National Reading Group Month – 2017

Discovery and Redemption:
Acclaimed Authors Discuss their Sources

Celebrate National Reading Group Month with panel moderator Anita Amirrezvani and five renowned authors who will discuss their sources and inspiration for their new releases. FREE book club materials and refreshments!

October 7th, Saturday, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Books Inc. Opera Plaza
601 Van Ness Ave., SF 94107
FREE and Open to the Public
Co-sponsored by LITQUAKE

litquake logo 2017

Moderator

Anita Amirrezvani Anita Amirrezvani was born in Tehran, Iran, and raised in San Francisco. Her first novel, The Blood of Flowers, has appeared in 31 languages and was long-listed for the 2008 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her second novel, Equal of the Sun, was published by Scribner in 2012. Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian-American Writers, an anthology co-edited with Persis Karim, was released in 2013. Anita has given book readings in Australia, Canada, Croatia, Dubai, Lithuania, New Zealand, Scotland, and in many locations throughout the United States. She teaches in the MFA Writing Program at the California College of the Arts.

Panelists 

Alice Anderson Some Bright Morning, I’ll Fly Away: A Memoir (St. Martin’s Press, 2017)

Alice Anderson’s work has appeared in literary journals including Agni and New Letters and is featured in anthologies such as American Poetry and On The Verge. Her second collection of poetry, The Watermark, contains three Pushcart Prize–nominated poems; her first, Human Nature, was published to critical acclaim. The recipient of The Plum Review Prize, the Elmer Holmes Bobst Prize, and The Great Lakes Colleges Best First Book Prize, she also received the Haven Foundation Grant from Stephen King.

 

Donia Bijan The Last Days of Café Leila: A Novel (Algonquin Books, 2017)

Donia Bijan left her native Iran in 1978 during the Islamic Revolution. She settled in California and graduated from UC Berkley and the Cordon Bleu in Paris. After presiding over many of San Francisco’s acclaimed restaurants and earning awards for her French-inspired cuisine, in 1994 she opened her own celebrated bistro, L’amie Donia, in Palo Alto, and wrote her well-received memoir, Maman’s Homesick Pie. She lives in Northern California and divides her days between raising her son, teaching, and writing.

Sylvia Brownrigg Pages for Her: A Novel (Counterpoint Press, 2017)

Sylvia Brownrigg is the author of several acclaimed works of fiction including Morality Tale, The Delivery Room, winner of the Northern California Book Award, Pages for You, winner of the Lambda Award, and The Metaphysical Touch—and a collection of stories, Ten Women Who Shook the World. Sylvia’s works have been included in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times lists of notable fictions and have been translated into several languages. Sylvia grew up in California and in England, was educated at Yale and Johns Hopkins Universities, and lived for many years in London. She has been actively involved as a parent and step-parent the past fifteen years, and is on the council of Narrative Magazine.

 

Martha Conway The Underground River: A Novel (Touchstone, 2017)

Martha Conway is the author of several novels, including Thieving Forest, which won the North American Book Award in Historical Fiction and an Independent Publishers Book Award. It has been called “extraordinary” by the Akron Beacon Journal and “hypnotic” by Kirkus Reviews. Her first novel was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her short fiction has appeared in the Iowa Review, Mississippi Review, The Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, and other publications. Martha has reviewed fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Iowa Review and is a recipient of a California Arts Council fellowship in Creative Writing. Her novel Sugarland was named one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2016. Martha is an instructor of creative writing at Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program and UC Berkeley Extension. Born and raised in northern Ohio, she now lives in San Francisco with her family.

   

Achy Obejas The Tower of the Antilles: Short Fiction Collection (Akashic Books, 2017)

Achy Obejas is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Ruins, Days of Awe, and three other books of fiction. She edited and translated (into English) the anthology Havana Noir, and has since translated Junot Díaz, Rita Indiana, Wendy Guerra, and many others. In 2014, she was awarded a USA Ford Fellowship for her writing and translation. She currently serves as the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Mills College in Oakland, California. The Tower of the Antilles, Obejas’ stories of contemporary Cuba explores how history and fate intrude on even the most ordinary of lives.

NRGM_Logo-240x240 Books-Inc-logo_smlHosted by Books Inc. Opera Plaza! 

2017 Friends of National Reading Group Month

American Booksellers Association

Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction

Baker & TaylorThe Future Delivered

The Booklist Reader (Booklist, American Library Association)

Edelweiss (Above the Treeline, Inc.)

Ingram Content Group

Net Galley — We Help Books Succeed

Reading Group Choices — Selections for lively book discussion

Reading Group Guides — The online community for reading groups

Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

Full House for Ghosts, Bones and Dust

During the 2016 Litquake festival, WNBA-SF held its National Reading Group Month (NRGM) event for the fifth consecutive year at Books Inc. Opera Plaza and with Litquake as its co-presenter. Quite a few attendees told us that they “come every year.” On October 8, our event — Ghosts, Bones, and Dust: Novels of Life and Death – was designated the national Signature NRGM Event, and by every mark, was a huge success.

Past president Kate Farrell gave the Opening Remarks and thanked the NRGM Premier Sponsor Sourcebooks and Friends of NRGM (see below for full listing). Our moderator Laurie King – who has won an alphabet of prizes from Agatha to Wolfe and is probably the only writer to have both an Edgar and an honorary doctorate in theology – was well versed in each authors’ work. For ninety minutes, Cara Black, Jessica Chiarella, Mary Mackey, Mary Volmer, and Patricia V. Davis discussed genre, the influence of setting on their novels, translating the past, whether and how they wove true stories into their novels.

Ghosts, Bones and Dust panel—seated L to R: Jessica Chiarella, Mary Mackey, Patricia V. Davis, Mary Volmer, Cara Black. Standing: Laurie R. King

Seated L to R: Jessica Chiarella, Mary Mackey, Patricia V. Davis, Mary Volmer, Cara Black. Standing: Laurie R. King

On a glorious, warm Saturday afternoon, we filled all the seats at Books Inc Opera Plaza. WNBA-SF treated the panelists and moderator to brunch at Max’s Opera Café before the event, set up a bar to serve wine and water, while Max’s catered the food. The 70 attendees were given copies of the National Reading Group Guide and bookmark, the Great Group Reads 2016 Selections list, and the paperback, Reading Group Choices, along with other handouts. This free event, open to the public, drew avid readers and book clubbers.

Attendees reading materials pre-program

Attendees reading materials pre-program

A note from Jessica Chiarella, author of And, Again who flew in from Chicago on her own dime for this: “Just to echo the sentiments of everyone else, thank you so much to Kate and Nina for including me in such wonderful company and thank you to Laurie for such thoughtful and insightful questions. This event was such a thrill for me, and it was so wonderful to meet all of you.

Panelist Mary Mackey, one of our SF chapter members, summed it up: “This was one of the best panel discussions I’ve ever been part of. I wish we had a videotape of the discussion. It was such a coherent explanation by so many fine writers of the sources of their inspiration and their writing process. If I were still teaching graduate level creative writing, I’d use it in a class.

We were honored to have Laurie R King as our 2016 moderator who brought the depth of NRGM’s panel discussion to a new level, and provided readers with an authentic understanding of the five authors’ motivation and craft. Many thanks to Books Inc. Opera Plaza for their generosity in hosting our annual event.

laurie r king

Moderator Laurie King

More information about the authors and their books is available on their websites: 

Laurie R. King

Cara Black

Jessica Chiarella

Patricia V. Davis

Mary Mackey

Mary Volmer 

NRGM_Logo-240x240 Books-Inc-logo_smlHosted by Books Inc. Opera Plaza! 

The Signature Event of National Reading Group Month 2016

2016 Official Sponsor PREMIER

sourcebooks logoSourcebooks

2016 Friends of National Reading Group Month

American Booksellers Association

Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction

Baker & TaylorThe Future Delivered

The Booklist Reader (Booklist, American Library Association)

Edelweiss (Above the Treeline, Inc.)

Ingram Content Group

Net Galley — We Help Books Succeed

Reading Group Choices — Selections for lively book discussion

Reading Group Guides — The online community for reading groups

Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

National Reading Group Month – 2016

Ghosts, Bones, and Dust: Novels of Life and Death

Celebrate National Reading Group Month with panel moderator Laurie R. King, an Edgar-winning mystery novelist, and five bestselling authors who’ll discuss their books and the joy of shared reading. FREE book club materials. Refreshments catered by Max’s Opera Café!

Books, Inc. Opera Plaza, 601 Van Ness Ave.October 8th, Saturday, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Books Inc. Opera Plaza
Litquake601 Van Ness Ave., SF 94107
FREE and Open to the Public
Co-sponsored by LITQUAKE!

Moderator

Laurie R. King Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of 25 novels and other works, including the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories (from The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, named one of the 20th century’s best crime novels by the IMBA, to 2016’s The Murder of Mary Russell). She has won an alphabet of prizes from Agatha to Wolfe and has been chosen as guest of honor at several crime conventions.

 

Panelists 

Cara Black credit Laura Skayhan Murder on the Quai Cover

Cara Black Murder on the Quai (An Aimée Leduc Investigation)

The world knows Aimée Leduc, heroine of 15 mysteries in this New York Times bestselling series, as a très chic, no-nonsense private investigator—the toughest and most relentless in Paris. Now, author Cara Black dips back in time to reveal how Aimée first became a detective.

November 1989, Aimée Leduc is in her first year of college at Paris’s preeminent medical school. But the week the Berlin Wall crumbles, so does Aimée’s life as she knows it. First, someone has sabotaged her lab work, putting her at risk of failing out of the program. Then, she finds out her aristo boyfriend is getting engaged to another woman. And finally, Aimée’s father takes off to Berlin on a mysterious errand. He asks Aimée to help out at the detective agency while he’s gone—as if she doesn’t already have enough to do. But the case Aimée finds herself investigating—a murder linked to a transport truck of Nazi gold that disappeared in the French countryside during the height of World War II—has gotten under her skin. Her heart may not lie in medicine after all—maybe it’s time to think harder about the family business.

Jessica Chiarella Photo Credit Shane Collins AND AGAIN - paperback cover 

Jessica Chiarella  And Again: A Novel (Touchstone (August 2, 2016)

What would you do if you had a second chance at life?

Hannah, David, Connie, and Linda have been given the second chance of a lifetime—genetically perfect bodies as part of a medically advanced pilot program seeking FDA approval. Their new bodies are exact replicas of their old selves—without the deadly illnesses they suffered from. Even better, their imperfections have been erased. Blemishes, scars, and wrinkles have all disappeared, their bodies are pristine, their vision is impeccable.

Yet the fresh start they’ve been given is anything but perfect. Without their old bodies, their new physical identities have no memories. Hannah, an artistic prodigy, has to relearn how to hold a brush; David, a Congressman, grapples with his old habits; Connie, an actress whose stunning looks are restored after a protracted illness, tries to navigate an industry obsessed with physical beauty; and Linda, who spent eight years paralyzed after a car accident, now struggles to reconnect with a family that seems to have built a new life without her.

As each tries to re-enter their previous lives and relationships, they are faced with the question: how much of who you are rests not just in your mind, but in your heart and your body? In the spirit of Never Let Me Go and The Age of Miracles, And Again is an exciting debut about identity, second chances, and the courage to start life afresh.

Patricia V. Davis Cooking For Ghosts cover

Patricia V. Davis Cooking for Ghosts: Book I in The Secret Spice Cafe Trilogy 

Do hearts broken long ago forever leave a tangible trace?

A Vegas cocktail waitress. An Indian herbalist. A British chemistry professor. An Italian-American widow. Four unique women with one thing in common: each is haunted by a tragedy from her past.

Cynthia, Rohini, Jane, and Angela meet on a food blogging site and bond over recipes. They decide on impulse to open The Secret Spice, an elegant café on the magnificent ocean liner, the RMS Queen Mary, currently a floating hotel in Long Beach, California. Rich in history and tales of supernatural occurrences, the ship hides her own dark secrets.

The women are surrounded by ghosts long before they step aboard, but once they do, nothing is quite what it seems. Not the people they meet, not their brooding chef’s mystic recipes, and not the Queen Mary herself. Yet the spirits they encounter help them discover that there’s always a chance to live, as long as one is alive.

Nominated for the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, Cooking for Ghosts is an unforgettable tale of love, redemption, and divine female power.

Mary Mackey - Literary Papers 51l8pyJVsCL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_-1 

Mary Mackey The Village of Bones: Sabalah’s Tale, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 10, 2016)

In 4386 B.C., a young priestess named Sabalah conceives a magical child with a mysterious stranger named Arash. Sabalah names the child Marrah. This child will save the Goddess-worshiping people of Europe from nomad invaders called eastmen, but only if her mother can keep her alive long enough to grow up. Warned in a vision of the coming invasion, Sabalah flees west with Arash to save her baby daughter, only to discover that she is running into the arms of her worst enemies. In the dark forests of northern Europe, other humanlike species left over from the Ice Age still exist.

 Mary Volmer - credit Kory Hayden Reliance, Illinois Cover 

Mary Volmer Reliance, Illinois (Soho Press (May 10, 2016)

Reliance, Illinois tells the story of a young woman faced with choices that will alter the course of her own future, and offers a brilliant window into American life during a period of tumultuous change. Illinois, 1874: With a birthmark covering half her face, thirteen-year-old Madelyn Branch is accustomed to cold and awkward greetings, and expects no less in the struggling town of Reliance. After all, her mother, Rebecca, was careful not to mention a daughter in the Matrimonial Times ad that brought them there. When Rebecca weds, Madelyn poses as her mother’s younger sister and earns a grudging berth in her new house. Deeply injured by her mother’s deceptions, Madelyn soon leaves to enter the service of Miss Rose Werner, prodigal daughter of the town’s founder. Miss Rose is a suffragette and purveyor of black market birth control who sees in Madelyn a project and potential acolyte. Madelyn, though, wants to feel beautiful and loved, and she pins her hopes on William Stark, a young photographer and haunted Civil War veteran.

NRGM_Logo-240x240 Books-Inc-logo_smlHosted by Books Inc. Opera Plaza! 

The Signature Event of National Reading Group Month 2016

2016 Official Sponsor PREMIER

sourcebooks logoSourcebooks

2016 Friends of National Reading Group Month

American Booksellers Association

Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction

Baker & TaylorThe Future Delivered

The Booklist Reader (Booklist, American Library Association)

Edelweiss (Above the Treeline, Inc.)

Ingram Content Group

Net Galley — We Help Books Succeed

Reading Group Choices — Selections for lively book discussion

Reading Group Guides — The online community for reading groups

Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

The Joys of the Library Book Club

TeryeBaloghWritten by Terye Balogh

I am the facilitator of our library book club in Milpitas, and have been doing this since 2004. This was quite an undertaking for me, as prior to this I had only been to two book club meetings; needless to say I was nervous. I didn’t need to be. Running this book club has been wonderful. As a librarian, I have learned to love books more, and love interacting with readers to hear their impressions and reactions to the books we read.

I see the book club foster an incredible appreciation for the written word, and for the authors themselves and all that goes into writing a book. When I first had the task of selecting the books for the group, I would stress over the subject, the writing style, even the length of the book I was selecting. I would read the books beforehand to see if I could judge their worthiness. I learned very quickly that by reading to judge a book’s worthiness I was hindering my own reading experience, taking away from my enjoyment of it.

I read reviews of books and choose the ones that I think are “different.” I like to think of some of the titles as hidden gems. Titles that may have been missed due to being published alongside mammoth best sellers. What I love best is to see how the group devours a book, how they make it their own experience, and how excited they are to share their insights or to find answers to questions they had while reading.

The experience of reading for a group allows us the freedom to read a book that, while selected by someone else, we read for the sole reason of the pleasure of reading and then share and reflect with a group of like-minded individuals in an atmosphere of acceptance. There are many times when we have commented that as we read, we look forward to hearing another member discuss a certain passage or character when we meet.

I think what strikes me the most that I have heard from the members is that reading has somehow changed: not so much a chore to accomplish for an upcoming meeting, but an adventure shared. Knowing that you’re meeting with a group helps some of us push through to the end of a challenging book. You feel somehow more committed to the book and the reading process itself.

The best books that I have found for our groups are those that spark a shared experience. The death of a parent, life during war time, a first love or travel to a different country, all these experiences weave the members together, strengthening their bond, and a book become less of a duty to read and more of an opportunity to learn more about themselves, and about their fellow book club members.

Terye Balogh
Adult Librarian – Book Group Facilitator
Milpitas Public Library
Milpitas, CA

October is National Reading Group Month!
Join WNBA-SF Chapter for two special events just for reading groups:

 

National Reading Group Month – 2015

Books, Inc. Opera Plaza, 601 Van Ness Ave.

An Atmospheric Afternoon:
Five authors of must-read novels!

Saturday October 10, 2015
2:00 – 4:00 pm
Books, Inc., Opera Plaza
601 Van Ness Ave., SF 94107
FREE and Open to the Public

Come meet our authors as they discuss their captivating novels over wine and snacks catered by Max’s Opera Cafe. Giveaway raffle of all books presented. Free paperback and resources for Book Clubs, along with Great Group Reads featured titles. Moderated by Julia Park Tracey.

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Co-sponsored by LITQUAKE!

Author Panel

Carolina de robertis The Gods of Tango book cover

Carolina De Robertis, The Gods of Tango (Knopf)

Seventeen-year-old, Leda, clutching her father’s cherished violin, leaves her small Italian village for a new home (and husband) in Argentina. Upon her arrival, Leda finds that her bridegroom has been killed. Unable to fathom the idea of returning home, she remains, living in a commune on the brink of destitution. She finally acts on a passion: mastering the violin. Leda is seduced by the music that underscores life in Buenos Aires: tango, born from lower-class immigrants, now the illicit dance of brothels and cabarets.

Knowing that she can never play in public as a woman, Leda cuts off her hair, binds her breasts, and as a man, joins musicians bent on bringing tango into the salons of high society. Eventually, the lines between Leda and her disguise will blur, and feelings that she has long kept suppressed will reveal themselves, jeopardizing not only her music career, but her life itself.

Kelli Estes The Girl Who Wrote in Silk

Kelli Estes, The Girl Who Wrote in Silk (Sourcebooks)

A scrap of silk will reach across a century to reveal a forgotten woman’s tragedy and threaten a powerful family.

In 1886, Mei Lien is washed up on Orcas Island, the lone survivor of a cruel purge of the Chinese from Seattle. She is determined to tell her heartbreaking story the only way she knows how: through needle and thread. A century later Inara Erickson, enlisting the help of a local professor, uncovers details in Mei Lien’s delicate stitching that could have far-reaching repercussions for her own life. Should she bring shame to her family and risk everything by telling the truth, or tell no one and dishonor Mei Lien’s memory? The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is a brilliant debut novel that is atmospheric and beautifully written, and serves as a poignant tale of the importance of our own stories.

Kathryn Ma The Year She Left Us

Kathryn Ma, The Year She Left Us (HarperCollins)

The Kong women are in crisis. A trip to visit her “home” orphanage in China has plunged eighteen-year-old Ari into a self-destructive spiral. Her adoptive mother, Charlie, a lawyer with a great heart, works to keep her daughter safe. Meanwhile, Charlie must endure the prickly scrutiny of her beautiful, Bryn Mawr-educated mother, Gran—who, as the daughter of a Chinese doctor, came to America to survive Mao’s Revolution—and her sister, Les, a judge with a penchant for ruling over everyone’s lives.

As they cope with Ari’s journey of discovery and its aftermath, the women will come face-to-face with the truths of their lives—four powerful, intertwining stories of accomplishment, tenacity, secrets, loneliness, and love. Beautifully illuminating the bonds of family and blood, The Year She Left Us explores the promise and pain of adoption, the price of assimilation and achievement, the debt we owe to others, and to ourselves.

Janis Cooke Newman A Master Plan for Rescue

Janis Cooke Newman, A Master Plan for Rescue (Riverhead)

Set in 1942 New York and Berlin, A Master Plan for Rescue is the story of a child who loses his father to an accident and his mother to her resulting grief, and about a young man who stumbles into the romance of his life, then watches her decline, changing the arc of his future. Each is propelled by the belief that if he acts heroically, it will restore some part of what—or whom—he has lost.

When the boy and man meet, their combined grief and magical thinking inspires them to join forces and act in their memory, doing something that might actually bring their loved ones back, even if only in spirit. A beautiful tale, propelled by history and imagination, that suggests people’s impact upon the world doesn’t necessarily end with their lives, and that, to some degree, we are the sum of the stories we tell.

Lucy Sanna The Cherry Harvest

Lucy SannaThe Cherry Harvest |(William Morrow)

The war has taken a toll on the Christiansens. With food rationed and money scarce, Charlotte struggles to keep her family fed. Her teenage daughter, Kate, raises rabbits to earn money for college and dreams of becoming a writer. Her husband, Thomas, struggles to keep the farm going while their son, Ben, fights in Europe.

When their cherry harvest is threatened, Charlotte persuades authorities to allow German war prisoners from a nearby camp to pick the fruit. Thomas befriends a prisoner, a teacher named Karl, and invites him to tutor Kate. Charlotte finds herself drawn to Karl, and both she and Thomas fail to see that Kate is becoming a young woman, with temptations of her own—including a secret romance with the son of a wealthy, war-profiteering senator. When their Ben returns home, bitter and injured, bearing an intense hatred of Germans, Charlotte’s secrets threaten to explode their world.

JuliaParkTracey

Moderator, Julia Park Tracey, WNBA Member, is an award-winning journalist, blogger and poet; she is the Poet Laureate of Alameda, CA. She has written for Salon, Paste, The Mid and Quill, and is a regular contributor to Sweatpants & Coffee, East Bay Monthly, and Oakland Magazine. www.juliaparktracey.com

NRGM_Logo-240x240 Books-Inc-logo_sml

Hosted by Books, Inc., Opera Plaza, and National Reading Group Month!

National Reading Group Month 2015 Official Sponsors and Friends 

2015 Silver Sponsors

The Crown Publishing Group

HogarthAn imprint of The Crown Publishing Group

Sourcebooks—An Independent Vision*

*Premier Sponsor

 

2015 Bronze Sponsors

Oneworld Publications  

 

2015 Friends of National Reading Group Month

American Booksellers Association

Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction

Baker & TaylorThe Future Delivered

The Booklist Reader (Booklist, American Library Association)

Edelweiss (Above the Treeline, Inc.)

Ingram Content Group

Net Galley — Feed Your Readers

Reading Group Choices — Selections for lively book discussion

Reading Group Guides — The online community for reading groups

Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)

Members honored by Pulpwood Queens Book Club

Kathy Murphy & Marsha Toy Engstrom

Kathy Murphy & Marsha Toy Engstrom

Marsha Toy Engstrom (AKA: The Book Club Cheerleader) received the 2014 Doug Marlette Award last month from Kathy L. Murphy, founder of the Pulpwood Queens (PWQ)—the largest ‘meeting and discussing’ book club in world, with more than 550 chapters internationally. According to Murphy, “The award is given to a person for the Lifetime Achievement of Promoting Literacy, and Marsha fits that to a T….Doug Marlette was my good friend…and a Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist who was killed in a car accident in 2007. We wanted to honor him, with the blessing of his wife, in a way that he and his books would not be forgotten.”

What is Engstrom’s reaction to this honor? “This is just another example of Kathy Murphy paying it forward!” said Engstrom. “She’s always promoting literature through something or someone: a book, indie bookstore, author, journalist…or even a Book Club Cheerleader.”

A career coach with over 20 years in the HR and staffing business, Engstrom uses her background in coaching and team dynamics to help put the ‘group’ back in book groups. She also writes about all-things-book-club on her blog, Book Club Cheerleader, spoke as a Panelist at Book Expo America (BEA), and was recently quoted in Woman’s Day as a book club expert. And of course, she’s a member of the San Francisco chapter of Women’s National Book Association (WNBA, SF)—where we all promote literacy every day!

Tracy Guzeman, Marsha Toy Engstrom, Kristen Harnisch

Tracy Guzeman, Marsha Toy Engstrom, Kristen Harnisch

At the same ‘Girlfriend Weekend’—the PWQ’s annual book club convention, held in East Texas—Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds was honored to learn that in addition to her debut novel’s other critical acclaim, it has been selected by the Pulpwood Queens as a book club selection for February! Tracy’s previous work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Vestal Review, and Glimmer Train Stories, and she is also a member of WNBA, SF.

I’m sure that fact must have something to do with these two recent achievements! Okay, perhaps Kathy Murphy helped…

Editor’s note: Marsha Toy Engstrom and Tracy Guzeman contribute to WNBA in many ways. Engstrom has served on the Great Group Reads reviewing committee more than once and participated in a panel on Women’s Fiction at Pitch-O-Rama 2014. Tracy was a panelist during National Reading Group Month 2013, both in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and was the panel moderator for NRGM-SF in 2014. SF Chapter is honored to have them both as members!

Book Review: The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield

Written by Sherry Joyce

Sophie Littlefield Interview

Sophie Littlefield

Something a reader looks for, but does not always find, is a book unique in both its setting and story. What makes The Missing Place a compelling read is not only the setting in the oil fields of North Dakota, but the complexity of the two characters in the story, Colleen and Shay, as they search for their sons who have disappeared.

With each of their sons missing, these two very different women are brought together in a dire situation to find out what happened in a town where others have died on oil rigs or suffered terrible injuries while working on high-risk, often exceptionally well-paying jobs. Together the two mothers confront everything:  from oil rights and Indian reservation rights to OSHA as a looming threat with the power to shut down rigs. There is plenty to question about the companies who own these rigs and the men who work in the face of danger everyday.

Colleen, a wealthy woman from Massachusetts, with secrets about her own son, Paul, is suddenly having to cohabitate in a small trailer with Shay, a no-nonsense woman who has survived through life on her own terms with grit and determination. Shay is on the same quest to find the answers to how her own son, Taylor, disappeared while working with Paul on Hunter-Cole’s rigs.

MissingPlacecoverA first glance, some readers might shy away from a story about two young men who disappeared while working on oil rigs in a town with few esthetic redeeming qualities. The weather at times so harsh it rivals the Alaskan frontier, causing you to shiver against the biting wind and drifting snow. However, as chilled as you feel by wondering if these two young men are still alive, you become engrossed in a uniquely compelling story that propels you forward because you want to believe against the odds and hope.

Colleen and Shay have nothing in common except their own terror while trying to uncover what has happened to their missing sons. They search for common ground in how to pursue strategies to find out what happened to Paul and Taylor while irritating each other to the point of exasperation and total exhaustion. However, through thinly veiled tolerance and complete frustration with one another, they manage to uncover surprising clues that led to the disappearance.

A character-driven story, where you struggle to like and accept Colleen and Shay, you nonetheless feel empathy for what they are going through, and with their sense of despair so deep, it unravels humanity to its core. However, The Missing Place, at its heart, is a mystery with plenty of suspense and plot twists that are surprising.  

Littlefield’s exceptional writing creates unusual insight into women’s relationships, as Shay and Colleen are each forced to form an alliance with the other while neither can conjure up a modicum of acceptance. The things not spoken aloud create considerable tension due to their extreme differences in personalities. Not knowing if their sons are alive, forces both women to forge an unlikely alliance, slowly breaking down the facades each has built to protect themselves from truths in their own lives.

Like many small towns, there are good people who have adapted to difficult circumstances and others who will do anything to cover up the truth. Set in Lawton, North Dakota, where the oil boom changed everything, this book is an edge-of-your-seat story whose characters will live long after you have turned the last page.

                                    –Sherry Joyce, Author of The Dordogne Deceptio

Meet Sophie Littlefield and discuss her book at the National Reading Group Month Event
 Co-sponsored by WNBA-SF and Litquake 2014.

Mysteries at Opera Plaza! The Thrill of Shared Reading

October 11, 2014, Saturday, 2:00 -4:00 pm

Books, Inc., Opera Plaza 601 Van Ness Ave., SF 94107

SPECIAL OFFER: The Missing Place will be for sale and signing by the author days before its official launch October 14!

CIRCLE OF WIVES by Alice LaPlante | Book Review

Written by Sherry Joyce

CIRCLE OF WIVES by Alice LaPlanteI will be thinking about this book for a long time and talking about Alice LaPlante’s clever psychological thriller to friends and book clubs that enjoy this genre. Perhaps because a suspicious death of a prominent plastic surgeon takes place in Palo Alto, the mid-San Francisco Peninsula where I spent thirty-six years, I found myself delighted to be mentally musing and walking in the familiar area. I imagined myself in Samantha’s shoes, the smart, young detective unwilling to accept the plausible answers for why Dr. John Taylor was most likely murdered and who killed him. 

Certainly when not one, not two, but three simultaneous wives are implicated in the crime, you would shake your head at the implausibility—a dedicated plastic surgeon managing to maintain sanity while juggling three wives and a lucrative practice. Yet, when reading the story, you begin to feel empathy for the dead corpse. That’s masterful writing at its best.

As each wife is introduced, you are simultaneously fascinated and shocked as you feel compassion for Deborah, his first and legal wife, then MJ, the second wife, a free-spirited accountant with a difficult past, then Helen, wife number three, an oncologist whose work frequently requires her to deliver devastating news to parents that their child is dying. You are pulled into this complex web, almost certain one of these women killed her husband. However, there are plenty of clues with possible motives implicating Taylor’s partners in his surgery practice. So, maybe it was not one of the wives who was guilty of murder.

It’s not a book so much about “whodunit” as it is about motive. “Whydunit” is what propels you rapidly forward, turning pages of interview transcripts with Samantha and each wife, speaking in the first person, so that you are completely in their heads as you read. You are likely to ask yourself, “What would I have done if I were one of these wives?”

You think you will figure it all out with your detective-sleuthing reading skills. You won’t. You’ll guess, and guess wrong and then guess again.  Alice LaPlante’s writing is that good. Not only will you be unable to put this book down, you want, as the reader, to be a smarter detective than Samantha. You applaud yourself for thinking you could never be complicit in allowing your husband to have two other wives, but then you begin to understand Deborah, MJ, and Helen—perhaps even accept their choices and sacrifices. But then there is Claire who really thickens the plot, and the unusual relationship between MJ and her brother Thomas.

LaPlante creates a young detective, Sam, with insecurities and unwavering determination. Despite her own shaky, ten-year relationship with her boyfriend, Peter, she puts work first. Samantha is likeable, tenacious and unwilling to accept what appears to be the obvious.

Not many authors can keep you reading long into the night, thinking about how the victim died and who would have benefited most from his death. LaPlante plants (pun here) clues that make logical sense, and then they don’t, part of her writing skill. During Samantha’s multiple interviews with the three wives throughout the novel, you think you will see the flaw in the perfect crime.  However, you won’t see the plot twists coming, and they keep surprising. You’ll shake your head and say, “I didn’t see that coming.” That’s what makes CIRCLE OF WIVES a thrill ride of marital deception, betrayal, and discovery.

                                    —Sherry Joyce, Author of The Dordogne Deception

Meet Alice LaPlante and discuss her book at the National Reading Group Month Event
 Co-sponsored by WNBA-SF and Litquake 2014.

Mysteries at Opera Plaza! The Thrill of Shared Reading
October 11, 2014, Saturday, 2:00 -4:00 pm
Books, Inc., Opera Plaza 601 Van Ness Ave., SF 94107

Abroad by Katie Crouch: Book Review

AbroadhiresWritten by Sherry Joyce

Katie Crouch’s new psychological thriller, Abroad, will keep you reading long into the night, but may interfere with your sleep. The riveting story of a young college woman on an Enteria study program in Grifonia, Italy will make you ponder the all-important merits and detriments of belonging to a group, what one sacrifices to feel needed and loved. Many women have observed cliques in college, but perhaps none was as secretive, manipulative, and destructive as the one described in this novel. Yet readers will understand how easily one can be pulled into a realm of quicksand-like darkness even when one’s better judgment should have given off warnings. The need to be accepted, on any level, is as strong a motivation as is the fear of being rejected and alone in a foreign country.

Crouch’s superb writing portrays a cathartic journey of discovery and deception in the main character’s exploration of self-image, and how she presents that image to those she encounters. Her journey abroad gives Taz the freedom to abandon the confines and security of home, to explore being someone other than herself—a naïve, terminally responsible girl from Ireland, fluent enough with three years’ of Italian, to be studying in Grifonia, Umbria, chosen merely because it was purported to be safer than Florence.

Katie Crouch

Katie Crouch

Crouch masterfully weaves a historic dimension to the fictional town, Grifonia, rife with the secrets of a malevolent organization, illustrating numerous early century deaths of young women. You feel their spirits lurking in the dark alleyways, longing to tell their stories. The Etruscan mythology is mesmerizing, pulling you deeper and frightfully close to the edge of a precipice. As a reader, you have considerable omniscient knowledge and insight as the story unfolds, with danger lurking on the heels of Tabitha, the young innocent abroad. Taz is caught up in a web of treachery, reminiscent of the recent headlines of the Amanda Knox trial, giving razor sharp insight to what might have really happened.

Perhaps there is no seduction as strong as believing you are needed, and no addiction as powerful as maintaining the feeling you are loved. Abroad will shatter wistful illusions about leaving the comforts and banality of one’s routine existence at home, so easily traded for the lure of the possibly illuminating, life-changing experience of studying in a foreign country.

Sherry Joyce

Sherry Joyce

The exploration into the complexities of contemporary friendship, with its functional and dysfunctional maladies, strikes at the humorous and painful cords of this novel. It will undoubtedly spark vociferous debate in book groups as they contemplate whether parents should encourage their daughters to study abroad and the vulnerability of young women. I highly recommend this novel for lovers of crime with its dark psychological undertones, who perhaps have taken a leap into the abyss themselves, and have survived unscathed.

Meet Katie Crouch and discuss her book at the National Reading Group Month Event Co-sponsored by WNBA-SF and Litquake 2014.

Mysteries at Opera Plaza! The Thrill of Shared Reading
October 11, 2014, Saturday, 2:00 -4:00 pm
Books, Inc., Opera Plaza 601 Van Ness Ave., SF 94107

 

National Reading Group Month, October 11, 2014

Books, Inc. Opera Plaza, 601 Van Ness Ave.

Books, Inc. Opera Plaza, 601 Van Ness Ave.

Mysteries at Opera Plaza! 
The Thrill of Shared Reading
October 11, 2014, Saturday, 2:00 -4:00 pm

Books, Inc., Opera Plaza 601 Van Ness Ave., SF 94107

Come meet this year’s award-winning mystery authors as they discuss their new novels over wine and snacks catered by Max’s Opera Cafe. Giveaway raffle of all books presented. Moderated by Tracy Guzeman.

Litquake2014Co-sponsored by Women’s National Book Association,
San Francisco Chapter
 & 
LITQUAKE

 

Katie CrouchAbroad: A Novel

The New York Times bestselling author Katie Crouch (Girls in Trucks) explores the delights and dangers of studying overseas in the gripping Abroadhiresliterary thriller Abroad. Inspired by the horrifying details of the Amanda

Katie Crouch

Katie Crouch

Knox trial, Crouch imagines the sinister situations a young woman far from home can fall victim to while discovering her new intoxicating independence. Not since Donna Tartt’s The Secret History have we been treated to such an addictive tale of tumultuous adolescence.

The city of Grifonia, Italy, is swarming with secrets—thousands of years of grim, murderous secrets. Taz, an Irish student who has just arrived for her year abroad, thinks that she will spend her time in Italy sipping wine and taking in the rolling Umbrian hills. But she soon falls in with a cabal of posh, reckless girls—the B4—who turn her quaint fantasies into an erotic and perilous rush through the darkest realms of friendship and love.

Alice LaPlante

Alice LaPlante

Alice LaPlanteCircle of Wives: A Novel

When Dr. John Taylor is found dead in a hotel room in his own hometown, the local police find enough incriminating evidence to suspect foul play. Detective Samantha Adams, whose posh Palo Alto beat usually covers small-town crimes, is thrown into a high-profile murder case that is more intricately intertwined than ever imagined. A renowned plastic surgeon, a respected 9780802122346family man, and an active community spokesman, Dr. Taylor was well loved and admired. But he led a secret life—in fact, multiple lives. Dr. Taylor was married to three very different women in three separate cities, and when these three unsuspecting women show up at his funeral, suspicions run high. Detective Adams soon finds herself tracking down a murderer through a deceitful web of lies, marital discord, and broken dreams.

A CIRCLE OF WIVES is a thought-provoking tale of love and marriage in all its incarnations. LaPlante presents four colorful, sympathetic female protagonists: Samantha, the edgy trainee detective both intimidated and exhilarated by her first big case; Deborah, Dr. Taylor’s icy high-society first wife, obsessed with keeping up appearances; MJ, the second wife, an earth-mother, hippie accountant with a passion for gardening and a troubled past; and Helen, an ambitious pediatric oncologist, who married Dr. Taylor just six months before his mysterious death.

Spphie Littlefield

Spphie Littlefield

Sophie LittlefieldThe Missing Place: A Novel

Set against the backdrop of North Dakota’s oil boom, this darker take on women’s fiction follows two very different mothers as they form an uneasy alliance to find their missing sons who have vanished from an oil rig. Despite reassurances that the police are on the case, the two women suspect the oil company is covering up the disappearances.

MissingPlacecoverOvertaxed by worry, exhaustion, and fear, the unlikely pair—Colleen, a wealthy wife from a Massachusetts suburb and Shay, a hard-bitten single mother from California—question each other’s methods and motivations, but must work together against the town of strangers if they have any hope of finding their lost boys.

Inspired by a People magazine article about the real-life migration of unemployed men looking for work in the booming oil business of North Dakota, Sophie Littlefield captures the loneliness of the men who leave behind their families to work in unsafe conditions, and the heartbreak of those family members left in the wake.  Sure to please fans of Sandra Brown and Gillian Flynn, THE MISSING PLACE is a moving chronicle of survival, determination, and powerful bonds forged in the face of adversity.  

Tracy Guzeman

Tracy Guzeman

Moderator: Tracy Guzeman, The Gravity of Birds: A Novel


Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessler were close, until adolescence wrenched them apart. Natalie is headstrong, manipulative—and beautiful; Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds. During their family’s summer holiday at the lake, Alice falls under the thrall of a struggling young painter, Thomas Bayber, in whom she finds a kindred spirit. Natalie, however, remains strangely unmoved, sitting for a family portrait with surprising indifference. But by the end of the summer, three lives are shattered.

TheGravityofBirdsDecades later, Bayber, now a reclusive, world-renowned artist, unveils a never-before-seen work, Kessler Sisters—a provocative painting depicting the young Thomas, Natalie, and Alice. Bayber asks Dennis Finch, an art history professor, and Stephen Jameson, an eccentric young art authenticator, to sell the painting for him. That task becomes more complicated when the artist requires that they first locate Natalie and Alice, who seem to have vanished. And Finch finds himself wondering why Thomas is suddenly so intent on resurrecting the past.

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