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. :)

Friday, December 11

Meeting Recap: My Life in France

Because of the business of Thanksgiving, we pushed our November meeting to December 1. Tracy hosted us in her newly remodeled home - it was lovely!

Our book this time was Beth's pick, MY LIFE IN FRANCE, by Julia Child. To make things more fun, Tracy encouraged everyone to make one of Julia's recipes for the meeting. Four people took the challenge ...
  • Nancy made one of Julia's turnip dishes - according to Julia, this dish will make anyone a fan of turnips! Everyone agreed that it was tasty but I don't know that anyone will be making it again ...
  • Beth made Julia's Potato and Leek Soup. Julia says everything must be chopped by hand and not pureed. The soup was quite good! I'd have liked some bacon or cheese topping but it was delicious regardless.
  • Annette made Julia's Apple and Pear Tart. This reminded me of the amazing pear pies we'd make when I was a kid. This tart was absolutely fantastic - I don't think there was much left after the meeting!
  • Tracy made Julia's Chocolate Mousse. There is a funny story with this one .... Tracy made this around 11pm the night before the meeting. The recipe said to add 1/4 cup of coffee; she did so, but kept thinking that the resulting mix was rather grainy. Her husband checked the recipe and pointed out that she was supposed to add COFFEE, not COFFEE GROUNDS. Oops! That's what late night cooking will do to you! By this point she was out of eggs so she sent him down to the Chinese restaurant on the corner to see if he could buy a few eggs so she could redo the mousse. Luckily they were willing to help out. In the end the mousse was decadent and delicious ... and not grainy in the least!
We had such fun with the food this time around that the book took second place. And that's good, because I was the only one at the meeting who finished reading. One other person read the whole thing (Melissa) but couldn't make it at the last minute. Everyone else read no more than a third of the book. In most cases it didn't keep their interest, which I found surprising as I really enjoyed it (my review is here).

Despite the lack of literary discussion we all had a wonderful time. I think everyone has been exhausted with the busy-ness of the season (and it hasn't even really begun) and family issues (it seems we each have our own at the moment) and this was a chance to sit back, relax, and just enjoy each other's company. Cheers! Or as Julia would say, "Bon Appetit!"

Meeting Recap: The Unlikely Disciple

Our October book was THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE, by Kevin Roose (my review is here) and Jennifer hosted us at her home for a lovely brunch. This is the book I nominated so I was very happy to be reading it. It seems the rest of the group was as well. We had a great discussion about Kevin's experiences at Liberty University and whether we would have wanted to go there (or for our children to go there). Kevin's willingness to be open-minded made some of us hopeful for the future while others dismissed his outlook as mere naivete.

The book was well written and an enjoyable read; we agreed that we're likely to hear more from this author in the future.

Friday, November 6

Book Club Book Suggestions

I thought you all might find this interesting - it is a list of 10 somewhat lesser-known books that are suggested for book clubs, along with the reasons for reading them.

Check out the list here.

Monday, October 12

Meeting Recap: Till We Have Faces

written by Melissa

Our group met at Chevy's for Happy Hour on Sept. 16 to discuss Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis. Those of us who read really enjoyed Part I of the book, particularly the building suspense over Psyche's true mental state. However, we unanimously hated the end of the book that dragged on ad infinitum. Melissa, who recommended this book, had apparently blocked out the ending of the novel because she despised it as well! In all, the slow, heavy-handed writing style of C.S. Lewis made this a dull read for most.

Friday, October 9

October is National Reading Group Month!

In honor of National Reading Group Month here are some links to check out:
This month our club is reading THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE, by Kevin Roose. I'm looking forward to the discussion that will result from this unusual book!

Friday, August 21

Meeting Recap: That Guernsey Book

Our August pool party book was nominated by Jennifer - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Annette hosted our meeting at her house by the pool.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous! Several members brought friends to this meeting since it seems that everyone and their mother (or mother-in-law) has read this book and wants to talk about it.

All of one of the gals at the meeting enjoyed this book. Most of us REALLY liked it, some thought it was good, and one didn't like it at all.

Topics we discussed included:
  • books written in epistolary format - did we like that about this book? Most of us said yes.
  • characterization - we disagreed over whether the characters were or were not well developed through the letters they wrote
  • individual characters - who we liked, who we didn't
  • the history of Guernsey - none of us were familiar with this part of WWII history so there was a lot to learn
  • WWII - we talked about concentration camp experiences, food shortage, the evacuation of children, and much more
  • the authors - their relationship, who wrote what, etc.
  • and much, much more
Annette took pictures at the meeting but I haven't gotten them from her yet. I'll post them as soon as I do!

This is another of those books with an excellent marketing team behind it. There are TONS of great resources available - I highly suggest checking out the book's website if you haven't already.

Here's a clip of Annie discussing the book.

I had the opportunity to interview her by phone. Check back at my book blog on 8/27/09 to see what we talked about. Or click here to read my review of this book.


Our next meeting will be on Sept. 16 when we'll discuss Melissa's nomination, Till We Have Faces, by CS Lewis. We will also choose our next three books and do some additional admin stuff so please try to be there if you can!

Thursday, August 20

Mid-Year Ratings Update

I haven't been posting our group's rating of the books we've read, simply because I've been behind in compiling them. So here is a list of everything we've read so far this year, how many people read it, and our average rating.*
  1. Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
    11 readers - ratings = 9.5x1, 9x4, 8x4, 7x2
    average = 8.3

  2. Change of Heart, by Jodi Picoult
    12 readers - ratings = 8x1, 7x3, 6.5x1, 6x1, 5.5x1, 4x1, 3x1, 2x2, 0x1
    average = 4.8

  3. The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
    7 readers - ratings = 8x1, 7x1, 6x4, 5x1
    average = 6.3

  4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
    7 readers - ratings = 8.5x1, 7x2, 6.5x1, 6x1, 5x2
    average = 6.4

  5. Queen of the Road, by Doreen Orion
    11 readers- ratings = 7x2, 6x2, 5x3, 4x2, 3x1, 2x1
    average = 4.9

  6. Little Bee, by Chris Cleave
    10 readers - ratings = 9x5, 8.5x1, 8x3, 7x1
    average = 8.5

  7. The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein
    10 readers - ratings = 10x2, 9x2, 8x3, 7.5x1, 7x1, 6x1
    average = 8.3

I'm working on a recap of our most recent meeting - hopefully it will be up soon.

* FYI, we rate on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest score possible.

Sunday, July 26

Meeting Recap: The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

Our book for July was THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, by Garth Stein. Stephanie nominated this book several months ago but it didn't make the cut at that time. In our last round of voting Kara nominated it and was successful.

Bev hosted us on her back porch for this meeting. We enjoyed summer foods including corn on the cob, watermelon, salads, and margaritas. The weather was perfect for this outdoor meeting.

The general consensus was that the book was good. No one at the meeting disliked it, but some did like it more than others. Some of the topics we discussed included:
  • gaining appreciation for the human/dog bond, especially for those gals who aren't "dog people"
  • Enzo's philosophizing - some loved it, some thought it was a bit "wordy" for a dog, some thought it rather simplistic and obvious (rather than profound)
  • the ending - some loved it, some thought it was cheesy
  • the zebra - we differed in our opinions of what it represents
  • even though the book dealt with some hard issues, we agreed it wasn't a depressing book
I don't think that anyone felt this book was great literature but we did agree that it was a fun read, and different from anything we've read as a club before.

*** After the meeting I came across an interview with the author. In it he answers some of the questions we raised at the meeting (including the zebra issue). You can listen to it at BookClubGirl.com. ***

*** And here's a link to the recap I wrote for ReadgingGroupGuides. ***

Monday, July 20

An Author's Passing ...

For those who haven't heard ...

From The New York Times:

Frank McCourt, a former New York City schoolteacher who turned his childhood in Limerick, Ireland, into a phenomenally popular, Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, “Angela’s Ashes,” died in Manhattan on Sunday. He was 78 and lived in Manhattan and Roxbury, Conn.

Mr. McCourt spent three decades as a teacher of English and creative writing in New York City’s public schools. As Eric Konigsberg writes, Mr. McCourt was the first to say that “those years, while depriving him of the time to actually write, were what made a writer out of him.” And his students learned from him that “literature was nothing more — and nothing less — than the telling of stories.”

Our club hasn't read any of his books together but several members read Angela's Ashes for our book report meetings or on their own. The literary world is much poorer without his humor, that's for certain.

Thursday, July 16

Meeting Recap: Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

I completely forgot to post link to the meeting recap I wrote for Reading Group Guides. You can read it here - hope you enjoy it!

And a big thank you to Kara for hosting us on her lovely porch. We all had a great time.

Thursday, July 9

Next Meeting: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Author Garth Stein has lots of fun things available to help promote his book THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN and I'm having a great time checking them all out. Go to this website to find iron-on decals for t-shirts, Enzo's song (!), and images of the book's cover in other countries. I've even been able to create a custom poster for our next meeting - I'll be emailing it shortly so watch your inboxes.

Our next meeting is Sunday, July 19 @ 3pm - hope to see many of you there!

Wednesday, July 1

Check out this review ...

In August we're reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. At our last meeting most of you hadn't heard of this book and (of course) thought the title was really odd. I just came across a review that I'd love for you to check out. It is a quick read but it gets to the heart of why this book is getting so much attention lately.

Here's an excerpt from the review:
I couldn’t put it down. It was the kind of book that made me angry at the doctor for running on time so I couldn’t keep reading it. It was the kind of book that made me seriously consider telling the babysitter that the doctor was running late so I could read it.
Sounds great, right?! You can read the rest of the review here.

Saturday, June 20

Summer Schedule

SdelleS Summer 2009 Schedule

The Art of Racing In the Rain (Kara's book)
Sunday, July 19th @ 3pm
at Bev's house

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Jennifer's book)
Saturday, Aug. 8th @ noon
Progressive Pool Party!
Starts at Annette's house for drinks, appetizers, and the beginning of the discussion (plus some pool time) then moves to Nancy's house for lunch, more discussion, and more pool. If it rains the party will be inside at Annette's house.

Till We Have Faces (Melissa's book)
Wednesday, Sept. 16 @ 6pm at Chevy's
Happy Hour means 1/2 price margaritas and appetizers!

Monday, June 15

Meeting Recap and Upcoming Books

Thanks to Kara for a wonderful hostessing job yesterday. The weather was perfect and we really enjoyed sitting out on her screened-in porch. Plus, the food was FANTASTIC!

Two big announcements were made at yesterday's meeting ...
  • Kara is pregnant! She's due Jan. 27th.
  • Melissa's dissertation was accepted! She'll get her PhD on Aug. 16th.
Congratulations to both lovely ladies!

We had a good discussion of LITTLE BEE by Chris Cleave. This was the book I nominated so I was pleased most of the gals enjoyed it. Our discussion centered around social justice issues and how much one individual is responsible for doing to save another. We also discussed the different ways the book impacted us, much of which depended on who we are at this point in our lives.

After our discussion we voted on our next three books. The way this works is that each person ranks the books in order from most preferred (#1) to least preferred (#8). Once I add up the totals for each book the three books with the lowest total scores (meaning the most #1 votes) are the winners.

Here are the results of the voting (remember, lower is better).

Our next three books:

The Art of Racing In the Rain
44 points

Till We Have Faces
46 points

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
48 points

Out of the running:

The Shack
52 points

The Red Tent
53 points

Still Alice
54 points

Liberty and Tyranny
66 points

68 points

I'll post our meeting schedule as soon as the hostesses confirm the dates. Happy reading everyone!

Friday, June 5

Links for Little Bee

On June 16th we'll be discussing LITTLE BEE by Chris Cleave. Here are some links to check out, but only after you finish reading the book. Many of them contain spoilers so consider yourself warned.
And here is a video I found on Chris Cleave's website.

These links, along with the book itself, should give us ample fodder for discussion, don't you think?

* Here's an excerpt from this interview that I thought might be interesting to the club:

Do you have any tips you would give a book club to enhance their discussion of Little Bee?

Absolutely — first I’d suggest some books you could read in conjunction with it. The Grapes of Wrath is arguably Steinbeck’s greatest novel, and it’s also a refugee novel. It’s really asking the same question Little Bee is asking: how much help should people with relatively secure lives afford to those who have nothing, simply out of human solidarity? Then, for some non-fiction context, I’d recommend A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah, a veteran of the conflict in Sierra Leone. And Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees by Caroline Moorehead, an excellent and dedicated journalist.

Next I’d suggest some fun stuff you could try. Little Bee says, “I have noticed, in your country, I can say anything so long as I say that is the proverb in my country. Then people will nod their heads and look very serious”. If yours is the sort of book club that enjoys a glass of wine with your literature, then why not try making up some proverbs of your own. The more gravely you recite them, the wiser you will sound. On the same lines, why not get the members of your book club to rename each other according to their personality traits, the way Udo (Little Bee) and Nkiruka (Kindness) do in the novel. You could award prizes for the best efforts…

Friday, May 29

When you haven't read the book ...

Thanks to Beth for sending me this hilarious article from THE NEW YORKER. I'm copying the text below - enjoy!

Book Club
by Ann Hodgman May 25, 2009

Discussion points for members who have not read this month’s book:
  1. Studying the cover of this month’s selection may provide hints to the reasons that Margy MacDougal chose this book for your group. What does the metallic font used for the title convey—pretension, or insecurity? Although the cover art is minimal, what tensions does it suggest are lurking under the superficially glossy surface of Margy’s relationship with her husband, Eric?

  2. In your opinion, is this book fiction or nonfiction? Support your view with examples taken from the jacket copy.

  3. Last year, Margy was in Costa Rica when the group discussed the book she had chosen. Why did she get to pick two books this season? Why were both of them so grim? Is there a subtext related to Margy’s daughter’s deferral from Colgate? Could next month’s book maybe be more cheerful, for once?

  4. Book-club members who have actually read this book have called its plot “depressing,” “disgusting,” and “too much about poor people.” Does this suggest that you, as a reader, have a moral obligation to say that you liked the book?

  5. Early in the prologue, we learn that lab animals will be mistreated as the story progresses. In literature, why is it so much sadder when an animal dies than when a person does? Why does God choose us to read horrible things like this?

  6. Open the book to page 47 and slide a bookmark under it. How well can you see the Borders logo through the page? Can the quality of a book’s paper be used as a guide to its “worth”? When or when not?

  7. On page 2, the author refers to “supper.” In books, food is often used as a symbol. Try to think of a time when food, or a particular meal, has been important to you. Then keep it to yourself.

  8. A book’s setting is crucial to establishing mood. If this book had been set in Darfur instead of in Glen Burnie, would you be more likely to have read the whole thing by now? Why or why not?

  9. Is there a way that, by quickly flipping through the pages as if in search of a particular passage, you might be able to glean more of the plot in case Margy calls on you? Why not turn to the last page?

  10. What is in those little sandwiches on the piano? Are peanut allergies real?

  11. Will the powder room have one of those wick-diffuser things in a bottle, or a scented candle? If such items were described in the book, would they be presented as symbols of vulgarity?

  12. What do you think will happen next?

Tuesday, May 26

Meeting Recap: Queen of the Road

I had to miss this meeting because Kiddo had his AWANA award ceremony the same night, so this will be a VERY brief recap.

QUEEN OF THE ROAD, by Doreen Orion, was nominated by Amy. Unfortunately she had to miss this meeting due to unexpected company. We were excited that the author was planning to call in though!

Here are some comments from a few of the gals who did attend.
Cyndi: I had a really enjoyed both listening to Doreen and everyone's thoughts on the book. ... It was interesting to see that Doreen wasn't what I thought she would be.

Kara: We all had a great time! The food was delicious & company was great. Think we all thought Doreen could've been a little less dry...we were expecting Fran Drescher as Miss Marlene suggested and she just wasn't. Doreen was very nice and polite ... answered our questions ... and we had a lot of thoughtful reflection on not being so materialistic as well. Steph & Stori were amazing hosts and I think next time we'll all opt for a bath in their new spa bathroom...

Melissa: Doreen was lovely ... I think we all understood the book more after talking with her. We got through most of the questions on the discussion guide sheet, & it was a great meeting.
A big thank you goes to Doreen for calling in and for sending personalized book plates to the group. As we've learned in the past, interacting with an author always bring a great appreciation of the book.

Our next book is LITTLE BEE, by Chris Cleave, to be discussed on June 14th.

Tuesday, April 21

More Recapping

My recap of our Oscar Wao meeting - including the author talk - is now up at ReadingGroupGuides.com. I included some of the topics covered by the author, Junot Diaz, in his talk, as well as the topics we discussed afterward.

Here's the link - I hope you'll go read it and post a comment!

Monday, April 20

Meeting Recap: Oscar Wao & Author Talk

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz, was nominated by Beth. We had a very small group for the Junot Diaz author event but the four of us who did attend had a lovely time. Here are a few thoughts from the afternoon.
  • The room was PACKED with people there to hear Diaz - he was a huge draw for the CityLit Festival. There was even a high school teacher who brought his Freshman students.
  • Diaz read from a short story called The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars. His voice is very monotone and his enunciation is unique. Some of us enjoyed the way he spoke and others couldn't stand it.
  • He speaks exactly the way he writes - English, Spanish, and bad language all mixed together. However, he did clean up his language during the Q&A session ... leading Melissa to wonder if the slang is more of a persona he puts on. We discussed that quite a bit over lunch.
  • We talked for about an hour over lunch. Topics included the use of sci-fi/fantasy allusions, writing about a culture you are familiar with, the use of street slang, the character of Beli, the treatment and imagery of women, and the meaning of the book's title.
  • The four of us who were able to attend agreed that this was a unique and fun change to our normal book club meetings. We'd definitely like to do it again! And it didn't hurt that the weather was GORGEOUS on Saturday ...
So far I know of 7 people who read/rated the book. If you have read but have not sent me your rating, I'll be happy to add it here once I hear from you. Here's what we've got:
  • 5x2
  • 6x1
  • 6.5x2
  • 7x2
  • 8x1
That gives us an average of 6.4.

A few people gave explanations for their ratings or shared comments about the book:
  • Kelli said: I give this story a 6. I liked his sci-fi weavings and historical footnotes, but the random Spanish and pervasive profanity was a challenge for me.
  • Nancy said: I am enjoying the audio version.... I do not feel I would have stuck with the book had it not been for the cds. The different voices and accents makes it more interesting.
  • Jennifer said: I didn't finish enough but so far - I'm down the middle with a 5. I find some of the wording tough because you have to stop and read footnotes. However, I often feel differently after I've read a substantial amount of the book and begin to really get into the characters. So my rating might be different if I had read more.
  • Cyndi said: I have to say, even though I started out liking it, the Spanish got to me after awhile. I think if I knew Spanish then I would have appreciated it, but that and the footnotes were too much. I would give it a 5.
  • And I said: Before hearing Diaz speak, I'd have given this a 6. Even though I LOVED the sci-fi stuff and the historical stuff - especially the footnotes - the language really bugged me. But after hearing Diaz, I wanted to give it a 7. So I compromised and gave it a 6.5. (You can read my complete review of the book at my blog - I explain in more detail what I thought about it.)
I'll be posting some video clips on my blog within the next few days - I'll come back and add a link here when they are up.


To learn more about Junot Diaz and this book, check out the following links:
  • Slate.com interview with Diaz - "Oscar was the end point (for me) of a larger, almost invisible historical movement—he's the child of a dictatorship and of the apocalypse that is the New World. I was also trying to show how Oscar is utterly unaware of this history and yet also dominated by it. " ~~~ "Yunior's telling of this story and his unspoken motivations for it are at the heart of the novel and can easily be missed." ~~~ "Just remember: In dictatorships, only one person is really allowed to speak. And when I write a book or a story, I too am the only one speaking, no matter how I hide behind my characters."

  • Penguin Books interviews Diaz - "Beli as a character turned into a tribute to an entire generation of women I grew up with (my mother, her sisters, my friends) who had come to the United States and given their lives to build our community, to make people like me possible. Beli, in a way, was the key that opened all the other women in the book: her daughter, Lola; her adopted mother, La Inca; her real mother, Socorro. I found that I couldn't write just about Beli, I had to circumscribe her entire female world. So here's my confession: Beli and her story made me do it" ~~~ "In my youth the only people who really seemed to be interested in exploring dictatorlike figures were the fantasy and science fiction writers, the comic-book artists. You didn't see much about that aspect of the world in the mainstream culture, so as a kid who was the child of a dictatorship I had to find analogs in the genres...."