Category: Book Club

May 30

It's Time To Play Name That Book Club!

Blogging, Book Club 60

Hola, Bookworms!

We have come to day three of Armchair BEA and I am SO EXCITED! Today’s topic is… FREE STUFF! Actually, today is the day that Armchair BEA suggested that we hold giveaways on our blogs to thank everyone for being awesome and hanging with us. Yay!

Design Credit: Nina of Nina Reads

Design Credit: Nina of Nina Reads

About a month ago, I asked the delightful Bookworms on the Words for Worms Facebook page (which, by the way, if you do not already “like” you can do so HERE) if they’d be interested in participating in a book club hosted by MOI. The response was OVERWHELMING. Y’all want a book club! I live to serve, so I’m pleased to announce the formation of…

Yeah. I couldn’t think of a NAME. So. I’m going to hold a CONTEST! It’s easy to enter. Just leave a comment with suggestions of names for our book club. You can enter as many times as you want- leave anything you pretty little head can come up with. Tell your friends, perhaps they’ll have ideas. I’m partial to terrible puns, cheeky literary references, and pandering to my ego.

I will choose a name from among the reader suggestions. The person who comes up with the winning name will win FABULOUS PRIZES! Should the winner be a US resident, they will receive a box of assorted goodness so glorious that I cannot list it all here (partly because I’ve yet to assemble it.) It will definitely contain a $25 gift card to Amazon, which will be supplemented by do dads and fun things (possibly even… a dingelhopper!) Should the winner be a non US resident they will receive a $25 gift card to Amazon. And that’s it. Because, you guys. SHIPPING. Seriously. Alright. I’ll also throw in a personalized limerick for any potential international winners. (My limericks are legendary. Here’s PROOF.)

I will announce the winner a week from today along with our inaugural book club selection. I hope you’re all as excited as I am! Now, pretty please? Name! That! Book Club!!!!!!

***In the event that I get multiple entries for the same name, I’ll count the earliest time stamped suggestion. I know that it’s 100% plausible that multiple people come up with the same idea independently, but I’ve got to have some rules in place, you know?

On a completely unrelated note, today is the 30th and GOLDEN birthday of my butter churning best friend from a past life, Chrissy of Quirky Chrissy. Stop by her blog today to wish her a happy birthday. I can’t tease her for being old because I already turned 30, but if you’re younger and want to give her crap? I fully support your shenanigans. Happy Birthday, Jelly Bean! XOXO!

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May 27

Dome Along: Katie Joins The Party

Blogging, Book Club, Contemporary Fiction, Frightening 23

Happy Memorial Day, Bookworms!

I hope all the Bookworms out there in the USA enjoy Memorial Day with all due reverence to our lost veterans. The only appropriate way to honor them is by enjoying a barbecue, so, you know. Be patriotic. Eat too much. Get the goosebumps when you hear “I’m Proud to be an American” on the radio. For everyone outside of the states, sorry you have to work today. That sucks.

Since I’m off today, I thought I’d talk a little bit about peer pressure. You know you watched cheesy after school specials and/or Lifetime Original Movies warning teenagers of the dangers of peer pressure. Just say no! Hugs not drugs! Drinking will cause you to knock your two front teeth out! What they never tell you is that peer pressure isn’t always bad. Take for instance, Jennifer at The Relentless Reader. She may have mentioned to me that all the cool kids were joining a read-a-long this summer and that it might be a good idea for me to join them. I lasted about 5 minutes before deciding that she was right and I needed to read more Stephen King. Enter:

Under the Dome lengthwise

This bad boy is hosted by Natalie at Coffee and a Book Chick (which is another book blog and downright delightful.) The format is pretty unstructured, which is sweet, because things with too many rules annoy me. Basically? I’m going to read Stephen King’s Under The Dome with moral support. Then I’m going to talk about it. Pretty cool right? Since the mini series is coming out soon, it’s perfect timing.

I’m normally pretty leery of Stephen King, because of how I’m a giant chicken. Seriously. I read Bag of Bones as a teenager, and it creeped me out so badly, I couldn’t look at refrigerator magnets for weeks! It took me a good 10 years to get up the courage to try reading The Stand, and I ended up LOVING it. I decided that I could read King, I just needed to steer clear of the especially ghostly and/or demonic titles. A few months back I read 11/22/63 and while I didn’t love it as much as The Stand, it was pretty great. I’m a sucker for time travel. I read the synopsis for Under The Dome, and it sounded like it was more in the vein of “society has been dealt a really weird blow” rather than “DEMONS ARE COMING TO EAT YOUR SOUL, KATIE!!!!!” I may have a false sense of security here. Only time will tell.

I’m looking forward to trying out this whole read-a-long concept. I’m typically a one book at a time kind of gal, but there’s such a HUGE volume of things I want to read that I have a hard time committing to a behemoth of a book like this. I’m hoping I can tackle this bad boy in bite sized pieces while keeping up with the rest of my TBR list. I’ll keep you all apprised of my progress.

Anybody interested in joining?! Check out the details HERE. Already been Under the Dome? Send me words of comfort and/or warning!

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May 03

We Might As Well Be Walking on The Sun: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Book Club, Children's Fiction, Coming of Age, Dystopian, Frightening, Mystery, Psychological, Young Adult Fiction 24

Hola Bookworms,

The other day I reviewed The Maze Runner by James Dashner and I was all WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?! So of course, I continued the series and just finished The Scorch Trials. Here’s the deal y’all. It’s kind of impossible not to spoiler the heck out of The Maze Runner and still review The Scorch Trials, so if you want to read them and know nothing, then stop reading this review right now.

The Scorch Trials

Alright. When we last left the kids of the Glade, the guys had been “rescued” by a protest group that didn’t approve of WICKED. Then they were fed pizza and given showers and clothes and bunk beds and all was well… Until the EPILOGUE where you learn that they’re still under WICKED’s thumb. Dun dun DUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!

So the kids find out the morning after the pizza and the sleep that they have more to do (more horrors, not just intensive psychotherapy which they will ALL NEED for PTSD and whatnot!) After, you know, starving everyone for a few days, WICKED deposits the children in what is known as “The Scorch.” So the world ain’t right, that much is clear. It would be awfully hard to have elaborate mazes in which to trap and study children in a functioning society… As it turns out the earth has suffered from a series of deadly, destructive solar flares. They’ve managed to literally scorch everything between the Tropic of Cancer and The Tropic of Capricorn. It’s a freaky desert prone to intense lightening storms. It’s impossibly hot and there is NO SUNSCREEN. (I know, I was very upset by this, but I guess a group willing to kill kids with evil monsters probably doesn’t have a lot of scruples about the possibility of skin cancer down the road.) Anyway. The kids are supposed to traipse through this desert and find a safe haven. They’re given vague instructions, because when you’re an evil scientist, you don’t explain your process to the rats.

LIGHTENING! (image source)

LIGHTENING! (image source)

But it wouldn’t be that easy! The solar flares also seem to have caused a PLAGUE known simply as “the flare.” They don’t explain how you contract it, but to me it sounds like a cross between leprosy and syphillis, so it’s pretty nasty stuff. There’s no cure either, so they dump the infected in The Scorch (kind of like they did with Moloka’i and the lepers!) In addition to battling the elements, the lightening storms, and the tribe of girls who were apparently in ANOTHER maze, our brave little Gladers have to take on infections insane people who REALLY WANT THEIR NOSES! (I’m not even kidding about that part, the flare like eats your face and stuff.)

Guys, I’m hooked. Seriously. There’s a third book and a prequel. This girl is going to be reading them. I simply must know what happens! I’m usually pretty good at predicting things, but the plots of these books have me guessing all over the place. Maybe I don’t read enough thrillers, but I’m all confused about who to trust and what is good and what is bad and who is evil… It’s so frustrating- in the best possible way!

On an unrelated note, I have decided that I’m DEFINITELY going to start us up a book club. I’ll choose a selection once a month. We will read it and then I’ll post discussion questions that are WAY more fun and interesting than anything you’d find included in a normal “book club guide.” After that, we’ll just comment the mother loving heck out of the post and chat and it will be fun and interactive and awesome and you can attend in your pajamas. Refreshments will be served from your own kitchen, which is cool because I’m a terrible cook and you can’t send out digital food… Yet.

I’d like to make June the inaugural month, so anybody with ideas for book selections, let me know! Also, if you want to get your little brain wheels a-turning, I am planning on holding a contest for y’all to NAME the book club. Save your ideas, you know, write them down on a post-it note or something. The contest will take place at the end of the month. Prizes will be epic, if you’re in the US. If you’re not, it’ll probably be an Amazon gift certificate (because postage OMG.) So. Exciting things afoot!

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Apr 01

Sorry, No Blog Today. April Fools! (The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani)

Book Club, Family, Historical Fiction 30

Howdy Bookworms,

I hope those of you who celebrate Easter have recovered from your chocolate bunny and jelly bean comas on this fine morning. It’s April Fool’s Day, but I’m not a fan of the holiday. I am a terrible liar, and I’m also embarrassingly gullible. Not a good combination. Plus, pranks have a way of turning mean, and I’m not a fan of meanness either. So. Let’s talk about… A book! (I know, you’re shocked!)

This month for Wine and Whining Book Club (I consistently get crap from the book club’s membership for what I’ve named it, but I like homonyms and alliterations, so I shan’t be changing it) we selected The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani. The Shoemaker’s Wife is the tale of an unlikely couple re-united from their small Italian mountain town in New York City.

I'm really not sure who the broad on the cover is...

I’m really not sure who the broad on the cover is…

Circumstances conspire to send the (for all intents and purposes) orphaned Ciro away from his home in a convent the Italian Alps to become an apprentice shoemaker in America. Unfortunately, his exit from town is untimely as he is separated from his new found lady love, Enza. Shortly after Ciro’s departure, Enza and her family fall on hard times and she and her father make the decision to emigrate to America as well. Their emigration takes place during the early 1910s, so their journey reads like the quintessential Ellis Island tale.

Ciro and Enza’s path to finding each other again is not an easy one. They both have their share of adventures. Enza is a talented seamstress but stuck in Hoboken in a Cinderella-esque situation. Ciro is distracted by a high maintenance local beauty and turns out to be a kick ass boot maker. Their trials and tribulations give you a great picture of the times in which they live, and they talk enough about pasta to make you hungry.

Spoilers are the bane of my existence, because it’s so difficult to talk about books without giving EVERYTHING away. I will say this much… While I enjoyed this book overall, there was a critical scene that reminded me a LOT of a scene in another one of Trigiani’s books, Lucia, LuciaConsider this your SPOILER ALERT. Now. The goings on of How I Met Your Mother aside, people being ditched at the altar is NOT a common thing. Things rarely get to the point of tuxedos and gowns being donned when weddings fall apart. The fact that this occurred in both of the Trigiani books disappoints me, I mean, calling off a wedding a couple months ahead of time is infinitely more realistic. It’s certainly more dramatic to pull the jilted at the altar routine, but it’s almost too easy… That’s probably an unfair assessment, but I’m a giant snob-a-saurus rex.

Safe to read again. If this is your first Trigiani novel, and you like historical fiction, you’ll love it! So, Bookworms, are you ever frustrated by authors recycling story lines? Getting repetitive? Anybody else run into that?

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Feb 22

Tropical Paradise meets Tragic Disease: Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Book Club, Historical Fiction 16

Aloha, Bookworms.

This month’s selection for the “My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors” book club was Moloka’i by Alan Brennert. It’s set in a tropical paradise (Hawaii, if you hadn’t guessed by my greeting) but the subject matter was anything but a luau.

Leprosy! What do you know about it? Before reading this book, I knew surprisingly little. I knew that when lepers were depicted in movies about the middle ages, they were always wrapped up in white cloth. Aside from that, the only other references to leprosy I could pull out of my head were from an episode of House, M.D. and a long ago CCD class. (CCD is supplemental religious education for Catholic kids who don’t attend Catholic school, where religion is part of the curriculum. If you were ME, that meant you gave up SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS for a big chunk of childhood. Not bitter. Totally not bitter…)

molokai

Anyway, the reference I recalled was the story of Father Damien. He was a priest who worked in a leper colony and eventually contracted the disease himself and died. He was later canonized as a saint. Guess where that leper colony was? The Hawaiian island of Moloka’i! Father Damien actually makes an appearance in this book. And my life comes full circle…

Rachel Kalama is a little pipsqueak of a child when she’s diagnosed with leprosy. In the late 1800s, little was understood about the disease, other than that it was frightening, disfiguring, and fatal. I hate not knowing things, so I took to google. (Word to the wise: DO NOT DO AN IMAGE SEARCH ON LEPROSY. There are some things you cannot unsee.) Leprosy is caused by a bacteria. It is estimated that 95% of the population is naturally immune to the disease. Interesting, right? This explains why it never became a full on plague. What was fascinating was that native Hawaiians were unusually susceptible to the disease, causing something of an outbreak, and terrifying the population. This makes sense because an isolated population wouldn’t have incorporated the immunity into their DNA pool the same way a more mingle-y population would have. Oh science. You’re a trickster.

Map of the island borrowed from bestofhawaii.com

Map of the island borrowed from bestofhawaii.com

Of course, nobody knew this at the time. All they knew was that Hawaiians were getting leprosy, they knew it was somehow contagious, but that had no idea how contagious. So… They took a spare island and threw all the lepers on it. Moloka’i’s early history as a leper colony was pretty brutal- they didn’t have a lot of housing or healthcare, and people were basically dumped to die. Luckily, by the time Rachel arrived on Moloka’i, things sucked a little less. I mean, they still had leprosy, but the little community banded together and became ohana (Family. Go watch Lilo and Stitch, I mean really. That should be culturally ubiquitous by now.)

I’m getting very rambly on the science bit here, I know. Let’s talk story. This is historical fiction, so it should not surprise you in the slightest that I totally loved this book. This book is set during an exceptionally dynamic time. When Rachel arrives on Moloka’i, they don’t even have electricity. Throughout the book we experience all the new technology with her: electricity, indoor plumbing, automobiles, airplanes. We also get to witness the metamorphosis of medical technology and the treatments of leprosy. Fantastic stuff.

Bottom line? You should read this book. It’s everything I love about historical fiction, with a side of epidemiological intrigue. What do you think, Bookworms? Do you like your fiction with a side of learning?

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Jan 21

"Where'd You Go, Bernadette" by Maria Semple. (Why Did Nobody Mention the PENGUINS?!)

Book Club, Humor, Pretentious 33

Hello my Bookworms,

I’m hosting this month’s neighborhood book club meeting, which means, among other things, that I got to choose the book. I decided on Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, because I’d seen that a lot of my favorite book bloggers really enjoyed it. Everybody who reviewed this book mentioned its humor, of which there was plenty, but NOBODY mentioned the PENGUINS.

I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. This book is comprised of a series of emails and other correspondence between characters that are loosely woven together with narration by the novel’s 15 year old protagonist. The book is set among Seattle’s elite against the backdrop of private school drama. Bernadette is not your typical private school parent. While the other mothers volunteer for decoration and recruitment committees, Bernadette emails her personal assistant in India to make dinner reservations. Bernadette’s antics do nothing to endear her to the other mothers, particularly her neighbor Audrey Griffin. While Bernadette is eccentric and not interested in joining in, her daughter thrives and is an outstanding student.

bernadette

Who doesn’t enjoy a snarky, quirky fish-out-of-water story? Granted, you have to get into the right frame of mind to enjoy this book, there is plenty to be enjoyed. If you’re familiar at all with the show Weeds (which is about a suburban mom turned drug dealer), I can tell you that Audrey’s character reminded me a TON of Celia Hodes. For whatever that reference is worth. I don’t know if you all share my penchant for premium channel dramedies.

Anyway, the bulk of the narrative takes place through passive aggressive emails. It’s a good time. The very best part of this book, for me though, was the trip to Antarctica. When Bee comes home with another perfect report card, she reminds her parents of a promise they’d made her to take a family trip to Antarctica as her reward f0r good grades. I know what you’re thinking… “I didn’t get JACK for my good grades.” Aside from the occasional Book-It personal pan pizza, I didn’t either. But, you know. Rich people do weird things.

What’s the coolest thing about Antarctica?! Penguins live in Antarctica! (If this is your first visit to Words for Worms, you may require some background information on my penguin problem. Check out that link and then come back. Back? Okay good. Now check this one.) Through this book, I learned all about what taking a trip to Antarctica actually entails. It’s fascinating! Do I ever want to go? Not really. It’s super expensive and it’s really really cold. (They do, however, have a Penguin encounter at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, I’m wondering if I can get the husband to take me to celebrate the big 3-0? Nothing says “I’m only kind of an adult” like spending a milestone birthday meeting and greeting penguins. Am I right?!)

I don’t want to ruin the book for you (you can tell I really like something if I’m not willing to post spoilers.) I will tell you that I’m EXTREMELY excited to host Book Club with this as my topic. Now I just need to create a cocktail to mimic “The Pink Penguin” that they serve aboard the Antarctic cruise ship. Anybody have ideas on recipes they want to send my way?!

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Jan 11

Blogstalker Book Club: Girl Walks Into a Bar… By Rachel Dratch

Blogging, Book Club, Humor, Memoirs 33

Hello Blogstalking Bookworms!

This book club is the brain child of the beautiful and talented Lauren of Filing Jointly…Finally (who Justin Timberlake may or may not have slapped with a restraining order…) Did you read along with us this month? Our selection was Rachel Dratch’s memoir, Girl Walks Into A Bar… Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle. I’ve pretty much decided that the world’s most amazing slumber party would include Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Mindy Kaling. I want them to be my friends! (Lauren, you can totally come to our slumber party, JT won’t be there.)

Hi Rachel!

Hi Rachel! I can french braid!

So. Girl Walks into a Bar… starts out with Rachel’s post Saturday Night Live life. She was a cast member from 1999-2006. These were some of my prime SNL watching years. I really wanted to find a clip of this sketch, but I couldn’t, so I’m just going to describe it and do it no justice whatsoever. Okay? So. Rachel Dratch and Jimmy Fallon played these obnoxious Boston teenagers named Sully and Denise. They were always going to keggers, getting wasted, having loud fights, and making out in the middle of them. Good fun. The sketch that cracked me up was when Ben Affleck hosted. Affleck lost it in a big way and kept saying “Bro…. bro…Bro. Bro! Bro.” Everyone in the scene was cracking up, which somehow makes everything THAT MUCH FUNNIER when you’re watching SNL at home, alone, in your childhood bedroom. Anyway. It was hysterical. Do any of you have a favorite Rachel Dratch SNL story to share? Please tell me I’m not the only person who spent her formative Saturday nights at home alone watching television! 

I found this image at SNL Pictures

I found this image at SNL Pictures

Dratch was on poised for what should have been a brilliant post SNL career. She was even cast as Jenna in the pilot for 30 Rock (her good pal Tina Fey’s brain child.) Only. Well. As Dratch puts it, in real life she’s a decent looking lady. Unfortunately, by Hollywood’s impossible standards, she’s…not. When they tested the pilot for 30 Rock she was replaced with Jane Krakowski (let’s not take anything away from Jane’s work though- her Jenna is fantastically psychotic.) Dratch was all “well, that sucks, but TV is like that. We’re cool, Tina. We’re cool, Jane. I’ll do some weird characters from time to time.” Sadly, it would not go quietly into that good night! The media picked up on the story and it was all “Scandal! Homely Dratch replaced by Bombshell!” To add insult to embarrassment, the only roles Dratch was being offered were for lesbian secretaries. What the what? Reading this portion of Dratch’s memoir made me sad. Then, because I’m terribly self involved, I started to worry about how ugly Hollywood would think I am. Anybody else experience this neurosis? 

Dratch decides to tackle her life with sporadic work by meeting the NYC dating scene head-on. Before Dratch could date effectively, she had to break out of her comfort zone. She had TONS of social engagements… With her gal pals, comedy guys, and gay man friends. Oh Rachel Dratch! This is why I love you! I went to my junior prom with a gal pal (and we bought a couple’s ticket even though we got weird looks from the administration because DAMNIT, if we had to go to prom without dates, we were going to save $10.) I went to two homecoming dances and my senior prom with gay dudes (it wasn’t like a secret or anything, we all knew where we stood. We both got to dance and nobody got to make out with anybody.  The parentals were actually quite pleased with this arrangement.) Even though it’s kind of off-topic, I’d love to hear your weird high school dance stories!

Me and my Junior Prom Date.

Me and my Junior Prom Date.

Me and my Senior Prom date.

Me and my Senior Prom date.

Whenever I read dating horror stories, I’m always shocked that somewhere all these nightmare people likely eventually find someone to put up with their weird crap. How’s about the drunken horse meat guy? He’s everything on paper- good job, speaks foreign language, hungers for equine flesh… Riiight. Eventually she does meet a nice guy. They live on opposite coasts, but that’s not important. They hang out! They drink wine! They eat delicious foods! And then Rachel gets pregnant! By accident! At 43! Oops! This part kind of cracked me up, actually. It’s funny because everyone always thinks unexpected pregnancies happen to under informed teenagers, but some of my favorite people were late in reproductive life woopsies. After Rachel had come to terms with the idea that she’d never have kids BAM! Left hook from a pee stick.

I was more touched by this book that I expected to be. I mean, I expected to laugh, which I did, but I didn’t expect it to be so deeply personal. I love that this ends with Dratch getting a happy ending she never expected. Sure, she’s still only being offered roles for lesbian secretaries, but she found joy in a life she did NOT see coming. I love the message this gives about life’s unpredictability. Sure, things may not go according to plan, but if you find the humor in life and keep your head high, you might end up at a magical slumber party with Rachel Dratch! How did everyone else like the book? Tell me about it!

Next month’s book club selection will be Matched by Ally Condie. It’s YA literature, but everybody’s reading it, so we must too!  (Peer pressure. I’m susceptible.)

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Dec 13

Sad Desk Salad: A Selection For Mandy's Blogger Book Club

Blogging, Book Club, Contemporary Fiction, Humor, Personal, Women's Studies 21

Hello Bookworms! I’m super excited about today’s blog post. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to participate in Mandy’s Blogger Book Club. Have you met The Well Read Wife? She’s kind of a big deal in the world of book bloggers, and she’s really nice. I mean, she bought 20 copies of Jessica Grose’s Sad Desk Salad and sent them out to strangers from the internet out of the goodness of her heart! Can we all just take a moment to shower some love on Mandy for being awesome and sending me a free book? (Applause!)The only rule of Mandy’s Blogger Book Club? Blog about the book. I know! I already DO THAT, right?

BloggerBookClub-masthead1

Let’s talk about the book, shall we? Sad Desk Salad is a novel about a career blogger. Alex is 25 years old and working for a popular women’s website called Chick Habit. Alex lives in Manhattan with her boyfriend Peter. She works from home, rarely changes out of a grungy black muumuu, and has been sucked into the black hole of internet drama. When she receives an anonymous tip containing incriminating footage of the daughter of a prominent parenting author turned politician, Alex has to wrestle with her morals in posting the footage. She has to deal with the consequences of going public… Or not. To add to the bubbling stew of chaos, a hate blog has popped up attacking Alex and the rest of the Chick Habit staff. She has to deal with all of this while her relationship with Peter hits a rough patch and her friendships are put to the test. I’m having anxiety just writing that all out. Reading this book was rather intense for me.

It’s been a while since I read a book that I could not put down. I typically get most of my reading done in bed before my brain turns off for the night. When I start getting tired, I go to sleep. Makes sense, yes? Needless to say, I spent two rather sleepy days at the office this week. It’s okay, because, you know. Coffee.

I really enjoyed this book. It was sort of like The Devil Wears Prada meets… all of my own personal neuroses about blogging. (Jessica Grose can see into your MIND, people!) Alex gets completely absorbed into her own digital world. She has this insane demanding boss, Moira, who, while not being nearly as nuts as the boss in Prada expects her staff to be glued to their laptops at all times. Just reading about the frantic pace at which the “Chickies” are required to write causes my blood pressure to rise.

A little something about me. I have a “grown up” job. 8-5, Monday through Friday, I can be found in my office, at my desk, surrounded by an army of wind-up penguins. I work with numbers (I’m crazy good at algebra. But only basic algebra.) On the rare occasions where I’ve worked from home, I’ve hated it. When I’m at the office, it’s not a big deal if I have to run to the bathroom or take a break to dog shame Dakota. When I’m at home with my only connection being digital, I feel chained to the desk. Moira expects Alex to be at her beck and call, so Alex rarely takes even 10 minutes to shower. I cannot tell you how many times during the reading of this book I BEGGED Alex to shower. Oh, the humanity! And that muumuu? Don’t get me started. But, being high strung like I am, I completely GET Alex’s drive to do well at work.

sad-desk-salad1

I adore this cover art. I also adore the concept. A “sad desk salad” is the lame lunch of wilted greens and grilled chicken that every last office working female has consumed at some point in her life.

But Alex’s work? Oye. I’ve never been so happy that my blog is just a hobby. Bloggers tend to learn the hard way that everyone’s a critic. Heck, I’m probably an author’s worst nightmare. Who do I think I AM dissecting people’s work on the internet?! And yet, here I am- writing my thoughts, making bad jokes, misinterpreting symbolism all over the damn place. I haven’t had much experience with negative commenters, but MAN does it sting. Alex struggles with that. She struggles with commenters attacking her work, and often, her personally. When she’s upset and tries to discuss her boundaries with Moira, she’s told to “grow a pair.” (Can I just take this opportunity to thank the universe that my bosses are far more likely to give me a hug when I’m upset than to tell me to “grow a pair?” Because wow.)

Alex gets so sucked into the digital drama that she forgets all the important REAL stuff in her life. Like eating food not obtained in a rush from the local bodega. Like having actual conversations with her life partner. Like basic hygiene and laundry. When threatened by a hate blogger with exposure from her past, she absolutely panics. She begins to get suspicious of her friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. She’s just exposed someone’s dirty laundry, what’s to prevent someone from exposing hers? (And no, I’m not talking about the black muumuu, but DAMN girl, laundromats exist in big cities, don’t they?)

If I had to put Sad Desk Salad into a category, I’d call it smart chick lit. It’s not Shakespeare, but I’m not smart enough to read Shakespeare anyway. I think most of you bookworms would enjoy this book. Certainly, these isn’t a blogger among us who couldn’t relate to some of these situations. I encourage you to give it a whirl, and be sure to let me know how you like it. I know I’ll never look at my own “sad desk salads” the same way again! Thanks for the great pick, Mandy!

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Nov 30

Blogstalker Book Club: The Casual Vacancy

Blogging, Book Club, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Psychological 38

Hello you Blogstalking Bookworms! Thank you to everyone who clicked on over here from Lauren at Filing Jointly… Finally. It is TIME. Time to discuss J.K. Rowling’s new book (for grown-ups!) The Casual Vacancy. You remember the drill right? I’m going to throw some discussion questions out in bold so we can be all official and such. I must admit there was a small (okay maybe significant) part of me that was hoping this would turn into Harry Potter: The Adult Years, but alas, it was not meant to be. Did anybody else harbor this same secret wish? Gratuitous photo time:

That’s me at the real Platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross Station, London circa 2004. They put up a sign for the muggles to pose for photos. I may or may not have annoyed the local commuters. Tourists for Harry Potter!

Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to mention that I made a conscious effort to separate my expectations from Harry Potter. Everyone deserves a chance to re-invent themselves, even bazillionaire authors who have brought joy to millions. I’m a little bit of an anglophile. I love the accents, I love the history, I love the chic lit (Bridget Jones is my Everywoman.) The fact that The Casual Vacancy was a slice of English life was right up my alley. Why does everything sound better British? Examples of my delight displayed in The Casual Vacancy:

1. “Dessert” is referred to on more than one occasion as “pudding.” (You can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat!)

2. “Busing tables” is referred to as “mopping tables.” It actually makes more sense because part of busing tables is wiping them down, like you would with a MOP on a FLOOR.

3. “People Carrier” means Mini Van! How cute is that?! It makes me think of the People Mover at Disney World, which is all kinds of wonderful when your feet hurt from traipsing around the park (or maniacally chasing the characters) all day.

The Casual Vacancy begins with the tragic death of Barry Fairbrother. Barry was an all around good dude. He came from humble beginnings to become a local politician and family man. He coached the high school girl’s rowing team and championed the underprivileged (even at the expense of his relationship with his wife, seeing as he spent their last anniversary writing a puff piece for the newspaper on a local girl from his old neighborhood.) As he and his wife walk from their car to the restaurant where they’ll be having dinner, Barry suffers a brain aneurysm and dies, right there in the “car park.” (Sounds so much more sophisticated than “parking lot” right?!)

Barry’s death sends shock waves through the community. His friends and allies are devastated, while his former enemies on the town council begin plotting how best to replace Barry to advance their cause. What exactly is the cause that’s dividing up the little hamlet of Pagford?

There is a little strip of land under Pagford’s jurisdiction known as The Fields. The Fields is home to a housing project. It houses a pretty rough crowd, as housing projects are wont to do. Crack whores, drug pushers, theft rings, negligent parents- all sorts of unsavory characters make their homes in The Fields. The old guard of Pagford wants nothing to do with it. Like any place though, The Fields aren’t entirely bad. Barry Fairbrother was a heck of a guy and he came from The Fields. Thus, the division.

The town council is divided pretty much 50/50 on The Fields, but with Barry’s death, Howard Mollison intends to install his son Miles in the vacant councilor’s seat to finally rid Pagford of The Fields. Barry’s old allies catch wind of Howard’s plans and seek to find an electable alternative to keep the balance of power in check. After all, the people of The Fields benefit from Pagford’s school system- who knows how many Barry Fairbrothers could be growing up in squalor only to become contributing members of society, right?

While all this political maneuvering is going on, the families of the “upstanding” town of Pagford are floundering. There is a veritable teen rebellion that takes place anonymously online under the guise of “The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother.” The children turn on their parents. In the case of Simon Price, that’s pretty well justified. He’s an abusive jerk who only wants to win the council seat to facilitate his dealings in illegal goods. Andrew sees the anonymous post as the only way to prevent his father from causing even more trouble. Seriously, how much did all of you want to punch Simon?

Parminder Jawanda is already on the town council, but having been one of Barry’s closest allies, she’s a target of derision. She isn’t rotten to the core, but she has a strained relationship with her bullied self-harming daughter Sukhvinder and the poor girl lashes out. Sukhvinder and her mom have issues because unlike the other two Jawanda children, Sukhvinder is awkward and a middling student. I don’t think Parminder is a terrible mother, but she certainly doesn’t realize what an effect her indifference has on her daughter. How did you feel about Parminder? Do you think I’m cutting her too much slack?

Poor Colin Walls feels the need to run for office to honor his good friend Barry. Colin suffers from OCD with bad thoughts. He’s mentally ill and completely terrified that he’ll accidentally molest a child. It sounds weird, but this disorder was covered on one of those therapy shows. It’s a thing (you know, because TV can’t lie. But for real, I’m pretty sure this disorder is legit.) Colin’s son is a complete jerk. Stuart “Fats” Walls has CLEARLY read The Fountainhead too many times. (Irony alert! “Fats” isn’t fat.) He is the epitome of teen douchebaggery. He’s a bully not only to his peers (especially Sukhvinder!), but to Colin as well. How much did you want to punch Fats?!

This image was borrowed from HERE. Please give all credit and all clicks to them!

The undisputed queen of this epic tale of class warfare and dysfunctional families is one Krystal Weedon. She is such a tragic figure. Krystal grew up in The Fields. To say she’s rough around the edges is an understatement. Her mother is a heroin addict. She’s been exposed to rapists and drug dealers and her screwed up 16 year old psyche is the most stable influence in her 3 year old brother’s life. The only “out” she can see for herself is to get pregnant so she can get her own government issue apartment and benefits. She plans to use this opportunity to take her brother out from under the influence of their hot mess of a mother. Krystal serves as the embodiment of The Fields, and is a lightening rod on both sides of the Pagford debate. To some, she’s the underdog who has potential to rise above her circumstances. To others, she’s the loose cannon who punched the teeth out of one of the Mollison girls. How did you feel about Krystal? Sinner? Saint? Or something in between?

There is just SO MUCH going on in this book. When I first started reading I actually thought JK Rowling might be rebelling a little bit from her wholesome image because there were a lot of teen boy erections going on. That really has nothing to do with anything, it’s just an observation. Seriously though, this book is chock full of controversy. I think Rowling does a good job of portraying both sides of the class warfare argument. Everyone wants to help the needy, but nobody wants to live next door to the crack house, you know? Even the Walls family, who are pro-Fields freak out when they find out Fats has been boinking Krystal.

For a small town, this book has a huge cast of characters. The bits I’ve discussed really only scratch the surface. I mean, what about Howard and his tawdry affair? Samantha and her cougar crush on the boy band? Gavin and his stunted relationship capability? Kay, the overworked social worker with self esteem issues? Ruth and her refusal to leave Simon despite the fact that he occasionally beats up her and the children? Gaia’s teen angst? Mary and her grief? Miles and his weird dependence on his parents? And what exactly made Vikram Jawanda so dreamy? Who was your favorite character? Whose baggage do you most relate to?

I really enjoyed this book. I liked that it portrayed people as they ACTUALLY are- flawed with bits of good and bad floating around together. There often weren’t clear heroes and villains (okay, Simon was clearly a villain but even evil Fats showed some redemptive qualities at the bitter end.) I LOVED the sheer British-ness of it all! Overall, I’ve got to hand it to Rowling. Is it Harry Potter? Heck no. Is it good anyway? Absolutely. Well done, Ms. Rowling! What were your opinions on this book? Did you love it? Hate it? Tell us about it!

Thanks for participating in this month’s Blogstalker Book Club! Lauren and I discussed choosing a lighter book (as in, something that isn’t crushingly depressing) for December. We’ve decided to tackle Rachel Dratch’s memoir Girl Walks Into A Bar…: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle. Join us?

Rachel Dratch thinks Blogstalker Book Club is the COOLEST!

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Nov 19

Want an Action Movie in a Book? Read A Wanted Man by Lee Child

Book Club, Crime, Mystery 12

Hello my dear Bookworms! It’s Monday, which stinks, but it’s a short week, so that’s something to be excited about, right?

Friday night, we had our latest meeting of the neighborhood book club. Now, I had been calling it “Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons,” after a really sweet book I read once upon a time, but I think I’m going to stick with referring to it as “My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors Book Club.” It seems more fitting. Plus, this week’s hostess made us delicious soup and served it in mason jars… Which means, of course, that my neighbors are not only inherently better than your neighbors, but they’re also more Pinteresting.

This month’s selection was A Wanted Man by Lee Child. I was kind of concerned that I wouldn’t be able to catch up when I saw that this was book number 17 in a series. Luckily, this series is the literary equivalent of CSI. Procedural dramas are good for that sort of thing- you can pick it up anywhere and not be lost. A Wanted Man is a crime novel starring Jack Reacher. Reacher is ex military police. He doesn’t like to be tied down and as a result lives a nomadic life roaming around the country. As A Wanted Man starts out, Reacher is hitchhiking to Virginia (for reasons that must have been explained in books 1-16.)

Does hitchhiking ever end well for anyone? I mean, really. What kind of crazy picks up a stranger off the side of the road? If you’re in this novel, the kind of crazy picking people up off the side of the road are terrorists trying to confound the local police road blocks after committing a murder (I mentally pronounce “murder” in the most evil way possible, but that’s difficult to translate phonetically.)

You’ve probably figured (since this is one of the first ones I’ve ever reviewed) that mystery and crime novels aren’t typically my cup of tea. That’s part of the beauty of being in a book club though, you step outside your comfort zone. I found this to be a fast read and it kept me engaged, but it’s unlikely I’ll pick up another Jack Reacher novel. I assume that people who really appreciate these type of books don’t appreciate spoilers, so I’m not going to discuss much of the plot. After our book club discussion, the plot isn’t what sticks out to me anyway.

Reacher wasn’t given a whole lot of description, beyond the fact that he was an older man, tall, bulky, and had a broken nose. In MY mind’s eye, I saw a rather frightening and not at all attractive fellow. My mind was pretty well blown at book club when the other ladies started mentally casting Jack Reacher’s movie. I can’t even pinpoint an actor I would have pictured as Jack Reacher. The ladies of book club, however, had some ideas.

Hello Handsome!

I voted this down because although he’s one dishy Bond, his American accent is pretty bad.

So yeah. Jack Reacher is pretty much an American retired James Bond. A little less martini and a little more moonshine perhaps, but a similar character nevertheless.

Would it be a terrible thing for me to admit that I might have enjoyed this novel a little more if I’d been picturing eye candy while reading it? Probably. It probably means I’m shallow, but come on. George Clooney makes pretty much everything better. What do you think, bookworms? Are you ever shocked that what you imagined a character to look like was SO DIFFERENT in a movie? Tell me about it!

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