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

 

Advertisements

How Working on This Project Has Felt Oddly Like the Plot of Titanic

Since we’re now a little over the 6 month mark, I decided this week to take a short reprieve and reflect on the ups and downs that have been trying to make The Not So Book Club Book Club successful. And what better way to describe this journey than to use the plot of Titanic to help me out. Dramatic you say? Sure. But kinda accurate? Let’s be fair and say it’s as accurate as the somewhat-accurate screenplay James Cameron wrote for this movie.

 

Image

 1. Nov 2013: Who could have guessed that a little Instagram picture encouraging my friends to read books with me would turn into all this? It was a long shot to see if anyone would participate, but like my Titanic counterpart Jack, I made my bet (kind of on a whim) and started the journey that would take over my life (and by life I mean free time). Obviously as seen in the picture, we were both pretty pumped about our new beginnings.

 

Image

In this version, the role of me is played by Leo and the role of my dog Max is played by Fabrizio. (Except in our version, Fabrizio doesn’t get all smushed from that falling part of the boat. He survives and learns to never eat out of the garbage again.)

2. By December 2013, I was so enthusiastic about it all. The Facebook page! The Twitter! The WordPress! It all gave me new purpose! It refocused me and stopped me from slogging through my days of unemployment, unproductive and unmotivated. It woke my brain up and make me feel like I was doing something great. I was so pumped to the point where I may have actually shouted “I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD!” right into my dog’s face. My poor dog.

 

Image3. Come Christmastime, I found myself with new and interesting things to talk about with people at holiday parties. Along with the books I was recommending, I had the NSBCBC to talk about. I no longer felt the need to describe myself as “recently laid off” but rather, “starting an online book club and writing a blog.” I felt fancy and felt proud that I had something interesting to contribute to conversations.

Image

SWEET SWEET SUCCESSSSSSS!

 

4. Along with that new confidence came my first successful blog post! The one about unemployment exploded in my little world of WordPress and I felt like I had really started to build a following.

 

 

Image

Da fuq?

5. But then there were the setbacks. For all the times I thought I was heading in the right direction, I started to question if it really was the start of something great, or had I just caught lightning in a bottle? I felt like that until….

Image

BOOM! Sweet sweet success againnnnn!

 

6. SUCCESSFUL BLOG NUMBER 2! Sure, it took a little while to get back here, but I made it, which meant I was capable of doing it twice! And with that I avoided calling myself a one hit wonder. Phewww…..

 

Image

“Oh hey Nina. It’s me. Iceberg. You’re working everyday this week. And I need you to stay late. K Thanks!”

7. But eventually reality hit me and I needed to start working again. To me, the iceberg was my job and that job really screwed up the freedom I felt when The Not So Book Club Book Club was my only priority.

 

Image

 

8. Slowly, I missed NSBCBC deadlines I made for myself and felt rushed reading through three books a month. I was afraid that this little project of mine would sink…. sink like the Titanic. The casualties wouldn’t be nearly as bad (that’s an understatement if I’ve ever seen one) but it would still bum me out significantly.

Image

Um… Hi gang. So did uh….anyone else really enjoy Beautiful Ruins?

9. And with the lack of Facebook posts and participation by others I wondered “is there anyone out there?” Am I just talking to myself here?

 

Image

“Name please” “Nina Sclafani. Ms. Book Club if ya nasty”

10. But like my beloved Rose, I’m going to forge ahead and keep this thing going because I love it. It’s been great for me. And I can only hope it’s been great for you too.

 

 

Till Next Week.

– Nina

Formally Laid Off Unemployed Person, Current Proud Founder of The Not So Book Club Book Cub