Category Archives: Bookies Review

Morning Meanderings…. 50 Shades Of… AWESOME!


New coffee cup pic to come… I have one but for some reason can not get it to upload this morning and tired of waiting ;)


Happy Saturday!  I have the best weekend ahead of me here…. no plans!!! I love it!  I might have lunch with a friend, visit my aunt, try out the snow shoes finally… the possibilities are endless :)

As you probably know, today is the official release day of the 50 Shades Of Grey movie.  It’s Valentines Day… aren’t they cute?  I have not read the book and do not plan too and will more than likely be passing on the movie as well.  However, I would be neglect if I did not say the play on the title (mush as I have done today) has been fun. :D

Today for Saturday Snapshot, I thought it would be fun to post pics of my book club through the years because they really are 50 shades of AWESOME!  I was going through pics on Facebook the other day and thought it was fun to see all the crazy things we have done through the years.  Granted, this is not all of the craziness… this is just some.


This was for our review of Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl. We disguised ourselves like she did in the book. Can you find me in this group? ;)



Pride and Prejudice was the classic we were reading…. we dressed the era.



A little fun with this pic.



Sharon’s birthday. We surprised her and wore our “Bookies” shirts



The review for The Wizard Of Oz.



Our 100th meeting celebration! YAY!!!



When one of us was diagnosed with breast cancer we wore pink to the meeting in support of her.



Our first SKYPE with author Sandra Brannan. Sandra had sent us a care package for our review.



Our current Queen and her coronation.



This has been fun for me to look back through these pics of a book club I adore.  Going strong since August of 2001!  There are a lot more pics, but now I think I am on a mission….. more on that later ;)




Morning Meanderings… Birthday Weekend and Book Club Tonight!


Good morning! I think I have a Birthday weekend hangover and not from drinking. :)  I just had a really  busy weekend that was a lot of fun!

On Saturday my friend Amy and I went to the Gatsby Party in the cities.  It was a late night as we drove home the 2+ hours after the event but worth it.  I was inspired by what they accomplished.

On Sunday, hubby and I went to a movie, American Sniper.  SO good.  I will review it at some point this week.

Monday…. my actual birthday.  I had coffee in the morning with my friend Gail.  Then I went and treated myself to a manicure and pedicure.  My son Justin who lives in St. Paul came to the house around 3 pm and we went out and bought snacks for the night, went to a movie ( Project Almanac), picked up pizza afterwards, and came back home and watched Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire and Gone Girl.  (yes, again on both of them :D ).

Justin brought me this really cool wine glass:


The glass says,

Secretly we’re all a little more absurd than we make ourselves out to be.  ~JK Rowling

Love it!

Tonight is book club and I am so excited!  I missed last months as I was on vacation so it will be good to see everyone AND it is at my house.  We have a couple of books to hand out tonight for our Harper Collins Book Club Girls event:


I have them all set up on the table:


It’s like out own mini BEA.  :D

As for today, Justin is still here.  We will hang out this morning and early afternoon than he has plans with friends and I will put the finishing touches on book club.   We are reviewing The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain, an author who I discovered this past fall and LOVED this book as well as a few others I have now read by her.  I am excited to see what the Bookies think.

Now… what will I make for an appetizer?  ;)

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – Bookies Book Club Review


This past week, 13 of the 16 Bookies gathered together for fun food, conversation, and a close up look at October Classic read, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.  My full review of the book is here. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, I was curious about how a true crime would go over in this group.  We had read an Anne Rule true crime many years ago when we were about 8 or 10 members at that time, but nothing since then.

Our discussion mainly centered around the time and the crime.  We agreed that in the small community where the crime took place, you did not worry about your neighbors or what you said in public about what you owned.  The results of In Cold Blood, changed this community, and many communities forever.  I mentioned to the group that I had recently been speaking to a woman at a dinner I attended about our book club choice.  She said at the time of the crime she was a young girl and her parents told her, “you never tell people about what we have in our house… you do not mention the safe, or anything.”  The crimes of In Cold Blood, put fear in so many.

We also discussed how things randomly happen.  If Richard Hickock and Perry Edward Smith had never met, never spoke with the gut who had worked on the Clutter home…. the crime, by circumstance would never have happened.  We compared this, on a much lighter note to how we all wound up in book club together.  Looking around the room, when book club started I knew only one of the thirteen girls in the room.  We all met by circumstance, someone talked about book club and we agreed to go.  If not for Bookies and our group talking about it… we would not all have been in that room together this week talking about this book.

I love things like that. :)

Overall, the book was rated mainly average which is actually a good rating for a classic.   A few rated it higher, and a couple rated it lower.  The overall thought was that most of us do not like to read true crime, but this one worked as it is written in such a fictional way.  This was mainly because of the dialogue in the book compared to just straight facts about the crime.

Our food for the night… we themed a lot of foods from the times – Angie even made from a 1959 cook book a Purple Sea Urchin dish – little hot dogs poking out of a cabbage with Sterno in the middle to cook them!  I made the cucumber sandwiches… I went with the theme of funeral food.

PicMonkey Collage


What makes this a good book club choice?

I think it is good for a book club to shake up genres.  A true crime can bring out a different type of discussion, and while it is true crime, In Cold Blood is written in such a way it is not overly horrific, therefore making it a good book club pick – and it is a classic!  In Cold Blood is one of the books i like to be able to say I have read due to its classic status and the fact that Truman Capote is an author you will want to read.

When planning food for a book such as this I loved the idea Angie had of making food from the era.  She also brought (not pictured) old style potato chips and homemade dip with the Liptons onion soup mix, which apparently became popular in 1959.

While decorating for a true crime, or dressing up is hard to do – we did use a little crime scene tape that I had left over from the banned book window at the library.

For the groups that like to go a step further – In Cold Blood is a movie, as well as Capote (newer).  Either of these movies could add to your discussion on book and or author.

Bookies Thoughts: That Night by Chevy Stevens


For September, our group the Bookies read and discussed That Night by Chevy Stevens.  I had read this one and reviewed it in June.  For myself, I was already a fan of Chevy Stevens books, but I was excited to see the bookies try her.

Brief synopsis:  Toni, a senior at her school becomes a victim to bullying even at the hands of her younger sister.  Her parents, especially her mother believe that Toni is the trouble maker while her sister Nicki gets away with everything.  When Nicki is found dead, Toni is blamed in having killed her and is tried as an adult and sent to prison.  Years later, on probation she is out and back in her home town where nobody wants her there, but she has to figure out what really happened that night.


That Night, actually surprised me of how well it lent itself to great discussion.  While at first glance I would not have called this a great book club discussion book, after last night I believe I need to change my response to that.

That Night covers such topics as the criminal justice service, wrongful convictions, dirty cops, bullying, murder, family dynamics, and relationships.  Our group actually had a deep conversation around these topics.  Including today’s school system, how the rights have gone from the teachers tot he students and how their is no control unless the parents give permission – and usually they do not.

Why would book clubs enjoy this read:  Chevy Stevens is well worth putting on your book club or reading groups radar.  Her book Still Missing blew me away years ago and I still refer to it.  I can easily see her books becoming movies.  Book Clubs can find much to discuss within these pages as I mentioned above.

We did do a little food with our review… nothing themed – I could not get my head wrapped around this one for a good idea…. and there is not much food in the book itself:

PicMonkey Collage

The Book Exchange.. How It Works And Why It Is Awesome


The book club I am part of (The Bookies) have had a fun exchange that we have taken part in for the past three years.  I recently posted about it here.  It is a lot of fun and a great summer break idea for your book club or for you and your friends just to read really great books.

Here is the basic layout of how to do it.

  • Pick a date when you ask each person in your group to bring a wrapped book to the group.  (*we encourage brown wrap so people do not choose by the packaging ;) )
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY – The book everyone brings NEEDS to be a book the giver has read and liked very much if not LOVED.
  • Inside the front cover of the book place a post it note saying why you loved the book so much and if you want the receiver to keep it or return it after is read.


At your gathering you each choose a book and what you pick is what you read.  When you meet up again, you each share the book you read, who gave it to you and what you thought of it.  It is a lot of fun.




Our group does this every June so in July during our annual picnic, we share what we each read instead of a whole group book review like we do the rest of the year.


collage for BJ


This year some of the books that made this exchange were:


Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts

Burial Rights by Hannah Kent

Night by Elie Wiesel

Delicious by Ruth Reichl

Lethal by Sandra Brown  (this is the book I picked out of the pile)

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

City Of Bones by Cassandra Claire

That Night by Chevy Stevens


My favorite part of the whole process is to listen to what everyone thinks about the books.  As you can see above we had some pretty amazing books in the group and a couple really deep ones (Night and Boy In The Striped Pajamas – two books that I think everyone must read.  For the most part everyone really enjoyed the book they picked.  As readers, at least I know for myself… I love it when a freind recommends that next great read.

Morning Meanderings… The BOOK Exchange!


Good morning!

It is the morning of our Bookies Coronation.   SQUUUEEEEE!!!  I bought the dress on Saturday, I wrote my speech last night, giggling and texting my friend like a school girl about “How’s it going are you done?  Are you ready?”  with her texting back just as excited “just finishing up, now picking out my dress”

It will be great :)

Last month at book club, we had our Annual Book Exchange.  This practice started three years ago.  Each Bookie is supposed to wrap up in plain brown paper ( we are trying to avoid people picking the *pretty packaging*) a book that they have read in the past year that was a great read.  Obviously, not a Bookies Book Club pick.


We all randomly choose a book out of the pile and that will be the book we will each read and discuss in July (tonight) while we enjoy good food and conversation.  It is a fun tradition:


collage for BJ

I had missed Bookies last month as I was at camp but I still participated.  I sent a book into the mix – the center picture above, Delicious by Ruth Reichl (LOVED that one!) and then the group picked a book out for me.  So what did I have picked to read this past month?


I had Lethal by Sandra Brown.  This was a good one for me as I have tried Sandra Brown before and could not get through it.  She seems like an author I would enjoy, so this was a fun attempts again.  I finished it last night…. I will review the book later but for now I would describe it as very similar to the book Labor Day…. but a heck of a lot steamier.  ;)



Morning Meanderings… Preparing To Meet The Queen!



I know right?  As of today we are 6 days out from our annual Queen Event for book club.  6 DAYS!!!

If you are familiar with our book club “happenings”  every July since… (hmmm…. I should know this) well, for many years, we dress up in formal wear and have a coronation for Bookies Queen of the year.  It comes from the book Same Sweet Girls by Cassandra King. (Yes,worth the read!)

2013 Bookies Queen Event, Book Journey, Sheila DeChantal

Bookies Queen Event 2013

We usually grill, talk books, eat lots of tasty foods… and have a LOT OF FUN!  The competition is all in fun.  And the girls really get into their speeches…

Brendas dress

Brenda’s dress last year was partially made of book. MADE OF BOOK! Genius!



Queen Event 2012


and I think I mentioned delicious food…

2012 food



Queen Event 2011


2011 - OW!

2011 was also the year that I had sprung my wrist and broke my finger while riding in a 150 mile bike ride. But… the event must go on…. bling included ;)


Queen Event 2010

Alright… now I am getting into this… maybe I will save more for Saturday snapshot.  And I must prepare my speech…. I think I have an idea…


Book club people – do you do things above and beyond the books?  IE.  potlucks, dinners out, movies, road trips?  I would love to know :)

Moloka’i by Alan Brennert (Bookies Book Club Review)


Small synopsis: Hawaii in the late 1800’s was a beautiful place but a potentially frightening one as well.  With the outbreak of Leprosy everyone was on the look out for anyone who may have this contagious disease.  When little Rachel “Aouli” Kalama found a sore on the back of her leg that would not heal.  She is eventually taken away from her family to live in Kaulapapa, an are off the island of Moloka’i for those with Leprosy.  Here is where Rachel lives her life.



In May of 2014, 15 of the Bookies Book Club showed up for a review of Moloka’i.  We sampled Hawaiian culture foods and discussed this read of a time in Hawaii most of us were unfamiliar with. 

Using the questions provided int he back of the book, we discussed Leprosy compared to the AIDS scare if the 80’s, and what that must have felt like at the time to those who were in fear for their lives and the lives of their families.  As in Rachel’s case, being taken away from her family had to be devastating on both sides; and Rachel’s diagnosis put a huge label on her family and even though they did not have it themselves they were shunned by their community.

Rachel herself makes for a great protagonist.  Learning at a young age that she was pretty much on her own, she has a strong will, but also a sensible one.  While she may stretch the boarders, she does have a wonderful sense of right and wrong and it shows throughout the storyline.

The Bookies overall enjoyed the book.  A few found it a bit drug out, certainly not a fast read at almost 400 pages, but filled with deep historical facts that made for a good read.

PicMonkey Collage


What makes this a good book club read?

Moloka’i does make a good book group discussion due to it’s historical nature.  There is plenty to discuss around the subject of Leprosy and what we can compare that to today.  The characters of this book and how they respond to Rachel is also discussion-worthy.  Once you label a person, how does that change us?  

The questions in the back of the book are great for the discussion.  There is also a section in the back of more detailed facts behind the fiction that makes for interesting follow up.  A group could bring items of Hawaiian culture or information off the websites marked in the back pages to add to this discussion. 

The natural deepness of this read also makes you feel like you read something important.  Deeper reads deepen your book discussions.



Why Do Some Book Clubs THRIVE and Some Take a Dive?


Recently I was reading an article written by the Huff Post called True Life:  I am a Book Club Drop Out.  I am always drawn to topics on this as I am actually floored by how many times I head that a book club fails.  When I chat about our book club here on-line many of you share with me your desires to be part of a book club but can not find one, or you share a group that you were once in that just could not pull it together.  Through the years the main reasons I have heard for book club fail are:


  • Not committed to the read (the book is supposed to bring them together but they never read the book)
  • No one wants to take the lead and drive the conversation
  • The meetings become more of a social time and those that really want to talk about the book fade away
  • Too structured, no snacks, no extras, no fun
  • personality clashes, you can’t agree on how your time should be spent so the group implodes.
  • People who do not read the book, had no intention of reading the book, and month after month have nothing to contribute to the discussion.  (While one in your group may not be a deal breaker, a few of them could be)  *this is taken from a Barnes and Noble Article called why book clubs fail
  • Your book choices do not encourage discussion.  If you do not strive to pick books that will create conversation beyond “ooh the protagonist was cute!” (not that that is wrong ;) ), your book club will become b-o-r-i-n-g fast.
  • One person always chooses what is read so you never branch away from the one persons tastes.
  • The group is just not interesting enough for people to fit it into their already busy schedules of work, kids, family, commitments…
  • poor location – restaurants can become too loud to talk, home meetings require people willing to open up their home and have an environment that works for discussion
  • Not valuing each others opinions on the books.  You do not have to always agree, but you do need to respect each others thoughts.


Am I am expert on successful book clubs?

No.  I am simply someone who had an idea for a book club and the right people came along to support it.  I honestly believe it is our group as a whole that makes us successful.  We have had the bumps in the road…we are probably at one time or another guilty of everything I listed above.  The difference I believe, is that we adjusted and we moved on. 

It was not always easy.

I remember one particularly heated book club meeting from many years ago.  The book was My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Piccoult and the discussion became pretty hot at the end of the night about the decisions that were made in the book.  We had just went through a growth spurt in our group and I was still learning how to juggle the dynamics of a growing book club.  I remember leaving the meeting and calling one of my friends who was also in the book club but was unable to make it that night.  “I think we may have just discussed the book that killed book club” I said to her, and I was worried that it was true.

Since then we have had similar discussions over a read where someone may get emotional but the cool thing is, we have learned to grow together and appreciate each others thoughts and opinions more.  It’s actually a beautiful thing to watch a group discuss a book openly without fear of retaliation or disapproval and some our deep discussions are my favorite memories of book club.


So lets discuss what makes a book club THRIVE.  I do have friends on-line and off who are in book clubs and when I hear how they do their groups, I am thrilled to see that they have a plan that can succeed.  Here are some thoughts on successful book clubs:

  • Have someone in charge of sending out email/Facebook communications to your group regarding the book, the time, the place…   these reminders are great!
  • If your group is on Facebook – create a group page.  This way you can send out reminders as well as discuss bookish things.  This is a great way to continue a discussion after a meeting and those that were unable to attend can chime in.
  • Don’t make it a lot of work for people to attend.  If you do food and drinks keep it simple and rotate the people who bring something.  Don’t give “home work” unless it is optional.  If you think it would be fun to dress the decade of the read, put it out there and those who wish to… do it. :)
  • Someone needs to lead the discussion.  This can be the same person every time, or it can switch off each time you meet up but someone needs to bring discussion questions or topics and direction to your meeting. 
  • Everyone should have a chance to suggest a book or a turn at choosing a book.  However you make that happen.  We vote each month on suggestions that members bring to the meeting, other groups rotate who hosts and decides.  Whatever works for your group.
  • Ask the hard questions.  Books bring up topics that are sometimes hard to discuss… for our group, this has led to some of our best discussions.  Bring up the questions, if no one shares, move on… but give people an opportunity to share something about how they feel about what they read. 
  • Do not be afraid to rabbit trail.  Books can open up personal stories and that is good.  Sometimes I love to just sit back and watch the conversation flow around the book.  I have learned so much about those in group when they share how they connect with a book.
  • Don’t go too long!  A good discussion from start to finish is around the 1 1/2 to two-hour mark.  Value people time and know that some may need to work in the morning or still do things when they get home.  Our group is currently around that two hour mark and that includes time to eat and chat with each other.
  • Pick a size that works for your group.  (We learned this the hard way.)  Agree as a group how many members you will grow to (if you decide to accept new members along the way).  This eliminates awkward discussions when you accept one persons cousin into the group but three months later turn down a members sister due to your group becoming too big.  If you settle on a number, everyone will know where you are at.
  • Its fun to encourage the little extras – looking up author info, having an author SKYPE, eating foods that surround the books culture or foods that are in the book, dressing up, going to a movie that was based on a book you read, occasionally attending a bookish event together that is in the area.

  • If you are the discussion leader, think of something extra to add to your discussion – perhaps pictures of the time period, or try a new recipe that was mentioned in the book, artifacts, culture….


One thing that seems to be true, as the article mentioned, we want to be social.  We want to bring our friends and hobbies into the same space. 


I would love your thoughts on this topic, please add your thoughts on hits and misses for book clubs.  How do you feel a good book club sustains life?

Ladies Night by Mary Kay Andrews


Grace Stanton is living the life.  With her life style blog bringing in thousands of views a day and advertisers lining up to be a part of it, as well as a super hot husband… well, what more could she want?

Then one evening she catches that sweet husband with her so-called trusted assistant and the next thing you know Grace has driven his sports car into the pool.  Seeking sanctuary at her mother’s house while she clears her head, Grace learns that hell hath no fury does not only apply to women….

Suddenly Grace finds her bank accounts closed, and her blog passwords changed.  As Grace’s husbands name is on everything, he is shutting her life down one gold card at a time and now Grace is left with the clothes on her back and the change in her pocket.

Forced by the divorce judge to attend mandatory “divorce recovery” sessions weekly, Grace finds herself among a group of disgruntled women… surprisingly all sent to this same quirky divorce recovery by the same judge… something does not seem to be on the up and up. As the women in this group start to bond they find they have a lot in common and “Ladies Night” comes out of the ashes of their messy messed up lives and something new begins to grow…

is it hope?



 I so enjoyed this read!  Light and funny, Grace is a woman who has been wronged.  As a blogger myself… I can only imagine what it would be like to lose my rights to my own site…. grrrr :razz: 

Mary Kay Andrews writes Grace as a strong female character who gets knocked down, but finds her way back up.  In a fun fast paced read that will have you laughing and cheering, Ladies Night is Women’s Chick Lit at its finest.  Grab a glass of wine and pull up a chair!

Bookies Thoughts:

The Bookies reviewed this book for our November read.  We had a lot of fun setting up our food and drinks as the “Sandbox”, the name of Grace’s moms bar.  For the most part, the girls really enjoyed the book giving it an above average score overall. 



I made the corn crab chowder they described in the book



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