different times in the story. I loved the light-hearted humor, very British! There were also some very poignant scenes in the book, like the one where Emma goes to Dex’s wedding. — Mary Ann


Rosy, It’s always interesting to see what makes a book worthwhile for someone else. A book’s particular flavor, that it be memorable and something you’d want to read again, have comic relief, impart some lesson of something new. I love that you have those criteria.

I guess the human element is usually big for me. Beyond that, I don’t really have any set criteria except for good writing. Does it impact me emotionally in some way? I wait for each book to take me where it takes me, someplace different, hopefully.

One Day is a love story. For me, it was beautiful by virtue of it being just that: a love story. The way the book was framed around one day each year over time had a simplifying effect that pared it down to the essential and made it easier for the author to focus on the two main characters without spending too much time developing the other personalities, subplots, and so on. Everyone and everything else becomes periphery. Over and over again, the author writes about the ongoing attraction, affection, mutual sweet regard, longing, and love Dex and Em have for each other throughout the decades without getting cumbersome or laden with detail. It was light and at the same time moving, and I felt the depth of the relationship, no matter what they were saying or doing on the surface.

I loved the book, and I was moved. Nicholls achieved a balance that felt neither masculine nor feminine in voice or perspective. My favorite passages where where he describes what Dex and Em are thinking, feeling, as each notices the other.

Like you, Lauran, I sensed what was coming—but not until just before. So, I’m not sure predictable is the word I would use.  — Barbara


I enjoy the diversity in our opinions because I always get something more out of a book listening everyone else’s opinion. And on the chance that I would re-read any of our books I look forward to seeing them through someone else’s eyes. — Lauran


What about you? Have you read One Day? What are your thoughts?


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