Something wild – arranging my books

I guess I could do it this way, but I think this would be hard to work with, don’t you? Image: Pixabay

It’s getting a little wild at my house and here’s why: I’ve been thinking about changing the way my books are arranged on my bookshelf. It all started when I pulled out the books I haven’t read yet, a sobering lesson on the dangers of hoarding. Those are now in an unattractive pile on the floor of our dining room and I’m feeling some family pressure to do something with them. Added to that are the books I bought last week at our library’s used book sale, a mish mash of story collections, cook books, and Spark Notes (for the English students at my house).

I’ve always lined my books up by author, fiction and nonfiction together, but I could do it like a library and move the nonfiction to a different spot, then split the rest by genre. Anyone do that? Seems pretty basic, though and maybe not wild enough.

But I’m also thinking about arranging them by region (remember my New York and New England booklists?) or making a pile of award-winning books. There are always one or two books you don’t know what to do with. I only have one graphic novel, so that will have to wait until I develop a taste for that genre before I start a section.

We’re low on marble sculptures. Maybe a craft from school? Image: Pixabay

I also noticed that some people make horizontal stacks in planned patterns – never thought to do that!  Any horizontal books on a shelf at my house are the result of rushing, not planning. I might try that because I think it looks nice. Other people add objets d’art between books. We’re low on those, but maybe I can use something one of the kids made in art class.

So big changes (haha) on the shelves over here, but I’m not stressing about my indecision. Half the fun will be figuring out what to do!

How do you arrange your shelves?

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The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

The Lotus Eaters
Tatjana Soli


In this historical fiction novel, Tatjana Soli paints a very detailed picture of Cambodia in South Vietnam from 1963 – 1975. The story revolves around Helen Adams, a young American photographer who travels to Cambodia in an effort to both prove herself as a woman in a male-dominated profession and to gain understanding of her brother’s recent death in combat. She immerses herself in her job and becomes enamored of the Vietnamese culture. That pull keeps her in Cambodia long after others leave. It wouldn’t be enough of a story without romance, so Soli adds the seasoned Sam Darrow, a self-absorbed Pulitzer Prize winner, and Linh, Darrow’s Vietnamese assistant.

Helen, Darrow and Linh join U.S. army troops on their missions to secure villages and they photograph the atrocities of the war. Their personal relationships grow and change, all the way to the final pages of the book.

I enjoyed this story, but Soli’s writing style is a little terse and that can get in the way of the flow of the novel. She is best at describing the scenery, the action and the historical backdrop. But the characters in this book are less developed.

I also found some of the scenes hard to believe, when troops are fired upon and Helen jumps into the action, the first to reach a wounded soldier, the one to wipe his brow and tell him he’s going to be okay. She’s up in helicopters, transport planes, doing the army crawl, crouch-running and rolling and jumping into bunkers, just as grenades and bombs explode. These scenes do provide excitement, however.

All in all, The Lotus Eaters is an enjoyable read, with an interesting historical backdrop.

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Friday Fiction – Launch – Chapter 2 Part 2

Today I’m sharing the second half of Chapter 2 of Launch, an unpublished book I wrote a few years ago. Two weeks ago, we met Cindy Clarke and got a look at her life. She’s in the middle of a launch from stay-at-home mother to the working world. Last week, we met her husband Ted and got to see how things look from his point of view. He has a big work crisis at Spring Technologies and it looks as though his top programmer, Anders, has skipped town before an important deadline.

I hope you will take a look to see what happens and if you want to start at the beginning, click on the links at the bottom of this post. We begin as Ted’s boss, Steve, catches Ted in the office before he has a chance to sneak out.


Launch – Chapter 2 – Part 2

“Hey Steve!”  Ted smiled the broad smile that went with his greatest asset.  No need to show the boss that your department is crumbling.  “Just working hard, that’s all.  What’s up?”

“Well I just wanted to check in with you and make sure your team is all set for Monday.  How’s the demo going?  We want to make sure it’s all up and running for our meeting.”  Steven was an intense boss.  The kind of boss he’d had for his entire career.  Always asking how it was going, but never in a social way.  Always wanting to know just how long it would be before the next project would be finished.  It was part of the job, being accountable to your boss.  Ted accepted that and he usually met those deadlines on time.  It would be a small miracle if his team would be meeting Monday’s deadline.

“It’s all good, Steve.  The team’s working out a few glitches but we should be ready to go for the meeting.”  What a ridiculous lie!  Ted looked straight into Steve’s eyes when he said this, hoping to work some magic with his boss, hoping Steve wouldn’t detect the nervous twitch pulsing out of control under Ted’s eye.

Steve’s eyes drew into Ted’s face, in that way he had in looking for the true story underneath the spin.  His brows tightened in an intense focus.  “Well, can I see what you’ve got so far?  It would change the mood of my weekend if I could go home knowing what I’ll be showing Haskell and his group on Monday.”

Shit. Stay calm.  Think about how to answer.  “Let me talk to Wayne, see what he’s got for you to look at today.”

Steve’s focus didn’t let up.  “Where’s Anders?”

“I sent him out on an errand, to pick up the new Ethernet cables for next week.  He should be back late this afternoon.”  Ted hoped this quick lie would buy him time, but he worried.

“Hmm, well okay.  I’ll be here until 5:30, so send it up to me when you get it, okay Ted?”  Steve detected a problem.  He was certain something was up, but he wanted no part of it.  He wanted the demo and the less he knew about the problem the better.  It wasn’t up to him to solve the problems of the IT Department.  He’d joyfully shed himself of those worries when he’d been promoted to VP.  Let Ted sweat it out, whatever it was.  But Ted better damn well have a demo up in his office at 5:30, he was sure he made himself clear.

Ted and the IT team had an emergency meeting.  The department patched together a demo, but Ted knew it wasn’t what Steve wanted.  But maybe it was enough to buy him some time over the weekend.  They needed Anders.  Part of their program was missing and he was the key.  Ted couldn’t imagine why Anders had left, but he felt sure they were on their own.

“Here you go, Steve.”  Ted handed him a flash drive.  “It’s still a little rough, but it will give you an idea of what Haskell will see on Monday.”  Ted had groaned at the thought of working all weekend, but he knew he’d have his entire team, minus Anders, in the office for as long as it took, piecing together the parts that were hanging.

“Well, okay, thanks Ted.  I’ll look at it in a few minutes.”  Ted looked at the clock, hoping he could get out of there before Steve saw just how rough the demo was.  It wasn’t a tactic he liked, but he knew he was going to have to buy some time and he wasn’t going to get anywhere having to explain the situation to Steven Colby.  He had a feeling Steve didn’t want to know anyway.

Ted took a breath.  “Great!”  He didn’t know why he was saying great.  It was his instinct.  A small celebration for producing something for his boss, something he’d done countless times.  “I’ll have my team in here tomorrow, working out the kinks, Steve.”

“Okay, make sure you get Anders to run it a few times after everyone’s finished.  I want him to check it out thoroughly.  You know what they’re like over at Haskell.  We need to be sure it’s seamless.  They’re doing us a favor by coming here on Monday, so we’d better make sure everything works.”

“No problem, Steve.  I understand.  I’ll make sure it works.”

“I know where to find you if it doesn’t!”  Ted knew that Steve was only partly joking.  It was part of the corporate culture at Spring Technologies.  Even if it was outdated and cliché, the threat still held strong.

Thank you for reading.

Click on the chapter links to start from the beginning:

Launch – Chapter 1
Launch – Chapter 2 Part 1

Copyright © 2017 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

What’s That Book? The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney


TitleThe Nest

Author:  Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Genre: Fiction

Rating:  4 stars

What’s it about?  A dysfunctional group of middle-aged siblings who put the pressure on their charming but reckless brother to pay back a large sum of money from their inheritance. The story is set in New York and begins a few months before Leo, Jack, Bea and Melody Plumb are due to collect money from a trust (The Nest) their father set up years earlier before his death. Each had been counting on the money, which had grown substantially, but when Leo, drunk and high on cocaine, crashes his Porsche, their mother dips into the account to send Leo to rehab, pay off the young waitress in the passenger seat, and above all else, avoid scandal. Out of rehab, will Leo make good?

Leo, the oldest, made his money from a “literary” gossip magazine which helped propel their writer sister, Bea into fame. But Bea never got her long-expected novel off the ground and has been floundering ever since. Jack, always in Leo’s shadow, owns an antique shop, but he’s bad with money and has kept many financial secrets from his husband, Walker. And Melody wants desperately to send her twin daughters to college. She has scrimped and saved her entire adult life, but money is still tight. Secrets between the siblings and their spouses muddle up an already complex dynamic, heck to live through, but lots of fun to read about!

How did you hear about it?  Selected by my book club

Closing comments:  I loved this book. It’s a great balance between serious themes and entertaining plot lines. In particular, I love how the side characters develop and have their moments later in the story.

Contributor:  Ginette

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Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

From the archives, if you don’t know about Huguette Clark, stop here to see a review of Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark, Newell, Jr. A fascinating read about a reclusive heiress who spent the last 20 years of her life in a hospital – by choice. A big lawsuit resulted after her death, when many contested her will.

Book Club Mom

empty mansions pic

Empty Mansions
by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.
4 book marks

Every day I drive past three old abandoned homes and every day I wonder about the history of these houses and of the lives of the people who once lived inside them.  Bill Dedman discovered something like this on a much grander scale, with many unanswered questions:  two vacant mansions, one on the east coast, one on the west, still maintained and one fully furnished, ready for visitors.  And then there were three more residences, large uninhabited apartments in a Fifth Avenue building, including one that took up the entire 12th floor.  Their owner?  Huguette Clark, a reclusive heiress who by choice spent the last twenty years of her life in a hospital bed and during that time gave away huge amounts of money to her caretakers and advisers, and to friends, godchildren and charities.

The ultimate question…

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Who’s That Indie Author? Anne Leigh Parrish


Author name:  Anne Leigh Parrish

Genre:  Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction

BooksWomen Within, a novel (Black Rose Writing, 2017); By the Wayside, stories (Unsolicited Press, 2017); What Is Found, What Is Lost, a novel (She Writes Press, 2014); Our Love Could Light The World, stories (She Writes Press, 2013); All The Roads That Lead From Home, stories (Press 53, 2011).

Bio:  Anne Leigh Parrish is an award-winning author, now also a poet. She lives in the South Sound region of Washington State with her husband of forty years. Aside from the evergreen forests all around her, her favorite places are the deserts of the American Southwest, and the Hawaiin Islands.

Favorite thing about being a writer:  Creating beautiful worlds full of complex, courageous characters

Biggest challenge as an indie author:  I’d say getting the word out about my books and story publications.

Favorite booksThe Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich; Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent; Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout; Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively; The London Train by Tessa Hadley


Awards/special recognition:

  • Finalist in the short story category, 2017 International Book Awards, By the Wayside;
  • Best Fiction WINNER, 2017 Maxy Awards, Women Within;
  • Winner, Literary Fiction, 2015 Book of the Year Award, What Is Found, What Is Lost
  • Finalist in the literary fiction category, 2015 International Book Awards, What Is Found, What Is Lost
  • Finalist in the short story category, 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Our Love Could Light The World

For a complete list, please visit the “Awards” page of my website.

Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email for a bio template and other details.

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The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

The Burgess Boys
Elizabeth Strout


If you loved Olive Kitteridge as much as I did, you may want to take a look at The Burgess Boys. It’s a different kind of book, but there are many things to like about this story of Jim and Bob Burgess and Bob’s twin sister, Susan. We meet them as fifty-something adults, deep into their lives and full of complex problems, set into place when, as young children playing in the family car, they rolled down the driveway and over their father, killing him.

Bob is found at the wheel and, and at age four, shoulders the blame for this terrible accident. He has endured a lifetime of complicated family dynamics and at the opening of the story is an affable, but divorced and lonely borderline alcoholic lawyer. He’s overpowered by his brother Jim, a famous defense attorney turned corporate lawyer, who has spent a lifetime berating and punishing Bob for their father’s death. Susan has her own problems with her son Zachary, who has been arrested for throwing a pig’s head into a Somali mosque. The two brothers try to help her and their lives change in major ways.

This is a book full of thoughts, conversations, arguments, feelings and reflections. This slower pace may frustrate some readers, because the story seems to reach a point of going nowhere, only to pick up deep into the second half. I am wondering if Strout has deliberately constructed her story to show how the characters begin the story deeply rutted into their lives and very slowly undergo major changes that drive the story to its conclusion.

I think Strout does a great job showing how grown siblings communicate with each other, something that is frustrating to view as an outsider, but can ring true for many.

I like Bob’s character the most because of his great ability to soothe people and calm situations, despite his arguably messed-up life. He has deep thoughts that are presented in a simple way and a manner of connecting with people that makes a real difference. For me, that quality rises above his other major flaws. Jim’s character, although arrogant, has many realistic traits and he is complicated in a different way. His outer finish of confidence and authority carry him far, but the way he lashes out at Bob makes him difficult to like. I like how Strout shows how they change in relation to their flaws.

It’s hard to name the real plot in this story and that’s where I think there’s a problem. Strout introduces the reader to the Somali people who have moved to Susan’s town and the difficulties they have had integrating and being accepted. And although Zach’s character pulls them into the Burgess story line, there is something forced here. Again, I’d like to think it’s deliberate on Strout’s part, to show how very hard it was for the Somalis. But, except for Abdikarim and his character’s initial struggle to fit in and later assimilation, it’s hard to know the rest of the Somali immigrants.

And you either like open endings or you hate them. I like open endings because they allow me to think about the characters long after I’ve finished the book. And I think this kind of ending realistically shows how there is never a perfectly neat finish to people’s complicated and messy lives.

Want more? Click below for more Strout stories:

Olive Kitteridge the book

Olive Kitteridge the HBO miniseries

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Friday Fiction – Launch – Chapter 2 Part 1

Today I’m sharing the first half of Chapter 2 of Launch, an unpublished book I wrote a few years ago. Last week we met Cindy Clarke and got a look at her life. She’s in the middle of a launch from stay-at-home mother to the working world.

Meantime, her husband Ted is facing a huge work problem at his high-pressure job at Spring Technologies.

Launch – Chapter 2 – Part 1

Ted Clarke was running late.  You could say it was a habit of Ted’s, being late.  Today he was late leaving work, late getting onto the Expressway, late running an errand.  Why does it even matter?  He’d asked his wife this question countless times.  The times when he’d arrive home and receive a frosty greeting.  Years ago, he guessed it did matter because Cindy was depending on him back then.  In the earlier days he could count on taking charge of five children almost as soon as he walked into the door, so that Cindy could finish making dinner.  Every day, a nine hours a day, full of people wanting a piece of him, sandwiched between a grueling hour-long commute into Philadelphia.  Then arriving home to a gaggle of children, pulling on him, jumping, telling him things, and competing for his attention.  So much floor time back then, giving rides on his back, holding babies, playing dolls and cars.  When he thought of it now, he was proud to say he’d done that, but he wasn’t exactly nostalgic.  Those were hard days, exhausting days, full days of work and what seemed to him a full-time shift as soon as he got home.

Cindy was young back then and she could handle a house full of kids.  That was her job and he’d always resented it a little that she needed him so much.  She seemed to get through the rest of the day without him, why not just an hour more so he could unwind a little and have a nice dinner?

Ted wasn’t exactly sexist.  He was just used to having things be a certain way and when you married and had your wife have her fifth baby just as your oldest was turning ten, it was already certain that your home life was going to be busy and crazy and loud.  So maybe sometimes he was a little late getting home because he knew what was there and what was expected of him.  And what he wanted was for someone to anticipate what he needed as he walked into that door.

Ted thought about those years as he sat in traffic.  Running late was still a habit, but why?  His kids were hardly going to charge at him now.  Only his younger son and daughter were still at home, teenagers.  The rest of the gaggle was out in the world.  His oldest two, Teddy and Brian were out of college and working.  Jessie was a junior at University of Delaware.  If Katie and Kevin were even home, they were usually up in their rooms, or planted on the couch, deep in their own worlds, managing their lives through their phones.

Cindy didn’t exactly need him to help the way she did years ago, but she still bristled when he came in late.  It was the one thing she could never change about her husband.  And somehow, Ted, after fitting into every other expectation, after adjusting his life to accommodate the needs of these six other people, Ted held onto the one piece of himself that he could still control, whether he knew it or not.

It was almost 7:00 when Ted pulled into his driveway.  Work had been extra grueling that week.  He’d advanced up the ladder at Spring Technologies, but it hadn’t changed the climate of his job.  Always busy, always some kind of problem, always a race to find a solution.  Early that Friday, one of his best programmers had simply walked out the door and presumably quit with no explanation.  It wasn’t until after lunch that people began to question where Anders was, and where the code he’d been working on was.  It was part of a series of code the whole IT team had been working on, as part of a new accounting program for a client, due next week.  Without Anders, by far the most brilliant programmer in the department, they would not reach their deadline.

Ted had spent the greater part of the afternoon trying to locate Anders, and then slowly realizing that they would most likely be on their own in trying to finish the code.  Ted had never been a programmer and had become manager and then Director of IT because of his managing capabilities, not his technical skills.  He was secretly panicking over the problem because he knew he couldn’t personally step in and fix the problem.  It was up to some unknown hero and because of that he felt powerless.  He’d dodged the early calls from the VP of Operations, Steven Colby, but by the end of the day, Colby was at the door to his office.

“Ted, you’ve been hard to track down – where have you been?”

Ted looked up from his desk and quickly assumed his look of control.  He’d been promoted in good part because of his confident and easy air.  People latched onto this look, because it made them feel good.  If Ted has a handle on it, then it’s all good, no need to worry.  This look had served him well, and as he advanced in his career, he started to realize it was his own greatest asset.  But Ted knew that the look could only carry him so far and this business with Anders walking out was a big problem…

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2017 by Book Club Mom

All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.



Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

From the archives: Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick is an excellent account of early settlers and their arrival on the Mayflower, the bleak years of trying to survive and the settlers’ complex relationships with Native Americans, the trades they made and the many warring factions. A fascinating and very readable history book!

Book Club Mom

Mayflower picMayflower
Nathaniel Philbrick

4 book marks

Do you think you know all about the Mayflower? Check out Nathaniel Philbrick’s comprehensive and scholarly account that begins with Mayflower’s voyagein 1620 and ends with the conclusion of King Philip’s War in 1676. These 102 Separatists and Non-Separatists struggled to survive when they arrived in Plymouth and did anything they could to keep from starving or freezing to death. Made up of printers and weavers and other tradesmen, women and children, they were woefully unprepared for the desperate conditions that killed nearly half of them in the first year.

I think Philbrick’s goal in this book is to dispel the comfortable myth of the harmonious relationship between settlers and native Americans, happily sitting at a Thanksgiving table. He tells a much more complicated story of the knotty relationships between the original settlers and their neighboring Indian tribes, who had their own dynamics…

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The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10
by Ruth Ware

Lo Blacklock has a lot of troubles. Her London apartment has been burgled. She takes medication for anxiety, tends to drink too much and can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep.

Getting away on an exclusive luxury cruise may be the answer, but this trip is for her job as a travel journalist for Velocity magazine. Her boss Rowan can’t go and Lo is under pressure to do a good job.

This was my chance to show I could hack it – that I, like Rowan, could network and schmooze and get Velocity’s name in there with the high fliers.

There is a lot of hype about the Aurora and its maiden voyage to see the Northern Lights. The boat is small, but extravagantly decorated. Lo is part of a select group of passengers who will occupy ten cabins:  photographers, journalists, investors, and Lord Richard Bullmer, the ship’s super rich and powerful owner.

Lo isn’t off to a good start. She arrives sleep-deprived and hung over and has barely read her travel packet. And a bad argument with her boyfriend the night before has left their relationship on the rocks. Drinks before and during dinner don’t help, either. When Lo finally passes out in her cabin, she hopes for a long sleep and a fresh start in the morning.

Awakened by a scream and a splash, Lo is certain the woman in Cabin 10 has gone overboard. But no one believes her story. Was she too drunk to remember the events correctly? As the ship continues its journey, Lo tries desperately to uncover the truth, but the other passengers seem to have their own secrets and motives. With no one to trust, and no internet, Lo is alone with her fears. Oh, and by the way, Lo is claustrophobic. Not a good thing when you’re out on a boat.

The Woman in Cabin 10 is very readable suspenseful story. Ruth Ware throws plenty of red herrings into the mix and sets Lo up in many frightening situations that make the reader wonder, is it just Lo’s unreliable reasoning that makes them so scary? Certain discoveries fool the reader into thinking the mystery is solved, a technique I enjoy, only to lead Lo into what seems to be inescapable danger. The story finishes nicely, with satisfying explanations, including several unexpected tie-ups.

I recommend The Woman in Cabin 10 to readers who like to experience the danger of exciting stories from the safety of a comfortable chair. I particularly like the author’s use of an unreliable narrator. Watching flawed character make mistakes is very suspenseful.

I’m the kind of reader who likes to go along for the ride, letting the plot develop. What kind are you? Do you like to solve the mystery before its finish?

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