Announcing: A Likely Story – The Book Club for Escapist Fiction Fans

Announcing: A Likely Story
The Book Club for Escapist Fiction Fans


Friends, sometimes the Real World sucks, and right now is a Particularly Sucky time in U.S. and world history. I mean, seriously. I read the news. I see the stories. I do what I can, and then I feel helpless and tired when I can’t do more. This is something I need to work on; understanding there are Hard Things and then releasing the Hard Things so I can still Embrace Joy. Both/And, friends. I need to learn — probably a lesson I’ll be learning forever — that Light and Dark chase each other constantly across the sky and in our hearts, and we live much of our lives in the Dusk and the Dawn when we can’t separate them from each other.

But, I dunno… sometimes I just need a break, man. Like, I need a way to rest. And to live in spaces where Good triumphs over Evil. And where the journey may be long and fraught but Love wins in the end, you know? I need to remember that grace and gratitude rise like the phoenix from grime and grit and love will wend its way around and through and out of loss.

And I wish I could do those things by reading inspired and triumphant literature. The kind of books Oprah recommends! But, OMG, guys. OMG. As soon as I read that someone’s debut novel is “triumphant,” I’m all, “Nope. No. Uh uh. No way,” ’cause “triumphant” is totally code for dark and tragic and sad and thoughtful, and I know in my heart they are going to make me fall in love with a character and then KILL her, and I can’t. Cannot EVEN. I cannot live in a Real World where real things happen like people I love dying and live through it again in my books which are also Very, Very Real.

So I read other books.

And I LOVE them.

I dive into their worlds, and I live there for a while instead of here. I lay down my concerns and pick up my fictional friends’. I help carry their burdens, and they help me carry mine, and it feels like a fair trade because we each carry the magical, miraculous power to help the other live her life — my fictional friend by easing my heart and soul and reminding me what it means to be flawed and fabulous and weak and still strong, and me by bringing her to life whenever I open her pages.

In case there are others out there like me who like to fall down the rabbit hole into wild, weird and wonderful worlds, I’m starting this book club. A Likely Story is for those of us who revel in escapist fiction and long for more stories built in brilliant worlds with strong and flawed heroes and heroines; Young Adult, Fantasy, Dystopian, Fairy Tale, Magical Realism, Legends, Mythologies, and Tall Tales of every type.

At the beginning of each month, I’ll share that month’s book selection for those of you who’d like to join me. Books will be curated along with me by several friends who are as in love with these genres as I am, including two librarians and a bookstore manager who devour every magical YA book that exists. Our goals will be to find fantastical tales that:

  1. are well-written. There’s nothing worse than reading a series and wanting to take a red pen to it.
  2. have unique, detailed, well-crafted worlds that capture the imagination.
  3. are plot- and character-driven stories that make us want to read far, far later in the night than is reasonable for mothers who are supposed to be responsible for the children come morning.
  4. champion strong women and strong men working together. I cannot stand – cannot stand – books that make men the heroes at the expense of women or vice versa.

AND we’ve picked our book for September!


The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.

Now, this is Ms. Wecker’s debut novel, and it’s probably even triumphant, but fortunately none of the reviews use that word so we don’t have to avoid it. Whew! Instead, reviews describe The Golem and the Jinni as enchanting, intriguing and highly original. SOLD!

In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free

Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker’s debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

If you’d like to join the public Facebook group for A Likely Story Book Club, click here! (You can also always join me on Facebook here, where we often wave to each other in the dark.)

Sending love… and the hope for a little escape for us all,


ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
  1. […] I was supposed to write you yesterday with our book review of September’s Escapist Book Club book, The Golem and the Jinni. But THINGS, guys. Things. I hope we’ll do this […]

  2. […] absorb anyone else’s drama, much less something triumphant about overcoming great odds. Let’s escape into a rad book about a genie, instead, friends! WHO’S WITH ME?” And, while I acknowledge this is truly who I am […]

  3. 1: A YA fantasy/sifi book club for adults? Are you kidding me? I’d be signing up for this even if I wasn’t a 5-kids fan!
    2: My (Oregon) library has e book copies available of this one. (That means a lot of the other Oregon library systems will have it, too.) Washington county, I’ll let you know when I’m done with the e-pub version. ;D

  4. I highly, highly recommend N.K. Jemison’s The Fifth Season. It’s a fantasy book that just won the Hugo best novel. It’s way depressing and dark in places, but also features a middle-aged mom who’s a pirate. So there’s that.

  5. I just read this book this summer and it was really good.

  6. Love this! I’m so looking forward to reading and hearing everyone’s recommendations.

  7. I love reading “mind candy”!!!

  8. Would love to join your club but I too (like Jade) do not have a Fb account. Will you be discussing here?

  9. Just recently finished Serafina and the Black Cloak and working on Serafina and the Twisted Staff! Love me some YA books!

    1. Thank you! I loved Serafina, but did not know there were sequels. I will have to look for them!

  10. Also, I really like the books by John Flanagan and Michel Paver. I’m afraid one book per month will not do. But I’m not complaining: I’ve stopped reading books, I need to sleep. More than 5 minutes per night… Which is why I stick to your and 3 or 4 (6) other blogs.
    Hug and wave!

  11. Tried to join the club, but Facebook (I have no account) won’t let me (because I have no account).
    So if anyone feels like keeping me updated now and then, I’m interested…

  12. What a great idea! Doubt I’ll be able to participate, considering my current insane schedule, but I love it, and will be following the titles for future reading. <3

    Happy clubbing!

  13. Oh I’m the same way (and a former bookstore manager!!!)-I don’t read anything Oprah recommends. Ever. like you, I want escape I’ve only read a few series in the YA list-some of them get alarmingly graphic for me-but I also love Elizabeth Hayden’s (really long) six-book arc starting with “Rhapsody”, the species imperative by Julie Czerneda, anything by Elizabeth Peters, and of course Harry Potter (I reread all of those books once every year). This should be fun!

    1. As a writer, I had to respond to “alarmingly graphic.”
      Yes, they do. So does life… and I feel strongly that kids should be exposed, with care and guidance, through books, before life grabs them by the guts and tears them up. It’s so important for us to be reading WITH our kids. Books are so important, because they help kids understand what’s out there, and hopefully prepare them for the fact that, even in the worst moments, there is hope and good things to come.

      Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume, was that book for me. Graphic? Yeah. But it was a character with a terrible experience I could relate to, and it made me feel far less alone.

      I know, as a book lover, you get it, too. Solidarity, Sister. 🙂

  14. Yes, yes, yes!

    I don’t usually re-read books, but there are two series that I turn to whenever I need to escape. One is Jan Karon’s Mitford series. The main character is an Episcopalian priest, and so there is some natural talk about faith and church, but it is not at all a preachy series. Takes place in a small North Carolina (or South Carolina?) town where the residents are just odd enough that you know these people have to really exist somewhere.

    The other is Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen books. They are light mysteries, where the main character is not a detective, but, in this case, a baker. Who owns a shop called The Cookie Jar. No blood and gore, despite a murder happening in every book. No swearing, no sex scenes. And and and there are recipes included!

  15. I’m excited, my library had this book as an e-book so now I can read it while we camp 🙂

  16. I refuse to read any book on Oprah’s book list on the grounds that it’s on Oprah’s book list. I’ve read one. That was more than enough.

  17. I would like to suggest “So you want to be a Wizard”, if only for the star’s interesting gas problem. (It’s a sentient celestial character.) You have to at least read about his “intestinal” issues.

  18. Yes!!

  19. Yes! Yes! I’m in!! this will be wonderful reading. Thank you.

  20. YES!!! I’ve been unable to find an in-person book club here, and even libraries don’t do much for adult readers. This is GREAT!!

  21. Oooooh, I’m in! Less than 20 minutes ago I was cursing the fact that all the books I have on my Kindle at the moment are either non-fiction or heavy going, so this post has come at the perfect moment, thank you!

  22. Ooh Beth, I knew there was a reason we are friends. Rofl. Lots of reasons 😉 I stick to nice books too, lots of kids books. Because reading is my happy place. I’ll join too thank u for finding me some more lovely books. Will ponder some to suggest…

  23. Ok, I’ve got the book. I should be finished by tomorrow morning. I am not good at waiting or being a responsible adult. Want to meet halfway for coffee to talk it over? (Kidding!)

  24. OH!!! You are my people! ( I knew that already, but this totally confirms it.)
    I CAN’T WAIT to read and discuss awesome escapist literature with you. <3

  25. My husband says all the books I read are “worthy and depressing” so maybe I should join your club! My daughter is a voracious reader. She has really enjoyed the Chris Colfer Land of Stories books. They are probably pitched at 10 year olds but I read the first one and enjoyed it. Had to read it because my daughter was so immersed in them that it was hard to have an intelligible conversation with her!

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