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The Help and Happy Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve!

Kathryn Stockett's book, The Help, has garnered the USA Today Book of the Year. The Help is a great reading group pick. Select it for a 2010 discussion.

I have found a great article about baking and decorating. As one who doesn't bake and barely decorates, I was blown away by Cupcake Julie displays!

Please have a bookish and blessed Christmas!

Barbara's picture

Teaser Tuesday 12/22

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
    Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I"m on vacation (not) and so I'm reading a little something not work-related.

Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved by Elgen M. Long and Marie K. Long

"The sun would soon be high enough in the sky for him to take an accurate observation. A 26-day-old moon was visible as a white crescent in the southern sky, about 45 degrees to the west of the moon."

What are your two scents! of the day?

Barbara's picture

Monday! What are you Reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading this week? J. Kaye's Book Blog is hosting this weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week. Feel free to pile on a little extra.

I finished Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler last week.

This week I reading Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian plus Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinsky.

What are you reading?

Barbara's picture

Music by the Book! The Soloist

Music by the Book!
A pairing of music and words just for book groups!

In Music by the Book!, Tom Moon, author of 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, pairs words and music just for book groups.

For your next gathering, why not pair a book selection from Reading Group Choices with a music choice from Music by the Book!

This month, Tom suggests some music pairings for your discussion of The Soloist by Steve Lopez.

Nathaniel Ayers, the gifted homeless musician who is the subject of Steve Lopez’ The Soloist, struggles with mental illness. Once a student at Juilliard, Ayers fits the profile of one who fell through society’s safety net: He’s mistrustful, and prone to outbursts, and he doesn’t always make sense. Except, that is, when the subject is music. Then, he becomes not simply lucid but animated with passion. And deeply knowledgable.

As he follows Ayers around, Lopez – a metro columnist for the LA Times – gets an education in music, particularly in the classical music that is Ayers’ specialty.

One great way to get immersed in the world of The Soloist is to explore a few of the pieces that Ayers discusses so eloquently. Below are a few choice recordings.

Ernest Bloch: Howard Hanson Conducts Bloch. (Mercury). These performances of Bloch’s key works were recorded live at Rochester New York’s Eastman Theater in the late 1950s. In The Soloist, Ayers expresses affinity for Bloch’s “Schelomo, Rhapsody for Cello & Orchestra,” which on this recording is played with gusto by cellist Georges Miquelle.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 “Eroica.” New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, conductor. (Columbia) This is the piece the LA Philharmonic is rehearsing on the day Nathaniel Ayers first visits Disney Concert Hall. The Bernstein version, recorded in 1966, captures the heaving intensity of the score, with its melodies crashing into melodies in what Bernstein describes (in the accompanying audio lecture) as “whiplashes of sound.”

Dvorak: The Dvorak Album, Yo-Yo Ma. (Sony). Released in 2004 to mark the 100th anniversary of Antonin Dvorak’s death, this compilation contains the Czech composer’s legendary Cello Concerto in b minor, another of Ayers’ favorites. It’s performed by the New York Philharmonic under Kurt Mazur; the solo passages are handled with great bubbling passion by the megastar Yo-Yo Ma, who makes an appearance late in The Soloist.

About Tom:

For the last three and a half years, award-winning music journalist Tom Moon has been searching out peak musical experiences from all genres and every corner of the earth. 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, published by Workman Publishing in August 2008, is the result of his journey. Covering both acknowledged world-culture masterworks (J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations) and recordings that have been unfairly overlooked (Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left), the book is designed to encourage listeners to become explorers.

Moon lives with his wife, daughter, two dogs and an attic full of music outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Barbara's picture

Garth Stein and Enzo Win Big!

The Kent Island Book Babes (my reading group) picked The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein as Best Book of 2009. The Kibbie Award for Best Character went to Enzo the dog of Art of Racing and the Kibbie Award for 2009 Best Discussion went to The Art of Racing in the Rain! Landslide! Go Garth and Go Enzo!

Our group picks the winners in a secret ballot in November and then Susan T (we have 4 Susans!), the resident artist, creates the statues. At the holiday party, the Kibbies are announced and distributed to the member(s) who picked the book. Sisters Stacey and Susan W cleaned up! There is a Kibbie for Worst Book and Worst/Most Disliked character but I won't reveal them!

After the walk down the red carpet, we had our Chinese auction and planned our schedule for 2010.

Our holiday party is always so much fun -- great people, great food, lots of laughs, and good discussions about what we read that year.  

Does your book club do anything different at your holiday party?

Barbara's picture

Mother's Love in Barbara Delinsky's Not My Daughter

Yea! Barbara Delinsky has got another one -- Not My Daughter, releasing January 2010! The Boston Globe writes Barbara Delinsky  "is a first-rate storyteller who creates characters as familiar as your neighbors." 

No spoilers here, just a summary!

Not My Daughter deals with teenage pregnancy and the loss and heartbreak that comes with it. But, also, the book reveals the love, the forgiveness, and the bond mothers and daughters share. 

From publisher: When Susan Tate's seventeen-year-old daughter, Lily, announces she is pregnant, Susan is stunned. A single mother, she has struggled to do everything right. She sees the pregnancy as an unimaginable tragedy for both Lily and herself.

Then comes word of two more pregnancies among high school juniors who happen to be Lily's best friends-and the town turns to talk of a pact. As fingers start pointing, the most ardent criticism is directed at Susan. As principal of the high school, she has always been held up as a role model of hard work and core values. Now her detractors accuse her of being a lax mother, perhaps not worthy of the job of shepherding impressionable students. As Susan struggles with the implications of her daughter's pregnancy, her job, financial independence, and long-fought-for dreams are all at risk.

The emotional ties between mothers and daughters are stretched to breaking in this emotionally wrenching story of love and forgiveness. Once again, Barbara Delinsky has given us a powerful novel, one that asks a central question: What does it take to be a good mother?

First line:

Susan Tate never saw it coming.

What a great teaser -- it has you hooked! 

Barbara Delinsky' books have great themes and interesting conflicts that are perfect for creating a lively conversation for reading groups.

Look for Not My Daughter next month! 


Barbara's picture

Teaser Tuesday 12/15

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Today I have a fun one. Nothing profound or deep -- just a celebrity book with lots of photos of a handsome and talented man. Oh, and there are photos of the band, as well.

"As far as I'm concerned, the world began when Sinatra swooned, Presley swayed, the Beatles sang "She Loves You," and the Stones flaunted their sympathetic devil-may-care swagger. The rest of it just sort of happened." -- Jon Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi by Phil Griffin

Barbara's picture

Gesine's Reading Group Whoopie!

In August 2004, Gesine Bullock-Prado left behind a high-powered life in Hollywood, where she had run a production company with her sister, actress Sandra Bullock. Celebrating a long held wish, Gesine started her own bakery, Gesine Confectionary, in the small town of Montpelier,Vermont. Confections of a Closet Master Baker is Gesine's witty story of choosing the simpler life after living the high life in Hollywood.

".... In subtly compelling prose, the master baker conveys her touching sense of responsibility for the "emotional needs of [her] patrons," and offers mouthwatering recipes."—Publishers Weekly

A recipe for Reading Group Choices!

Gesine writes about the "good ole days" snack vs the mature sophisticated snack. She has created the Reading Group Whoopie for us as a sweet treat for your group's holiday party, or, anytime. It is Yummy!  ENJOY and thanks Gesine!

Reading Group Whoopie!
by Gesine Bullock-Prado 

"At 10:45, just as George Michael’s “Sports Machine” was finishing up on Virginia’s channel five, members of a clandestine society would filter into my college living room, students of Mr. Jefferson’s University all and each bearing an offering of Moon Pies and a bumper of Colt 45.  At 11pm, when the strains of the Star Trek:  Next Generation theme song squeezed themselves from the mono speaker of my crappy t.v., a hush fell over the room as we nibbled, sipped and fell under the spell of Captain Picard and his travails with the Borg or poor Data struggling under the influence of human emotion.  These were heady things, made more memorable with the inclusion of our ritual treats.

I’ll be honest with you.  I don’t know what spurred on the specifics of our ritual meal.  I’m hard pressed to tell you what’s tasty about a Moon Pie.  I’d never gone out of my way to eat one on any other occasion.  And the Colt 45, forget about it.  I want to. But the combination of elements, the Star Trek, the cardboard sandwich cookie and the malt liquor, made for a beloved communion of friends that we’ll cherish forever.

Now an adult, a professional baker with access to a better selection of alcoholic beverages, I’ve reimagined my youthful gathering:  A book that brings friends together instead of Roddenberry, a generous glass of juicy Pinot Noir in place of the Colt 45 and a luscious, spongy, fluff filled homemade chocolate Whoopie Pie in the shrink-wrapped Moon Pie’s stead.

So I’d like to share this recipe with fellow book lovers so that your next literary gathering may be infused with Whoopie goodness.  Enjoy!"


Chocolate Whoopie Reading Group Pies
(makes 2 dozen sandwiches or 6 sandwiches and 1 large whoopie)

For Chocolate Whoopies:

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cups non-fat buttermilk
¾ cup hot coffee
½ a bar (or 2 ounces) of Ghirardelli 4 oz bittersweet premium baking bar, cut into small pieces and melted in the coffee

 Preheat oven to 350 (convection) or 375 (traditional)
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
Add chocolate to coffee and set aside for it to melt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
Scrape down bowl and add eggs one at a time.  Mixing until fully incorporated.
Combine buttermilk and coffee and alternate this mixture with the flour mixture until all elements are incorporated.  Whisk quickly on high to insure perfect distribution.
On a parchment lined cookie sheet and using a large ice cream or cookie scoop, place cookies onto parchment lined baking pans, 12 per pan. 
Bake for 15 minutes or until the cake springs back when gently touched.
Pipe a generous dollop of Marshmallow Fluff or Seven-Minute Icing (recipe to follow) onto half the Whoopies and sandwich with the remaining cookies. 
These will keep up to 2 days in an airtight container.

For Seven Minute Frosting:

1 ¾ cups sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
¼ cup water
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 egg whites

In a heavy saucepan, combine 1 ½ cups sugar, corn syrup and water and heat over medium until (1) sugar has melted and (2) reaches 230 degrees on a candy thermometer.  This can take from 5 to 10 minutes.

In a mixing bowl with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites with the salt and vanilla until you reach soft peak stage.  Slowly add the remaining ¼ cup sugar.  Add the molten sugar mixture the instant it has reached temperature while the mixer is on medium speed.  Make sure to pour the syrup down the side of the bowl so that it doesn’t splatter and it’s incorporated more gently (i.e. doesn’t scramble your eggs).  Beat until the fluff is cool, thick, very stiff and shiny.   This can take up to 10 minutes.  Sometimes more!


Visit Reading Group Choices Wine by the Book! for Pinot Noir suggestions to accompany your Reading Group Whoopie!

Visit with Gesine Bullock-Prado in her 1-On-One.

Barbara's picture

Christmas Meows

Time to get out the cats! The Christmas cats, I mean. I collect Christmas picture books with cats as the main characters!

So, every Christmas, I get them out, read all of them again, and then decorate my house with them. The book covers are so festive with the reds, greens, blues, silvers. They add such a classic and different look to the rest of my seasonal decorations.

My Christmas cat titles include Holly by Ruth Brown, Cat in the Manger by Michael Foreman, The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes illustrated by Tasha Tudor, A Pussycat's Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown illustrated by Anne Mortimer,

Any suggestions of Christmas cats books would be appreciated -- the more the merrier!

Do you read a special book for Christmas? Does your readng group pick a special theme or read a particular title to discuss at the holiday party?

Barbara's picture

Classics are Alive and Well

Classics are Back! yea! I love the classics -- Austen, Dickens, Tolstoy, Twain, Shakespeare, Sinclair, Melville, Steinbeck, Bronte's sisters, Stegner, Dostoyevsky, Stoker, Wilkes. I could go on -- so many are my faves. Many reading groups read only classics or pick a classic once a year to discuss.

Now, there is a great way to enhance your reading and discussion of the classics. Penguin Classics on Air, a half-hour radio series devoted to some of the more than 1,500 classics titles, makes its debut this week on Sirius XM Book Radio (Sirius #117, XM #163). The series airs twice a week, on Mondays at 3 p.m. and Thursdays at 11:30 p.m. The shows include in-depth conversations with scholars and experts.

The first show, called "Why We Love Jane Austen," explores what it means to be a Janeite, how etiquette was different in Austen's time and why spoofs like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are so popular right now.

What a great idea! Bone up on the classics and be an expert at your next classic book discussion!

What is your favorite classic?

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