My 4 Book Clubs

Welcome to The Bookspired Linkup! Each month we share posts that fit The Bookspired Linkup theme: exploring how a book has inspired you. You can read about my inspiration for starting the linkup here. My post this month is a little different – rather than exploring how a book has inspired me, I’m sharing one of the ways I stay inspired to read … by belonging to book clubs. Check out the linked-up posts through the blue inLinkz button at the bottom of this post and add your own, or participate through the comment feature.

When we moved to New Hampshire, I knew I wanted to join or start a book club. Since I was the new girl in town, my options were limited. Should I join one at the library, which I assumed would be made up of people much older than me? Invite the couple of people I was getting to know and hope they would bring interested friends? Put a sign out on my mailbox?

While I pondered these questions, I became involved with some online book communities through Facebook. First, I joined a one-time discussion of Mrs. Dalloway hosted by Laura Tremaine of I really enjoyed it, but Laura’s Read Great Books discussion series is currently on hold, so it’s not something I could count on for a regular fix. Slowly but surely, though, as I poked around the interweb literary circles, I found groups that were doing just what I hoped … casually, intelligently, politely discussing books. So I joined them. All of them. And now here we are: me and my four book clubs.

The Red Couch Book Club

An online book discussion group for readers of SheLoves Magazine, this club gathers to discuss a new book every other month, with some pop-up chatting in between. There is an emphasis on books of a spiritual nature, which I like. I enjoyed the thoughtful discussion about Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward and am looking forward to discussing I Am Malala with the ladies this month.

The Deliberate Reader Book Club

Sheila Craig, creator of, leads an online book club with a new book every month. I like the way Sheila formats the discussion; she posts questions throughout the month rather than lumping the entire discussion into one night or a few days. It’s less overwhelming that way, and you can jump in late if you are still working on the book, which is what I did with this month’s pick, Robert Galbraith’s (AKA J.K. Rowling) The Cuckoo’s Calling. I also appreciate the way Sheila includes a series of basic questions, such as how you read the book (e-reader or hard copy) and whether or not you liked the cover – these questions warm up the discussion and encourage people to participate.16160797

The SortaLiterary Traveling Book Club

This is a spinoff of a spinoff group. Fans of the Sorta Awesome podcast started discussing books and reading in the SortaLiterary group, and one of the members shared her experience in a traveling book club, and it sounded so awesome that the SortaLiterary Traveling Book Club was born. Here’s how it works: In small groups of six to eight people, each person picks out a book and a small notebook, writes a bit about herself and why she chose the book in the notebook, and mails the book and notebook to the next person in the group. (The group organizer collects addresses and assigns who mails books to whom.) That person then has two months to read the book, write her own thoughts in the journal, and mail the package off to her designated person. Basically, each book and journal travels around the group until they reach the original person. It’s an old-fashioned, paper-and-snail-mail book club. Isn’t it romantic? Below is the book I chose to mail, Olive Kitteridge, and the first book that was sent to me, What Alice Forgot.

The We Still Read! Book Club

In case you were feeling sorry for me that I only have friends online, you can relax. A new friend in Layout 1town recently invited me to join her in-person book club. I was so pleased to be asked to join a real live book club in my own town. The group only met once before I joined, and I’m jumping in with them for our next pick, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. I’m looking forward to talking books with these ladies.

So that’s the scoop on my four book clubs. It’s been fun to get involved with these communities online and in real life. I don’t feel any pressure to read every book every time – I do what I can and enjoy what I do. I’m grateful that I live in the 21st century with plenty of opportunities to connect with other people about books.

The 4 Books I Finished in June

* Linking up with Anne Bogel at Quick Lit *

Don’t forget to check out and join The Bookspired Linkup on July 20th!

In June I read two books I loved, one book I liked, and one not-so-thrilling thriller. Not a bad run, eh? I’m going to jump right in with the four books I finished in June.

No One Knows  by J.T. Ellison

My Thoughts: This was the not-so-thrilling thriller. Aubrey, whose husband disappeared the night of a friend’s bachelor party, is still struggling five years later after he is eventually declared dead and, through various encounters with suspicious people, wonders whether her husband is really gone. It is a page turner, but I was hoping for a big payoff at the end, and I felt let down. I know a few people who have really enjoyed this book, so I would recommend it with the caveat that it’s a good story but not a thriller. I liked it better than The Girl on the Train (which I didn’t like much at all) but not as much as The Good Girl and Gone Girl (both of which I really liked). If you have any thriller recommendations, please send them my way … I like this genre, but my thrill threshold is high!

Length: 368 pages

When I Read It: May 31-June 10, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Bought it at Gibson’s Bookstore; read it the old-fashioned way.


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

My Thoughts: I resisted reading this book for a while, even after hearing people I trust gush about it, because I didn’t love Rowell’s big hit Eleanor & Park, so I thought her writing just wasn’t my style. Well, I was WRONG. This book is absolutely delightful. I found myself smirking, giggling, and swooning over the story of Cath, an awkward but lovable fan fiction writer, her twin sister Wren (Get it?), and the characters they meet during their first semester at college. This is a perfect book if you need a pick-me-up or want something light but well-written to take to the beach. It’s one of my favorites of the year. And I won’t hesitate before giving Rowell’s other books a try.

Length: 445 pages

When I Read It: June 10-21, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Placed a hold through the Overdrive app; read it on the Kindle app on my phone.

Memorable quote: “There are other people on the Internet. It’s awesome. You get all the benefits of ‘other people’ without the body odor and the eye contact.”


You Learn By Living by Eleanor Roosevelt

My Thoughts: When this book went on sale for $1.99 on the Amazon Kindle deals, I snatched it up. I’d heard it was a flying-under-the-radar great book, and I really enjoyed learning more about Eleanor Roosevelt and pondering her nuggets of advice. It’s a very short book and not an amazing literary work, but still, I’d highly recommend it. There’s some great wisdom to soak up.

Length: 211 pages

When I Read It: June 10-June 26, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Bought it from Amazon; read it on the Kindle app on my phone.

Memorable Quote: “I wish with all my heart that every child could be so imbued with a sense of the adventure of life that each change, each readjustment, each surprise–good or bad–that came along would be welcomed as part of the whole enthralling experience.”


The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See by Richard Rohr

My Thoughts: This is the second book I’ve read by Richard Rohr, and I’ve come to realize he’s one of the great religious thinkers living among us. In The Naked Now, Rohr shows us how we can move beyond our typical human issues into a higher level of spirituality. I turned down many pages of this book to mark my favorite passages. (I would have used a highlighter, but my kids take them and wreak havoc.) I can’t wait to read more of Rohr’s work. I need to space them out because it’s pretty heavy reading that takes some time to process.

Length: 187 pages

When I Read It: May 31-June 29, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Bought it at Gibson’s Bookstore; read it the old-fashioned way.

Memorable Quote: “The enormous breakthrough is that when you honor and accept the divine image within yourself, you cannot help but see it in everybody else, too, and you know it is just as undeserved and unmerited as it is in you. That is why you stop judging, and that is how you start loving unconditionally and without asking whether someone is worthy or not.”

I mean, really. It doesn’t get much better than that.


You can friend or follow me on Goodreads for the latest updates on my July reading progress.

2016 Reading Challenge – Midyear Update

At the beginning of the year (almost six months ago already?!) I set reading goals for 2016 and gave myself some structure by joining the Goodreads and Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenges. My goal was to read 40 books this year, and so far I’ve read 30 books. Most months I’ve been finishing 5 books, so I’m on track to read about 60 books in 2016. I’m really happy with my progress. It feels great to be chugging along with a hobby that’s enjoyable, good for my brain, and free (at least when I use the library and don’t rack up fines).

Some of my favorites thus far:

Although I’ve been reading at a good clip, I haven’t been keeping up with my monthly plan for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. It was a little too structured for my ever-changing to-read list, and I’ve decided to switch up some of my book choices. I’m allowed to do that, right? Here are the categories I’ve checked off so far and my new, less-structured plan for completing the remaining categories.

Completed Categories

√  A BOOK THAT WAS BANNED AT SOME POINT: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Read this one in January back when I was sticking to the plan.

√  A BOOK PUBLISHED THIS YEAR: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. Read this one in February.

√  A BOOK YOU CAN FINISH IN A DAY: The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner. Read this one early on too.

√  A BOOK YOU PREVIOUSLY ABANDONED: Originally I planned to read A World Made New by Mary Ann Glennon. Instead, this book was a delightful way to complete the category: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. People rave about the audio version of this book, FYI.

√  A BOOK RECOMMENDED BY YOUR LOCAL LIBRARIAN OR BOOKSELLER: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin was a staff pick at my local library and one of my favorites.

A BOOK YOU’VE BEEN MEANING TO READ: Still Life by Louise Penny. This is the first book in the Inspector Gamache series, and I’d been meaning to read it for a while and finally picked it up. While I wasn’t wowed, I’ve been convinced by the reading powers that be to stick with the series for a big payoff and recently placed book #2 on hold.

6 Categories To Go …

A BOOK THAT INTIMIDATES YOU: Although I did find a copy of Finnegan’s Wake at a used bookstore in Brooklyn, I’ve decided that I don’t really want to read it. Does anyone really want to read Finnegan’s Wake? Instead, I’m going to dive into Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Russian literature is intimidating but worth the effort.

A BOOK YOU’VE ALREADY READ AT LEAST ONCE: I’m sticking with my original pick, Coming Home by Rosamund Pilcher. It’s one of my all-time favorite books and a great re-read.

A BOOK YOU SHOULD HAVE READ IN SCHOOL: Instead of reading Crime and Punishment, I’m going to tackle George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which I was supposed to read in my Victorian literature class when I studied abroad in Ireland in 2001. I’m not sure how I managed to get away with not reading it then, but …  better 15 years late than never?

A BOOK CHOSEN BY YOUR SPOUSE, PARTNER, SIBLING, CHILD, OR BFF: I’m sticking with It by Stephen King, recommended by my husband Dave.

A BOOK PUBLISHED BEFORE YOU WERE BORN: Ever since we watched a TV special about the 1950s that highlighted the interesting, sad story of Grace Metalious and Peyton Place, I’ve been wanting to read the book. Plus, I’m a New Hampshire housewife, so I could pretty much write a 21st century version of this book.

A BOOK YOU OWN BUT HAVE NEVER READ: Couldn’t Keep It To Myself, a compilation of stories written by the women Wally Lamb works with at the York Correctional Institution, has been on my shelf for a long time. I am inspired by Lamb’s work with, as he calls them, our imprisoned sisters.


That’s the plan. I might make more changes as I go, but I’m determined to meet my 2016 reading goals. What have been your favorite books of 2016 so far? What are you excited to read in the second half of the year?






The Bookspired Linkup (June 2016)

Welcome to The Bookspired Linkup! Each month we share posts that fit The Bookspired Linkup theme: exploring how a book has inspired you. You can read about my inspiration for starting the linkup here. Check out the linked-up posts through the blue inLinkz button at the bottom of this post and add your own, or participate through the comment feature.

Words of Wise Women

Last Friday my favorite podcast, Sorta Awesome, released one of its best shows yet, Episode 63: What We Know Now That We’re Here. You should just download and listen to it because my description won’t do it justice, but it’s basically a pep talk from two lovely big-sister-type ladies (Megan and Kelly) about what they’ve learned about their minds, bodies, and souls thus far in life. It sounds like a heavy topic but they don’t take thylblemselves that seriously, which makes it just right.

After listening to the podcast, I guess I was in an advice-seeking mood, because when I saw that the Kindle version of Eleanor Roosevelt’s memoir You Learn By Living was on sale for $1.99, I immediately bought and downloaded it to start reading during a short road trip. I’m about halfway done with it and although I don’t love all of Mrs. Roosevelt’s advice – She once told a little boy that if he needed to cry, he should go “cry alone into the bathtub” (???) –  many of her words are wise, such as these

“Our emotional interests, our intellectual pursuits, our personal preoccupations, all change. So do those of our friends. So the relationship that binds us together must change too; it must be flexible enough to meet the alterations of person and circumstance.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

My podcast and book choices this week got me thinking about some of the other wise women whose words I’ve taken to heart lately. I’ve been into reading memoirs recently, and I’ve also taken an interest in the self-improvement genre through podcasts and books. Although I like to think I have a good head on my shoulders, I don’t claim to be an expert on most things, and I look for opportunities to learn new things every day. My favorite sources of wise words are lovely, smart, brave, interesting women. Here are just a few of the wise women I’m listening to these days:

Emily Freeman – Simply Tuesday23411600

I bought this book on a whim and thought it would be mildly entertaining or kinda good. I had no idea how connected I would feel to Emily and how much I would take to heart her words about the importance of “small moments.” I gave this book five stars on Goodreads, and I don’t award stars willy-nilly. One of my favorite tidbits:

“But Tuesday teaches me that part of living well in ordinary time is letting this day be good. Letting this day be a gift. Letting this day be filled with plenty. And if it all goes wrong and my work turns to dust? This is my kind reminder that outcomes are beyond the scope of my job description.”   -Emily P. Freeman

Sarah Bessey – Out of Sorts23492740

I joined Sarah’s book launch team for the release of Out of Sorts because A. It sounded like fun, B. I would receive an early (free) galley copy of the book, and, most importantly, C. I was smitten with Sarah’s writing, which I knew from her blog at Sarah is a big picture thinker and seems to be a wonderful combination of funny, serious, and devoted to both her family and her call to preach. There’s something magnetic about her. My favorite nugget from the book:

“May we be the ones who don’t give up on radical inclusion. May we be the ones to whisper to one another, every now and then, on purpose, at the right time: You belong here. There’s room for you. There’s room for all of us.” – Sarah Bessey

Gretchen Rubin – The Happiness Projectthehappinessproject

This was another book I expected to enjoy but ended up loving. Gretchen Rubin is very different from me. She seems extremely intense and driven, and I’m just not that wound up or motivated. But I adore her, and I especially love her tips and tricks for habit formation and increasing happiness in everyday life. What I love most about her, though, is her honesty about her own self-discovery.

“I have an idea of who I wish I were, and that obscures my understanding of who I actually am.”  – Gretchen Rubin

Eleanor, Emily, Sarah, and Gretchen are just a few of the wise women who I’m tuned to these days. I’m always looking for new inspiration – Who are your favorite wise literary ladies?





The 5 Books I Finished in May

Linking up with Anne Bogel at Quick Lit

May is my birthday month, so I decided to read whatever the heck I felt like reading this month with no concern about expanding my horizons or increasing my knowledge on important subjects. The result was a diverse collection of books including true crime, an old-favorite author, a “true wuv” memoir, a thriller, and a lovable grumpy old man. Without further ado, here are the five books I finished in May:

1. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

My Thoughts: This is the crazy, horrific, intensely interesting true story of serial killer Ted Bundy. The book was written by Bundy’s friend Ann Rule, who was contracted to write the book before she knew Bundy was a suspect. At many points I could not put the book down. It is difficult to read because Bundy’s crimes were so terrible and prolific, but any fans of the true crime genre should read this book because it is so well done.

Length: 560 pages

When I Read It: April 30-May 17, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Placed a hold at the library; read it the old-fashioned way.

2. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

My Thoughts: I started this book more than a year ago and put it down for some unknown reason. I picked it back up again as an antidote to the creepiness of The Stranger Beside Me and devoured the rest of the book quickly. Elwes’s stories about life on the movie set with the amazing cast of characters (Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, Andre the Giant, etc.) are delightful, and fans of the movie would love this book. Several people have told me that the audio version is fantastic because the cast contributes.

Length: 259 pages

When I Read It: March 11, 2015-May 20, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Bought it at Target; read it the old-fashioned way.

3. A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

My Thoughts: I’ve read almost all of Maeve Binchy’s cozy Irish novels and decided to give this one a try during the long drive to and from New Jersey for my friend’s baby shower. While it’s not as good as many of Binchy’s earlier books, it was an enjoyable, light read for the car ride. Binchy is masterful at creating interesting characters and weaving their lives together, and her descriptions of the Irish countryside always make me want to jump on a plane and head across the Atlantic.

Length: 10 hours and 57 minutes

When I Read It: May 20-22, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Placed a hold through the Overdrive app/listened to the audiobook.

4. Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

My Thoughts: I loved Kubica’s first novel, The Good Girl, so I knew I wanted to try another one of her books. When I first started Pretty Baby, I was lukewarm to it, but it picked up in the second half and toward the end I couldn’t put it down. It’s not a true thriller, but Kubica keeps you guessing about the characters: a mysterious homeless girl and baby, and the not-so-perfect family that takes them in. This would be a great beach read. I’m definitely going to put Kubica’s most recent release, Don’t You Cry, on my to-read list.

Length: 380 pages

When I Read It: May 20-30, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Bought it at Gibson’s Bookstore; read it the old-fashioned way.

5. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

My Thoughts: I kept hearing amazing things about this book and was skeptical that it would live up to the hype. I started reading it several months ago and put it down because I wasn’t in the right mood, I guess. I heard that the audio version was fantastic, so I put myself on the hold list and finally got my copy last week. One of my Goodreads friends deemed the book “practically perfect,” and now I see why. Ove, a grumpy, hilarious, sad, lovable old man, is one of those characters you’ll never forget. I kept alternating between snorting with laughter and sniffing with tears. I loved this book and will probably read it again. That’s high praise from me because I rarely reread books.

Length: 9 hours and 9 minutes

When I Read It: May 25 -31, 2016

Where I Found It/How I Read It: Placed a hold through the Overdrive app/listened to the audiobook

Favorite Quote: “He went through life with his hands firmly shoved into his pockets. She danced.”


You can friend or follow me on Goodreads for the latest updates on my June reading picks.

Don’t forget to check out and join The Bookspired Linkup on June 15th!

The Bookspired Linkup (May 2016)

Welcome to The Bookspired Linkup! Each month we share posts that fit The Bookspired Linkup theme: exploring how a book has inspired you. You can read about my inspiration for starting the linkup here. Check out the linked-up posts through the blue inLinkz button at the bottom of this post and add your own, or participate through the comment feature.

This month I’m also hosting a giveaway! Details are at the bottom of this post. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch and Other Things I Love

A year and a half 7284508ago, I was scrolling through my Goodreads updates feed and this book caught my eye: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim. How could I resist the saucy title, the Pepto-Bismol-pink cover, and the collage of one of the best TV villains from one of the best TV shows, Little House on the Prairie? I put the book on my Christmas list, and my parents fulfilled my wish.

I was so intrigued by Arngrim’s stories about her days on the TV set that I read while holding my newborn in one arm and the book in the other. I loved learning about Arngrim’s relationships with Melissa Gilbert (they were and still are close friends), Melissa Sue Anderson (not so close with this Melissa), and of course our beloved Michael Landon. Arngrim had a difficult childhood, and her persistence through some terrible situations, along with her wit and likeable real-life personality, puts the character of Nellie Oleson into a whole new light.

In addition to loving this book for its own story, reading Confessions of a Prairie Bitch sparked my interest in reading other memoirs so that I could dive into the details of other people’s lives, learn more about their true personalities, and understand the good (and sometimes the not-so-good) things they’ve done. Some of my favorite memoirs from the past couple of years are:

Dad is Fat and Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Tattoos on the Heart by Fr. Gregory Boyle

Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

Nellie Oleson now has a special place in my heart. I owe her, and the talented actress who played her on TV, for fueling my interest in good memoirs. Here’s to the biggest bitch on the prairie!

Giveaway Details:

I’m giving away my copy of Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post to explain why you want to win the book. All commenters will be entered into a random drawing after the linkup closes in one week. One entry per person, please.




My Favorite Place To Browse

“Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.” Lady Bird Johnson

My favorite place to browse for books is the Staff Picks section at my local library. Although tastes can differ, a good librarian won’t recommend a book that is poorly written. Most (I’d venture to say all) librarians are serious readers and see hundreds of books come through the library doors. They get the latest scoop on what’s hot off the presses and are typically knowledgeable about the best books in all different genres. There’s no incentive to recommend bad books because they’re not making any money from sales, so their recommendations can be trusted to be books they truly loved.


I’m sure the caliber of staff recommendations varies depending on the library, but there’s an easy way to tell if it’s a top-notch selection: Check to see if any of the best books you’ve already read are included on the shelf. When I spotted Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed as one of the staff picks, I knew I’d hit the literary jackpot. Since we moved to our town a year and a half ago, I’ve read six Staff Picks books. Five of them were great, and one of them was well-written but not my style.

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff – A very interesting novel that flashes back and forth between the stories of Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young, and a young man exiled from a fundamentalist Morman group in the late 20th century.

Precious and Fragile Things by Megan Hart – Apparently Megan Hart is known for writing erotica, but this book is not that. It’s a dark, suspenseful cabin-in-the-woods novel that would make a great beach read for any woman, particularly a mother, who doesn’t mind dark stories. A page turner.

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon – An excellent collection of fictional stories about military families on the Army base at Fort Hood, Texas. I was a military spouse for almost three years, and the characters rang true for me.

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes – A very dark and graphic suspenseful novel that I could not put down. It’ll have you checking the locks on your doors and maybe even hiding under the covers. Much more suspenseful than some more recent disappointing bestsellers which shall remain nameless at this time.

A Small Hotel by Robert Olen Butler – This is the one I didn’t like. It’s a bleak story about a broken marriage. I can understand why it was recommended, though, as the writing is very good.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin – As I shared in my last post, this book is a gem and one of the best novels I’ve read in a while. The small town Mississippi setting and complicated characters are so well done. My favorite, so far, of the Staff Picks.

Then there’s these three, the Staff Picks checked out to me at the moment.


I’m not sure I’ll love them, but I’m pretty confident they’re worth a read.

What’s your favorite place to browse?