Friday Coffee Chat (21)–To book club, or not to book club?

To Book Club or Not to Book Club? That Is the Question!

I took last week off of Friday Coffee Chat because of Bloggiesta, but the week before that we talked about whether we should be serious readers, fun readers, or both. Make sure you check out Jennifer from Girls Gone Reading’s Friday Coffee Chats as well. She does some great ones!


This week on Friday Coffee Chat I want to explore book clubs. So many readers are in them and since Oprah started her book club, it seems like they popped up everywhere. I myself have been in two book clubs over the years, and just tried a new one last week. Each book club seemed to have its own personality, and I definitely enjoyed some more than others.

For me personally, the book club I enjoyed most was the purely fun reading one. It was a group called Thrill Me! that I went to in Austin. I initially went to this book club because I was trying to expand the genres that I read. I miss this group of people because they were SO fun. We read things like Lee Child, Janet Evanovich, John Connolly, Tami Hoag, and others. Probably one of the funniest moments in the group was when someone pointed out that Jack Reacher (from the books by Lee Child) never bathed but he was super popular with the ladies. I loved that someone thought of that because I honestly hadn’t thought of it while reading it. This group usually sat around and talked about the book for 20-40 minutes or so and then we would just shoot the breeze at the cafĂ© for a LONG time afterwards. I loved that because we really enjoyed each other’s company outside of just talking about books.

My other book club tended to be much more cerebral. It was fun for sure and my brain usually got a workout from it. The company was good and we usually had some good food too as well as pretty in depth discussions about the book that would go on for quite awhile. While I thought this group was great in its own way, I have to admit that I enjoyed the thriller book club more just because it was crazier.

Last week, I tried a new book club. Everyone was really nice and welcoming, but they tended to pick literary fiction (or so it seems) and while I enjoy literary fiction from time to time, I have found that I more like the company in book clubs than just talking about the books we read. When I get together with readers, I do love talking about books, but I also really want to know them as people too. I also admit that I get a little intimidated by those literary books because I read more for the story than the technical aspects of books. When people in the group talk about the technical aspects I admit that sometimes I get bored and sometimes I feel stupid! Should I be admitting this? Maybe. Maybe not, but I am owning that this is something that I actually feel during book clubs.

Thinking about what type of book club I look for, I realized that not all people even like book clubs. Some people prefer to read on their own while others enjoy chatting about books with friends. It made me wonder what people’s motivations were when they either chose not to do a book club or sought one out. Are people just shy when they choose not to join a book club? Is reading a private thing? These are some questions that have come up in my mind now that I’m searching for new readers with which to connect.

This week’s Friday Coffee Chat questions are:
  • Are you a member of a book club?
  • If so, what are your motivations for joining a book club?
  • What do you look for when you join a book club? Do you seek out strangers to talk about books with (like on or do you only do book clubs with friends you know and are comfortable with?
  • What kind of books do you prefer to read with a book club?
  • Do you like themed book clubs like romance, thriller, literary, chick lit, etc.?
  • If you don’t like book clubs, tell us all why you prefer to read alone? Is it because you are shy or because reading is just private to you? Is there some other reason?

The Shadow of the Wind–Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Book: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher: Penguin
487 pages (Paperback)
My Rating:
4h stars

Daniel Sempere is the son of a bookstore owner. When he turns 10, his father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books to pass on a legacy. He must choose a book from the stacks that he will take care of for the rest of his days. For hours Daniel searches the stacks to choose the book that is calling his name. What he finally finds is The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. It’s as if the book chose him and Daniel devours it and is determined to find out more about the author. What follows is a mystery that is not only captivating, but also dangerous.

Let me start off by saying that literary fiction is not something that is calling my name right now. I’ve been more in the mood for fun, fast reads. When The Shadow of the Wind came up for a new book club I was trying out, I was excited because I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time and it would further expand my loose goal of reading more fiction in translation. However, I knew it was literary so I was a little dubious about reading it right now since I have really wanted to read quick and easy books lately.

Well, I did struggle some, but the struggle was well worth it because this book was beautifully written. At book club I called it a “crock pot novel". It’s one of those books that takes a long time to get into, but once you get to the meaty part of the book, you just savor every moment of it. For about 2/3 of the book, I really didn’t connect with the plot of the book because it was more of a character study. Every character was written in detail—I felt like I knew them all by the end. Their joy and their pain was tangible because Zafon is just a great storyteller. I cared deeply for every single character in the novel. However, because the characters were so well-written, the plot was a little slower in developing. When everything started coming together, it was well worth the wait because I couldn’t put the book down.

Daniel is a captivating young man. His pursuit of information about Julian Carax was unfaltering and he developed a deep friendship with an eccentric bookshop employee named Fermin who I adored. Fermin was like a father figure to Daniel and also a good friend. Where Daniel’s relationships with friends and his father was lacking, Fermin really saw Daniel and understood his motivations. It was such a nice part of the book because I think that is what people most want in life—for someone to really get them and encourage them to be who they are. Their relationship was really something special to behold and was possibly my favorite part of the book.

The mystery of the book was also amazing even though I had an inkling from the beginning of how it would turn out. The characters were so well woven into this complex mystery that I was never in disbelief that any of this could have actually happened. Zafon’s writing is vivid and Barcelona really came alive in this book. It is my first foray in a Spanish novel (translated into English of course) and I wasn’t disappointed. I will definitely be picking up Zafon’s other novels and hopefully reading more about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in The Angel’s Game.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon also has a really great website that includes music inspired by The Shadow of the Wind and a map of Barcelona.

Friday Coffee Chat (20)–Why so serious?

Why so serious?

Last week on Friday Coffee Chat we talked about quotes from books that really moved us. If you have any quotes that you’ve thought of since last week, make sure you go back to the chat and let me know. I LOVE wonderful quotes! After you comment on this week’s Friday Coffee Chat, head over to Jennifer’s blog, Girls Gone Reading and comment on her Friday Coffee Chat topic, Comfort Reads.


This week on Friday Coffee Chat I want to talk about serious reading v. reading for fun. I know this has been a topic of conversation on Twitter and all over the blogosphere off and on and the topic may be beaten to death, but let’s visit it just one more time, shall we?

There are serious readers. You know, those readers who only read literary fiction or complicated non-fiction and they tell you that any other books are meaningless and therefore not worth the paper they are written on. I had someone in college tell me that all fiction was ridiculous because people should focus on what is real rather than made up situations that people went through. Even historical fiction didn’t count for this person. He felt that non-fiction was the only worthwhile thing out there.

Then there are the literary fiction readers who wouldn’t be caught dead with a trashy romance novel or paranormal fantasy book. They like to read all the award winners and classics. It may just be what they enjoy, or they may feel like those grocery store reads aren’t worth their time. Who knows?!!

On the other end of the spectrum are those readers who spend all their time reading “for fun”. They don’t want to delve into some psychological exposition on human nature like Dostoevsky writes. They want something they can blaze through like Dean Koontz or Charlaine Harris. Literary fiction and non-fiction are sure to send them into a coma for three months and should be avoided at all costs.

So what is the big deal about this? Well, as we all know people take their reading seriously no matter if you are a serious reader or an escapist reader. It’s part of what makes talking to other readers so interesting. We are all different and enjoy different things. Every once in awhile people will get offended when someone turns their nose up at the newest vampire novel or when someone calls another person a book snob for reading Tolkien over Rowling. We all love our favorites and never want to hear that someone else doesn’t like what we hold dear.

My questions for this week are:
  • Is there a happy medium? Is it possible to enjoy both serious AND fun books, or do people tend to choose one or the other?
  • Do you think books should be enriching all the time and must have redeeming qualities, or is it ok to read a trashy fun novel at any time you feel like it?
  • Do you ever turn your nose up at a literary reader or an escapist reader? (Come on now…be honest…you know you want to—we’ll be respectful of what you say)
  • If you are a one or the other reader, tell us all why you feel the way you do and if you think it’s ok that people read whatever they feel like reading.

My Bucket List

My Bucket List

So, I’ve been thinking about doing a bucket list for some time and I have a mental list in my head, but I’ve never actually written it down. Now I’m not dying or anything. This is just for fun! I may never get to do some of these things, but they are all things that I would really like to do someday!

1. See the All Blacks perform the Haka at a rugby match
2. See the Southern Cross in the sky
3. Go to Manitoba and do the polar bear tour at Cape Churchill
4. Learn a foreign language fluently
5. Live overseas for at least one to two years
6. Go hang gliding
7. Visit Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island
8. Visit Australia and New Zealand
9. Get my master’s degree
10. Dance with a stranger
11. Go on a sleigh ride that is pulled by reindeer
12. Color my hair a weird color like purple or maroon (maybe just partially)
13. Have children
14. Own a rescue greyhound
15. Own a Peel P50
16. Do a full twist on a trampoline
17. Have someone tell me they like me “just as I am” (yes, I am channeling Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy)
18. Learn to hula dance
19. Send a secret to Postsecret
20. Go to an NBA game
21. Go out on a lobster boat and catch some lobster
22. Swim with dolphins
23. Give a stranger a hug and buy them a cup of coffee when they are having a bad day
24. See the Northern Lights
25. Be a cartoon voice
26. Take a hot air balloon ride
27. Go to Easter Island
28. Hold a baby chimpanzee or baby gorilla
29. Write my name in a giant lawn with a riding lawn mower
30. Have a spa day with a facial, back massage, and foot massage
31. Hold a wombat (I know…they are nature’s speed humps, but they are so cute)
32. Learn to play the violin
33. Take a solo trip somewhere (maybe Ireland...that's my current first choice!)

I will probably keep adding to this list, but this is what I have so far.

What would you put on your bucket list? If you are interested in sharing a list of your own, feel free to sign the linky here!

Friday Coffee Chat (19)–Notable Quotables

Book Quotes That Have Moved You

It’s been awhile since I last did a Friday Coffee Chat because I took a blogging break for about four to six weeks. I know a lot of you have said you missed the chats so I’m going to do my best to bring them back. They are quite a bit of fun and help all of us get to know each other better so I hope that I can continue blogging for the long term and continue learning about all my blogging friends. After you comment here, make sure you check out Jennifer at Girls Gone Reading’s Friday Coffee Chat topic on graphic novels.


Most of the time, when I think of quotes I think of quotes from movies that move me. There are always some memorable scenes or memorable quotes from movies that even if we haven’t seen the movie, we know the quote. Lately, I’ve been noticing that that has been happening more and more with almost every book I read.

Don’t get me wrong. Not all of these books are deep and profound. Some of them are quite simple, but just have this moment of conviction for me. There are these quotes that just stand out to me and speak to me. Some of you know that 2010 was not the best year of my life and a few quotes from books I’ve read really hit me hard in a few ways. Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis of sorts, but some of these quotes are helping me to reevaluate my life and look at the way I’ve been living.

Other quotes are just really thought provoking and don’t necessarily have anything to do with my life at all. Sometimes they remind me of other people in my life and sometimes they are just good quotes. No matter how they get into my brain, they usually stay with me and I’ve started writing them down to keep them with me forever.

Here’s a few that have had a huge impact on me in recent months:

“’But what if I don’t win?’ he asked. ‘There is no dishonor in losing the race,’ Don said. ‘There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.’” –The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I’m going to admit. I actually cried when I read this quote. I have lived my life so daunted for years and when I read this I realized how much I wanted to “race” but was too afraid to actually do it. This is something that is a process for me. I’m still daunted, but I don’t want to be and I hope that someday I will be racing.

“I think that perhaps too many people want things to be simple when they are not and cannot be. Encouraging that desire is seductive and rewarding, but also dangerous.” –Ysul Demri (Sharrow) in Against a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks

This one also hit me like a brick. I think that so often we look for life to be simple and want to take the easy way out. I’ve lived my life this way and have seen other people do it too. Really, life should be about persevering and embracing the things that are difficult. It’s adversity that builds character. I read this at a really critical point in my life this past Summer and changed how I looked at the world.

“…The things you do when you’re desperate aren’t who you are.” –Niall to Leslie in Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

This is another quote that kind of goes with the taking the easy way out. Sometimes we do things that are just out of character or when life is out of control we do things that we are not always proud of. I think the challenge is in working on changing ourselves to be who we really are and without resorting to that behavior in desperate times.

These are just a few of the quotes that have given me pause in the last few months. They are insightful and really meaningful to me. They won’t necessarily hit other people the way they’ve impacted me. I’m entering a truly introspective time in my life I think and I’m really enjoying finding quotes that make me think more about life than I previously have. I hope that over the next few years I’ll be come a more complete and stronger person.

  • What are some quotes from books that have had an impact on your life?
  • Do you think that meaningful quotes can come from books that aren’t super philosophical reads?
  • Do you ever write down quotes from books?

I hope you guys will all share some of your favorites with me. I would love to read some of them!

Ink Exchange–Melissa Marr

Book: Ink Exchange
Author: Melissa Marr
Publisher: Harper Teen
325 pages (Hardcover)
My Rating:
4 stars

Leslie is a young woman who lives a troubled life. Her mother is gone, her father is absent, and her brother is a drug dealer. She has had to endure many hardships that cause her to seek out a different life for herself. She finds friends in the local tattoo shop and she longs to get a tattoo. Little does she know that the tattoo she picks out is about to change her life dramatically. Irial is a faerie who is King of the Dark Court. He longs to have Leslie for himself and plans to deceive her into becoming just that.

Ink Exchange is the second book in the Wicked Lovely series. I typically do not read a whole lot of YA, but I am actually enjoying this series. This book was better than the first book, Wicked Lovely. The story is told fairly simply—by that I mean it is a quick, easy reading. However, the story itself has quite a few really intense and complicated subjects in it including rape, drug addiction, and neglect. There were some incredibly profound moments in the book, and some of Leslie’s suffering was tangible while I was reading it. Melissa Marr did an excellent job describing what emotions people go through when abuse is occurring in and outside the home—the confusion and the pain. Leslie is an infinitely sympathetic character. She was not a perfect person by any means, but she did persevere and hold on to who she really was. She was a strong character even though she had moments of weakness and I liked that very human quality in her.

There is also a romance of sorts between her and another faery, Niall. He knows that he is forbidden to be with her, but he wants so badly to be a part of her life. It’s a story of unrequited love which was very touching in a lot of ways. Niall was also a pretty likeable character, but there was something a little lacking for me with him. There was a distance in his demeanor which surely was intentional, but it kept me from connecting with him entirely. Still, I did enjoy who he was and his desire to keep Leslie safe and stop her suffering at the hands of those that wanted to take advantage of her.

I will say that the culture in the book is something that is pretty foreign to me. I know absolutely nothing about tattoos and piercings so I actually enjoy reading about it. It gives me a little peak into how other people think. This culture is very much a part of the series and shows the humanity of people who choose to tattoo and pierce themselves. I like that because a lot of the time people are judged based on the ink and piercings they put on and in their body. People don’t look further than their appearance. This book breaks that stereotype and gives a human face to this culture.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable, quick read. I am definitely enjoying the easiness of YA books now that life is getting busier for me. Because of the nature of the subject matter in Ink Exchange, I did like it better than Wicked Lovely. I think it’s important for people to know that teens are exposed to things like rape, drugs, and abuse/neglect. Ink Exchange did a really good job of showing how it affects people who are exposed to these things and makes the subject matter accessible for younger readers that are in high school or junior high.

Contest–Matthew Reilly

Book: Contest
Author: Matthew Reilly
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia/St. Martin’s Press
418 pages (Paperback)
My Rating:
3h stars

Dr. Stephen Swain is a radiologist in New York City. He has had some exciting moments in the hospital he works in, but nothing could prepare him for what is about to happen. He is thrust into a gladiator style competition in the labyrinth of the New York City Public Library with no way to get out. His competitors are beings from other planets. They are tough, mean, and are willing to do whatever it takes to be the victor in the competition. To complicate matters, Swain’s daughter Holly has been transported into the library with him so he has to fight for his daughter’s life as well as his own.

I am so thankful for this book and to the friend who loaned it to me. Let me start out by saying that I am needing some fast and fun reads now because I’ve been kind of bogged down with things for awhile. Contest is exactly what I needed. I read this book largely in two sittings because it is pretty exciting. I felt like I was watching a movie like Die Hard the entire time I was reading it. It was pure action from beginning to end. Was there a lot of character development? Not really because the characters were too busy trying to survive the tournament. I have never read a book like this before, and I’m really glad that I picked it up because not only did I expand world in terms of what I’ve read, but I quite enjoyed the experience.

There were moments in the book that I had issues with and was like, “Well that’s not realistic,” but then I realized that the entire book wasn’t realistic because it’s a sci-fi thriller! So, disbelief suspended, I blew through this book and was holding my breath through quite a few parts of it. The aliens were pretty fantastic and in my mind, fairly original. I wasn’t even bothered by the lack of character development because the book was just so much fun to read. There was no time to care about Stephen Swain’s life outside of the library because his experience was so intense that I really didn’t even have time to think about anything else.

Swain’s guide in the library, Selexin, was a really good character as was Swain’s daughter Holly. There was a good balance of her being a child who was afraid of her situation and a survival instinct that was pretty neat for a kid. She reminded me a little of Tim Murphy (the little boy) in Jurassic Park. He was a go for it kid and Holly was for the most part as well. The guide Selexin was supposed to be a passive observer but after observing Swain’s behavior, he became more than that to the group. He put himself in the line of danger to help Swain and Holly and showed himself to be a man-alien of integrity. The characters (even the bad guys) were infinitely likeable in this book. The entire time I was rooting for them to win even if some of their situations seemed a little too easy for them to get out of.

There were a few weak points in the book like I said above.  Some of the moments where I said, “That’s not realistic,” kept me from giving it four to four and a half stars. There were several situations that were a little bit too easy for the characters to get out of, but those same parts made me reluctant to give Contest four stars. Still, this was a great effort for a first novel by Matthew Reilly. I highly recommend it if you are in a reading funk and looking for an action-packed book that is a quick read. I will definitely be reading more Matthew Reilly in the future.

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