Book on my radar: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

I got into a discussion at the library last week about great family sagas. The woman I was talking with said that her book group unanimously voted The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough as the best of the best. The book was first published in 1977 and has sold more than 33 million copies worldwide. The TV miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward and Christopher Plummer followed in 1983. The show won many awards including six primetime Emmys.

Here’s a summary provided by the publisher:

“Colleen McCullough’s sweeping saga of dreams, struggles, dark passions, and forbidden love in the Australian Outback has enthralled readers the world over.

This is the chronicle of three generations of Clearys, ranchers carving lives from a beautiful, hard land while contending with the bitterness, frailty, and secrets that penetrate their family. Most of all, it is the story of only daughter Meggie and her lifelong relationship with the haunted priest Father Ralph de Bricassart—an intense joining of two hearts and souls that dangerously oversteps sacred boundaries of ethics and dogma.

A poignant love story, a powerful epic of struggle and sacrifice, a celebration of individuality and spirit, Colleen McCullough’s acclaimed masterwork remains a monumental literary achievement—a landmark novel to be cherished and read again and again.”

I remember when this all came out, but I never read it. I think I would like to. At 692 pages, it’s a big book, but we all shouldn’t be afraid of long books, right? I think I’d like to buy my own paperback copy so I could crack the spine as I read.

Have you read The Thorn Birds? Have you watched the miniseries? Would you commit to a book this long? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Book Club Mom’s April, May and June recap

It’s no coincidence that I haven’t posted a monthly recap since this pandemic started. I haven’t felt like there was much to say or report. But now that three months have passed, I thought I’d better get the recaps back on schedule.

I’m sure we are all doing many of the same things. The empty shelves were really frightening to me in the beginning, but now the grocery store seems to be much better stocked. I missed out on the mad paper products run back in March, but we made it through without running out just the same.

I’ve been cooking and baking a lot. Have you?

I’ve mentioned our bird feeder in other posts. It has been a major form of entertainment for us and the subject of many conversations. Here a woodpecker is pretending no one will notice that he’s way too big to be on the feeder. He doesn’t care and jams his beak in there to get whatever he can get.

Last week we had a summer rain right before dinner and soon we had a pretty rainbow. Rainbows never get old, do they?

So, on to the blog. Here are links to my posts in April, May and June, in case you missed them.

Book Reviews

A Mother for His Twins by Jill Weatherholt
Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
The Tenant by Katrine Engberg
A Hero of France by Alan Furst
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey
Yellow Door by C. Faherty Brown
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
Outsider by Linda Castillo

Marian Longenecker Beaman
Jason R. Koivu
Matthew Arnold Stern
Eileen Stephenson
Christy Cooper-Burnett
Cendrine Marrouat
Alice Benson
Lillian McCloy
John W. Howell
Darlene Foster
Dorothy A. Winsor
C. Faherty Brown
Graeme Cumming

Miscellaneous book and blog talk

Short reviews from 2013: The Cay, The Giver and Orphan Train
Blog views and other obsessions – coping with the coronavirus part 2
On animals, nature, books and live feeds
On YouTube today – books coming up and what I’ve been doing
Pretty, colorful and unique book covers
On audiobooks and coloring
Blog views and other obsessions – switching to new WordPress Block Editor on June 1
On virtual book hauling
Book talk – epistolary novels
Celebrating 7 years of blogging!

How are you doing? Did you settle in to this new way of life? Are you now adjusting to re-openings? Leave a comment and tell me how it’s been.

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Book talk – epistolary novels

Image: Pixabay

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom called Book Talk, home to quick previews of books that catch my eye.

Looking for a different kind of novel? An epistolary novel is a story written as a series of documents, often in the form of letters, diary entries, or newspaper articles. More recent formats have introduced emails and blog posts and even Post-It Notes! All offer realistic views into the narrators’ lives and stories.

Here are some I’ve read and recommend:

The Color Purple by Alice Walker I read this years ago and would like to read it again.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank– have read several times.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – here’s a new book and this is the one with Post-It Notes!

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes – recently read this, then watched the movie. The movie was a little dated, but still interesting.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – I wasn’t sure I’d like this, but in the end thought it was excellent. Read it when my son was reading it for a high school class.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows – read this a long time ago and remember liking it.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos – read this in French class in college and had a hard time with the vocabulary, but then read it for an English class and finally understood what was going on!

The Martian by Andy Weir – liked this book a lot and the movie too, maybe even a little better because there’s a lot of math in the book. Still recommend.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins – recently read this for my Whodunits book group. It was excellent.

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – read this for a required college class called “Images of Modern Man” – I raced through it, it was that good.

And here are some I want to read:

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff – hadn’t heard of this one, until today.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher  – same!

Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman –  I actually read this in junior high school and remember liking it., but I don’t remember much, so I want to re-read it.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – been trying to get to this one for a while.

A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey – this was also a TV series with Sally Fields back in the 1970s.

Looking for more? Here are some additional lists:

Book Riot 100 Must-Read Epistolary Novels from the Past and Present

Goodreads Epistolary Novels Books

Wikipedia List of contemporary epistolary novels

Do you like the epistolary format? Do you have favorites?

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Book Talk – No Place Like Home by Rebecca Muddiman

Image: Pixabay

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom called Book Talk, home to quick previews of books that catch my eye.

I’m feeling a little guilty about not reading some of the NetGalley books I’ve received. This psychological thriller is one of them. I had a perfectly good plan to read it right away, but somehow No Place Like Home got lost on my Kindle, along with the other mess of books I have on there.

Here’s the book description:

“What would you do if you came home to find someone in your house?

This is the predicament Polly Cooke faces when she returns to her new home. The first weeks in the house had been idyllic, but soon Jacob, a local man, is watching her.

What does he want and why is he so obsessed with Polly?

In a situation where nothing is what it seems, you might end up regretting letting some people in.”

This is the kind of book that seizes on the reader’s need to be terrified. We all get a thrill from reading about someone else’s scary situations, right?

I have a few other books I’m going to read first, but I think I’m going to jump on this soon. At 234 pages, it looks like a quick read.

No Place Like Home was published in 2018. Check out these reviews. I’m going to wait in case they have spoilers!

Laurel-Rain Snow from Rainy Days and Mondays
Goodreads Reviews
Amazon Reviews

Have you already read No Place Like Home?

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Book Talk – The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom called Book Talk, home to quick previews of books that catch my eye.

You never know when you’re going to hear about a good book to read. Today I traded texts with a friend of mine and she told me about a great book she’s reading right now.

The Last Days of Night is an historical fiction novel about the fight between George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison over who invented the light bulb. You may remember that Westinghouse and Edison were fierce rivals back in the 1880s. This rivalry led to what was named The War of Currents, an intense debate between Westinghouse and Edison over which type of electrical current (alternating or direct) should supply New York’s power grid.

The Last Days of Night is about a young lawyer named Paul Cravath, who is hired by Westinghouse. Westinghouse is being sued by Edison over the light bulb debate.

Here is part of the book blurb from Amazon:

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society—the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal—private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?

In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.

The Last Days of Night was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

…and a little about the author, from his website:

Graham Moore is a New York Times bestselling novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter. His screenplay for THE IMITATION GAME won the Academy Award and WGA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2015 and was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe.

I’m going to have to make time for this one! What great books are waiting for you?

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Book Talk – Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

Image: Pixabay

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom called Book Talk, home to quick previews of books that catch my eye.

Today I want to tell you about Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman. It’s a memoir about a period of time in Hindman’s life when she was a violinist for an orchestra that “performed” for audiences that were unknowingly listening to a recording of the score from the 1997 film Titanic.

Hindman’s story is about more than her experience in this fake orchestra, however. It’s mostly about how she was struggling with debilitating panic attacks and losing a sense of reality. She ties these experiences in with 9/11 and the Iraq War and the rise of reality television.

Here’s a quote from an excellent interview on NPR in February 2019:

…it took me many years to write this book, and as I was writing, I really realized that this was not an expose. It’s not a work of investigative journalism. It’s really meant to be a work of literature. And while I write a lot about the composer and music and these performances, all of that is really scaffolding to launch bigger questions for me in terms of class and gender and geography – the college tuition crisis for people my age.

Hindman is a professor of creative writing at Northern Kentucky University. You can read the rest of the NPR interview here.

I have the book in my hands and I’m looking forward to starting it tonight!

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Book Talk – Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom called Book Talk, home to quick previews of books that catch my eye.

I don’t always have time to see what new books are coming out, but I have friends who do, so I’m excited to share what I know about Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. Thanks to my work friend for showing it to me! I’m on the hold list at the library, but I’m 24th in line, so it will be a while before I get to read it!

Dreyer is the copy chief at Random House and now he’s written a book to keep us straight on all the rules of writing and punctuation. Here’s a quick blurb from Amazon:

As authoritative as it is amusing, Dreyer’s English offers lessons on punctuation, from the underloved semicolon to the enigmatic en dash; the rules and nonrules of grammar, including why it’s OK to begin a sentence with “And” or “But” and to confidently split an infinitive; and why it’s best to avoid the doldrums of the Wan Intensifiers and Throat Clearers, including “very,” “rather,” “of course,” and the dreaded “actually.” Dreyer will let you know whether “alright” is all right (sometimes) and even help you brush up on your spelling—though, as he notes, “The problem with mnemonic devices is that I can never remember them.”

And yes: “Only godless savages eschew the series comma.”

Chockful of advice, insider wisdom, and fun facts, this book will prove to be invaluable to everyone who wants to shore up their writing skills, mandatory for people who spend their time editing and shaping other people’s prose, and—perhaps best of all—an utter treat for anyone who simply revels in language.

I’m really looking forward to reading this one and, after I do, I’ll need to go back and correct all the mistakes in my blog posts!

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Book Talk – Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom called Book Talk, home to quick previews of books that catch my eye.

I got a beautiful hard cover edition of Modern Lovers last summer, a freebie when I signed up for our library’s summer reading challenge. I got to choose from a bunch of books on a cart and I went straight to Straub’s Modern Lovers because I had just read and really liked her earlier book, The Vacationers.

Modern Lovers was published in 2016 and is about three friends from college who are approaching fifty and how they try to hold onto the identities of their youth. Once members of an edgy band, they’re now raising hormonal teenagers with active social lives. The story is about three friends, but it’s also about the rise and fall of a famous fourth band member who left them years earlier.

Set in Brooklyn, where the three friends live near each other, the book jacket describes Modern Lovers as “a richly satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.”

I had forgotten all about this one until today. I hope I can get to it soon. Take a look at your bookshelf. Do you have any you’d forgotten? Leave me a comment and tell me which one!

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Book Talk – books about families with four children

Do you ever wonder if you are subconsciously drawn to certain types of books? Well of course you are! But sometimes the patterns of what you choose don’t become apparent right away.

I asked myself the same question last week, after finishing (and loving) yet another story about a family with four children. What’s the connection? I’m the youngest of four children and I’m also the mother of four children. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have read so many books with the same number dynamic.

But I’ve also read many books about other size families and other subjects besides, so maybe this isn’t stat-worthy. Just something fun to think about.

Here’s a list of some of my more recent 4-children reads:


A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng


Text Me, Love Mom by Candace Allan

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin


The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish by Nancy Dingman Watson

Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk

What types of books are you “subconsciously” drawn to? 😉

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Book Talk – The Impact of Female Authors on Young Adult Literature

Welcome to Book Talk, an occasional feature on Book Club Mom, home to quick previews of new and not-so-new books that catch my eye and other bookish discussions.

Today I’m going to highlight five female Young Adult authors and talk about an upcoming discussion on their role in literature, but before I do that, a little history on the genre.

Young Adult literature first came to the reading world in the 1960s and has been evolving ever since. What these books have in common is that they are much more realistic than what adolescents traditionally read before. The genre came to be as authors began to write about modern and grittier problems and themes, unique to teenagers.

But did you know that the term “teenagers” didn’t emerge until the 1940s? It first appeared in a 1941 issue of Popular Science Monthly. Before that, the American population was divided into two groups: adults and children. You were an adult if you were in the workforce and a child if you were in school. Things began to change during the Great Depression because there were fewer jobs for Americans of all ages. So many more adolescents were enrolled in high school, not working a job.

Librarians were the first to call teenagers “young adults,” in the 1940s, a term that was made official in 1957 by the American Library Association.

I found this information in a great May 2018 article from, entitled “How ‘Young Adult’ Fiction Blossomed With Teenage Culture in America.” You can read it here.

The following female authors write about modern teenagers and offer a nice variety of Young Adult literature.

Odd One Out by Nic Stone

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners) by Libba Bray

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

(All author and book cover images are from

On Saturday, October 13, this group will convene at the Westport Library in Westport, Connecticut, to discuss their audiences, intentions, and themes in the YA genre. These women will specifically focus on their beliefs about the role of a female author writing about young adults in the current climate of teens today. This discussion is part of the library’s Saugatuck StoryFest Events and, if you live in the area, you can check out the details here.

I enjoy reading YA books, even though I’m long past the target reading age, because I like to understand what themes are interesting and important to teenage readers. Are you a YA fan? What are your favorite YA books?

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