Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Club Picks: How Book Clubs Pick Books

Welcome to my weekly series: Book Club Picks. This week, I'm taking a break from sharing lists of books and am talking about how book clubs choose books, along with the pros and cons of different methods. If you're putting together a new book club, or looking for new ways to choose books in an existing club, read on for some ideas.

How to choose book club selections

Who decides what your book club is going to read for any given meeting? Here are a few ways you can make those decisions.

1. Host decides

One option is to have the host choose what book will be discussed at her or his meeting. Usually book clubs have a different host for each meeting, whether the group meets at each other's homes or in a public location. One person usually leads the discussion. In this case, that host would choose the book for the meeting.
Pros: The host gets to discuss a book they want to read. It's a simple decision that only involves one person instead of getting a group of people to agree on a book.
Cons: There may be times when no one else in the group wants to read the book that the host has chosen.

2. Host picks a few and members vote

This is the option my book club uses and we like it. The host chooses three books. We then put up a poll in our Yahoo Group and all of the members vote for one of the books. Whichever one gets the most votes is chosen for that month's discussion. If there's a tie, the host gets to pick the winner. If you don't have an online group for polling, you could have the host bring a list to an earlier meeting and have everyone vote in person.
Pros: The host gets to discuss a book they want to read, but the group gets to pick the actual book. Everyone gets to be part of the decision.
Cons: It takes time, especially if you do an online poll. There are times when no one likes any of the selections (although that has been rare in our case).

3. Committee chooses

Another option is for a book club to put together a selection committee of just a few people who choose the books. They can come up with the list of possibilities themselves or the membership can submit books to be considered. Then the committee goes through and actually chooses the books for each meeting. Committee members can serve for a certain amount of time and then others can get a chance to serve.
Pros: The burden of picking books is placed on just a small group so it should be easier to come to a consensus.
Cons: Other members may not feel they get enough say in what books they read. There may be politics involved in choosing the selection committee.

4. Pull a book from a hat

Here's an interesting way to choose books. Write several book titles on little slips of paper, and pull one from a hat for each meeting. The group could keep an ever-growing list of ideas submitted by members, and when it's time to pick a new book, they all go into the hat. As new ideas come up, they get added to the rest that haven't been chosen yet.
Pros: It's a fun and exciting way to pick books. Everyone gets to submit ideas but no one is responsible for making the decision themselves.
Cons: There could end up being a lot of books, some of which the majority don't want to read. There isn't room to choose books that match the mood of the season, for example, something lighter in the summer.

5. Have a book picking party!

Lara from Overstuffed Life shared a fun option for choosing books: "We have a book picking party every summer. Every member brings two books to put into the vote and then we vote for our favorite 12. We like it because we have the whole list for the year all at once--then we can pick up the book when we see it on sale or read way ahead."
Pros: Who doesn't love a party? Especially when it involved books! Everyone gets to submit two books they like and vote for the ones they want to read.
Cons: Picking for the whole year could mean missing out on some new releases throughout the year.

If you're in a book club, how do you choose the books for each meeting? Do you vote or does one person choose? I'd love to hear more ideas!

Next week, I'll be sharing a list of summer reads that would be good for book clubs: lighter reads that still have plenty to talk about. Please let me know if you have suggestions for other topics to cover, or if you would like to write a guest post for my Book Club Picks series. I'd love to hear about your book club or your favorite books for discussion!

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book Review: The Treasure at Devil's Hole by Jody M. Mabry

Francis "Bug" Mosser knows the Sikeston Outlaw Gang's treasure is hidden near his home and he's determined to find it with the help of his brothers and his best friend. They go down into Devil's Hole looking for it, but their mom comes along and makes them go home before they can find anything. Unfortunately, there are others looking for the treasure too, which means they're in for a big adventure.

The Treasure at Devil's Hole by Jody M. Mabry is an exciting middle grade historical fiction novel that takes place in 1946. It's a book about a treasure hunt, a bully, bad guys and friendship. There's even a little love thrown in, although my son who read the book didn't seem to notice much! The characters are all a bit quirky, from Bug's brother Tom, who is always digging, to the bully Tad who appears to be up to something, and the teacher's new boyfriend who doesn't seem to fit in.

My son Carter, who is 11, read this book and says it is more of an adventure story than a funny story, although there was one time when the dynamite blew a boulder through the ceiling of the house that he thought was pretty funny. He recommends The Treasure at Devil's Hole to readers who like adventure stories and treasure hunts. I'm guessing it would be a good summer read for reluctant readers as well.

Carter's Rating: 4/5

Connect with the author on his website, Facebook and Twitter.

This review was written based on a copy of The Treasure at Devil's Hole that was provided by Pump Up Your Book in exchange for an honest review. This post includes Amazon Affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, we will receive a very small commission but your price remains the same.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Armchair BEA: Day 1 Introductions

Armchair BEA

Today, many of the book bloggers I follow are in New York City at Book Expo America (BEA). I seriously considered going this year. I've never been. But then we filled our summer with several trips and I decided I really didn't need to be traveling even more! So here I am participating once again in the Armchair BEA. What is Armchair BEA? Here's an explanation from their website:
Armchair BEA is the experience for book bloggers to participate in Book Expo America (BEA) from the comfort of their homes. This experience is created lovingly by book bloggers specifically for our peers who for whatever reason are not able to participate in the main conference in New York each year. We bring publishers, authors, and bloggers together in celebrating our love for all things literary by hosting celebrations such as sneak peeks, daily discussion topics, and sponsored giveaways.
Today's topic is an introduction, so here are a few Q&A's about me.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself: How long have you been blogging? Where are you from? How did you get into blogging?

I've been blogging since 2009. I started out with a "mommy" blog where I shared all the projects and activities my kids and I did. I can't remember why I started blogging but I found that I was sharing a lot about what my kids and I were reading. So a few months after starting the first blog, I started a second one to focus on books, and here we are. I live in North Carolina, not too far from the capital city of Raleigh. I grew up in Massachusetts, though, and went to college in New York. I've been living in North Carolina for almost 15 years now.

2. What is your favorite genre and why?

This is always a hard question for me because I like a variety. I get bored with reading just one genre all the time. I'd say my favorites are thrillers and literary fiction, but I like to throw in some historical fiction, sci-fi, middle grade and other genres as well, just to keep things interesting. I also enjoy memoirs and nonfiction at times. The biggest thing I look for in a novel is that it's character-driven. While I love thrillers, I don't like stories that focus just on the action and not enough on the characters.

3. What book are you reading right now?

I'm currently reading Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm. It's a psychological suspense novel and it's pretty good. I'm about halfway through so hope to finish it sometime this week.

4. What is at the top book in your TBR pile?

My book club is reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr this month so I'm anxious to get started on it. I've heard great things about it from other members of my book club and from other bloggers, so I can't wait to read it!

5. Take a picture of your bookshelf and share it with us! :) (#ABEAShelfie)

Here are my two main bookshelves. The first is mostly my books with a few of my kids' books thrown in. The second contains several of my husband's books along with mine and the kids'.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review: Five Night Stand by Richard J. Alley

Oliver Pleasant, renowned jazz pianist, has decided it's time to retire at age 85. As his final farewell, he is playing five nights at his friend, Benji's, club in New York City. This "five night stand" will bring Oliver together with Agnes, a young, troubled pianist, Frank, a newspaper reporter, and a variety of other characters who will use Oliver's jazz music as a backdrop to their own personal journeys.

In Five Night Stand, Richard J. Alley tells a story about a jazz legend using the rhythm of jazz. Smooth and poetic, Alley's writing style immerses the reader into the musical setting, making you want to linger over the words with an old record playing in the background. The novel is broken into five sections, one for each night of Oliver's final performance.  Each section shares a bit more about Oliver, Agnes and Frank, taking us deeper into the music of their lives.

All three main characters drew me into their stories. Though they have diverse backgrounds and have lived very different lives, they are all connected through the music. And this connections sends each of them on a slightly different course than they had expected. Much of the novel is focused on Oliver telling his stories to Frank, Agnes and the young boy who is his neighbor. But we also grow close to Agnes, who is trying to understand the illness that is taking over her body, and to Frank, who is searching for meaning in his life.

Five Night Stand is an emotional, musical novel that brings the reader into the jazz scene and shows the impact music can have on people and the trajectory of their lives.

My rating: 5/5

Connect with the author on his website, Facebook and Twitter.

This review was written based on a copy of Five Night Stand that I received from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Visit other stops on the tour!

Monday, May 11th: The Avid Reader
Tuesday, May 12th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Tuesday, May 12th: Bell, Book & Candle
Wednesday, May 13th: Ageless Pages Reviews
Thursday, May 14th: Bibliotica
Monday, May 18th: BookNAround
Monday, May 18th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Tuesday, May 19th: Mom’s Small Victories
Thursday, May 21st: Colloquium
Friday, May 22nd: Tina Says…
Tuesday, May 26th: My Book Retreat
Wednesday, May 27th: Unshelfish
Thursday, May 28th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Monday, June 1st: Priscilla and her Books
Tuesday, June 2nd: Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, June 3rd: Fictionophile
Friday, June 5th: The Well-Read Redhead