Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Note from Author Maryann McFadden

Last week's book club meeting was a smash! Thank you to all who came! We were chatting about how wonderful authors are and one of our book club favorites just sent me a note for you all. Here's a note from Maryann McFaddeen:
Happy Holidays!

I can't think of a better way to thank you for your support and enthusiasm than to give away signed and personalized copies of SO HAPPY TOGETHER and THE RICHEST SEASON, along with handcrafted bookmarks to go with them.

I hope you'll visit my website to get the details. Winners will be drawn 12/31 and I hope you're one of them!

Simply go to Details are right on top!

Have a Wonderful Holiday and a Blessed New Year!

Maryann McFadden

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Know a Senior Who's Ready to Downsize?

Get yourself to Park Road Books this Friday!

From 12:30 - 2PM, author Jan Robbins Durr will be signing and discussing her book, "De-Stuff: A Step by Step Guide for Seniors Preparing for an Estate Sale & Downsizing." Written particularly for those individuals who don't know what to do with their lifetime accummulation of 'stuff', this book covers how to sort, research, price, advertise, hold the sale, and disposition after the sale.

To learn more about Durr, visit her Web site at: For Park Road books, visit

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Book Club Selection for November 2009: The Receipe Club

Just in time for the holidays and the season of food and family, CWG has chosen a book that celebrates a dynamic relationship between two friends and the sharing of recipes in an inventive new novel, “The Recipe Club” by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel.

Barnes & Noble writes:

Lilly and Val are lifelong friends, united as much by their differences as by their similarities. Lilly, dramatic and confident, lives in the shadow of her beautiful, wayward mother and craves the attention of her distant, disapproving father. Val, shy and idealistic-and surprisingly ambitious-struggles with her desire to break free from her demanding housebound mother and a father whose dreams never seem to come true.In childhood, "LillyPad" and "Valpal" vow to form an exclusive two-person club. Throughout the decades they write intimate letters in which they share hopes, fears, deepest secrets-and recipes, from Lilly's "Lovelorn Lasagna" to Valerie's "Forgiveness Tapenade."

Readers can cook along as the girls travel through time, facing the challenges of independence; the joys and heartbreaks of first love; and the emotional complexities of family relationships, identity, mortality, and goals deferred.But no matter what different paths they take or what misunderstandings threaten to break them apart, Lilly and Val always find their way back together through their Recipe Club . . . until the fateful day when an act of kindness becomes an unforgivable betrayal.

Now, decades later, while trying to recapture the trust they've lost, Lilly and Val reunite once more-only to uncover a shocking secret. Will it destroy their friendship, or bring them ever closer?

To celebrate, join us Monday, Nov. 30 at a private home in south Charlotte at 7 PM where we’ll chat with the authors live via SKYPE. Bring a dish that has a memory associated with it to share and come delight in great food and conversation. To RSVP, e-mail

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brush up your Shakespeare!

I had the most delightful evening Tuesday night at the Booth Theater watching the "Reduced Shakespeare Company here in Charlotte.

All it took was 97 minutes to condense all of the Bard's 37 plays -both tragedies and comedies with some sonnet relief to boot!

Even though some of the material was fairly new to the audience, I have to say it helps if you know the plot of "Romeo and Juliet" or at least the movie, "Shakespeare in Love." You'll get a lot more out of the inside jokes.

For a delightful evening, run, don't walk and get the to the theater!

More info...

Reduced Shakespeare Company: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) plays October 27 through November 1 at the Booth Playhouse (130 North Tryon St., Charlotte, NC, 28202).Tickets start at just $24.50.

For more information and to purchase tickets, call 704-372-1000 or visit

Friday, October 16, 2009

Book Club Pick for October: The Lost Symbol

Dan Brown is at it again! And we're reading the adult version of the Harry Potter mania for October's book club.

Join us Thursday, Oct. 29 at 7 PM at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Place Mall to discuss "The Lost Symbol." Kindly RSVP by e-mailing

Happy reading!

Charlotte Writers' Club Hosts Robert Inman

Charlotte Writers’ Club Hosts Robert Inman
by Jerri Gibson McCloud

The multi-talented journalist turned novelist, screenwriter, and playwright, Robert Inman will be guest speaker at the Charlotte Writers’ Club meeting on October 20th at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, SouthPark, 7 p.m.

Numerous Charlotteans will remember “Bob” Inman as anchor/reporter in 1970 for WBT TV, the #1 station in Charlotte during his 5-year stint. He left WBT in 1975 only to return in 1979 to become one of Charlotte’s most recognized anchor over the next 17 years.

Enamored by his passion for writing, in 1996 he left WBT to pursue a new career of writing.
Success continued for Inman with his first novel Home Fires Burning, followed by Old Dogs and Children, Dairy Queen Days and Captain Saturday. His down-home style and rich sentiment pulls the reader into his stories. He captured the south and brought the reader back to their own experiences in days long forgotten.

Inman crossed over from fiction to non-fiction with Coming Home: Life, Love and All Things Southern, and yet another genre, he wrote his first stage play Crossroads, writing the book, music and lyrics. The author of six motion pictures of which two were presented by Hallmark Hall of Fame, Inman has received many awards for his outstanding work, too numerous to list here. For additional books, plays, awards, education, please visit his website:

Charlotte Writers’ Club is all about furthering its members’ writing experiences and encouraging them to soar to greater heights of writing. Robert Inman’s story will please all. Visitors welcome.
Jerri McCloud
Charlotte Writers' Club

Friday, September 18, 2009

September Book Club Meeting

The book club event will go forward on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 7 PM at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Place Mall as originally scheduled.

Please RSVP at


Thursday, September 10, 2009

City at the Cusp: How the Culture of Plenty Demolished the American Economy

Listen to our interview with author J. Allison Brown about her debut nonfiction book.

City at the Cusp: How the Culture of Plenty Demolished the American Economy

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For more, visit

Fall sizzles with best-selling authors

The Queen City will host some of the nation’s best-selling and most beloved authors. The following is a list of some of the author visits book lovers can look forward to this fall.

Noted documentary film maker and author Ken Burns will appear at Joseph-Beth at SouthPark on Sept. 14, at Noon, to discuss the companion book to Burns’ newest documentary “The National Parks: America's Best Ideas.” Burns, whose illustrious 25 year of filmmaking includes documentaries on baseball, jazz and the Civil War, wrote the introduction to the book; writer Dayton Duncan wrote the book and co-produced the series.

The series looks at NPS’ span from inception to current status. Now almost 150 years old, there are parks in every state of the nation, except for Delaware. The National Parks System now includes 400 individual sites and 84 million combined acres.

“Parks” is a six-part series that will begin airing on PBS stations around the nation on Sept. 27.

Dr. Andrew Weil, best-selling author and health guru, will speak on Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. at Queens University of Charlotte. The Harvard-trained physician will discuss this and other topics included in his newest book, "Why Our Health Matters: A Vision of Medicine That Can Transform Our Future. The book shares his analysis of where he believes the American healthcare system has gotten off track and he offers suggestions for new wellness-based models.
Weil’s other 10 books include "Healthy Aging," "Spontaneous Healing" and "8 Weeks to Optimum Health.”

Tickets are $40. The event will take place at the Dana Auditorium. To purchase, click here.

The visit is being sponsored by The Learning Society of Queens.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of mega best-seller and our own book club favorite, “Eat, Pray, Love” will speak with her sister, Catherine Gilbert Murdock, Oct. 26, at 8 p.m. at Davidson College’s Duke Family Performance Hall.

The New York Times named “Love” as one of the top 10 books of 2006; filming is currently underway for the movie version starring Julia Roberts. Gilbert is putting the final touches on her new book, “Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage,” which is due out early next year.

Gilbert’s sister, Catherine Gilbert Murdock is the author of young adult novel “Dairy Queen” -- the story of a girl who runs her father’s struggling dairy farm and tries out for the high school football team. Its sequel (and third book in the series) “The Off Season” will be published this fall.

Tickets are free, and are available at Davidson’s College Union from 10-4 weekdays, and will be distributed at the door beginning an hour before the presentation.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

September and October selections

Hi all!

Thanks to everyone who came last Monday to our book club discussion. It was a wonderful, ecclectic mix of women from 20-80 about the wonderful book, "Gift from the Sea."

For September, we'll be reading, "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Meeting date is TBA but will most likely be the last Thursday of the month. After getting some feedback from book club members, it looks like Monday is getting a bit difficult. And who wants to miss Dancing with the Stars!

For October, we may has well join the mayhem and find out if Dan Brown's newest and much anticipated book, "The Lost Symbol" was worth the wait. We'll be meeting in October to discuss the book that is the adult's version of the latest Harry Potter book. Buy your book early and you can get significant discounts. Look for online specials, too but definitely check in with your favorite bookseller.

As always, please RSVP by sending me an e-mail at and let me know you'll be there.

See you soon!


Saturday, August 08, 2009

7 Days of Kindle: Day 7: Experimental Features

Kindle offers three new cool features including a basic web browser, the ability to play MP3 files and text to speech. You can also e-mail yourself documents and PDFs and read it on your Kindle. I tried the feature and liked it a lot. It’s perfect for the commuter who doesn’t want to pull out their bulky laptop.

I liked their battery life and be sure to get the leather cover. It kept the Kindle clean and portable. There is the standard black leather but I am groovin for the purple leather cover, available at Amazon, which is delicious looking.

The result:
Would I get the Kindle right now? Maybe.

The portability factor is amazing. This is a HUGE selling point. I have to say that a few days down the line, I really miss it. And the only other piece of tech equipment I feel that way about is my iPod.

Prices just dropped to $299 but if Apple has taught us anything it’s wait for the next generation to get more features at a lower price. I love the convenience and the cool factor of the Kindle. But I really want the color screen and better navigation for the newspaper articles. I’ll be eagerly waiting for those features and then I’ll pounce.

August 2009 Book Selection: Gift of the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

As we face the peak of summer, we all slow down just a bit more and start to contemplate life and what’s important. This is a time honored tradition of the season. Author Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote “Gift from the Sea” in the ‘50s but her advice and contemplation rings true for women of every age and at every stage of their lives, including those living in this fast-paced millennium. Lindbergh’s key question: How can a woman blend all her roles of mother, sister, daughter and friend while still having time for herself?

It was a question the author lived her entire life. Lindbergh led a life of adventure. She is the first American woman who earned a first class glider’s pilot license in 1930 and travelled with her husband, Charles Lindbergh around the world. Their son’s kidnapping, the famed Lindbergh baby case, was the scandal of the 30s. She moved to France shortly after the kidnapping trial and went on to raise five other children.

Lindbergh remained a woman of accomplishment for decades and wrote more than a dozen books. In 2001, she died, just four years before “Gift” celebrated its 50th year in print. Join us on Monday, August 17 at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Pineville Mall at 7 PM to discuss what I like to think of as a palate cleanser for the mind and soul. RSVP by e-mailing
-Alison Woo

Friday, August 07, 2009

Author Maryann McFadden discusses So Happy Together

Hear book club favorite author Maryann McFadden discuss her newest book, "So Happy Together" during her trip to Charlotte's Park Road Books.

Author Maryann McFadden discusses So Happy Together

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Mortons: The Cookbook

Hear from Tylor Field, co-author of Mortons: The Cookbook to find out how you can bring the delicious flavors of fabulous food from one of the nation's most respected steakhouse restaurants to your home and grill.

Friday, July 31, 2009

7 Days of Kindle: Day 6: Blogs and Magazines

With over 6,325 blogs and growing, there’s a healthy list but once again you have to subscribe (average price $1.99) and much as I like popular blog Gawker, I don’t love it that much.

The magazine selection is slimmer, with 32 titles which are mostly business and technology. But hey, even Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (which seems somewhat odd considering the high-techie other selections) are here. At $1.49 a month, Time Magazine’s Kindle version is full-featured at a drastically reduced cost than their paper counterpart.

Green features
By now you realize I'm an avid reader. If you are green conscious at all, you realize that reading both newspapers or magazine causes problems for the environment. Sure we all recycle but I'm surprised more isn't made of the green benefits of using a Kindle. Also, not having to lug those ungainly magazines to the recylable bin is a good thing.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

7 Days of Kindle: Day 5: More Books!

Using the Kindle makes reading even more addicting.

I find myself wanting to rush home, or anyplace quiet so I can switch the Kindle on and read more. Discipline is definitely needed. With Kindle's ease of ordering a book at Amazon's site, I find myself buying (or wanting to buy books) at a moment's notice.

For the record, I have bought Chris Anderson's "Free," Coelho's "By the River...," and Julia Cameron's "The Right to Write." I really want to buy Julia Child's "My Life in Paris." The sample was divine! But with only two more days left of the test, I have to pace myself.

Feature I fall in love with today: the gorgeous and whimsical screen savers which depict some of literature's greatest heros and heroines (including Jane Austen!). What a thoughtful touch!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

7 Days of Kindle: Day 4: Travel and Portability

Hi everyone!

If you're wondering what happened to my 7 days of blogging, I'm here to say you'll still get them but they won't be successive. It's still going to be great, don't worry.

My blogging bonanza fell right in the middle of a trip to NYC for business. But all my travels has given me an opportunity to take the Kindle 2 out for a run in numerous conditions. I knew that the Kindle was going to save me a lot of space packing my usual books but I have to say that having it ready to read the newspaper and my several books, I think I've fallen in love.

I've taken it with me in a 12-hour car ride from Charlotte to NY, where I read USA Today and my latest Paulo Coehlo book, "By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept." And it was AMAZING and easy reading on the NYC subways. I saw fellow riders admire my easy breezy reader. With its lovely leather cover, it fits easily and discretely in my bag.

I've come to realize that the Kindle is the ultimate travel accessory.

BTW, the feature I fell in love with today: The ability to zoom in on a photo.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

7 Days of Kindle: Day 3: Books

And now...what the Kindle was truly created for: BOOKS!

Kindle offers 300,000 titles, which include almost all the NYT best-sellers and some public domain work such as The Art of War, Pride and Prejudice and Shakespeare, which is free.

What I absolutely love is the fact that all books offer a sample, which can range anywhere from three to 30 pages, depending on the publisher. This try before you buy mechanism allows you to get a good feel for the book. Samples that need more pages include Julia Cameron's "The Right to Write." Three pages? Uh, no. But what was amazing was the sample from the book, "Strapless" at over 30 pages.

Prices are far less than their hardcover options and run on average from $4.99 to $9.99 per book. I wish they put the prices on the main navigation bar so you can see them before you have to click in each title. But specials abound and I don’t miss turning the pages the way I thought I would.

Features I love: include the fact I can resize the text in six directions which helps late at night, and I like the fact that the automated voice can read anything on the Kindle to you.
Features I dream of: a color screen, a volume button for the voice (it’s a tad low without earphones).

Feature that is most fabulous: The wonderful buy one get one free offers and all the other special deals Amazon offers for the Kindle. I bought Chris Anderson's new book, "Free" and got "The Long Tail" along with it. It's these kind of deals that make the Kindle the medium of the future.

I also was able to download the No. 1 NYT best-seller free, "Paranoid." It's a thriller, something I don't get a chance to read much of but at free, you can't beat the value. Somehow I already feel that the Kindle is making me a much more varied reader.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

7 Days of Kindle: Day 2: Newspapers

At our recent fourth anniversary celebration of “Speaking Volumes” (Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s book club which I’ve been running since 2005) I shared with book club member and former librarian Felicia Lee (seen left with fellow book club member Lena Claxton) that I one of the first things I do after I open my eyes is read the New York Times on my BlackBerry. She seemed shocked. And possibly aghast.
My love for the NYT started when a substitute teacher during third grade teacher at P.S. 209 in Brooklyn cracked the code and demystified how to read the front page, pointing out that the top right corner above the fold was the lead story. From thereafter every Saturday night at around 10:45 PM, I remember going to the newsstand with my mom or dad, buying the Times and picking up some freshly made bagels and settling and starting to read the sections. It felt so exotic reading the Sunday paper on Saturday. Watching old school wrestling with the likes of Bruno Samortino added to the fare.
I was most curious what would reading newspapers on the Kindle be like.

Kindle offers 44 newspaper subscriptions with the majority (33) of them U.S. newspapers. National newspapers such as the NYT, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal are here as are many the dailies in major cities but the southeast is sorely underrepresented. The only ones offered are from Atlanta and Richmond. But if you want to read the Shanghai Daily or Le Monde, you are in luck.

I’m in a bit of a sticker shock. To read the papers on the Kindle you have to pay a monthly subscription fee, which ranges from $5.99 for the Orlando Sentinel to a whopping $14.99 for the Wall Street Journal. The Times is $13.99. While there are whole conversations within the media industry to try to monetize their online content, most newspapers (except for the WSJ which started out and continues to offer a fee-based subscription online) are free. I can read the entire Sunday NYT online with my laptop for free. The good news is that they offer a two week trial. I sign up for the NYT, USA Today and WSJ.

Kindle’s electronic ink makes it very easy to read in both direct sunlight and shade. I would love it if they would consider adding a nightlight for easier reading in bed. But with the flexibility of changing the font to six different sizes, reading was easier.

The 6 inch screen is wider than my PDA, which makes reading even swifter. What I’m not crazy about is the way the newspaper publishers display their content. On my PDA, I can swiftly scan all the headlines and choose what I want to read. On the Kindle, the content is broken down into main headlines such as Front Page, National, International, Arts and so on. I use the new five-way toggle to skim the articles and I can clip the ones I want to read later, a handy feature. But I find this lack of navigation has me hitting the “Next Page” button again and again. The effect of this feature has me reading far more than just a few articles. After an hour, I feel like I’m incredibly well read.

Friday, July 24, 2009

7 Days of Kindle: Day 1

As an avid reader, geek and techie I couldn’t resist the offer to take the new Kindle 2, Amazon’s proprietary electronic book reader, for a seven-day spin. Having recently read the book, “Julie & Julia” – where author Julie Powell cooks every recipe from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and blogs about it for 365 days, I felt like a week’s worth of blogging was not only doable but sounded like fun. As actress Amy Adams says in the movie version of “Julie & Julia,” ‘I have thoughts!’ And anyone who knows me knows I’m not scared of sharing them.
On Thursday, the package from Amazon arrived and I felt like it was Christmas in July. Though one should not, normally, judge a book by its cover, I like the details. The whimsical phrase on the side of Kindle’s box “Once upon a time…” suggests this will not be any ordinary technical gizmo.

My goal for the next seven days is simple: do all my normal reading on the Kindle and see how it compares. My daily reading diet consists of two daily newspapers, a dozen blogs and an array of four or five books at various stages – in addition to our book club’s monthly selection. To maintain this information influx, I use a combination of laptop, BlackBerry and lug around a duffle bag just for reading material. The idea of swapping those 10-pounds for the sleek convenience of the Kindle, which weighs 10.2 ounces, is exhilarating.

I plug in the Kindle overnight to make sure it’s fully charged and can’t wait until day 2.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

August 2009 Book Club Selection: Gifts from the Sea

As we face the peak of summer, we all slow down just a bit more and start to contemplate life and what’s important. This is a time honored tradition of the season. Author Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote “Gifts from the Sea” in the ‘50s but her advice and contemplation rings true for women of every age and at every stage of their lives, including those living in this fast-paced millennium. Lindbergh’s key question: How can a woman blend all her roles of mother, sister, daughter and friend while still having time for herself?

It was a question the author lived her entire life. Lindbergh led a life of adventure. She is the first American woman who earned a first class glider’s pilot license in 1930 and travelled with her husband, Charles Lindbergh around the world. Their son’s kidnapping, the famed Lindbergh baby case, was the scandal of the 30s. She moved to France shortly after the kidnapping trial and went on to raise five other children.

Lindbergh remained a woman of accomplishment for decades and wrote more than a dozen books. In 2001, she died, just four years before “Gifts” celebrated its 50th year in print. Join us on Monday, August 17 at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Pineville Mall at 7 PM to discuss what I like to think of as a palate cleanser for the mind and soul. RSVP by e-mailing

-Alison Woo

Maryann McFadden Visits Charlotte!

Author Maryann McFadden signs So Happy Together at Charlotte's Park Road Books

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Alison's Audio Blog Post

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dorothea Benton Clark Visits Charlotte!

Fans of Dorothea Benton Clark united at ImaginOn last week as the best-selling author came to the Queen City to discuss her newest book, "Return to Sullivan Island," her career and what's she's doing next.

Have you read "Return to Sullivan's Island?" The action in this family drama starts on the first page and is quite a saga. Pick it up at your local bookseller for a fun and frothy summer read.

Celebrating "Speaking Volumes"

Happy Bastille Day everyone!

It's the day to celebrate French indpendence and the fourth anniversary of our book club.

Join us tonight at Crepe Cellar in NoDa for a spectacular party with a menu from the page to the plate of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Some of the delicious goodies include Mussels in white wine sauce, roasted chicken, croque monsieur and Crepes Suzette!

Ticket prices are $15. E-mail me at to RSVP. Only 8 seats are left!

Hope to see you there!


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Julie & Julia Trailer

The movie comes out in August. Start getting excited!

Mecklenburg Library to Close on Sundays

It's a sad note on the times. All Mecklenburg County libraries will be closed on Sundays beginning in July.

Writes PLCMC....

"The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County (PLCMC) will implement new summer hours starting July 5 and ending September 6. During this time all 24 libraries in Mecklenburg County will be closed on Sundays. This change will affect the hours at seven libraries which are normally open on Sundays: Main Library, ImaginOn, Independence, Morrison, South County, University City and North County. Barring any other changes to the economy, Sunday hours at these locations will resume on September 13."

For more, click the PLCMC website.

Monday, June 15, 2009

July 2009 Book Selection: Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

Hello all!

This month we have a lot to celebrate!

It’s now the book club’s fourth anniversary! Wow! Where does the time go?

So in honor of summer and celebrations, we’re reading “Julie and Julia” the wonderful book about how a fellow Brooklyn girl took Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and committed herself to cooking every single recipe in a year.

To celebrate, we’re planning a festive party to not only commemorate our anniversary but also Bastille Day on Tuesday, July 14. Look to this blog for more details as soon as we can confirm them.

In the meantime, plan on spending some seriously fun time with the book. We’re also trying to see if we can work out an arrangement to see the movie, with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, when it comes out in August. More on that soon, too!

Please RSVP by e-mailing me at

Thank you book clubbers for making book club such a fabulous place to be! Here’s to Year 5!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

June 2009 Book Club Selection

The book I can’t put down these days is Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help.” It’s a fantastic story of three women whose lives intersect during the ‘60s in Mississippi.

That’s why I was thrilled when her publicist said yes to our book club’s request to host Ms. Stockett at our next book club function.

Join us on Thursday, June 4, at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Place Mall. We’re expecting a big crowd so please R.S.V.P. by e-mailing me at

Stay tuned! There will be an exclusive interview with Ms. Stockett on this blog shortly. To read more about her, visit the author’s website at

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Update from Alison

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New News from Alison

Look to this blog for weekly updates on the latest on book club news, book reviews and everything else as we transition from print to the web.

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Speaking Volumes Selection for April 2009: The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

I believe that the right book finds you at exactly the moment you need it. With thousands of people around the globe in dire straights for a variety of reasons, there’s never been a better time to look within. This month, our book club selection takes readers on one character’s thrilling voyage within. Our selection is Paul Coelho’s “The Alchemist.”

The story is a mythical tale with parallels to our everyday lives. It is the story of Santiago, a young boy in Spain and his quest to discover his personal legend. He is guided by dreams and the way events in his life unfold. Besides the book’s poetic quality, the story aims to help everyone understand that each life has a purpose and it seeks to help us understand how to find it.

Author Paul Coehlo is a Brazilian journalist, actor, theater director turned novelist. In 1986, he walked the famed Christian pilgrimage path in northern Spain, known as the Santiago de Compostela. A year later he documented his walk in the book, “The Pilgrimage” – a book I read and fueled my own passion to walk the same path later this year in June. A year later, Coehlo wrote “The Alchemist.”

Despite initial slow sales, the book is now one of the single most successful books in modern literature. Last year, the book celebrated its 20th anniversary with an announcement that actor Lawrence Fishbourne and producer Harvey Weinstein would make the book into a movie. The book has been on a bestseller lists in 74 countries, and so far has sold 35 million copies. In 2008, it earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for most translated book in the world – 67 languages.

Join us Thursday, April 30 at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Place Mall to discuss this exciting work. Please RSVP by e-mailing

-Alison Woo

Friday, April 03, 2009

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency comes to HBO

Dearest readers,

If you are looking for the most magnificent example of how to take a beloved book and take it to the screen, look no further. Alexander McCall Smith (former SV book club author)and artists such as Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella have brought the best-selling No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series to HBO.

Make sure you tune to HBO every Sunday night at 8 PM EST for the latest installment. You won't be disappointed. It is a pure delight. Seeing the first installment last Sunday made me start reading the series all over again. Watch the trailer below!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thank you...

My deepest thanks to all the book club members and Weekly newspaper readers who have been so kind to share their condolences, prayers and best wishes after my family's recent loss of my beloved brother, Mike.

Many of you have shared your own stories of love and loss and it's humbling. When something like this happens, it underscores how important it is that each of us spend each day with people and doing the things that make our heart sing.

I am forever grateful to all the book club members and the staff at Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group for being such a wonderful family of people whom I love dearly.

With all my heart,

Thank you.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stephanie Kallos Visits Charlotte

Stephanie Kallos, author of our book club favorite "Broken for You," visits Charlotte next week to discuss her latest book, "Sing Them Home." I am forever indebted to Kallos. Not only did is "Broken" one of the best books our book club has ever read, she was one of the very first authors who did a phone chat with us when we were just getting our sea legs. I can't believe that was four years ago!

Run, don't walk to buy her latest book. She is an exceptional writing talent who creates characters that live with you long after the end of the book. She will be appearing at Park Road Books on Thursday, Feb. 5 at 7 P.M. For more details, visit their bookstore at 4139 Park Road, in Charlotte's Park Road Shopping Center, or call them at 704-525-9139.

Want to get to know Kallos better? Here's an indepth interview with the author.


The idea for SING THEM HOME has clearly been with you for quite a while. Where did the story come from? How close is the final story to your original idea?

The initial idea for SING THEM HOME arose from a photo from the March 1974 National Geographic—and from my family’s personal connection to that photo. Until I was five, my parents and I lived in Wymore, Nebraska, and among my folks’ best friends at that time were Ed and Hope McClure. They lived a few miles outside of town in a nineteenth-century farmhouse that had great historical significance to the community and that Hope had lovingly restored and furnished with period antiques. I still remember a great deal about that house—even though the last time I saw it was in 1960, which is when we moved away.

In 1974, in one of those examples freakish tornadic behavior, a funnel cloud came through, passing by the farmhouse across the road, bouncing over the highway, and landing on the McClure house. Hope—who had MS, and was in a wheelchair at the time—was home alone with the youngest of her five children, who was at that time a toddler. The baby was found wandering the fields wearing her diaper, having suffered nothing but a few scratches and (one would assume) a terrible scare; Hope was badly hurt, but survived. The house—and everything in it—was gone.

The National Georgraphic photo was taken a few miles away, near Blue Springs Nebraska. It shows a vast, flattened, muddied milo field with a farmer leaning over the remains of Hope’s baby grand piano. It was the only thing that came down in any kind of recognizable form. My mom used to say, “How can a deep freezer just disappear? How can a washing machine disappear? All those things—where did they go?” These questions—and their implications—have haunted me ever since.

I always envisioned the book as the story of three siblings whose mother went up but never came down, and the grief surrounding such a loss—so in that sense the story didn’t change. But the book took on a new and deeper significance when I lost both of my folks during the writing process—my dad in January 2005 and my mom a year later, almost to the day. For that reason, SING THEM HOME evolved into a much more personal book. The gift of my own loss I suppose is that it allowed me to stand with more authenticity, humility, and empathy in my characters’ shoes. For years I believed that this book would be my first novel; I’m glad it wasn’t.

There are many strands to the novel including letters, diary entries, shifts in time and point of view. In what order did you actually write the various strands?

I’d like to say that I went about writing this novel in a methodical, ordered way, but that was not the case. I did work with a detailed outline (even though I ended up deviating from it quite a bit) and that provided a way for me to move around in the story without always moving chronologically. In other words, if I woke up one morning to find Bonnie clamoring for attention, the outline gave me a kind of mental “filing cabinet” so that I knew roughly where that scene would occur. The only part of the book that I wrote all at once and in order were the Hope diary entries—with all the skipping around in time and through memory that the other characters do, I wanted the reader to at least have one point-of-view character who told their story in a traditional, chronological manner!

Do you have a favorite Jones child?

Nope. That would be something like saying I favor one of my children over the other, wouldn’t it? I love all the Jones kids, deeply. The challenge of writing about siblings was new to me, however. I’m an only child, and although I daydreamed about having brothers and sisters for much of my childhood, that hardly qualified me to write about them in a credible way! I’ll be interested to hear from people who have brothers and sisters to see if I got it right. I love meeting people’s families. I’m always asking folks about their families and never tire hearing about what it’s like to have siblings.

Also—and I’m not sure if this was a conscious choice at the very beginning of the writing process, but it certainly became conscious over time—I gave each of the Jones children different parts of myself—the flawed parts, that is. This helped me feel a personal, empathetic connection with each of them—and perhaps allowed me to avoid the danger of favoritism. (Actors have to do this, too: find the common ground that you share with the character, so that you don’t stand outside of them and judge them. The worst thing an actor playing Lady Macbeth could do would be to think of her as a “bad” person. But that’s another discussion.)

So Larken got my body image problems and my desperate need to please; Gaelan got my innate fear of being undeserving of anything good and of being “found out” as someone who’s not terribly competent or bright; Bonnie got my obsession with looking for signs and my sometimes unhealthy preoccupation with the little picture. And my frustration with blenders.

There is a point in the novel where the reader knows all the big answers, but the details—Hope’s final actions, her location, the details in her diary, the letters she wrote—are never going to be known to Viney and the Jones children. It seems that denying them that information is a key element in keeping the ending from being too pat, too standard “happy ending.” Their challenge is to achieve redemption/resolution without benefit of this knowledge. Only then can they move on in their own lives. Still, did you worry about things working out too easily, too completely?

Interesting that you ask this, because in the first draft of the book, the siblings found Hope’s body. That initial resolution did indeed seem too easy, too pat. It also undermined the substantial growth the characters had found without that deus ex machina.

And in the end, I became interested in the kind of people— there are so many in this world and in these times—who have to learn to live with that very special kind of unresolved grief, the grief of never receiving what Hope calls “the gift of bones.” I was interested in trying to bring my characters to a place where—even if they couldn’t ever get over Hope’s death or that fact that her body’s whereabouts would always be a mystery—they could at least believe that she was somewhere, and that a relationship with her was possible.

Hope writes in one of the entries about how she wants her children to be able to find her after she is gone, not in the things she leaves behind (which would include a body) but in the air they breathe. In her suicide note, she encourages them to “turn the coin over” and find her on the other side of heartbreak. I wanted the characters to learn over the course of the story to do this, to find her elsewhere—in the gestures and expressions of strangers, in music, in coincidental encounters. Because after all, this is really the only way we can really find those we’ve lost. They’re not in their coffins, not really. They’re not lingering in the vicinity of their remains. They’re somewhere else. I’ve come to believe that if one is open for business, the dead make themselves known to us. They have ways of saying hello. That’s been my experience, anyway. Knowing where a loved one is buried is a comfort, to be sure. But in this story, I wanted to look at how people might come to find comfort and redemption and the ability to move on without that knowledge.

The Welsh elements in SING THEM HOME create such a strong and unique community. Do you have any personal connections that you drew on to create this community?

Wymore, Nebraska, has a strong Welsh heritage— I didn’t know this when I lived there, it was only after I visited in April of 2004 with my dad in the interest of research that I learned about this. There is a Welsh Heritage Museum in Wymore, and a great deal of pride surrounds that historical legacy. Part of my research involved understanding why the Welsh settled in Nebraska. Another part was understanding what it means to be Welsh, why there is pride surrounding that. It’s not a culture that most of us have an immediate, clear sense of—at least I didn’t. It’s not like Italy or France or Greece—most of us have ideas, even if they’re erroneous, about what it would mean to be from one of those countries. But Wales? What does it mean to be proud of being Welsh?

The Welsh component gives the people of Emlyn Springs something that is unique to them, something that wouldn’t necessarily get them on the front page of a newspaper (or even the back page of a travel brochure) but which endows them with a sense of pride. Thus the special funeral celebration evolved over the years, Fancy Egg Days, the speaking of Welsh. I very much wanted the town of Emlyn Springs to be a character in the book, and for the sense of place to contribute in a large way to the characters’ stories.

I think sometimes it’s easy for people from larger communities to write off small towns as bland, culturally deprived, and unenlightened, as places where nothing daring or outrageous ever happens. And yet, people make their lives and deaths in those small towns and are often very proud of their communities. When a natural disaster strikes such places (and we’ve had no limit on that kind of story lately, it seems) the fortitude and courage of those small town folks astounds me.

I heard an interview with Wendell Berry when I was working on this book—he was reflecting on something that was happening in a small town in West Virginia, I believe, talking about a certain kind of mining being done there that essentially removes a mountain, bit by bit, from the top down. He said something that made its way into the book—it was about the special kind of suffering these people were experiencing, a unique suffering that comes from loving a place that has been utterly destroyed. Small town people have that kind of love. It’s a unique courage and one I very much wanted to commemorate in this book.

In regard to your first novel, Broken for You, you once discussed how you wrote letters to some of the characters while or after you had finished writing the book. Did you need to write a letter to any of the characters in SING THEM HOME?

The only character I remember being slightly recalcitrant in the early stages was Larken, and I think we did have an epistolary exchange at one point early on. She’s just not a warm and fuzzy, trusting type, and I also think she needed to be reassured that I wasn’t judging her based on her looks. There was also a lot of shyness/resistance about writing the sex scenes—particularly the first time that Viney and Welly get together. But I think that came less from the characters and more from me. I’m very shy about writing sex scenes. My agent and my editor had to really nudge me hard to get those written. I’m glad they did. They really needed to be in there.

Now that you have finished the second novel, which can be so difficult for many authors, are you working on a third?

I’ve just started daydreaming about the third novel, taking notes in my journal, reading books related to the territory I expect to explore, mining my dreams. Again, I’ll be revisiting a subject and characters that have had a fascination for me for years. Ghosts, talking to the dead, the Spiritualism movement in America, the intersection of the creative impulse and religious faith—that’s some of what I’ll be obsessing about for the next few years.

I really do feel as though it was a huge milestone getting through that second book— which, if you listen to the majority opinion, is doomed. Amy Tan’s essay “Angst and the Second Novel” was a tremendous comfort, and it’s something every writer struggling with that second book should read. I passed it on to my editor, who didn’t know of it. She immediately photocopied it for all her colleagues at Grove and now I understand it’s required reading!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

February 2009 Selection: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

This month, we're reading historical fiction best-seller, "People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks.

In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding-an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-she begins to unlock the book's mysteries.

Hanna's investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra- nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love.

Join us Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 7 P.M. at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Place Mall for a phone chat with the author. Please RSVP by e-mailing us here.