Book Club Discussion: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas

2AM at Cat's Pajamas FL2W Book Club Banner

2AM at Cat's Pajamas FL2W Book Club Banner

After a slightly relaxed summer, we’ve jumped right back in our book club reading. This month we’re discussing  2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajama by Marie-Helene Bertino, a novel about the seemingly unconnected lives in a small Philadelphia neighborhood. Thanks to the The Cat’s Pajamas jazz club, the characters discover how music intertwines their lives and those around them.

From Left to Write book club members loved the novel. Head over to their blogs to read their stories inspired the novel and join our book club discussion of 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajama’s.

Want to see what books are on Marie-Helene’s nightstand? Learn more about Marie-Helene Bertino at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Did you read 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajama? Share your thoughts in the comments!

What’s On Your Nightstand: Marie-Helene Bertino

Marie-Helene Bertino

What's On Your Nightstand-From Left to Write

Since we’re reading  2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas for our August From Left to Write book club, I asked author Marie-Helene Bertino to share the books she’s currently reading. One of her books was already on my to-be-read list. Take it away, Marie-Helene!

Marie-Helene Bertino

Photo courtesy of author

I just finished reading Ramona Ausubel’s story collection, Guide to Being Born. I had read a few of the stories but not altogether, at once. You will note that it came out last year. I am eternally late to every reading party, but at least I am normally holding some delicious sort of fruit tart. How delicious this collection is! It is fearless, deeply felt, and wildly beautiful on the line level. Admire this line: “The whole world squirmed with hunger and desire, in the thick and thin places, in the trees and in the clearings.” It’s not often I read a collection and think: this writer has imagination coming out of his/her gesastahagen! This collection is stunning.

I’m reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I don’t think it’s ruining anything to tell you that it begins with a famous actor dying onstage in the middle of a production of King Lear. That alone would be reason enough for me to read it—I’m a former theatre kid, and a sucker for anything set amidst that eccentric and enigmatic world. In addition to that, Mandel’s reputation precedes her. I heard someone refer to Mandel as “her favorite writer.” There can many times be a difference between writers we admire and writers who are our “favorites.” I’m excited to discover the work that has inspired this kind of loyalty.

On deck is another enigmatic book, Preparing The Ghost  by Matthew Gavin Frank. This book had me at “giant squid,” as the classification and documentation of marine life is endlessly fascinating to me. As a child I “classified” many “heretofore unknown marine animals” at my grandmother’s home on The Delaware Bay. By that I mean I took many walks on the sandbars with my dog, taking notes and pretending to be a marine biologist. I admire this book’s refusal to commit to a genre—it’s part fiction, part memoir, part philosophical essay, part poetry. As someone who often thinks the scrims between genres should be permeable formalities at best, I admire Frank’s scope and imagination.

2 AM at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bartino

Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of Safe as Houses, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Prize. An Emerging Writer Fellow at New York’s Center for Fiction, she has spent six years as an editor and writing instructor at One Story. A Philadelphia native, she currently lives in Brooklyn.

Follow Marie-Helene on Facebook and Twitter and make sure to grab a copy of  2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas and join our book club discussion on August 28.

Book Club Feature: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas

2 AM at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bartino

2AM at Cat's Pajamas FL2W Book Club Banner

We’re ushering the last days of summer with a jazzy book club feature for August: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas (Crown) by Marie-Helene Bertino. I know you’ve been doing plenty of summer reading, but don’t the warm days pass you by without immersing yourself into streets of Philadelphia at The Cat’s Pajamas jazz club:

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, rebellious nine-year-old who also happens to be an aspiring jazz singer. Still mourning the recent death of her mother, and caring for her grief-stricken father, she doesn’t realize that on the eve of Christmas Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat’s Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.

As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night.

I met author Marie-Helene Bertino during Crown Publishing’s gathering at BEA and she sang a jazz number for the crowd. Let me tell you, she’s so sweet and has a great voice! Clearly the music inspires her.

Marie-Helene Bertino singing jazz

Marie-Helene Bertino singing (sorry for blurry photo-it was dark!)

Pick up a copy of 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas  and join From Left to Write members on August 28 as we discuss the novel.

2 AM at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bartino

 

Want to see what books are on Marie-Helene’s nightstand? Learn more about Marie-Helene Bertino at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

 

Book Club Discussion: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie & Chocolate Factory From Left to Write Banner

Charlie & Chocolate Factory From Left to Write Banner

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,  I asked From Left to Write members to reread this classic and/or to introduce their children to this childhood classic.  Many of our members enjoyed the bonding time as they read the books aloud or along with their kids.

Take a look at what our bloggers had to say as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Some even had their children join the discussion! Then make sure you enter the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes (see below for details on how):

Now that you’ve read our discussion,  celebrate along with us!  To celebrate this milestone, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.

National Golden Sweepstakes Charlie Chocolate Factory

Enter the National Golden Ticket Sweepstakes (Ends on August 15th)

Don’t wait to enter because the contest ends August 15th! Plus, for each  each sweepstakes entry received, Penguin will make a donation First Book. For sweepstakes entry forms, visitRoaldDahl.com or download your form here.

Inspired by the Golden Ticket Competition in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which provided Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregard, Mike Teavee, and Charlie Bucket with golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s mysterious Chocolate Factory, Penguin Young Readers Group will grant FIVE lucky winners the Golden Ticket trip of a lifetime to New York City that includes:

  •   A VIP experience at Dylan’s Candy Bar
  •  Tickets to Matilda the Musical
  •  A year’s supply of chocolate
  •  A visit to the Empire State building
  •  A library of Roald Dahl books
  • And MORE!

In partnership with First Book, a non-profit that provides books for children from low-income families.  Penguin Young Readers provides:

  •  A monetary donation and one brand new Penguin trade children’s book for every national sweepstakes entry received.  The book donation will include copies of the anniversary edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which will be distributed by First Book to registered programs and schools serving children in need throughout the United States and Canada.
  • A donation of a full set of Dahl Penguin titles (17 in total), 50 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory books, and a bean bag to each school selected by First Book’s Advisory Boards in 20 markets as part of the First Book Golden Ticket Giveaway.

Book Club Feature: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s 50th Anniversary

National Golden Sweepstakes Charlie Chocolate Factory

Charlie & Chocolate Factory From Left to Write Banner

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. From Left to Write is celebrating by featuring it as our July book club selection! The story of Charlie Bucket, the five Golden Tickets, the devilish Oompa-Loompas and the amazing Mr. Willy Wonka has become firmly embedded in our culture, having (twice) been reimagined for the cinema, as an opera and, in 2013, as a hit London musical.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Take a stroll down memory lane with my fellow From Left to Write members as we reread this classic children’s story. Some members are also introducing the book to their kids as our book club reads it. I’m looking forward to hearing what our youngest generation thinks of my childhood favorite. Make sure you join us on July 24th as we gather to discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

50th Anniversary Badge Charlie Chocolate Factory

We can’t have an anniversary without a big celebration and gifts. To celebrate this milestone, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.

There’s many different ways you can celebrate along with us:

National Golden Sweepstakes Charlie Chocolate Factory

Enter the National Golden Ticket Sweepstakes (Ends on August 15th)

Don’t wait to enter because the contest ends August 15th! Plus, for each  each sweepstakes entry received, Penguin will make a donation First Book. For sweepstakes entry forms, visit RoaldDahl.com or download your form here.

Inspired by the Golden Ticket Competition in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which provided Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregard, Mike Teavee, and Charlie Bucket with golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s mysterious Chocolate Factory, Penguin Young Readers Group will grant FIVE lucky winners the Golden Ticket trip of a lifetime to New York City that includes:

  •   A VIP experience at Dylan’s Candy Bar
  •  Tickets to Matilda the Musical
  •  A year’s supply of chocolate
  •  A visit to the Empire State building
  •  A library of Roald Dahl books
  • And MORE!

In partnership with First Book, a non-profit that provides books for children from low-income families.  Penguin Young Readers provides:

  •  A monetary donation and one brand new Penguin trade children’s book for every national sweepstakes entry received.  The book donation will include copies of the anniversary edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which will be distributed by First Book to registered programs and schools serving children in need throughout the United States and Canada.
  • A donation of a full set of Dahl Penguin titles (17 in total), 50 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory books, and a bean bag to each school selected by First Book’s Advisory Boards in 20 markets as part of the First Book Golden Ticket Giveaway.

Inside Charlie's Chocolate Factory

To coincide with the September anniversary celebration Penguin Young Readers Group will release an all new book that explores the enduring appeal of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory: The complete story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket, and Roald Dahl’s Greatest Creation. Written by Lucy Mangan, with an introduction by Sophie Dahl, this is the book for super-fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Roald Dahl, exploring the unique appeal of the story and its characters, its social history, the varying film and stage adaptations, and its ongoing cultural impact. With never-before-seen material from the archives, bonus content, and quotes from famous Roald Dahl enthusiasts, this will be the perfect book for fans of Charlie, Wonka, and Roald Dahl! It doesn’t release until September 2, but you can pre-order it now.

Come party and celebrate with us! Pick up a copy of the 50th Anniversary edition of  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl or grab your well loved copy off your bookshelf and read with us. Then come back on July 24 and join From Left to Write book club members’ discussion.

Who was your favorite character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Mine were the Oompa Loompas.

Meeting Book Club Authors at Book Expo America 2014

Book Expo America 2014-From Left to Write

Book Expo America 2014-From Left to Write

I’m not sure I’ve recovered from Book Expo America yet! Like always, my days there were packed yet there never seemed to be enough hours to see all the authors on my list or talk to all the folks I wanted to. I would do it all over again. My first evening in town, I met up with my friend Heather at a Crown Publishing event. Heather and I have similar tastes in books and I knew she’d enjoy meeting the authors of From Left to Write’s recent book club features.

Thien-Kim and Sandie Shelton-From Left to Write

Sandie Shelton, aka Maddie Dawson, author of The Opposite of Maybe

On the top of my list to meet was Sandi Shelton, who wrote our April book club selection The Opposite of Maybe (under the pseudonym Maddie Dawson). Sandie and I have exchanged many emails and she was just as wonderful in person as she was over email. I made Heather read Sandie’s book before coming to the party and she was not disappointed. (Read our book club discussion of The Opposite of Maybe.)

Thien-Kim and Susan Rieger-From Left to Write

Susan Rieger author of The Divorce Papers

I also met Susan Rieger, author of our March book club feature  The Divorce PapersI love my virtual book club and discussing From Left to Write members’ discussion of their books. Susan has plenty of her ideas for her next books, and I’m looking forward to reading them when she’s finished.

Thien-Kim and Bevery Miranda-Whittemore-From Left to Write

Beverly Miranda-Whittemore, author of Bittersweet

Our book club members had very strong feelings about Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. The novel touched them in unexpected ways. Miranda enjoyed reading how her novel inspired everyone and even mentioned a particular post she read. Gotta love authors who make a point to connect with their readers.

The event was jammed packed, thanks to the sudden cool New York weather. It was just too chilly and windy to hang out on the terrace. Still, I had a chance to chat with the cool folks at Crown Publishing. It’s nice to chat in person when we just exchange emails most of the year.

This is just part one of my BEA recap. Stay tuned for Neil Patrick Harris photos! Plus I have some coveted copies of his book excerpts to give away!