our book club reads happy books!

It’s Sadie Hawkins’ Day!

Also known as Leap Day. Do people still call it Sadie Hawkins Day, after the “Lil Abner” cartoon character? In “Lil Abner” all the eligible bachelors ran away from Sadie and the one she caught became her husband. So popular legend says this is the day a woman can ask a man to marry her. Kind of a “Ladies’ Choice” dance of a lifetime!

In leap year, we get an extra day in the calender a bonus day. I think if it was truly an extra, we would get to do anything we want to with it. How often do we ask the question “this is extra, what should I do with it?” My answer wouldn’t be work, or clean, or cook. I wouldn’t even  ask a man to marry me.  I would sit at home all day and read a book, of course!

What do you think would make great Sadie Hawkins’ Day Reading?

“Gone With the Wind” immediately comes to mind. I had a slight obsession with this novel (and movie) when I was a teenager, but I haven’t read it in decades. And Scarlett O’Hara is certainly a girl who knows how to go after what she wants! A little long to read in one day though.

A book I have a slight obsession with as an adult is “The Time Traveller’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger. The first time Henry met Clare she knew she would marry him, but he didn’t. How did she know? Because Henry told her! Intrigued? Well, as the title suggests time travel is involved. I would never have read this book if my sister hadn’t highly recommended it to me. It sounded too science-fictiony to me (which I guess technically it is). I find people love or hate this book, but for me, it speaks beautifully of the nature of love, marriage, and longing. A word of warning: it most definitely doesn’t pass the “happy book club” test. I cry my eyes out every time!

How about “Little Women”? Only this time Jo will say to Laurie: “You know you love me better than that spoiled b****, Amy! Marry me instead!”. Isn’t that what we all want every time we read it? But wait, isn’t that what  Scarlett said to Ashley in “Gone with the Wind”? It didn’t  work out incredibly well for her. Oh well, I guess Louisa May Alcott knew what she was doing. I keep re-reading it, hoping for a different outcome, and loving it all the same.

What about you, if you had an extra day to sit and re-read a favorite book, what would it be?


“Make new friends, but keep the old…”

“the one is silver, and the other, gold”. I guess this classic Girl Scout song sums up the theme of “MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend” by Rachel Bertsche.

I recently read a review of this book and I did cringe a little bit. Another one of those books where someone decides to do something (cook, be happy, be Oprah, be spiritual) for a year, and then write a book about it. It’s a trend  I have mixed feeling about it – like everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon. But here’s the thing – I kind of like them. Call them a guilty pleasure.

When I read the review the subject matter intrigued me, but I resolved to just say no. However, browsing the digital catalog for an e-book to read I saw it was available, and quickly downloaded it. I have the same problem with M&Ms – I can’t say no.

Rachel is recently married and new to the city of Chicago. While not completely without family and acquaintances, she misses her BFF’s and wants a close friendship in Chicago. The book chronicles her resolution to go on 52 “girl dates” over the next year.

The books addresses a subject I have often thought about. They say the most common fear people have is speaking in public, but this must be pretty high on the list. How many people have the guts to go up to a relative stranger and ask if they want to be friends? (OK, she rarely did precisely that, but she did put herself out there in some awkward situations.) To me this takes much more bravery than cooking French cuisine (Although you have to be pretty brave to eat some of that food from Julia Child’s cook book!)

My take away from the book is that most people are receptive when you make an effort. And continue to make that effort with your oldest friends – they ARE gold.

Has the book changed my life? No, but it did make me think. Within days of finishing the book I had 2 experiences that I could say were influenced by the book.

I had been contemplating  for a while the etiquette of “friending” my daughter’s future mother-in-law. The bridal etiquette books don’t address this question yet! But now, I figured what the heck, go for it. She accepted in 5 minutes.

At work the other day I was talking about business matters with a woman that uses the library for a monthly sewing guild meeting. Instead of sticking to business, I mentioned my interest in sewing and got an immediate invitation to join the group.

So I’ll give this book I thumbs up – it’s a reminder for me that most people are nice, and it pays to make an effort, with both old and new friends.

Maybe they need to start Girl Scout troops for middle-aged women!



A Night at the Beach

Our Book club book this month was “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim” by David Sedaris. And yes, most of us  dressed in corduroy or denim, with some knit wear thrown in (my code name for sweat pants!).

Beth’s delicious refreshments were  on a table that displayed a lovely beach scene complete with sea shells, miniature beach chair and flip-flops. So cute! An homage to the story entitled “The Ship Shape”, in which the Sedaris children’s dreams of a beach house are dashed. Most found this story  sad, but we all agreed that all’s well that ends with a house in the south of France!

Although I did not express it that night, I did not find this story as heartbreaking as others found it. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I feel like the dreaming about,and anticipating of, something are sometimes the most enjoyable aspects of attaining things. Maybe the Sedaris beach house would not have been all sun and sand – maybe it would have  included renting it out to help pay the mortgage and that would have been more like the real life experience depicted in “Slumus Lordicus”.

Maybe because in my childhood a week at the beach seemed like a luxury forever out of my reach. The only time I really remember spending a week at the beach with my family was one time when we went camping (yes, in a tent!) at the Jersey shore. My most vivid memories are sleeping (or not really!) on a cot with sun poisoning on my back and shoulders. Not fun!

I often tell stories about my childhood at book club about hand me down clothes, and vacations with 11 people in 1 (large) tent, and 22 people in a VW bus and  I wonder what it sounds like from the outside. Does it sound heartbreaking and impoverished? Because my memories never feel like that. They feel very happy and very lucky. We were probably what some people consider poor, but I never did. We were never hungry, my parents owned a home and a car. We always had clothes to wear (so OK, maybe they weren’t the clothes we wanted!) And I remember a lot of fun and laughter. As hard as it is to believe looking back, whenever we were in that VW together, we all sang songs! Yes, we thought we were the von Trapps, or the Partridges- or at the very least – the Cowsills! And every Christmas Eve we would put on a show! Could we get any more geeky or wholesome than that?

Of course, there were also fights and bad times occasionally, but I am happy to say all 11 of us still talk to each other. I know how lucky I am.

But this past year, for the first time in my life, I find myself yearning for a beach house too. My daughter’s future in-laws   have a beach house and I feel like I’ve lost a tiny battle. In the competition for where to spend the holidays, most of the time the beach house will win.  Some people try  to tell me that not everything in life is a competition, but growing up with 8 brothers and sisters, I know better!


Books that Make My Eyes Itch

Well, I finished “Mockinjay”, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Here’s another author who belongs in my category: ” I know I’m wrong ’cause millions of other people can’t be, but I just don’t get this author”. Also in this category: James Patterson, Stephenie Meyer, J.D. Robb, Jodi Picoult and yes, even for a while, J.K Rowling. I know. You don’t have to tell me I’m wrong, that’s why I made up that category. I finally made my peace with Harry Potter shortly before the last movie came out. I read all the books through consecutively  without any large time gaps in between. I liked them OK and can see the appeal, but I’ll never feel the need to dress up in a wizard costume. It did allow me to enjoy the final movie experience though.

Why bother with these authors you ask? It all started 7 years ago when I began working at the library. I had never even heard of James Patterson, but his were easily the most checked out books  in the library and had the longest hold lists.  What else was there to think? He must be amazing! I’ve got to read his books. Boy was I shocked. All those sweet old ladies? Young mothers? Polite & normal people of all ages?Yup, they were reading about people being hacked up with machetes, and serial killers. It gave me a whole new perspective on the world, and it kind of creeped me out. I didn’t stop at one either, because I figured he was so popular I had just read the wrong book. I read several before I gave up. Same goes for J.D. Robb (soft porn with a boring mystery every time). Jodi Picoult I have a frustrating relationship with. Her books suck me in, but then she adds every conceivable (and inconceivable) complication and sticks on a preposterous ending. I’m always disappointed. I know! I’m wrong! Everyone else loves her – what’s wrong with me?

My other name for this category is “books that make my eyes itch”, because that’s what happens when I read them. My eyes are telling me “stop reading this crap” and for the most part, I have. (Not to say I don’t read crap, I do. I just don’t read crap I don’t like anymore!)

How about you? Do you have authors that make your eyes itch?


“Hunger Games”

I started reading “Mockinjay” by Suzanne Collins yesterday. It’s the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. It’s a very popular young adult series, which I swore I would never read because of the extreme dislike of young adult fiction I developed after reading the” Twilight” series. (more about what finally persuaded me to read “The Hunger Games” later).

Have you read or are your planning to read this series? A word of warning, this may (or may not) contain spoilers!

“The Hunger Games” is a dystopian novel that pits children against each other to fight to the death. Ewww! Another reason I didn’t want to read it. But  it was an interesting story, and I really liked the heroine Katniss. She seemed like a very strong and independent character. She was certainly no Bella, ready to destroy herself for some “man”! However, as I continued reading I got a little concerned that they were setting up the heroine as torn between two boys. Was it going to be “Twilight” all over again, with “Team Gale” and “Team Peeta”? It did feel a little different to me though. It entered my mind that the story did remind me of something else – the Star Wars love triangle: Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Luke. So I became convinced that Gale was actually Katniss’ brother.

“Catching Fire” was a major disappointment! I felt like it was just a repeat of the first book. However, tt did nothing to convince me that my “Star Wars” theory wasn’t right though. There were clues everywhere!

I had to take a break before I read “Mockinjay”. I was assured that it was better than “Catching Fire”, but I was just too annoyed to read any more about the Hunger Games for a while. So now I am finally getting around to finishing the trilogy, mainly to see if my theory is right.

So you ask, why did you bother reading this trilogy that you really had no interest in? The answer is I heard that the actress Jennifer Lawrence was cast in the movie. I had seen her in the movie “Winter’s Bone” and thought she was amazing. After reading “The Hunger Games” I can see why Lawrence was cast in the role. I do see a lot of the character of Ree Dolly (Lawrence character in “Winter’s Bone”) in Katniss Everdeen. They are both tough, independent teenagers struggling to help their families survive. And she is an actress that can really take a punch!

By the way, if you enjoy movies with relentless poverty, violence, and hopelessness, “Winter’s Bone” is the movie for you! Seriously, it is a good, but definitely not a feel good movie. And just as a side note, “The Hunger Games” has way more violence and death in it then “Winter’s Bone”. (Which is based on a novel by Daniel Woodrell).

The Hunger Games movie comes out March 23rd, and I’m looking forward to seeing it. How about you? Have you read the books? If you have, how did you like them? Just please don’t tell me my Star Wars theory is wrong – I may lose the will to finish!

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