The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives Book Club

     While searching for Cheryl Jarvis’ The Necklace:  Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives in the library, I was surprised to find myself in the non-fiction aisle.  The title conjured memories of reading Guy de Maupassant’s short story, “The Necklace.”  Interestingly enough, though, having finished Jarvis’ The Necklace, the two works together spark a thoughtful comparison of themes while encompassing two opposing genres.
     A literary sap when it comes to biographical non-fiction, this is, in essence, what kept me turning the pages.  Intrigued by these thirteen women’s truthful revelations, I was compelled to understand the seemingly shallowness and pride which seemed to exude from the pages in a rather (as Dr. Howard would say) sophomoric style of writing.  Yearning for more substance, I struggled within chapters trying to determine whose story was actually being told as well as waiting for a dramatic conclusion to each individual’s tale which never came to light.  Feeling I would find what I was hoping for in the final chapter: growth, redemption, resolution;   instead, I was and still am bewildered.
     For book club purposes, a read which may not make everyone’s “Top Ten” usually makes for the liveliest discussions.  An imitation (cheap!) version of the diamond tennis necklace may be purchased for your book club in order to fulfill the guidelines offered in The Necklace.  Tamales are a must since it was revealed in Mary O’Connor’s section that they are “a Southern California holiday staple” (179).  In addition, a nod to each woman should be incorporated into the meal;  for example, local-grown organic strawberries to represent Roz McGrath and perhaps a bottle of Dom Perignon (or not) to represent Priscilla Van Gundy.  What ideally one should come away with from this reading is the motivation to create change, find a cause,  and fund raise for a purpose.

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Learn More about Romance Author Heidi Hall

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .
The Notebook! I started crying ten minutes in. My husband had fallen asleep (of course!) and when he asked me the next morning how the movie was I could hardly talk. A lump formed in my throat and the tears started all over again. Finally I squeaked out, “He loved her so much!” and ran from the room. We don’t talk about The Notebook at my house ;-).
Describe your first kiss.
Eew! Sixth grade…a boy cornered me by my locker. I kind of liked him, so I didn’t move away as he swooped in with puckered lips. It was the tongue that creeped me out (LOL). Very juicy introduction.
Your favorite children’s book, and why . . .
Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume. I don’t know that it qualifies as a children’s book, but it made a definite impact on my life. I need to read that one again *wanders off to Amazon*.
A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why . . .
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. My cousin’s daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 (Insulin-dependent) diabetes at 9 months. It was so tragic to watch her cope with the constant needles and highs and lows of her failing pancreas. And the disease seems to have become so prevalent. We need to find a cure! I participate every year in the JDRF walk to find a cure in Arizona…Join me!
If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be and why?
Right now, I would be Kayla McKenna – my latest heroine. She’s a recovering assassin and I take out all my road rage and rude people encounters on other characters in my book through her. Pretty fun! My friends and family get into it too and can often be heard muttering, “I know who’s going to get it next in your book.” Bwahaha.
Explain the worst job that you’ve held.
I worked as a hostess in high school for a Mexican food restaurant. Yummy, but people are jerks. I am not fit for service-oriented professions, but I’m now a real big tipper!
A quote that motivates you . . .
“I want to be Barbie, that *i**c has everything.” – It makes me laugh.
The title of the one song you would take with you on that deserted island . . .
Hmm… I’m not good picking one since my tastes are so eclectic. But if you insist… it would have to be “My Immortal” by Evanescense. I can listen to it over and over and never get tired of it. 
Three Wishes
I would wish for the economy to recover so we could all take care of our families. I would wish for a cure for disease (all of them – thinking big here). And finally, I would wish happiness upon those who seek it. 
Favorite game you played as a child . . .
Hungry Hippos! Loved that game.
What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
My one and only goal is to entertain. I strive for each book to be an escape from the grind, a peek into a life you might wish for, a bit of humor to hopefully surprise a laugh out of readers, and always a happy ending. Happy Reading! 

Train to Nowhere Book Club

     After completing Train to Nowhere:  Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation, a few days were needed to fully comprehend the senseless, traumatic occurrence that author Colleen Bradford Krantz features in her work of non-fiction.  Without bias, Krantz unfolds various accounts and backstories of the people involved in the gruesome deaths of eleven undocumented immigrants.  Not only does Krantz paint a vivid picture through the peppering of the text with actual photographs, but also provides legal documentation and historical backgrounds while detailing the politics involved in the immigration issue.  By the end of this written account, I felt as if I, too, had made feeble attempts to preserve dirt floors, to search tirelessly for repeat immigrant offenders, and literally to bake to death while desperately searching for a better life.
     On a grammatical note, tears welled in my eyes at the accurate punctuation of “20s” (35).  Yet, my anal English-teacher self cringed at the repetitive use of the words “got” and “things” which (in my opinion) would have read much cleaner and clearer with the use of active verbs and concrete nouns respectively as replacements.
    For the purposes of book club, no food or drink allowed.  This meeting does not call for feasting and merriment.  Instead, a productive talk about how an individual can act as an instrument of change regarding the immigration situation in this country.  Furthermore, a viewing of the accompanying documentary Train to Nowhere:   Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation  will only further place the reader inside this journalistic must-read.


Colleen Bradford Krantz

Learn More about Author Colleen Bradford Krantz

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .

It has to be “Love Story.” I love quite a few older movies, but this from the 1970s is one of the best when it comes to tear-jerkers.
 
Describe your first kiss.
I just heard a great commercial asking listeners to describe their second kiss. Their point was you can’t remember it. First is best, they argued. I barely remember that first kiss, though, so the commercial was lost on me. I can say it involved a game of spin the bottle in the seventh grade, but wasn’t exactly a romantic highlight in our lives.
 
Your favorite children’s book, and why . . .
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would have to be my favorite (along with the others in the Chronicles of Narnia series). As a kid, I loved this world the author created through that wardrobe door. It was a place I wanted to explore myself.

A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why . . .
I lost my big sister to cancer when she was just 34 so cancer prevention and research are close to my heart. As much as that, though, is trying to embrace an attitude of generosity and kindness that was so built into my sister’s nature. I try to donate time and money to a mix of causes that fit into her view of life.
If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be and why?
Probably Brianna from Born in Ice or the other Concannon sisters in the Born In trilogy by Nora Roberts. I love the idea of living in Ireland, which my ancestors left long ago, but Roberts also makes these women very real with real interests/hobbies (besides the men).
 
Explain the worst job that you’ve held.
I’ve not had any truly horrible jobs, but I guess de-tasselling corn as a high school student might qualify. I grew up in rural Iowa, and walking the fields of seed corn and pulling off the top of the corn plant (the tassel) was a quick way to make good money during the summer. Of course, the corn was usually soaked with dew at the 5:30 a.m. start time so you were too within five minutes. But, hey, there were a bunch of my friends out there too so somehow it was more fun than not.
A quote that motivates you . . .
This sits on my desk, nice and simple: “Dwell in possibility” – Emily Dickinson
 
The title of the one song you would take with you on that deserted island . . .
“If I Had Words” – a song featured in the movie Babe – but I’d be most happy if it were sung by the farmer and then the little mice. Hey, it’s going to be a long stay on the island. I’d need something to amuse me.
 
Three Wishes
1) I’d wish that all my family and friends live a healthy and happy life, and when their time comes, that they might go gently.
2) I’d wish for a boatload of money with which to do good around the world. Yes, money might be the root of all evil, but, let’s face it, it can also be a tool for good.
3) I’d wish that all my future wishes would be granted once I’d submitted them and waited a required two-week waiting period to make sure it was a smart wish.
 
Favorite game you played as a child . . .
Capture the Flag. Not sure why except I love the outdoors and this is best played in a forest.
 
What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
I want them to walk away understanding a perspective they might not have truly understood before or even considered. In the case of Train to Nowhere; Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation, I wanted those on one “side” of the immigration debate to understand the boy from Guatemala who wanted so badly to have his chance to see the United States. But I also wanted the other side to understand the former Border Patrol/immigration agent who once guarded that line in the sand even though his own ancestors once crossed it to leave Mexico. My goal is to tell both “sides” of any story as fairly as possible.

Of Love and Other Demons Book Club

     Searching through my tubs of books, I came across Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Of Love and Other Demons.  Remembering that I had purchased this short novel years and years ago after a class introduced me to this remarkable Nobel Prize-winning author via One Hundred Years of Solitude, I  knew I had unearthed my next read while feeling a pang of regret at not yet having turned its pages.  Translated by Edith Grossman, Of Love and Other Demons in much the same manner as One Hundred Years of Solitude immerses the reader into the genre of magical realism.
     This style of writing not only entrances me through its melding of fantasy and reality, but also, quite often, causes me to giggle at its absurdity written in such an authoritative manner, “He was an funereal, effeminate man, as pale as a lily because the bats drained his blood while he slept”  (9) . . . “In Burgos he had seen a possessed woman who defecated without pause the entire night until she filled the room to overflowing”  (98).
     For the purposes of book club, the host may prepare a meal of “goat’s eyes and testicles cooked in lard and seasoned with burning spices”(65) in order to be true to the female protagonist’s likings.  However, cups of chocolate accompanied by bread and cheese may better suit more finicky tastes as it did the Bishop in the novel.  In addition, an assortment of pastries much like those smuggled in for Sierva Maria by Cayetano would be a welcome addition.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez