December Author Talk

I’m thrilled to invite you to meet the fabulous Juliet Grames on Tuesday, December 8th! Join @alanna_dreamingwithopeneyes and me for a buddy read of The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna. We will meet via zoom at 730p and Juliet will join us in conversation at 8p.

See my review below the photo!

”When I tell you that Stella Fortuna was a special girl, I hope you’re not thinking small-town special. Other people would underestimate Stella during her long life, and not one of them didn’t end up regretting it.”

💫Stella is the newest inductee to my fictional character hall of fame. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing @julietgrames and she is gracious and talented on and off the written page. Based on the near-death experiences of her grandmother, this family saga sweeps from Calabria to Connecticut and covers three generations. Stella is a woman who knows what she doesn’t want but her culture and family ignores what’s written on her heart and forces her into traditional roles. This is truly an unforgettable tale.

💫This novel addresses a myriad of themes such as sisterhood, immigration, domestic abuse, secrets, marriage, family, patriarchy, feminism, and the American dream. My four local book groups are discussing it this month and they have a lot to say.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Pair with a bold Italian red wine and bowl of Calabrian chile pasta. 🍷 🍝

One of my favorite quotes—”This was the trouble with emigration—it dismantled the patriarchy. Because really, what did Assunta, or any woman, need a husband for, when she did every goddamn thing herself?”

May Buddy Read

Join Jillian Puzzo of @bookbarct and Alanna Goldberg of @alanna_dreamingwithopeneyes for our THIRD virtual book club. We are making the best of quarantine by connecting with you in bookish conversations.

Our May title is SUCH A FUN AGE by Kiley Reid and will meet on 5/31.

Our LIVE zoom chat is on Sunday, May 31 @8pm EST.

Link will be provided here on May 24.

Happy reading!

Women in History

**POSTPONED: DATE TBD**Authors Jane Healey & Lynda Cohen Loigman in Conversation with Jillian Puzzo of BookBarCT

The Beantown Girls follows three best friends from Boston who leave the USA to volunteer overseas as Red Cross Clubmobile girls. A novel of love, courage and danger unfolds as World War II’s brightest American heroines take on the front lines.

In The Wartime Sisters we meet estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, who are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.

Martha Hall Kelly Author Talk

Tuesday, March 3 @7-9pm
Mandell JCC of Greater Hartford, 335 Bloomfield Ave, West Hartford, CT
Hosted by the Mandell JCC in partnership with RJ Julia Booksellers.

The Mandell JCC Book Festival RETURNS! Join us for an evening with New York Times bestselling author Martha Hall Kelly, Author … Her book, ‘LOST ROSES’ launches Tuesday, March 3rd in paperback, and this brilliant author has chosen to celebrate the milestone with us at the J!

The runaway bestseller ‘LILAC GIRLS’ introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. This sweeping new novel, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline’s mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.

Book Festival Co-Directors:
Alanna Goldberg & Jillian Puzzo
Book Festival Co-Chairs:
Kathy Binder & Kathy Fishman

Tickets: $20
Box Office: 860.231.6316 |

Paint Party + Book Club 2/12 @7-9pm

You are invited to our Galentine’s book club paint party– a creative collaboration between BookBarCT and Thomas Mach Interiors in Simsbury.

Invite a girlfriend to join you for this special edition paint night! We will ignite your inner artist AND engage in lively conversation about the featured book club title, Normal People by Sally Rooney.

We will paint and wax a coffee table tray with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. Olivia will offer painting instruction and project inspiration and Jillian will lead our book discussion.

Please come ready to discuss the book and be ready to get crafty at our Galentine’s party! This is a BYOB event but sweets and all painting materials will be provided. Tickets are $45 per person. Space is limited to 8 participants, please call Thomas Mach Interiors in Simsbury at (860) 408-1530 to prepay and reserve your seat. No refunds issued unless we can fill your spot.

Pop Up Book Group 1/13/20

The only thing better than sewing is a good book (or maybe it’s vice versa)! So how about sewing WHILE discussing a book?! I am excited to announce a new collaboration with Laura at Hartford Stitch.

This event will start off with a handsewing workshop led by Laura. We’ll learn the relaxing and scrap happy art of English Paper Piecing hexies and pair them with beautiful wool felt to make one of a kind bookmarks. While finishing those up I will lead a discussion on Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout. “NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK • Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout continues the life of her beloved Olive Kitteridge, a character who has captured the imaginations of millions.”

Please come ready to discuss the book, learn a new craft and have a one-of-a-kind evening! This is a BYOB event but sweets and all sewing materials will be provided! Link to register:

Experience Level: None
Ages: 18+
Ticket: $45
Date and Time: Monday, January 13th from 7:30pm – 9:30pm
Pre-Work: Please have read the book and be ready to discuss! No pre-work for sewing needed.

May Author Events with BookBarCT

Hello book pals!
I have two fabulous BookBarCT author events coming up this month and
you are invited! Scroll down for details and graphics.

MAY 8–I’m thrilled to share that author Susan Conley will join me in
conversation about her latest novel Elsey Come Home on
Wednesday, May 8 at 7-9pm. I hope you’ll come party with us!
Bring a friend or your entire book group–this event is free, 
please register via email at
I’ll be serving up light refreshments, wine, a book signing,
and loads of great book talk! 

MAY 14–JCC Summer Reading Event–Start your summer with
great reads from bestselling authors B.A. Shapiro and
Susie Orman Schnall, Author and their newest fiction
titles – The Collector’s Apprentice and The Subway Girls, respectively.
It will be my pleasure to moderate our lively conversation this evening!
Tix are $20 and available here:
I’d love to see you at one or both! Happy reading!

Audiobooks are not cheating

Cognitively, there’s no difference between reading a book and listening to a book. Why then, do some folks suggest these activities are not the same?

If one suspects that listening to a book is cheating, one is implying that the listener gets some sort of reward without investing any effort. What? How?I’m confused.

Psychologists confirm that listening is less work, but after fifth grade it actually isn’t easier than reading. Listening and reading comprehension have direct correlations and reading requires decoding which IS more challenging for emerging readers. However, around age ten it is automatic and no more effort than listening. When you read, 10% of your eye movements are to go back to recheck what you’ve just read. The same thing happens when you listen. Have you ever been in a conversation but then tuned out just long enough to realize the speaker has stopped talking and asked you a question? You think, ‘oh, shit, I totally wasn’t listening.’ So then you fumble and ask, ‘I’m sorry, could you please repeat that?’ but just as the words tumble out of your mouth your brain replays the initial question and you can provide the answer. You did, in fact, hear the speaker, you just weren’t listening.  In both scenarios you are backing up to fact check which strengthens your comprehension. Sounds like we are even here. Can we put the science aside for a moment? I think the next part is key.

Claiming audiobooks are cheating is like meeting your college roomates in Chicago for your reunion and saying, “You flew here? I drove myself, you big cheaters.” Let’s agree that the point of reading for pleasure is to enjoy the journey. The mode of transportation doesn’t matter. Each method is good for various consumption purposes, neither is superior. Use them interchangeably to figure out how they best serve you. With that, allow me to make a few recommendations for your listening pleasure!

I think memoirs are one of the best genres for audiobooks, especially self narrated titles (and most certainly if the author is in the comedy industry or motivational speaking arena.) Delivery is everything and audiobooks provide the intonation, inflection, sarcasm and emphasis in the perfect places to convey exactly what the author intended. My recs in this genre are: *Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, *Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler, *Bossypants by Tina Fey, *Becoming by Michelle Obama, *The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, and *Rising Strong by Brené Brown.

So go ahead and listen. I’ll never judge you, I’ll join you!

Bail on as many as you finish…

The DNF. Did. Not. Finish. Do you break up with books if the magic just isn’t happening? Here’s why I think you should.

There are millions of books out there for your reading pleasure. So why should you only feel proud of the books you finish? Maybe the reason many people don’t read is because they aren’t choosing books they like. Bestsellers seem like a logical place to start, however those titles often come with unspoken expectations of satisfaction due to popularity, so when you don’t like that bestseller you now feel like 1) you’ve failed as a reader AND 2) you’re a loser because everyone else liked it so what’s your problem? Here’s the deal, reading should be inspiring not tiring, pleasant not punishing. So don’t force yourself to finish!

You’ve probably heard me say this before: Life is too damn short to read books you don’t like. Permission granted. Walk away. Return it to the library. Donate it. Put it back on your unread shelf…it could be the right fit at another time, sometimes it’s YOU or your mood or place in life at the moment, not the book.

This is entirely different from suggesting that you only read books that are joyful and positive. I firmly believe that reading should challenge you, change you, make you uncomfortable, open your eyes, turn up your empathy dial, and educate.

How do you know when it’s time to close the cover and kiss it goodbye? Here are some good indicators:
1–When you find yourself reaching for your phone to scroll mindlessly through social media, kiss it goodbye.

2–When the laundry pile seems wildly attractive and easily seduces you, kiss it goodbye.

3–When you’re asked what you’re reading and you can’t remember the title or plot line, kiss it goodbye.

4–When you constantly check your page count/percentage until ‘the end,’ kiss it goodbye.

5–When you could care less about the characters’ tragedies/triumphs, kiss it goodbye.

I know you’re wondering, and yes I did issue a DNF stamp on a load of books last year. So many books, so little time. Don’t waste your time on the ones that don’t appeal to you. The liberation is lit. Try it, you’ll like it!

Goal Squad

Do you want to read more books in 2019? ME TOO! Let’s do this together. With a bit of preparation and a plan, you can get started today.

Here’s how I approach a new reading challenge each January:
* set a numeric goal
* choose a tracking system
* pick a challenge
* share it

Simple, right? It really IS that easy. I can sense you may be skeptical so give me 3 more minutes to convince you.

Pick a number and map it out. Setting a goal serves as a guide not a mandate. Remember, you can adjust it later! A good place to begin with a new goal is by looking in the rear view mirror. How many books did you read last year? Can you do that again? Feel like you could read more? If you didn’t meet last year’s goal, don’t worry, you can reuse it! Maybe you didn’t set a goal last year so you don’t know where to start. Why not one book a month? (For the longest time my annual goal was 12 books. My babies were really young, I was in the parenting vortex of newborns and toddlers, dreaming about sleep yet still carving out a few minutes in the day to get lost in a book. My monthly book group gatherings were a calendar highlight and motivated me. I never wanted to miss out on the discussion, plus there was wine. 🙂 )

If you’re going to commit to a goal you should keep track of it. Start a list in your notes app on your iPhone, create a spreadsheet, use the Goodreads app, or select a paper notebook for this purpose. One word of advice here, make reading a daily habit like hydration or exercise. You’ll find that your tracking will be fueled with positivity and optimism instead of negativity and dread.

So you’ve set a goal and you’re going to maintain a list of those books. Now what? There are millions of excellent books out there waiting for you. That can be both intimidating and inviting. I suggest creating or joining a challenge. Here are 8 motivating options for your consideration:
1–Book Riot curates a list of tasks called the “Read Harder Challenge.” Check it out here:
2–Participate in the Goodreads challenge. You can see what your friends are reading and rating and add interesting titles to your list.
3–Try a new genre each month (I did this in 2018 and discovered I love memoirs, especially on audio when narrated by the author.)
4–Pick 10 countries you’d like to visit and read books set in those places. Wanderlust is strong here, get your book passports stamped!
5–Choose a literary award and read the shortlisted titles. (ie National Book Award, Booker Prize, Orange, Pen, Nobel, Pulitzer, Newbery, Coretta Scott King.)
6–Reread the classics you were assigned in high school or college. (Possibly better the second time around, also no prom drama.)
7–Select 10 authors you’ve loved reading in the past and read another book by them. (I also love playing the matchmaker game, where you tell me an author you like and I pair you with another author whom I think will delight you. Try me!)
8–Read books by authors who share different identities than yours (race, sexuality, culture, religion, gender, nationality, etc.)

Sharing is key. Whisper it to one person or blast it on social media. Either way, tell someone what you’re aiming to accomplish. Your friends and family want to see you succeed. You may even inspire them to join you! I highly recommend sharing this with the kids in your life. They’ll see you role modeling reading as a positive behavior while trying to do something challenging. Kids often have the impression that both of those things are easy for adults. One fun tradition in my family is a celebratory ‘book dance.’ It’s like a touchdown dance when you finish a book. The reader exclaims ‘hey guys, guess what, I just finished my book!’ and the rest of us whoop and cheer and chant ‘book dance, book dance.’ IT IS TOTALLY AWESOME. A goal is a dream with a deadline. Get your cheerleaders on board and start dancing!