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Wonder of Reading Has Sent Us a Thank You Note

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Back in May, we gathered new elementary school appropriate books to donate to The Wonder of Reading. They were delivered early June and we have recently received a thank you letter from them expressing their appreciation.

The letter read as such:

June 11, 2007

Danica B
Babes With Brains Book Club

Dear Ms. B:

Thank you for putting faith in Los Angeles’s youngsters by requesting that your book club donate books to The Wonder of Reading. We truly appreciate your support and the contribution, which included one bag of new books and was presented by a Montague Charter Academy school member on June 5, 2007.

More than 1,200 elementary school students from Wonder of Reading schools work hard, with the help of their volunteer reading partners, to improve their reading each year. In recognition of their tremendous effort, The Wonder of Reading seeks to find resources, such as books you donated for schools in our 3R program. Many of the children participating in our program have no books of their own. In addition, most of the school-based parent centers at our schools have a tremendous need for books to read with their children. Without community support like yours, The Wonder of Reading would not be able to fulfill its purpose – to inspire in children the love of reading.

Thank you very much for bringing reading resources to the young students of the greater Los Angeles area.

Sincerely,
Karyn Lee-Garcia
Program Coordinator
The Wonder of Reading

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

water-for-elephants3 Loved It
3 Liked It
1 Neutral
Disliked It
Hated It

Comments:
• Touching story at the end, but the first zoo pages made me want to barf. – Sarah
• I really enjoyed this book. It was at times sad, but I enjoyed the love story. It was the first book I finished in awhile, I am glad this is the one I finished. – Tami
• I loved reading this story! The characters were unique and striking. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the young man just starting his adult life and the old man, with his wry sense of humor, trying to hold on to himself in the face of an impeding death. – Melissa
• I really enjoyed this book. Such a unique story, looking at circus trains during the depression era. I also loved the first person of the old man, hearing his perspective on late life. – Carrie
• I really enjoyed the book. Nice transitions between the time periods. I thought it was a little rushed at the end. Very good. – Brandi
• It has been awhile since I have really liked a book. This renewed my enthusiasm in reading, I thought I was getting bored with everything. This kept me going. – danica

Conclusion: Everyone attending had finished the book. That says a lot these days! We all seemed to like it.

Reading Group Guide

Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

9780060747220_p0_v2_s260x420  Loved It
1 Liked It
3 Neutral
Disliked It
Hated It

Comments:
• Was not as good as Wicked. – Sarah
• I felt that too many loose ends were left flapping in the wind. – Melissa
• I tried, that is about all I can say for myself. I didn’t like Wicked and if this was not a book club book, I would have never even started this it. I made it 140 pages in and was just not motivated to pick it up. -danica
• I liked it better than Wicked, but was not happy with the ending. Too many questions left unanswered. – Carrie
• Didn’t get to read it… – Steph
• Rather blah – Hard not to compare to Wicked and find this one lacking. Much of the storyline remained unfinished without enough substance for another in a series. – Marlo

Conclusion: This was by no means a success. We barely even spoke about it. Most didn’t finish it. We did have a good time though at California Pizza Kitchen and Borders, buying books to donate to The Wonder of Reading.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

51Og6Di3z8L  Loved It
1 Liked It
2 Neutral
2 Disliked It
Hated It

Comments:
• The book was too long. The main story was good but all the extra stuff sucked. – Sarah
• I enjoyed it. I could do without the “Blind Assassin” (aliens or whatever), but really liked the main story. – Carrie
• Couldn’t get through it. Tried to muscle through, but just couldn’t bear it. – Brandi
• Yawn. Like it OK, but prefer the “present day” story over the novel within the novel. – Marlo
• I tried and made it to page 300 but I just couldn’t get into it. – danica

Conclusion: Most didn’t read this one and those of us that did, most didn’t like it and didn’t even finish it.

Reading Group Guide

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

220px-DWCity  Loved It
3 Liked It
2 Neutral
Disliked It
Hated It

Comments:
• Good book but the first part about the fair was slow – but after that, it was good – loved the contrast between the two plots. – Stacey
• I liked the tidbits about things from the fair. My favorite parts were about the “devil.” – Kerry
• It was OK. The stuff about the fair was way boring. They could have made it a really short book about a murderer. – Sarah
• I definitely got bored in many places. What kept me going was the serial killer parts of the story. I didn’t care as much about the trials and tribulations that went into the architecture of the fair. There were some interesting facts about what debuted and who worked on it though… Overall it was just OK. I made it through so there is that… – danica
• Got a bit long-winded about the fair, but found the part about Holmes interesting… I kept reading it although a few parts dragged. Decent read. – Brandi

Conclusion: Only about half of us actually read this one and it was received as just OK. Our conversation was pretty good and it interested even those that didn’t read the book. It was a jam packed meeting with a lot of personal announcements – almost half of our members are pregnant, throw in an engagement and some charitable giving and that pretty much sums up our March book club.

Reading Group Guide

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

fight-club-book-cover  Loved It
6 Liked It
1 Neutral
3 Disliked It
Hated It

Comments:
• The author thought much more of this book than I did. – Kerry
• I only got through a few chapters. Too close to the movie (almost verbatim). I probably would have liked it if I hadn’t seen the movie first. – Carrie
• I really loved this movie, but I have not seen it in years however, I remembered more that I thought. I liked the book although I could not help but see how Palahniuk weaved the eventual plot twist throughout. I could not tell whether it was just more explicit in the book or if my knowledge clouded the story. When I saw the movie, I was totally surprised by it – if I read the book first, I don’t know if I would have been as surprised. – danica
• Liked it better than the first time through, but the second time I could see signals earlier in the book. – Stacey
• I thought the book was more predictable than the movie. – Sarah
• It was an easy read. Since I saw the movie, it was hard to read because I knew the ending. It was word for word to the movie. – Tami
• I liked the book because it was different than other books we’ve read. Short chapters, easy read. Also, I liked how it was written from a mentally disturbed person’s point of view. – Rachelle
• I enjoyed it. Saw the movie only days before reading the book, so I head Edward Norton;s voice reading all the lines. “I am Joe’s broken spleen.” – Brandi
• I enjoyed the book. It had been years since I had seen the movie. Such a dark story. Easy read. – Melissa

Conclusion: One thing is for sure, if your copy has a forward, afterword or acknowledgments, do not read them – he comes off as way too much of an egotist and it taints the book.

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by by John Grogan

Marley_&_Me_book_cover  Loved It
3 Liked It
3 Neutral
2 Disliked It
Hated It

Comments:
• This was super cute although at times, I was a little bored. However, at the end, I must admit, I did cry. He has a very conversational style which worked well to tell a series of Marley mishap stories but it just did not read like a novel or a good memoir hence the boredom at times. – danica
• The book did not have so many funny dog stories. The book should have been called “Me, My Wife, Some Kids and Oh, Yeah, We Have a Dog”. – Sarah
• When I remembered that the author is a columnist, it explained why the chapters were so short and choppy. It seemed like he included things about his life because he was writing a book. Sometimes the dog-in-my-life theme was too loosely tied in. I appreciate that he and his family liked their dog, but at the end of the day I didn’t really care. – Kerry
• I could have done without the long descriptions of the breed’s qualities and it dragged out a bit at the end, but as a dog lover and owner of a “bad dog”, I empathized and cried at the end. – Brandi
• I couldn’t get through it. It was just not my thing. – Melissa
• Quick and easy read. Some cute stories. Reminded me of my old dog at times. I would only recommend this to a dog lover, specifically a Labrador lover. – Carrie
• Easy book to get through. Enjoyed most of it, but wanted to read more about the dog. Cried at the end! It’s a good read for animal lovers. – Rachelle
• Really enjoyed the stories about Marley and how he and his wife brought up their family with their dog. Very sad but expected ending. Very easy reading. – Tami

Conclusion: While a fun book for those who have and love dogs, it is definitely not the perfect book club book.

Reading Group Guide

Every Boy’s Got One by Meg Cabot

Because it was our 5th birthday, we decided to have gift exchange again and decorate Steph’s tree. It has been a great year with some new members, fun adventures, great books and wonderful conversation.

n1414161 Loved It
3 Liked It
2 Neutral
3 Disliked It
Hated It

Comments:
• I thought the book was easy reading. I enjoyed it. It was fun and very predictable. – Tami
• I thought this book was great. It was fun and written differently. Quick easy book. – Sarah
• Quick was about the only thing good about it. Very generic. The “hate-him, hate-him, love-him” bit is tired. I thought the email thing would be more interesting than it was. – Brandi
• This was such fluff! Girl meets boy, girl hates boy, girl hates boy, girl hates boy and then all of a sudden they are in bed, the end. I am not unhappy that I read this one but it definitely did not enrich my life. What is a greater time suck, this or a video game? It would have been either one so I guess it really doesn’t matter in the end. – danica
• I almost hated it. I finished it but it never got better. I didn’t like the characters, the style, the story… it wasn’t fun or light – just ANNOYING. – Steph
• I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ve been entertained so far. Not a book I’d typically read, but a nice change. – Kerry
• A bit too fluffy from a girl who really likes marshmallows! There was some cuteness, but overall I was glad to have finished. The format had potential, but the story lacked depth. – Marlo
• Obviously too unrealistic. Quick read. Couldn’t relate to or enjoy the characters. Outcome is predictable by back cover. Just didn’t really enjoy it. – Carrie
• I liked the writing style. A fun, easy read. – Melissa

Conclusion: If you like the beach read genre, this book was cute although really formulaic.

The Birthday Party and The Room: Two Plays by Harold Pinter

c27120Loved It
Liked It
1 Neutral
5 Disliked It
3 Hated It

Comments:
• I was kind of confused about what was going on most of the time. Not enough back story. – Sarah
• Wasn’t interested enough to finish it. – Brandi
• I read both (as promised) but didn’t care for it. – Kerry
• I really much prefer fiction to reading plays. I would rather see a play staged than read one. These two plays did not engage me or draw me in. I read them and don’t remember much about them two days later. – danica
• I barely got through the plays… Just read quickly and prayed for an interesting ending. Sadly, I was disappointed. – Rachelle
• It was not my favorite. I read them in two days but was not pleased. – Tami
• If it had taken more than 2 days, I wouldn’t have finished it. I fell asleep reading multiple times and didn’t even bother re-reading. – Carrie
• Although I finished both plays, I couldn’t wait to be done. Had they been any longer, I would have just given up. I didn’t wonder what the heck was going on and never really found out. – Marlo
• I just didn’t get it. – Steph

Conclusion: It is pretty obvious that we didn’t like this one! These plays won awards etc and maybe we just missed some nuances but still that makes them very non-accessible.

Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors

b7c6ac42d12e1aa2b2d9845b9692cfb53 Loved It
6 Liked It
Neutral
Disliked It
Hated It

Comments:
• Enjoyable read. – Brandi
• Very impressed by the history. The strength of the female characters – not only in the time period, but having been written by a man was also impressive. – Melissa
• I absolutely LOVED this book! I could not comprehend how a man could write a princess so well. This is probably my favorite in a long time. I can’t wait for his next novel. – Carrie
• This book was amazing. I really enjoyed hearing about the love story of the princess. I didn’t want to put it down. – Tami
• I really liked this book! Couldn’t put it down – the characters, setting and story were wonderful – great writing style. I particularly liked the ending. Can’t believe it was written by a man. – Steph
• What a beautiful novel. The relationships between the characters are so touching and relatable. I knew nothing abut the Taj Mahal and it was a great way to learn about it. These are characters that will resonate with me for a long time, and a book I will likely need to read again. – Marlo
• Phenomenal read. Enjoyed the love story. Great character development. Would recommend it to all. – Rachelle
• Was a very good read. Interesting and never a dull moment. Not any better or worse than other books in this genre. – Sarah
• I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t love, love, love it, but I really, really liked it. The characters were very engaging and believable. At points, I felt a lot of relevancy in today’s world situation concerning religion taken to a militant extreme. The story of being torn between loyalty and love kept me reading to find out what finally happens in the end and I was not disappointed. – danica

Conclusion: We all really liked this book a lot. What made it even better was that John Shors, the author had a conference call with us to discuss it. On top of all of that CBS was doing a story on his involvement with book clubs and they decided to send a camera man out to film us talking with John on speakerphone about the book! So we may be on The Early Show or on the CBS Evening News! If this does happen, I will post some stills from that as well. Again, we would all like to thank John for taking the time to indulge our questions and comments, it was a wonderful treat to be able to discuss this book with its creator. We highly recommend Beneath a Marble Sky for book clubs!

Well, the story aired on November 1st on the CBS evening News with Katie Couric and November 2nd on The Early Show. It is up at CBS.com as streaming video.

And the stills….
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Beneath a Marble Sky Web Site
Reading Group Guide

Mama, Are We There Yet? by Rose Saposnek

41m7+1FjgCL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_  Loved It
9 Liked It
Neutral
Disliked It
Hated It

Comments:
• This was such an interesting read. I didn’t realize the horror of the Bolshevik Revolution and really felt for the people who had to build a new life in a foreign place. – Marlo
• I really liked this book. I liked the voice – a very unique perspective and the theme I came away with was one of hope and friendship. No matter where they were, people/strangers risked their lives to help them. – Steph
• This book is so interesting. I know so very little about this and it was so unique to hear about it from a child’s point of view. – Kerry
• It was really different than any other book I have read. Very refreshing. – Sarah
• I liked the book and the bit of history it touches on. It’s prompted me to do research on the web. – Stacey
• I liked the book. It was very interesting to hear about the voyage one needed to take to come to America. – Tami
• This was a really quick read. It is amazing how many people of that generation had similar circumstances just different settings. I grew up hearing these stories and completely related. I found it interesting that it was written from the perspective of a child although it sometimes felt a bit bratty but I understand what the author was trying to accomplish. I also found it really interesting that in all the chaos, the main character, a child, was not really told what was happening and that she was never prompted to talk about what she was experiencing. – danica
• The book was very interesting… especially seeing events surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution from a child’s eyes. – Rachelle
• This book was very engaging. Very interesting point of view. Enjoyed the history. – Brandi

Conclusion: We had a really wonderful time meeting with the author, Rose Saposnek. Everyone read and came very well prepared and I think she enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed meeting with her and her daughter. That is Rose, seated in the middle of the bottom row in the pink shirt.

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