After having read Zelda Lockhart's Fifth Born, I was eager to read more from Lockhart. Seeing she contributed to a compilation of essays edited by And...moreAfter having read Zelda Lockhart's Fifth Born, I was eager to read more from Lockhart. Seeing she contributed to a compilation of essays edited by Andrea Chapin and Sally Wofford-Girand, The Honeymoon's Over was next on my list. The essays, written by a range of female authors, spans the emotional spectrum of dealing with the loss or rebirth of a marriage.
Unabashedly honest, these writers as a whole allow you to experience their pain, discovery, ignorance, etc., firsthand.
The hub always asks what I'm reading, but, in this case, I had to share portions of the read with him especially Terry McMillan's "100 Questions to Ask Him." He, in turn, shared what he'd read with a friend of his at work, and the love of reading blossoms and pullulates.
Martha McPhee's "To Dream" eloquently characterizes the hopes of a child:
I longed throughout my childhood . . . for my parents to fall in love all over again as if somehow that would make me whole. . . . As a small girl, I became withdrawn. I did not care about school. I skipped it whenever I could and stayed with my mother. When in school, I was distracted, worrying about the chaos at home. (337)
A child of divorced parents, I could relate with every one of her words.
For the purposes of book club, assign an essay or two to each member of your club. Have her choose a food item which represents the essay(s) in question. For example, if assigned Lockhart's "Tracking Love," whole walnuts would be an ideal choice to represent this essay.
Before the conclusion of book club, skim through the biographies of the contributors in the back of the book, and then choose next month's selection (and the months to follow) from there.(less)
Having recently inhaled Cheryl Strayed's Wild, I was then eager to read her first novel, Torch. With similar life experiences as the female protagonis...moreHaving 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. (less)
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)
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)
I'm always curious as to how someone discovers a new read. Was it due to an intriguing review? A friend's suggestion? A gift? In this case, I stumbled...moreI'm always curious as to how someone discovers a new read. Was it due to an intriguing review? A friend's suggestion? A gift? In this case, I stumbled across Rice's Secrets of Paris while perusing the bookshelves at the condo where we were staying in Florida. I was hoping for a light read, and this is exactly what I found in the pages. This novel is a story of a married couple who recently transferred to Paris after a tragic death in the family. What ensues is betrayal, discovery, and a new lease on life. As stated above, Rice's novel in question is light and perfect for reading while on the beach or resting between outings, but I found when it was over, the novel, overall, lacked development in both characterization and plot. The familial tragedy mentioned above was never fully explained, the betrayal occurring in Paris had a nice neat conclusion after a brief discussion, and a full-blown besties friendship bloomed after a brief passing of the sugar in a cafe. Although a quick, entertaining read, I wanted more from the pages when it was all said and done and wished for a main female protagonist with more backbone. For the purposes of book club, a Paris backdrop complete with French delicacies would certainly set the mood: crusty bread, assorted cheeses, macaroons, and profiteroles. Oooh la la!(less)
Reading through the Monarch Magazine, I came across an interesting article about an author who graduated from Old Dominion, but grew up in St. Louis,...moreReading through the Monarch Magazine, I came across an interesting article about an author who graduated from Old Dominion, but grew up in St. Louis, MO. When I read further, I discovered Zelda Lockhart and I walked the same hallways in the Batten Arts and Letters Building on campus and shared the same phenomenal professors: Dr. Wilson and Dr. Heller to name a few. Cool! Thus, it was a no-brainer that Lockhart's novel, Fifth Born, moved to the top of my reading list. The protagonist, Odesssa Blackburn's childhood is told from the first-person perspective, allowing the reader to witness happenings alongside her. Based on Lockhart's own life, this novel is rich with the deplorable effects of familial secrets continuing from one generation to the next. Not only are themes of physical, mental, and sexual abuse revealed in Lockhart's writing with horrifying realism, but also themes of racism and sexism within the confines of what should be safety within one's own family. The enormity of familial dysfunction is exemplified through the beauty of Lockhart's dialogue, which reaches across generations and races such as in Ella Mae's telling of her constant yearning for her mother:
You could love somebody who didn't hardly know how to be good to you, like I love Motha. And you could love somebody you only seen once, like my baby. That's because it mostly ain't about love, it's about needin folks to be what they supposed to be. This was supposed to be my mama. . . Sometimes people do what feel like it's gonna make things better for right then. They don't bother to think about what the turnin of the years gonna bring. (176, 201)
Typically for book club, I suggest an array of items for foodies to serve at his/her discussion. In this case, my stomach was turned while and after reading Lockhart's Fifth Born. Instead, what came to my mind was the lemonade Deddy insisted upon being served to Cousin Devon and Gretal, "Get your smart ass up and go get them some lemonade" (18). In essence, this lemonade with its mix of sugary deliciousness and mouth-puckering sourness represents the pivotal shift Odessa's life would take with her own sweet innocence being overcome with the acridness of others. (less)
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 (...moreYeehaaaa! 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.
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...moreA 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.
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...moreSo, 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! (less)
After a few starts and stops, I finally gave my full attention to Anna Quindlen's Blessings and was determined to finish. Although the beginning faile...moreAfter a few starts and stops, I finally gave my full attention to Anna Quindlen's Blessings and was determined to finish. Although the beginning failed to hook me, once I reached the meat of the story, there was no turning back. A story of an elderly woman, a convicted felon, and an aspiring young doctor whose lives all come together as a result of the unexpected appearance of a child. The setting of the novel, Blessings, a rural family retreat, is not only idyllic in location, but also a domicile of familial dysfunction, both past and present. Through careful unveiling, Quindlen highlights the tragedy associated with truths withheld over generations. What was refreshing was the life, revitalization, and perspective of the female protagonist, Lydia. While philosophizing about life itself, she explains the tragedy of young death, the shock of middle-age death, and the inevitability of elderly death, how herstory, in essence, revolves around the loss of others. In addition, kudos to Quindlen for allowing the younger male and female in the novel to have meaningful interaction without the presence of romance. For the purposes of book club, a picnic lunch near a creek much like Lydia shared with Benny and Sunny as adolescents complete with bacon sandwiches, peanut butter cookies, and a big Ball jar of lemonade may be the perfect conversation starter.(less)
Having read Alice Sebold's Lucky and The Lovely Bones, I was determined to read Sebold's third book and second novel, The Almost Moon, and was admitte...moreHaving read Alice Sebold's Lucky and The Lovely Bones, I was determined to read Sebold's third book and second novel, The Almost Moon, and was admittedly looking forward to what I consider her infamous ability to hook the reader. Again, for me, Sebold did not disappoint as the first line begins, "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily" (3).
Through flashbacks, Helen, the protagonist, details her turbulent relationship with her mentally ill mother which ultimately ends in her mother's death. This first-person perspective is not only macabre in nature, but also interestingly matter-of-fact. The honesty with which Sebold represents Helen not only brings her to life, but also creates a sympathetic reader, "I had not been raised to hug or to comfort or to become part of someone else's family. I had been raised to keep a distance" (79). In addition, Sebold's elevated vocabulary choices- bilious, homunculus- challenges the reader (okay, challenges me) making interaction with her words a well-rounded learning experience.
For the purposes of book club, grainy butterscotch fudge, brandy balls, and pecan meringues are a must in order to recall Helen's telling of baking with her mother and to instigate conversation regarding this mother/daughter relationship.(less)
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 la...moreWhen 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: WHERE IS THE MAN WHO HAS THE POWER AND SKILL TO STEM THE TORRENT OF A WOMAN'S WILL? FOR IS SHE WILL, SHE WILL, YOU MAY DEPEND ON'T; AND IF SHE WON'T, SHE WON'T; SO THERE'S AN END ON'T.
-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.(less)
Perusing the aisles at the quaintest little library (my new favorite), Maryville Community Library in Maryville, IL, I could not help but peruse the E...morePerusing 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!).
Who would have thought reading a book about a man's love affair with books would be so addicting? I'm a bookaholic, and even I wasn't so sure when I c...moreWho would have thought reading a book about a man's love affair with books would be so addicting? I'm a bookaholic, and even I wasn't so sure when I checked Books: A Memoir out from the library. I was hooked on the cover photograph, though, gaggles and gaggles of books. McMurtry discuss in great detail his own obsession, "I had to have books," (20) with books which eventually led to his buying and selling books. In fact, he utilizes his love of books to remember prominent points on his personal time line: the beginning of his teaching career, the end of his marriage, the growth of his son, etc. The wit, intellect, and characterization found in this memoir is mesmerizing to say the least, and I noticed I read with a permanent smirk on my face throughout. When McMurtry tells of some eccentric book sellers he came across during his book hunts, such as the owner who had books piled high in a one-room shop, I had no choice but to laugh out loud. In order to "view" the books, a customer was to make use of provided binoculars for which McMurtry spent hours scanning the titles giving a whole other meaning to "browsing the shelves." For the purposes of book club, Coca-Cola served in the bottle should be the beverage of choice served for your discussion. Without giving too much away, this would be an ideal conversation starter on the topic of difficult customers McMurtry encountered at his own book shop, Booked Up. An assortment of chocolate " . . . we might offer our children" (20) to accompany the soda in lieu of beef intestines would be my preference. (less)
Having read about Susanna Sonnenberg's latest memoir, She Matters, in a newspaper, my interest was piqued about not only this as a potential read, but...moreHaving read about Susanna Sonnenberg's latest memoir, She Matters, in a newspaper, my interest was piqued about not only this as a potential read, but also her first memoir, Her Last Death, the true story of a troubled (putting it mildly) childhood and the effects of which infiltrate adulthood. The honesty with which Sonnenberg arranges her words grasps the attention of the reader in much the same way an automobile accident may engage passing motorists. . . too horrific to comprehend, but impossible to turn away. Blushing while reading one passage, empathizing while reading another, this is definitely a page turner. Feeling as if I now know the Susanna on these pages, I yearn to know the rest. What has happened between the final page until now? For the purposes of book club, many gourmet delicacies are discussed throughout. However, a defining moment in the memoir comes when Susanna realizes she favors her eggs scrambled, not a soft scramble, but hard. Thus, a brunch with the eggs in question would be a compelling conversation starter.
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)