April & May 2014 Book Club Discussion and New Selection

Sigma Kappa Book ClubWelcome to our Virtual Sigma Kappa Book Club! Be sure to visit us on Goodreads, and please join our Sigma Kappa Group! Even if you can’t participate in our book discussion, join the group and meet a new reader.

Our March 2014 selection was the novel, Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner. The book tells the story of a political mogul, his wife and children who find themselves in the midst of a heated scandal. When I started this book, I thought it was going to be just another ‘fluff’ story. Yet, this book was so much more than I thought!

The story is about the Woodruff family; Sylvie and Richard, along with eldest daughter Diana and youngest daughter Lizzie. Each chapter was told from one of the three women’s point of view and offered wonderful insights into the ‘person’ behind the story. I thought the varied storytelling made for an intriguing family story. It helped me understand what the characters were feeling, thinking, and why choices were made, from their perspectives. I also enjoyed reading about the different family relationships, and how they changed over the course of time. I’m glad I purchased this one, and am pleased to add it to my collection.

Here are some questions to get you thinking a little more about the book. Please do post your thoughts and questions in the comments or in our Goodreads group!

What are your thoughts about the book? Have you read a Jennifer Weiner story before?

Did you like that each chapter had a different narrator?

What do you think of each of the three main women characters? Did you find fault or success in their end choices?

What do you think about the title, “Fly Away Home,” and its significance to the characters?

What do you think about the sister dynamics and the mother-daughter relationships? How do they work together? How does Sylvie and Richard’s marriage affect the family dynamics?

The InterestingsOur next book selection is the New York Times bestselling novel, The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer. Not only does it have this fantastic, colorful and striped cover, but is also a 2013 Goodreads Choice Nominee for Best Fiction and a 2013 Paris Review Best of the Best. (By the way, how many of us choose a book by its cover?)

The story begins at a summer camp. Six teenagers meet the summer of 1974, the year President Nixon resigns. The group remains ‘best friends forever’ over the years, each growing a life in different directions, yet, staying friends. The story follows the group to New York City, through careers and life choices, and displays for the reader how these personalities and friendships develop and change. The book has been described as panoramic, wide in scope, and even epic.

Visit Meg Wolitzer’s website and learn more about the author and her works.

Read the April, 2013 New York Times review upon the book’s release.

Read an interview of the author, Meg Wolitzer on NPR’s Fresh Air from February, 2014. You can also listen to the interview and read an excerpt.

This has been on my to-read pile since it first came out and I’m eager to read it! I hope you like it too. Happy Reading! See you in May!


March 2014 Book Club Discussion and New Selection

Sigma Kappa Book ClubWelcome to our Virtual Sigma Kappa Book Club! Be sure to visit us on Goodreads, and please join our Sigma Kappa Group! Even if you can’t participate in our book discussion, join the group and meet a new reader.

malalaOur book selection for what turned into January and February 2014 was the New York Times bestselling memoir, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. This book has been so incredibly popular, it took me at least three weeks to get the book from my library, and I’m a librarian! I hope the extra time we took for book club gave you extra time to not only get the book, but read it, think about it, and want to just share your thoughts about it!

While I do love biographies and memoirs, this isn’t the kind of book I would normally pick up. I was hesitant I would like the story, and yet, I was completely surprised! I couldn’t put this book down once I got involved in Malala’s story, so I finished it in a few days. I also read the reviews, watched her videos, and did a bit of research about A World at School. Fascinating and enlightening to learn about people who seem so very far away, yet just want to go to school.

The most influential part I found was that no matter what others told her, Malala never gave up. She fought for her rights as both a young woman and a student in what came to be a discriminatory and war-torn country. I also found the history of this area to be both fascinating and puzzling. I became completely aware of how lucky I am in America to have the rights I do as a person, woman and student, and just how much others in this world just don’t have those same standards. I found some of the writing to be a bit terse, perhaps that came as a result of the story being told and written through her co-writer. There were moments of confusion because the political structure of this area is always changing, and those were some of the parts I tended to have to re-read. Overall, I was simply surprised, and I really enjoyed this read. Thanks Sigma Kappa members for the suggestion!

What are your overall impressions of this book? Were you surprised? Would you have chosen this on your own?

What do you think of Malala’s story? Would you have done what she did by continuing to go to school, despite the situation?

Do you find this story has increased your awareness of global education, the area of Swat, women’s rights, or other topics?

How do you think her parents’ positive influence in her life had an impact on her decisions?

If you could ask Malala any question, or talk to her about any topic, what would you choose and why?

There is some controversy about this book, some claim it has been overinflated or puffed up to add drama. Others in her native country have protested her movement. This article explains some of the controversy. What do you think? I found her Wikipedia article interesting and it gave some good links to other stories.


Our March 2014 selection is from one of my favorite authors and on the lighter side — Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner. I have yet to dislike one of her books, and I find she is a smart and intelligent writer for women who like funny, clever characters or over-the-top scenarios and situations. Fly Away Home is available in paperback and e-book edition, as well as the library, and was first issued in 2010.

The book tells the story of a political mogul, his wife and children who find themselves in the midst of a heated scandal. However, this is also a book about mothers and daughters and their relationship with each other. It’s a book I hope will make you turn the pages and want to talk about with someone as soon as you finish!

Visit Jennifer Weiner’s website and learn more about her writing, personality, and what she has in the works. Jennifer Weiner also is pretty active on Goodreads and Twitter. She is a bit silly, and fun.

Enjoy the book and see you in April!

January 2014 Book Club Discussion and New Selection

Sigma Kappa Book ClubThanks for all of your great responses to our Virtual Sigma Kappa Book Club! Be sure to visit us on Goodreads, and please join our Sigma Kappa Group! Our group is steadily growing. We now have 40 members! Even if you can’t participate in our book discussion, join the group and meet a new reader.

Goodreads is a social site for book lovers and readers. You can see what your friends are reading, keep track of the books you read or want to read, and more. You can link Goodreads with your Facebook account, among several other sites.

You’ll notice we seem to be alternating between fiction and non-fiction. I haven’t set this type of pattern on purpose, but am choosing books based on suggestions from other Sigma Kappas, interesting stories, time and news worthiness, and hopefully just plain great reads! I love keeping the mix of fiction and non-fiction as there are great books out there in both areas. If you don’t see a book you like, or really want to introduce the group to a story you love, then tell us! It will be considered for an upcoming selection with my fellow bloggers.

18619684Happy New Year Sigma Kappas! I hope you enjoyed our December selection, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I’m still in the middle of reading it as I got a bit of a late start and the holidays took up more of my reading time. I found myself having a tough time with the first 50 pages or so and that has slowed down my progress with this book. I’m not sure if it was the number of pages that intimidated me, or that I felt confused in the beginning and found it hard to continue the story. Overall though, I’m enjoying this book and the storytelling is fantastic once I got over the hump.

Here are some questions to get us started:

Did anyone else have a hard time with this novel?

What did you like best or least about this book?

Have you seen the movie? How do you think the book compares? Which did you like better?

How do you think the romance and time travel affect each other?

Is there any scene that particularly stands out to you?

Did you like the main characters and/or their relationship?

malalaOur new selection for January 2014 is the New York Times bestselling memoir, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. This is the story of a teenage girl named Malala who was shot in the head by the Taliban because she believed in her right as a woman to an education. She is also the youngest person to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. This book won the 2013 Goodreads Choice award for memoir & autobiography, and it came recommended by a fellow Sigma Kappa.

Check out more about this at Google Books or at our Goodreads group. The book is available in hardcover and e-book format.

Watch her when she talked to PBS’s NewsHour and learn first hand about her battle.

Read a review from The Washington Post which gives a great overview of her story and some of the politics surrounding it.

Visit the website A World at School or The Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education to find out about the international effort being done to ensure all children’s right to an education.

Enjoy this inspirational and fascinating story! See you in February!

December 2013 Book Club Discussion and New Selection

Sigma Kappa Book ClubThanks for all of your great responses to our Virtual Sigma Kappa Book Club! Be sure to visit us on Goodreads and please join our Sigma Kappa Group! We have grown to a group of over 35 women already, and I hope we can get more of you readers included. Goodreads is a social site for book lovers and readers. You can see what your friends are reading, keep track of the books you read or want to read, and more. You can link Goodreads with your Facebook account, among several other sites.

Wild Book Cover

November was our first selection and we read Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. Find out more on Goodreads, visit the author’s website, or check it out on Google Books where you find out where to purchase the book or get it at your local library.

What did everyone think of this book? Did you hope to read it for fun or to find personal insight from the author’s experience? Did it meet your expectations?

I had high aspirations for this book and it did not fail me. I absolutely loved this book, from the cover design to the acknowledgements and everything in between. It has moved up to my list of all-time favorite books. I thought Cheryl Strayed showed courage to abandon what she knew to be comfortable and try a new journey. I felt she really learned about herself and what she wanted from life, as well as how to be a better person to others. I hoped to read this and hear a story about a woman who persevered and challenged life, maybe so I could try and beat certain obstacles in mine.

Have you ever had an outdoor experience like the Pacific Crest Trail?

What do you think about the author, Cheryl Strayed, as a character? Do you believe Strayed grew as a person? Do you believe she learned from her mistakes?

A recurrent theme in this book is how the death of her mother affected her life and how she deals (or does not deal) with the grief. Do you think she deals with the grief or masks it? How does grief or the loss of a parent or close loved one affect our reading of this book?

What do you think the title Wild and subtitle, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail of the book mean?

If you have further ideas, questions, comments or suggestions, send them my way! Please use the comments below or the Goodreads group to share your thoughts and ideas.

Our December 2013 book selection is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. While Niffenegger is now an established writer, this is her debut novel which was also turned into the 2009 feature film starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. Read more at Google books, where you can buy the book, or check it out from your library. It’s also available in audiobook, e-book, and foreign language editions. Visit Audrey Niffenegger’s website to learn more about her.

I have always been a fan of Niffenegger, mostly for her uniqueness as an author and artist. I got to meet her at the American Library Association’s annual conference this year. She signed a book for me and talked with me for a few minutes; she was so nice and had a great British accent. Perhaps this swayed my decision to choose the book! I also love the movie and yet, have never read the book. Not to mention, it combines two of my favorite things….a Chicago setting and one of the main character’s status as a Newberry Library employee. If you haven’t been to the Newberry on a visit to my favorite city then you must check it out! Go during the annual book sale and you’ll score great finds.

I hope you enjoy the book!

New Sigma Kappa Book Club!

Sigma Kappa Book ClubStaring Nov. 1, the Live Sigma Kappa Blog will be launching its very own virtual book club. Each month, a new book will be announced. I will pose discussion questions for us to think about at the end of my post. Once you read the book, please add your thoughts or questions to the comments section. My goal is to introduce new books and authors to SK readers while perhaps providing a new idea about the book we read.

Wild Book Cover

Our first book will be Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. You can visit the author’s website or check it out on Google Books where you find out where to purchase the book or get it at your local library.

It was an Oprah book club selection, however, this isn’t my reason for choosing the book. I have a personal love of memoirs, and this one has been in my to-read pile for quite some time, always calling out to me! This memoir is about a woman who is grieving the loss of her mother, a divorce, drugs, and an otherwise chaotic and unsettling life. Her discoveries and personal journey of endurance and perseverance are throughout her story as she treks along the entire Pacific Crest Trail. You can see videos and read an excerpt on her website to get a sample of the book’s first chapter. It is a New York Times bestseller and has been an acclaimed novel on many lists and sites, including being a Goodreads Reader’s Choice for 2012. If you are on Goodreads, please join our Sigma Kappa Group! Goodreads is a social site for book lovers and readers. You can see what your friends are reading, keep track of the books you read or want to read, and more. You can link Goodreads with your Facebook account, among several other sites. We already have a small number of members, but we would love to have more.

While reading Wild, you may want to learn more about the Pacific Crest Trail, a hiking trail that spans three states and borders both Canada and Mexico. Check out the US Deptartment of Agriculture where you can view an interactive map and learn the history. Visit the Pacific Crest Trail Association to learn about a nonprofit group that preserves and protects the trail. Watch a PBS special about a couple who rides horses from the start to the finish of the trail in one year, a feat everyone said could not be done.

Happy Reading! Please check in with us on Dec. 1 and tell us what you thought of the book! You can also email me with questions or suggestions for future picks.

Spooky, Spooky, Spooky…

I absolutely love the fall season, and where I live, the trees are changing colors and the air is crisp and cool.  I recently visited my favorite apple orchard and winery and it was such a sweet and simple pleasure!  I am also one of those adults who likes to still dress up in a costume, and this year, I’m going to be a fairy at the library Halloween party.  I was never one for ugly costumes.  I am also going to attempt reading two ‘scary’ classics, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (which is one of my all-time favorite books) and Dracula by Bram Stoker, which I’ve never read.  If I’m feeling ambitious, I may try Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde whose premise has always scared me.  What are your favorite autumn or Halloween traditions or tales?

In my scariest witch cackle, I bring you a booklist of scary, thrilling and spoooooky novels to enjoy for the Halloween season.  I named this post after one of my favorite Halloween picture books for younger kids, appropriately called, Spooky Spooky Spooky! by Cathy MacLennan.   The simple rhyming story of velvety bats, howling cats and slithery slugs brings laughter and smiles every time I read this to a child.  Perhaps try discovering your childlike nature and take a few minutes at the bookstore or library to read a Halloween picture book.  I find many are creative stories that will bring the wonder of the changing autumn season back to your eyes.  You could even try an R.L. Stine Goosebumps or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz.  These will definitely have you remembering how much fun it was to tell a spooky story at a sleepover or while driving in the car at night, without losing sleep because you are so ‘freaked out’.   I also discovered this website called “Scary for Kids”  which has scary stories, videos, games, music and much more, and I found the site to  be entertaining without being gruesome or too adult.

For those who are looking for a truly creepy novel to get you in the mood for Halloween, then try one of these.  Some are recommendations from friends thanks to another informal poll.  Others are simply books that I, as a librarian, would suggest to someone interested in a creepy read.   I would love to hear your favorite scary stories and tales in the comments below!

Tailypo;  Now here is a folktale I have never heard about and one that would scare anyone!  This version is retold by Jan Wahl and illustrated by Wil Clay.   I was researching the history of this tale, and it appears to originate as an African-American story typically told in the Appalachias.  No one ever knows what the Tailypo is, but this large animal haunts the man who tried to hunt him.  If this folktale isn’t for you, check out American Folklore online, it’s a huge resource for all kinds of scary stories.

The Shining by Stephen King;  I think we can all agree that Stephen King is the master of thrills and chills.  The Shining is undoubtedly one of his best.  This is the story of Jack Torrence as he starts his new job in the Overlook Hotel, looking for a fresh start in his life.  Winter begins to set in, and so does the horror.  Other popular tales from Stephen King are Carrie, Misery, It, and Pet Cemetery.  Check out Stephen King’s website where you can get to know him as a writer and learn more about his books.

Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris; This classic is the story of FBI agent Clarice Starling as she interviews the twisted mind of Dr. Hannibal Lector, a former psychiatrist who delves deep into the corners of Starling’s mind.   This is a series, and some say the sequels are not as good as this first one.  This book was also made into a blockbuster movie.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski;  According to Library Journal’s review, this is the story of a man named Johnny Truant who comes into possession of a strange manuscript which gains possession of his very soul. The manuscript is a complex commentary on a documentary film (The Navidson Record) about a house that defies all the laws of physics.   It is described as a horror novel, but also characterized as a psychological thriller, a quest, a literary hoax, a dark comedy, and a work of cultural criticism.

Nightmares:  Poems to Trouble Your Sleep by Jack Prelutsky;  Those of us who know Prelutsky know his poetry for being funny and witty.  His Nightmares poetry is perfect for sharing with older kids or reading alone as an adult, offering just enough “spooky” to delight on a Halloween night.   It also includes illustrations from Caldecott winning artist Arnold Lobel, so it’s a treat for your eyes too.

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice;  While most everyone now associates vampires with the Twilight series, Anne Rice was the original master.  Some of you may have seen this movie adaptation with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.  Now you need to read the book about the makings of a good-old-fashioned vampire, as he tells his story to a young reporter.  The Washington Post called the book, thrilling, original, sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful and always unforgettable.

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman;  Now a television series, the story started as a graphic novel!  In just a few short months, the world has reached the apocalypse and zombies have taken over.  The main character is Rick Grimes who befriends a group of survivors as they try to find their loved ones, and essentially figure out what to do in their new atmosphere.   If you haven’t read graphic novels before, give this one a try.  The artwork is muted colors, along with blacks and whites, giving it a more eerie feeling as you read.

Gaining Stories Through Loss

This month’s topic of Alzheimer’s, I admit was a little perplexing to me in the theme of books and reading.  The topic holds a special place in my heart, yet how I could relate it to my column was challenging.   I hope my post delivers some inspiration to your reading needs.

As a college undergrad and a member of Sigma Kappa Sorority, I admit, I did not realize the depth, nor fully understand the serious nature of Alzheimer’s disease.  While I participated in the Memory Walk, it still didn’t sink in as to why we, as a sorority,  were so involved.

As an adult, and a granddaughter, I now understand the importance of making such a disease known and its needs to be researched.  The sheer sadness of having a grandparent suffer with dementia is one I didn’t think I would experience.  Forgetfulness and losing your memory seems common, and mostly normal, in the elderly.  Yet, when my beloved PaPa, developed dimentia in his later elder years, it broke my heart.  He still had his charm with the ladies, his goofy laugh and smile, and the best WWII stories in the world, but this strong, tough, handsome, gentle and intelligent man started to forget more than normal.   It was then I realized just how serious Alzheimer’s and dementia can be to a person, and to the whole family.

How to relate this personal experience to reading?  Well, it certainly has peaked my interest in the topic.  I expect a large amount of nonfiction to be published about the disease and didn’t want to cover that aspect.  One idea I have is that Alzheimer’s is the loss and gaining of stories; family stories, individual histories, personal accolades.  While it can be easily understood that the disease is a form of loss, the gaining of stories is one more difficult to articulate.  We as family members lose a part of our beloved when they have Alzheimer’s, yet we also gain compassion for the sick and respect for the caregivers.  We realize the fragility of the mind.  We laugh at the silly new things our family member says or does because without a sense of humor, we will not be able to get past the sadness.  We gain new stories, accomplishments and histories to share.

I was surprised in doing my research for this post at the vast numbers and wide range of fiction stories available concerning Alzheimer’s patients as characters or stories about how the disease affects a family or person.  In an attempt to see how we can gain stories rather than lose them, I would like to share some thought provoking novels concerning the topic.

One book I picked up on a whim because it was a ‘bookmarked’ selection at Target, is called Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  It became a book I read in one night because I couldn’t put it down.  It became a book I suggest to everyone who enjoys reading about character-driven stories that will give you a new respect for your mind and brain.   Intelligent writing told in a brilliant perspective from that of the woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, makes this a must-read, especially if you are interested in the elderly or Alzheimer’s care.

I haven’t read these others, but they have made my to-read list.  Check them out and let me know if you’ve read any of them or how you like/dislike them.  The summaries are from NovelList Plus and I’ve included links to Google Books so you can find out more about these books and authors.

The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block
Resigned to memories of the family he has lost, seventy-year-old recluse Abel Haggard spends his life alone on the family farm while, hundreds of miles away, fifteen-year-old Seth Waller seeks to uncover his mother’s genetic history after a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
In a novel that moves back and forth between the Soviet Union during World War II and modern-day America, Marina, an elderly Russian woman, recalls vivid images of her youth during the height of the siege of Leningrad.

Memory Wall:  Stories by Anthony Doerr
A collection of short stories, set on four continents, describing how memory affects different people.

Keeper: One House, Three Generations, and a Journey into Alzheimer‘s by Andrea Gillies
‘Keeper’ is a very humane and honest exploration of living with Alzheimer’s, giving an illuminating account of the disease itself. Gillies tells about the time she and her family spent living with someone with dementia, in a big Victorian house in the far, far north of Scotland.

The Good Husband by Gail Godwin
The brilliant, charismatic Magda Danvers had once taken the academic world by storm with her controversial book, “The Book of Hell,” and now, gravely ill, she still influences and transforms the lives of those around her.

The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey
With his memories slowly eroding from Alzheimer’s, sixty-five-year-old Jake Jameson struggles to preserve his sense of identity by building stories about his feelings and the events of his life, unaware that even his clearest recollections may not be true.

Tangles by Sarah Leavitt
Recounts in graphic novel format how the author’s well-educated, intellectual mother, Mildred, known as Midge, began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease at fifty-two, and follows the effects of the disease on the woman and her family.

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
Medical school dropout Victor Mancini comes up with a complicated but ingenious scam to pay for his mother’s elder care, cruises sex addiction groups for action, and visits his zany mother, whose Alzheimer’s disease hides the bizarre truth about his parentage.
What is your story?  Share yours in the comments or message me.