Monday, October 23, 2006

October 2006 Selection: The Memory Keeper's Daughter

I hope you’re enjoying “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” by Kim Edwards, CW’s book club selection for October. We’ll be talking to the author via phone on Monday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in SouthPark. Please RSVP by visiting and bring a friend.

When I get several e-mails in one day recommending the same book, I know there’s something to it. The nationwide buzz around “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” has vaulted the paperback by author Kim Edwards to the top spot on the New York Times’ best-selling list for the past 15 weeks. It’s a haunting family tale that examines the consequences of actions.

The story unfolds on a snowy evening as Caroline Henry prematurely gives birth at home to twins – a healthy son and a daughter with Down syndrome. Remembering how difficult his life had been with a chronically ill sister, Caroline’s husband, who is
a doctor, makes a split-second decision to give away the daughter and tell his wife, when she awakens, that their daughter was stillborn. The guilt nags at him for the rest of his life and the family dynamic slowly unravels as a result. The book’s central theme asks us to look at how decisions we make at pivotal moments can color every aspect of our lives.

Join us Monday, Oct. 30, at 7 p.m. at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Charlotte’s South-
Park mall to discuss the book. Light refreshments will be served. Don’t forget
to RSVP at

A brief word about author Leah Stewart

Hello all,

I know I haven't blogged in a bit but a lot has happened, including a wonderful new job as editor of Union County Weekly, sister paper to Charlotte Weekly.

I want to thank author Leah Stewart for being such a marvelous and cool person!

She's incredible.

She delighted our book club and regaled us with tales from her life that left an indelible impression on us all. The great part was in addition to being an amazing creative person, she's also a really cool human being.

Kudos Leah! If you haven't read her books, run, don't walk to your local bookstore now and buy them!

The best part of helming the book club is getting to meet these truly talented folks and meeting our readers. Let the good reading roll!


Sunday, September 10, 2006

September 2006 Book Pick: "The Myth of You and Me"

Recently, the first friend I ever made in elementary school, Alessandra Scornaenchi, e-mailed me. We had been friends for almost two decades but had lost touch. We met on the first day of first grade when we were both five. I remember thinking how cool it was that I had found my first best friend. From that point on, we were inseparable. I vividly remember spending sun-drenched summers spent running around the block, eating ripe tomatoes from her dad’s garden, and feasting on her mother’s homemade pizzas and pastas. For someone like me, who never had a sister, I never forgot how wonderful it was to have someone to share all your secrets, your ambitions and dreams with someone who just understood you.

Female friendships are the stuff legends are made of. That’s why we’ve chosen Leah Stewart’s magical “The Myth of You and Me” as our book club selection this month. The story delves into the lives of two young women, Cameron and Sonia who meet in their teens and share a deep bond. The story starts many years later after the women have gone their separate ways after an incident that ended their friendship. Cameron receives a letter from Sonia and becomes inspired to track her down and deliver a mysterious package to her. From that point the adventure begins. The book is mainly told in flashback but looks at the heart and humor of what it takes to sustain a friendship. “The Myth of You and Me” is a celebration and portrait of a friendship that will appeal to anyone who still feels the absence of that first true friend.

Join us on Monday, October 2nd at 7PM at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at SouthPark Mall. We will be hosting an exclusive evening with the author, Leah Stewart. She will be discussing and signing copies of this marvelous book. Please RSVP at

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fall 2006 Book Pick

Hi everyone,

Our next book pick will be "The Myth of You and Me" by Leah Stewart.

We will be meeting exclusively with the author at our next event on Monday, October 2nd at 7PM.

Save the date!

More will be posted saspo!


Friday, July 28, 2006

Listen to the Podcast with author Rebecca Lee

If you couldn't make it to our last book club event, or if you were intrigued and want to hear more, click on to the podcast with author Rebecca Lee, author of "The City is a Rising Tide."

Just click on the title of this post, or this link:

Thursday, July 27, 2006

August 2006 Pick: "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri

While the immigration issue seems to be on the back burner for a bit, the discussion of what it means to be American still lingers in the air. My family emigrated to the U.S. when I was just 10-days-old. We moved here from Hong Kong for the great American dream. My mom chose New York City because she had always seen it in movies and thought it looked like a great place. I was always aware that to be here was a privilege one should not take it lightly. I never thought we were any different until I went to school. While other kids ate chocolate cake and Twinkies my parents, who both grew up in British boarding schools, made sure I knew how to prepare tea and scones properly and that 4PM was the correct time for such delicacies. It was just one of the little things that made my family different from many of the Italian and Jewish families that mostly lived in my neighborhood by the sea in south Brooklyn.

This month, we’ve chosen a book that explores one writer’s perspective on what it means to become an American family. Nominated by CW Book Club Member, Katie Creighton, “The Namesake” by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri is a refreshing look into the push/pull that comes from assimilation and the clash of generations all striving for the American dream. We join the the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their challenging transformation into Americans.

On the heels of their arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts rather quickly while his wife resists all things American and pines for her family. Naming their first son becomes a clash of old world values and new choices. They decide on naming him for a Russian writer in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Through Gogol the book unfolds as we walk with him as he stumbles along a first-generation path strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and heart-wrenching love affairs.

Please join us on Monday, August 21st at 7PM at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at SouthPark Mall to discuss this enchanting novel. Don’t forget to RSVP at

Thursday, July 13, 2006

July 2006 Book Pick: The City is a Rising Tide

Summer is the perfect time for lots of travel. If you can’t hop on a plane or a train, you can certainly take your mind abroad and read great books that bring those glamorous locations to you. Our July book club pick is North Carolina author Rebecca Lee’s debut novel, “The City is a Rising Tide”. The author, who lives between North Carolina and New York, takes the readers from Central Park to the Three Gorges Dam in China’s Yangtze River.

It’s the story of young woman’s obsession with her boss and the great lengths she will go to secure his love and attention. In the midst of this, they are working together to create a holistic center in the middle of the building of a great dam, considered by the environmental community to be one of the most dangerous things of modern world, is being constructed. Just how far will Justine go for love and how can you fall for someone without losing yourself are just some of the questions this book asks.

Please join us for summery evening of wine and tasty tidbits on Monday, July 17, 2006 at 7PM at Joseph-Beth Booksellers where we will chat with the book’s author. Because it’s summer, we’re going to mix it up and this event is open to everyone, boyfriends, brothers, husbands or anyone else who would like to come to a summery cocktail party. Please RSVP at:

Interview with Rebecca Lee

Rebecca Lee, author of CW’s book pick this month lives a fascinating life. She divides her time between New York City and North Carolina, teaches writing at UNC Wilmington and is a mother to an 18-month-year old daughter. In the midst of all of this, her first novel, “The City is a Rising Tide” has just come out on bookshelves around the nation.

“For me, the novel grew out of a description of place,” she said. “I realized that when I was in North Carolina, I missed NY and when I was in the City I missed the countryside and the ocean. After that characters formed around that and then the plot.” They had to be characters she loved. Lee spent ten years working on the novel but as the 2001 winner of the National Magazine Award for fiction, she realized that writing a novel used different kinds of creative muscles. “An old college professor said that a short story is like a one night stand whereas a novel is like a relationship,” Lee said. “A novel is more thoughtful and meandering which was more suited to me.”

Lee, is a consummate writer, who not only practices what she preaches, she teaches it too. She said teaching has impacted her writing. “You can tell other people what to do but it’s hard to tell yourself the same thing,” she said. “It’s so inspirational for me to be teaching because you can see how really devoted writers can make leaps if they are devoted to working on the same thing.”

Meet the author
Join Ms. Lee at CW Book Club’s one-year anniversary cocktail party with on Monday, July 17th at 7PM at Joseph-Beth at SouthPark Mall. RSVP at

Novello Festival

The Novello Festival of Reading debuted its list of big-name authors who will visit the Queen City this fall. Amy Tan (author of "The Joy Luck Club" and "The Kitchen God’s Wife"), Mitch Albom (author of “Tuesdays with Morrie” and “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”) and Dr. Andrew Weil (author of “Healthy Aging: Your Lifelong Guide to Physical and Spiritual Well-Being “) are some of the well-known authors that will be featured during this year’s festival. The festival is a celebration of reading and books and has been held each October since 1991. This year the festival will start on October 9th and will run until November 8th. For more information, click on to:

Book Review: "Water for Elephants"

Summer evokes an image of lazy days, of random opportunities and explorations that pan out into some of the best-valued memories. “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen is an ideal supplemental Charlotte Weekly book club pick for July because it falls into that pattern of endeavor turned treasure; the reviewers at USA Today call Gruen’s work this summer’s delightful sleeper novel. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, run – don’t walk – to your nearest bookseller. You’re in for a treat.

Set in the 1930s, the novel explores the mostly unexamined world of the circus. In the center ring of Gruen’s narrative is the kindhearted circus veterinarian, Jacob. After some misfortune, he finds his way to the Benzini Brothers’ Circus and his life takes off.

If you’ve ever been curious about just who circus performers are and how they got to be in such a “spec” (circus speak for the spectacular or the show), wonder no more. Gruen constructs her characters in such vivid detail that the reader feels like he or she living life with them, not excepting the numerous animals, such as Rosie the elephant, who populate the story.

“The story contains a lot of plot points that are parallel to the Old Testament story of Jacob,” Gruen said. “But you don’t need to know anything about that to enjoy the story.” Gruen said she felt compelled to write “Water for Elephants” after seeing a photograph of circus performers during that era. “The last time that a train circus performed under the canvas was 1956,” she said. “This is an era that’s disappearing from memory and it’s an important part of American history. Whether you hate the circus or love the circus, it was definitely an important slice. I wanted to record it and wanted to do it right.”

“Water for Elephants” is a delightful read with characters that remain on the mind long after the last page is read.

Meet the author
Gruen will be at Park Road Books in South Charlotte on Tuesday, July 18, at 7 p.m. For more information, call 704-525-9239. Learn more about the book and its author at

Thursday, June 15, 2006

June Reminder

Don’t forget to join us on Tuesday, June 20, 2006 for an evening of fun and gaiety with best-selling author Emily Giffin. We’ll be chatting about her breakthrough book, “Something Borrowed” at 6PM. Following our talk, she’ll be signing and discussing her book, “Baby Proof” at 7PM. Please RSVP at

Thursday, May 25, 2006

June 2006 Pick: Something Borrowed

Ah, June! Welcome to the best month of the year. School will soon be out. Summer is coming and the possibilities of a fun-filled, sun-soaked three months entices us to dream of something more. There’s nothing more refreshing than being able to kick back in your backyard with a tall glass of something cool and a great book. This month’s book pick, “Something Borrowed” by NY Times best-selling author Emily Giffin, will be great company on those languorous days when you just want a great and entertaining read.

Giffin is a former lawyer turned author who made quite a splash with her debut novel, “Something Borrowed”. It’s the story of women’s friendships and what it takes to follow your heart. Rachel and Darcy have been best friends since elementary school but somehow Darcy always tried to get the edge over her friend Rachel. Speed it up twenty years later and we find Rachel working at a New York law firm, while Darcy is a publicist, planning a wedding with the handsome guy Rachel introduced her to. After a little too much to drink following her 30th birthday party, she shares an amorous evening with her best friend’s fiancé. But somehow she realized that Dex is actually the only man she's really loved, and that she's always resented her manipulative friend. As the wedding date nears, Rachel knows she has to make a choice. In doing so, she discovers that the idea of right and wrong can be a matter of perspective, endings aren't always neat, and sometimes you have to trust your own heart in your quest for true happiness.

Meet the author
We are so pleased that the author will be joining us for a delightful reception on Tuesday, June 20 at 6PM at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at SouthPark Mall. Please RSVP for this highly anticipated event at: She’ll also be at the store to discuss and sign her newest book, “Baby Proof” at 7PM.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Interview with Judy Goldman

Writers have often used real life experiences to fuel their passion for their work. Judy Goldman, author of this month’s book pick, “Early Leaving” said that a murder which took place in her hometown of Rock Hill, South Carolina eight years ago inspired her to ask questions about the emotionally complex topic of motherhood. “I tell writing students you have to write about what keeps you up at night,” she said. “This kept me up at night. I’ve never met the family but my emotions over what happened in that family is what fueled the writing.”

Goldman is both a mother and grandmother and said that she is nowhere near as overprotective as her central character, Katherine Smallwood. “I wanted to explore that issue of how mothers feel so responsible for their children and how we can protect and do too much for them,” she emphasized. “I don’t think you should write a book because you have something to say, I think you should write a book because you have questions. One of the questions I had is how responsible are we for how our children turn out.”

So, what questions did she answer for herself in writing this book? “I think what I learned in writing this book is that we are really training our children to live without us. And if we put ourselves out of a job as parents then we’ve done our job.”

Goldman, who is both a poet and a novelist, mentions many of the Queen City’s most famous spots in her books including famed restaurants like The Pewter Rose and Lupie’s. “Every book I ever write will be set either in Rock Hill, where I was born, or in Charlotte where I have lived for over 40 years. It’s just my way of saying that these are the towns that I dearly love.”

Meet the author
Join us on Monday, May 22, 2006 at 7PM at Joseph Beth in SouthPark to discuss “Early Leaving” and the art of writing. Please RSVP at

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

May 2006 Pick: Early Leaving by Judy Goldman

Thank you to everyone who came out for a charming evening with international best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith. The author was engaging and enchanting and was kind enough to meet privately with a few lucky CW’s book club members. He talked about some of the great adventures he’s had, including being one of the few gentlemen in the company of some very cheerful ladies at a recent global economic summit. In a group of women that included the wives of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Russia’s President Alexander Putin, the author sat next to Laura Bush and says she was a gracious and charming woman and had read many of his novels. After meeting with us, he went on to delight the packed theater at the Blumenthal with a recount of his life as a serial novelist. A fun time was most certainly had by all.

McCall Smith is blessed with a true passion for life and the ability to take the stuff our lives are made of and help us transcend beyond them. It is also a quality the author of next book pick possesses. We have chosen Carolina native Judy Goldman’s stirring work, “Early Leaving” as our book club pick for May.

The book is set here in the Queen City and revolves around a seemingly perfect family. Perfect that is until the day their teenage son, Early, who is valedictorian at his prestigious private school, is arrested for murder the morning after graduation. The book is an examination of how well parents really know their children. Surely many parents strive to give their children all they can but when is it too much and when should a parent hold back? This book is an honest look at parenting and marriage and may inspire you to ask some courageous questions.

Goldman is a critically acclaimed poet and writer who was born in Rock Hill. South Carolina. Her first novel, “The Slow Way Back”, won the Sir Walter Raleigh Fiction Award and was a finalist for the Southeast Booksellers Association's Best Novel of the Year. She is also the author of two books of poetry.

The author will be at our next book club event on Monday, May 22, 2006 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at SouthPark Mall at 7PM to talk about the book and her career. Please join us for a memorable evening of conversation but don’t forget to RSVP at

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Interview with Alexander McCall Smith

Best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith is a very busy man. He’s a prolific writer, the latest of which, “Blue Shoes and Happiness” (see review below) has just arrived at bookstores. He travels around the world sharing incredibly charming stories about his adventures. His only Charlotte appearance will be at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center on April 30th.

Photo courtesy: Elizabeth McCall Smith

But before that, join us Monday, April 24 at 7PM at Joseph-Beth at SouthPark Mall for our book club chat on “In the Company of Cheerful Ladies." RSVP at

22 CW readers will get to meet Smith in person at an exclusive private reception before he goes on stage at the Blumenthal. To be one of the lucky 22, e-mail me directly at:

For special discounted tickets to his one-man show, click

In the midst of his life as a best-selling author, McCall Smith makes time for erstwhile journalists, like me, who want to know what’s on his mind.

Q: In many of your books, not a lot happens. Is that by design?

Most of us aren’t really involved in major dramatic events. Generally our lives are mundane and uneventful. These little things can be very important and they can say a great deal about the human condition. If one thinks of Jane Austen’s books, nothing really happens and yet they are fascinating. I do think that the small things can say a lot and they say a lot about character and a lot about bigger issues about being human.

Q: What has been the biggest surprise about your tremendous success?

What has surprised and pleased me greatly is the extent to which people have become involved with the characters. It’s quite lovely.

Q: What’s next for you?

I just finished the third in the Isabel Dalhousie series, “The Right Attitude for Rain” and that will come out in fall. I’m working on a book that’s about the retelling of myths. The story I’m working on is about Dream Angus, the Celtic god of love and dreams.

Q: Talk to us about your relationships with your characters?

I feel quite close to them. I feel like I know them. I feel like I know what they will come up with and what they will think. I do keep a certain distance from them. And I think a writer should do that. You shouldn’t get too close to them because otherwise they will become you. You have to have a certain distance.

Q: Is there anyone of your characters that are most like you?

Probably Isabel Dalhousie because I believe she loves philosophy in the same way I love philosophy.

Q: What future adventures are in store for Precious Ramotswe (heroine of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Series)?

They will all continue. I could never let anything nasty happen to any of them. We’re going to have a bit of trouble with Mma. Makutsi’s engagement. But everything will be alright. But it will get a little difficult. In the new book, “Blue Shoes and Happiness” Mma. Ramotswe starts a diet but she soon goes off of it.

Q: How do you find the time to write?

I find that getting away helps. I find it useful to be in a place where there are no disburbances to finish a book. I wrote quite a bit of the newest book in India. I remember finishing and looking out just as the clouds parted and I could see the high Himalayas. I finished my latest book (the third Isabel Dalhousie book) in Santiago and the Cayman Islands.

Q: Who are your favorite writers?

I’m reading a book by an Indian writer named R.K. Narayan. He wrote a series of books in a town called Malgudi. W.H. Auden has also been very influential and I think is important. My tastes in fiction are eclectic and broad. I’m currently reading “No Other Life” by Irish author Brian Moore.

For more about Alexander McCall Smith, log on to:

Book Review: "Blue Shoes and Happiness"

Run don't walk to the bookstore to sccop up Alexander McCall Smith's latest book, "Blue Shoes and Happiness." It's the latest novel in the charming and unpretentiously beautiful "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series.

As a writer, Smith is very Austen-like in that he's able to elevate everyday occurrences to character studies. It's refreshing to know that in a world where so much happens, there's a place where there is order and meaning. Returning back to Smith's characters is like going home again and always being welcome.

From Publishers Weekly:

The seventh entry in the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series (after 2005's In the Company of Cheerful Ladies) reaffirms Smith's considerable gifts as a writer. His familiar characters offer further facets of their personalities, and their gentle, tolerant approach to life remains a refreshing contrast to most fictional figures, let alone those populating most mysteries. The author's love for his creations and for his Botswana setting are evident on every page. While the plot will be of secondary importance to fans of Precious Ramotswe, the "traditionally-built," self-taught private detective, and her assistant, Grace Makutsi, Smith presents them with several mysteries, including the search for the identity of a blackmailer and the source of malaise at a nearby game reserve. Ramotswe's intuition and understanding enable her to find the truth, while dispensing justice according to her own personal dictates. Even newcomers will be charmed by this wonderful novel, with its skillful blend of humor and pathos, and will doubtless rush to catch up with the earlier books.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bee's Author Buzzes Queen City

Sue Monk Kidd, the bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid’s Chair, will appear in the sanctuary of Myers Park Baptist Church on Thursday evening, April 20 at 7:00 PM. She will talk about her latest book, The Mermaid's Chair, and answer questions about her other works. After her talk, copies of her books will be sold in the foyer of Heaton Hall, and she will be available for autographs. This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Bobbie Campbell at 704-334-7232, ext. 55, or

Monday, April 10, 2006

Toni Morrison Visits Charlotte

Photo credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Toni Morrison, a powerful storyteller and much-acclaimed author, will visit the Queen City on Wednesday, April 19, to discuss one of the most powerful events from our nation’s past. She tells the story of Margaret Garner, one of the most significant fugitive slave stories in pre-Civil War America. Morrison’s best-selling book, “Beloved,” was based on Garner’s story. Morrison has penned the words for the operatic rendition of this stirring tale, which will be presented by Opera Carolina April 20, 22 and 23.

In 1856, Garner fled from Kentucky to Ohio with her husband and children. After getting caught, rather than see her children returned to the bonds of slavery, she killed them. The trial resulted in a major legal debate about whether she should be charged with murder or with destruction of property.

It was a bleak time in the nation’s history but one Morrison believed was worthy of reexamining. “Some 10 years later, free of the exhaustion following the publication of ‘Beloved,’ I realized that there were other genres than novels that could expand and deepen the story,” she wrote. “The topic, the people, the narrative theme, passion and universality made it more than worthy of opera: It begged for it.”

Toni Morrison has received the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature. Her other novels include: The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Jazz, and Paradise. Opera Carolina’s “Margaret Garner” will be at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center on April 20, 22 and 23rd and will star Metropolitan Opera superstar Denyce Graves in the title role. For more information or tickets, log on to:

Friday, April 07, 2006

April 2006 Pick: In The Company of Cheerful Ladies

The magic of books is their ability to transport you to another time and place. But the amazing part is that no matter how far you travel or how different someone life experience can seem, human beings are essentially the same the world over. This month, with our pick, “In the Company of Cheerful Ladies” we’ll enter the world of Precious Ramotswe, a Botswana woman who leads a very modern and sensible life.

This is the sixth book in the best-selling “No. 1. Ladies Detective Agency” series. Author Alexander McCall Smith has the amazing and deft talent of crafting compelling characters. He writes about characters we all know and love. They may remind you of your neighbor, your family member or even yourself. In this novel we find, Mma (traditional name for Mrs.) Ramotswe, proprietor of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Gaborone, Botswana, now married to Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, and filled with worry over personal problems. At the same time, her assistant, Mma Makutsi, is preoccupied with finding a husband, and it appears that Charlie, the apprentice at the auto shop, has run off with an older woman. Large cups of bush tea remain the main source of relief for thirst and for solving mysteries. Although the agency takes on some criminal cases, most of the plot revolves around the everyday dilemmas of life and that’s what’s most engaging about the story. Join us on Monday, April 24, 2006 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at SouthPark Mall at 7PM where we’ll have a tea tasting, desserts and great discussion about this delightful book. Please RSVP at

Mrs. McCall Smith is one of the most charming authors, both on paper and in person. I had the delight to meet him last year in New York shortly before we launched our book club. He is charming, gracious and full of amazing stories about his exceptional life and writing career. We have some very exciting exclusive offers for our book club members.

The Charlotte Weekly and Joseph-Beth Booksellers are proud to be co-sponsoring McCall Smith’s only Charlotte appearance at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center on Sunday, April 30, 2005. Readers can get a $5 discount off of tickets by visiting:

Before the show, 22 lucky CW Book Club members will get to have a private audience with the author. Tickets to this private event are free but to snag a spot, you’ll need to E-mail me directly at:

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Interview with Sheri Lynch

Listeners of The Link’s very popular “Bob and Sheri” show know that the acerbic styling of one Ms. Sheri Lynch are in sync with women who are trying to make family life, married life and everything else in between, work. That made her latest book, “Be Happy or I'll Scream: My Deranged Quest for the Perfect Husband, Family, and Life” a perfect pick for CW’s book club.

Join Sheri at our next event on Monday, March 27 at Joseph-Beth for an evening that’s sure to be filled with humor and wisdom. Please RSVP at

We chatted with Sheri to find out how she juggles it all.

1. You've done a great job of really letting women know the reality and not the fairy tale of real life modern woman living. After two successful books and a hit radio show, how do you feel your family life and your own life has been affected by living with the public practically right in your living room?

Believe it or not, it's a non-issue at our house. My children are so young that they have no real sense of how I earn a living. They hear me on the radio, but I think they figure that everyone's mommy is on the radio, too. And around our place, I don't get any special treatment. When it comes time to mop up after the dog or referee the battle over whose turn it is to play with Barbie's Mermaidia, no one cares how many radio stations I talk on or how many books I write. It's all "Mommy! I need you!" I love that. For me personally, the public aspects of my life have proven to be an enormous blessing. I now know for a fact that I'm not alone in my craziness - I have hordes of like-minded sisters everywhere. It's been fantastic for my mental health. It's really made a huge difference in not only how I see myself - as a woman, a mother, a wife - it's helped me to see other women's lives more clearly. I have fewer illusions, and much more realistic expectations. I'm more forgiving - of myself, as well as others. That window into my life works both ways; I've also been allowed into the lives of the women who listen to my show. They've taught me so much about what really matters.

2. What do you hope your daughters learn about the concept "Having it all"?

First, that you can't have it all. That's a fantasy, and a destructive one at that. I hope my girls learn - sooner than I did - that it's not about having everything. It's about being brave enough to pursue the few things that your heart most desperately desires. And to recognize when you get those things, to truly savor and celebrate them.

3. What's the one piece of advice you offer to women today that perhaps, their mother's never told them?

While I wish I had something incredibly lofty and profound to offer here, I can't be a giant phony so let me say this: do not settle for a mediocre sex life. That has the power to really poison a marriage. Then, before you know it, you find yourself lonely for romance and bam! you get into trouble. Figure out what works for you, and teach your man how to get the job done. Candles, toys, Michael Buble - whatever works for you. Own it. And remember: unless you married an honest-go-God psychic, don't expect the poor guy to read your mind. It's all about taking responsiblity in every way, every day, for your own happiness. That's real power.

For more on Sheri Lynch, log on to:

Thursday, March 16, 2006

March 2006 Pick: Be Happy or I'll Scream

Our book club is dedicated to books that speak to women and their experience. This month we’ve chosen a very dynamic woman who speaks her mind to Charlotte women and women around the nation every day. Author Sheri Lynch is probably better known for her day job. She’s witty co-host of the popular “Bob and Sheri” show, heard here in the Queen City on 107.9, the Link and around the country. Her latest book, “Be Happy or I'll Scream: My Deranged Quest for the Perfect Husband, Family, and Life” delves into the deeply rich experience of juggling a successful career, marriage and children all the while attempting to craft the “perfect” family.

Lynch credits and blames TV for creating a skewed version of family life. After years of being bombarded by the images of happy nuclear families somehow the lines between fantasy and reality became blurred. Lynch takes you through her life with her husband, stepson, and two pre-school aged daughters. If you’ve ever tried to get some quality time with your spouse, planned a birthday party or help your child do their homework late into the night, you’ll know how agonizing it can all be. It’s written with the same healthy dose of self-deprecating humor that’s heard on Lynch’s popular show. But it’s ultimate gift to readers is that her core message is ultimately being able to accept that even if you feel harried and worn out, you can still enjoy your life…without it being perfect.

Please join us on Monday, March 27th at 7PM at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at SouthPark Mall for what’s sure to be an evening filled with fun, laughter and great stories to share! Don’t forget to RSVP at

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Fascinating New Book

As Monty Python would say, "Now for something completely different!" Although this blog originally started out as the companion to the book club I run for women with The Charlotte Weekly and Joseph-Beth Booksellers, I've had great feedback from authors of other genres whose books were downright interesting. Or as a friend of a friend said, "It's good to change things up every now and then."

In that spirit, I wanted to let you all know about "He Who Goes First". It's a book I found to be refreshingly honest and heart warming. Kevin J. Curtis's first novel is incredibly well-researched, honest and thought provoking. It's a story told from the perspective of a warrior in 13th century Mongolia and it's not the standard blood and guts we associate with tales from that time. The book follows the life of He Who Goes First who is so aptly named because he charges into battle and life boldly and without fear. He's in the army of Genghis Khan and he and his fellow soldiers charge all about Asia in one of history's most interesting times. The book really delves into the emotional, mental physical and spiritual aspects of what it means to be not only a warrior, but a a part of a community that plays a major role in modern society.

One of the most heartwarming parts is how women in Mongolia are portrayed in the book. They definitely have their hands full running every day life as their men are off to conquer new frontiers. It's amazing how courageous they had to be despite some very harsh conditions.

I had a chance to chat with the book's author Kevin J. Curtis about his experience in writing the book.

Q: What was the inspiration for the book?

A: The story actually picked me. It came from a "daydream," or a vision of some kind. It was quite vivid, and felt like a memory, but it was someone else's memory.

Q: What do you want readers to walk away with after reading the book?

A: History (especially what I remember from school), often portrays the Mongols and Genghis Khan, as uneducated, wanton killers. Though this is somewhat true, it stops short of the reality. Genghis (actually -Jenghiz or Chingiz) Khan was a master of human nature. Those who went along with him and acknowledged his rule were able to live much as they always had. Genghis did not restrict religion and he did not destroy scholarly works. He craved knowledge and organized his army by tens (decimal system). Though not formally educated, he was as smart as he was ruthless. He enjoyed trade, and there was far more security in commerce when the Khan was involved. Those who chose to defy him were mercilessly destroyed.

Q: Even though much of the book's action is on the battlefield, there's a real heart to the story. Could you talk a little about the emotional center of the book and what it means to you?

The main character, He-Who-Goes-First, is a warrior. Without a code of conduct, a warrior is merely a murderer. You find out that while this man is a soldier (and thus a killer), he is loyal, he is a family man who loves his wife and children, and he sometimes suffers from the emotional problems of balancing his private life and his demanding profession. I think there is perhaps more psychology than battle in this book, and there is also an undeniable love story. We learn about the best and worst in people and a quite a bit about the culture and beliefs of the people in 13th century Mongolia.

Q: What do you think our society could learn from 13th Century Mongolia?

A: Spiritual bonds were more important than flesh-and-blood. This is demonstrated by the love these people had for their children, whether they were biologically related or adopted. We should also remember that the world was a far different place back then. Political correctness did not/could not exist. Life was difficult, and survival depended on being strong and innovative. I believe we could learn from the Mongols’ connection to nature. We have become distant from nature and the real world. Modern people fear the wilderness and see it as something to be conquered. Most people today, are ill-equipped to survive without electricity and gasoline.

Q: What did you learn about yourself, in writing the book that most surprised you?

A: First of all, since this took place roughly 800 years ago, and the people were largely illiterate, I found that when I did research, one source contradicted the other. For example, there was a PBS special that claimed Genghis Khan never had a palace. When I researched this topic, I found that it is thought that his stone palace was dismantled when he died so that no one else could ever possess it. This compliments the idea that the people in attendance at the Khan's funeral were killed to keep the location of his grave secret. If this seems extreme, remember that these people believed in reincarnation. Death was not the final stop for one's soul. There was also a relatively recent find by a joint Japanese-Mongolian archeological team that may have found the remnants of Genghis Khan’s palace. For me personally, I didn't know how the book ended when I first thought about writing it. The story unfolded in many ways and in the end it made sense -especially from the point-of-view of a Mongol from that era. It was definitely a learning experience for me, since the main character and I share many of the same emotional/psychic idiosyncrasies.

Q: What hope do you have, if any, that Genghis Khan's reputation might get a revamp following the book?

A: I think this is already happening. There was never before, and likely will never again be, such an Empire. It is astounding to think that it was all done with horses, swords and arrows. Genghis Khan united the nomads who had previously been raiding and making war with each other. It took an incredibly powerful and charismatic figure to do that. No one else came close, with the exception of Genghis' grandson Kublai -who was able to carry on where his grandfather left off. When else in history, did a conqueror spare religion, art and knowledge from destruction?

Q: What's next for you, as a writer?

A: I have an idea for a book that will incorporate my observations and the history of the Minnesota River Valley where I work as a volunteer park ranger. At the moment, I haven't the time or the proper mindset to take on the project and deal with publishers and editors. That said, I am still writing and my blog can be found at

To purchase the book, click on to:

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"My Sister's Keeper" Book Club Reminder

When done well, a novel transports you to situations you’d never have imagined for yourself. The emotional “what-ifs” abound for readers of this month’s Speaking Volumes selection, “My Sister’s Keeper.” by Jodi Picoult. So many of our book club members have expressed how “Keeper,” with its various perspectives, resonates with truth and forces introspection on thorny issues surrounding organ transplants and family dynamics. Thank you to member Nancy Nein for suggesting this incredible work.

We meet Monday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. at Joseph-Beth Booksellers for an undoubtedly lively discussion of the book. All are welcome to attend – pick up the book and read fast! – but don’t forget to RSVP at

Monday, January 30, 2006

February 2006 Book Pick: My Sister's Keeper

Family relationships come in all sorts of textures and hues. There are the happy ones, the sad ones, the frustrating ones and sometimes the non-existent ones. But what would happen if you realized that the prime reason why you existed in the family was so that another family member could live? That’s the premise of our next book pick: My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.

Picoult takes on the question of bioethics and asks what does it mean to be a good parent, a good sister and a good family member. The Fitzgerald family decides to conceive a child so that she could be a genetic match and help save their daughter who is battling leukemia. By the time Anna turns 13-years-old, she has had countless surgeries, bone marrow and blood transfers to help keep her sister Kate alive. Even though she loves Kate very much, when the parents plan a kidney transplant between the two sisters, she decides that enough is enough. Anna sues to stop her parents from using her as a genetic parts depot. That tears the family apart and the consequences of Anna’s decision are very real and potentially lethal. It’s clear she loves her family very much and you can feel the torment of her decision. In the meantime, you can see how the rest of the family is fracturing at the seams. Jesse, the neglected oldest child of the family, is out setting fires, which his firefighter father, Brian, in an ironic twist, puts out. In the midst of this is Sara, the family’s mom, who is fiercely and steadfastly devoted to the oldest daughter’s chance of survival.

My Sister’s Keeper brings in a whole host of characters, each of who gets to tell their side of the story in their own voice. It’s a riveting read that captures you from the first chapter. We invite you to join us on Monday, February 27, 2006 at 7PM at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at SouthPark Mall for coffee, dessert and dynamic discussion about this intriguing book. To RSVP, please log on to:

Book Extra: The Virgin's Guide to Everything

Hello all!

Sometimes you come across a delightful book that you must share with your friends. "The Virgin's Guide to Everything" is just that sort of book. And no, it's not for those kind of virgins. It's for novices. And face it, everyone is a novice at something. If you've never eaten sushi, asked your boss for a raise, trekked around the world alone or done something truly adventurous, this book is for you.

The book's author, Lauren McCutcheon is a delightful young woman who recently came all the way to Charlotte to do a reading at one of the world's best book store, Joseph-Beth Booksellers at SouthPark Mall. She had lots to say about this truly useful book!

Photo Credit: Chris Meck

Q: How did you get involved with the "Virgin's" book and concept?

The idea for the Virgin's Guide first belonged to a couple of in-the- biz girlfriends — one whom I knew and loved, another whom I was about to know and love. My pals were looking for someone to develop it into a book. The concept sounded great, but I was wary. I'd never written a whole book before. I guess you could say I was a virgin author, and those, more experienced friends were my book-writing go-to girls!

Q: What do you want readers to walk away with knowing after reading the book?

The book packs in a whole lot of information. I don't expect readers to become gemologists, or instant wahines. I do hope that the book makes readers feel more confident about facing a brand-new first, that the information reassures them that they can ask for — and get — that raise, that they can make it through a yoga class. A Virgin's Guide aims to give a boost for a bunch of achievable, everyday first times — and assure my readers that they have an absolute right to unlimited do-overs!

Q: What was the thing that surprised you the most in writing the book?

Aside from my amazement at being able to write a book, at all? All in all, I learned hundreds of nuggets of information, things that seemed obvious once I heard them, but didn't occur to me until I interviewed experts. For example, Dara Johnson, a camping instructor from Appalachian Mountain Club, confirmed my suspicion that the number one reason that women fear camping is, well, numbers one and two. (And Dara told me how to get over it.) Dr. Dina Anderson, our resident dermatologist, said it was totally fine to go to a skin doctor for a single pimple, and Suzanne Schlosberg, author of an amazing book about her experiences with called "The Curse of the Singles Table," gave such sensible advice about online dating: Don't become attached to another online dater until you meet face to face; don't plan a whole big date before you meet up (just go for a 15 minute coffee), and whatever you do, don't give up the search.

Q: What's next for you?

There are so many places to go from here. The website: is growing in leaps and bounds. My fellow virgins and I are gathering loads of ideas for future guides. And me, I'm still striving to do one new thing every day — or at least, every week.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

What's better: "Memoirs" Book or Movie?

For generations, Hollywood has taken blockbuster books and turned then into magical, multi-million dollar grossing movies. Books like Gone with the Wind, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Godfather, The Lord of Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter series are just a few examples. Executives in Hollywood say they like them because the books are not only great stories, they’re proven material and they come usually with a built-in audience. But there’s always been some controversy from purists, those loyal book lovers who feel that the movie version didn’t measure up to its print counterpart. I believe Memoirs of a Geisha will be one of the first movies in recent memory that is actually better than the book.

Here at The Charlotte Weekly we have a thriving book club, called “Speaking Volumes”, that meets monthly and is dedicated to reading books that speak directly to women’s experiences. We chose Memoirs as our December pick because it offered us a unique insight into a time and place that is so vastly different from our own lives as modern American women. Books are such intimate experiences. One feels like they are sharing the character’s heart and mind during the journey. It was even more so because the book is written in the strikingly honest first-person narrative.

When the book came out in 1997, it was an instant best-seller that inspired millions of fans all over the world. Author Arthur Golden was a Japanese history major in college and he said his first intention was to write a story about a friend of his whose mother was a geisha. After spending time with a friend of his grandmother’s, who was a geisha, Golden threw out his 750-word draft which was originally written in the third person narrative and started writing what would ultimately become the book we all know now.

The movie succeeds so brilliantly because it’s able to show, not tell us what’s going on. Much of the 400+ pages of the book are devoted to extensive detail. There’s very little dialogue in the book between the characters. My friend Graeme, who is one of those passionate purists I mentioned earlier and loved the book, wondered how the filmmakers were going to capture one of the most unique aspects of the book: Sayuri’s own extensive interior monologue. I think Director Rob Marshall captured just enough of it by using voice-over which still gives you the narrative quality and guides you through her amazing stories which spans from thriving Japan in the 1930’s to post-war Japan in the 1950’s.

Speaking Volumes Book Club member Lena Claxton, who attended a screening of the film, said: “The movie does a good job of not belaboring the point. The movie highlighted the best points in the book but it didn’t beat you over the head with it.”

Where the book starts off with a lot of background about where Sayuri and her sister come from, the movie jumps right to the start of the action where the girls are carted away to be sold to a geisha house. Obviously to compress such a book into a movie you have to leave out some detail, but the screenplay did a great job of keeping some jewels from the book that seem to be a nod at the legions of Memoir’s book fans. A poster of Sayuri in the heart of Kyoto’s geisha district take up only a few seconds on screen but book readers will remember what lengths Sayuri’s mentor strived to get her protégé in front of one of Japan’s most famous artists.

The filmmakers toned down some of the book. For as much controversy that the movie has stirred up in Asia, where nationalists were outraged that a Chinese woman shares an intimate moment with a Japanese man, if they had read the book they would know the filmmakers spared the viewers some of the more lurid details. Even one of the key characters in Sayuri’s life, Nobu, was portrayed as far less grotesque and disfigured as he was described in the novel. I think overall those touches make the overall story far more approachable to a Western audience.

This is definitely a movie that if you loved and want to know more, reading the book will only enhance the overall experience. The book offers more nuance and subtext that can be captured in a 2½-hour movie and it’s well worth it. The movie wraps up with a traditional Hollywood ending but if you want to know what happens after happily ever after, read the book!

January 2006 Pick: The Widow of the South

Happy New Year and blessings for a glorious 2006 for everyone!

It's a new year filled with new possibilities. And we start our CW's book club by reading a book that speaks of the past.

The Civil War may have ended be more than 100 years old but the legacy that it has left on the nation, particularly the southeast, continues to live on. The stories that have emerged from that era still resonate with readers today because they speak directly to every aspect of the human condition. That has inspired our pick for January: “The Widow of the South” by Robert Hicks.

This novel is based on the real-life story of Carrie McGavock. She’s probably the most famous Southern woman you’ve never heard of. Her life was inalterably changed when the bloodiest battle of the Civil War literally arrived on her doorstep.

Hicks' historical first novel is based on true events in his hometown, and follows the saga of McGavock, a lonely Confederate wife who finds purpose transforming her Tennessee plantation into a hospital and cemetery during the Civil War. Carrie is mourning the death of several of her children, and, in the absence of her husband, has left the care of her house to her capable Creole slave Mariah. Before the 1864 battle of Franklin, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest commandeers her house as a field hospital. The story is told in alternating points of view. For instance, different witnesses, including Union Lt. Nathan Stiles, who watches waves of rebels shot dead, and Confederate Sgt. Zachariah Cashwell, who loses a leg, recount the battle. By the end of the battle, 9,000 soldiers have died, and thousands of Confederates are buried in a field near the McGavock plantation. Zachariah ends up in Carrie's care at the makeshift hospital and though harrowing events surround them, their chaste love remains as the emotional undercurrent of the novel. Meanwhile, she continues to fight to relocate the buried soldiers when her wealthy neighbor threatens to plow up the field after the war
The Widow of the South explores what war does to its participants-not only the soldiers but the families, and how people can find beauty and love even in some of life’s most challenging times.

Join us on Monday, January 16th at 7PM at JosephBeth Booksellers at SouthPark Mall where we’ll talk with the author via phone from his home in Tennessee and learn more about the makings of this fascinating novel. Please RSVP at: