Tag Archives: book club

Top Ten Tuesday – 10 Books I’d Love to Read With My Book Club

BibliophileIt’s no secret. I’m a bibliophile. I really love books. I also really love my book club.

So when I spotted The Broke and the Bookish‘s Top Ten Tuesday theme of ten books I’d love to read with my book club, I had to share my suggestions. Be sure to swing by their post and check out other book club suggestions too!

In my group, we have 11 members and meet once a month, with December being a holiday party in which we each wrap a book we read in the past year to giveaway. It works out nicely that each member gets to pick the book for the month they host book club. This year we also each picked a genre so we’d end up with a wide variety of kinds of books. Should be a fun year!

Since book recommendations are always something I love, in addition to my dream list, I’m sharing the titles my book club has selected for this year so far.

Historical Fiction: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Mystery: Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James
Autobiography/Memoir: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life by Sophia Loren
Nonfiction: The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Sci-fi: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (my pick)
Classic: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

But if they ever let me choose ALL the books we read in a year…

Top 10 Books I’d Love to Read in My Book Club

1. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

The story of two women – Nao, a teenage girl who feels she has nothing to live for and Ruth, a novelist living across the ocean who finds a lunchbox with a secret history inside. Now, these women’s stories are about to entwine.

2. Child Star by Shirley Temple Black

I grew up watching Shirley Temple films, so I’ve always wanted to read this book. Sadly, it’s out of print, but you can get used copies on Amazon. This is her story about becoming a rising star during the depression era.

3. The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan

We’ve already read quite a few war books in my club, but none that focus so much on the women’s perspective. Almost 75,000 women were recruited to work in Manhattan Project’s secret cities on a variety of tasks that aided WWII.

4. The Never List by Koethi Zan

Sarah and Jennifer are two friends who make one bad judgement call and spend the next three years held captive by sadist men. Ten years later, when Sarah’s abductor is up for parole, she decides to confront her phobias, and faces fears she didn’t know existed beneath the surface.

5. Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Phones no longer ring. The internet stops working. News reports have ended. People live indoors and stay there. One look at what’s outside and they will never be the same again.

6. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Jenna Metcalf is searching for her mom. Her mom that has been gone for over a decade. She scours what little information is left behind and partners up with both a medium and a private investigator.

7. The Wild Truth: The Untold Story of Sibling Survival by Carine McCandless

Most are familiar with the story of Chris McCandless, the boy who left home to live off the land. His story of the nomadic life was made famous as the subject of Jon Krakauer’s book, Into the Wild. Now, twenty years later, Chris’s sister, Carine, shares intimate details about her brother’s journey and their family.

8. Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim

Author Suki Kim shares her experiences of teaching English in North Korea. It’s a mysterious world where her letters are censored, yet she adores the enthusiasm of her students. A unique glimpse at a culture we rarely get to peek into.

9. See How Small by Scott Blackwood

A brutal murder leaves three girls dead in an ice cream shop. The remainder of the story follows the townspeople as they try to make sense and move on from the travesty. But it also follows the three girls, whose spirits also check in on the townspeople.

10. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

The hottest new title in Young Adult novels. A chance encounter on the school roof throws Theodore – who thinks only of death – into Violet’s world, where she lives in the future – planning for life after graduation. How will these polar opposites shape one another?


Have you read any of these titles? What did you think?

What books would you pick for your book club to read?





What I’ve Been Reading About – Sex, Lies, and Murder

Hey Dudes and Dudettes,

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about my progress with the To Be Read Pile Challenge, so I thought I’d better “update my status.” You see I’ve been reading a lot about relationships lately, so I have three titles of love advice for anyone to enjoy.

And as a refresher, if you’re unfamiliar with the TBR Pile Challenge, it’s a reading contest hosted by Adam over at Roof Beam Reader. The goal is to complete in 12 months time 12 books that have been sitting on your bookshelf for a year or more. You know the ones, they linger in the ever-looming “to be read” pile. At nine months in, I’m just two books away from completing the challenge this year. Holla!

What have I recently crossed off my list?

TBR book collageBonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

Roach - BonkLittle known fact about me, or maybe it’s no secret, I love learning about sex and sexuality. I minored – and only because it wasn’t offered as a major at the time – in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I’m passionate about women’s issues and rights, and I’m thrilled to be working at a reproductive health clinic in my town. Reading about the history and science of sex research was right up my alley.

The author, Mary Roach, is quite possibly the queen of nonfiction exposition on risque topics. Her other books dive into the worlds of human cadavers, the digestive track, and what happens when we die. For Bonk, the woman volunteered herself and her husband to be lab rats for sex research on orgasms. That’s dedication.

In Bonk, not only will you learn about the doctors and scientists behind the “G-spot,” the infamous Kinsey “attic sessions,” or just how artificial insemination happens in a pig, but so much more!

The American Heiress

american heiressAlright, let’s tame things down a bit. For all you Downton Abbey diehards and regency era wannabees, I suggest you give Daisy Goodwin’s The American Heiress a try. My book club read this one and it was well enjoyed.

Cora Cash is an American debutante. She is wealthy, beautiful, and definitely high society. Her mother, opinionated at her core, has high plans of wedding her daughter to an English Duke, which would grant Cora the one thing she doesn’t have…a title.

It won’t surprise readers to learn that Cora is soon wed in the novel, however can Cora’s marriage last when she comes from a different world than her husband? So many unknowns!

Escape on a whirlwind love affair in Europe, walk the halls of the great English mansions, and go galloping with the finest – or are they – members of society.


rebeccaBy and far one of my favorite reads this year! I can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner! After all, the film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock is tied for first place (with North by Northwest) as my favorite film of his.

Be very aware, young lovers, when falling head over heels into this tale. A young woman of unfortunate circumstance believes her luck has turned around when she meets and marries millionaire, Maxim De Winter, owner of the luscious estate, Manderley. But all is not well inside these walls. The great rooms of the house, the garden with its roses, and the forgotten cottage down by the beach – they are all haunted by Rebecca – the first Mrs. De Winter.

A shocking truth brings the honeymoon to a miserable end in this chilling story by Daphne Du Maurier. I can’t tell you what happens, just read it for yourself!


What have you been reading? Are you participating in the TBR Pile Challenge? How’s it going? Got any recommendations for me?




Redhot Women: We Met Them on Twitter

We’re Baaaaack!  Marcia Richards and I are serving up another REDHOT edition of:

The Redhots!

Today, we’re introducing you to two women from the Twitterverse who we think exemplify what it means to be REDHOT!

Marcia’s guest will show you how to feng shui your home!  Don’t miss it!  Go say hello!

And my guest, I admit, I actually found through YouTube and then twitter stalked found her!  She’s the owner of the only beauty salon and bookshop, Beauty and the Book, plus the founder and Queen of the WORLD’S largest book club!

Introducing Kathy Patrick

JW:  You own the only Beauty Salon and Bookshop in the country.  What has it meant to work everyday at the two things you love most?  And how did your shop come about?

KP:  Everyday I wake up at the crack of dawn as I can’t wait to do what I love to do, make people feel better about themselves, BEAUTY, and talk about great reads, BOOKS, thus my shop is Beauty and the Book.  These two are the best marriage ever and for me it makes my life always a celebration of big love!  I don’t go to work, I go to play and get paid for it!  Do the thing you love and you’ll never work another day in your life but then you will never work harder.  Your work will just seem like play, at least it does for me.  If I was rich, I would do what I do for free.  Unfortunately, I have bills just like everybody else so I have to charge.

My shop, Beauty and the Book, came about because I lost my job as a book publisher’s representative.  Due to the influx of large box stores coming in to my four state territory, the independent bookstores that I called on began to close in droves.  Since I was the last one hired, I was the first one fired, as my boss put it downsized.  So it was my sister who suggested to me to go back to doing hair.  That’s how I put myself through college.  When I told her I would be bored just doing hair, she said, “Do the book thing too!”  Beauty and the Book was born!  It’s all in the first chapter of my book, When Life Hands You a Lemon, forget Lemonade, Make Margaritas.  My book is called “The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life” and is the first book you are to read when you become an Official Pulpwood Queen Book Club member!

You also lead the world’s LARGEST book club!  Tell us about the Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys passion for literacy and dialogue. 

I have always had my nose stuck in a book so when the local book club invited me to come join their book club when I opened my shop, I jumped at the chance.  You can imagine my surprise and embarrassment when after blurting out how happy I was to be FINALLY in a book club, the hostess pulled me out into the galley of her plantation home.  “I’m sorry, but we didn’t invite you to join our book club but to be a guest.”  This is not in my book but I wish I had put it in there as that is exactly why I started The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas Book Club “where tiaras are mandatory and reading good books is the rule!”  Our book club would be inclusive not exclusive and anybody could be in our book club.  Who makes up those silly rules anyhoo!  So six complete strangers joined me and everybody else has been joining us ever since.  We aren’t your mama’s book club and our book club is not homework.  

We aren’t your mama’s book club!

If it isn’t fun, well, quite frankly Jess, I’m just not doing it!  I challenge all my now 550 world wide book clubs to take on a literacy mission.  For me it’s The Dolly Parton Imagination Library Project which helps children get reading ready for school.  Dolly makes reading fun as each child in my county from birth to kindergarten gets a FREE book to read and enjoy.  We want everybody to understand and be on the same page that reading is the best entertainment in the world and the side benefits are if you become a real reader, school just makes more sense.  Reading is as important to a child as water, food, shelter and a loving home.  Pull a child onto your lap and read to them.  Tell me that isn’t the best way to show love to your child.

The Pulpwood Queens, like yourself, are full of extraordinary, confident, intelligent, and talented women!  You ladies know how to have fun and live life large.  Tell us a secret!  (We know you have them!)  😉

The Pulpwood Queens are the largest “meeting and discussing” book club in the world as I crown girls Queen, they lead their own book club their own way.  I give them ownership but I do ask, no wait, command as their queen to read the books I select.  I am also on a mission to not only make them read, but I select books from oftentimes first time, first book authors. I also love to help those authors whose books change lives like Sam Bracken and Echo Garrett’s book “My Orange Duffel Bag”.  Echo sent me the book and I was blown away.  Another charity of choice is their not for profit, www.myorangeduffelbag.com as this helps teens make the right choices. It’s quite a story and one that makes the world a better place.

Somebody also needs to introduce the next Harper Lee’s, Margaret Mitchell’s, Ernest Hemingway’s, well, you get the picture.  I also ask each chapter to champion a literacy cause and my goodness these girls are blowing me away.  In fact, I came up with a KAT Award for just that.  Last year, my winners went to my South Louisiana chapter that provides books for a whole school in Nicaragua.  My Alaska chapter started a prison chapter and have now started a paroled prison chapter.  My Colorado Queen started a brand new school library for a Native American Indian School in North Dakota.  I could go on and on and on on these girls.  We aren’t just a book club, we are literacy leaders!
My secret is to make reading fun!  For years I watched parents drag their children to the book store of which I was a Children’s Manager and Buyer.  Looking for books with the most points, the accelerated reading program had sucked all the fun out of reading books.  So I told them a story, the story of a boy who survived a plane crash to swim out of the plane as it was sinking with only an ax.  He had to learn how to live with that one precious possession.  Then I would stop, “More, more they would cry!”  I would then hand them Gary Paulson’s “The Hatchet” and you couldn’t keep them from reading the book, they had to know the full story.
My secret is to make reading fun!  So, I told them a story!
Basically it is the same way with adults so why not approach reading as entertainment than a lesson.  So we don tiaras, wear boas and leopard print.  I give them license to rule as reading queens then I select books that make them want to read.  What if a nearly broke general store owner was receiving a grandfather clock in shipment.  One that if sold could bring her out of the threat of foreclosure.  And what would happen if when a crow bar was taken to open the box and if instead of finding a clock, you found a man.  A man who steps out of the box, oh the mystery.  Hook, line, and sinker my friends, welcome to “Man in the Blue Moon” by Michael Morris.  Reading is an adventure, so we go on many literary adventures in either our book club meetings or on our literary trips.  So far we have been to Italy, France, a cruise to Bahamas, England, and I take my Pulpwood Queens with me where ever I go to book festivals, speaking engagements, and why not have some big time fun while we are at it.  I even took five of my book club members on my book tour, 27 stops, 7,000 miles, and they are my best friends in the whole wide world!

With your video chats for Beauty and the Book, you’ve interviewed and come to know many authors in such fantastic ways!  You’ve gone vintage clothes shopping with Karen Abbott, you’ve had Lisa See cook dinner for you, and you’ve gone real estate hunting with Fannie Flagg!  What author are you still wishing to meet, and what activity would you want to do together? 

Today my answer is Dolly Parton as her new book released “Dream More” and she is a literacy promoting hero!  And if I could just spend the day with her singing perhaps, I love to sing harmony, alto, and talk to her about an adult literacy idea I have involving music.  She is my inspiration, in fact, I wrote all about her in my book too!  I’d also love to meet former President Bill Clinton because after reading his books, he’s as big a reader as I am.  Or Tom Wolfe, love everything that man writes, perhaps, Barbara Kingsolver.  You’ve heard the term, “So many books, too little time”.  I feel the same way about authors.  I want to meet them all!!!

As a hairdresser, I’m sure you stay up on the latest trends, but you also focus on inner beauty with your clients.  Tell us your best beauty advice!  And ok, share a guilty pleasure beauty buy too! 

My beauty secret is common sense, good skin care and a healthy lifestyle.  But if you have to invest in one thing, invest in a smile!  The hardest thing for some people to invest in, but a smile will get you more than anything money could buy.  I work on zero budget.  I have found that being kind, loving people and being gracious when people tell you a flat out no will get you more places than expensive anything.  But don’t take no for a final answer, offer something else and if they say no, offer something else.  Pretty soon, they will say yes or at least think about your passion!  The secret to the fountain of youth is finding your passion.  It keeps you alive, vibrant, and ready for anything.  I just refuse to give up.  I’ll get there eventually or die trying!  My guilty pleasure is dreaming beyond your wildest dreams.  

If you have to invest in one thing, invest in a smile!

 What’s next for Kathy Patrick and her Pulpwood Queens? 
Well, my documentary on my reading life and Girlfriend Weekend is now finished by film maker William Torgerson.  We premiered FOR THE LOVE OF BOOKS at the Phenom International Film Festival in Shreverport/Bossier City, Louisiana and it WON the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film!  Ta da!  I plan on taking it to book festivals across the country to share our love of reading!

I am also working on my next book, “Eureka”, which is a novel, no kidding!  I try to break all the rules!
And I haven’t given up on having my own book club talk show, so if anybody is with a network, please check out my Beauty and the Book Show at www.beautyandthebookshow.com.
I plan on starting next year a Writer’s Retreat and there is nothing I adore more than authors and learning the art and craft of sharing a story whether true or fiction.  The sky is the limit as far as sharing my love of books!  I would like to spend more time speaking to children, students on my love for reading and already have many speaking engagements lined up to do just that!
So when it comes to talking books, I am so there!  All I ask is for someone to give me that chance to help books change peoples lives for the better like they have for me!  I’ll end with my favorite quote, “Life is not made up of atoms, but stories!” by Muriel Rukheyser and to me it’s our stories that separate us from the animals, it’s what makes us real and human.  We live in the world that everyday is isolating us from each other.  People need community and I can think of no better way to create that community than through books.
“Life is not made up of atoms, but stories!” by Muriel Rukheyser
Kathy, thanks so much for sharing your REDHOT dreams and passion for books with us!  
Readers can learn more by visiting you here:
And don’t forget to see who our REDHOT guest is at Marcia’s today too!
Thanks for dropping by!  Stick around and we’ll see you in the comments section!

The Red Tent: A Review of the Retelling of Dinah’s Story

How’s everyone doing on their To Be Read Pile Challenge?  Whether you officially participated in Roof Beam Reader’s challenge or are just picking away at your own pile of books by the nightstand, tell me how you’re doing?  What books are you currently reading and what is left to complete by the end of the year?

I just finished reading two more books on my list, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and now The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  What’s left?

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave is next up!
  • and I have to finish Geek Love by Katherine Dunn – which I stopped halfway through…

The Red Tent

Anita Diamant’s book, The Red Tent, is beautiful and one I wish I’d read a long time ago.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.


I’m a big fan of historical fiction.  I think writing it is a labor of love for the author.  You’re depicting someone’s life, trying to sound like them, make them whole – and all that takes great patience.  Imagine trying to know a character who lived in the time before Christ.

I was drawn to retell the biblical story of Dinah in large part because of her silence.  In Genesis 34, Dinah’s experience is described and characterized by the men in her family, who treat her as a rape victim, which in that historical setting meant that she was irredeemably ruined and degraded.  Because she does not say a word (and because of the extraordinary loving actions taken by her accused assailant), I found it easy to imagine an alternative telling to the story, in which Dinah is not a passive victim but a young woman who makes choices and acts on her own initiative.  Not only did I find it easy, I found it necessary.”

-Anita Diamant (September, 2007)

Growing up a Catholic School girl, our role models in the church were quiet, benevolent women who spent their days soothing others and baking bread.  Of course I think women who exemplify these behaviors are necessary to the humanity of our people, but it cannot be the whole story.

My childhood Bible – the cool one with the pictures in it – told the story of Dinah as a rape victim, an event which led to her humiliation and degradation within the community.  The story goes on to say that her brothers avenged their sister by ransacking and killing almost an entire town.  What Diamant did was give voice to Dinah, and an alternative thought process to the events which happened.

In Diamant’s version, Dinah falls in love with a man, is married even, to this man who is a noble and of great fortune.  It behooves Jacob’s family to separate with their daughter in this advantageous outcome, but it is Dinah’s brothers who fear power greater than their own and convince their father to ask for grotesquely large dowry payments and obscene actions of obedience .  Still not satisfied, the brothers unleash a silent killing spree through the village, leaving Dinah widowed, alone, and in mourning.

That’s really nothing new for Dinah’s brothers, think “Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and you’ll recall the cruelties they also inflicted on their brother, Joseph.  Although he gets a lot more written about him in the Bible.  And subsequently a Broadway Musical, which I saw when I was younger, starring Donny Osmond. 

It took Diamant 4 years to write The Red Tent.  Much of her research was on living conditions, types of foods, etc. that would have grown, thereby creating a realistic world for Dinah and her mothers to live in.  Much of women’s history is lost from that time period because it was never written down.  A woman’s worth was portrayed in the bread she baked, the clothing she wore, and the children she gave birth to.

Over the years, The Red Tent has become a book of controversy.  With religious groups on both sides of the spectrum, its readers range from thinking it sacrilegious to a spectacular teaching tool.  The subjects in the book contain historically accurate depictions of plural marriage, religious beliefs, midwifery, famine, social class, genealogy, and gender divides.

I highly recommend this book.  If it’s not in your To Read Pile, add it!  It’s been described as a luminous read by more than one critic, and I think that’s a fitting depiction as the book does shed light on one woman’s story and what might have been.  This is a fantastic book for book clubs or to share with your female friends.  My own book club spent much time discussing the various advancements in medicine, cooking, etc. we’re thankful for after reading about the daily lives of biblical women.  We contemplated what worked and didn’t work in the marriages of these characters, and what it meant to have a woman from the Bible who was portrayed as strong and intelligent.

Since many of you are writers yourselves, I found this clip of the author sharing her best tips for writers too!

What do you think?  Have you read The Red Tent?  What did it mean to you to hear Dinah’s story told in such a different way?  Have any other books had a profound impact on you?

And what’s left in that TBR Pile of yours?  Inquiring minds are always looking for more titles!  😉

Three to Get Deadly: My First Experience With Janet Evanovich

Of course I had heard of bestselling author, Janet Evanovich, but I’d never read her work before.  It was just a few months ago at my book club when a member suggested her work that I made a stop at the library.

“All the books we read are so serious!”  A cry heard on numerous occasions at book club.  Our group substituted in some summer fun when we read local author, Jay Gilbertson’s Moon Over Madeline Island and Back to Madeline Island.  We got to skype with the author and I interviewed him here!

Janet Evanovich was another name tossed out amongst the group.  With the release of One for the Money in theaters, a film version of Evanovich’s first Stephanie Plum novel, many readers were talking.  Our dialogue introduced me to the characters:  Stephanie Plum – Bounty Hunter and Leading Candidate for TLC’s What Not to Wear, Lula – Ex Prostitute and Bounty Hunter in Training, a real passion for velour tracksuits, Joe Morelli – Jersey Cop, on again/off again fling with Stephanie, and Ranger – Undercover Bounty Hunter, Muscles, early morning runs, Muscles, address is a vacant lot, Muscles.  Excellent side characters include Stephanie’s whole family, with particular favoritism shown to her Grandma Mazur – a feisty old lady with a Jersey accent and a penchant for younger men, well, really men of any age.


So I picked up the title Three to Get Deadly.  This time around, Stephanie Plum is after the elderly owner of a candy shop!  What do you mean that doesn’t sound dangerous?!  Well, she does start out as one of the most hated people in the burg, but as Stephanie uncovers more of the story, there’s a reason she needs to speak to Mo, the resident ice cream guy.

If I may insist, this book is a book best read aloud, with a Jersey accent, which I happily practiced on the hammock with my honey.  He was very entertained, and I have fondness for impersonating Stephanie’s mother now.

*Note:  If you’re going to read this aloud and your neighbors are doing yard work on the other side of the fence, you should probably alert them to what you are doing.  Otherwise there’s just a sudden increase in swearing and shootings and coffee cake!

The author, Janet Evanovich, is a woman after my heart.  Just read the first paragraph from her author’s bio:


“When I was a kid I spent a lot of time in LaLa Land. La la Land is like an out-of-body experience –while your mouth is eating lunch your mind is conversing with Captain Kirk. Sometimes I’d pretend to sing opera. My mother would send me to the grocery store down the street, and off I’d go, caterwauling at the top of my lungs. Before the opera thing I went through a horse stage where I galloped everywhere and made holes in my Aunt Lena’s lawn with my hooves. Aunt Lena was a good egg. She understood that the realities of daily existence were lost in the shadows of my looney imagination.”


That imagination never faltered.  Janet wrote weird stories and collected rejection letters enough to fill a box, and then, she burned it.  Shortly after her in flagrante delicto, Janet got notice that Second Chance at Love wanted to publish one of her manuscripts!  Receiving $2000 for her book, she quit her temp job as a secretary and began writing romance novels.

Now, she is the sole client for Evanovich, Inc.  A company run by her family, it is her children who created the Evanovich site and manage her publicity.  Fans of her work will love the Quote of the Day Feature from her infamous quirky characters.  Here are a few gems:

“You’re number ten on the Bad-Stuff-O-Meter when it comes to cars.” – Lula, Hot Six

“And then the Hobbit kissed the bottle, and said it was his precious.” – Eugene, Sizzling Sixteen

“Those are my choppers. Got them for free from the VA, but they don’t fit right. Can’t eat with them in.” – Fred, Three to Get Deadly

“I never have trouble with heartburn on account of I keep a positive attitude.” – Lula, Sizzling Sixteen

“I shot that sucker right in the gumpy.” – Grandma Mazur, One for the Money

See, wasn’t that fun?  You can check out more of Janet’s quotes of the day or weigh in on her pinterest boards for who should play Ranger or Diesel in the movies all by following her on twitter @janetevanovich.

For all you writers out there, did you know Janet wrote a book about writing too?  It’s called How I Write:  Secrets of a Bestselling Author, and it does seem to look at writing from a new angle than most.  It looks like more of a personal account into her process, writing hours, and characterization.  I’m adding it to my list of books to check out on craft!

So, does your summer reading list or book club need some fun infusion?  Pick up a copy of one of many bestselling books by Janet Evanovich!  Her newest, Wicked Business, a book about the seven deadly sins, was just released in June and Notorious Nineteen comes out in November this year!  

Thank You For Being A Friend

Welcome to another edition of Tuesday’s Featured Writer Posts!  The fun was kicked off by thriller writer CJ West and you can still find out why Dexter Morgan might be CJ’s best friend or what his Top 10 Chocolate Guilty Pleasures are!

Today, I’m chatting with Patricia Sands, author of her mostly true story, The Bridge ClubAnd guess what?!  She’s giving away a FREE E-Book Copy to one lucky commenter!  To better your chances of winning, just tweet this post about friendships and I’ll enter you for a SECOND chance to win!

E-Book Cover

For more than forty years, the mantra of the eight women in the Bridge Club has been one for all and all for one. Beginning their monthly soiree in the psychedelic Sixties, unpredicted twists of fate weave through the good times and strong friendship they share as the years pass. The constant from one decade to the next is loyal and nonjudgmental support, even when agreeing to disagree is the final solution. From the exhilarating cultural changes of their early times together through the zoomer years, their connection never falters.

As they celebrate turning sixty (give or take a year) at a group birthday weekend, each woman recalls a challenging time in her life when the Bridge Club came to the rescue.  After tossing around ideas mixed with a generous helping of common sense and a large dose of laughter they decide to refer to that time as their SOS. Eight chapters document each one’s story.

Paperback Cover

Everything is put into perspective and the strength of their friendship is truly tested when one of these women faces a life-altering decision. Her choice profoundly affects all members of the group, pushing the limits of their beliefs and values. The unique alliance they share is confronted with a crisis none of them might have imagined.


Let’s begin!  Girlfriends.  You got ’em?  You know, those women in your life who are there when you’re having fun, and even more so when you’re not.  Long lasting female friendships are hard to find.  In today’s world and economy it’s likely you’ll move around looking for jobs, lose touch, or maybe you remain friends, but it’s only a random birthday message on Facebook once a year.  I have more conversations waiting in line at the post office!

So what makes a good friend? 

I think for me it’s total acceptance.  It’s about knowing someone has flaws, but loving them unconditionally so they know they can say anything to you, and you’ll both survive.  I have 3 good female friends that fit this bill.  My dear friend, Amy, whom I visited in South Korea this past April, my friend (and someday sister-in-law) Jen, who’s asked me to be a flower girl in her wedding (Yep, flower girl!  And I’m totally excited!), and Cat, who is also getting married and asked me to perform the ceremony!  You can probably all start calling me Pastor Jess now.

But I have another great group of women in my life whom I met just last year August.  My book club.  We recently took a book club getaway to Madeline Island, which is part of the Apostle Islands, to tour a bunch of sites that were in the books we read, Moon Over Madeline Island and Back to Madeline Island.  This is us.  *Note: We are missing 4 members who couldn’t make it.  😦

L to R: Pat, Sharon, Dorie, Candy, Nan, Me and Mike. We’re wearing our matching Madeline Island t-shirts!

Many of these women have been friends for upwards of 20+ years.  Coincidentally, they all lived on the same block while their kids were growing up.  Though all but one has moved from that street, they still get together for book club, and bunko, and wherever friends are needed.  I was invited into the mix by Candy, who works with me and knows how much I love to read.  These wonderful and inspiring women invited me in and now brag to other book clubs that they have a “token young person.”  I’m not sure I can speak for everyone in their mid-20’s, but I sure do love chatting with these women!

So when I read Patricia’s book, The Bridge Club, and listened to the stories of the women in her life, I imagined my book club.  I feel so honored to hear their stories each month because they’ve all gone through so much and come out stronger.  That is exactly the kind of friendship that Patricia lives, and oh yah, she writes about it too!

Take it away, Patricia!

Patricia Sands

Thanks for inviting me to hang out with you on your fabulous blog, Jess! Who wouldn’t want to spend time in the Happiness Project and when you suggested we talk about friendship … well … what could be better?

I was SO delighted to hear about your book club! Who knows where it might lead?

As you know, I’m all about friendship. It’s what prompted me to write The Bridge Club and I am certain the connections women share will always be the underlying theme of anything I write. I’m excited to report I’ve just finished the first draft of my next novel and have sent it off for editing. I’d love to tell you the name but still haven’t decided on a title. Yikes! I’ll keep you posted!

The whole premise for TBC was indeed the awesome friendship the 10 women of my real-life bridge club still share after more than four decades. That calls for another “yikes!” – time flies, my friend, so treasure all of it! And ten for bridge? Don’t ask. That’s another story! As it says on the book cover, “it was never just about the cards”.

From our days in the psychedelic 1960’s as hip, liberated twenty-somethings (or so we thought) to our present day status as “zoomers’”, vibrant, active sixty-somethings, our connection has been a constant.

Although we are all the same age give or take a year and share the same values, that’s about all we truly have in common. We have very diverse personalities, opinions, sizes, shapes, hairstyles, careers, bank accounts, and families. Yet at the same time, we are one.

The Bridge Club (That’s Patricia in the middle)

We share a history full of memories that range from deliriously happy to devastatingly sad and encompass everything in between. It’s been quite a ride made all the more meaningful by knowing each one of us is “there” for whatever we need. It hasn’t always been everyone responding at the same time but rather whoever had the best to offer the situation. No matter what, we are always all in the loop and ready to bring what we can.

Honesty, trust and reliability define the best of friends. You know when friendships are real and unconditional. They are the voices that unselfishly celebrate your successes, pick you up when you are down, give you honest feedback (particularly on early writing drafts!), and make you laugh out loud when you need it most. You do the same for them. It all goes without saying.

Who can’t find time to be a good friend? Women’s friendship supports, empowers and inspires. We share our dreams with each other and encourage success, helping however we can. Women “get it”.

Since publishing TBC, I’ve had the pleasure of receiving e-mails from women of all ages (the youngest being 24 and the oldest 82) writing about the valued connections they share with other women. It’s such a buzz to hear what readers have to say about their own experiences and how they relate to the story.

I’ve been fortunate to have great friendships throughout my life and I hope that somehow I inspire others to treasure the ones they have. On occasion I hear from readers who tell me they have never experienced true friendship. As sad as that is, it’s never too late. Take a deep breath. Take a chance. Connect.

Whether you are 15, 35, 65 or 85, girlfriends are girlfriends … if friendship is honest and true some things never change. To have a good friend, you must BE a good friend. It’s as simple as that!


Thank you so much Patricia for hanging out at the Happiness Project, and Thank You For Being a Friend! 

Be sure to follow Patricia and her upcoming new book!  You can find her at Patricia Sands’ Blog, on twitter, and on Facebook!

And now, to serenade you, a favorite song of Patricia’s!  Tune in and tell us about the friendships you’ve made in life, or the ones you’re still hoping to form!

Here We ROW, One Week In

Hello ROWers!

I’m just checking in after my first week in ROW80.  My week’s goals included:

  • Blog Ahead (At least 5 posts)
  • Clean my room.
  • Plot my novel.
  • Finish reading the books for my book club discussion.

I was doing really well until the date for Fast Draft changed, and then I had to use some posts I’d done ahead for this week.  However, don’t think I was idly sitting by eating bon bons and channel surfing.  Oh no!

Hatfields and McCoys is on! (image from colourbox.com)

I am left with only 2 blog posts ahead, and I’d hoped for 5.  However, what I was doing was building connections with other writers!  So now…drumroll please…I have a blog interview planned with a New York Times Bestselling Author!  And I’m not saying who!  You’ll just have to keep checking back for Tuesday’s (which I think may need to switch back to Monday’s – so drop me a line on what you think works better…) Featured Writers Posts.

Next week features newfound blogging friend and phenomenal woman, Patricia Sands!  We’re talking female friendships and must read books, so please stop by!

Ok, clean my room.  I did clean my entire desk.  I still have a pile of in-between seasonal clothing that I’m not sure where to go with, but it’s a much better looking space.

Plot my novel.  Finalizing today because Fast Draft begins tomorrow.  *head desk* Inner Editor, if you don’t completely screw me over on this plan I’d be much obliged.  Watch for tweets about entire bags of cheetos and dove chocolate, that’ll be my warning signs if things aren’t going well.

She died from an overdose of chocolate! (image from selfish-kat.blogspot.com)

The reading goal I accomplished completely!  With a little help from the long drive opportunity I had while riding up to the Apostle Islands with my book club, I read Moon Over Madeline Island and Back to Madeline Island by Jay Gilbertson!  Then our book club skyped with the author monday night!  So much fun!  Pictures to come for tuesday’s post with Patricia!

That’s how I’m doing?  How about you?  What ROW goals have you accomplished?




#GuiltyPleasure Find: Kathy Patrick’s Beauty and the Book

If it’s Friday, then it must be all about Guilty Pleasures!  And I have a fabulous find for book lovers today!  One of my favorite guilty pleasures is author research.  After I read a book I love visiting the author’s website, learning about them and why they wrote the book.  This week I was researching Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City and American Rose.  While on her site, I happened upon an interview she did.

Interior of Beauty and the Book (image courtesy carolineleattville.blogspot.com)

The interview was for a newer show called Beauty and the Book, which is hosted by Kathy Patrick, founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club and owner of the Beauty and the Book salon.  Kathy is a licensed cosmetologist and a former publishing rep, who after losing her job during an economy slump, completely set her sights on her dream job:  A Bookstore and Beauty Salon!

Kathy’s shop is all about making you feel beautiful inside and out and her give back doesn’t stop there.  Promoting indie and local authors, she’s begun interviewing authors from all over the globe AND inviting them for FREE makeover services at her salon.  All her author makeovers are inspired by the time period and characters of their books.   Apart from fun makeovers and book chats, she also joins the authors for a book related activity such as vintage shopping, cooking traditional foods, house hunting, museum tours and more!  She may, in fact, have my dream job.

Don’t you want to hang out with her?! Kathy Patrick: Phenomenal Woman (image courtesy readandlead.blogspot.com)

Kathy is incredibly involved in outreach programs in her community.  She helped create a writing program in the homeless shelter of her town, gaining the trust of the people there and listening to their stories.  Now, she and her Pulpwood Queens  (who consist of over 300 chapters nationwide=the largest book club in the world) hold numerous events through the year promoting literacy and raising funds for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

Her show can be found on YouTube and at her site Beautyandthebookshow.com.  It’s kitschy, quirky, and simply adorable!  Kathy Patrick will win you over with her genuine enthusiasm for life and for BOOKS!

Here are a few of my favorite author interview episodes!

Karen Abbott, Author of American Rose:

Paula McLaine, Author of The Paris Wife:

Fannie Flagg, Author of I Still Dream of You:

Lisa See, Author of Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy:

Pat Conroy, Author of South of Broad:

Your turn!  What did you think of Kathy’s author interviews?  Don’t you want to run to her shop and be a part of her book clubs?  Have you read any of the books she reviews or the authors she interviews?  Who would be your dream author to interview if you had the chance?  Check out Kathy’s book club book selections for the year here!

Also, if you haven’t yet made it over to the Life List Club’s new blogsite, what are you waiting for?!

Night Fall: A Shocking Tale of Terrorism

Image courtesy Google Images

What do conspiracy theories, eyewitness accounts, and well-developed reoccurring characters all have in common? For those of you who read my blog often, you’re probably thinking this is another post about Dan Brown, which is a good guess, but actually this time I want to talk about the book Night Fall.

Nelson Demille (photo courtesy Google Images)

Night Fall, by Nelson Demille, is a fictional mystery novel centered around the events of the plane crash of Flight TWA 800 off the coast of New York. The plane crash did occur on July 17, 1996. The facts of the event were detected by over 200 eyewitness accounts, as well as CIA animated simulations, and Airline experts on how the crash occurred. The problem surrounding this news media frenzy is that the CIA generated module for how the plane crashed (declared technical malfunction due to an exploding gas tank) varied greatly from what 200 eyewitnesses saw (a streaming light coming up from the water, such as that of a missile). Therein, we have our conflict. There are at least six different theories regarding what happened to Flight TWA 800 ranging from a covered up friendly fire drill training gone wrong to explosive gas bubbles.   As a reader, you’ll follow along all six options as Detective John Corey unearths them.

National Geographic News Coverage on the Crash Simulation Theory:

The protagonist, John Corey, is a former New York Policeman, recently transferred to the FBI co-branch of detectives for the Anti-Terrorist Task Force. His wife is Kate Mayfield, an FBI agent and former lawyer. He couldn’t be more of a ticking time-bomb and she’s all about the books. Now, Kate was one of the interviewers for the eyewitnesses of the accident, and every year, on that mournful day, Kate pays her respect to the families who lost loved ones on that plane. A few choice words about the theories surrounding this particular plane crash, and her maverick of a husband is now sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.

This book will shock you. It’s both a gripping tale, and a surreal look at the possibilities and inaccuracies that lie within our government’s anti-terrorist actions. I will admit, when my book club first picked this title out and we all asked “what’s it about?” The one word answer “terrorism” didn’t exactly get us all jumping up and down. But I would absolutely recommend this book.

First, the writing is impeccable. Night Fall is the third book Demille uses Detective John Corey in, though the books do not read in a sequential order, he’s certainly found a niche his readers like in Corey’s snarky backhanded compliments and repetition for getting into trouble for all the right reasons. If you were ever in a situation where you needed a good detective, you’d want John Corey on your side. He has a knack of making you like and dislike all the characters he runs into, which in my opinion makes them all very real. Demille writes in a style that is fast paced and first person, so you learn along with his character.

His book is based on the drastic theories, news coverage, and eyewitness reports of what occurred on Flight TWA 800 that caused the death of 230 passengers and crew members.  It makes the suspense of this novel all the more gripping, because though you’re reading a work of fiction, this book is widely researched and makes no clear accusations of what really happened, yet challenges the original government ruling of the accidental exploding gas tank.  Demille has a history of leaving the endings of his novels unclear or open for interpretation, and Night Fall is no exception.  I will say, if you’re someone who likes to skip ahead and read the ending of a book before you get there, DON’T.  You do not want to read ahead in this book, and you will understand where he goes with the book as you go through, so don’t ruin it by cheating!

Ultimately, what I love about a book is whether it fosters discussion, and Night Fall does this.  With a topic such as government cover-ups and terrorism, it’s difficult not to have an opinion.  But it’s not a one-sided argument.  There is no clear right or wrong answer that any persons involved in this investigation could have provided, at least in my opinion.  It may be simple to look back and say, they should have done this, but we are also all on a heightened awareness and sensitivity regarding terrorism now.  Where can we possibly draw the line of what the public needs to know and what is necessary to keep private for internal operations?

More Info/Resources:

The Flight 800 Investigation

A Conspiracy Theory: What Really Happened

15 Years Later:  The Mysteries of Flight TWA 800

Have any of you read Night Fall?  Do you remember the crash of Flight TWA 800?  What’s your opinion on what really happened on July 17, 1996?  How does the discussion about terrorism differ from then to now?  What changes do you see?

Coincidence? I Think Not.

For the past five months, I’ve participated in my first ever book club.  I had gone to the occasional book discussion at the library if I was interested, but I’d never been in an actual group that I committed to seeing everyone in it at least once a month.  I couldn’t be happier I did.  I’ve mentioned my totally awesome and insightful book club members before, but let me regale you with their praise once more.  Collectively, the group is made up of teachers ranging from elementary to college level, nurses, sales managers, and counselors.  I am their token young person.  I joined up when a coworker of mine invited me knowing I had been an English Major and loved to read.  The first night I met the group I couldn’t believe how welcoming they were and how they opened up the discussion to ask me my opinion on things.  I love how each member has their own unique way of relating to the book.  Myself and one other member love researching the history behind the book, why did that author have to write this story, what’s the author’s background, what is the public saying about the story.  Other members have notebooks that they jot down questions about specific scenes where they want to know the thought process behind the character.  And others come to chat and bounce ideas off of our discussions.

Get to the point, Witkins, you startin’ up a talk show or what?! 

So, over the past five months, one member had repeatedly brought up the same book title at every other book’s discussion.  Because we heard it so often, we agreed to read it.

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

The Celestine Prophecy discovers the story of a Peruvian manuscript that is said to highlight nine insights that all humans will come to understand in consecutive order.  It takes the reader along the spiritual journey of John, a man with no direction at the beginning of his story.  The first insight is the noticing of coincidences.  It is believed that human beings will start to realize the uncanny timing of occurrences in their lives, be it the people they meet, the information they need to learn, or the path they should travel.  After that, the insights build upon one another with emphasis on energy connections and self awareness.

Now, a story isn’t a good story without conflict.  This tale, being a spiritual one, has conflict when the church authorities begin hunting down the existing manuscript and confiscating any copies that may be in circuit.  They are determined to teach that the manuscript defies the one true God and the Church’s teachings.

So begins our Indiana Jones-style adventure story, following John as he learns and experiences the nine insights.

Some Background Information:

I didn’t particularly think The Celestine Prophecy was well written.  It was difficult to get through and there was simply “no fluff” in the dialogue.  It is written out very matter of fact:  John asks himself questions, John meets who he needs to meet, asks what he needs to, travels on.

However, I did like the story.  There’s something to be said about noticing coincidences, and you may call it whatever you want.  I believe there is a spiritual aspect to our lives.  How else can we explain that innate feeling we get when the phone rings and you know who’s on the other line, or when you have a dream that something bad is going to happen and a loved one dies?  What sets us apart as humans is the ability to see and read and feel each other.  But like everything else, it’s a learned skill.  We have to be open to getting to know someone.  In that sense, I think the Celestine Prophecy has a lot to offer.

But check this out!  When Redfield first attempted to publish the tale, he refused all offers because it would be additional 12-18 months of editing before publication.  Umm, isn’t that the standard?

He believed the story needed to be published now (which was in 1993), and “driven by intuition to seek [a publishing consultant from New York] he decided to self-publish the book.”  He met his wife, Salle Merrill, right after publication and the two of them basically drove around the midwest/southern part of the country handing out copies of his book out of their car trunk.  Word of mouth spread, and the book was picked up by Warner Books and published a hardcover edition in March 1994.  Now what I’m wondering is is this a prime example of social media hard at work creating the dream of a New York Times Bestseller (which Prophecy was for 3 years)?  Or is this just fodder for one man’s quest to revolutionize religion?

Machu Picchu

I did a little hunting on the local library catalogs and only 1 out of about 6 housed the book in non-fiction.  In truth, it is published as fiction.  There wasn’t a real “John” who backpacked around Peru and met up with renegade priests who taught him how to grow corn using his mind’s energy and who made his way to Machu Picchu to assist finding the ninth insight.

The book has nonetheless skyrocketed in sales, and become so popular, Redfield has written three other books, The Tenth Insight, The Secret of Shambhala, and The Twelfth Insight.  He now puts out newsletters and has written programs to help people propel forward in their own spiritual journeys.

Reading the reviews on Goodreads, the points range from one star to five.  You’ll see the recently relocated person give it two thumbs up for reminding them to take life into their own hands and make the changes they want to see, while others write angry reviews that the book is nothing more than psychobabble and a waste of time.  I’m going to stay somewhere in the middle on this.  I said before, it’s not well written, I wouldn’t recommend it for its eloquent language, but if taken for what is, a parable about how life could be, perhaps should be, with more thought to how we communicate with each other and how our own “control dramas” impact our learning, then I think it is a worthwhile read.

James Redfield

The author, James Redfield, did lead an interesting life that I think demonstrates why he would have a need to write this book.  Redfield grew up in a Methodist community-rich environment.  He did question elements of the faith and went on to study many Eastern philosophies like Taoism and Zen, while studying Sociology at Auburn University.

For 15 years he worked as a counselor for abused teens, and used methods of human potential and psychic phenomena to assist his patients.  When he left, it was to write full time and found that while writing The Celestine Prophecy, he himself underwent the kinds of phenomena described in the book that helped him put it all together.  He was given learning tools and met people who helped teach him the exact spiritual insight he was trying to write about.

Your turn!  What do you think of The Celestine Prophecy?  Have you read it?  What insight would you most want the whole human race to realize?  Have you had any coincidences in your life lately?  

Note:  I purposely didn’t include the full nine insights, so as not to spoil the book for anyone wanting to read it, but you may view the insights on Redfield’s site here

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