I’m Not Comfortable Feeling Uncomfortable (The Reason Why I Almost Threw Out My Copy of The First Bad Man)

Miranda July

Here is author Miranda July, looking like a real-life version of SNL’s Gilly. “Sorry!”

I’ve never really considered myself to be a sensitive person (and I don’t mean that in the emotional way. In that case, then yes. Yes I’m very sensitive.) What I mean is, I always thought I was hard to gross out. I mean, I watch ‘Tim and Eric’ without any hesitation and I’ve always had a strange spot in my heart for toilet humor. One would assume, I could handle some weird and uncomfortable stuff. But then came Miranda July’s book, The First Bad Man and all that changed.

I have never in my life found a book that hit all my triggers quite like this book did. And I don’t mean that in a positive way.

Trigger #1. Real Violence

For all the weird stuff I can handle, violence has always made me feel queasy, and that’s no exaggeration. I literally get nauseous if I see a person punch another person. Oddly enough, movie violence doesn’t have the same effect. I can handle that. My mind knows that it’s pretend. But if I see footage on the news of people fighting, that’s it. I’m nauseous.

When I started this book, I had no idea what it was about. Man, was I surprised when this book took a hard left turn into weird lady-fight-club land! Although the violence is fiction, it was written in a way that felt realistic. And clearly it was too realistic for me because with every punch, I felt the waves of nausea crash against me.

Trigger #2. Feet Smell

I have a particularly sensitive sense of smell. For example, I have been known to sniff out minor gas leaks and identify the colognes of strangers passing by. If I love a smell, I love it with all my heart. But if I hate a smell, my brain will not allow me to get used to it. Instead, it will torture me to the point that it’s the only thing I can think about. Even if it’s a phantom smell. Let me explain…

When we are first introduced to one of the characters, the narrator decides to mention how bad the person’s feet smell. The description was so vivid, I felt like I could smell those stinky feet too. It grossed me the hell out. However, I decided to forge on with the hope that the description would be a one time occurrence. To my dismay, the feet were mentioned again. And then again and again. And to make it worse, the author decided to mention the stinky feet smell during a scene where the narrator was describing one of her sexual fantasies. The combination was so horrific that I found myself completely balled up on the couch, concerned that I was going to be sick.

Trigger #3. Very Unsexy Dirty Talk

I know calling oneself a prude is not flattering. No one wants to be a prude. Unfortunately for me, deep down, I shamefully have prude-ish qualities. I think these qualities stem from a watching a lot of music videos on VH1 at a very young age.

For a brief time when I was very young, I was was mildly obsessed with labeling things as “too sexy.” During this time, I became really great at censoring myself on behalf of my parents (who by the way, had no idea I was doing this). If a music video came on that was romantic or sexual in any way, I would think “this is not age appropriate for me” and deem it “too sexy.” I would then turn it off because in my mind I thought “I bet my parents will appreciate this.” You’re welcome mom and dad.

I would shy away from videos like Brian Adams’ “Have You Ever Loved a Woman,” Bon Jovi’s “Always,” and “Wicked Game” by Chris Issack (which in all honesty, I still think is way too sexy). I even had issues with this tape of French pop music I owned, which was all sung in French (a language I didn’t understand then and still don’t understand now). By tone alone, I declared that the duet, “Joue Pas” sounded “too sexy,” and felt I needed to turn that mysterious French smut off. Essentially, I was the Tipper Gore of my elementary school, slapping Parental Advisory stickers on everything I could get my 7-year old hands on.

Always_BonJovi

Please note: If you have not seen the Bon Jovi music video for “Always,” stop what you’re doing and watch it right now. This video has everything. Keri Russell with full-blown Felicity hair!! The jerk guy from Hocus Pocus! And betrayal, art, and a jealous lover who blows up million dollar apartment for no reason whatsoever! It’s a real A+ music video.

Anyway, as an adult I like to think that much of that prude-ness has worn off, but I suppose some of it still must live deep down within me. Case in point, this book. When the character starts with the dirty talk (which by the way felt so unbearably forced and unnatural for the character) I couldn’t handle it. The overt pornographic descriptions were not sexy or funny. They were just…uncomfortable.

With that, all three of my triggers were hit. Violence, feet, AND bad dirty talk?!

I found myself barely able to hold the book upright. I was so nervous about what was to come, I found myself reading through squinted eyes (as if squinting them would protect me from reading any more gross detail). As I continued to read, I could feel the pains in my back getting stronger and stronger. I was cringing. My entire body was literally cringing. And page by page, it got worse. More violence. More feet. More awkward sex.

So at page 120, I slammed the book shut. I decided right then and there, it was OK for me to abandon the book.

poppins

An accurate portrayal of me at page 120

Although I was pissed at myself for not finishing, I realized that reading is about having fun, and I wasn’t having fun with this book. Although I celebrate feeling new things through literature, I realized that it’s OK to not want to feel everything. Sadness? Sure! Bring it! New points of view? Humor? Fear? Ok, Yea! Let’s do this! But discomfort? No thanks. I’ll pass.

However, I did see a lot of positive reviews about this book on the Internet. So, I ask those of you who read Miranda July’s The First Bad Man, what do you think of this book? Were any of you able to power through? What did you think of the story? Share your comments below!

And if you haven’t read this one, have you ever had a book that made you so uncomfortable you had to abandon it? Tell us all about it in our comments section!

A Post About Nothing Really At All (Except All My Dreams for 2015)

What better image to represent a post about nothing!

What better image to represent a post about nothing!

Man, does it feel good to be sitting here in my dining room with my computer, writing to you on this lovely but neglected blog of mine.

The reason for today’s blog is… well, nothing really at all.

I suppose I’m writing because I’ve missed this. I’ve missed communicating with my fellow Not So Book Clubbers, and to me that’s reason enough to write. I could spend time apologizing for the lack of updates over the past couple of months and I could blame it on my work schedule, but that’s not really fun to read.

So instead, let’s use this post as a happy holiday card. An end of year celebration! A letter of intention to write more but not a promise (as promises are hard to keep). And an update on where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Back in July (as you may have read), I was hired back by the company that laid me off almost a year prior. I know some people think it was very admirable of me to go back but in reality, it wasn’t. I loved the people I worked with. It was easy to say “yes!” to returning to them. And since then, although it’s been incredibly busy, and at times highly stressful, it’s been rewarding. I laugh everyday at work regardless of what we have on our plates and that is owed to my fantastic co-workers. But with that said, I can’t help but miss that sweet beautiful time of unemployment because of all the free time it gave me.

This is how I showed up for work on Halloween this year—dressed as the robot we sell. My co workers not only didn't mock me, they let me win the costume contest. Sometimes, work can be great.

This is how I showed up for work on Halloween this year—dressed as the robot we sell. My co workers not only didn’t mock me, they let me win the costume contest. Sometimes, work can be great.

I’m sure it drives my husband crazy every time I say that, as he was there during said time of unemployment when I kept lamenting the loss of my job and incessantly referred to myself as a “loser” because I couldn’t get back on the work horse easily. But looking back, man was unemployment glorious! Sure, in the beginning I felt as though I was flailing around without a purpose. But then come November, the book club started and I felt a new value in my time.

I devoted every minute of every day to reading, writing, developing this idea, and building a dream. In reality, those 11 months off from full time employment saved me. Prior to the NSBCBC, I had allowed myself to drop all my hobbies. I spent the free time I had watching TV and wasting away on the Internet. And I know I’ve written about that before but I still can’t get over it. What a waste! And even scarier, what an easy habit to fall back into!

With Bravo's Andy Cohen at a book signing this past November.

With Bravo’s Andy Cohen at a book signing this past November.

Now, although I no longer have the luxury of absorbing myself in all things book club anymore, I realize it’s not an excuse to leave all those practices behind. I know how easy it is to fall back into horrible routines where you work all day and don’t satisfy your soul during your off time. So because I know what it takes for me to find fulfillment and happiness, in 2015 I’ll make it my resolution to try my darndest and fill the free time I have with the activities that made this past year so wonderful: read more, write more, and focus on things that push me forward.

New NSBCBC book marks coming soon! Send your name and address to Nsbcbc@gmail.com to receive yours for FREE!

New NSBCBC book marks coming soon! Send your name and address to Nsbcbc@gmail.com to receive yours for FREE!

And I recommend that for you as well. Fill the free time you have with activities that give you fulfillment, as opposed to filling your time with things that make you zone out after work. Sure, zoning out is helpful at times, but it doesn’t give your life any forward momentum. And I know, what I’m asking you to do is quite a tall order; find what makes you happy and fulfilled and fill your free moments with that.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, the reality is that it’s not. But at least I’ll be right here trying to do the same with you.

Have a happy holiday my wonderful Not So Book Club Book Club. Thank you for being the most supportive and wonderful community this year. Lots of love.

Nina

Rocking my Gatsby shirt that my Grandma told me I'm too old to wear. I disagree. :)

Rocking my Gatsby shirt that my Grandma told me I’m too old to wear. I disagree.:)

P.S. – Your January reads! The reason for me picking all three is that they came highly recommended! I have attached each of their goodreads pages. Read the reviews. See which one is for you! I look forward to chatting with you about them!

Read all about them! All the Light We Cannot See (http://goo.gl/knS69X) Brain on Fire (http://goo.gl/0vgiji) Cabinet of Curiosities (http://goo.gl/lSyKNU)

Read all about them! All the Light We Cannot See (http://goo.gl/knS69X) Brain on Fire (http://goo.gl/0vgiji) Cabinet of Curiosities (http://goo.gl/lSyKNU)

Your Not So Book Club Year in Review!

Your October Reads!

Your October Reads!

In preparation of our upcoming 1-year anniversary, we’ve made it so that our October #NSBCBC Reads are going to be selected BY YOU from the list of books we’ve read this year!

Sometimes a month goes by and it’s too difficult to get to all 3 books. Here’s you second chance to read something you missed! Enjoy the list! Happy reading book clubbers!

Download a PDF of the list by clicking below!

Not So Book Club Book Club (5)

Like us at facebook.com/nsbcbc, follow us at Twitter.com/notsobookclub, and check out our podcast at nsbcbc.podbean.com and on iTunes at The Not So Book Club Podcast!

September Reads—Why These Books?

 

Your September NSBCBC Reads!

Your September NSBCBC Reads!

It is such a beautiful day already and it’s only 9AM. With 70 degrees of wonderful happening outside my window, there is not a cloud in the sky. And the best part—it’s only August. Usually I am not a tremendous fan of this month because in my memory, August is full of overcast days set on stopping me from jumping in a pool. But this August, it’s been a mix of July heat and September coolness. Perfection.

Because of this (and for reasons I’ll mention in a bit), it’s been incredibly difficult for me to read this month. Since the weather has been so lovely on my days off, I find myself pulling away from my books. And it’s only going to get harder next week.

The big news—the company that laid me off last year (actually a year ago next week) hired me back full time. I am starting almost a year to the day that I got laid off. It’s a great feeling because there is security involved in a full time gig (well… ok maybe not security, but at least a decent paycheck), and the knowledge that I’ll be back on track to pursue my career path.

The only issue is, because of last year’s layoff, and the start of the book club, I set a new course in my life. Now, more than ever, is this book club my priority. It became my beacon of hope when everything else fell apart. It gave me a sense of purpose and showed me what I was capable of. It’s something that I am not willing to give up, despite my new complicated schedule.

However,  it may be a bumpy start as I learn to juggle it all so I pre-apologize for that, just in case.

Job-schmob. Let's keep the party going.

Job-schmob. Let’s keep the party going.

With that said, I also want to say thank you again to all who participate in our little club. No matter how you’ve participated—may you be a casual reader of the blog, a listener of the podcast, or a person who one time liked one of our facebook posts—I just want to let you know how grateful I am to you. You help keep this thing going and keep me focused on growing this book club even more. So for that, I thank you.

 

And now, your September NSBCBC reads!

Getting people to participate in a book club is difficult. Getting myself to read even my own books can be difficult because well… see the above paragraphs. But there is one surefire way to motivate people to read a book and that is an impending movie release! That’s right. Every book selected for this month is going to be released as a film this fall.

1. This is Where I Leave You – Jonathan Tropper

First, let’s read the synopsis that I stole from goodreads.com, because I think it’ll do a better job describing the book than I would.

“The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman family—including Judd’s mother, brothers, and sister—have been together in years… Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family.”

I have always been a fan of the reunion story. People coming together who haven’t seen each other in a long time always gets me. The Worlds End. The Family Stone. Best Man Holiday (Ok now, I didn’t actually see that one, but I really wanted to see that one so it still counts). Also, look at this cast. Seriously… look at it!

How is it possible that so many of my favorite actors decided to be in one film together?! My Christmas miracle came early.

How is it possible that so many of my favorite actors decided to be in one film together?! My Christmas miracle came early.

This cast is comprised of basically every single actor I really love: Tammy Taylor. Peter Russo. Michael Bluth. Liz Lemon. Jean Ralphio. Adam, the creepy but lovable boyfriend from Girls!  The only thing that could make it better would be if Leonardo DiCaprio popped in for a quick cameo (but only if he were dressed as Jack Dawson before he succumbed to the big chill). Anyway, these are all actors I respect and because they all chose to be in this film, I must assume that the script was good. And in order for the script to be good, the book must be as well. Fingers crossed.

Movie Release Date: September 19

Check out This is Where I Leave You on Goodreads and IMDB.

2. The Maze Runner – James Dashner

Want to see what actually sold me on this book? It was this:

3 Things that guarantee George will love a movie: 1. A Hunger Games vibe? Check! 2. Lots of boys - Check! 3. Spooky premise for movie theater cuddling? Check and check.

3 Things that guarantee George will love a movie:
1. A Hunger Games vibe? Check!
2. Lots of boys – Check!
3. Spooky premise for movie theater cuddling? Check and check.

Brought to us by Mr. Me At the Movies himself, that frantic text was the dealbreaker. After giving himself so much anxiety about this story, we decided right then and there—The Maze Runner was in.

Recommended for readers who enjoyed The Hunger Games (so basically, everyone), this futuristic story takes place in a bizarre dystopia where an ever-changing maze keeps a group of amnesia-afflicted kids captive.

Check out the trailer that nearly killed our dear George Rose here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64-iSYVmMVY

Movie Release Date: September 19

Check out The Maze Runner on Goodreads and IMDB.

3. Dark Places – Gillian Flynn

There’s a good chance you’ve read Gillian Flynn’s other novel, Gone Girl. I say that because well, it seems as though everyone I talk to has read it and man, does that book have a polarizing effect on people! Instead of re-reading the massively popular book that made many literally throw it across the room with its ending, I decided we should check out Flynn’s other book.

Dark Places tells the story of Libby Day, a woman who at the age of seven helped convict her brother for the murder of her family. Years later, she begins to question her own story when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of her brother’s innocence. And that’s when the search to find her family’s killers begins again.

Set for a November 14 release date, the film stars Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, and once again, my man PETER RUSSO! (Aka Corey Stoll).

For those who haven't seen House of Cards, this is Congressman Peter Russo in a tub, looking sad. Maybe not the most convincing way to tell you to watch House of Cards, but I think it's important you know this exists.

For those who haven’t seen House of Cards, this is Congressman Peter Russo in a tub, looking sad. Maybe not the most convincing way to tell you to watch House of Cards, but I think it’s important you know this exists.

Movie Release Date: November 14

Check out Dark Places on Goodreads and IMDB.

With that, happy reading everyone!

Check out our podcast on nsbcbc.podbean.com (New episode coming soon!) and order your free NSBCBC bookmark by sending your name and address to nsbcbc@gmail.com. Make sure to check out our facebook page (facebook.com/nsbcbc) and our Twitter account @notsobookclub. Write to us! Send us your thoughts! We’d love to hear from you!

Tons of love,

Nina Sclafani – Founder of The Not So Book Club Book Club

Order your free NSBCBC book mark today! Send your name and address to nsbcbc@gmail.com to receive yours!

Order your free NSBCBC book mark today! Send your name and address to nsbcbc@gmail.com to receive yours!

August Reads – Why These Books?

Your August NSBCBC Reads!

Your August NSBCBC Reads!

Man, it’s hot in here.

I’m currently writing to you from the Muscle Maker Grill in Huntington, NY and I swear it’s about 85 degrees in this building. As you can tell, my locale is not nearly as awesome as the last time, but vacations can’t last forever. Oh Vegas, how I miss thee.

Since I last wrote, a lot has happened. We posted a fantastically fun and patriotic episode of the Not So Book Club Podcast. Dare I say it was the best episode thus far? Yes, I dare. But you can be the judge of that. Head over to nsbcbc.podbean.com and check it out for yourself. Actually, check out all four episodes because personally, I think they’re all pretty great.

We also received the first batch of The Not So Book Club Book Club bookmarks! (Is that a mouthful or what?!) Featuring photographs by the talented Kimberly Manley, these bookmarks got it all. Slightly heavy card stock, a sleek matte finish, and my grinning face on it. And the best part—you can get your very own NSBCBC bookmark for free! Send your full name and address to nsbcbc@gmail.com and I’ll make sure you have yours within the week.

They're fun. They're functional. They're free.

They’re fun. They’re functional. They’re free.

With that said, let’s jump into our August reads!

1. On Writing (A Memoir of the Craft) – Stephen King

Despite the fact that I recently have been treating the word “memoir” like my own personal enemy, I just can’t quit this genre. And I certainly couldn’t ignore this book, especially after the glowing recommendation Kimmy gave it.

For a pretty decent reader like myself, I must admit I’ve read only one Stephen King book. It was Pet Semetary and I read it so I could finally put a 10-year fear to bed. Let us flash back to the summer of 1999. I was sleeping over my friend’s house, enjoying life with the carefree whimsy of a child who has never experienced anything scarier than perhaps seeing 5 seconds of a commercial for the movie The Witches of Eastwick. After spending a few hours eating junk food and singing *Nsync karaoke, someone (not me) suggested we watch Pet Semetary. For fear of looking like a wuss, I agreed. Within 10 minutes, I could feel the hives forming on my chest. Fear was filling me up to the point that my body was trying to push it out in the form of red blotches, but I kept watching. By the time “Zelda” appeared on the screen I was ready to pass out… and then that bitch appeared 2 more times! Needless to say, I spent the rest of the summer asking my parents if I could sleep on the floor of their bedroom.

Unfortunately, the fear didn’t end after that summer. Every time I shut the lights off in the basement, or pulled the shower curtain back, I feared that Zelda would be there, yelling at me about her twisted spine. (That’s what she did. She never actually killed anyone. She was just really grumpy and scary looking). Anyway, 10 years went by with these irrational fears in my life until I finally decided to face my fear and re-watch the movie. But before I did that, I decided to read the book. I figured the more absorbed I was in the story, the better shot I had at realizing it was ridiculous. But honestly, it was scary. Turns out, Stephen King is really great at writing scary stories. Who knew? (Everyone. Everyone knew.)

This is Gage. He's the adorable child who dies, rises from the dead, and totally changes his look to be a little more turn-of-the-century goth chic. I refused to post a picture of Zelda, because she's too terrifying. Side note: Zelda's a man. I actually found the actor's email and wrote to them explaining how terrified I was of them. He never wrote back. The nerve....

This is Gage. He’s the adorable child who dies, rises from the dead, and totally changes his look to be a little more turn-of-the-century goth chic. I refused to post a picture of Zelda, because she’s too terrifying. But here is a link for those who like to torture themselves. Side note: Zelda’s a man. I actually found the actor’s email and wrote to him explaining how much his performance terrified me. He never wrote back. The nerve….

Anyway, it’s time I dive back into the Stephen King pool. Kimmy said that this was one of the best written books she’s ever read (and this is coming from a girl who lives for a good sentence). The (non-horror) memoir focuses on the process of writing, and I believe it also was written at a time where he was recovering from a very serious accident, so there’s a lot of life reflection going on. I’m not 100% about that though, because this Muscle Maker Grill does not have wifi and I can’t currently look that up. Kimmy, can you confirm this?

2. The Leftovers – Tom Perrotta

Anyone with HBO has probably seen the commercial for this show about a million times. (You know the one. It’s the commercial where they play that really awesome James Blake song and show a lot of people crying and being angry). For those of you who are into those kinds of shows (me) you have already experienced the first 4 episodes. So far, I have not made it through a single episode without shedding a tear. It may only be a single tear, but it’s still a tear.

Doesn't this show look like a great time?!

Doesn’t this show look like a great time?!

Anyway, the story examines what happens to people who are left behind after a “rapture like” event occurs (people disappear without a trace, and family and friends are left wondering what happened). They are the “leftovers,” the ones who were left behind, destined to spend the rest of their existence wondering what really happened.

Fellow NSBCBCer Daryl (who recommended Beautiful Ruins and is featured on the bookmark as the beautiful reading yogi) recommended this one. Although she had not seen the show, enough positive reviews drew her to the book, and she was not disappointed. Strange, beautiful, and disturbing, this book is guaranteed to leave you questioning just how would you react if this were to happen to you.

3. Live from New York (As Told By It’s Stars, Writers, and Guests)– Tom Shales & James Andrew Miller

In my dreams, I am Molly Shannon, and Rocky Balboa is my dog.

In my dreams, I am Molly Shannon, and Rocky Balboa is my dog.

I have always been a huge fan of SNL. Despite however many times people say “the show has gotten horrible,” I never agree. I dig it, even when it’s bad. And even more, I dig the history of the show. Every time VH1 airs their SNL special, it’s almost a guarantee I will stop and watch it (unless it’s airing at the same time as a new episode of SNL of course).

I read this book a few years ago and I found it fascinating. This book tells the history of SNL, but does it through interviews of people who were there during each time period discussed. Previous cast members, hosts, producers, and writers all weigh in to talk about the everything from the start of the show to when the book was published in 2004.

Check out how cool Lorne Michaels looked in the 70's.

They’re so cool it kills me a little.

Filled with dirty secrets of drugs,sex, politics, and comedy, this book reaffirmed that despite how much I love to dream about being a cast member, I’d never be cool enough.

And don’t let the page count scare you. This one flies by.

With that, I must exit this Muscle Maker Grill, because it is probably now 90 degrees in here and I am melting into my keyboard.

Hope this month’s books have been treating you well. Stay tuned for an upcoming episode of The Not So Book Club Podcast and participate in the club via our numerous social media outlets! Facebook.com/nsbcbc is always waiting for you to comment, Twitter.com/notsobook club is always looking for new followers, and Instagram is more than ready for you to use the nsbcbc hashtag. Get on it.

Tons of love.

Nina Sclafani

Founder of the Not So Book Club Book Club

July’s Reads—Why These Books?

 

The July Reads for The Not So Book Club Book Club!

The July Reads for The Not So Book Club Book Club!

Greetings from Las Vegas, friends!

Currently, I am writing from my hotel’s lobby because my poor hubby desperately needs his beauty rest. The poor guy has been working night after night, clocking in 12 hours shifts in order to break down the massive structures he built for this weekend’s EDC festival. He’s been getting out of work around 6 AM every day, looking as dirty and dusty as if he just stepped right out of The Grapes of Wrath. Anyway, his boss took pity on him (as it is the week of his birthday) and decided to fly me out for support. So, here I am in Vegas, acting as a doting wife (but I guess not doting nearly enough because well… I’m in a lobby writing to all of you). Whatever, he understands–I have book club responsibilities!

I hope this month’s books have been treating you as well as they have been treating me. If you follow the @notsobookclub twitter account, I’m sure you saw that I devoured The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in basically 24 hours. What a fun book! However, I did hear from one of our NSBCBC members that she was not having as much luck in the speedy reading department. Turns out, she accidentally picked up the version that has all 5 books of the series, compact into one. So sorry, Lauren! I wish I had known about that beforehand. I would have written a warning. But power to you, girl! Keep on reading!

On the plane here I finished Whistling Past the Graveyard and I look forward to chatting with those of you who read it. It was a bit difficult to get through, as history at times is a tough pill to swallow. I still can’t believe there was ever a time where that kind of prejudice existed. However, we all know that sadly it still exists in many places and probably will continue to exist for years to come. Maybe we should drop a copy of Whisting in the mailbox of every racist jerk in America so they can read about how stupid their ridiculous prejudices are… if they can even read.

I also just cracked into Night Film and already I’m hooked. Don’t let the 500+ pages scare you away from tackling this one. Trust me, it moves fast! The interjection of computer screenshots and photos break it up nicely and keeps it very fast paced! In only 40 minutes, I got about 50 pages in. For me, that’s impressive because I’m a really slow reader.

And lastly, for some side “reading,” I’ve been listening to J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy as a book on CD, and let me tell you… it’s anything but Harry Potter. Very adult. Like, rated R adult. Lot’s of sexy talk and cursing, which was something that was very much absent from our beautiful little Hogwarts. I mean, for all the drama that goes down in the world of Harry Potter, it’s amazing that Harry never stood up and shouted “Ya know what assholes?! I’m done with this shit!” Anyway, it’s really great and it is clear that she truly is a fantastic writer worthy of all the accolades she has received throughout her career.

 

The only curses you can find in the Harry Potter series are the kind that kill you. Damn you Voldemort! You dick!

The only curses you can find in the Harry Potter series are the kind that kill you. Damn you Voldemort! Why you gotta be such a dick?!

I also decided to read the Locke and Key graphic novel series, as recommended to me by Michael Ragosta on episode 3 of the Not So Book Club Podcast (The Runaway Comic Train). I’m on the second to last volume and he was definitely right in his description. I can easily imagine it as a Steven Spielberg film, however be warned–its violence is comparable to that of Saving Private Ryan. Little old E.T. would be scared shitness if he found himself in Lovecraft, that’s for sure.

And with that long-winded intro, let’s get to why you’re really here! I present to you the July Not So Book Club Book Club Reads!

 

1.  China Dolls by Lisa See

I have had a mild obsession with Lisa See ever since I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan almost 8 years ago. But that obsession has only grown, and it came to its peak when I got to meet her at the Huntington Book Revue last week. She was there doing a book signing and lucky for us fans she spoke for about an hour on the writing process of her latest book, China Dolls.

Here I am, meeting Lisa See, and fan-girling hard. Love her!

Here I am, meeting Lisa See at the Huntington Book Revue on June 18th, and fan-girling hard. Love her!

The book follows the friendship of 3 best friends, as they perform as showgirls in San Francisco’s exclusive ‘Oriental’ nightclub, the Forbidden City, during the 1940’s. For those interested in history, the Forbidden City was a real nightclub located in San Francisco and was the first Chinese/American nightclub located outside of San Frans’ busy China Town. The club was host to thousands of American servicemen, with acts such as “The Chinese Ginger Rogers!” and “The Chinese Frank Sinatra!”

The book also explores the always-changing dynamics of friendship, while painting a picture of the pre-and post-WWII view of Chinese and Japanese citizens living in the United States.

To prepare for this book, See spent 3 years compiling research for this book. She traveled around the country interviewing people (many of whom were in their late 80’s and early 90’s) who were present at these nightclubs during the 40’s. The best interview she had was with a performer named Mai Thai Sing (who professionally went by the name Mai Thai). Mai Thai (who is 91 years old now and apparently still very much a wise-cracking, foul-mouthed lady) was a very well-known performer during those times and according to See, had numerous affairs with many of Hollywood’s biggest leading men. You go, Mai Thai!

The beautiful Mai Thai Sing, performing at The Forbidden City nightclub in the early 1940's.

The beautiful Mai Thai Sing, performing at The Forbidden City nightclub in the early 1940’s.

For more information on China Dolls, and the performers of the Forbidden City, visit See’s website, here: http://www.lisasee.com/insidechinadolls/

2. Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubryn

I first saw this book while I was bookstore hopping in NYC. Honestly, I was drawn to the cover. Something about the font drew me in. And then when I read the synopsis, I thought it was a fun world that we haven’t really jumped into quite yet with the book club. So it made the list.

Lost for Words explored the comically dramatic and surprisingly competitive world of professional writers. This satire tells the story of a hand-full of writers, all competing for the Elysian Prize for Literature (aka, the prize that crowns the “best book of the year”). The story begins when the publisher of “brilliant writer and serial heartbreaker” Katherine Burns accidentally submits a cookbook in place of her novel for her entry into the competition. From there, all hell breaks loose and we as readers have a good laugh.

This is kinda what the description of the competition for the Elysian Prize reminded me of. The film Drop Dead Gorgeous, a fantastic satire about the dirty world of small-town beauty pageants. A true classic.

This is kinda what the description of the competition for the Elysian Prize reminded me of—the film Drop Dead Gorgeous—a fantastic satire about the dirty world of small-town beauty pageants. A true classic.

3. Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life by Tom Robbins

Can you believe it? Despite all the junk I spouted about comedic memoirs, here I am again. I guess despite all my belly aching, I still am drawn to these things with the hope that I will get a laugh out of it. Actually, it was the back cover that got me interested in this one. Writer Tom Robbins starts out right away by acknowledging that he is in fact undeserving of writing and publishing a memoir. He does however make a plea to the reader, saying that although he is a remarkably unremarkable individual, he does a great job making sure all the stories within are humorous and worthy of your attention.

I’ve always been a sucker for modesty (and no, not the kind of modesty that comes from a 15 year old beautiful toothpick of a teenager complaining about “how fat!” she is). I’m talkin’ real, self-aware modesty. And his odd mixture of modesty and confidence was enough to make me intrigued.

A little background on the author—Tom Robbins is an internationally bestselling American novelist, and has written such “wonderfully weird” books including Still Life With Woodpecker, Jitterbug Perfume, and Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates.

So I’ve got my fingers crossed. Perhaps this will be the memoir that will make me sweet on them again.

 

And with that, my friends, are your July Reads!

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as I will have information on how you can get your very own FREE Not So Book Club Book Club book mark! They are currently being printed in the great state of California and I couldn’t be more excited about their coming arrival.

A little preview of the book marks. How cool are these? ........(crickets)...... Whatever guys... I think they're cool!

A little (albeit blurry) preview of the book marks. How cool are these? ……..(crickets)…… Whatever guys… I think they’re cool!

Also, stay tuned for Episode 4 of the Not So Book Club Podcast! Recording had to be postponed due to my unexpected adventure to Las Vegas, but I promise it will be posted in the next 10ish days.

Tons of love and Happy Reading Book Clubbers!

– Nina Sclafani

Founder of the Not So Book Club Book Club

 

The Ultimate Book Day and Why You Should Do This Too

I have lived on Long Island almost my entire life and as of right now, I have no plans to ever move away. Aside from this past years’ brutal winter, not much has ever made me want to leave it either. This island has beautiful beaches, adorable tree-filled neighborhoods, wineries, great shopping spots, and it’s close to New York City. But for a place that is home to over seven and a half million people, our independent book store number is a little low. Sure, we have the mecca of all independent bookstores on this island—Huntington’s Book Revue—and a few other gems, like Book Hampton in Mattituck and Dolphin Bookstore in Port Washington, but I wanted to see something new.

With the desire to expand my bookstore horizons, I did a search for the best bookstores near me and a fantastic list popped up. The list was filled with independent bookstores all located within Brooklyn and NYC, so with that, this past Saturday I decided to make a day of it.

My first stop was to the East Village, where I finally got to experience the amazing food of Gabrielle Hamilton, author of Blood, Bones, and Butter (one of the first NSBCBC reads from November of 2013).

It was such an amazing feeling, seeing the actual restaurant that she wrote about creating in her book. Just as she described, the miniature bistro was filled to the brim with her essence. The style of her writing mirrored the style of the decor—whimsical, exciting, and lovely. And the food…. oh man… the food. Comforting yet experimental. Beautiful yet approachable. Fresh and crisp and everything I knew it would be because it was just as she described it in her book. It was a delicious dining experience and a great way to continue my love affair with this book. I truly cannot wait to go back.

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Top Left: I was not above bringing my book in for a picture. Top Right: My husband Andrew trying out our bizzare Bloody Mary choices (mine included beef bullion!) Bottom Right: Posing with the signage. Not touristy whatsoever. Bottom Left: Our incredible meals. Spicy chic peas for me, fried Monte Cristo for Andrew. Happy diners all around.

From there, my hubby and I parted ways and I went on a solo mission to Prince Street’s McNally Jackson Bookstore and Cafe. This is the kind of store that has a very cool vibe, yet it didn’t feel too cool for me to be there. With its very own working printing press, and a cafe that serves everything from fresh scones to sparkling rose water, McNally Jackson has enough to keep even a browser occupied for hours. I decided to spend my time in the graphic novel corner, with my drink from the cafe and the latest volume of Saga. For a half hour, I sat uninterrupted by staff or fellow patrons and read. It was the kind of place where nobody cared that I didn’t buy the book or occupied the seat. They were just happy to have people in there, reading and enjoying their space.

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Top Left: The store front. Spot any NSBCBC reads? Top Right: The cafe, with its awesome hanging book fixtures. Bottom Right: Saga, Vol. 3. Oh, The Will! He’s just so tortured! Bottom Left: The impressive printing press.

Next up, I was joined by fellow NSBCBCer Daryl, and together we went to Housing Works Bookstore located on Crosby Street. Here is where I think I found my favorite bookstore in the world. This beautiful store is completely stocked with donated books and run almost entirely by volunteers. Not to mention, 100% of their proceeds go towards Housing Works—an advocacy group whose mission is to help end the “duel crisis of AIDS and homelessness” by providing lifesaving services to those in need. I mean REALLY… do I need to say anymore? No… but I will.

The store was easily the most aesthetically pleasing space of all the stores I visited throughout the day, and the selection was surprisingly vast. Even when the book we wanted wasn’t on the shelf, the shop keepers happily went out of their way to help us find what we were looking for. And the icing on the cake—right when I walked in there was a table completely filled with David Sedaris books. When I grabbed a copy of Let’s Discuss Diabetes with Owls (an NSBCBC April 2014 read) I was delighted to find the entire stack was signed by David himself. Apparently he had been there earlier in the week and stayed until midnight chatting with each and every person that came to see him. I happily bought two copies and made a vow to visit that store whenever I’m nearby.

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I’d live here if it weren’t weird to live in a public store.

Up next was the biggest of the 4 (Perhaps the biggest in the world? At least it felt like that) The Strand, located right by Union Square. This store, boasting its 18 miles of books, can be summed up in one word—overwhelming. Packed with hundreds of patrons, this maze of a place will surely have any book you’ve ever wanted; just be prepared to search for miles and miles to find it. In all honesty, my fragile self couldn’t take the mayhem for too long. I like my bookstores to be calming and although this place was impressive, it was anything but relaxing. We probably spent a total of 10 minutes there before deciding we didn’t need to see any more. We got the gist, and the gist was hectic.

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Daryl’s face in the top picture perfectly depicts just how overwhelming the store really is.

The last stop on our great bookstore tour was 192 books, located on 10th and 21st. Talk about the complete polar opposite of The Strand. This shop was about the size of my living room and was so quiet that it felt almost inappropriate for my friend and I to discuss our love of the children’s classic, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (even in a volume that was just above a whisper). Although it was adorable, it wasn’t necessarily welcoming, but that was probably due to its overly calming setting.

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Teeny Tiny, absolutely adorable, and a little awkward.

My overall verdict of the stores:  If this were a Goldilocks situation, The Strand was too much, and 192 books was too little, but McNally Jackson and Housing Works were juuuuuuuust right. And was it worth all the walking? You bet your buns it was.

So Why Do I Think You Should Go On a Bookstore Journey Too? 

At the end of the day, I was so happy I got to visit these places, not just because I got to be surrounded by things I love, but because I was surrounded by hundreds of readers just like me. So often I hear on the news that bookstores are going out of style, and that e-readers and Amazon are wiping away the need for traditional bookstores. But my experience shows otherwise. People still love these brick and mortars and it’s not because they must physically see the book before they buy it. It’s so they can be surrounded by the vibe of the bookstore. Here, you can chat with other people about the books and stumble upon books you may not ever find otherwise. You can sit and enjoy a coffee and flip through a book without pressure. And the best part—you’d be supporting the world of books and the activity of reading just by being present. Who doesn’t love that?

So be present. Visit your local bookstores, venture to new bookstores, and help keep the bookstore alive. Happy reading everyone!

– Nina Sclafani

Bookstore Junkie, Founder of The Not So Book Club Book Club

 P.S. – Episode 3  of The Not So Book Club Podcast has been posted! Check it out at NSBCBC.PODBEAN.COM, and listen to the gang discuss comics, children’s books, and more!  

June’s Reads—Why These Books?

Allow me to present.... your JUNE READS! (And then explain why you should be reading these books with me).

Allow me to present…. your JUNE READS! (And then explain why you should be reading these books with me).

Well hello there NSBCBC readers!

It’s been a little while so let me catch you up on the recent news. I got writers block and didn’t know what to write about, I sorta-conquered the writers block and am finally getting my creative groove back, I organized a fun panel of guests for this month’s NSBCBC podcast (which is being recorded this Sunday, and posted on Monday!), and I picked out June’s books, which I am really excited about!

However, before I get into the June Reads, I’d like to ask for your help yet again. Like I said, we will be recording a new episode of the podcast on Sunday and I’d like to encourage all you wonderful people to send us some questions or topics you’d like to hear about. Whether it’s questions or opinions about books we’ve read, books you’d like to recommend, general book/lit topics, book-related movies/tv… or whatever, we’d love to hear from you!

This month, I’ll be introducing two new exciting guests to our panel—Michael Ragosta, singer of This Good Robot and diehard comic-fiend (@thisgoodidiot), and comic enthusiast/writer/artist, Eastin Deverna (@EastinDeverna). We will be discussing comics for beginners along with some other comic-related topics, so feel free to weigh in by tweeting us at @notsobookclub, or posting on our facebook page (facebook.com/nsbcbc).

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Michael Ragosta (@thisgoodidiot), and Eastin Deverna (@EastinDeverna) will be joining us for a special comic seqment of this month’s NSBCBC Podcast!

 

And now, let’s talk June Reads!

1. Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Every time I read a new book, I try to post it on Goodreads.com. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that website, let me enlighten you (and yes, you can thank me later). Goodreads is an awesome website where you can track your reading, create lists of books you want to or have already read, rate the books you’ve read, see book reviews written by fellow readers, and snoop around to see what your friends are reading. But perhaps my favorite feature of this site is that it makes personalized recommendations based on books you’ve read and reviewed. This month, Goodreads told me I may enjoy this book based on my previous reading, and who am I to argue with the Goodreads people?

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Find me on Goodreads.com! I’d love to connect with you all and see what else you’ve been reading!

Whistling Past the Graveyard takes place in Mississippi during summer of 1963, and follows the story of Starla (a runaway teenager) and her unlikely travel companions—Eula, a black woman, and the white baby she has with her. Together, the trio encounters the harsh realities of southern segregation, and form a companionship that defies the prejudices of those around them.

2. Night Film by Marisha Pessl

My best friend (and fellow NSBCBC podcast panelist) Kimmy works at Barnes and Noble. Day in and day out, she chats with the public and over time can figure out what the next big books are going to be. Last month, she told me that Night Film was starting to fly off the shelves and that people couldn’t stop talking about this mysterious book. Because I like to be in the loop for all things pop culture, it made its way onto our list.

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And for those who’d like to see what a book junkie’s goodreads account looks like, check out NSBCBC podcast panelist Kimberly Manley’s goodreads page! Also, see some of her excellent photography at Kimberlymanley.com

Night Film opens with the death of a beautiful young woman in a Manhattan warehouse. Although her death is ruled as a suicide, an investigative journalist realizes that this death may not be as clear cut as it seems. He discovers that woman’s father is in fact a notorious and legendary horror film maker, and her death feels eerily similar to another within the family. Throughout the story, the investigative journalist delves deep into the dark world of the film maker, and puts his career and life on the line in order to solve this mystery.

I love me some spooky mysteries!

3. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

For years, this is one of those books that I’ve always heard about, along with the film adaptation that that came out in 2005 starring Bilbo Baggins (aka Martin Freeman… my newest obsession due to FX’s Fargo). And despite all its praise, it never was something I was terribly curious about.

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This guy just can’t stop having adventures. Oh Martin…

Then came December when I tried to read An Astronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth and I realized it wasn’t the space program I wanted to read about. I wanted to read about space. And by space, I mean the fun inventive version of space that sci-fi writers have been creating and building upon for years. So with that desire, it finally became time for me to bite the bullet and jump around the galaxy with these characters.

Now, unlike previous months, I couldn’t help myself with this one and the second I got the book in the mail, I started reading it. Now 2 days later, I’m just about done and it’s great. I can honestly say it’s as clever and fun as people have told me for years and I kinda wish I read it sooner. And the best part—it’s a quick read! (Last month’s The Forgiven took me a solid 2 weeks to get through, so this… this is like a dream come true.)

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Apparently having a towel in outer space is a VERY big deal. Oh, the things you learn when you read.

 

And with that, those are your June Reads!  Each of these should be fairly easy to get a hold of at the library (except maybe Night Film if Kimmy’s prediction is right). And for those of you with Amazon Prime, I was able to buy all three books this month under $20 (Heck yea free shipping!).

To wrap it up, don’t forget to tweet us @notsobookclub or post on our facebook page (facebook.com/nsbcbc) with your podcast recommendation topics! Check back in on Monday to listen to the latest podcast, and if you missed either of the first two episodes, stream them for free here! (nsbcbc.podbean.com)

 

Happy reading!

– Nina Sclafani

Founder of The Not So Book Club Book Club