Rhonda Tibbs' Song of the Snowman accurately portrays literary realism. As Mrs. Tibbs' characters unfold and evolve, the reader is able to find himsel...moreRhonda Tibbs' Song of the Snowman accurately portrays literary realism. As Mrs. Tibbs' characters unfold and evolve, the reader is able to find himself/herself within the novel. Although one may not directly fall victim to parental neglect, alcohol abuse, and/or spousal betrayal, Tibbs captures emotions with which anyone can relate. Fortunately, Tibbs wrote a prequel, Angel's Blues which is a must read for those like me who genuinely mourned the fact that I had finished reading Song of the Snowman. A terrific choice for a book club discussion. Rhonda TibbsSong Of The Snowman(less)
It comes as no surprise that the vivid images composed of rich colors by illustrator, cartoonist, designer, and author Peter Davies engage the emerge...more It comes as no surprise that the vivid images composed of rich colors by illustrator, cartoonist, designer, and author Peter Davies engage the emergent reader. In fact, my three-year-old snatched the book from my hands and proceeded to tell the story in her own words using only the bold pictures as guidance. With a sprinkle of Harry and the Purple Crayon mixed with a dash of Aladdin's magic carpet, Davies' words add a memorable tale with a positive message to Molly's Magic Pencil. The English teacher within could not help but notice the run-on sentence on page one as well as some missing commas throughout. Distracting for a thirty-something, but ignored by the target audience, three-year somethings. In addition due to editing, a picture of Grandpa looks as if he is missing part of his left arm, but I assured my toddler that Grandpa was completely intact. For book club regardless of weather, definitely incorporate a flying carpet into the storytelling area. This may be a sheet, rug, or blanket. Allow the kiddos to take a ride with their minds as they listen to Molly's Magic Pencil. Snack may be the creation of a flying carpet using graham crackers, peanut butter or icing, and various colored sprinkles in order to create the carpet of his/her choice. To conclude "baby" book club, give each book club member a "magic pencil" and paper allowing the creative juices to flow and to review Molly's Magic Pencil.
Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain reaches beyond the animal lover or racing lover. Instead, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a consuming rea...moreGarth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain reaches beyond the animal lover or racing lover. Instead, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a consuming read for men and women alike. Creatively, narration is provided by Enzo, the terrier/lab mutt chosen at twelve weeks by the protagonist, Denny. Enzo welcomes the reader into the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of his own life as well as the life of his master. Without giving too much away, the majority of Stein's novel is a realistic tearjerker causing one to evaluate the treatment of his own life as well as others which then concludes on an almost fairy-tale note.
Problems for me, the reader, ensued with the late introduction of Denny's parents. Their physical presence in the novel occupying only one chapter read as an afterthought. Further explanation surrounding the parents only reaffirmed the notion that either more elaboration was needed, or the interjection of the parents should have been deemed unnecessary and distracting during editing.
In regards to book club, this is one where man's best friend should be not only welcome, but master or mistress of ceremonies. The ideal setting would be a dog park such as Rock Springs Park in O'Fallon, IL. If book club members are not owners of the four-legged friend, simply being near these canines at the park would set the mood. Plenty of dog biscuits must be brought along to share with the dogs, and a fresh batch of oatmeal raisin cookies made in the same manner as Denny- plopped onto the cookie sheet- to share with the humans completes the ambiance and hopefully gives chase to a conversational treat. (less)
Mem Fox's Hello Baby! offers a simple, yet effective first look at animals through colorful illustrations set against a clean, white backdrop. Direct...more Mem Fox's Hello Baby! offers a simple, yet effective first look at animals through colorful illustrations set against a clean, white backdrop. Direct questions to the reader are followed by rhyming responses on adjacent pages. Without a doubt, the cadence of this story engages the young reader. Initially, the zoo comes to mind as a means of experiencing this children's book. However, with 91 degree weather looming outside, Momma decides to come up with a cool plan B. Thus, The Painted Zebra, an air-conditioned pottery studio, works since the striped zebra is one of the animals discussed in Hello Baby!. Here, each squirt including Momma picks a piece of pottery in the shape of an animal of her choosing and then paints the piece to her heart's desire. In a week's time, we pick up our fired objets d'art creating the perfect opportunity to revisit Fox's Hello Baby! for reading reinforcement. For snack, animal crackers appease rumbling tummies after an intense painting session.
Having finished mourning over my one-night read of Janet Evanovich's Smokin' Seventeen, I feel I am ready to offer book club ideas. A near obsessive...more Having finished mourning over my one-night read of Janet Evanovich's Smokin' Seventeen, I feel I am ready to offer book club ideas. A near obsessive fan of the Stephanie Plum series, I have read this series three times due to the fact I truly miss the plethora of characters (okay, specifically Morelli and Ranger . . . ooh la la!) when I am not engaged in the series. So, when a fellow author groupie and friend notifies me of the latest release date, sleepless nights ensue until I am able to download the book to my phone. Thus, promptly at midnight June 21st, my phone declares "download complete." Thrilled with the girth of this novel, 39 chapters, I take the plunge. Without having to attach "spoiler alert" to this blog, I can say with all certainty that "Smokin'" is an apt description for this book's contents. The two main male characters (my two sweeties), Morelli and Ranger, definitely make their presence known in the novel as well as in Stephanie's life. What I do feel is lacking is the more protective side of Morelli, more consistent with previous novels in the series. In addition, a quote spoken by Ranger explaining his interest in Stephanie as entertainment read as near verbatim from a passage in a previous book. However, I do admit that I have most of Ranger's quotes memorized (ask my hub who now sports a black RANGEMAN t-shirt), so others may not even think twice when reading these lines. Perhaps foreshadowing hinting at a change in their relationship in Explosive Eighteen? November, the month of the next book release, will tell. In the meantime, yes, other characters do exist in Smokin' Seventeen, and the plot takes on a familiar, yet unique spin of twists and turns. An entertaining, engaging read which I am sure will be reread at least once before 18's release. As for book club, dressing as characters from the novel would be an ideal way to set the mood. Think Grandma Mazur, Stephanie, Connie, Morelli, Ranger, Vinnie, Lula, Mooner, Alpha, and Dave. Since Dave offers some mouthwatering dishes in the novel, book club can take his cue and together prepare a meal of salad, scalloped potatoes, and lamb chops (see chapter 29). Lemon meringue pie for dessert would be the feasting finale along with an assortment of doughnuts in honor of Steph and Lula. If hosting the book club for Smokin' Seventeen and wish to dispense party favors, a grab bag of assorted granny panties from which members may choose would be a memorable giveaway. Or, asking each guest to bring a pair of granny panties of his/her choice for a White Elephant gift exchange and/or competition to guess who brought what may add to the festive nature. (less)
Whew! Having just turned the final page of Tamara Gerlach's Cultivating Radiance, I can honestly say you cannot estimate the time it takes to read a...more Whew! Having just turned the final page of Tamara Gerlach's Cultivating Radiance, I can honestly say you cannot estimate the time it takes to read a book simply by the number of its pages. At first glance, I thought 180+ pages would be an engaging weekend read. However, a weekend read stretched to a two-week self-discovery adventure. Yet, since the theme of the novel, "cultivating radiance," is actually an on-going process, I know that I will revisit, reread, and review as needed. Cultivating Radiance is divided into short chapters which end in homework assignments comprised of a Discovery Question, an Activity, directed Gratitude work, and a Mantra for memorization. Each chapter is sprinkled with anecdotes, biographical contributions as well as Ms. Gerlach's honest recollections as proof of the author's authentic requests of her audience. For book club, this is an ideal choice for weekly study groups, an on-line book club, or a monthly book club that checks in with one another on a weekly basis. Some homework assignments may be completed together such as attempting meditation (think The Center in Glen Carbon, IL), cooking healthy with local ingredients from a farmer's market (think Fournie Farms in Collinsville, IL), or participating in your first 5K (think A Signature Hollywood Salon's Annual Running with Scissors). Perhaps, your book club members will register as a group for a Women's Retreat (I'm in!). Whatever tickles your fancy, attempt an activity which lies beyond your norm in order to experience Cultivating Radiance.
By being participants in the 2011 International Postcard Exchange, our United Kingdom pen pals, Sam, Rebekah, Jeremy, George, and Daniel recommended...more By being participants in the 2011 International Postcard Exchange, our United Kingdom pen pals, Sam, Rebekah, Jeremy, George, and Daniel recommended the picture book Tatty Ratty by Helen Cooper to us. So, we immediately placed our order online and anxiously awaited an e-mail from our local library, Glen Carbon Centennial Library, stating our book was in. The image of a bunny eating a doughnut while taking a ride in the evening sky piqued our interest. What follows is an imaginative tale of the whereabouts of a lost bunny enhanced by the reference of familiar characters from other children's storybooks. Thus, not only is a new tale being told, but the backstories of other famous literary figures are introduced within Tatty Ratty. As a parent, I found the story useful as parenting advice if ever in the unfortunate predicament of a child missing a favorite toy. As a teacher, I appreciated the introduction of allusions in this literary work. As a means of experiencing Tatty Ratty, the squirts dug into their own collection of stuffed animals and found their own "Tatty Ratty." Opting to create an adventure exclusive to our Tatty Ratty, we took turns placing Tatty Ratty in various circumstances throughout the house and then using our imaginations to explain how she arrived at each location. Fresh from our Farm to Table field trips, we made a trip to the local produce stand, Norma's Produce and Greenhouses, and selected items which a bunny would most likely enjoy. Returning home with our bounty in tow, the squirts cleaned their (few) selected vegetables and (numerous) fruits and prepared them with minimal assistance ("I can do it!" was heard often during preparation) into a child-friendly salad.(less)
Kathryn Stockett's The Help leaves me mourning the lives of her characters. Having first been welcomed into these characters' homes and lives as a gu...more Kathryn Stockett's The Help leaves me mourning the lives of her characters. Having first been welcomed into these characters' homes and lives as a guest (perhaps a fourth at Miss Leefolt's bridge table) in the form of a reader, a transformation occurs, though, by the end of the novel where the reader emotionally entangles himself/herself with these seemingly living, breathing, struggling human beings. Will Aibileen continue to . . . ? How will Miss Skeeter fare in . . .? Does Minny triumph as a . . . ? Does Miss Hilly ever admit to . . . ? The telling dialogue and vivid descriptions places the reader in the moment. In fact, Minny's words, "I intend to stay on her like hair on soap" (158) induced the gag reflex (icks). Besides the entertainment factor, I hope the reader, more importantly, acknowledges the issues The Help brings to light such as racism, sexism, and domestic abuse (which nonsensically remain in today's society) and is motivated to take action. Having personally dealt with a sexist stepfather during my own upbringing, the reality is that these negative, needless influences have life-altering effects. For the purposes of book club, a delectable caramel cake shared among members seems the ideal choice since this inanimate "character" weaves itself throughout the novel. If feeling playful and wish to determine who has completed the book club's reading of the month, serve a chocolate pie alongside the cake and see which members help themselves to a slice or two. Then, without a doubt, as a group (less)
Kismet? Absolutely! With forty fast approaching, I became familiar with author Sondra Wright and her debut publication, 40+ and Fabulous: Moving Forw...more Kismet? Absolutely! With forty fast approaching, I became familiar with author Sondra Wright and her debut publication, 40+ and Fabulous: Moving Forward Fierce, Focused, and Full of Life! Previously, I had searched via hashtags for links and/or Tweeps dealing with turning forty, but came up only with tweets concerning a particular size of malt beverage. Truly shocked at not finding a plethora of groups, causes, and sayings including the infamous "turning forty" ideal, I was elated when I came across a book celebrating this decade (and then some) of adulthood. A compilation of autobiographical essays written by talented, strong women at least forty years of age comprise the majority of the pages. These pages reveal with much honesty and humor the truth about experiencing one's forties from a female perspective. After close reading and much highlighting, recurring themes began to take root . . . the inevitability of the "girls" heading south (and not solely for the winter), the deepening of female friendships and the release of toxic relationships, the forgiveness of not only others, but also one's self, and a thorough understanding (physically and intellectually) of the often perplexing male specimen. An excellent book club choice for a lively discussion, a Ladies on the Lawn party as portrayed in sixty-year-old Terry Kohl's contributing commentary is the optimal setting. Taking liberties due to extreme St. Louis summer heat, I opted for an air-conditioned Ladies on the Linoleum and Carpet party. Although long, flowing garden-style clothing would be welcomed, I am more of the tattered jean capris and hoodie kind of gal, and I want my gal pals to come dressed in whatever suits their moods. Guests may bring a dish of her own choosing to pass. What is crucial to this book club discussion is the one male instrumentalist. In Kohl's case, her musician played the fiddle, violin, and mandolin. For our purposes, the hub with minimal urging retrieved his electric guitar from his man cave and serenaded us with heavy metal as we sipped our sangria. Think Amazon Women at the Festival of Dionysus . . . Even if a hunky musician does not reside in your abode, do not hesitate to invite the girls over, turn on the iPod, and with the guidance of Sondra Wright, discuss how 40+ and fabulous you all are. (less)
Ever wanted to promote the love of reading within your own family and needed a book with the ability to garner the interest of three generations? Car...more Ever wanted to promote the love of reading within your own family and needed a book with the ability to garner the interest of three generations? Carol Galusha's The Same Birthday is the novel that meets this criteria. An educator for more than twenty years, Ms. Galusha implements components that draw the young adult reader into the novel such as active-voice sentences which are direct, yet chock-full of details, brief chapters overflowing with discussion material, and themes in which a young adult can relate. Students will be pleased with the 120 pages when the novel is distributed in class, yet mesmerised by the journey in which the three protagonists take them. Interestingly enough, this journey is full of complexities which engage the adult reader also. Thus, not only an ideal choice for the secondary classroom complete with lesson plans provided by the author, but also a work with the ability to bring multi-generational readers together. Yes, Grandma, Mom, and Daughter, for example. In the case of book club, what brings people together better than food. In this case, the food acts as a symbol for the lives of each of the three main characters. To represent Janine, appetizers should be available such as those mentioned on page 23 in The Same Birthday: pigs in a blanket, vegetables, and chips with elaborate dips. In the case of Mary Anne, earthy potato soup and rustic ham sandwiches express her backstory. Without a doubt, the essentials for making a mouthwatering pizza pie will not only coax the adolescent reader to book club, but also create a starting point for discussing the life of Molly. Looking for the ideal gift for the tween, adult, and seasoned person in your life? Look no further . . . you cannot go wrong with the gift of reading.(less)
Mentally draining, thought-provoking, and utterly fascinating are the descriptions that come to mind after reading Anene Tressler's Dancing with Grav...more Mentally draining, thought-provoking, and utterly fascinating are the descriptions that come to mind after reading Anene Tressler's Dancing with Gravity. An International Book Awards 2011 Literary Fiction Winner, Dancing with Gravity immerses the reader into the novel through rich descriptions (some of which caused giggling on my part): "Whiting took his ice cream and stepped over to the trash barrel to unwrap it. The wafer stuck to the paper so that each time he lifted a piece of the wrapper, it tore. Tiny strips stuck to his fingers. Ice cream dripped down his hands; he leaned over the trashcan to avoid dripping anything on his jacket. He tasted paper and spit it out. As he unwound the sandwich, a large chunk broke off and fell into the barrel. He tossed the remainder into the can in disgust and looked around for a napkin or water to rinse his hands" (161) and clever use of vocabulary, "He knew the parents wanted him to respond, but his words were stillborn" (136). The complex protagonist, Father Samuel Whiting, an educated man who suffered a less than stable childhood, inserts the proper anecdotes at the proper time, but remains socially and romantically immature at the age of forty-eight. Whiting's incessant questioning, analysis, and uncertainty invites the reader into his psyche and ultimately into the role of psychiatrist to his ramblings from the metaphorical couch (thus, naps were needed between reading "sessions" in order to process and recover). Tressler accurately portrays the ideal that there is much more to a person than what one witnesses on the outside; even a person who acts as a spiritual advisor or counselor experiences real emotions. The setting of Dancing with Gravity centers around a circus specifically located in St. Louis, Missouri, so why not have your book club entertain the idea of a group outing to the circus? Circus Flora has been thrilling St. Louis audiences for over 25 years. If this is not possible, bring circus food to your book club discussion. Hot dogs, flavored ice, cotton candy, popcorn, and an ice cream sandwich for the road. In closing talks, recognize the importance of thanking a spiritual advisor, pastor, rabbi, counselor, or guru. Trained to assist others, these often thankless professions deserve appreciation.
Searching through my tubs of books, I came across Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Of Love and Other Demons. Remembering that I had purchased this short nove...more Searching through my tubs of books, I came across Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Of Love and Other Demons. Remembering that I had purchased this short novel years and years ago after a class introduced me to this remarkable Nobel Prize-winning author via One Hundred Years of Solitude, I knew I had unearthed my next read while feeling a pang of regret at not yet having turned its pages. Translated by Edith Grossman, Of Love and Other Demons in much the same manner as One Hundred Years of Solitude immerses the reader into the genre of magical realism. This style of writing not only entrances me through its melding of fantasy and reality, but also, quite often, causes me to giggle at its absurdity written in such an authoritative manner, "He was an funereal, effeminate man, as pale as a lily because the bats drained his blood while he slept" (9) . . . "In Burgos he had seen a possessed woman who defecated without pause the entire night until she filled the room to overflowing" (98). For the purposes of book club, the host may prepare a meal of "goat's eyes and testicles cooked in lard and seasoned with burning spices"(65) in order to be true to the female protagonist's likings. However, cups of chocolate accompanied by bread and cheese may better suit more finicky tastes as it did the Bishop in the novel. In addition, an assortment of pastries much like those smuggled in for Sierva Maria by Cayetano would be a welcome addition.(less)
After completing Train to Nowhere: Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation, a few days were needed to fully comprehend the senseless, traumatic occurr...moreAfter completing Train to Nowhere: Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation, a few days were needed to fully comprehend the senseless, traumatic occurrence that author Colleen Bradford Krantz features in her work of non-fiction. Without bias, Krantz unfolds various accounts and backstories of the people involved in the gruesome deaths of eleven undocumented immigrants. Not only does Krantz paint a vivid picture through the peppering of the text with actual photographs, but also provides legal documentation and historical backgrounds while detailing the politics involved in the immigration issue. By the end of this written account, I felt as if I, too, had made feeble attempts to preserve dirt floors, to search tirelessly for repeat immigrant offenders, and literally to bake to death while desperately searching for a better life. On a grammatical note, tears welled in my eyes at the accurate punctuation of "20s" (35). Yet, my anal English-teacher self cringed at the repetitive use of the words "got" and "things" which (in my opinion) would have read much cleaner and clearer with the use of active verbs and concrete nouns respectively as replacements. For the purposes of book club, no food or drink allowed. This meeting does not call for feasting and merriment. Instead, a productive talk about how an individual can act as an instrument of change regarding the immigration situation in this country. Furthermore, a viewing of the accompanying documentary Train to Nowhere: Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation will only further place the reader inside this journalistic must-read.
While searching for Cheryl Jarvis' The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives in the library, I was surprised to fi...more While searching for Cheryl Jarvis' The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives in the library, I was surprised to find myself in the non-fiction aisle. The title conjured memories of reading Guy de Maupassant's short story, "The Necklace." Interestingly enough, though, having finished Jarvis' The Necklace, the two works together spark a thoughtful comparison of themes while encompassing two opposing genres. A literary sap when it comes to biographical non-fiction, this is, in essence, what kept me turning the pages. Intrigued by these thirteen women's truthful revelations, I was compelled to understand the seemingly shallowness and pride which seemed to exude from the pages in a rather (as Dr. Howard would say) sophomoric style of writing. Yearning for more substance, I struggled within chapters trying to determine whose story was actually being told as well as waiting for a dramatic conclusion to each individual's tale which never came to light. Feeling I would find what I was hoping for in the final chapter: growth, redemption, resolution; instead, I was and still am bewildered. For book club purposes, a read which may not make everyone's "Top Ten" usually makes for the liveliest discussions. An imitation (cheap!) version of the diamond tennis necklace may be purchased for your book club in order to fulfill the guidelines offered in The Necklace. Tamales are a must since it was revealed in Mary O'Connor's section that they are "a Southern California holiday staple" (179). In addition, a nod to each woman should be incorporated into the meal; for example, local-grown organic strawberries to represent Roz McGrath and perhaps a bottle of Dom Perignon (or not) to represent Priscilla Van Gundy. What ideally one should come away with from this reading is the motivation to create change, find a cause, and fund raise for a purpose. (less)
I am not sure why I continually do this to myself, but I cannot help myself. Rhonda Tibbs' written works are addicting even though they cause me much...moreI am not sure why I continually do this to myself, but I cannot help myself. Rhonda Tibbs' written works are addicting even though they cause me much anxiety during the reading and much sorrow after the reading of her novels. With the release of her third novel Purdie Magee, I, in essence, had no choice but to immediately download the e-version. Yes, my name is Courtney, and I am a Tibbsaholic. . . Intrigued by the backstory of the main character, Purdie Magee, there was no turning back once I turned the page to chapter six and met Gabe Austin, the green-eyed, Camel-smoking man with a "cat-like walk" (33). Not simply due to the "va va voom" effect of this character description does Tibbs entice the reader, but because of Tibbs' ability to create in the reader a true empathy for her characters. Two souls literally and metaphorically abandoned by their families cross paths, and what evolves are two complex histories interwoven with plot twists which keep the reader on the edge of her seat throughout Purdie Magee's entirety. For the purposes of book club, a field trip to a local pottery studio would be ideal. An English teacher's dream, Purdie Magee revolves around the theme of creating beauty from what was once deemed ordinary or imperfect. Thus, The Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, Illinois, offers such classes where one may manipulate clay into an object with aesthetic value. (less)