Susie's Book Club
By somewhat popular, albeit hysterical, demand, I am posting our book club online. This is a book club for people who have never before either wanted to read for fun or felt like they had the time, because there was always "something else" they were supposed to be reading for school, etc.
It is all I can do to get through Newsweek & the four magazines I receive a month, much less read real books quickly; so pardon the slack nature of new material around here.

*** I would, however, like to thank a very generous benefactor for actually funding some further purchases (that were - shockingly enough - NOT children's books!) and inspiring me to read on! ***
Book Club

The books that started it all:     

Diary of a Mad Bride
by Laura Wolf

I laughed out loud so many times! I passed it on to Wendy, my Maid of Honor, who at the time was also a self-proclaimed "non-reader", and she devoured it, as well. Tina, another bridesmaid, was next to dive in and also gave it rave reviews. We agree with the back cover: it's "for anyone who has ever been a bride, is about to become a bride, yearned to be a bride, or suffered the sheer indignity of appearing in public in the world's ugliest bridesmaid dress..."
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Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
by Rebecca Wells

Just captivating! I long for my best friends and I to have as much fun as the Ya-Yas as we grow older!
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Book Club

And since then:

Most Recent Reads

It Ain't All About the Cookin'
by Paula Deen

Now that we live right in Paula Deen's home area, several friends told me to read her memoir, because she talks about so many local places here. Sold! I already knew quite a bit of Miss Paula's life story, but I still wasn't the least bit bored. I loved - as always! - the Southern culture & flavor, and it really was cool to hear her talk about things I drive by almost everyday now.

Heaven is For Real
by Todd Burpo

"The true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn't know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear. Colton said he met his miscarried sister, whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each. He describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how "reaaally big" God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit "shoots down power" from heaven to help us. Told by the father, but often in Colton's own words, the disarmingly simple message is heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready, there is a coming last battle." For my personal thoughts, click here.

Falling Home
by Karen White

"Cassie Madison, estranged from her sister, returns home to be with her dying father, intending to leave the sleepy Georgia town immediately after his funeral. Unexpectedly, she inherits the family home. Now she has to stay in Walton until it sells...which happens to be just long enough for her to learn how the power of family, memories and a former love can lead to the most amazing discoveries."

Sarah's Key
by Tatiana de Rosnay

I connected with this book on such an amazing level. I am completely obsessed with WWII history; I'd rather watch a History Channel special on WWII than anything...and I don't know *why* I crave this info so deeply. I don't know what I'm supposed to do with it; I just know that I can't get enough, and THAT'S my key connection with this book: it's not just about a Jewish girl in WWII France; it's more about the lady researching the girl's story in the present day and how it affects her. I felt like her obsession helped justify mine. I also loved living in Europe, and so I really identified with her pull b/t America & Europe, as well. The book is incredibly moving, suspenseful, & easily relatable with the connection to the present. I really loved the super short chapters; they spurred me on to read "just one more" and "just one more" - something I wouldn't have done with long sections. There are two voices in the book, and I loved their alternating points of view. This device also served as a great tension breaker when the circumstances could have started to make the reader feel weary. They helped you catch your breath. This book will be one of my all-time favorites forever. I can't recommend it enough! Never forget...

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett

I feel like I was the last person on earth to read this, and it certainly lived up to the hype. I blogged my answers to the study group discussion questions here. :-) Feel free to add your own comments & answers!

What Southern Women Know About Faith
by Ronda Rich

I just loved this book to bits, and I love my dear friends who gave it to me for seeing my heart in it. That's one of the highest compliments I could receive. I highlighted almost cover-to-cover, but some of the gems that made me want to say, "Yes! Amen!" out loud were the importance of roots and a sense of place to Southerners, (this is an esp. hard one for me with the moving we do); the fact that "rarely will a conversation of any length b/t two Southern women not allude to or outright mention spirituality"; praying for God's will above our own b/c "I'm not smart enough to know what I need to have"; the way Southern women so naturally and w/o hesitation or ANY awkwardness always ask their friends to pray for them for big & small things; that part of our famed Southern Hospitality stems from the way we vivaciously enjoy life, want everyone around us to enjoy it, too, and always thank God for it; that it also comes from the way we are so openly kind - using manners & acts of kindness to make people feel comfortable instead of being closed off & private; the way we openly grieve together, but at the same time, how strong we are: "you can never have too much steel in your magnolias."

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder
by Rebecca Wells

The latest from my favorite author! This is a stand-alone book, not in the Ya-Ya series, but I still loved the Southern setting, culture, & family!

Ya-Yas in Bloom
by Rebecca Wells

Of course, I can't pass up on another Ya-Yas book, when the original is what sparked my first time choosing to read for fun! Critics noted its confusing chronological mix of stories and a muddled tone, but the essence and charm of the Ya-Yas is still there to be enjoyed. The dialogue and details continue to allure!

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
by Jon Krakauer

Highly recommended by Tina: "In 1984, Ron and Dan Lafferty murdered the wife and infant daughter of their younger brother Allen. The crimes were noteworthy not merely for their brutality but for the brothers' claim that they were acting on direct orders from God. Jon Krakauer tells this story of the killers and their crime, but also explores the shadowy world of Mormon fundamentalism from which the two emerged. He poses some striking questions about the closed-minded, closed-door policies of the religion - and many religions in general."

Be Happy or I'll Scream!: My Deranged Quest for the Perfect Husband, Family, and Life
by Sheri Lynch

Sheri is a radio personality in my home area of Charlotte, and I worked with her several times to promote different plays I did, so I feel like I *know* her, which makes this even more hysterical. She is so gifted at making the everyday hilarious and does so with motherhood in this book. Highly recommended for giant laughs of parenting commiseration!!!
Book Club
Book Club

Currently on my Bedside Table (and may be for the next year, but I'm working on them...)

What Your Childhood Memories Say about You . . . and What You Can Do about It
by Kevin Leman

I was completely enthralled and impressed when I heard Dr. Leman speak on Enjoying Everyday Life, and I instantly wanted his latest book:
"Want to know
why you’re driven to succeed at work…even at the expense of others?
why you have to be the “perfect” mom?
what makes you tick, what ticks you off, and why?
why it’s hard for you to trust others—or to engage with your family?
why you sometimes feel “trapped” in your job?
why you wonder, late at night, if you’re measuring up?
why your relationships turn out the way they do?
what lies you are telling yourself—and believing?
The past isn’t just the past.
It has everything to do with you right now.
And it has everything to do with your future."

The Penny
by Joyce Meyer

Joyce is without a doubt the biggest spiritual encourager and teacher in my life, so when she wrote her first novel, I was ecstatic to attending a book signing and get my own copy! "The year is 1955. Jenny picks up a penny from the street, resulting in a series of events that change her life forever. Abused and filled with fear, Jenny learns the meaning of love through a new friend, Aurelia, and the beautiful, mysterious Miss Shaw." The theme is overcoming difficulties and shame through God's love and positive thinking. 

The Mommy Diaries: Finding Yourself in the Daily Adventure
edited by Tally - Flint

Sent to me through MOPS: "Guess what--it's not just about the kids. Mothering is an adventure in personal growth, and that's what moms are invited to enjoy as they read. With contributions from a variety of authors and speakers familiar to today's moms, as well as insights from fresh new voices, this book will encourage women to catch a fresh glimpse of who they are and how they can grow in the midst of the mothering process."

Oxygen: Deep Breathing for the Soul
by Keri Wyatt Kent

Also from MOPS: "Women--especially moms--often feel they are short on time, especially time for contemplation and spiritual growth. This weekly devotional is like taking a deep, relaxing breath for the soul. It gives busy women a way to grow spiritually even as they invest time and energy in those around them."
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Book Club

Amusing Mommy Material

The Three-Martini Playdate
by Christine Mellor

So side-splittingly witty, I just want to call everyone I know with children or with them in the future and make them read this, as well! READ IT!!!

Diary of a Mad Mom-To-Be
by Laura Wolf

I was ecstatic to find this extremely timely follow-up to the book that started our whole "book club!" Just as hysterical and real as Diary of a Mad Bride. Quick, fun reading - highest praise!
Book Club
Book Club

Friends' Recommendations

Taking Charge of Your Fertility
by Toni Weschler

This is an amazing book and practice that my friends, Holly and Liz, introduced to me. Every woman should consider it required reading. This book explains - with a good deal of humor and wit - all of the signs your body gives you during your cycles and shows you how to interpret them to understand how your body naturally works: when you are fertile, when you are not, when you have ovulated, etc. (No, none of this has anything to do with the ridiculous Rhythm Method of birth control.) I also have the accompanying CD ROM that does all the charts for me; it is so simple, and I truly cannot believe I spent over a decade of my life not comprehending all the signs my body was regularly giving me to let me know everything is in fine shape! I cannot stress how important this is to gain understanding and control of your own health and well-being as a woman. 
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Under the Tuscan Sun
by Frances Mayes

Julie, who already has a marvelous appreciation for all things Italian, recommended this memoir of buying, renovating, and living in an abandoned villa in Tuscany. This book brings alive the culture and rhythm of Tuscan living ~ Can we PLEASE go back to Italy?!
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The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold

A bestseller, Tina sent me this book with the review: "It is haunting." To say the least!!! The main character is already dead when the book begins...and her name is Susie - spelled the same as me and everything. That's just the start of the creepy parallels between this girl and my real life. It's suspenseful and thought-provoking, as Susie watches from her own heaven while her family grieves and grows and looks for the answers to her brutal murder.
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Bergdorf Blondes
by Plum Sykes

Jackie suggested this as a break from baby books, to dive into fun chick lit. I tried to read it for 12 months off and on, and I just couldn't get into it. I might have LOVED it before kids; but I am soooo far removed from the Paris Hilton-esque lifestyle - I just couldn't relate and actually ended up thinking it was too shallow to invest time in.
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Cranberry Queen
by Kathleen DeMarco

Wendy enjoyed not only the story, but the author's writing voice and style. She was particularly pleased with the number of plot twists and surprises, as well. It is slated to become a Miramax movie sometime soon. "Diana's life has taken a several bad turns. She can barely cope and drives off from her New York City home, headed for nowhere. A fluke leads her to the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, a rural enclave where forests and cranberry bogs are as common as skyscrapers in New York. Quirky new friends who don't know of her past enable Diana first to deny her pain and then to come to terms with it."
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The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown

Lauren was really impressed with this murder mystery that also explores numerous facets of Western history. "Brown's latest thriller is an exhaustively researched page-turner about secret religious societies, ancient cover-ups and savage vengeance." Sounds awesome!
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Dangerous Undertaking
by Mark deCastrique

The author of this suspense mystery is actually the father of my senior year college roommate, Melissa! ~ Order here.
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Book Club

Girly Books

The Nanny Diaries
by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

A hysterical peek into the utterly ridiculous world of child rearing in the upper reaches of Manhattan's social strata. Cowritten by two former nannies, the novel follows the adventures of the aptly named Nan as she negotiates working for Mrs. X, a Park Avenue mommy. Please, don't let me ever end up like Mrs. X!!!
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Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
by Helen Fielding
Equally as funny as the first book, Bridget cracks me up, (and makes me SO happy to be off the dating scene! Haha!) The serious incident in Thailand and the other threat afterwards almost seemed too serious to actually be happening to silly Bridge, but I still loved it!
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Little Altars Everywhere
by Rebecca Wells

The prequel to Divine Secrets, this book gives more insight into each of the characters. I loved Part One, but there were things I found out in Part Two about my beloved characters that I'd rather not know.

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Four Blondes
by Candace Bushnell
By the authoress of Sex and the City, these are four character studies of different New York blondes at different points in their lives trying to figure out what they want. "Scandalous, gossipy," and although not quite as good as Sex and the City, if you enjoy that, you'll enjoy this.
Book Club
A Walk to Remember
by Nicholas Sparks
Set in 1958 Beaufort, NC, this tear-jerker tells how one guy's life was forever changed at 17. A love story, and an extremely quick read! (I did not see the movie version and have been told it destroys the book.)
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Bridget Jones's Diary
by Helen Fielding
Fabulous! Parts are different from the movie, but I love them both. The quick, dry wit keeps you engaged through out!
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Where the Heart Is
by Billie Letts

The sweet Natalie Portman/Ashley Judd movie in 2000 inspired me to read the book. It's a charming story that developed out of the fascinating premise that somebody actually could live in a Wal-Mart for weeks. The rest of the story escalates from there.

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Book Club

True Stories

Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression
by Brooke Shields

One of the most important books I've ever read! In my opinion, I don't think you should read this if you're currently pregnant, (esp. for the first time.) I think it may end up scaring you for potentially no reason whatsoever, esp. if you are remotely neurotic, (and how many pg girls aren't? Not many!) But for any mommy who has had moments of feeling trapped, alone, scared, unequipped, overwhelmed, out of control, lost, (and how many mommies haven't? Not many!) I cannot recommend this book enough! Brooke had serious PPD for many extremely valid reasons. (I want to rip Tom Cruise a new one, after hearing what she truly went through and how long she tried to "fix it" herself without any medication, all to no avail; it wasn't like that was her "easy way out.") Thank God I was never anywhere near this bad...but there are still so many universal "new mom feelings" in there. I would LOVE to commiserate and discuss this book with anyone else who reads it!
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Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady
by Florence King
I cannot in good conscience recommend this book to anyone who is not truly Southern...not out of prejudice, but because you'll just be bored and think we Southerners are even weirder than we already come across. Florence's grandmother cracks me up - you have to love the Daughters, (that's the UDC.) The watery moles made me laugh out loud! I didn't like once she went to college - I just personally couldn't relate at all - and her grad school revelation: no thank you! I totally didn't see that one coming, and she can keep those details to herself...but the rest was fabulous! Southern humor is such a spirit-lifting thing!
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Love Stories of World War II
compiled by Larry King
Being an avid World War II buff, (and newlywed!) this book seemed perfect for me. It's full of tiny chapters, one for each couple's story, and is also filled with lots of pictures - which I loved, because I felt like I had actually met these people, being able to put faces with names. Incredibly heart-warming and hope-inspiring!
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The Greatest Generation
by Tom Brokow
Again, because I love studying about World War II, I was fascinated by the true stories of everyday people and their roles during the war. I was extremely impressed by one unifying factor - their values: their sense of duty, morality, society, and their responsibility for their own individual actions. It made me want to be a better person! 
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Close to Shore: A True Story of
Terror in an Age of Innocence

by Michael Capuzzo
This is "the story of the real-life JAWS that stalked the New Jersey shore in 1916. The shark captivated the public's imagination along the Eastern seaboard, devastated the resort economy, and even drew the attention of President Woodrow Wilson." This book is not only a good suspenseful tale, but also an excellent cultural and social history of late Victorian life. The customs of the time are described in great detail.
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Stolen Lives
by Malika Oufkir and Michèle Fitoussi
Recommended to me by Wendy, this book actually was featured in Oprah's Book Club. Born into Moroccan high society, Malika and her family had their lives stolen when they were imprisoned for two decades. "A heartrending tale of survival and courage...of their resilience and their resolve to live in freedom."
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Book Club

Suspense Fiction

The Führer's Reserve
by Paul Lindsay
With my degree in German, this title naturally drew me in. "FBI agent Taz Fallon hooks up with art investigator Sivia Roth to find paintings stolen by the Third Reich. As octogenarian Nazis who hold filched masterpieces drop dead of gunshots, Taz and Sivia assemble the clues to why they would become murder targets." Extremely fascinating subject matter to me, although I didn't really care about the protagonists; I was almost rooting for the bad guys!
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The Vendetta Defense
by Lisa Scottoline
I also love mafia lore, and even though this really has nothing to do with the mob, it does revolve around a 60-year-old Italian vendetta. "When Judy Carrier takes on 79-year-old Pigeon Tony Lucia's defense, the trick for her becomes keeping Pigeon Tony (and herself) alive long enough to get them to trial." Some of the courtroom stuff is rather ridiculous, and Judy takes her independent investigations almost unbelievably far, but Tony's friends and neighbors are just fabulous! I really enjoyed it.
Book Club
Book Club

Advice Books

What No One Tells the Bride
by Marg Stark
Stark interviewed 50 real women married 5 years or less to write this book about dealing with the changes of married life. I thought parts of this book were geared more towards career women who had lived out on their own for years and years and who had issues with "giving up" their "single identity", but nonetheless I gleaned lots of great advice.
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The Five Love Languages
by Gary Chapman
Our minister gave us this book as a part of our pre-marriage counseling, and it is brilliant! "People express and receive love in different ways - the five languages of love: quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch." You need to find out what each other's primary love language is, so that you can make sure each other feels the most loved.
Book Club
Book Club

Pregnancy-Related Fare

For the couple: 

Your Pregnancy Week-By-Week
by Dr. Glade B. Curtis and Judith Schuler

The most highly recommended book from all of our already-parent or pregnant friends! Really like the drawings of what the baby looks like each week. Each chapter covers one week in your pregnancy, including:  ~Baby's growth and development  ~Mother's growth and development  ~How mother's actions affect baby  ~Nutrition and exercise guidelines  ~Full discussion of medicines and medical tests a mother may encounter, for herself or baby  ~Health precautions  ~Information on specific conditions  ~Tip-of-the-week
Book Club

The Pregnancy Journal: A Day-To-Day Guide to a Healthy and Happy Pregnancy
by A. Christine Harris, PhD

Fantastic! "Nothing makes it easier to connect with your growing baby than knowing exactly what magical development is happening every day. Filling the need for practical information, medical data, emotional and spiritual fuel, and even "pregnancy trivia," this is easily one of the best books available for a woman or couple expecting a baby. The journal contains about half a page of information for each day from conception through delivery. Nutrition, how to avoid discomforts associated with pregnancy, childbirth customs in other cultures, and practical parenting tips are among the topics touched on. Many days in the journal have a great section called "Did You Know"; for example, from Day 49: "The baby's arms at this point are only as long as this printed 1." At the bottom of each page is a quote from a literary or historical figure; some are sentimental, some pithy, some humorous, all inspiring."
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Getting Ready for Baby: The Ultimate Organizer for the Mom-To-Be
by Helene Tragos Stelian

While we never actually filled this book out, all of the checklists, tables, and note sections are awesome. Everything you need to buy, all of the phone numbers and information you need to have put together - it's all presented concisely, so you won't leave anything out or forget anything important. Even though we didn't have a need for every single topic or checklist, overall we found it valuable.
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For the men: 

Daddy Smarts: A Guide for Rookie Fathers
by Bradley G. Richardson

The first that JB read. Reads like an instruction manual and is funny, yet practical. Straightforward coverage from talking about when to start trying to get pregnant through bringing baby home from the hospital.
Book Club

Your Pregnancy For The Father-To-Be: Everything You Need To Know About Pregnancy, Childbirth, And Getting Ready For Your New Baby
by Dr. Glade B. Curtis and Judith Schuler

Very good reference book. Covers all the basics, opening with a very useful table that breaks down topics (with page numbers) into "The Good Part," "You May Have to Help Your Partner Deal With" and "Pay Attention to" by trimester, around labor and delivery, and finally at home with the baby.
Book Club

A Guy's Guide to Pregnancy: Preparing for Parenthood Together
by Frank Mungeam

HORRID! DO NOT BUY! We would return it...had we not only spent $0.59 on it in the first place. This terrible book treats men like rude, purely self-centered, uninterested idiots. It talks to fathers-to-be as if they are going to be put out and annoyed by the entire pregnancy experience. This book tries to be funny, but instead falls way short, ending up being flat out insulting.