Other Fun Stuff

Starting a Book Club

“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.”

– Erasmus
Photo by r._.f from Pexels

A couple of my favorite things are books and family and friends. Some of my favorite memories are spent with some sweet friends of mine as we discuss our latest book. We have a book club that meets once a month and the friendships, discussions, and ideas that have grown from this are extremely wonderful.

What if you want to begin a book club of your own. Where do you even start?


Find Some Members

A book club doesn’t need a lot of people. Some say that it’s ideal, for discussion purposes, to have 8-15 people for some good conversations about the books. My book club though is small, with only 4-6 people and we’ve always had great discussions. So I’d say to make sure you know the people you’re approaching. Know if they’re going to be dependable. Know if they’re going to participate in the discussions. Then judge your ideal number from there.


Choose a Meeting Place

If your book club is small it might be easy to switch hosting between the members homes. Larger clubs may have to find a larger venue, like a community room at a library, a church, or even a restaurant. My bookclub almost always meets at a restaurant because of the reason we like to eat along with discuss the books. It’s kind of like friends doing lunch together too. We are careful though to find places that accommodate us tying up the table for 2 hours.


Choose Your Time

You’ll also need to choose how often and when your book club is going to meet. The minimum amount should be monthly. If you’re meeting monthly then definitely discuss the entire book. There are clubs that meet weekly or bi-weekly. In that case, you could choose to discuss a book each time but if that’s too much there are other options – like you could discuss a certain amount of chapters each time.


Pick Your First Book

This could be the toughest part. You want something that’s engaging enough so that everyone will stick with it, but it also needs to have enough talking points. After all, personal opinions from the members inspire some great discussions. If you need some help, look at sites like Goodreads, LitLovers, and Booklist. They will have some reviews and new titles to help you sort through choices. Also the local library and the American Library Association can also help.


Prepare for the Discussion

Before the meeting, create some questions and topics that you can use to guide the discussion. These can be based on your own reading, a list from the publisher, or from online discussions. You don’t have to follow these guides exactly. Just be ready to redirect any conversations or discussions that have gone off-course from the book.


Most of all, you need to have fun. And of course read some great books.

Book Reviews

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

  • Book: News of the World
  • Author: Paulette Jiles
  • Genre: Action & Adventure, Historical Fiction
  • Pages: 220
  • Published: October 2016

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/ 5


Synopsis:

Captain Kidd is an elderly widower enjoying or at least living his life of moving from town to town, reading stories from different newspapers. One day he is stopped and asked if he would return a 10 year old girl back to her aunt & uncle for $50. She’s been held by the Kiowa since she was 6 and they slaughtered her entire family. She now doesn’t remember anything but her life with the Kiowas and she’s now wild and uncivilized. But as the miles go on the two form a bond of trust in each other.


Review:

It took me a while to get into this book (and now looking from hindsight) I know two reasons. First, it is written in a completely different style then what I’m used to. None of the “speaking” was placed in quotes. Because of this there was a few times it was left to the reader to decipher if it was the character speaking or just thinking the words. To me it just made the reading more confusing than it needed to be. Second, the storyline was very easy to predict. There really were no surprises with plot or anything along those lines.

That being said, Jiles did an excellent job of putting down on the pages the emotions felt by the characters. Even though the lack of quotation marks drove me nuts and I knew what was going to happen, the excellent writing still held me captive. As I turned each page, I could feel what the character was going through. Not just what Jiles wanted me to feel. What the character would feel if they were an actual person. Let me tell you. Paulette Jiles has a way with words.

A movie is slated to come out based on this book Christmas Day 2020 – it looks like they are in post-production now. Tom Hanks is starring as Captain Kidd and and a cutie, Helena Zengel is taking on the role of Johanna. I can’t wait to watch it and see how it compares with this book.

Overall, I feel this book deserves 4 out of 5 stars. The emotional impact of the writing was really outstanding. Even though it had a predictable plot and I felt had a lack of punctation, the writing was still worthy of ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Hey!!! If you’ve read this book or decide to read it – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Book Reviews

A Motherland’s Daughter, A Fatherland’s Son by Ellie Midwood

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/ 5

Snyopsis:

Poland, 1939. A country, torn by the occupation of two unlikely allies – Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. On the border of this newly divided territory, a young Wehrmacht Unteroffizier, Werner and a Soviet Military Interpreter, Kira meet and fall in love against all odds. Both forced into the military against their will, they wish for one thing only – a peaceful life together. Everything is set for Kira to defect and marry Werner… But the German army invades the Soviet Union, and now the two lovers are forced to fight against each other on the opposite sides of the frontline; trying to keep their humanity as more and more atrocities are committed by both armies. They have to decide if their love is stronger than the devastation surrounding them or succumb to the hate as sworn enemies should. Partially based on true events, this novel will take you on the unforgettable journey through war-torn countries, where hope can be lost in no-man’s-land, and one will have to go to great lengths not to lose sight of it.


Review:

Ellie Midwood doesn’t hold back in her writing. She does a ton of research on the historical aspects of her books so she is able to just weave the fictional storyline in through the real history. Those are the kinds of books I absolutely love. It really makes history come to life. At least for me.

Reading the heartbreaking emotions of Ellie and Werner as they had to go through the different aspects of the war was so hard. Even some of the small decisions they made were pretty life altering in our lives today.

All those small decisions that each of them made during WWII, that we read about were made by real people like this fictional couple. Real people had to live with the consequences of their decisions for the rest of their lives.

I definitely recommend you grab a copy of this book ASAP. And to help you out with your copy… Keep an eye out for a giveaway I’m having with a signed copy that’s starting later in the week!!!

Book Reviews

Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Synopsis:

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny. 

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.


Review:

Everyone knows who Coco Chanel is. The lovely clothes. With simple clean lines. And understated colors. And of course… Chanel No. 5 – the perfume that’s been around forever.

The author, Gortner tells the Coco Chanel’s story in such a beautiful way. From the time she was a young girl with absolutely no money and then through the discovery of her amazing ability building her empire. Her brand even withstood TWO wars.

There is so much that can be said about this book. To find out how someone so respected and admired accomplished what they did was super interesting. The lady worked hard for what she had.

I think one of my favorite parts was finding out where the scent for Chanel No. 5 came from! So Fascinating!!! In my opinion it’s worth reading just for that!! But seriously – you’ll love the entire book.

Chanel proved that styles in fashion will come and go but a classic look will always be appropriate.

Book Reviews

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Synopsis:

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic… 

Review:

I chose this book for my Book of the Month selection because there was so much hype about it. I did love reading this through Stella’s own voice. She’s autistic and “hearing” how she felt about different situations was really enlightening. And how she was able to deal with them. And since the author has (what used to be known as) Asperger’s syndrome, Stella’s feelings do seem pretty genuine.

What I didn’t like… So much sex. I realize I was reading a book where a woman hired an escort to teach her about sex but still. I was able to skim over most of the “action” and I don’t think I missed much. But be ready to skip a good portion of the book if you don’t want to read the sex scenes.

Even skipping the sexual situations I did like the book. I really loved learning how someone with Autism thinks and does things and I think that Hoang did a wonderful job crafting the storyline and the characters.

Coming Up, Other Fun Stuff

What’s Coming Up

“I have always imagined paradise will be a kind of library.”

– Jorge Luis Borges 
Photo by Ivo Rainha from Pexels

I’m always on the lookout for great titles that are going to be released in the future. SheReads recently gave us the heads up on some books written by women that will be coming out in 2020.

When an exclusive New York women’s workspace is rocked by the mysterious disappearance of its enigmatic founder, two sisters must uncover the haunting truth before they lose their friendships, their careers–maybe even their lives.


Conley Hawkins left her family’s small town newspaper, The Silver Bay Beacon, years ago. Now, after ten years, she’s right where she wants to be and about to take a new position at a NYC newspaper. Until she finds out at her own going away party that her new job is gone, disappearing overnight along with her dreams of a future in a big city.

With a sinking feeling in her gut, Conley ends up in the last place she ever wanted to be: The Beacon, now reluctantly run by her brother Garret who put his own dreams of being a lawyer on hold with the death of their father. Covering a sleepy beach town isn’t exactly every reporter’s dream and to make matters worse, she and her brother see eye to eye on almost nothing. Matters come to a head after Conley witnesses a car accident that ends in the death of a local politician – whose death may not be exactly what it seems.


Abigail Willard first spots her from the back of a New York cab: the spitting image of Abby herself at age twenty-two—right down to the silver platforms and raspberry coat she wore as a young artist with a taste for wildness. But the real Abby is now forty-six and married, with a corporate job and two kids. As the girl vanishes into a rainy night, Abby is left shaken. Was this merely a hallucinatory side effect of working-mom stress? A message of sorts, sent to remind her of passions and dreams tossed aside? Or something more dangerous?

Abigail Willard first spots “her” from the back of a NYC cab: the spitting image of Abby herself at age twenty-two — right down to the raspberry coat she wore. But now the real Abby is forty-six and married, with a corporate job and two kids. As the girl vanishes into the rainy night, Abby is left shaken.

As weeks go by, Abby continues to spot her double around her old New York haunts — and soon, despite her better instincts, Abby finds herself tailing her look-alike. She is dogged by a nagging suspicion that there is a deeper mystery to figure out. All the while, Abby’s life starts to slip from her control: her marriage hits major turbulence, her teenage son drifts into a radical movement that portends a dark coming era. When her double presents her with a dangerous proposition, Abby must decide how much she values the life she’s built, and how deeply she knows herself.


When Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.


When seventy-year-old Charlotte Perkins submits a sexy essay to the “Become a Jetsetter” contest, she dreams of reuniting her estranged children: Lee, an almost-famous actress; Cord, a handsome Manhattan venture capitalist who can’t seem to find a partner; and Regan, a harried mother who took it all wrong when Charlotte bought her a Weight Watchers gift certificate for her birthday. Charlotte yearns for the years when her children were young, when she was a single mother who meant everything to them.

When she wins the contest, the family packs their baggage—both literal and figurative—and spends ten days traveling from sun-drenched Athens through glorious Rome to tapas-laden Barcelona on an over-the-top cruise ship, the Splendido Marveloso. As lovers new and old join the adventure, long-buried secrets are revealed and old wounds are reopened, forcing the Perkins family to confront the forces that drove them apart and the defining choices of their lives.


The Bennett family – artist parents and two precocious children – leave their familiar urban surroundings for a new home in far upstate New York. They’re an hour from the nearest city, a mile from the nearest house, and everyone has their own room for the very first time. Shaw, the father, even gets his own painting studio, now that he and his wife Orla, a retired dancer, have agreed that it’s his turn to pursue his passion.

But none of the Bennetts expect what lies waiting in the lovely woods, where secrets run dark and deep. Orla must finally find a way to communicate with – not just resist – this unknown entity that is coming to her family, calling to them from the land, in the earth, beneath the trees … and in their minds. 


After almost twenty years together, Stella and Simon are starting to run into problems. An up-and-coming rock musician when they first met, Simon has been clinging to dreams of fame even as the possibility of it has grown dimmer, and now that his band might finally be on the brink again, he wants to go on the road, leaving Stella behind. But when she falls into a coma on the eve of his departure, he has to make a choice between stardom and his wife—and when she wakes a different person, with an incredible artistic talent of her own, the two of them must examine what it is that they really want.


Shay Miller wants to find love, but it eludes her. She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end. She wants to belong, but her life is increasingly lonely.

Until Shay meets the Moore sisters. Cassandra and Jane live a life of glamorous perfection, and always get what they desire. When they invite Shay into their circle, everything seems to get better. 

Shay would die for them to like her. 
She may have to.


It’s 2 A.M. on a Saturday night in the spring of 2001, and twenty-eight-year-old Cecily Gardner sits alone in a dive bar in New York’s East Village, questioning her life. She wonders whether she made a terrible mistake in breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, Matthew. 

As Cecily reaches for the phone to call him, she hears a guy on the barstool next to her say, “Don’t do it—you’ll regret it.” Something tells her to listen, and over the next several hours—and shots of tequila—the two forge an unlikely connection. That should be it as Cecily reminds herself of the perils of a rebound relationship. Moreover, their timing couldn’t be worse—Grant is preparing to quit his job and move overseas. Yet despite all their obstacles, they can’t seem to say goodbye, and for the first time in her carefully constructed life, Cecily follows her heart instead of her head. 

Then Grant disappears in the chaos of 9/11. Fearing the worst, Cecily spots his face on a missing-person poster, and realizes she is not the only one searching for him. Her investigative reporting instincts kick into action as she vows to discover the truth. But the questions pile up fast: How well did she really know Grant? Did he ever really love her? And is it possible to love a man who wasn’t who he seemed to be? 


On the shores of an East German island, Bettina Heilstrom struggles to build a life from the ashes. World War II has ended, and her country is torn apart. Longing for a family, she marries Werner, an older bureaucrat who adores her. But after joining the fledgling secret police, he is drawn deep into its dark mission and becomes a dangerous man.

When Bettina falls in love with an idealistic young renegade, Werner discovers her infidelity and forces her to make a terrible choice: spend her life in prison or leave her home forever. Either way she loses both her lover and newborn child.

Ten years later, Bettina has reinvented herself as a celebrated photographer in Chicago, but she’s never stopped yearning for the baby she left behind. Surprised by an unexpected visitor from her past, she resolves to return to her ravaged homeland to reclaim her daughter and uncover her beloved’s fate, whatever the cost.


Cleo McDougal is a born politician. From congresswoman to senator, the

\ambitious single mother now has her eye on the White House—always looking forward, never back. Until an estranged childhood friend shreds her in an op-ed hit piece gone viral.

With seven words—“Cleo McDougal is not a good person”—the presidential hopeful has gone from in control to damage control, and not just in Washington but in life.

Enter Cleo’s “regrets list” of 233 and counting. Her chief of staff has a brilliant idea: pick the top ten, make amends during a media blitz, and repair her reputation. But there are regrets, and there are regrets: like her broken relationship with her sister, her affair with a law school professor…and the regret too big to even say out loud.

But with risk comes reward, and as Cleo makes both peace and amends with her past, she becomes more empowered than ever to tackle her career, confront the hypocrites out to destroy her, and open her heart to what matters most—one regret at a time.


Doesn’t it look like 2020 is going to give us some incredible books? It’s only February and look what’s on the horizon. I’m curious – which one of these books are you most looking forward to?

Authors To Follow, Other Fun Stuff, Uncategorized

Connilyn Cossette

“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”

— Louisa May Alcott in Work: A Story of Experience

Just yesterday I gave a review for author Connilyn Cossette’s book, Counted With the Stars. (Go here to read it.) Cossette doesn’t only pen beautiful Biblical stories that are inspirational but she gives us even more than that.

Her website (here) is a wealth of information about her and her books. But I think the best thing is her devotionals that she has that goes along with her books. If you’re interested in reading Counted With the Stars, the book I reviewed yesterday, she has a 6-day devotional that goes along with that very book!

Counted With the Stars is the 1st of a trilogy – “Out From Egypt” (BTW – the 2nd book is AMAZING also!!! – Review to come soon!) And she has short devotionals to go with each of them. And they’re so easy to get. Just go to her website and scroll the the bottom of her home page. Or if you subscribe she’ll send you a link to access each of the “Out From Egypt” devotionals from your email.

She has another series of books “Cities of Refuge” – which is on my TBR List. She already has devotionals for the first 3 and if Cossette’s history is any indication she’ll continue to come out with more for the remainder of the books.

She’s also linked to The Exodus Road on her website. The Exodus Road is an organization that fights human trafficking. This is an incredible Nonprofit. And human trafficking is a much bigger deal than people realize so I’m so glad she’s behind this.

I even found where she wrote a series of articles on writing a novel and getting published here. I think she’s a renaissance woman.

Connilyn Cossette is one of those special authors that writes books that really make you think after you finish that last page. Aren’t those the best?!?! Then when you learn more about the her… as a person… you realize she’s an incredible woman through and through. Definitely a #WomenToFollow

Book Reviews

Counted With the Stars by Connilyn Cossette

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Synopsis:

Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.

To save her older brother and escape the bonds of slavery, Kiya flees with the Hebrews during the Great Exodus. She finds herself utterly dependent on a fearsome God she’s only just beginning to learn about, and in love with a man who despises her people. With everything she’s ever known swept away, will Kiya turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh?


Review:

This book is incredible! Connilyn Cossette gives the reader an inside view of the time that the Hebrews were held in slavery by the Egyptians. It focuses on the plagues that allowed their release and then finally the Hebrews journey through the dessert.

Cossette gives the reader a new way to view this Biblical story by writing this story through the eyes of an Egyptian girl, Kiya. This young girl stubbornly clings to her own gods while traveling with the freed Hebrew slaves but she also sees all the miraculous things that their God does for His people.

I absolutely love to read Biblical stories like this. For me, it really makes the Bible come alive. There are always so many things that I never really considered until I read this book – like exactly how the Egyptians would’ve felt when each of the plagues hit them. As a Christian I guess I only thought about it from the Hebrews point of view. Cossette does an amazing job of describing all of this. I highly recommend this book – and this author – to everyone!

Book Reviews

Roanoke: The Lost Colony by Angela Elwell Hunt

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/ 5


Synopsis:

In 1587, a fleet of English ships set sail for the Virginia colony. During a storm, one ship became separated from the others and was never seen again. The settlers on board were presumed lost at sea, but there is both historical and legendary evidence that the colonists actually founded the Roanoke colony. 

Veteran novelist Hunt (“Theyn Chronicles”) reimagines this slice of Colonial history through the eyes of Jocelyn White, a newlywed reluctant to leave her home in England for the wild shores of the New World. White’s journey is fraught with danger, but her dependence on God and God’s providence carry her safely through.


Review:

Wow!!! I really cannot say enough great things about this book. There were times that some of the characters frustrated me a little bit but the author made those characters grow and meld into beautiful people by the end. 

Which brings me to the conclusion…

I loved the ending to this book! The author seemed to wrap everything up perfectly and give the story and characters the resolutions they deserved. This ended up being one of those books that I had to sit and absorb after I finished with it because there was so much to think about. If you are interested in historical fiction then start on this book right away.

Coming Up, Other Fun Stuff

New Titles for Spring 2020

“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.”


– Jhumpa Lahiri in The Namesame

One of my favorite things about reading, is the anticipation of new books. If you saw the 3000+ titles on my TBR shelves you’d realize I wasn’t kidding.

Here are some of the titles I’m looking forward to that are coming out during the Spring of 2020:

𝘐𝘵’𝘴 𝘕𝘰𝘵 𝘈𝘭𝘭 𝘋𝘰𝘸𝘯𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘍𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘏𝘦𝘳𝘦 by Terry McMillan
68-year-old Loretha Curry has it all: she’s a successful business woman, has wonderful friends and family; moreover, she has a great attitude about getting older that some in her intimate circle lack. But that will be tested when fate deals her an unexpected blow, and she has to lean on this same circle to weather the storm.
Coming out March 31

𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘔𝘪𝘳𝘳𝘰𝘳 & 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘓𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 by Hilary Mantel
After 7 years, the 2nd book in the Wolf Hall trilogy is going to be released. The conclusion of Thomas Cromwell’s story, The Mirror & the Light, details the downfall, and grisly end, of Henry VIII’s infamous chief minister, a literary undertaking Mantel has described as “the greatest challenge of my writing life.”
Coming out March 10

𝘞𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴 & 𝘓𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘴 by Lily King
Casey Peabody is at a crossroads. She’s 31, a struggling writer with a complicated love life, and utterly undone by the recent death of her mother. Basically the woman is a hot mess. There are profound transitions that we encounter in life where we’re unsure of how to navigate them. With heart and wit, Lily King deftly pilots us through this process.
Coming out March 3

What are some titles that you’re looking forward to?