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Epic Reads: Secrets to Crafting Historical Fiction

Mechanics Institute Library 2nd-floor (epic reads)

Author Lunch, Mechanics Institute Library
Friday, August 17, 2018, 12:00 Noon
57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104
4th Floor, Chess Room (Free to Public, refreshments available)

The Women’s National Book Association San Francisco Chapter is thrilled to present member writers who have authored highly successful historical (and prehistorical!) novels that readers and reviewers rave about. Learn what role research plays and how to make your scenes, settings, and characters realistic and compulsively readable.

Epic Reads will be moderated by WNBA-SF President Brenda Knight. There will be Q&A followed by book signings; bring your notebooks and plenty of questions!

Mary Mackey, New York Times Bestselling author of The Village of Bones, will discuss how she brings the Goddess-worshiping cultures of Prehistoric Europe to life by drawing on extensive archaeological research, the surviving art of the epoch, and her own imagination. Mackey’s novels take us on an epic journey to the past that has vital importance for the present.

Novelist Mary Volmer will discuss research strategies that will help you unearth, organize, and effectively utilize historical information in any creative project. Learn the difference between static and living details, how to avoid superfluous detail, and how to use objects as windows into a character’s heart and mind.

Mary Mackey Mary Mackey is the New York Times bestselling author of fourteen novels, including The Earthsong Series—four novels which describe how the peaceful Goddess-worshiping people of Prehistoric Europe fought off patriarchal nomad invaders (The Village of Bones, The Year The Horses Came, The Horses at the Gate, and The Fires of Spring). Mary’s novels have been praised by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Pat Conroy, Thomas Moore, Marija Gimbutas, Maxine Hong Kingston, Marge Piercy, and Theodore Roszak for their historical accuracy, inventiveness, literary grace, vividness, and storytelling magic. They have made The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller Lists, been translated into twelve foreign languages and sold over a million and a half copies. Mary has also written seven collections of poetry including Sugar Zone, winner of the 2012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. This September Marsh Hawk Press will publish a collection of her new and selected poems entitled The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams. At marymackey.com, you can get the latest news about Mary’s books and public appearances, sample her work, sign up for her newsletter, and get writing advice. You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @MMackeyAuthor.

Mary Volmer - credit Kory Hayden Mary Volmer is the author of two novels: Crown of Dust (Soho Press, 2010) and Reliance, Illinois (Soho Press, 2016). Her essays and short stories have appeared in various publications, including Mutha Magazine, the Farallon Review, Women’s Basketball Magazine, Fiction Writers Review, Historical Novel Society Review, The New Orleans Review, Brevity, and Ploughshares. After earning a master’s degree at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, where she was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College (CA). She has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and Hedgebrook and was the Spring 2015 Distinguished Visiting Writer in Residence at Saint Mary’s College (CA) where she now teaches. 

The Book Club Cheerleader’s Top 10 Summer Reads 2015, Part 2

[Continued from the June 26, 2015 post]

Marsha Toy EngstromWritten by Marsha Toy Engstrom

Here are five more winners for your beach tote …

More Memories of New York 

5) Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion by Kristina McMorris et al (Berkley; July 2014.)

Imagine yourself on a polished wooden bench waiting for your train at New York City’s Grand Central Station in September of 1945. This is the premise with which ten talented authors began to write a short story. This illustrious group includes such perennial favorites as Melanie Benjamin, Jenna Blum, and Sarah McCoy. But just as each author’s story greatly differs from the others, they all have this magical sense of place that ties them loosely together—perhaps it’s the ceiling of stars which seem to shine over them all. These stories are so cleverly linked that the resulting collection pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until the last page of the last story—perhaps my favorite—by Karen White

Vacation on the Water 

The Boys in the Boat4) The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown  (Viking; June, 2013.)

This richly researched narrative non-fiction is reminiscent of Laura Hillenbrand and David McCullough. The author focuses on the “boys” in the boat, as much as the 3-year lead up to the Olympics in Berlin, making  it read more like a human interest story, than a how-to on building a world-class team. It’s “just a book about rowing” in the same way that Seabiscuit is “just a horse book.” Run (it need not be at an Olympic pace)—don’t walk—to your nearest bookstore or library and learn why the ‘boys on the boat’ were all so special.

3) The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (Scribner; December, 2014.)

Compared to two of Ms. D’s previous best sellers, The Red Tent and Day After Night, this book reads much quieter on the surface—with an intense current running deep. An evocative immigrant story, Addie Baum shows herself to be practical and reliable, and yet develops into a continuous learner, risk-taker, and pioneer for women’s rights. The book is so understated that until I prepared for our library book club discussion, I’d forgotten we’d read about such heady topics as family angst, spousal abuse, suicide, suffragettes, women first entering both higher education and the work place, and the importance of female friendships. It’s a testament to the author’s skills that she can write with such a different tone, and yet create such a fascinating story.

2) Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (Crown; March, 2015.)

 

Erik Larson wrote a compelling story of the sinking of the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland in 1915—just in time for the centennial anniversary of the doomed vessel’s demise. As has become his signature literary technique, Larson weaves together two stories: one of the captain and various passengers aboard the Lusitania, the other of the captain of the U-20—the German submarine who sunk her. I was surprised to find a conspiracy theory lurking underneath the story line—as menacing as the German U-boats. A great story of intrigue on the high seas!

Summer in the South 

while_we_were_watching_downton_abbey-192x3001) While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax (Berkley, April, 2013.)

I promised you a really “fun” read—and have saved it for last. For those of you who cannot wait until January for the final season of Downton Abbey, here’s a real treat. But first true confessions: I was expecting something light and fluffy when I picked up this book—but it turned out to be quite smart—and an enjoyable read. First I was struck by the similarities of women bonding over a TV show, and the relationships that are built by reading and discussing books together. (Anything related to book clubs is a winner for me…) The three main characters not only support one another through some trying times, but also grow individually. (Unlike, some of the characters on Downton Abbey…)

Hope you pick a few new books for your summer reading—and let us know what YOU’VE been recommending as beach blanket books!

Cheers!

WNBA SF Book Reviews

Marsha Toy Engstrom is the editor of www.bookclubcheerleader.com

 

Summer 2018 Newsletter

 

Women's National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter Newsletter

upcoming events and news wnba-sf chapter Chapter President

Epic Reads:
Secrets to Crafting Historical Fiction

Mechanics Institute Library 2nd-floor (epic reads)

Author Lunch, 
Mechanics Institute Library
August 17th, 2018, 
Friday,
12:00 Noon
57 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94104 
4th Floor, Chess Room

Free to Public, refreshments available

The Women’s National Book Association San Francisco Chapter is thrilled to present member writers who have authored highly successful historical (and prehistorical!) novels that readers and reviewers rave about. Learn what role research plays and how to make your scenes, settings, and characters realistic and compulsively readable. 

Epic Reads will be moderated by WNBA-SF President Brenda Knight. There will be Q&A followed by book signings; bring your notebooks and plenty of questions!

Mary MackeyMary Mackey, New York Times Bestselling author of The Village of Bones, will discuss how she brings the Goddess-worshiping cultures of Prehistoric Europe to life by drawing on extensive archaeological research, the surviving art of the epoch, and her own imagination. Mackey’s novels take us on an epic journey to the past that has vital importance for the present. Her New York Times bestselling author of fourteen novels, including The Earthsong Series—four novels which describe how the peaceful Goddess-worshiping people of Prehistoric Europe fought off patriarchal nomad invaders (The Village of Bones, The Year The Horses Came, The Horses at the Gate, and The Fires of Spring). Mary’s novels have been praised by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Pat Conroy, Thomas Moore, Marija Gimbutas, Maxine Hong Kingston, Marge Piercy, and Theodore Roszak for their historical accuracy, inventiveness, literary grace, vividness, and storytelling magic.

Mary Volmer - credit Kory HaydenNovelist Mary Volmer will discuss research strategies that will help you unearth, organize, and effectively utilize historical information in any creative project. Learn the difference between static and living details, how to avoid superfluous detail, and how to use objects as windows into a character’s heart and mind.

After earning a master’s degree at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, where she was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College (CA). She has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and Hedgebrook and was the Spring 2015 Distinguished Visiting Writer in Residence at Saint Mary’s College (CA) where she now teaches. 

To read more click HERE!

Brenda Knight

Dear WNBA-SF Members,

Can you believe it’s August already? This year is flying by but the silver lining is that we are coming right up on some of our most exciting events of the year.

I want to begin with an opportunity for all you member authors: we are having our 2nd Annual WNBA-SF Showcase at The Book Passage in Corte Madera this December 16th starting at 4 pm. As you doubtless know, The Book Passage was named one of the 5 best bookstores in America and they will stock and sell your book for you to discuss, sell and sign! WNBA-SF will provide refreshments including sparkling beverages for additional seasonal cheer. We are very pleased to have this event closer to the holidays when books sales will be even brisker than the weather. To participate, please contact me directly at Brenda.Knight@gmail.com and put WNBA-SF Book Passage Showcase in the email subject line. We hope to see you and your books there!

Coming right up is our very first WNBA-SF Author Lunch at the Mechanics Institute Library in the beautiful beaux arts building in downtown San Francisco, Epic Reads: Secrets to Crafting Historical Fiction at noon on August 17th. Featuring the dynamic duo of Mary Mackey and Mary Volmer, two masters of historical fiction will share their tips and approach to the craft. Mary Mackey promises to “make those ancient bones come alive.” Not to be missed.

This year’s 22nd Effie Lee Memorial Lecture on September 6th at the SF Main Library will also be epic with award-winning author and artist Shane Evans. Let’s toast our chapter’s 50th Birthday at the reception beforehand upstairs in the Children’s Center.

We would also love to see you at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference For Change on September 8th where we will have a booth and members will be presenting.

We also have our date for our National Reading Group Month event in conjunction with Litquake which is Saturday, October 13th at The Book Passage Ferry Plaza.

We are at the half-way point in our 50 years as a chapter; so far, it has been a banner year for our chapter, thanks to all of you. All of these events are marvelous celebrations of our literary community and excellent opportunities to network, get inspired by stellar writers and meet your fellow chapter members.

We would also love to hear YOUR news and welcome you to consider penning a blog post for our weekly newsfeed and website. We also have openings for board members and if you are interested, please contact me at the aforementioned email. We love nothing better than learning from the wise women who comprise the WNBA-SF.

In closing, I’ll remind you our membership renewal period has started and we very much appreciate your continued support and contributions to our community.

Many thanks and keep the pages turning,

Brenda Knight, President
president@wnba-sfchapter.org

upcoming events and news wnba-sf chapter Other News
 

22nd Annual Effie Lee Morris Lecture featuring Shane Evans

September 6th, 2018, Thursday
SAN FRANCISCO MAIN LIBRARY

CIVIC CENTER • FREE ADMISSION
100 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102
5:00 pm: Reception, Children’s Center, 2nd Floor
WNBA Members and Guests are invited to the pre-event Reception.

6:00 pm: Lecture, Koret Auditorium, Lower Level

Join the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter and the Main Library’s Children’s Center as author/illustrator Shane W. Evans, author of the Coretta Scott King Award-winning Underground, speaks on The Art of Dream….

A book-signing will follow the lecture.

Shane Evans is perhaps best-known as the author and illustrator of the Coretta Scott King Award-winning picture book underground, a sensorily rich evocation of how it feels to be a slave on the way to freedom. Among his dozens of other titles are collaborations with his lifelong friend, actor and singer Taye Diggs; the pair have together created Chocolate MeMixed Me! and other warmhearted picture stories. Shane Evans is the recipient of an NAACP Image Award, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor award, and two Jane Adams Honor awards, one for Lillian’s Right to Vote (written by Jonah Winter) and the other for We March.

To read more click HERE!

 

2018 San Francisco Writing for Change Conference

September 8th, 2018, Saturday
Check-in begins at 8:00 am

8:30 am – 5:30 pm
First Unitarian Universalist Center of San Francisco
1187 Franklin Street (at Geary), San Francisco, CA

Please join the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter at the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference where we will have a booth and also be participating in panels on getting published, marketing and writing the perfect proposal and much more!

The keynoter at the 2018 San Francisco Writing for Change will be best-selling/award winning author Daniel Ellsberg.

He is an activist on the dangers of the nuclear era and the urgent need for patriotic whistleblowing. He is the author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Dr. Ellsberg will be interviewed by David Landau.

At the 10th San Francisco Writing for Change Conference you will discover how what you write can change the world…and how to get your writing published. The theme of the conference is “Writing to Make a Difference,” with topics ranging from business, spirituality, politics, technology, social issues, the environment, culture, the law, and much more.

Featured Member Interview

BOOKTALK! The Buzz in the World of Books
 

Featured Member Interview – Susan Allison

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

In this interview, Dr. Susan Allison shares her wisdom about “writing what you know” and her publishing experiences with large publishers (Random House), smaller presses, and, self-publishing.

“What has worked for me in writing Conscious Divorce and the books that followed, is to write about what I am deeply experiencing, and what I feel compelled to share with others. I’ve written about how to end a relationship amicably, create a new life as a single woman, heal physically or emotionally, find one’s soul mate, cope with a partner’s passing, and connect with loved ones in spirit realms. Every book has its seed in my own life-journey.”

“In 2001 when I published Conscious Divorce, Ending a Marriage with Integrity, I was going through a divorce and couldn’t find anything helpful, so I wrote my own book.”

We asked how this book came to be published by a division of Random House.

“I found a great agent, Anne Edelstein, in New York, and within two weeks of sending it out, it was picked up by Harmony Books/Three Rivers Press.”

“What I found, and have experienced since, is finding an agent and publisher is about connections. I called a friend’s sister in New York who had been an editor at Bantam and she gave me the names of five agents.”

To read more click HERE!

Featured Member Interview – M. Glenda Rosen (Marcia Rosen)

Interview by Nina Lesowitz

Marcia Rosen

During her career as a consultant, motivational speaker, radio host, founder of CreativeBook Concepts, and business writer, Marcia Rosen has always advocated for women’s success and empowerment.

“My marketing agency, M. Rosen Consulting specialized in working with professional women, and I was at one point on the Boards of nine women’s organizations in New York City. I received an award for my work from the NYC Comptroller at the time and was later named ‘Women of the Year’ by East End Women’s group on Long Island, NY.”

She slowed down her agency business to get serious about her fiction writing about four years ago, although “I do still help some others develop their books and create marketing concepts for them.”

Author of My Memoir Workbook, and The Woman’s Business Therapist, she explains why she decided to focus on crime fiction including her “The Senior Sleuths” mystery series and “Dying To Be Beautiful” mystery series.

“I decided to write fiction years ago as my favorite books are mysteries and I love the PBS mysteries. Also, our history and experiences can define us, inspire our actions and as writers impact our words and stories.  Mine most definitely has – my father was a gangster.” 

“I grew up in an unusual, and sometimes outrageous, environment.  It wouldn’t take a genius, a psychiatrist or a palm reader to figure out the genesis of my fascination with crime and criminals. In my series, ‘The Senior Sleuths,’ Zero the Bookie is a version of my dad, and several other characters are based on his associates.”

I asked for Marcia’s advice on the specifics of writing for this genre.

“Your first sentence, moreover your first paragraph, should grab your reader… maybe even by the throat, like a good murder!

“Writing a mystery book or series is akin to putting together a puzzle with a thousand pieces. Where should you begin? Do you start the puzzle with the corner and edge pieces, providing details on the main characters including the heroes and criminals? Or do you start in the middle, revealing upfront the murder and complexity of the story plot?

To read more click HERE!

Pushing Boundaries – Stories of Border Crossings, Love, Courage and the Indomitable Human Spirit

Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter Presents:

National Reading Group Month 
The Joy of Shared Reading
Book Passage, Ferry Building,
SanFrancisco
October 13th, 2018, Saturday
3:00-5:00pm

Co-sponsored by:

litquake logo 2017

 

 

 

Kristina McMorrisSold on a Monday: A Novel (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2018), is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her novels have garnered twenty national literary awards, and include Letters from HomeBridge of Scarlet LeavesThe Pieces We Keep, and The Edge of Lost, in addition to novellas in the anthologies A Winter Wonderland and Grand Central. She lives with her husband and two sons in Oregon. 

Debbie Clarke Moderow is the author of Fast Into the Night: A Woman, Her Dogs, and their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail (Boreal Books, 2018). The memoir recounts her experience running Alaska’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and explores her deepening and inextricable bond with her team of Alaskan huskies. 

Lauren Markham is a writer based in Berkeley, California. Her writing focuses on issues related to youth, migration, the environment and  She is the author of The Far Away Brothers (Crown, 2017), which was shortlisted for an LA Times Book Prize and longlisted for the Pen America Literary Award. 

Brianna Wolfson’s debut novel is Rosie Colored Glasses (MIRA, 2018). She shares her narrative non-fiction in the San Francisco writing circuit, having performed at The Moth and been featured on Medium. Thinks and writes about family stuff. Does the crossword in pencil. Plays the lottery on Fridays.

Mary Monroe, One House Over: A Novel (Dafina, 2018) is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of over 20 novels, with over one million books in print. The daughter of Alabama sharecroppers, she taught herself how to write before going on to become the first and only member of her family to finish high school. She lives in Oakland, California.

 To read more click HERE!

Joan Gelfand, Past President of SF Chapter and WNBA Nat’l shares the benefits of WNBA Membership: “…Since that time, I’ve had five more books published, four of which were directly related to my leadership role in WNBA…  The point here is not about happy endings; it’s about why community matters in your writing life.” Read Gelfand’s post HERE!

It’s that time again! Time to renew your membership in WNBA, NOW until October 15, 2018. Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of SF Chapter!

WNBA SF Chapter Board Contact Info

Join-Now_btr6my6_0

WNBA-SF 2016-2018 BOARD

President: Brenda Knight
Vice President: Elise Marie Collins
Treasurer: Herma Lichtenstein
Secretary: Kathleen Archambeau
Membership Co-Chair: Sue Wilhite
Membership Co-Chair: Jan Schmuckler
Past President: Kate Farrell
Member at Large: Marcia Rosen, Marketing
Member at Large: Mary Volmer, Events Co-chair
Member at Large: Joan Gelfand

Communications
Social Media Manager: Elise Marie Collins
Web Editor: Sue Wilhite, in transition
Newsletter Editor: Gauri Manglik, in transition
Featured Member Interview Editor: Dr Susan Allison
Bookwoman Correspondent: Martha Conway
Webmaster: Linda Lee

Mailing address: 
4061 E. Castro Valley Blvd.
Castro Valley, CA 94552-4840

The Women’s National Book Association has been a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) member of the United Nations since 1959. A NGO is defined as “any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group that is organized on a local, national or international level.”  

WNBA New Websites! 

The Women’s National Book Association, established in 1917, before women in America had the right to vote.

Check out our Centennial website for more information about our history and the celebrations we have planned throughout the year.

The WNBA’s founding idea—that books have power and that those involved in their creation gain strength from joining forces—reaches across the decades to now serve members in 11 chapters across the country and network members in between.  
Read More…

Check out: NEW NATIONAL DIRECTORY!

DIRECTORY HOME | DIRECTORY LOGIN

You must be an ACTIVE MEMBER to be listed in the new directory and have login access to your personal profile and all other members.

 
 

The Book Club Cheerleader’s Top 3 Book Club Books of 2013

1-21-14Three. Wow! That’s a tough number for this ADD reader—especially when you figure most book clubs read anywhere from 8-12 books a year—and I coach dozens of clubs. And what does “best” really mean? Most enjoyable? Most popular? Most discussable? These can be vastly different qualities. To narrow down the field and to make this post more useful to you, I thought I’d eliminate the Most Popular books. After all, you can pull up GoodReads or LibraryThing, or peruse the latest copies of Bookmarks or BookPage and read all about those New York Times mega-sellers like The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, and Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford. (And BTW, I would not pass up a single one of those…) However, let me share with you some of the great mid-list finds that you might’ve overlooked in 2013. Here are:

2013 Top 3 Book Club Books (Hidden Gems)

3) Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt. Although the author finally hit the New York Times Best Seller list with this—her 10th novel—and WNBA selected it as a 2013 Great Group Reads choice, many folks are just now discovering the magic that is Leavitt’s writing. Set in the 60’s –it’s much more than a nod to the Mad Men-era. The author paints a picture of women’s roles at that period in time, what it feels like to be an outsider, and how loss can keep you from finding your own way in the world. Powerful stuff—and, of course, great discussion material for book clubs. Her last novel, Pictures of You, may have put her on the map, but ‘Tomorrow’ is certainly her best so far!

2) Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Reminiscent of one of my favorites from last year, Wiley Cash’s  A Land Kinder than Home, this gothic southern novel is part mystery, part literary fiction, and 100% compelling story. It was also selected by WNBA as a 2013 Great Group Reads pick. The sensual language will grab your attention from the start and the deeply-drawn characters will pull you in the rest of the way. Don’t miss it!

1) The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins—this is my #1 book pick for 2013! It’s a tale of two mothers separated by an ocean—and more than a century. They’re united in their will to do what’s best for their children. The author creates such rich, realistic, and rounded characters, she makes it easy for us to cheer for them. The two stories alternate with each chapter, offering unique voices and creating suspense while contributing to the pleasant pacing of the storylines.  But, what stood out most for me about Ms. Cummins writing, is how she can switch from snarky New York humor (and precocious potty-mouth) to lyrical prose in a heartbeat. This is not a book for just mothers or daughters—although mothers and daughters will love it—but a book for everyone who considers themselves human.

Things to look forward to…

I can’t close out 2013 without anticipating some equally great reading in 2014. So let me share with you the top three books I’m eager to read next…

3. Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan (1.21.14 release; 496 pgs; Ballantine Books; Historical Fiction) The much-anticipated second novel by the author of the New York Times bestseller, Loving Frank, tells the story of the turbulent relationship between Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and his wild-tempered American wife, Fanny. Like Benjamin, it seems Horan has found her historical niche…

2. Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah (1.7.2014 release; 256 pgs, Sarah Crichton Books; Contemporary Fiction) You may recognize Ishmael as the author of the 2007 bestselling memoir, A Long Way Gone. Ishmael Beah came to prominence as a former child soldier who survived the civil war in Africa’s Sierra Leone and wrote of his harrowing experiences. In his first novel, Radiance of Tomorrow, Beah examines postwar life in Sierra Leone through the eyes of two friends who return to their village and try to repair what the civil war has destroyed.

1. This Dark Road to Mercy, by Wiley Cash (1.28.2014 release; 240 pgs; William Morrow; Literary Fiction) Cash’s debut novel, A Land Kinder than Home, was a WNBA Great Group Reads selection and also made my Top 10 List for 2012. It was a haunting novel, and I was convinced he was an author to watch. So, I could not be more pleased to learn about his sophomore effort. It’s the story of two young sisters who are trying to resettle their lives and survive the foster care system in the foothills of the Appalachians. Enter the prodigal father who kidnaps them in the middle of the night and now is being pursued not only by the girl’s new guardian, but also by his past—hell-bent on revenge. Yep—sounds as though Mr. Cash has delivered another great Southern gothic novel!

And it looks like three very different types of reads will be keeping me up nights in the New Year! What are you looking forward to reading  in 2014? We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers!

MarshaToy380

Marsha Toy Engstrom

Marsha Toy Engstrom coaches and facilitates numerous book clubs. She also pens a book column for The Wildwood Independent newspaper, writes on all-things-book-club on her blog, Book Club Cheerleader, and is working on her first book, Celebrating Book Clubs! Marsha serves as the Author Event Coordinator for her local Carnegie Library, is a team-member for her hometown’s One City, One Book program, and recently spoke as a panelist for BEA’s Book Club Facilitators Speak Out. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, the WNBA-San Francisco Chapter, and has served on the WNBA selection team for National Reading Group Month’s Great Group Reads for the past couple of years.

The Book Club Cheerleader’s Top 10 Book Club Books of 2013

MarshaToy380

Marsha Toy Engstrom

This …s…l…o…w… reader is proud to proclaim that I read 80 books last year! (With a huge thanks to Audible and books on CD.) Not all of them were published in 2013—but of the ones which were, the following titles were my favorites,  grouped alphabetically by theme, except for my very top pick, which certainly earned its No. 1 spot! If you or your reading group hasn’t picked up one of these, it might be time to try one. 

Top 10 Book Club Books of 2013

 Historical Fiction

It’s not an accident that this genre accounts for half of my Top 10 list. Book clubs love historical novels because in addition to talking about character, language, and plot—there’s all that great history to discuss as well.

10) And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. OK, probably no surprise here. This is the author’s third novel and they’ve all been excellent book club picks. But this novel, narrated as a series of linked short stories, is my favorite so far. Hosseini’s writing has matured, while still retaining tons of heart.

9) The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin. I enjoyed reading Benjamin’s debut novel, Alice I Have Been, an intensely-investigated take on the real Alice in Wonderland story. I liked her sophomore effort, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, even more and enjoyed seeing Benjamin’s writing develop. But she truly soared with her third richly-researched historical novel as she captured the lives of the King and Queen of Aviation, Charles & Anne Morrow Lindberg.

8) Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt. Although the author finally hit the New York Times bestseller list with this—her 10th novel—and WNBA selected it as a 2013 Great Group Reads Selection, many folks are just now discovering the magic that is Leavitt’s writing. Set in the 1960’s –it’s much more than a nod to the Mad Menera. The author paints a picture of women’s roles at that period in time, what it feels like to be an outsider, and how loss can keep you from finding your own way in the world. Powerful stuff—and, of course, great discussion material for book clubs. Her last novel, Pictures of You, may have put her on the map, but Tomorrow is certainly her best so far!

7) Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford. Those of you who know me, know what a HUGE Jamie Ford fan I am. He’s not only a talented writer, but also an exceptional human being—and Jamie’s authenticity clearly comes across in his writing. Book clubs who fell in love with his debut novel, Hotel and Corner of Bitter and Sweet, will also fall hard for this one. It’s a tale of a mother and son struggling with their separation and individual identities, while jazz-era Seattle jumps (and jives) to life to serve as the story’s backdrop.

6) Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. Fans of The Great Gatsby, A Moveable Feast and The Paris Wife will love this latest novel of life in the Jazz age and the Lost Generation. Fowler presents a very sympathetic view of Zelda—the Southern Belle turned quintessential Flapper—by showing all of her other talents as well: classical ballet dancer, visual artist, and author in her own right. This is a Zelda you’ve never seen before!

Nonfiction

Isn’t it interesting that how you experience a book can largely be determined by when you read it? I read both of the following books immediately after reading Kristof & WuDunn’s ground-breaking expose’ “Half The Sky”—so I definitely had women’s issues on the brain. After reading these two books, all I can say is, “Go Girls!!!”

5) Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I’ve been telling every woman I know—no matter their age or life-situation—that they MUST read this book. It is to today’s women what Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was to women fifty years ago—only better edited. And as controversial as the author is, this book is guaranteed to generate one of the best discussions your book club has ever had. My neighborhood book club went into overtime last month after our immensely-animated dialogue of all the implications. (Oh, yeah—and all of my nieces found a copy tucked into their stockings last month courtesy of Auntie M.)

4) My Beloved Word by Sonia Sotomayor. Regardless of your politics or background, this is one of the most inspirational memoirs you will ever read! You’ll enjoy discovering a strong woman whose immigrant parents sacrificed so that she and her siblings could follow their American dreams. Of course, for Sonia, those dreams took her all the way to the Supreme Court. Brava, Sonia!

Southern Fiction

Being Alabama born, I’m certain a bit of the culture of Faulkner and Flagg runs through my veins. And I believe both authors would be proud of these next two books.

3) Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Reminiscent of one of my favorites from last year, Wiley Cash’s  A Land Kinder than Home, this gothic southern novel is part mystery, part literary fiction, and 100% compelling story. It was also selected by WNBA as a 2013 Great Group Reads selection. The sensual language will grab your attention from the start and the deeply-drawn characters will pull you in the rest of the way. Don’t miss it!

2) Chimes from a Cracked Southern Belle by Susan Reinhardt. This is the funniest book I read this year. It reminded me of Robert Leleux’s The Living End and Fanny Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. Hard to believe with all those laughs that it’s a saga of a battered woman escaping the nightmare of her violent marriage and rebuilding her life. Susan creates charming characters and hysterical dialogue with a surprisingly optimistic outlook given the serious topic. And, of course, this novel will provide tons of issues for your book club to debate.

Grand Prize Winner:

And the answer I’ve been giving everyone to the $6 million question, “What’s the best book you’ve read this year? (Drum roll, please.)

1) The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins. This is a tale of two mothers separated by an ocean—and more than a century. Yet, they’re united in their will to do what’s best for their children. The author creates such rich, realistic, and rounded characters, she makes it easy for us to cheer for them. The two stories alternate with each chapter, offering unique voices and creating suspense while contributing to the pleasant pacing of the storylines.  But, what stood out most for me about Ms. Cummins’ writing is how she can switch from snarky New York humor (and precocious potty-mouth) to lyrical prose in a heartbeat. This is not a book for just mothers or daughters—although mothers and daughters will love it—but a book for everyone who considers themselves human.

What books were your favorite reads for 2013? We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers!

MarshaToy logo.1Marsha Toy Engstrom coaches and facilitates numerous book clubs. She also pens a book column for The Wildwood Independent newspaper, writes on all-things-book-club on her blog, Book Club Cheerleader, and is working on her first book, Celebrating Book Clubs! Marsha serves as the Author Event Coordinator for her local Carnegie Library, is a team-member for her hometown’s One City, One Book program, and recently spoke as a panelist for BEA’s Book Club Facilitators Speak Out. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, the WNBA-San Francisco Chapter, and has served on the WNBA selection team for National Reading Group Month’s Great Group Reads for the past couple of years.

 

 

 

National Reading Group Month

NRGM_Logo OCTOBER 6, 2012 – 2:00 – 4:00 PM 
This year the San Francisco Chapter will celebrate NRGM in collaboration with Litquake during its kick-off weekend!

JOIE DE LIVRE!  
Celebrating the Joy of Shared Reading

Enjoy the ambiance of French wine and cheese, reception and book signings. A FREE event.

BOOKS, INC. OPERA PLAZA, 601 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco 

Hear A Panel Of Authors With Savoir Faire: Three Historical Fiction Authors!

Anita Amirrezvani by Rex Bonomelli

Anita Amirrezvani by Rex Bonomelli

Anita Amirrezvani, Equal of the Sun

From the author of the internationally bestselling The Blood of Flowers comes a compulsively readable and gorgeously crafted tale of power, loyalty, intrigue, and love in the royal court of sixteenth-century Iran. Simon & Schuster, Release: June 5, 2012. Read more here.

Amanda Coplin by Corina Bernstein

Amanda Coplin by Corina Bernstein

Amanda Coplin, The Orchardist

A debut novel, Amanda Coplin skillfully illuminates life in the early twentieth-century Pacific Northwest, deftly blending tenderness and violence in a quiet yet deeply moving story. HarperCollins, Release: August 21, 2012. Read more here.

C W Gortner

C. W. Gortner

C. W. Gortner, The Queen’s Vow

Isabella of Castile is the most famous queen in history after Elizabeth I. Gortner counters the traditional view of Isabella as a fanatic, depicting her contentious relationship with Fray Torquemada and her deep reluctance to sanction the Inquisition. Ballantine Books/Random House, Release: June 12, 2012. Read more here.

Panel Moderator: Amanda McTigue, Going to Solace

A debut novel set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. McTigue hails from a long line of talkers and will guide our panel discussion. Going to Solace, HarperDavis, Release: August 15, 2012. Read more here.

Gold Sponsor: HarperCollins Publishers,Harper, Harper Paperbacks, Harper Perennial, Amistad, Ecco, William Morrow, William Morrow Paperbacks (2007 Founding Sponsor)

The sponsors and partners of National Reading Group Month are committed to celebrating the joy of shared reading — and to reading groups everywhere. The Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) thanks them for their invaluable support and generosity.