Keeping Close During Isolation: My Online Book Club

Keeping Close During Isolation: My Online Book Club
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About a decade or so ago, I started a book blog and made some truly amazing friends. They found me through our shared love of romance books. I used a silly pen name back then because I was worried my rather uncommon last name would be easily searchable, and my husband’s rather conservative clients might not approve of his wife’s hidden talents. Making myself vulnerable and outing myself to a small group of blog readers was a huge deal, but eventually, I did, and it has been one of the greatest joys of my life. These ladies and I have been through pretty much everything, and we are scattered all over the globe. We have been through birthing babies, loss of parents, marital upsets, defiant children, terrible bosses & in-laws, near-death illnesses, job promotions, and job loss. And now, of course, a global pandemic. What started out as an online friend group grew into something so special I have no words to describe it. Our ages range from the mid-30s – early 50s, some of us are married, some are not, some have little kids, grown kids, teenagers, and no kids. We live everywhere, from the east coast, the west coast in the US and Canada, the UK, and Australia – from big cities to small rural towns. Our diversity can be seen best in our range of entertainment likes and dislikes. There isn’t a movie, tv-show, song, a genre of books, or a sub-genre of romance that we haven’t agreed to disagree on as a whole, yet! These women have my whole heart, they challenge me, keep me sane, call me on my bullshit and make me laugh every single day. I have romance books to thank for my best friends. We’ve been doing this whole tele-friendship thing for a long time, and we are pretty darn good at it!

Our mode of communication started in the comment section of the old, retired blog and moved to a ridiculous amount of email threads. Later we found Viber, and we were off to the technology races! We even had a podcast for five years, back before podcasts were cool! Viber was retired, and Slack became our thing. My Slack app always logs the most screen time in those damning reports that like to tease us during this tedious time at home! My girls and I have been keeping in touch while keeping everything together on our respective home fronts since the shelter at home phase of COVID-19 started. Our daily check-ins are a source of comfort for me. But last weekend was especially difficult for me. I’m not sure what set me off, and I don’t know if it was one thing or just the culmination of everything but, the reality of our new normal slammed into me in a way I wasn’t fully prepared to handle. It leveled me. So I did what came naturally and reached out to my girls, my sisters in books, my best friends, and threw up the white flag. Those awesome and amazing women did what they do best, they found a way for us to be together, across oceans and time zones. Our resident tech nerd Lo sent us a link to HouseParty, and within minutes a bevy of beautiful, smart faces appeared on my phone. To say it was glorious and filled my soul with goodness and light would be an understatement. Unlike Skype or Hangouts, which we used in the past for podcast recording, HouseParty splits the screen between you and the people you are video chatting with in your “room.” And, unlike some other video gathering apps, it’s free for multiple users without a time limit. I am nothing if not frugal!

So after we all caught up and shared our #stayathome stories – man, I am so happy my kids are too old to homeschool – we turned to our favorite subject, books. We can talk books for days, there isn’t a person among us that’s too shy to voice her opinion on all of the books floating around. Some of us have very colorful emotions we love to share when discussing books, it’s a rollicking good time when we get going! Thirty minutes turned into two hours, as we do! We decided to start up a book club and settled on our first book. If you’ve ever been part of a book club, choosing a book is often the hardest part; free will and opinions are a hell of a drug when so many strong personalities get together. I love it! After much discussion and pondering of new release shelves and Goodreads, we settled on Elizabeth Hunter’s Suddenly Psychic, the first book in her Glimmer Lake series. It’s classified as paranormal women’s fiction. Robin Brannon is in her mid-forties, a normal wife, mom, and antique shop owner. She has two best friends, Val and Monica, that are her world, much like my girls except Robin’s friends all live in the same town. A ridiculously close brush with death turns their lives upside down. Now Robin and her besties are seeing ghosts, having visions, and encountering possible omens of doom. In Suddenly Psychic, Robin’s marriage is on the rocks, her grandmother’s health is failing, her mother is driving everyone up a wall, her teenage daughter is, well, being a teenage daughter and her knees are beginning to ache every morning on her run. What the heck, sometimes books hit a little too close to home! Whatever Robin and her friends encountered at the bottom of Glimmer Lake is not leaving them alone.

Secrets are about to be uncovered, and hard truths will be exposed. I had the honor of reading this book before it’s release and strong-arming my girls into reading it, some of which are not paranormal fans, was a hill I was ready to die on. It’s a short, fast-paced book that can be read as a stand alone. Our HouseParty book club is reconvening in mid-April to discuss it. That’s great timing since the second book, Semi-Psychic Life, Val’s story, comes out April 21st. Val’s new-found superpower after the near-death experience is the ability to see an object’s history when she touches it. That absolutely gets in the way when you’re trying to live your best life.

How are you keeping close and staying sane during this uncertain time? Are you part of an on-line book club? What are you reading, Enquiring minds always want to know!

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