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!

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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!

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.

School Supplies and Summer Reading

The crisp opening and binding crack of a never before read book reminds me of biting into a juicy piece of fruit. It’s absolutely delicious.  It is why I haven’t transitioned all my reading to an E-Reader.  I would miss that smell of the paper too much.   I have to say, I was a complete booknerd and had the same feeling about a school textbook…but only when I received the brand new textbook, because it had so much possibility!  No one else had smudged their dirty fingers on the pages or written their name on the inside cover. It was all mine, even if I didn’t really enjoy the content inside.

There is a great quote from one of my favorite movies, “You’ve Got Mail” in which Tom Hanks is writing an email to his then unknown love, Meg Ryan about the start of fall in New York City.  He says, “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”  Yes!  I love school supplies!  I want to buy that newly sharpened bouquet of pencils every time the end of summer comes around.  It reminds me of those brand new books I can’t wait to read.  It also reminds me of the books I didn’t get around to reading that were on the summer reading list.

Working in youth services at a public library means there are tons of requests for books on the summer reading list.  I love to scour these different lists to check off what I’ve read and to also see what unusual titles make the lists.  The best this year I found was The Crucible by Arthur Miller on a junior high/middle school list.  Yes, you heard right, a college level book usually found in American Literature classes Freshman year was found on a middle school list.  I have a BA degree in English and I didn’t read Arthur Miller until college.  I was very surprised.

I also thought it would be fun to take an informal poll amongst friends to find out what books they enjoyed most that were on their summer reading lists.  Have you read all of these books?  Did any of these books stick with you even today as an adult? Perhaps there was one you dredged through but ended up appreciating later on?

I have two books that make my all-time favorites and strangely, I was assigned to read them sophomore year in high school English;  The Catcher in the Rye and The Old Man and the Sea.  I love the wit and dry humor of The Catcher in the Rye and I think Salinger is one of the great American authors in modern times.  It’s definitely a character driven novel, and I love how he captures this young boy’s whining, his torments, and his anguish.  The Old Man and the Sea introduced me to the greatness of Hemingway.  Such a simple tale told in such carefully crafted simple prose, makes this a truly remarkable book.  Interestingly, both are male authors telling the story of one male figure, which is not a typical story I would be able to relate to.  However, when you look deeper at the symbolism and depth of human nature written about, it makes sense why I would love these books.

I did some digging to find the most assigned summer reading books and came up with so many choices, there could have been a list of 100 books.  I thought this was an interesting list from the Illinois State Library’s Read for a Lifetime program which appears to cover mostly contemporary literature.  Although now a bit old, this list from the Washington Post is a great mix of classics and contemporary authors.

Here are my top choices for summer reading catch-up ideas (aside from Salinger and Hemingway, which yes, you MUST read!).  I also included a list of the books that came about from the poll I took.  What would be your top books?

If you must give someone Charles Dickens, then give them A Tale of Two Cities.  War, love, Paris, nothing but the essentials of a great novel. One of my favorites of all time and a great book for British Lit lovers. Learn more about Dickens at Victorian Web.  Another fantastic family and semi-suedo-historical saga is East of Eden by John Steinbeck which has great scandal and family squabbles.  If I ever make it to Monterey Bay area, I will definitely put the National Steinbeck Center on my tour.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, or Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  You can also try The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins  or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Even if you are not a science fiction/fantasy fan, read one of these fantastic books and you will be transformed. They will make you think more about the world in which we live and how we as humans react and interact.  Check out the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s of America website for even more ideas.

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening or Virginia Wolf’s To the Lighthouse will provide a beautiful read into the lives of women in literature.  Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is another great insight into women’s literature.  While these are not necessarily happy-ending books, they will definitely have you think about and explore how emotions and struggles were once experiences and shared.  For more interesting women writers and topics try the National Archives.

Read a memoir or biography, even if it’s fiction.  A book like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is one example of a fictional story told from the perspective of a young boy who lost his father on September 11th.  Even though it’s not true, you are instantly in this boy’s world.  You realize his story could be anyone’s in search of understanding an influential person in life.  Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos is a great read along with The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, all three a bit of coming of age combined with overcoming struggles stories with a bit of a fictional twist thrown in there. All are highly engrossing and entertaining.  For more biographies and memories, try this page on the Barnes and Noble website.

Other popular books that made the “Favorite High School Required Reading” from my informal pool were:

  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  • The Scarlett Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee Harper
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Jungle by John Updike

I hope these ideas have brought back some great reading memories or inspired a new interest in your reading tastes!  If you have more ideas, I would love to hear them in the comments.

Reading for Fun? Yes! Reading for Fun!

There seems to be the notion that we have to read intelligent books.  That authors like James Patterson and Nicholas Sparks or the Twilight series are nonsense garbage that we should not enjoy, nor bother to read.  While the less than stellar reviews people leave on sites such as, Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Goodreads  for these books, may not be very good, just what are they reviewing?  I think some people expect writing and novels by all authors, and those in a particular genre to be writing at the caliber of Shakespeare.  I think this is a mistake, for they are missing out on the sheer enjoyment of trash.

I took a quick (and I might say, super scientific) poll amongst some friends to find out what kind of reading they enjoy when they want mindless entertainment.  Genre fiction seemed to be the most popular, which doesn’t surprise me.  I love genre fiction, and I think what makes it enjoyable is the often predictable and formulaic plots and characters.  In a chaotic world, or a busy day, reading a book in which we don’t have to think about the meaning or the bigger picture is an escape.  I would compare this style to a favorite TV show that no one else seems to understand why we like it, we just do.  Yet, these known expectations don’t make these books ‘bad’ reading!  It makes reading fun!

One genre of books that seemed to get called out the most in my highly scientific research was what many people call ‘chick-lit’.  Chick-lit is a term in which I don’t understand why it’s even a name, because chicklets are a gum and a type of baby chicken, not a genre.  However, I think the appeal of such books, because I read them too, is not only the humor often found, but that the characters seem to embody personality quirks we can relate and challenges we as women face.


Below is a quick hit list of some great fiction books and authors full of personality quirks and challenging lives that I think particularly appeal to women of all ages.  If you don’t find the book I mention appealing, try one of the author’s other books.

One of my favorite authors is Jennifer Weiner.  She embodies what I enjoy about women’s fiction, yet her writing is smart, witty and creative.  One of my favorites by Weiner is her 2005 book, Goodnight Nobody:  A Novel, about a Connecticut mother who is bored out of her mind.  Her life starts to become fun again when she starts to get involved in a neighborhood mystery.  This particular novel has suspense and mystery, but on a more lighthearted level.  I find this book a good introduction to Weiner’s humor and style.

Emily Giffin is another female writer who I enjoy for her smart writing style and engaging stories.  She encompasses drama, twists and turns that make her books fun to read.  Start with Something Borrowed, which I think is a great soap opera of a book on a level that isn’t just fluff or trash. It was also made into a recent movie.  I definitely think you’ll want to read her other books after this one.

Another of my favorite women writers is Sophie Kinsella because she is British and fabulous!  Her Shopaholic series is hilarious as she creates the character of Becky Bloomwood, a woman who embodies all that we love and hate about shopping and fashion. Becky is a loveable character full of charm and you will cheer for her success all throughout the book.  This one is also a hit movie which I think captures the essence of the book.

If you haven’t read The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger, then I highly suggest you check it out if you like smart writing, witty humor, and a story with a great main character.  The antagonist is unbelievably atrocious in a world of high fashion and New York City flair.  This book I believe to be the one that really brought light to women’s fiction for the masses because of Weisberger’s brilliant style.

Jennifer Lancaster not only has a great first name, but also a great first novel called, Bitter is the new black: confessions of a condescending, egomaniacal, self-centered, smart-ass, or, why you should never carry a Prada bag to the unemployment office : a memoir.  In a semi-autobiographical way, she writes about her loss of her job, her boyfriend and her sanity.  Not for the easily offended, she uses much criticism and judgement as only she can do.  She also has a blog where she writes about her musings.


Hope you discover a new writer for pure reading fun!  I’d love to hear your suggestions for other ‘trashy’ books you enjoy reading when you want mindless entertainment!