“Book review clubs” are different from “book clubs” — members aren’t expected to read the featured literature. In fact, they usually don’t. Instead, they join so they can experience charismatic entertainers who bring characters and stories to life. Members also seem to enjoy the camaraderie among women in the group, and sometimes, if they are so inclined, they will pick up a copy of the book on their way out.

Penny Terk is the ex-actress and book reviewer who founded pennyterk.com, the go-to organization for clubs looking for reviewers, such as the Lake Highlands Book Review Club. As soon as I reached Terk by phone, I learned she was a spirited woman — she snapped at me when she thought I was trying to sell her advertising, and then apologized profusely when I told her I just wanted an interview. It’s that honesty and straightforwardness, she says, that helps her connect with an audience.

“If they know you are sincere, women are quick to connect with you. As an actress, I feel the material. I try to be honest and sincere so that they will connect with that material and with me,” she says.

Terk caught the book-reviewing bug almost 20 years ago when a friend brought her along to a presentation.

“I thought to myself, ‘I could do that,’” she says.
At her first gig, Terk feared she was going to have to run out the door.

“I fell into character, and the ladies were looking at each other seeming a little shocked. I was glad to be near an exit,” she says. “But at the end, they were giggling and winking at each other, and I realized they liked it.”

Sensing a need to dispense information about herself and others like her, Terk first tried putting together a phone book, and later, because the information kept becoming outdated, she “dragged all of them kicking and screaming into cyberspace” — hence, the birth of pennyterk.com about 12 years ago. 

Terk now travels Dallas’ book review club circuit, wowing audiences at the Lake Highlands book review club at least once a year. The book she most enjoys bringing to the stage?

“There’s one that is always on my list — ‘Secrets Under the Bridge’ by Overton Shelmire. It’s the bio of the Dallas architect who designed the Anatole Hotel, and it’s just a wonderful history of Dallas here in the 1930s.”