Welcome to Storie delle Sorelle

Welcome to the blog for SdelleS. To learn more about our book club check out my first blog entry or read about our members. Or check out our ReadingGroupGuides.com interview here! Using the links to the right, you can browse the books we've read and rated or visit some of my favorite sites for book clubs on the web. How about some questions to consider as you read a book? This site is meant to provide a wealth of information for all readers so I hope you enjoy your visit! Please post a comment or contact me with any questions or thoughts. :)

Wednesday, October 24

Who We Are

There are 20 ladies on the SdelleS mailing list but only half of them are active members. Here is a bit about each of us, starting with the original members [at least, those who gave me info to add!].

Heather - Book Club Founder and unofficial leader ... I started this club back in the summer of '05 because I am a reading addict and am always looking for people to discuss my books with me. I love to learn (and to teach) so researching authors, themes, etc. is a perfect fit for me. My favorite thing about SdelleS is our discussion time ... you know, those great discussions where everyone has an opinion and a strong desire to share it. That doesn't happen with every book, but when it does, I'm in my glory! A little about me ... I've been married since '98 and have a son who was born in '02. My favorite things to read are historical fiction, true stories and the sci-fi/fantasy of Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Orson Scott Card, Frank Herbert, JRR Tolkien and the Dungeons and Dragons series. In addition to reading, I'm an avid scrapbooker and family historian.

Kara - original club member, Heather's college friend

Carrie - original club member, Heather's childhood friend

Nicole - original club member, Heather's sister

Steph - original club member, sister to Kara ... I joined SdelleS for some self-care time, girl time, and because I love to read (well, usually). My favorite thing about book club is that is gives me time with family & friends & always good food. A little about me ... I am a fun-loving thrill seeker but have a busy schedule. So books are a way for me to get a quick thrill when I can't jet off to another state or country for a reality thrill (like volcanoes and scuba diving...). It is also time for me to just be me, to take off the hat of being a professional and wear the hat of being a fun-loving, spiritual woman with my family and friends.

Bev - member since 2005, Kara & Steph's mom

Nancy - member since 2006, Bev's friend ... I joined SdelleS for the love of reading, conversation and friendship. My favorite thing about the club is that we are a diverse group of women who bring an array of experience and personality. Each has a story and we are sisters in heart, hence our chosen book club name! Our meetings are serious, yet FUN and always interesting. The themed meals make the meetings enjoyable to plan. A little about me ... I am a 51 year young woman, Fancy Nancy is my name. My interests include knitting, stamping, party planning, cooking, gardening, shopping (treasure hunting and bargain shopping), spending time with family, traveling and helping others. I love anything that sparkles and yes, I admit, I read Martha Stewart Magazine and follow her show. Cannot help it, she does have great ideas!

Annette - member since 2006, Heather & Nicole's mom

Amber - member since 2006, Heather & Nicole's friend

Anna - member since 2006, Carrie's friend ... I would often read books and not finish them, so I hoped that being in a book club would give me the extra nudge to finish books. My favorite things about the club are meeting some pretty amazing women and all the great FOOD and laughs we share. Hmm, not sure what to tell you about me. The great thing about our book club is we get to know each other and share a lot of ourselves and our lives with each other. Some things that may surprise everyone about me:
1. I took Opera lessons (I love to sing, but not opera)
2. I love taking language classes, most recently I took Russian
3. I wish I could be a professional dancer (not with a pole)... ha ha ha...
4. My passion is to have enough money to oversee an Orphanage and guarantee that every child will receive the BEST care and feel loved until a family adopts them. Thus the reason I selected Russian as my recent language class (they have the most horrible Orphanages in Russia and the government has restricted help for decades).

Joan - member since 2007, invited by Heather

Jessica - member since 2007, started attending in 2008, invited by Carrie

- member since 2007, started attending in 2008, invited by Carrie

Monday, October 22

Questions to Ponder as You Read a Book

While reading through the 3rd edition of The Book Group Book I came across a list of questions used by a very large and very formal book discussion group in San Antonio, Texas. I've modified that list slightly and am posting here. These questions are not necessarily things we would discuss at our meetings but they will help you to look at any book with the eye of a literary critic. Taking the time to consider these questions as you read will give you more insight into the book and likely provoke deeper discussion at our meetings. Enjoy!

Questions to Help Analyze Literary Style

1. Is there anything strikingly different about the author’s style?
2. Does the author use figures of speech?
3. Is there much wit or humor? Pathos?
4. Is there anything unusual about the author’s method of description?
5. Is there much dialogue? Is it natural? What is its purpose?
6. Do you feel the author is a close observer of life? Is the author sensitive to life?
7. Does the author ever moralize or seem didactic?
8. Is the author particularly interested in moral problems? Social problems?
9. Does the author succeed in evoking an emotional response from the reader?

10. What are the themes? Are they universal or shallow?
11. Is the title related to the theme? Is it appropriate? Effective?
12. Is the setting essential to the story (i.e. are the particular times and places especially important)?

13. Is an unusual amount of space devoted to establishing the setting? Is so, what seems to be the reason?
14. Are the descriptions important either in establishing mood or atmosphere?
15. Is nature unused to increase the effect of a scene?
16. Are there many changes of scene? Why or why not?

17. Can the character development of the protagonist be readily traced? How and why did she or he change?
18. What use is made of minor characters?
19. Could any characters have been omitted? If so, why has the author included them?
20. What are the author’s methods of character portrayal?
21. Who are the ‘essentially evil’ characters? Do they have any redeeming qualities?
22. Who are the ‘essentially good’ characters? Do they have any detracting qualities?
23. Do the characters seem more important than the action? Is what they are more important than what they do?

24. What is the basic conflict of the plot?
25. How is the exposition handled?
26. How is suspense created and maintained?
27. Is each chapter a unit? How does it begin? End? What keeps it going?
28. Is the hand of the author apparent in the plot or is what happens the natural outgrowth of the circumstances, the character, and their interactions?
29. Is there foreshadowing? Is it signposted by the author?
30. What is the method of narration (chronological, flashback, diary, letters, parallel events, etc.)?
31. Are there episodes, incidents, or chapters that might have been omitted as far as the plot is concerned? If so, why did the author include them?
32. What makes the first scene a fitting beginning? Or is it?
33. What makes the last scene a fitting (or unfitting) ending?
34. Is the basic conflict of the plot completely and logically resolved?

35. What do you learn or assume to be the author’s sense of morals or moral values?
36. Is there close integration of plot, character, setting and theme?
37. What have you learned that will help you to “live more finely”?

For those of us who have been out of school for a while, here are some helpful definitions:

Didactic designed or intended to teach OR making moral observations

Exposition a setting forth of the meaning or purpose of a literary work

Figure of speech a form of expression (as a simile or metaphor) used to convey meaning or heighten effect often by comparing or identifying one thing with another that has a meaning or connotation familiar to the reader or listener

Narration to tell (as a story) in detail

Pathos an element in a literary work evoking pity or compassion

Protagonist the principal character in a literary work

Setting the time and place of the action of a literary, dramatic, or cinematic work

Signposted to provide with guides in a literary work

Style a distinctive manner of expression

Theme a subject or topic of discourse in a literary work

Wednesday, October 10

Celebrate Banned Books Week

The American Library Association sponsors "Banned Books Week" every year. This year it ran from Sept. 29-Oct. 6. Seeing as we had our meeting for Life of Pi during that time, I brought a list of the top 100 banned/challenged books for each member. We talked a bit about our freedom to read in this country, but we didn't spend a lot of time on it.

Here are a few of the more famous books that have been banned in some part of the world:
  • Animal Farm
  • Black Beauty
  • The Age of Reason
  • The Call of the Wild
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • The Manchurian Candidate
  • Ninteen Eighty-Four
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin

And these books have been challenged but not banned:

  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
  • Bridge to Terabithia
  • Of Mice and Men
  • Native Son
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Huckleberry Finn & Tom Sawyer
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • The Color Purple
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

Our current book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, is an excellent example of what can happen in countries where people are not free to read what they choose. So please remember how lucky we are to live in a nation that gives us such freedom, and take advantage of your freedom to read.

For more info on the ALA's Banned Books Week, visit their website.

Tuesday, October 9

Baltimore Book Festival Report

The Baltimore Book Festival was Sept. 28-30 and our book club was the winner of the Book Club Connection drawing! We won the following:

  • 6 passes for Free parking passes
  • 6 Exhibitor Hospitality Credentials to receive free snacks and beverages
  • 12 Front row Seats for Author appearances of your choice
  • 15 Festival Beer Tickets
  • 3 Bottles of wine
  • 60 Food Dollars

Most of our members had prior commitments and could not attend, but some of us made it. The weather was absolutely perfect for the Festival. Annette and Nicole (and families) attended on Friday and Saturday. They got to see two cookbook authors, Andrew Schloss, author of Mastering the Grill, and Earl "Bubba" Hiers of Uncle Bubba's Savannah Seafood (he's the brother of Paula Deen from Food Network). Plus they were able to browse the author tents, book sellers and food stalls.

My husband and I attended on Sunday. We got to see Martha Raddatz (more about her below), Stephen Hunter (author of The 47th Samurai), a crabologist from Phillip's Seafood (more about that below) and Cat Cora (of Iron Chef fame).

We were very impressed with Martha Raddatz. She is a correspondent for ABC and author of The Long Road Home: A Story of War and Family. She spoke about her new book which chronicles one battle in Iraq in 2001. It is a chronological account of the battle as well as the daily lives of the soldiers' families back home. She is an excellent speaker and had a great deal of information to share. As with any discussion of Iraq, there were several smart-a** comments from people during the Q&A session, but there were good questions as well. I was sad to see that my husband and I were by far the youngest people there to see this author. Most of those in attendance were 60 and up. It just goes to show the apathy of most of our generation.

My husband was chosen to be an assistant during the crab demo by Phillip's Seafood. He learned how to make crab cakes like a pro, and received a huge bag of Phillip's products - and two books - as a thank you. After that we watched Cat Cora's demo. She was entertaining and worked well under pressure ... especially when there was no butter or oil olive for her to cook her shrimp with! We met her afterword and had her autograph her cook book for us and even took pictures with her.

On the whole it was a very enjoyable day, and I'm looking forward to attending next year! Keep up to date with this annual event by checking out their website.

Life of Pi

Since the start of book club, Kara has been wanting to read Yann Martel's Life of Pi and she finally got her wish. We discussed this unusual book over appetizers and margaritas at Chevy's [a Mexican restaurant] in October. Some of the main topics of discussion were:
  • the vivid and sometimes disturbing descriptions of cruelty to zoo animals and the scene with the hyena eating the zebra alive
  • the humorous look at religion and the "truth" behind Pi's unusual religious beliefs
  • we did not agree with Pi's statement that the story makes people believe in God
  • the idea that all Pi's life experiences prepared him to survive on the boat - we admired the author's skill in weaving in seemingly insignificant bits of info from Pi's life at the zoo into his survival later on
  • the idea of truth at the end of the book, how it's sometimes more difficult to believe things that we don't like, and the malleability of truth
At the end most of us decided that we liked the first story but a few decided to believe the second story. We had an excellent discussion about this book, although there were a few things I'd like to add.

First, the author was almost sued for plagiarism for allegedly copying his idea from the book Max and the Cats (by Moacyr Scliar). After the two authors spoke to each other, the charges were dropped. So I decided to read Scliar's book for myself to see if they are similar at all. I must say, it was a bit hard to find, but I did get a copy. It's a VERY short book and an easy read. On the whole, the book isn't that great. It has an interesting story but the characters are pretty shallow because of the brevity of the book and it has a rather odd ending. The middle section finds the protagonist, Max, stranded aboard a lifeboat with a Jaguar for a while. That is the extent of the similarities between this book and Life of Pi.

Second, during our meeting Steph expressed absolute horror at the description of the way that the hyena took days to devour the zebra, who was basically eaten alive. I brushed off this section as not particularly disturbing, saying that the descriptions of what people did to some of the animals at the zoo bothered me much more. Steph was shocked at this. She had a really hard time reading the hyena/zebra section and was extremely bothered that I was NOT bothered by this. We didn't really get a chance to finish this part of the discussion so I want to revisit it here. Yes, I found this section disturbing to read, but only because I don't like imagining animals and people in pain. However, I also realize that situations like this happen often in the wild. Predators rarely kill their prey before they start to eat them; as long at the prey is incapacitated and not able to get away, the predator will start to eat. So because I know this, I skimmed through the hyena/zebra scene without much thought. However, I did NOT realize all the incredibly cruel things that people do to zoo animals, and I expect much more from people in the way of good behavior than I do from animals. I found it horrifying to read about the pain people inflict merely for their own enjoyment. So Steph, I hope that clarifies my statement for you. :)

Seven people attended the meeting, including our newest member, Joan. Six of us read the book and rated as follows: 5x2, 7x2 and 8x2. The official rating was: 6.7.

Charming Billy

For her pick, Carrie suggested Charming Billy, by Alice McDermot. A combination of poor weather, busy schedules and illnesses kept most people from attending the meeting at Annette's house. Even Carrie couldn't make it, but she did call in and participate by phone. [This is not the first time someone has done this ... I called in from vacation once, and Carrie did the same when she was really sick.] We were supposed to have a pool party but it was too cold and damp to swim.

The discussion was pretty sparse as only 3 of the 5 people in attendance actually read any of the book. The few points raised were:
  • the narration was often hard to follow
  • what are the reasons/excuses for alcoholism?
  • how would you describe this book to someone else?
The general consensus was that this was not a very good book. Carrie, who is a fan of McDermot's other works, didn't really care for this one.

As I read this book, I did enjoy it somewhat. It wasn't the best book ever, but parts were interesting. However when I finished it and tried to explain it to someone else, I realized that I couldn't really do it. The more I thought about it, the more that bothered me. By the time I made it to the meeting I had decided to dislike this book because of that.

Five people submitted ratings for this book: 1x2, 3x2 and 8. The official rating was: 3.2.

The Alchemist

In July we had our 2nd annual SdelleS pool party at Nancy's house to discuss Anna's book pick, The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho. We had a lovely discussion while floating around in the pool and drinking wine.

The major points raised included:
  • having dreams and working toward them is important
  • your goals/destiny change at different points in your life
  • in many cases, the journey is much more important than the goal, and without the journey the goal would be almost meaningless

Most of us liked the book but some were quickly bored with it. The audio version got high recommendations because Jeremy Irons is the narrator and he did an excellent job.

Twelve people attended the meeting (our largest gathering ever) but only 7 completed the book. They gave the following ratings: 5, 7x2, 8x8, 9 and 10. The official rating was: 7.7.

Pride and Prejudice

Nicole brought us back to the classics with Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice. Some of us had read this back in school and some had seen the various movie versions over the years.

I couldn't make it to the meeting so I sent my notes on ahead. I don't know what they ACTUALLY discussed, but some of my topics included:

  • the use of the word condensation, and how it has a different feel today
  • the character of Mr. Bennett - admirable or faulty?
  • the reality of the class structure, and marriage as it relates to that
  • does the book critique Austen's world or merely accept it as it is?
  • the importance of a person's reputation as it relates to family and class

Personally I love this book. I think the humor is wonderful and the writing style pleasant and easy to follow. Since I had read this twice before, I opted for the audio version this time. I highly suggest it as it makes the humor come alive.

Eight people attended this meeting, and there were 9 ratings including mine: 4, 5x3, 7, 8, 9 and 10x2. The official rating was: 7.0.

Mary, Mary

A new member of the group, Kathy, chose Mary, Mary by James Patterson. We had never done a mystery novel for book club so this was definitely a stray from the norm for us. Unfortunately it was not a good stray. We agreed that the book was entertaining but also that mysteries in general don't make for good meeting conversation. Our discussion went something like this: Did you figure out whodunit? Did you believe the story? Ok, end of discussion.

So we probably won't do another mystery again! The seven of us gave the following ratings: 3x3, 4, 5, 8 and 9. The official rating was: 5.0.

The Wedding

Steph chose our next book, The Wedding, by Nicholas Sparks. This was an easy read, something the girls were grateful for after our last book! We had a lovely time discussing this heartwarming novel. Our final decision was that every man should read this book but that no one ever would.

Six of us rated this book: 6, 8, 9x2 and 10x2, with the official rating coming to: 8.7.

The Mists of Avalon

When it was my turn to choose a book, I quickly came up with Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. This is one of my all-time favorite books ... and I knew the girls would never read it on their own! The book is about 800 pages long so we took two months to read it., finishing in January 2007.

Some main topics of discussion were:
  • the author's personal beliefs about religion and how they influenced the book
  • the difference between this story and the standard King Arthur tale
  • the conflict between doing your duty, doing what is right and doing what you want to do - which characters did we admire?
  • English history in general and the druidic culture specifically
Nancy found it useful to print a list of characters and use this to help her keep things straight as she read. And Bev made an interesting observation. She had never read anything about the tribal people of England, or the small kingdoms that used to exist. She said that reading this book actually helped her to understand her Bible reading better. The Old Testament refers to all sorts of kingdoms and this didn't click with her until she read about the same type of thing in this book. Wow - you never know WHAT you might learn from a book! :)

I was very proud of the girls for making it through this long (and to some, very hard) book. Seven of us participated in the discussion and we voted as follows: 2, 6, 8, 9x2 and 10x2. The official rating was 7.7. I was pretty impressed - I thought they were really going to hate it!

Christmas Book Exchange

At our Christmas party we began our discussion of Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon. However most of us had not finished the book so we decided to give another month to complete it. So we skipped ahead to the book exchange part of the evening. Each girl brought a wrapped book and we took turns opening them and stealing from each other. In the end, here's who ended up with what (sorry, I don't have all the authors):

Nancy: The Polished Hoe, by Austin Clarke
Bev: The Kite Runner, by Kaled Hosseini
Heather: The Sunday Wife, by Cassandra King
Steph: PS I Love You
Nicole: 12 Red Herrings
Kara: The Mermaid Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd
Anna: Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
Annette: 2 books - Joshua, and The Pilot's Wife

It's Book Report Time!

As the 2006 holiday season approached, our members were feeling a little overwhelmed. Reading time was getting scarce but no one wanted to skip a monthly meeting. So we came up with a new plan - Book Reports!

For our November selection, each person chose the book she wanted to read then presented the basic plot and her opinions on it at the meeting. We had a lot of fun with this! Here's a list of who read what and the rating she gave it:

Nancy: Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold (8)
Bev: Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold (7)
(no, they didn't know they read the same book!)
Steph: A Child Called It, by David Pelzer (8) & The Wedding, by Nicholas Sparks (10)
Kara: Me & Emma, by Elizabeth Flock (9)
Nicole: Songbird, by Walter Zaccharias (7)
Lenore: The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards (7)
Annette: Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt (9) - audio version
Heather: The Red Tent, by Anna Diamant (8) & A Venetian Affair, by Andrea de Robilant (4) - audio version

Monday, October 8

2006: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brookly, by Betty White - This was the final book that we completed in 2006. Bev chose this one, with lots of support from the rest of the group. It seems that this book was one that each of us had always wanted to read.

I don't remember much of the discussion (this was before we started taking notes), but I do know that everyone enjoyed the book. It was especially interesting to me because my grandfather grew up in Brooklyn and my mother was raised there as well. Plus my grandmother was from Ireland so that was another tie-in to the book for me.

My opinion? This is a very well written, interesting story, one that everyone should read. Through the character of Francie we see poverty, love, independence, childhood, adolescence ... and we love her for it.

The 5 participants in this discussion gave these ratings: 8x2, 8.5, 9 and 10. The official rating was 8.7.

2006: Memoirs of a Geisha

Annette (my mom) picked Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden, and it led to one of the best meetings we've ever had. This book lends itself to a themed dinner, and we went all out! Annette decorated the house with Japanese umbrellas and other treasures. Everyone came dressed in Japanese-inspired garb. We ate sushi, edamame, potstickers, and lots of other Asian food including some kind of strange, gooey dessert. After the meal and discussion, Annette's husband Hugh (my dad) brought out an authentic samurai sword. His father, Gorman, was stationed in Okinawa after WWII, and Hugh grew up there. The sword was a gift to Gorman from a Japanese friend, who said it had been in his family for generations. Needless to say, the clothing, food and artifacts made for an extra-special evening!

And now, about the book! We thought the book was well written and captivating. We also found it interesting to learn that the woman Golden based his book on ended up suing him after it was published. She provided him with information to write the book on the condition that she be left anonymous. However when he published the book it included a dedication thanking her by name.

Several of us got together to watch the movie a few weeks later. We agreed that it was an excellent adaptation and well worth watching.

There were 6 of us at this book club meeting, and everyone loved the book. Ratings included one 9 and five 10s! That made the official rating 9.8.

2006: The Da Vinci Code

No one seems to remember who chose this book to read. Or maybe no one wants to admit it in retrospect! I don't recall much of our discussion, but I do remember a few things:
  • many of the girls were not familiar with the history of the Catholic Church, so they didn't know what to believe about certain parts of the story
  • many believed much of the book was fact
  • some absolutely hated it

As you know, I always have an opinion, so here's what I thought: It was poorly written, inaccurate and irritating. Why, you ask?

  • If you read Dan Brown's intro to the book, he states that it is a work of fiction, but that all descriptions of artwork, etc. etc. are accurate ... but if that's true, then the premise of his book must also be true, and what he's really saying is that his characters are fictitious but everything else is really true.
  • Even the things he claims are accurate - like the # of windows in the Louve - are wrong. Why didn't he do some basic fact checking before publishing?
  • I enjoy a good mystery. A good mystery is one that keeps you guessing, making you turn every page hoping for a clue, rushing to get to the end of the book to find out the answer, but at the same time wishing it would go on forever because it's such a joy to read. This book certainly made me want to turn the page to find the solution, but with the feeling of "Oh please, can you get to the point? Oh no, not ANOTHER interruption! When will this ever end?!" It seemed like every time he was about to reveal the "truth", someone busted in to the room, or the main characters had to run out of the room, or something equally as irritating.

I think this would have been a much better book if Brown left out his introduction, and dropped a few of the interruptions. Our ratings were all over the place for this book: 1, 4, 6.5, 7, 8x2, 9 and 10x2. There were 9 voters, which means that the official rating was: 7.1.

2006: What Our Mother's Didn't Tell Us

This book is a look at the modern woman and the feminist movement's effect on her. The premise is that feminism misled women in some ways and that the modern woman is less happy and fulfilled than she would be without the influences of feminism. To quote from the book, these are the results of the feminist movement:
We receive more respect at the office but less respect as mothers. We lead more emancipated sex lives, but we have sacrificed male deference and commitment. We have more control over our professional lives but much less satisfaction in our personal lives. [page 174]

Kara chose this book, and boy was it a divisive one! It raised some interesting points and made for excellent discussion. In general, I find that the more passionate the feelings that are created by a book, the better the conversation. And like I said, the girls were very passionate on both sides about this topic!

Although I found the book to be a bit preachy, I thought it did raise some valuable points, such as:

  • women formerly understood - and cared - that their actions have impact on other women ... but most women today appear unconcerned with this, focusing only on themselves [pages 41-43]
  • feminism is all about choice (whatever you want is ok, as long as it is your choice) but what about the women who have no choice, the one whose husband left after years of marriage, or who is infertile because she focused on her career before starting a family, etc.? [page 174]
  • what used to be called morality is known derisively as "old fashioned values" [page 183]
  • many people today want to deny that there are ethical truths [page 191]
  • for the modern woman to be any more like a man, she would have to actually BE a man [page 177]

There were 9 of us taking part in this discussion and our votes were: 4x2, 5x2, 6x3 and 7x2, with an official rating of 5.6.

2006: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

Carrie chose The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, by Mark Haddon. I don't recall our discussion about it (again, this was before my note-taking began) but from the ratings it appears we were divided yet again.

I do know that I found this book very interesting. It made me think of my best friend, a teacher who specializes in autism, and gave me insight into the challenges she faces every day. I also mentioned it to a friend of my mom who has a 20-something autistic son; she was very keen to read it, thinking it might give her some additional insight into the way her son thinks.

From a parent's point of view, the story is heartbreaking. All you want to do is love your child and have him love you back ... yet you can't even touch your child because he can't stand it. It was definitely an eye-opening book for me.

Ratings were as follows: 3x2, 4, 6, 7x2 and 8x2. The official rating was 5.1.

2006: Map of Love

Amber got to choose our next book, Map of Love, by Ahdaf Soueif. I couldn't get this one at my local library so I ordered it used through Amazon.com. This book follows the dual love stories of Anna and Sharif in 1901 and Isabel and Omar in the present day.

Personally I found a hard time caring for Isabel and Omar in the same way that I cared for Anna and Sharif. I was disappointed whenever the action shifted from the past to the present. I found Anna's life story fascinating and I learned much from her take on Egyptian culture and traditions. I admired Sharif and kept hoping for a "happily ever after" for he and Anna.

Most of the group enjoyed the novel but many had problems with the one "mystical" section, saying that it seemed out of place with the rest of the story.

Our group had grown to 9 people by this time. Ratings for this book were: 3, 5, 6, 7x3, 9x2 and 10, and the official rating was 7.0.

2006: The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd was our first individually chosen book. Nancy was the lucky lady who got to choose first, and this was her pick.

For some reason, I couldn't attend this meeting, but I sent the discussion questions with someone else. Too bad I missed it as this was the first "theme" meeting we had! Someone had the brilliant idea that everyone should wear a big hat, just like the Daughters of Mary in the book. One of the ladies brought honey and another brought coke and peanuts. I heard that they all had lots of fun at the meeting!

There were 8 participants and their votes were: 4, 7, 8x5 and 9. The official rating was: 7.5.

Although I missed the discussion, I did really enjoy this book. It was an easy read, yet the characters really captured my attention.

2006: Wicked

Wicked, by Gregory Maquire, was our final group pick before we changed to individually chosen books. Kara really wanted to read this and talked it up to the group for quite a while.

Seven people participated in this book discussion. Nicole started reading, but she quit early on ... for good reason. She had just found out she was pregnant (for the first time), and although she and her husband were excited, they were also unprepared and nervous about the whole thing. So the section about the baby Elphaba with her green skin and sharp teeth actually gave Nicole nightmares that something was wrong with her baby. Of course, we excused her from reading the rest of the book!

Personally, I hated this book. I did read the entire thing, and I did find some parts interesting, but on the whole I really, really disliked it. If I recall correctly, Kara really liked it though.

The votes were quite varied on this one: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 and 8.5. The official rating was 3.1.

2006: Their Eyes Were Watching God

This was a group pick, although I did suggest it. I read this back in high school and just loved it. In fact, I based my college entrance exam on the character of Janie and how she was independent and knew what she wanted.

Seven of us read this book, and our opinions were WIDELY varied. Some (like me) really loved it. Some just hated it. The language was difficult for some, while for others it enhanced the story. Annette (mom) listened to the audio version [note: this is perfectly allowable in our group] which gave her a different perspective than the rest of us. She highly recommends it, by the way!

The voting went as follows: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 and 9. That averages 5.1 for the official rating. I feel that it is misleading though. In my mind, a rating of "5" is mediocre but in reality everyone was passionate about this book in one way or another.

2005: My Sister's Keeper

My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult, was the second book our club ever read, and it was a group pick. The 5 of us who participated gave the following ratings: 4, 5, 7, 9 and 10. The main debate we had centered on the mother's character. We discussed whether or not we would have done the same as she did if we were in her shoes.

What I found most fascinating about our discussion was the divergence in view between those of us who are mothers and those of us who are not. I have a son (at the time he was 2) and I found myself agreeing more with the other mom in the group, and less with the girls who don't have children.

There was lots more to this discussion (we split the book into two meetings) but I didn't start taking notes until 2007 so I can't give you any more details.

2005: East of Eden

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

When we began our club in May 2005, we decided to tackle a classic: East of Eden. This was an easy start because it was Oprah's Book Club Book at that time and there were lots of fresh resources to use. Our plan was to split the book into parts and meet every two weeks to discuss the assigned section. It was a great way to start off because it required a big commitment from each member. No one joined the group who wasn't ready to put the required time in.

It took all summer to read this book and we all felt a great sense of accomplishment at the end. Of the 6 people who participated, two gave it a 7, one gave it an 8, two gave it a 9, and one gave it a 10. That averaged into an official rating of 8.3.

This was a challenging book for many of our members. It provoked much discussion ... although I can't say about what, as I didn't start taking notes until 2007!

After finishing the book, several of us got together to watch the movie version starring James Dean. Boy were we disappointed! The book has so much depth and spans so many years while the movie just takes a snippet of that to dramatize. The character of Kate was especially lacking in the movie. None of us liked it at all, although we might have had we not read the book.

PS. Once I get into 2007's books, I'll have more detailed info about our discussion to share.

Welcome to Storie delle Sorelle

Welcome to the blogging homepage of our book club, Storie delle Sorelle. This site is meant to help our club share ideas about our books, and to hear from new and interesting people as well.

A little about our club ...

I formed the club in May of 2005 after trying unsuccessfully to find an existing group to join. Rather than bemoaning the lack of established - and welcoming - clubs, I decided to start my own. So I emailed every woman in my address book and found a few that were interested. We started off with about 5 members. By encouraging members to bring friends and invite random people, our group has grown steadily; currently we have 11 members who attend meetings and another 9 on our mailing list. We are all women, and although there is no official rule against inviting men, we enjoy our time away from husbands/boyfriends/etc. and will probably never have men in the group.

About our name ...

The girls wanted an interesting name that described who we are. After much debate, we came up with Storie delle Sorelle, which is Italian for Stories of the Sisters. We like to think that we connect to each other through books and also through our own stories, forming a bond akin to family. There was no particular reason for choosing an Italian name except that it sounded good!

How we choose & rate books ...

At first, we nominated a list of books and voted on those titles but this became unwieldy as we added new members. So now each member gets a turn to choose any book she likes and everyone has to read it. I really thought this would be a bad idea because I thought I'd end up reading lots of books I didn't like. But in reality it has been great. The entire group benefits from reading a wide variety of books that we might otherwise have voted down. After reading a book, each member give it a rating between 1-10 (10 being the highest). I then average out the scores announce the official rating to the group.

When & where we meet ...

Our rule of thumb is to allow one week for every 100 pages in the book. That usually results in monthly meetings but not always. At the moment we are meeting exclusively on weekends to allow more people to attend. We usually meet at member's houses and everyone brings food to share (sometimes based on a theme from the book). In the summer we occasionally meet at an outdoor restaurant for Happy Hour where we drink 1/2 price margaritas and share lots of 1/2 price appetizers.

A note on audio books ...

We are very open to the use of audio books. One member uses them exclusively and the rest of us use them as needed. We feel that they give a different and valuable perspective on the book - sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. We don't feel that using audio books is cheating. Instead it is a way to keep us with the group when needed, and to fit great new books into our busy lives.

About us ...

My name is Heather, and I'm the official head of the book club (aka the Book Club Madam). It wasn't meant to be this way, but I don't mind. I'm the one who comes up with the discussion questions, background on the author, and any other pertinent info for each discussion. Our active members include:
  • Annette - my mother
  • Nicole - my sister
  • Kara - my college roommate
  • Stephanie - Kara's sister
  • Bev - Kara's mother
  • Nancy - Bev's friend
  • Carrie - my childhood friend
  • Amber - my high school travel friend
  • Anna - Carrie's friend
  • Kelli - Carrie's friend
  • Joan - a woman I met in the thrift store :)

There will be more posted about each of these women, probably some time in November '07.

About this blog ...

I intend for this blog to be a place to share ideas on our current book selection. I'd also like to find other book clubs in our area to meet up with on occasion. SdelleS members are free to post whatever they want to this site, provided that it relates to the topic. Random readers are also welcome to post comments but I ask that they be relevant, timely, and not offensive in any way.

Thanks for reading!

PS. Thoughts on new members ...

We are open to new members, but that doesn't mean that we'll take just anybody. At this point everyone in the club is either an original member or was invited by an original member. We would like to add new viewpoints and opinions to our group however we have to be careful; most of our meetings are in our homes and we don't invite just anyone there. That's not to say we absolutely won't accept new members, but it will be done on a case by case basis. I'm also happy to give advice or help you start your own book club.