Friday, December 28, 2012

Kim and Krickitt Carpenter's The Vow Book Club

Yeehaaaa!  As a former English teacher and book addict, I am thrilled to write in the case of The Vow the "book was definitely better" than the movie (keeping the written word alive).  The Vow written by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter with Dana Wilkerson tells the true story of this newly wed husband and wife who face physical, emotional, and financial obstacles after a near-fatal car accident. 
Told from the point-of-view of the husband, Kim Carpenter, it was a quick, inspiring read.  The fact the book was written from the husband's point-of-view only, though, left me wanting to know more about Krickitt Carpenter, her feelings and thoughts during this entire ordeal since it was her memory of her life with this man which was affected.  A more feminine style of writing may have softened, or at the very least offered further elaboration on such passages as, "I still yell at her from time to time and I feel bad about it"  (177).  Huh?  
For the purposes of book club, the ideal of Kim and Krickitt's decision to court one another again in an effort "to rebuild the marriage from the ground up" (162) came to mind.  So, what does one eat while at the movies on a date with that special someone?  Perhaps a buttery bag of popcorn causing one's greasy fingers to "accidentally" touch while digging for another handful may rekindle the flame.  So, a variety of popcorns ranging from sweet to savory in flavor from Chef's Shoppe in Edwardsville, IL, may not only satisfy the munchies during discussion, but also may recall a past love.  

The Carpenters

Friday, December 7, 2012

Janet Evanovich's Notorious Nineteen Book Club

Janet Evanovich's nineteenth installment of the Stephanie Plum series is definitely notorious.  A nostalgic rush of previous savored novels early in the series came back while reading.  Hunks Morelli and Ranger played more prominent parts in the storyline instead of  cameos.  Although still no absolute resolution to the love triangle, an absence of fussing between Morelli and Stephanie was refreshing while a more in-depth relationship between Ranger and Stephanie was alluded to instead of "casual" encounters (if you catch my drift).  A favorite character, Randy Briggs, reappears in the series and is crucial to this plot, not merely an afterthought.  Bravo!  
For the purposes of book club. steering clear of the mashed potatoes might be best (yes, you'll have to read to find out why).  Instead, a Pino's-like lasagna with meat sauce, extra bread, and tiramisu.  For dessert, a cake in the shape of "Tiki" would be a welcome finale.

Janet Evanovich

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rhonda Tibbs' Shadow Book Club

Ooops!  She did it again . . .  Rhonda Tibbs', author of her fourth novel, Shadow, reeled me in yet again.  Shadow, is a coming-of-age novel about Danny Coulter, a budding artist, and his affinity for the Kiamichi River.  A fan of her writing, I was anxiously awaiting the first installment of her latest series.  Yet, upon receiving my copy, I read slowly and methodically, taking forced breaks, knowing that if I dived in head first, there would be no stopping me until the last page was turned.  Alas, though, a stretch of a few hours on a rainy afternoon drew me into the novel, and there was no point of return.
Tibbs' ability to harness the turbulent emotions of young love and then deliver them on paper is not only addicting, but nostalgic.  In fact, my own sixteen-year-old self- long a memory- manages to come alive again at the turn of every page.
For the purposes of book club, weather permitting, an informal picnic complete with a blue and white checkered tablecloth at the local park would be ideal.  A basket bearing ham and cheese sandwiches, potato salad, pickles, and bottled soda would recall Danny and the female protagonist, Isabelle's reunion after a summer spent apart in 1967.  For the matter of dessert, this meal would not be complete without Mama Rose's chocolate chip cookies.

Rhonda Tibbs

Friday, November 9, 2012

Eat, Read, Pray: Ann VosKamp's One Thousand Gifts Final

For the final discussion over Ann VosKamp's One Thousand Gifts, a Friendly Final Exam over the entirety of the book will be distributed in order to be completed with a partner.  

Friendly Final Exam
Ann VosKamp's One Thousand Gifts

  1. What was the title of the book you were supposed to have read?

  1. Who is the author of the above book?

  1. Why were you asked to record your thanksgivings in a journal?

  1. Define eucharisteo.

  1. Give an example of ugly/beautiful.

  1. List the names of the other people in the room.

  1. Humility comes from the Latin root humus- the kind of earth that grows ____________ crops.

  1. . . . God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He knows that the ______________ of joy begins in the _______________ of thanksgiving.”

  1. Only _____________ can kill joy.”

  1. I slept and dreamt life was joy, I awoke and saw life was service, I acted and, behold, ___________ was __________.”

  1. Enter into his gates with ____________________ , and into his courts with _______________: be ________________ unto him, and _____________ his name.” (Psalm 100:4 KJV)

Extra Credit: What was thanksgiving #362?
While working on the "exam,"  members may snack on "Nests Filled with Eggs," which are simply peanut butter chews scooped into cupcake tins and then shaped into nests.  Once cool, fill the nests with eggs, candy-coated almonds.
For the intentional activity of joy, make use of your local prayer labyrinth if possible.  Walking the circular path while giving thanks at each stone will not only nourish the soul, but also burn those extra calories from the "Nests Filled with Eggs" snack.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Learn More about Humorous Author J.W. Bull

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .
The Notebook...The combination of that poignant love story with one's own fears of developing Altheimer's, is enough to reduce anyone to a blubbering mess. I cried the whole movie. At the end, I turned to my husband on the couch, hugged him tightly and sobbed,"Wasn't that the saddest, most beautiful movie you've ever seen?" I pulled away, gazing into his soft brown eyes. Here was my my lover, my best friend, my soul mate... How could anyone cope with a disease that makes you forget your soul mate? And my husband's comment was, "What an emotionally manipulative movie. I can't believe you made me watch that."


There lies the difference between men and women.

Describe your first kiss.
When I was 16, I went to an all girls boarding school. During one of the dances with a neighbouring boy's school (boarding and day students) I met a tall, blond boy. We danced a few dances together, and then went outside and leaned against a wooden fence. I remember the moonlight, the feel of his lips brushing against mine, and then, the sudden, explosive honking of his mother's car...

Your favorite children's book, and why . . .
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. Although some would say it's not a children's book, I read it when I was probably 11 or twelve and to this day, I read it every year. Something about the magic, the characters, the epic story of good and evil fascinates me. In fact, when I can't sleep at night, I go through the story in my mind word by word, and I always drop off to sleep. For some reason, it calms me. Go figure.

A cause that's closest to your heart, and why . . .
Animals and pet shelters. I have two rescue mixed breeds (Chocolate Chip and Hershey - yes, we love sweets in my house) and they're like family members. It breaks my heart to think of all the homeless pets in the world and if I could, I'd adopt every single one and bring them home with me. My sons would love that but something tells me my husband would not...

So save my marriage and go out and adopt a pet from a shelter!

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be and why?
When I was little, I wanted to be Shirley Temple and live in the mountains with her grandfather. A little older, I wanted to be Lucy in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. And as a teenager I wanted to be Arwen from The Lord of the Rings. Now? I have no desire to be Arwen any more (despite the fact I read the series annually, and go to sleep reading the book in my head).

Most days, I just want to be me and am grateful for my full life. And on the occasional days when I get fed up with being Jennifer Bull, I look at my rock of a husband who's my better half, my two huge, but sweet teenage sons, my two spoiled but loveable dogs and think . . . "I would rather spend one lifetime with you than face all the Ages of this world alone."

Guess I can relate to being Arwen. Now, if I could only have her jewelry and her clothes. Her castle would be nice too. And maybe, a little alone time with Arago...

Nope, got to draw the line somewhere.

Explain the worst job that you've held.
In my early twenties, I worked in an accounting department of a real estate office. Now, anyone who knows me, knows numbers, money and business just do not have a place in my head. I can barely remember how to add and subtract. How I survived a year and a half at that job is a miracle to me...

I'm a musician by trade (I teach violin and play in The Georgia Symphony). I love to write, paint, cook - basically create. It doesn't really matter the platform. The creative right side of my brain is so dominant and thriving that I imagine the logical left side of my brain is this puny, shrivelled up nub.

Isn't that special...

A quote that motivates you . . .
“When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place.” *Unknown Author

You've got to have determination in life. Hold on tight to your goals, your dreams, your blessings. If you don't, the trials of life can steamroll you and flatten you out like a pancake. This quote reminds me to be strong despite adversity and to remember one important goal: I refuse to go through life like a pancake.

The title of the one song you would take with you on that deserted island . . .
The song from the Fellowship of The Rings, "Concerning Hobbit."

Just love that song - full of hope, playfulness, epic adventure and magic. Okay, a therapist would probably love me. Definitely, have an obsession with The Lord of the Rings...There's even a character in my next book, Musical Chairs, whose nickname is Strider.

Three Wishes
That my family would be safe, healthy and happy. I pray for that most nights.

I would love gobs of money but money doesn't make you safe, healthy and happy.

Favorite game you played as a child . . .
Monopoly. Although it's not my favourite game now or actually even then, it's a game I remember playing one special time with my older brother, Chris. He was home from college and randomly decided to play Monopoly with me. Just kind of sticks in my mind because he died a few years later in the Navy. I was thirteen when he died. Any memories of him, I have always clutched closely to my heart.

What would you like readers to take away from your writing?
Laughter and entertainment. My writing is not literary fiction - it's not thought provoking and intellectually stimulating. It's just fun, wacky fun entertainment. And I think there's a place for that in this world.

J.W. Bull

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Life in Parts Book Club

Waiting in the dentist's office for my name to be called, I decided to flip through Dr. Oller's reading materials.  Usually I reach for a magazine since the wait time is next-to-nothing if any at all, but this time a work of fiction titled A Life in Parts written by Vicki Bennington and Daniel Brannan caught my eye.  Flipping to the back cover, a picture of a striking woman intrigued me especially after I read her legs and portions of her hands had been amputated.  My vision, corrected with contacts, still made me question what I was seeing so I pulled the book closer to my face.  What I saw was a beautiful, joyous woman with no trace of any suffering, scarring, or self-pity.  Soon my name was called, so I begged Monica, my dental hygienist and fellow author groupie, if I might be able to borrow this book.
A quick-read, the fact that this work of non-fiction revolved around the life of a local Midwesterner made it even more engaging.  Abruptly faced with toxic shock syndrome after a freak occurrence in her home,  Loretta Goebel faces life as an amputee.  A wife, mother of two, devoted friend, and volunteer, A Life in Parts relives Goebel's journey to a new normalcy with fierce determination and continued faith despite the obstacles and eventual losses which accrue along the way.
For a book club's convenience, study questions have been included in the back of A Life in Parts for discussion.  Since the ideal of familial traditions and gatherings proves motivating for Goebel throughout her healing, a meal filled with comfort food- chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn- which greeted her at her arrival home from the hospital would be appropriate for the menu.

A Life in Parts

Friday, October 5, 2012

Eat, Read, Pray Book Club: Ann VosKamp's One Thousand Gifts Part 3

As members enter for Part 3 of Ann VosKamp's One Thousand Gifts, engage them in the Opening Activity of what VosKamp describes as Ugly Beautiful:

Look at page 135 in your book and read through VosKamp's list of “Ugly Beautiful.” Now, in your thanksgiving journal, add ten items which you would deem “Ugly Beautiful” in your own life.

Then, put members in pairs to discuss the questions covering chapter 5:

Chapter 5
  1. Think of a recent moment where something went wrong with you, didn't go as planned, etc. Find one thanksgiving in that moment.
  2. Define hard eucharisteo.
  3. How would you rate your daily discipline to give thanks on a scale of 1-10? Are you (inert name) full of grace?
  4. How do you feel about “awakening to joy awakens to pain” (84)?
  5. Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God” (88)? Explain.
  6. What does VosKamp mean by “ugly-beautiful” (99)?
    In an effort to cover chapter 8, have members complete the following activity:
    Chapter 8 
    Write “stress” on your note card. Discuss this term with your partner, and then list on your note card all items which cause you “stress”- emotional, physical, spiritual, etc.
    With "stress" cards in hand, discuss the meaning of theology as your group is walking outside in order to "chase the moon."  In groups, have members take creative pictures which can include chasing the moon such as VosKamp did in chapter 6.  Click here for further ideas. 
    Hunky Guy Seen Here Holding the Moon
    While outside, have readers tear "stress" cards into tiny pieces and then bury under the soil for a symbolic and literal release of "stress."

    Last but not least, members may enjoy a luscious snack inspired by chapters 5-8 of VosKamp's One Thousand Gifts.

    Moon Pies, Photo and Snack Courtesy of Beth Miramonti

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Eat, Read, Pray Book Club: Ann VosKamp's One Thousand Gifts Part 2

Part 2 of Ann VosKamp's book study covered chapters 1-4 and book club members were given a thanksgiving journal at the first meeting in order to begin documenting their 1000 gifts.  As members enter for discussion, ask them to highlight five thanksgivings from their journal they would be willing to share with the group.  Once everyone has arrived and is settled, go around the room and have each member share their five thanksgivings- why these thanksgivings were chosen, when they were identified, the grace that resulted.

This would be an ideal time to introduce the snack of the evening, cheeses meant to be grated.  Allow members access to various cheeses and various size graters in order to create their own rings of cheeses.
While taking turns with the grater, the following study questions may be discussed:

Chapter 1-
  1. What do you think of the opening epigram, “Every sin is an attempt to fly from emptiness”?
  2. Are your hands curled like cupped hands, a receptacle open to the gifts God gives?
  3. Do you have any memories which were jolted awake due to the electricity of the trauma?
  4. How can God be good when babies die, marriages implode, and dreams blow away?
  5. Does God really love me?
  6. What is the human inheritance/legacy of the Garden?
  7. When do your soul's macular holes spontaneously heal?
  8. Define “grace” according to VosKamp.
  9. How do you know you can say “yes” to whatever He gives? 
    10. How do we “choose” to allow the holes to become seeing- through-to-God places?

Chapter 2-
  1. Can you relate to Ann's dream? Has a dream or life experience ever made you want to live fully?
  2. Do you understand what Ann means when she talks of the life in between?
  3. Are you ready to go Home if the call came? If not, how do we live fully so we are fully ready to die?
  4. Are there places that must be known, accomplishments that must be had, before one is really ready to die?
  5. Define eucharisteo.
  6. Define the fall according to Voskamp.
  7. How often do you remember to say thanks? Every day?
Chapter 3-
  1. Thinking of your own life experiences, does change take real intentionality?
  2. Are you able to show gratitude in the midst of death, divorce, debt, etc. in order to accept the joy?
  3. Will you commit to name the gifts you already have, the gifts He bestows? What, if anything, causes you to hesitate?
  4. As you document your 1000 gifts, be specific. For, the small “moments will add up” (57).
  5. Complete a prayer of thanks three times a day.
    Chapter 4-
    1.   Is the busyness of your life leaving little room for the source of your life? How can you make your life less busy?

    2.  What is your most profound regret in life? What did you think of the pastor's regret of “being in a hurry” (65)

    3.  How can you take time to live with soul and body and God all in sync?
    4.  Document your own version of “Suds . . .all color in sun” (68).

    5.  Fill yourself with the weight of the present, be all here.

    6.  Tell someone you “love them . . . and all this” (77).

Finally, at the conclusion of discussion comes our INTENTIONAL activity of joy.  Since VosKamp lists #362 in her thanksgiving journal as the suds in her sink, use this time to allow the grown members of your book club to walk outside and blow bubbles, pop them, and catch them.

If interested in Eat, Read, Pray Book Club, please e-mail

Monday, September 24, 2012

Charlaine Harris' Deadlocked Book Club

Charlaine Harris' twelfth novel in the Sookie Stackhouse series, Deadlocked, failed to satisfy my Eric Northman cravings.  In fact, his character was practically AWOL from the entire novel.  If a Bon Temps resident myself, I definitely would have enlisted the aid of the Long Tooth Pack in order to find my Viking.  Other characters made cameo appearances (via telephone in this case) in the novel as well such as Quinn the weretiger, but did not seem to add anything to the storyline.
Although I continued to turn the pages and finished Deadlocked within a forty-eight-hour reading, I think it had more to do with an inner determination to find the hook found in previous Stackhouse novels.  Nevertheless, I will be anxiously awaiting the thirteenth in the series.
For the purposes of book club, discussing this novel over the meal Sookie made for friend Tara and husband J.B.  seems like the likely choice " . . . hamburger-and-sausage meatloaf, a pasta salad, and a carrot casserole . . . [as well as] a blackberry cobbler" (184) and Sookie's famous iced tea.  In addition, Sookie's sweet potato casserole would be a comforting addition to book club considering the lack of tall, blond, and built.

Charlaine Harris

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Eat, Read, Pray: Ann VosKamp's One Thousand Gifts Part 1

Last night was Eat, Read, Pray Book Club's initial meeting over Ann VosKamp's One Thousand Gifts.  The book cover serving as inspiration, snack included deviled eggs topped with a carrot "nest" filled with an olive "egg."

No reading was required; the group as a whole answered the following questions in order to think in terms of our abundance of God-given gifts:

What happened today for which you are thankful?
What did you see today which made you smile?
What made you laugh?
What was a delight to your eyes?
What brought you comfort?
What did you eat today which "hit the spot" and relieved your tummy grumbles?
What did you witness today which made you happy?
Did you receive an unexpected gift today (i.e. "thank you," hug, smile, assistance, wave, text, e-mail, phone call, letter, love note, etc.)?
Did you give someone a compliment today?
Who hugged you today?
Who did you hug today?

The term, eucharisteo, with all of its components- grace, thanksgiving, joy- was then discussed followed by the "Homework" assignment:  reading of chapters 1-4, documentation of 333 gifts, and the sending of a handmade card.

This card in question was then created under the direction of Miss Cathy along with the use of her many card-making supplies.  This was deemed our INTENTIONAL activity of thanksgiving.

Our next meeting is September 19, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. in the Oak Room at Troy United Methodist Church.  If interested, please e-mail

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods Book Club

A new friend and I recently connected with a discussion of books.  She had recommended to me Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods and told me how humorous it was, so I was sold and ordered myself a copy from the library (attempting to save trees and money while keeping our libraries in business).  Brutally vivid descriptions, "If the mattress stains were anything to go by, a previous user had not so much suffered from incontinence as rejoiced in it"  (81), alarming statistics (six deaths on Mt. Washington's slopes in the first half of 1996), and hilarious analogies fill the pages:

So woods are spooky.  Quite apart from the thought that they may harbor wild beasts and armed, genetically challenged fellows [think The Hills Have Eyes] named Zeke and Festus, there is something innately sinister about them, some ineffable thing that makes you sense an atmosphere of pregnant doom with every step and leaves you profoundly aware that you are out of your element and ought to keep your ears pricked.  Though you tell yourself that it's preposterous, you can't quite shake the feeling that you are being watched.  You order yourself to be serene (it's just a woods for goodness sakes), but really you are jumpier than Don Knotts with pistol drawn.  Every sudden noise [. . .] makes you spin in alarm and stifle a plea for mercy [ . . .].  Even asleep, you are a coiled spring.  (44-45)

This memoir retells not only 870 miles walked on the Appalachian Trail, but also uncovers a touching friendship which had not been nurtured since childhood.
Watershed Nature Center in Edwardsville, IL
Not simply an entertaining, informative read, but also a motivator to walk in the great out-of-doors.  So, a leisurely stroll in the woods, perhaps a nature preserve, is a must for book club with a backpack loaded with water, Snickers bars, Slim Jims, and raisins.

Bill Bryson

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cathi Hanauer's Gone Book Club

Years ago shortly after we had our first child, my husband and I read Cathi Hanuer's The Bitch in the House and had great belly laughs (while pointing fingers at one another) at her honest writing as well as the writing of others anthologized in the book.  So, while reading Hanauer's article in Real Simple Magazine, I noticed she had recently published Gone, a novel in which I had not read (in case you were wondering how books find me- chance, mail,  text recommendations in the middle of the night, and inviting covers).
Immediately intrigued by the ideal of a sculptor husband, Eric, up and vanishing with the babysitter one night after a romantic dinner with his wife, Eve, I did not feel hooked, though, until I had reached the vicinity of page 80.  For me, the beginning needed a metaphorical boost of vitamin C with the wife's reaction to circumstances being a bit too accommodating for belief.  A strong front for the sake of the children is understandable as Eve has always been the one who holds the family together through routine and healthy eating, but as a reader, I yearned for more depth from Eve.
Nevertheless, again, once page 80 was reached, I needed to read on and on through the night so that I could know what eventually happens to this family dynamic.  Hanauer manages to keep the reader in suspense until the near end regarding  whom decides to do what with whom, yet I turned the final page feeling as if I still wanted more- more explanation, more layers, more . . .
As Eve is a nutritionist and her mother-in-law is eating more healthfully after a breast cancer scare, numerous, mouth-watering meals are described in detail.  Perhaps, a bruschetta much like Danny's would be a nice starter for book club.
Then, perhaps Penelope's meal of chickpeas, spinach, and tofu sausage (or chorizo for the carnivore).  Finally, a carrot cake with plenty of icing initially meant for a birthday girl, but instead enjoyed by bookies.

Cathi Hanauer

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cheryl Strayed's Torch Book Club

Having recently inhaled Cheryl Strayed's Wild, I was then eager to read her first novel, Torch.  With similar life experiences as the female protagonist Claire- a parent who suffers a gruesome death at the hands of cancer, various familial dysfunction, and a previous longing for the consummate romantic relationship- I bookmarked passage after passage which seemed to have come from my own thought processes during my near-identical life experiences:  

Years passed. . . Slowly, stingingly, she forgave them [her parents] without their knowing about it.  She accepted the way things were- the way they were- and found that acceptance was not what she'd imagined it would be.  It wasn't a room she could lounge in, a field she could run through.  It was small and scroungy, in constant need of repair.  (52)

Strayed does not romanticize life, but, instead reveals it in all its awkwardness, ugliness, and blessedness.
In addition, Strayed is not only author, but also neologist with the creation of parentified- "' . . . where a child who is still a child doesn't get to be a child entirely because he or she has to take on things that children shouldn't have to take on . . . common in single-parent families- where the child has to look after younger siblings, cook meals, and stuff like that'"  (56).  Recalling my own childhood, I can easily see how my older sister was definitely parentified,  and certainly not of her own volition at the tender age of fourteen.
For the purposes of book club, an assortment of vegetarian dishes in honor of Teresa Rae Wood would be appropriate.  Perhaps a scalloped potato casserole with peas along with herbal tea would be ideal items offered at your book club discussion.

Cheryl Strayed

Monday, June 25, 2012

Carol Galusha's The First to Fall Book Club

Carol Galusha's third novel, The First to Fall, released June 2012, fails to disappoint.  Much like Ms. Galusha's first novel The Same Birthday, The First to Fall is geared for the young adult, yet engages not only the adolescent reader, but also the adult reader through her written word.  The novel begins by introducing the reader to five childhood friends of differing races in the segregated early 1900s.  This historical time frame does not distance the young or mature reader, but draws him/her in with the exploration of enduring friendships despite familial and cultural influences.  The plot does not cease there, though, but instead branches out to include a bounty of themes such as dealings of the corrupt, consequences of revenge, and life after reinvention all while transporting the reader to the present day.
What is interesting to note is Ms. Galusha's clever use of the non-written word allowing the reader to infer necessary detailed conversation, rising action, and dealings of the heart through surrounding descriptions.  These thought-provoking conversation starters are not only ideal for book club, but also for the reluctant-to-volunteer secondary classroom student.  In addition, Ms. Galusha again generously provides on her website a literacy guide to accompany The First to Fall making life easier for not only the overworked educator, but also the underappreciated book club facilitator.

Carol Galusha

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cheryl Strayed's Wild Book Club

Although I finished reading Strayed's Wild last week, I have been putting off writing about this read because I dread having to return this book to the library.  Wild is definitely a keeper on so many levels.  Strayed writes with such brutal honesty which allows herself (the protagonist in this memoir) to become an actual flawed human being which, in turn, allows the reader to find herself or himself within the text such as I did.  Struggling with the death of her mother and the end of her marriage, Strayed sets out on a journey across the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to find herself, forgive herself, and forget the "what ifs" in life.
A first for me reading this memoir was finding myself laughing aloud again and again while reading about Strayed's encounters with her U-Dig-It stainless-steel trowel.  Among other uses, this tool was utilized to create a make-shift toilet in the ground.  Having no prior experience with this device combined with Strayed's blunt description of the undeniable urgings of nature, the visual formed was laugh-out-loud humorous while invoking a sympathetic admiration for the main character.  Fighting fatigue after a recent surgery, I continued to turn Wild's pages well into the night so that I could rejoice in Strayed's triumphs along the trail right along with her.
Undoubtedly, a challenge to one's body would be a fitting way to meet in order to discuss Cheryl Strayed's Wild.  Perhaps, a team created to benefit breast cancer victims walking a marathon and one-half together as in the Avon Breast Cancer Walk in Chicago would allow plenty of time to discuss Wild and evaluate one's life . . .  believe me.

Cheryl Strayed

Monday, April 9, 2012

Elizabeth George's Deception on His Mind Book Club

When my European friend recommended a British mystery for me to read, I did not hesitate for a minute.  Her first recommendation was a result of her laughing aloud hysterically while reading Jane Green's Straight Talking (book club ideas coming soon) when we were on retreat together.  I am not a laugh aloud reader (more of a goofy smirk reader), but I was willing to try after her constant giggles during the night.  Thus, Deception on His Mind was soon stacked on top of my nightstand.
Being cartographically challenged, it took me a while to orient myself into the setting of the novel.  With the assistance of the inside cover maps, I was soon up to speed, though.  No-nonsense characters such as Barbara Havers, Emily Barlow, Agatha Shaw, and Taymulla Azhar intrigue the reader prompting her to keep those pages turning.  Reading this novel while hospitalized allowed me the concentration needed to fully absorb the multi-faceted characters as well as the complexities of the mystery in question, the murder of Haythem Querashi.
As a side note, I fell in love with the epigram found at the beginning of Deception on His Mind:

           -from the pillar erected on the Mount in the Dane John Field in Canterbury

When considering book club for this Elizabeth George novel, one may explore the contradiction between Emily's healthful ways and Barbara's less-than-healthful eating habits.  A buffet of yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit setting adjacent to popcorn, rainbow rock (what is this?), and ice cream seems to fit the bill.  Another direction book club may take in regards to refreshments is all foods mustard, in honor of the Malik's mustard factory.

Elizabeth George

Friday, April 6, 2012

E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy Book Club

When a dear friend and author (@carolgalusha/twitter) texts you in the middle of the night imploring you to beg, borrow, or steal E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey, my interest was piqued.  The next day while at my friendly village library, I think I blushed (my friend warned me of the novel's amorous effects) when I requested the librarian perform a search for the trilogy in question.  Hearing there was a lengthy wait of 60+ requests for book one of the series, I graciously denied the request to be added to this list.  Knowing this was a read that could not wait, I caved and downloaded book one onto my phone.
Va, va, va, and voom!  Not having asked Ms. Galusha details, I took her at her word not having any idea what to expect (deep breath).  Reading definitely surpassed any expectations.  Complex characters with intense needs quickly unfold in book one.  Delving further into book one, I found similarities between Twilight characters and Fifty Shades characters, but far from the young adult genre.  With similar themes of tortured souls overcoming dark pasts, starry-eyed, opposites-attract lovers, and the happily ever after, E.L. James had me at page one.  
Consumed by the far-from-black-and-white (grey) story, I immediately downloaded books two and three at the conclusion of book one.  Instead of being disappointed by weak, redundant, cookie-cutter sequels, I was grateful for the interjection of more complex storylines and found books two (especially) and book three to be more engrossing reads.

For the purposes of book club, a Grey-Themed Party is definitely a must.  Have "bookies" come dressed in their favorite shades of grey (fifty of which to choose from) and provide masks to allow anonymity when answering discussion questions.  A prize, perhaps handcuffs, can then be given to the participant unanimously deemed "best dressed in character."
A sparkling pink drink would be nice to bring to mind Christian and Ana's favorite drink.  Because Christian would demand we eat, a splurge of oysters, perhaps, to mirror a first of Anastasia's, or a warming chicken stew courtesy of (warning:  spoiler alert) Mrs. Taylor (a.k.a. Mrs. Jones).
Finally, after all of the meals have been eaten in their entirety, send book club members home with a goody bag containing cable ties and the like.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Janet Evanovich's Metro Girl Book Club

Perusing the aisles at the quaintest little library (my new favorite), Maryville Community Library in Maryville, IL, I could not help but peruse the Evanovich titles as I always do.  Metro Girl caught my eye with its brightly-colored book jacket, so I flicked it loose from the shelf with my index finger and scanned the back synopsis.  Having continued withdrawals from the early Stephanie Plum series, I decided to give it a try.
Interesting enough, Evanovich's main characters, Alex and Hooker, are fair-haired, but they do remind the reader of characters, Steph and Morelli (which is not disappointing to say the least).  The sexual tension builds throughout this novel as together Alex and Hooker overcome trouble and solve mystery after mystery.  Hooker's protective ways and Alex's independence mirror scenes read about in Jersey although the setting this time is Miami.
A quick, entertaining read which should be discussed over seafood (stone crabs anyone??) such as at the Gulf Shores Restaurant and Grill (yummo!).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy Book Club

I am going to be honest here . . .  the movie trailer is what led me to Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games Trilogy.  Thinking I would blog after each book was not meant to be.  I couldn't put, in my case, my phone's e-version down.  In fact, I was grateful that a four-day-hospital stay occurred during the reading.  Poked in my arms and hands for blood withdrawal . . .  fine.   Shot in my stomach with blood thinners . . .  bring it on.  Taken to my fourth surgery in as many months . . .  let's do it (so that I can continue my reading). 
The storyline was intriguing and kept my attention throughout, the albeit alien characters believable, and plot twists interwoven throughout entranced me.  Without giving too much away, I found myself wanting Katniss to ease up on Gale and allow him equal footing in the contest for her heart.  Her abruptness with him in the third novel didn't seem to ring true to her earlier interactions with him, but I suppose time and circumstances do alter outcomes.
Since I don't see myself or others munching on tree rats while discussing this trilogy, I, instead, look forward to a group viewing of the movie version of The Hunger Games come March 23rd.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Man Who Couldn't Eat Book Club

 Having learned about Jon Reiner's The Man Who Couldn't Eat through St. Louis' Feast Magazine, I was intrigued about a book choice selected by a food culture magazine and regarding a topic close to home, chrone's disease.  My uncle-in-law suffers from this condition, so I thought after reading I would send it to my aunt and uncle-in-law for reading.  Besides the fact, I am a sucker for memoirs;  learning about other peoples' lives is intriguing and comforting all in one.
Reiner's raw storytelling is certainly not "sugar coated."  Chrone's disease wreaks havoc not only on the victim's health, but also his/her way of lifestyle and the lifestyle of those around him/her.  A scene where Reiner longingly looks at the salt-coated crinkles of a french fry and eventually licks despite his NPO (nil per os/nothing by mouth) status mirrors unrequited love.
When reflecting on his numerous stays at the hospital, Reiner writes, " . . . hospitals have a way of breeding confessions," (189).  Adept at description, Reiner includes the reader in every page, paragraph, and sentence.  Having recently been hospitalized, I recounted learning of a nurse's dysfunctional ex as well as the organic eating requirements of another nurse and wondering what truths I revealed while under the influence of pain killers and lying vulnerable in a hospital bed.
For book club purposes, an evening of appetizers at Nosh was offered to the Feast Book Club at independent bookseller Left Bank Books in the Central West End in St. Louis.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ta Ta to the Ta Tas with Eileen Sutherland's "Mom and the Polka-Dot Boo Boo"

So, I've been MIA lately, but it hasn't been due to a lack of interest in reading.  It turns out that my "nothing but routine" breast excision evolved into a lumpectomy which has inevitably resulted in the need for a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction tomorrow.  [deep breathing . . . more deep breathing]  Since I feel like an immature adolescent inside, it's hard for me to come to the realization that my body is anything but adolescent, but rather it is adult dealing with adult medical issues.  The fact is that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.  Yes, 1 in 8!  The odds that a woman will develop breast cancer are staggering.  Yet, women are not the only victims.  For every 100 women diagnosed, 1 male will be diagnosed.  Why is there no cure?
As reported in my last blog, I was virtually without symptoms prior to my first mammogram.  A couple of weeks before the screening, I had spontaneous discharge from my right nipple, but no lumps.  No lumps!!!  I thought you had to have lumps!!!  My father passed away after losing a gruesome battle with cancer of the lining of the lung.  Thus, I figured I, too, would meet cancer one day, but I didn't think it would be only five years after his death and in the form of breast cancer.
With a three and five-year-old, there is not much opportunity to come to terms with the diagnosis or wallow in any self-pity.  Instead, my "game face" must be on for them because I don't want them to be frightened or worry about their momma.  This does not mean that tears do not flow, so I feel truly blessed to have a loving support system which includes friends who know just what to do, when to do it, and won't take "no" for an answer.  Hearing "no clear margins . . . mastectomy" over the phone, I was in no shape to care for my three-year-old.  My BFFs without hesitation took turns watching my girls that day and keeping them occupied.  Just what the doctor ordered . . .  time to cry, time to think, time to research.

While researching, I came across a book which deals with breast cancer suitable for my young children.  Eileen Sutherland's Mom and the Polka-Dot Boo Boo perfectly explains breast cancer at the child's level.  Together, my girls and I have read this book several times, and I have referred back to this text whenever questions arise.  My favorite literacy device used in Sutherland's writing is the use of the simile when she compares the release of the boo boos from Mommy's chest to the flight of a butterfly.  The girls enjoyed the imagery and understood this explanation.
Mom and the Polka-Dot Boo Boo is a thoughtful gift for any breast cancer warrior . . .  If you do nothing else, though, please check your ta tas!