Monday, December 06, 2010

December Speaking Volumes Selection: The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir

Typically when you think of holiday books, you think of sweet, quaint holiday stories full of magic and mirth. As we progress into our sixth year of book club selections, we have chosen a decidedly offbeat yet thoroughly charming holiday book, “The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir” by Ken Harmon as our December pick.

Harmon, who holds a very serious day job at Wells Fargo writing much of the bank’s marketing materials, decided to tweak this holiday tradition. The result is a book that is both unexpected and thrilling. Harmon took some time out of his very busy schedule to answer our questions.

South Charlotte Weekly: What inspired you to write "The Fat Man?"

Ken Harmon: Most of the stories we have about the North Pole, the main characters are very sweet or befuddled, but good at heart. Don’t they ever get tired? Don't they ever have a bad day? When I started asking these questions, I began to imagine the different jobs elves and others could have in the North Pole machine and started to explore what that world would be like. If things aren't always hunky-dory, then there would have to be some kind of law enforcement - that's where my elf detective of sorts, Gumdrop Coal, was born. SCW: The book has a definite Raymond Chandler-esque tint. What were your influences? Are you a fan of noirs, books and movies?

KH: I am a big fan of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and the fun they have with the language. I reread The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon and some other works to study the rhythm of the language and re-discovered some of the great slang from that genre. I am also a

fan of the old, black and white detective movies of the 40's and re-watched quite a few of those.

To put those tough-talking, hard-boiled guys and dames into the world of the North Pole was where the fun came. It was a great time.

SCW: What was it about Christmas that inspired you to set the story during that period?

KH: In the secular Christmas, there is naughty and nice - a fixed battle between good and evil - conflict that every story needs. We can all identify with the part of Christmas that's full of drama and anxiety as we try to work through that to get to the peaceful promise of the holidays. We see people getting violent in lines shopping for toys. We get angry at traffic and lines. I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if characters at the North Pole did too - and then take it a step beyond.

SCW: How did you manage writing and your full-time job at Wells Fargo? Seems like the skill sets are dynamic opposites? Did that provide a good counter balance for each job?

KH: I get up very early in the morning to do my fiction writing. It's quiet and I can concentrate more easily. The marketing work at Wells Fargo is much more collaborative with lots of going back and forth. The writing of the novel was fun because I had more than a headline or a short paragraph to tell a story. The two kinds of writing do demand two different skill sets, but they do help each other. Even in the novel, I found myself trying to write as descriptively while being as concise as possible.

Meet the author

Join us on Tuesday, Dec. 28, at 7PM at the Barnes & Noble at Carolina Place Mall to discuss the book with its author. Please RSVP by e-mailing

Google Launches eBookstore

If you're a reader who is digitally connected, life just got a little sweeter!

Today Google launched their new eBookstore where you can download eBooks onto your reading devices or on your PC. In addition to all the usual suspects you can buy, "The Help," "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" and "Freedom," you can also download a fair amount of free ebooks, including Oprah's latest book club picks, "A Tale of Two Cities" and "Great Expectations."

Over 3 million books are available! Check it out by clicking here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Anne Fortier Chat Rescheduled

Due to a number of tech issues, we had to reschedule the video chat with author Anne Fortier.

We so apologize to all those who were at Barnes & Noble and those who tried to log on at home. We're trying to find a date to resked with the author. It will most likely be towards the end of December.

Many thanks to all and thank you for your patience!

All the best,

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Online video chat with "Juliet" author Anne Fortier

Hi all,

Please join us Monday, Nov. 22 at 7 PM to chat with author "Juliet" Anne Fortier.
This is an AMAZING book! And you'll enjoy talking with this spectacular author.
You can join us in one of two ways:
1. You can come watch the video chat at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Place Mall. Come to the second floor and ask for Becky, who will be in the cookbook section.
2. You can participate in the chat from the comfort of your home or office with the following directions below.

Details to chat with "Juliet" author Anne Fortier.

Join our online webinar:

The meeting password is: books.

You can use your own computer's speakers and microphone to chat with the author.

2. Or you can just listen to the audio portion of the call. Call-in at toll number 408-600-3600 and put in the access code:807 175 737.

Have any questions? E-mail me at



Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ready to write a novel?

This is it, book lovers!

Nov. 1 begins National Novel Writing Month! That means you get to join people all over the world who have decided to shun all the excuses and just do it! Write, write, and write! Every day for a month!

It's pretty exciting. And it's all free!

Thank you to fellow book club member Lena Claxton, who's running a great new writer's retreat in Jamaica, who reminded me of all of this this morning.

Learn more here on the National Novel Writing Month website.

Who's in?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Speaking Volumes Selection for November: Juliet by Anne Fortier

The lushly beautiful book, "Juliet" by author Anne Fortier is our book club selection for November. We'll be chatting with the author live on the web via video so everyone who is a fan can join in. Details to come! But mark your calendar. The event will be Monday, Nov. 22 at 7 PM.

Keep checking back for new news or sign up for updates on this blog and get the latest news in your inbox!

-Happy reading!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Review of "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest"

From our book club member and guest reviewer Adriana L. Medina

A “hornet’s nest” usually refers to a contentious situation. So if you stir the hornet’s nest you are likely to make people uncomfortable and upset. However, if you kick the hornet’s nest, you can better believe that an army of “hornets” are coming after you with a vengeance. That is exactly what comes to pass in Stieg Larsson’s final installment of the Millennium Trilogy, "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest."

This third novel is much like the first two in that the story jump starts from the first page, in this case, right where we left off in book two, but then slows down as additional back-story is provided through exposition. There are new characters introduced and their relationship to the “hornet’s nest” or Sweden’s security police, and the criminal investigations surrounding the murders for which Salander is the prime suspect, are slowly revealed. A few of these new characters are on Salander’s side; however, most are not. Those out to get revenge will sacrifice even themselves to protect the “nest,” the other “workers,” and the “cells” they have created over time. Since Salander is in critical condition due to a gun shot to her head, this time, it’s Bloomkvist’s turn to outwit the “hornets” and he does so by pulling a few pages from Salander’s book. Still, Salander, in her true fashion, also does her part to undermine authority and through her own methods take the law into her own hands for what she deems to be justice.

This novel does tie back to the first one and once the reader sees the parallels and Salander’s choices are revealed, he/she will agree that Salander has matured over the course of the trilogy. She is capable of maintaining her sights on the bigger picture and of making better choices. And while her kick of the hornet’s nest does create quite a stir and many problems for her and others, ultimately, like any good crime thriller, lose ends are tied up, the crime is solved and exposed, the “hornets” are captured and the “nest” is eliminated, and the detective, who in this trilogy is sometimes involved in criminal activities herself, proves that she has more wits and fury than a nest of hornets.

"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" is available wherever books are sold.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Review of "Look Again" by Lisa Scottoline

Review by book club member and book blogger Cheryl McDermitt.

"Look Again" is another wonderful mystery/thriller written by Lisa Scottoline! I have to admit at first when I saw the subject matter of this book I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. Stories about abducted children aren’t the genre I usually read. I am glad I read this one though.

Ellen Gleeson is a Philadelphia reporter who adopted this sick little child named Will. She juggles work and home life like any other single mother. She has a very competent nanny named Connie to help her out with Will. One day she picks up her mail and staring her in the face is a card with an age-processed photo of a little boy named Timothy Braverman and he had been abducted in Florida . Ellen can’t stop thinking of how much the little boy on the card looks so much like her Will. Ellen’s mind constantly goes back to the little boy in the picture and she starts investigating her son’s birth mother. During the length of the investigation she finds out the attorney that handled Will’s adoption commited suicide 3 weeks after the adoption, the supposed birth mother, Amy can’t be questioned because she died of a drug overdose and according to Amy’s mother Amy could never get pregnant. Ellen tries to locate a man who was Amy’s boyfriend at the time of the abduction of the Braverman boy. Ellen keeps going back and forth in her mind about whether Will could be Timothy Braverman or not. Her instincts are telling her they are one in the same but her Dad tells her to leave well enough alone and her present attorney tells her the same thing.

In a desperate attempt to find out the truth Ellen flies to Miami where the Braverman’s live. She finds their home and parks out on the street watching them. All the time it is driving her deeper and deeper towards danger. You really need to read this book to find out how the story unfurls-it is worth the read!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

David Sedaris Visits Charlotte; Signs 'Squirrel', Sings Praises

Photo by Anne Fishbein

Almost every year, America’s beloved humorist and best-selling author David Sedaris visits Charlotte to read from his latest work, albeit a book, an essay or even bits from his journal. This week, the author’s visit to the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center featured a happier, shinier version of the author who enchanted the packed Belk Theater leaving the audience more uplifted and enlightened than when they arrived.

Sedaris fans are an interesting cross section of the community that might not ordinarily come together in one space. There were his National Public Radio fans; (Sedaris breakthrough the comedy barrier with his piece for Ira Glass on what it was like to be an elf in Macy’s Santaland in NYC.) And then there were commuters who delight in hearing his exquisite and unique voice read his numerous best-selling books such as “Me Talk Pretty”,Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim” and “When Engulfed in Flames.” And then there were the progressive, forward-thinking citizens that delight in Sedaris’ acid tongue and rapier wit.

Sedaris on stage is something to behold. All he needs is a few well-chosen essays and you could feel the laughter of the packed audience here to see North Carolina’s favorite son buoy to higher levels of delight. The author’s newest book (which he reminded the audience is now No. 5 on the New York Times best-seller’s list) is “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.” “One might call them a set of fables; but they are not,” Sedaris opened. “Fables have morals. These are a collection of animal stories where the animals act like people.”

Indeed his latest book can easily be best described as animals gone awry or at least gone human. And with his incredible attention to detail, animals take on the type of qualities we humans might be afraid to mock in ourselves. However in animals, it’s all together charming.

The collection of stories includes “Motherless Bear”, “The Parenting Storks” and “The Grieving Owl,” which Sedaris read for the howling crowd. The story is about how a great horned owl, that recently lost his spouse, spends the rest of his time trying to become a more informed creature by asking his prey to teach him something. Sadly, just as he does and lets the animal go, a family member will swoop down for the kill. “It’s easier than doing it alone; think of the hours I’m saving, the owl’s sister shrieked,” he read.

Sedaris and friends on tape
Normally one of the best things about a new Sedaris book is the audio book version, which features his deadpan delivery and inimitable voice. For the uninitiated, his comic stylings are as unique as Woody Allen or Chris Rock. This time, “Squirrel” features the vocal talents of three other contributors who breathe a new twist into the author’s words. “When I write these stories I keep reading them aloud over and over and testing the material in front of audiences,” he said. “But when you hear (Broadway legend) Elaine Stritch read the sentence and talk about the Motherless Bear in her own way, it’s pure delight.”

To keep producing quality work takes a commitment to the craft. Sedaris told the audience that he writes for at least four hours a day, every day of the week, splitting the work between morning and evening. “After any more than four hours of sitting in front of the computer and it becomes time to check out YouTube for videos of animals eating other animals,” he opined.

The stop in Charlotte was one of many; the author will visit 36 cities in 37 days and then begin a four-week book tour to promote “Squirrel.” Sally Brewster and Frazer Dobson, owners of the esteemed Park Road Books who have often been the bookseller of choice on his visits, commented on the author’s convivial air at the Belk. “You can tell he’s happier and more relaxed this time around,” said Brewster.

Part of that can be attributed to the author’s new healthier lifestyle: he’s quit smoking and works out regularly. He even had time to offer praise for a Charlotte institution. “Do you all know how lucky you are to have an amazing YMCA?” Sedaris offered praising the Dowd. “They will all be friendly, but swimming in the pool at the Hilton was amazing!”

Sedaris rounded the evening out by sharing essays such as “Stand By” about the travails of airline traveling and selections from his journal. It can be intimidating to think, ‘who can be funny even in their journal?’ But as audience members lined up to get their book inscribed and chat with the delightful author, the author asked those in line to share their favorite joke. As many comic tidbits flowed forth it became obvious, this man knows how to not only be funny but help others delight in the humor of life as well.

“Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk” is now available at booksellers everywhere.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review of Opera Carolina's "Cosi Fan Tutte"

There are many reasons art enriches life. Besides its beauty and its spectacle, it speaks truth.

Recently, I've been musing a lot about the role of love in one's life. It's very easy to somehow forget how transformational true love really is. We all get busy with work, family and just day-to-day life and even if we have a beloved in our lives; it becomes very easy to forget the magic.

Opera Carolina's premier offering of the season, Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutte" reminded me just how important love really is. And more importantly not questioning or testing love but believing, accepting and surrendering to its power.

At the heart of the story lies two sisters who are faithfully devoted to their beaus. However a world weary older man convinces their boyfriends that they could be swayed by their devotion. And therein the plot unfolds.

To say more might ruin the fun. But take a dash of "The Road" movies with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, add some modern goddesses and add some the lushly inspired music of one of the world's greatest composers and you begin to understand what a delightful experience "Cosi" offers.

James Meena's thoughtful staging of the show really helped make the plot relevant and realistic. Originally Mozart wrote this as a contemporary piece in the 1790s but Meena updated the period to the 1920s/30s and used a somewhat contemporary set from "The Transit of Venus." This helps make the opera far more approachable than if it had stayed in the 18th century. Even though stories of love are universal, the updated staging and costumes helps the audience just relax and slip into the beautiful arias.

The opera talent on stage -the combined talents of Robert Mack (Ferrando), Caitlin Lynch (Fiordiligi), Elizabeth Stannard (Dorabella) and Marian Pop (Guglielmo) - are uniformly spectacular. Together with Sarah Callinan and Krisopher Irmiter, as Despina and Don Alfonso, respectively, the cast puts forth a world class offering. They make the quartets and sextets reach incredible heights as well as shine in their solo arias.

Ultimately the story leaves you wondering to the end how this romantic folly will play out. But I walked away feeling more hopeful about love than before and being grateful how great art can inspire great living. See "Cosi Fan Tutte" before its run finishes this week at the Belk and remember the magic of love!

To learn more or purchase tickets, visit CarolinaTix.

Alison Woo
Carolina Weekly Newsgroup

Friday, October 15, 2010

Opera Carolina's Cosi Fan Tutte

Opera Carolina launches its new season with “Cosi Fan Tutte,” featuring, from left to right, Robert Mack (Ferrando), Caitlin Lynch (Fiordiligi), Elizabeth Stannartd (Dorabella) and Marian Pop (Guglielmo).

Ah, Mozart. Nothing really does it for me more then a bit of Wolfgang.

That's why I'm super excited to be going to Cosi Fan Tutte, Opera Carolina's debut offering this season.

There are still tickets left so join me! With performances Saturday, Oct. 16, Sunday at 2 PM (that's the one I'm going to!) and Thursday night, Oct. 21, you still have plenty of chances to join in the magic. Here's more details.

I had the great fortune of sitting down with the esteemed conductor of Opera Carolina, James Meena, who is now in his 11th season with the beloved arts organization. Read my article here.

If you can't make it this weekend, I'll be tweeting and blogging more. Be sure to follow me on Twitter by clicking here. I'll give you all the inside scoop on what's bound to be the premier event of the season!
See you at the opera!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Speaking Volumes Selection for October: The Works of Laura Esquivel

Photo courtesy of Simon and Schuster

To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, we've decided to do something completely different. Rather than just read one book, we're going to open it up to any or all five of the compelling works from one of the most popular and enduring authors of modern literature, Laura Esquivel.

Laura Esquivel is a Mexican born author who sprang to fame more than twenty years ago with her brilliant work, "Like Water for Chocolate." The story started as a series of installments that captured the tales of Tita and Pedro. Being thwarted from pursuing their love, Pedro marries Tita's sister, Rosaura. The two spend the next twenty years under the same roof while Tita shares her love through food. The lyrical novel offers recipes and romance in such a poetic manner; it instantly became one of the most successful books written by a Latino author of all time.

It was No. 1 on the best-sellers list for more than three years and was translated into 23 languages. The book also became a movie, with the screenplay written by Esquivel herself and directed by her husband, Alfonso Arau.

Esquivel's second book, "The Law of Love," did not achieve as much success as its predecessor but offers a tale of magic realism at its best. The story revolves around Azucena and her beloved Rodrigo and their fate of finding love through different ages. It's lushly romantic and it pushed the forms of literary convention in a time when such things were not heard of. The book comes with a CD, the songs of which are geared to trigger certain emotion and memories for the characters, and a Manga-esque storyboard. This is hands down my favorite book and the one I'd be taking with me on a desert island, given the choice of just five books.

In 2000, she followed up "Love" with a collection of essays on love, food, romance in To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, we've decided to do something completely different. Rather than just read one book, we're going to open it up to any or all five of the compelling works from one of the most popular and enduring authors of modern literature, Laura Esquivel.

Laura Esquivel is a Mexican born author who sprang to fame more than twenty years ago with her brilliant work, "Like Water for Chocolate." The story started as a series of installments that captured the tales of Tita and Pedro. Being thwarted from pursuing their love, Pedro marries Tita's sister, Rosaura. The two spend the next twenty years under the same roof while Tita shares her love through food. The lyrical novel offers recipes and romance in such a poetic manner; it instantly became one of the most successful books written by a Latino author of all time.

It was No. 1 on the best-sellers list for more than three years and was translated into 23 languages. The book also became a movie, with the screenplay written by Esquivel herself and directed by her husband, Alfonso Arau.

Esquivel's second book, "The Law of Love," did not achieve as much success as its predecessor but offers a tale of magic realism at its best. The story revolves around Azucena and her beloved Rodrigo and their fate of finding love through different ages. It's lushly romantic and it pushed the forms of literary convention in a time when such things were not heard of. The book comes with a CD, the songs of which are geared to trigger certain emotion and memories for the characters, and a Manga-esque storyboard. This is hands down my favorite book and the one I'd be taking with me on a desert island, given the choice of just five books.

In 2000, she followed up "Love" with a collection of essays on love, food, romance in "Between the Fires." Shortly thereafter, she penned "Swift as Desire" an intriguing story about true love and what happens when communication, or lack of it, distorts it.

Most recently, Esquivel wrote "Malinche" based upon the real-life story of the translator who worked for Herman Cortes, the Spanish conqueror. Malinche holds a controversial place in history and was seen by many as a traitor to her people. But Esquivel does a noble job examining her plight as a woman caught between two worlds. The author travels a familiar, yet satisfying, route of navigating the territory of dancing between one's head and heart.

In all of her books, the author captures an elevated sense of life and love in such a darling and endearing way, it's really hard to pick a favorite. "Chocolate" was a previous book club selection but for all our new members, feel free to start your voyage of discovery with this book or any of the others mentioned here.

Save the Date
We're still working out details but we'll be meeting on Monday, Oct. 25 at 7 PM to discuss the book at a festive location sharing delicious and authentic Latin-inspired food! Check this column next week for more or visit our blog at: for details.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Speaking Volumes Radio Show: Live Chat with NYT Best Selling Author Jennifer Crusie

Author Jennifer Crusie

Hi everyone! Please note we've had to make a quick change on the date for this event.
Join me LIVE on Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 7 PM EST as we chat with New York Times best-selling author Jennifer Crusie,who has just returned to the literary scene with her first solo novel in years, "Maybe This Time."

Click here to listen to the show or call us at (347) 539-5852 to ask Jennifer a question!

We'll talk about her latest book, the writing life and what she's working on now!

Have a question? You can also e-mail it to me at

Note: This live chat will be recorded for future listening.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Speaking Volumes Selection for September: The Wet Nurse's Tale

As the days shorten, it feels like the time to curl up with a great book lengthens. This September as we continue our sixth year of our newspapers’ signature book club, Speaking Volumes, we choose a book that looks at the daring choices women made in the past. “The Wet Nurse’s Tale” by North Carolina native Erica Eisdorfer is a story of intrigue and romance set in the midst of Victorian England.

The main character jumps off the page in a sort of “Upstairs/Downstairs” type of saga which keeps you on the edge of your seat. After tragedy befalls Susan Rose, she is forced to become a wet nurse for a wealthy family. Soon she finds more trouble but it’s Rose’s plucky character and resolve to reunite her family that keeps her going. Rose is a character you won’t soon forget.

Meet the author
Join us on Sept. 27 at 7 PM at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Place Mall to discuss this exciting new book, now in paperback, with the book’s author Erica Eisdorfer. The Duke grad discusses her debut novel and the writing life. Please RSVP by e-mailing us at

Happy reading!

Alison Woo

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Come join us at Eat, Pray, Love movie night!

Join us Tuesday, August 17 at 7:35 PM at the AMC Carolina Pavillion 22 on 9541 South Boulevard, Charlotte, NC to watch a book club favorite movie, "Eat, Pray, Love" starring Julia Roberts. Please RSVP by e-mailing

We'll meet inside the theater! Hope to see you there!

Enjoy the trailer!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Speaking Volumes Selection for August: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

The one thing that has propelled our book club readers through all the diverse books we have read over the six years of book club is this: our own love of reading. Reading has a way of expanding your horizons the way nothing else can. British author Alan Bennett’s brilliant and whimsical novella takes a bit of literary license to look at this weighty topic.

As we begin “The Uncommon Reader” by Alan Bennett we meet Queen Elizabeth II who discovers there is a book bus that visits the palace weekly. To her surprise, she finds that reading becomes a consuming passion. And the insights she gleans about herself and the power of reading are both insightful and universal.

At 112 pages, this novella is a brisk and bright read!

Join us on August 19 at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Place Mall at 7 PM to discuss this delicious book and your own passion for reading. Please RSVP at



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Speaking Volumes for July – LIVE Online Author Chat with Maryann McFadden, So Happy Together

As we hit the peak of the summer season, it seems like the perfect time to read one of our book club’s favorite authors. Our July selection is Maryann McFadden’s newest novel now in paperback, “So Happy Together” - an intergenerational family story that takes place on Cape Cod. McFadden authored our previous book club pick, “The Richest Season.”

Considering everyone’s schedule, we’ve made this book club event convenient for all. You can call in via telephone or log on via your computer to watch live video of author Maryann McFadden from your own beach house or summer hideaway.

The live book club author chat takes place on Monday, July 26 at 7 PM. Here's how to participate:
1. You can call in on your phone at:
1-408-600-3600; then type in access code:803 937 381. can log in to WATCH the video online by clicking:
The password is: bookclub
If you have trouble and need the meeting number, it is: 803 937 381
Please RSVP by e-mailing Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Speaking Volumes Selection for June 2010: Return to Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Benton Frank

Come celebrate the beginning of summer and Speaking Volumes’ sixth anniversary Monday, June 28 at 5:30 PM at McCormick and Schmick at SouthPark.

This month we’re reading “Return to Sullivan Island” by Dorothea Benton Frank. We’ll discuss the book while partaking in M &S’s most excellent happy hour goodies! Click HERE for the menu (which BTW they've mentioned can change, but at least it gives you a good idea of the plethora of possibilites for just $1.95!) Please be advised, all food and drink will be the responsibility of the purchaser.

Kindly RSVP by e-mailing For more info, visit our blog, which is linked on our website,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Want to Get Your Book Published?

Writers, want to learn some inside secrets of the publishing business?

Katharine Sands, literary agent at the Sarah Jane Freymann Agency and agent provocateur of the book, "Making the Perfect Pitch," will appear as a guest on the "Your Book Is Your Hook!" Show Tuesday, May 18th, 2010, 9:00am on Ms. Sands talks about what authors need to know to catch a literary agent's eye. She also discusses how authors can make the perfect pitch for their books and how she uses her book as her hook.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Creation of Eve - Date for Book Club Set!

Hello all!

FYI, the new date for "The Creation of Eve" discussion with author Lynn Cullen is set for Friday, May 28 at 7 PM EST.

Please RSVP by e-mailing me at

See you there!


Sunday, May 09, 2010

May 2010 Book Club Selection: The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

We're reading the amazing book, "The Creation of Eve" for May's book club.
Originally it was scheduled that we meet Monday, May 17 but we're moving the date to the last week of May. We're trying to secure the exact date with the author now but we're hoping to meet with the author via SKYPE. Stay tuned to this blog for more details.
But in the meantime, happy reading!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Looking for a Great Read for your Mom?

The best book I've read this season hands down is the new book from NPR: Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps.

It's filled with beautiful vignettes about the impact of mothers on a number of people's lives. And these little bite-size delights are perfect for the mom on the go (BTW, what mom do you know who doesn't multitask?)

Buy a copy for your mom, yourself and your friends! You won't be sorry you did.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Listen to our book club chat with Adriana Trigiani

If you couldn't call in Monday night, no worries. Here's our chat with best-selling author Adriana Trigiani.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

DETAILS for Adriana Trigiani LIVE Book Chat TONIGHT!

Hi everyone,

The chat with Adriana Trigiani is over but look to this website tomorrow morning as we will post the link. Wasn't she just the BEST?

She truly is an extraordinary talent! Watch the videos below for more!


My Favorite Adriana Trigiani Video Clips

As we get ready to chat with the ONLY AUTHOR who has been a CW' Speaking Volumes author four times, I thought it would be great to share some of her amazing videos.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Speaking Volumes Selection for April 2010: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Hi all!

A quick reminder: We're meeting with author Robert Goolrick IN PERSON on Friday, April 23 in the early evening (more details soon!) at Park Road Books.

Hope you're enjoying all the great reading!

All the best,

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Speaking Volumes Pick for March 2010: Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

It’s shaping up to be a glorious spring!

Speaking Volumes, Carolina Weekly Newsgroup's book club, has selected Adriana Trigiani’s newest book, “Brava, Valentine” as its pick for March.

Adriana holds a very special place in our heart. She kicked off our very FIRST book club meeting on June 27, 2005! See the photo above! And here we are, still going strong.

And so is she! I just finished this book and I never thought I'd love anything more than the Big Stone Gap series but seriously, this is FABULOUS! Read the review of her newest book below this post.

We will be hosting an exclusive phone chat with the author from her home in NYC on Tuesday, March 30 from 7-8PM.
Book clubs or individuals interested in participating can do so from the comfort of their own homes. E-mail us at to receive the direct call-in information for the event.
Looking forward to hearing from you all soon!

Book Review: Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

“Brava, Valentine” is the latest and second installment in a series written by New York Times best-selling author Adriana Trigiani, who sold more than 8 million copies of her uber popular “Big Stone Gap” series.

The series revolves around Valentine Roncalli, a shoe designer who works in New York City’s Greenwich Village, following literally in the family footsteps. Her grandfather Michel was a brilliant creative artist and founder of Angellini’s Shoes. And now with her grandfather’s passing, the prospect of modernizing the custom shoemaker’s business lies on the shoulders of Valentine. She’s a 35-year-old woman who at the book’s open is in Tuscany with her family celebrating the marriage of her beloved grandmother to the man who supplied the shoemakers with supple leather.

Valentine has all the modern conveniences and challenges of most single, 30-something women: demanding work, the desire to have a fulfilling relationship, meddlesome family members, a gay best friend and wondering if this is all there is in life.

At the wedding in Italy, Valentine reconnects with former flame Gianluca Vechiarelli, son of the octogenarian groom, and she flirts with the idea of romance, all while trying to launch the ready-to-wear line of shoes that hopes to keep the company’s fortunes and future afloat during challenging economic times. Her grandmother asks her to work with her cantankerous brother, a former Merrill Lynch banker who had been downsized, to help revive the family’s signature business.

What elevates this story is Trigiani’s uncanny ability to take the intricate family dynamics and dialogue and mesh them in a way that lifts off the page from melodrama to the situation every reader has experienced or can imagine. Whether Valentine is dealing with her parents, or drama between her sisters, it’s the relationships in all of Trigiani’s books that bind readers to the author and bring them back for more. Trigiani is a superbly skilled writer adept who creates characters that resonates with readers long after the books are through.

When it comes to classifying her books, Trigiani’s genre is known as “women’s fiction” but her talent lies beyond even that or even that dreaded label – “chick-lit.” No, these are thinking women’s books. And as the ultimate Renaissance women herself – she is an accomplished playwright, screenwriter – the author is perfectly suited for examining the multitudes of conflicting options women have in the 2010’s and beyond.

“Brava” is a standalone book; those who did not read the first installment, “Very Valentine” can pick it up and enjoy it as an individual book. But as in most series of note, it will nevertheless entice readers to start at the beginning, albeit out of order because this series is a delicious read.

“Brava, Valentine” is available at booksellers everywhere.

Join us on Tuesday, March 30 at 7 PM as we chat LIVE with author Adriana Trigiani. E-mail us at for more details!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Breaking News: Book Club to Meet with Author Robert Golrick in Person

It's rare, OK, never, that I've used that phrase to blog about but seriously, this is as good as it gets!

Just finished chatting with Park Road Book's most excellent Frazier Dobson. And guess what book club fans? While I was working on getting Robert Golrick, author of "A Reliable Wife" to chat with us in March, they were working on getting him to come to Charlotte in person. So we're combining forces and will host one, super duper event on Friday, April 23. More details to come but thought you should all know this instantly!

So keep reading...but now you have time for work, family and such.

Stay tuned for what will now be the NEW March pick.

The April selection will be "A Reliable Wife."

- Alison

Book Review: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert

How does a successful author follow up mega-wattage success? That question has plagued best-selling writers since they started keeping track of book sales. (Hello, Shakespeare!) Elizabeth Gilbert answered that question by writing a book that’s quite different than “Eat, Pray, Love,” the book that vaulted her to literary superstardom. For the uninitiated, “EPL” was Gilbert’s best-selling divorce memoir and carried the author’s distinctive and lyrical voice as she travelled through Italy, India and Bali.

Her success became the pinnacle of the memoir genre and inspired Oprah and Julia Roberts to come knocking. Both women bought dozens of copies for friends; Oprah hosted on her show several times and Roberts is currently turning “EPL” into a major motion picture.

In “Committed” Gilbert picks up the story where “EPL” left off with the author still romantically entangled with her darling Felipe. The book opens with a prologue that attempts to answer the question of following up success. Her answer: The feat is impossible. So she decided to go in a totally different direction. The result is a book that takes an almost anthropological, Margaret Mead-esque approach to the how’s and why’s of marriage.

The book’s prologue points out that Gilbert had been working on a manuscript for a year before she decided the tone was too self conscious. Not wanting to repeat her work line-for-line she threw the baby out (with the bathwater!) and started afresh.

Gilbert and her amore were content to stay united in partnership, not marriage, until the Homeland Security Department got involved and questioned Felipe’s legal status to remain in the U.S. A kindly U.S. Customs agent suggests the one way to get around the complications was to marry and therein our heroine begins her tale.

Fans of “EPL” will find the same type of delicious writing that propelled Gilbert to success with that tome and her previous books and magazine career. The only downside is that the stunning moments of beauty are knitted together with some prose that can sometimes feel pedantic. Readers looking for a repeat of the same type of navel gazing about the inner workings of one of human kind’s most vaulted institution might ultimately be disappointed. Limited to the conventions of marriage, albeit crossing a span of age and cultures, Gilbert’s limited topic and extreme focus can sometimes feel like neurosis.

As a writer, Gilbert is like a Golden Retriever with a sunny disposition and willingness to please. “To thine own self be true,” Hamlet’s Polonius reminds us. She does accomplish her mission. Though her readers may want to know what happens next. The book ends on the not-too surprising conclusion but leaves you craving more. Perhaps she’s saving those details for Book 3. No matter. Gilbert’s ability to turn a phrase and her ability to elevate the mundane to the magical guarantees her a legion of loyal and committed readers.

“Committed” is available at booksellers everywhere.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Feb. 2010 Book Club Selection: Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Join us Monday, Feb. 22 at 7 PM at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Place Mall for our discussion of Elizabeth Giberts newest book, "Committed." Please RSVP by e-mailing

Hope you're having a great month!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Interview with Game Change Authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

A Conversation with "Game Change" authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann

A few questions and answers from the authors of THE must-read book of 2010.



Q: Given the amount of coverage available during the 2008 election, why does the world need yet another campaign book?

A: The idea for the book arose in the spring of 2008 out of a pair of firm convictions. The first was that the election we had both been following intensely for more than a year was as riveting and historic a spectacle as modern politics had ever produced.

The second was that, despite wall-to-wall media coverage, much of the story behind the headlines had not been told. What was missing and might be of enduring value, we agreed, was an intimate portrait of the candidates and spouses who (in our judgment) stood a reasonable chance of occupying the White House: Barack and Michelle Obama, Hillary and Bill Clinton, John and Elizabeth Edwards, and John and Cindy McCain.

As you explain in the book, you conducted more than 300 interviews from more than 200 people that had a wide range of roles in the campaign. However, you did all of these interviews on “deep background,” which means you agreed not to identify the subjects as sources in any way. Why did you choose such a potentially controversial method of journalism?

We believed this was essential to eliciting the level of candor on which a book of this sort depends. To a very large extent, we were interviewing people with whom one or both of us had long-standing professional relationships, and thus a solid basis to judge both the quality of the information being provided and the veracity of the providers.

The book gives an extraordinary amount of details—specific conversations, email exchanges, etc. How did you verify this information using deep background sources?

With the help of the participants, we have reconstructed dialogue extensively—and with extreme care. Where dialogue is within quotation marks, it comes from the speaker, someone who was present and heard the remark, contemporaneous notes, or transcripts. Where dialogue is not in quotes, it is paraphrased, reflecting only a lack of certainty on the part of our sources about precise wording, not about the nature of the statements. Where specific thoughts, feelings, or states of mind are rendered in italics, they come from either the person identified or someone to whom she or he expressed those thoughts or feelings directly.

Want to see more? Watch the authors on "Charlie Rose."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Review: Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin

"Game Change" is easily the most riveting and unputdownable book of the winter 2010 season.

The basics of the story we already know. Even if you didn't pick up a newspaper or watch TV in 2008, you are familiar with the main characters in this drama: an upstart politician with limited national experience, a seasoned First Lady, the maverick, the unknown political phenom and the former U.S. Senator from North Carolina and his cancer-stricken wife. This was the playing field in the race for the land's highest office. We also know the ending. But what makes "Game Change" so fascinating is the in-depth story behind the story.

The success of the book is largely due to authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin's treatment of their subjects as flesh and blood, fully dimensional human beings. As someone who watched the campaign with interest, I remember what happened. What I often wondered about is why it happened.

"Change" answers those questions and more.

What made Obama feel like this was his time? Answer: He had a lot of backroom prodding from fervent yet undercover supporters in the Washington ranks plus a true sense of destiny.

Why did Hilliary really cry in New Hampshire? Answer: Just before that press junket, a senior campaign official suggested she throw in the towel.

Why did McCain pick Palin? Answer: It was a risk-taking choice and one he thought his party would celebrate him for.

For me, the most intriguing aspect about the book was the ability to look at the three main players - Obama, Clinton and McCain - and see their overall narrative arc. Despite their images as clear-headed leaders, Clinton and McCain come off as indecisive and hesitant. Obama was not the perfect candidate when he threw his hat in the ring. But he was someone who was dedicated to being open and learning as he trudged down the year-long path to the White House. He became a better candidate as he went along and it's this capacity for intellectual and emotional growth which makes him the hero of this story and, ultimately, of the election.

The book's most stinging rebuke is left entirely for former U.S. Senator John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth. The authors say they interviewed hundreds of staffers, who obviously based on the information gleaned here, want to remain anonymous. The details of the Edwards' downfall is staggering and sad. For someone who inspired a great deal of promise, their footnote in history will go down as one of ego and selfishness. If you're just interested in that bit of the story, read NY Magazine's fascinating excerpt. (A shout out here to Katherine Johnson, who first pointed out this tidbit to me!)

The chapters on Palin don't add anything more to what we already know- the botched Katie Couric interview, her complete lack of brain stuffing and those infamous Tina Fey impressions -but further makes readers certain that she was clearly not fit to hold the highest office in the land, if circumstances had come to that.

"Game Change" is a must read for anyone who wants to examine the forces that shape our political leaders. It's an unputdownable read and the fact that this tale is true, makes it even more potent.

I'm looking forward to their next collaboration, which I hope is the president's first year in office.

"Game Change" is available at booksellers everywhere. Tune in tomorrow for my interview with the authors!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Penn, Pattinson circle 'Water'

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One of my all-time favorite books and one of our previous book club selections, Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants," is being made into a movie.

Slated to star is Reese Witherspoon. And currently the studio is talking to Sean Penn and "Twilight's" Robert Pattinson. Read more on "Variety." Penn, Pattinson circle 'Water'

Brace for Impact Signing at Park Road Books

Hi everyone,

Who can believe it's been a year since we first heard of Capt. Sullenburger and the entire crew of US Air Flight 1548?

A number of survivors on the flight will be at Park Road Books this Saturday at 2 PM for a signing of their new book, "Brace for Impact." Visit PRB's website for more details.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Game Change: The Book I Cannot Put Down

I was thrilled to receive a copy of "Game Change" the hot new political book about the 2008 race Friday. I thought I'd read a few pages over the weekend and savor it. NOT! I cannot put this book down. My eyes were so tired from reading half the book that by Saturday night they were watering.

I'll have more later this week including an interview with the authors but wanted to share that if you are even remotely interested in living history, run, don't walk, to pick up a copy of this book.


A New Kind of Book Tour

Ever wonder what book tours are like for authors? Stephen Elliott shares his own DIY book tour in a fascinating new essay in the New York Times.

Having gone on tour last year, I can tell you that it's somewhat of a surreal experience. Sometimes you have big crowds, sometimes, not so big. But it absolutely is a completely different dimension than writing the book. One of the most satisfying, for me at least, was hearing how your book impacted a person and that they were able to put to use some of the concepts and ideas in your book to much success.

The dynamic between author and reader is so important. You need both. If you're a reader, consider going out to a reading a month. It brings a book to life in a way you probably never expected.

Monday, January 04, 2010

January 2010 Book Club Selection: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

For January, we're reading something completely different: a thriller!

"The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" by Stieg Larsson.

The plot is lengthy and fascinating and a great summary of it can be found on Barnes &

Winter feels like it's the perfect time to curl up with a mystery and a great one at that!
We'll be meeting ONLINE in our first virtual event for 2010 on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 7 PM. Kindly RSVP by e-mailing me at and I'll send you the links and all the info.
Happy January everyone!

New Year, New Beginnings!

Hello everyone and happy new year on this fourth day of January!

Isn't a fresh start a wonderful thing? It feels like the world is full of possibilities!

Did you make your resolutions yet? How's that going? One of mine is to keep this blog updated on a regular fashion. December came and went so quickly. But thank you to all who made it the Ritz Carlton to discuss "Holiday on Ice" by David Sedaris.

I'm looking for 2010 reading sugggestions. What are you reading now that you cannot put down? Winter inspires thoughts of cozying up on the sofa curled up with a fanastic read. Did you ever notice how reading is very addictive? It's a high I love!

Some of the books I am most looking forward to this season is Elizabeth Gilbert's newest "Committed" and a new bio on actor/director Warren Beatty. I've never been a huge fan of his personally but I think as an artist, he's a fantastic study. Hopefully the book won't be too tawdry.

Thanks everyone for keeping up with us for yet another great year!

Hope to see you all soon!

Alison Woo
Book Club Editor
Carolina Weekly Newsgroup