Cover Snapshot of Read Books

Sara's bookshelf: read

Crazy Little Thing
A Kiss at Midnight
The Disenchanted Widow
Hollywood Wives - The New Generation
There Goes the Bride
Table for Five
Do Not Disturb
The Husband's Secret
The Ugly Duchess
Help for the Haunted
The Power Trip
The Haunting of Maddy Clare
Summer At Willow Lake
Every Crooked Nanny
The Mystery Woman
The Woodcutter
How to Be an American Housewife

Sara's favorite books »

Monday, June 7, 2010

Book Club Starter Steps

So, you think that starting a book club of your very own is an arduous and overwhelming task? Follow the guidelines below and you will have an organized and self-sufficient book club in no time.

Book Club Starter Steps:
1. Start thinking of book club name (jot ideas down)
2. Create Invitee List, gather email addresses (<10)
3. Look online for book ideas, ask Face Book friends, ask bookstore employees, email bookish friends for ideas
4. Determine Book Options (2)
5. Determine Book club Date (one month out)
6. Send out book club invite
7. Determine the Rules

Start thinking about a name for your club, sadly the internet won’t help you with creative ideas—oh to have a book club name generator! Think about where you live, books you love, your common interests with your friends/potential book club invitees. A name is something that you can determine together at your first meeting too—think brainstorming! Okay, so keeping a running name list going, move on to the next step which is who you want invite to be part of your book club.

Where do you start with who to invite to your club? I love a small and more intimate group of 10 or less. Five or six will be enough to get your group started as members may soon have others they want to invite. Think of five to seven friends, co-workers or friends of friends and ask (in person) or email if they’d be interested in joining a book club.

Now think about when you want to have your book club. For the initial club, you should be about 5 weeks out as there is some initial prep that you have to do pre-book club. Pencil a potential book club date (week of) in your calendar.

Next, start thinking about potential books for your club. One way to start is to look at bestsellers at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, I recommend starting with general fiction. Read the editorial reviews and see if anything catches your interest—also look at user/customer reviews. is a wonderful book site too. Also, ask your Face Book friends, email your bookish friends and ask trade-paperback stores what books they’ve read and would recommend for book clubs (be sure to check reviews online). Capture potential book titles, authors, genre and number of pages in an excel spreadsheet (or on note paper). Creating a Book club folder at this point is a great idea—mine is filled with our Potential Books excel sheet and bookstore pamphlets. Since you want to start the book club, you need to choose two book options from your Potential Books list.

Now that you have your list of invitees and your two potential books, the next step is to send a preliminary email (this is 5 weeks out). Email your book club invitees, a quick “hey I’m starting a book club, please vote on ONE book (choices below)” more information to follow (set a deadline of RSVP BY—before the next week). You can also ask your attendees for best days/times to meet in this initial email. Once your RSVP deadline has passed you will need to send out (one month notice) your book club meeting Invitation (email or Anyvite). Be sure to include the majority chosen book and author along with the meeting time data and place. Also include information about food and drinks. My club meets at 6PM, so whomever hosts that month makes dinner, but you can choose light snacks, drinks only, potluck, whatever!

You and your fellow book clubbers can create your own List of Rules in your first meeting. I’ve found that my club only needs one rule and that rule is “all book club choices must be paperback.” Paperbacks only because they are cheaper for those who chose to buy the book, but also this ensures that the book is old enough to be available in libraries.

My book club is diverse and fun, books that have been great for us include Reading Lolita in Tehran (literary/smart), Water for Elephants (compelling novel) and The Help (my favorite 2009 book). Keep in mind that there will be hits and misses, just go with it, the discussions are always enjoyable whether we loved or hated the book!

Last note: Truly it is up to you and your club how you chose your next book. Some clubs let their hosts decide and rotate hosting duties. My club rotates to different houses and hosts, but we choose 3 book titles at the end of our meeting place them in a jar and pull one out—that is the book for the next month. The host later must write an email to all members stating next month’s book, author and host!

Best wishes in Starting your Book Club,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chosing Beach Vacation Books

What book preparations do you make for your travels and vacations? I am a planner stocking up collecting and storing books that I plan to savor on vacation. I longingly and lovingly store my potential vacation books in a special corner on the shelf--especially if they are favorite authors. This year I had ten potential vacation books lined up and I struggled to decide which to take and which to leave at home. I knew I was not going to read 10 books in a week, but what would I want at the beach? Would it be romance or mystery or intellectual novel? Oh how to choose?
I knew that I would need something easy, light and beachy, so one of the first to go into my take stash was a Susan Mallory romance. If you haven't read The Marcelli series and you like a little romance, give The Sparkling One or Delicious a try. Also there are some great English chic lit novels that make me laugh--I discovered The Chocolate Lover's Club, a cute little gem. Be forewarned that you will crave chocolate; I made my husband take me straight to the grocery store to pick up some Ghirardelli’s chocolate bars (hazelnut and dark chocolate caramel)!

James Patterson is mainstream, I know, but some of his novels are fast-paced page-turners--great for the beach. I chose Beach Road, mainly because it was one of the few Patterson books that I haven't read yet. Beach Road ended up being absolutely perfect--I was hooked on the murder mystery that occurred in the Hamptons, on the potential love affair between the defense lawyers and on solving the crime, this is one of the better James Patterson books in my opinion.

Another murder mystery thriller writer whom I adore is Linda Fairstein. If you haven't read her Alex Cooper mystery series you are missing out. Lethal Legacy (#11 in series) is one that I had been saving for vacation, and one which I thoroughly enjoyed. Lethal legacy starts with a murder and delves deeply into the NY library and its history and documents therein--in order to solve the case, of course! I love the sexual tension and strong relationship between Assistant DA Alex Cooper and Detective Mike Chapman.

For more serious mystery fans, Louis Penny is a modern mystery writer whom I highly recommend. Start with the first in the series, Still Life which reminds me a bit of an Agatha Christie novel. I don't know how she does it, but Penny gets into the minds and tribulations of small town life. And, I adore Inspector Gamache--such a strong warm intelligent character—Gamache is one of my favorite book characters.

Did I get through ten books on this vacation? Nope, not even close, but a summary of book titles that I finished and recommend include Delicious, The Chocolate Lover’s Club, Beach Road, Lethal Legacy, and The Cruelest Month.

One book which I recommend against taking on a beach vacation is Reading Lolita in Tehran—this was a book club book and it was too serious and literary for me to read on the beach. Books that were in my starter pile that did not go on vacation, but which will eventually be read include Four Corners of the Sky, Twenties Girl, Murderers Prefer Blondes and Bookplate Special.

So, how to choose what to take on your next vacation? Well, my advice is to take a little bit of everything that you love. I chose a few romance/chick lits and mixed in a few mysteries. And, it also helps to know that a Barnes and Noble wasn't too far away--just in case of a book emergency.