What I’m Thankful For: Stories of Sisterhood and Friendship

November is a good time to remember what we are thankful for, and reflect on what is good and true in our lives.  This month helps our mindset be put into a ‘thanks’ and ‘giving’ kind of mood.  While it may be easy to reflect in our minds and moods, it’s not always easy to put down on paper.

Me and My Sister Stephanie early 80’s

I have been lucky enough to be blessed with an incredible little sister who is five years younger than me.  I was the typical bossy older sister and I never realized just how much she looked up to me until I was an adult.  I see it now in my two nephews the sheer admiration a younger sibling has for his or her older sister or brother.  I wish I knew as a child just how much I influenced her life.  She has certainly influenced mine probably more than she ever realized too.  My baby sister has grown up into a woman who I am so proud of, I could probably never effectively express her impact in my life. She is unbelievably strong, smart, generous and thoughtful, beautiful inside and out, kind and loving.  She is a mother, a daughter, a wife, and she will always be my first and best friend.  We laugh, argue, talk as any sisters would, perhaps more than others.

I never thought I needed other ‘sisters’ because well, I already had one.

I never thought a network of hundreds and thousands of Sigma Kappas could one day become my sisters.  Yet, they did.  Sigma Kappa is one part of my life that I am always thankful for, and hope I can always give back to.

To us women who call ourselves Sigma Kappas, November 9, 1874 is a very special date because it’s the founding of our beloved sorority.  The more I learn about our history and the time period in which these five brave and intelligent women met, I am amazed at their fortitude to form a sorority.   Women in 1874 were not seen as equals in the eyes of men, they could not vote or own property, and the women’s rights movement was just beginning.  Perhaps that movement was some motivation for starting an organization in which these five young ladies were not judged based on what others believed they could or could not do.  In fact, these five women praised and loved each other for their unique talents and gifts of lifelong friendship.

Over the years during my involvement with Sigma Kappa, I have met women across the country who I never would have met otherwise. I call these smart, funny, lovely women my sorority sisters even though I didn’t go to college with them.  It’s truly remarkable to have so many strong minds to engage with, and I’ve loved every minute of it!   As a librarian, I try to break the stereotypes of the crabby old lady with bun in her hair, glasses hanging on her chain and really ugly shoes.  As a self-proclaimed sorority girl, I hope I’ve broken the negative stereotypes by the work I do, along with the good and true person I strive to be every day.   I hope in 100 years when our blog posts are archived into databases, and other young Sigma Kappa women research us to find out what life was life in 2012, that I and my sorority sisters can be examples of voices strong and hearts united.

It’s not too difficult in today’s book world to find stories of sisterhood and friendship.  There are even titles and series such as, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares or Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, with the word ‘sisterhood’ right in it.  These are great reads to try if you haven’t discovered them.  Yet, I wanted to dig a little deeper and find suggestions that also dug a little deeper into this idea of sisterhood and friendship.  Let me know if you’ve read any or have other ideas in the comments.  Enjoy and Happy Founder’s Day!

The Seven Sisters by Margaret Drabble
Perhaps a bit different in terms of the use of sisterhood or friendship, this is the story of Candida Wilton who starts over late in life.  She begins by writing in a diary about her new life in London, and eventually takes a trip to Italy with her new friends.  This is a uniquely written novel with some twists and turns in the ending.  I haven’t read this one but it’s made my to-read list.  Check it out on Google Books.

Dinner with Anna Karenina by Gloria Goldreich
I will admit, I chose this because it’s about a book club who reads Anna Karenina.  However, it’s also the story of six very different women brought together by their love of a beautiful novel.  It’s the story of friendship, literature and secrets and betrayals.  I haven’t read this but it’s on my to-read list now!  Find out more at Google Books.

Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama
A novel about the women in communist China of 1926.  Rural families were often forced to sell or abandon their children so they could simply survive.  Pei Chung is a young woman whose family does just that as she then find her new life in a silk factory.  Yet, she forms friendships and a type of sisterhood with the women who work there.  This book spans decades as Pei grows up from a young child into an adult.  This book also has a sequel with equal positive response and praise called The Language of Threads.  Find Women of Silk here on Google Books.  The premise reminds me of Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden which also has a sense of sisterhood and friendship among the geisha women.  Another good read worth pursuing.

Sorority Sisters by Claudia Welch
This is a book in which some readers have described as a light read, yet I chose it for my list because it puts that typical sorority girl into a more positive light.  It does have some stereotypes, but the overall theme is everlasting friendship.   This is a book about four women in 1975 who become friends during their new member education period and how they build bonds that last after graduation.  Read more at Google Books.

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Holiday Reads for Book Lovers

The holiday season is upon us, which means endless parties with family and friends, tons of delicious food, and mounds of piles of presents to wrap.  Hopefully, amongst the busyness of the season, you are able to find some downtime to relax and enjoy, and perhaps even read a book (or two) for fun.

I’ve created a booklist of holiday stories, many are classics, some you can share with the young children in your life, and some you’ll want to keep just for yourself.  Several of these stories began as movies, or have become movies, and I find it interesting to compare how the two relate or differ from one another.   I’ve tried to include a variety of books for all interests and tastes, as the appeal is for a wide audience of readers.  However, if you really enjoy a specific genre such as romances, or mysteries, or children’s picture books and want some holiday suggestions, let me know! I’ve also included links to Google Books so you can check out the books from your library or find out where to purchase them.

I hope you’ll find a new favorite in the list, rediscover an old or once loved story, and perhaps even begin making some new traditions this holiday season with a good book.


Holiday Reads for Book Lovers

The movie White Christmas is a classic holiday movie filled with song, dance, and 1950’s flair.  Originally created as a song by Irving Berlin, and made famous by Bing Crosby in 1941, it has been the best known Christmas song in history.  This picture book by Michael Hague called, White Christmas, uses beautifully drawn, and colorful renderings to depict the magic of snow that brings us a White Christmas.  It’s a wonderful accompaniment to the movie as there is even sheet music of the song included so you can sing along.

The 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street depicts a classic holiday tradition of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is also for many, the official start of the holiday season.  This adaptation by Valentine Davies, who also wrote the original screenplay, includes stills from the movie.  This particular edition of the book even won an award for Best Design from the American Institute of Graphic Artists.

The story for the more recent film called, Christmas with the Kranks, was taken from the original book called Skipping Christmas by John Grisham.  In this novel, a couple decides to skip the craziness of the holiday season and take a vacation.  However, when their daughter surprises them with a visit, the hilarity of the season takes off.  A quick and casual read for those looking for a nice break.

A Christmas Story written by Jean Shepherd introduces the world to a little boy named Ralphie.  Now in regular rotation around the holiday season, the 1983 movie brings to life this humorous tale from the point of view of a kid who just wants a BB gun for Christmas.  Shepherd tells his autobiographical story with wit and charm and captures the essence of what it means to be a kid at Christmastime.

No matter which holiday you celebrate (or wish to forget), the book Scenes From a Holiday by Laurie Graff, Caren Lissner and Melanie Murray will bring some humor and delight to your days.  Three stories by three different authors follow three different women along their journey to survive the holiday season.

Those looking for a story that will warm your heart, you’ll want to read the tearjerker called, The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere.  It’s a story about a little boy in search of a gift for his dying mother and is the first in a series of books by VanLiere.  This book will have you believing in not only miracles, but also the magic and goodness of people around you.  This book was also made into a 2002 film, and adapted into a song in 2000.

Another story about hope and faith is the first in a series by Debbie Macomber named, Angels Everywhere.  This book was also the inspiration for the TV series, Touched by an Angel.  The story is about the adventures of three angels named Shirley, Goodness and Mercy as they make their way through New York City helping those whose hearts needs a little help.

Those looking for some mystery will want to read Decked by Carol Higgins Clark, which is also the first in the Regan Reilly Mystery series.  Regan, a private detective, just wants to enjoy her class reunion, but ends up investigating her roommate’s murder.  This novel is full of suspense and anticipation that has made this a bestselling series.

Classic enthusiasts will enjoy the classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens published in 1843.  Although retold in many forms, this is the original.  There are many versions of the story including films, plays, and even graphic novels.  This edition from Signet Classics takes on the novel in its original form and includes additional Christmas stories by Dickens.

Many people only think of The Nutcracker as a beautiful ballet to see around the Christmas season.  Yet, it was originally a tale from 1816 written by E.T.A. Hoffman and again adapted in 1845 by Alexandre Dumas.  It wasn’t until 1892 that the story became globally known when the Russian composer Tchaikovsky and choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov turned the story into the famous ballet we know today.  Even then, it wasn’t popular until the 1950’s in America.  Rediscover the many lands visited by Clara (or Marie as she is originally written) and the magic of the story this season.


In my family, the holidays are always filled with traditions and celebration and so below this first list, I’ve included a few additional selections that I find to be favorites.  Growing up in an Italian-American household meant we celebrated Christmas Eve with going to mass, placing baby Jesus in the manger crafted by my Papa, ate tons of fresh fish, and opened presents!  The books I’ve chosen below represent a taste of what I most fondly love about the Christmas season.  I’d love to hear your family traditions so please do share them in the comments!

In my family, food is one of the main topics of conversation.  When we are eating breakfast, we are talking about dinner.  Celebrations are no different, and always meant wonderful cookies and desserts!   This cookbook, Mangia, Little Italy by Francesa Romina, is one of my favorites for hard-to-find recipes for Italian treats.

Strega Nona is one of my favorite characters in children’s literature and was created by the master writer and illustrator, Tomie dePaolaMerry Christmas, Strega Nona will not disappoint as he uses his hand-drawn and colorful illustrations to depict the story of Strega Nona, Bambolona and of course, Big Anthony preparing for the big Christmas celebration.

Living and growing up in Chicago meant we always visited Marshall Fields, especially to see the windows at Christmastime.  This book from the Images of America series called, Christmas on State Street, has wonderful photos of this most beloved store including those great green clocks, the corner that you saw when approaching the store and so much more.  While it doesn’t replace actually visiting, it brings back great memories.


Enjoy reading and have a very wonderful holiday season full of delight, magic and surprise!

Book Review: A Miracle for St. Cecilia’s by Katherine Valentine

A Miracle for St. Cecilia’s by Katherine ValentineA Miracle for St. Cecilia's Cover From Google Books

Author: Katherine Valentine
Title: A Miracle for St. Cecilia’s
Genre: Inspirational Fiction, Gentle Reads
Publication Date: 2002
Number of Pages: 278
Geographical Setting: Dorsetville, Connecticut; New England
Time Period: Contemporary
Series: Dorsetville Series

Plot Summary: Katherine Valentine has been critiqued by some for imitating Jan Karon’s popular Mitford series, however, A Miracle for St. Cecilia’s will warm the hearts of many who love a wholesome and gentle read with a Catholic spin. The novel tells the story of the residents of the town of Dorsetville, Connecticut in the New England area from the perspective of Father James Flaherty who is in a dire predicament. The Archdiocese wants to shut down the town’s beloved church because of declining membership and its inability to sustain itself. Yet, the story envelopes into the characters’ lives well so that we, as the reader, don’t want the church to close either. The residents and the priest try to come up with ideas to save the church and through an accidental miracle, faith is restored and lives are changed. This is the first in the Dorsetville series by Valentine who also tells us her story of renewed life in the acknowledgements that certainly provide some additional wealth to the story.

Subject Headings: Catholic Church, Clergy, Small town life, Eccentrics, Faith, Compassion, Miracles; Dorsetville, Connecticut New England (U.S.); St. Cecilia’s Church, Church, Mill town, Small town; 2000s, 21st century; Fiction, Christian, Inspirational; Eccentric; Priest

Appeal: Christian, Catholicism, inspirational, saintly, gentle, heartwarming, soft, kind, compassionate, religious, overcoming obstacles, uplifting, touching, faithful, miraculous, light humor, small-town life, close-knit community relationships, sugar sweet, tender

3 terms that best describe this book: inspirational, heartwarming, touching

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

  • Catechism of the Catholic Church is a book used in many classrooms and teachings to help those interested in becoming Catholic or just want to learn more about the religion. It is put out by the US Catholic Church and includes an index so you can look up certain topics. Readers on Amazon.com have responded that this is an easily readable and understandable book.
  • Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25 Cents at a Time by Jane Knuth tells the true story of Jane who takes up volunteer work at a St. Vincent DePaul thrift store in Kalamazoo, MI. Through her experiences, she talks about the fulfilling and touching stories that filled her days by helping shoppers of the store.
  • The Year of Living Like Jesus: My Journey of Discovering What Jesus Would Really Do by Ed Dobson tells us the story of how Dobson took one year to literally interpret the Bible and its teachings. Through his journey, he discovers compassion, humility and faith in a likeable and enjoyable format of diary entries and prose.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

  • Jan Karon’s Mitford Series is another heartwarming series of novels who readers will enjoy for a soft and gentle series of characters and stories. The first in the series is At Home in Mitford which tells the story of the main character, Father Tim, at home in the small North Carolina town of Mitford, and what is described as ordinary people with ordinary lives. Christian and inspirational fiction lovers will find this series comforting.
  • In another series called Song of Erin, for readers who are looking for additional inspirational fiction surrounding Catholicism, yet would enjoy a more historical tale, B. J. Hoff writes about the saga of an Irish-American family and their escape from poverty and tragedy in Ireland to a new life in 1800’s New York City. Cloth of Heaven is the first in the series.
  • The book, In the Land of Second Chances by George Shaffner is described by BookList as a cross between Touched by an Angel and The Five People You Meet in Heaven and is the first in a series of books surrounding one of the main characters, Wilma Porter. The novel is about the residents of small town Ebb, Nebraska and with the help of a stranger, discover hope, faith and strength in overcoming obstacles.

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Find A Miracle for St. Cecilia’s by Katherine Valentine in your local library through WorldCat

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Book Review: Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Brava Valentine Cover From Google BooksBrava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Author: Adriana Trigiani
Title: Brava, Valentine
Genre: Women’s Lives and Relationships, Gentle Reads
Publication Date: 2010
Number of Pages: 332
Geographical Setting: New York City
Time Period: Contemporary

Plot Summary: In Adriana Trigianai’s second novel in the Very Valentine series, Brava, Valentine further expands on the love stories, family dramas began in the first, and adds new twists and passions that make up the life of main character Valentine Rancalli.  The novel opens with the wedding of Valentine’s beloved grandmother and fellow custom shoemaker, Teodora.  Valentine is then faced with changes to her life and her business.  Throughout the story, Valentine further discovers her passion for custom shoemaking and past love Gianluca.  She takes on a new avenue in expanding her business, and expanding her heart in her long-distance romance with Gianluca.  Of course, her family dynamics and relationships take center stage as they weave in and out of the novel, with an entertaining and hilarious scene at Thanksgiving, and as we learn more about her brother Alfred, who is now her business partner.  Change and self-discovery are prevalent for Valentine as she learns not only about her family, her love, but also herself.  A well-developed story leaves an ending without lose ends, but with anticipation for what happens next.

Subject Headings: Family relationships, Family businesses, Italian Americans, Weddings, Long-distance romance, Grandmothers, Sibling rivalry, Businesswomen, Dating, Mentors, Female friendship, Relationships, Transformations, Past loves, Power struggles, Brothers and sisters, Family secrets, Scandal, Self-discovery; New York, Mid-Atlantic States (U.S.), Buenos Aires, Argentina, South America, Argentina; 2000s, 21st century; Fiction Romance, Contemporary, Domestic Saga Family; Italian American, Grandmother, Newlywed Italian; Businesswoman, Artist, Businessman, Financier

Appeal: romantic, love story, career woman, friendships, custom shoemakers, lush, passionate professional, Italian-Americans, family relationships, change, acceptance, self-discovery, New York City, Greenwich Village, Buenos Aires, fast paced, humorous, emotionally charged, sophisticated, sensual, family businesses, stylish, glamorous, down-to-earth characters, series novel, bestselling author

3 terms that best describe this book: family relationships, Italian-American experiences, passionate female businesswoman

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

  • The World in a City: traveling the globe through the neighborhoods of the new New York by Joseph Berger is a nonfiction books for people who want to learn more about New York City, it’s ethnically diverse neighborhoods and constant change in people, culture, cuisine and sights.
  • Marcella Amarcord Remembers: the story of a woman who started out to teach science in a small town in Italy, but ended up teaching America how to cook Italian by Marcella Hazan traces the life story of the best-selling cookbook author from her childhood in a quiet Adriatic Sea fishing town and her family’s struggles through World War II to her marriage and her work as a cooking instructor.
  • Coffee With Nonna: The Best Stories of My Catholic Grandmother by Vincent M. Iezzi; The author complies stories his nonna shared with him while he was a child during World War II in his Philadelphia neighborhood.  Other readers describe this as heartwarming and precious.  Found this book using Amazon “What other customers bought.”

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

  • Fair Play by Deirdre Martin is the second in the New York Blades series.  Each novel is about a different woman hired to “take charge” of a problem surrounding one of the New York Blades’ players.  This novel is about PR maven Theresa Falconetti, hired by Michael Dante, the winger for the New York Blades, to publicize his family’s restaurant.  A romance ensues between Michael and Theresa, yet Theresa is torn as she tries to stick to her ‘no hockey players’ rule.
  • Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe by Jennie Shortridge is the story of Mira Serafino, a woman who recently discovered her husband was having an affair.  She decides to change her life, moves to Seattle, and takes a new job, all while keeping the news about her marriage from her large Italian family.
  • Love and Meatballs by Susan Volland is the story of thirty-something Jo Cerbone who is struggling to keep her Italian-American family’s restaurant running.  She finds herself in the midst of a romance between two men, and in the midst of learning more about what she really wants to do with her life.

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Find Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani in your local library through WorldCat

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