Dead Reckoning Book Review and Book Club Ideas

     Having just completed book 11 in Charlaine Harris’ series, I am filled with a sense of sadness that I have turned the last page and a pang of disappointment that this novel feels more transitional than stand-alone. The main protagonist, Miss Stackhouse, finds herself involved in yet another dilemma- this time concerning the status of her relationship with her beloved, Eric, as well as his future in the vampire kingdom.  Glimpses of well-developed characters in past novels seem only to make cameo appearances leaving the reader with several unanswered questions.  Usually the Dead novels are a one-night read, this time the pull of the novel did not seem to occur until nearly 80% of the pages had been read.  Nevertheless, I will impatiently wait for book 12 in which I am hopeful I will find the answers to which I am looking.
     If choosing this novel for book club, it is worth the attempt to experience the novel as much as possible as a means to not only spark conversation, but also to immerse the reader into the pages.  Thus, without a doubt, to set the ambiance, play Elvis’ “Kentucky Rain,” “In the Ghetto,” and “JailhouseRock.”  Refreshments could include Miss Stackhouse’s cheese straws- crisp with the right amount of spice- salted pecans, Maxine’s punch, a delicious cake from the bakery, and, of course, plenty of V8 disguised in bottles with the True Blood label.

Charlaine Harris

Love Dare Days 2-4

     Busy with my oldest squirt soon graduating preschool, I have, though, been keeping The Love Dare at the top of my “must-read” pile on my nightstand.  Keeping Day 1, patience, repeatedly at the front of my mind, I simply nodded agreeably when the hub told me as he was walking out the door for work that the air conditioner was broken, and I needed to call someone.  Realizing why I woke in a pool of sweat, I made the call and waited patiently in 90 degree weather with two preschoolers wearing their fussy pants.
     Day 2, love is kind, asks the reader to perform a random act of kindness towards his/her spouse.  Thus, I decided to mow and weed whack the lawn for my beloved in 92 degree weather.  As fate would have it, my mother was in town and able to occupy my two squirts, so I was able to complete the task before the hub returned from work.  Working in the peak heat of the day, the task was complete, but I was soon sitting with my head between my too pale legs and cool washcloths on the back of my neck. 
     Continuing on to the next dare, I am instructed to make a purchase for my spouse that translates to, “I was thinking of you today.”  This is a challenge.  My hub has no desire for material things.  He enjoys playing the electric guitar, but I am musically illiterate, so a purchase in that department was out of the question.  Stumped. . .  As luck would have it, though, I decided to peruse the grocery aisle of the local farm supply store.  To my delight, I spied some “Hanky Panky” (honestly, printed on the package) chocolate drizzle caramel corn with peanuts.  Score 1 for me!  As I made a beeline for the check-out, I spotted green apple, a favorite flavor of the hub, licorice.  At this point, I was doing the happy dance on the inside, and I’m sure the young lady checking me out wondered what the deal was with my goofy smile. 
     Finally, Day 4, love is thoughtful.  On a roll, I e-mail the hub the following sweet nothing, “Today, I love you.”  Not . . . “What is your e.t.a. for arriving home because the kiddos have gone wild?” . . . not “Hurry!” . . .  not “The humanity . . . ,” but instead a line that summarizes my heart.

Jean Stafford’s The Mountain Lion Book Review

 

This novel is about the coming of age of a brother, Ralph, and his sister Molly. Even though Molly is a bright, young female who aspires to be a writer, she considers herself a mind housed within a long wooden box.  While Molly and Ralph visit their Uncle Claude and grandfather, their mother takes their two older sisters around the world in preparation for marriage. Molly, not faced with many alternatives, spends the summer imitating Ralph. When Ralph asks her what dirty words she knows, his name, too, is added to her list of “unforgivables.” Molly’s presence, in essence, inhibits Ralph’s male maturation. Therefore, the hunt for the mountain lion translates into a form of salvation for future Mollys as well as for Ralph. This novel, rich with symbolism, is an appropriate novel for the secondary classroom highlighting such subjects as feminism, anorexia, and dysfunction in the family.

Excuse Me, Your Fingers Are Resting in My Drink

     “Excuse me, your fingers are resting in my drink,” is probably what I should have said when I observed with shock, intrigue, and finally uncontrollable laughter as the man seated in front of me at the baseball game was allowing his fingers to do the walking in my iced beverage.  The afternoon heat was stifling even though my friend,  the ticket purchaser,  assured all of us girls that we were to be seated in the shade.  Now that I think of it, I don’t believe shade exists at Busch Stadium.  In all honestly, the imitation spanx I was wearing underneath my t-shirt was probably not helping matters in the temperature department.  Anyway, the man one row ahead did the exaggerated yawn move and then stretched his arm across the back of his date’s shoulders.  The problem herein is when he then let his fingers simply drop off the back of the chair.  These fingers in question immediately found refuge in my salted- rim margarita to which I had only enjoyed two sips.  What comes next is the intrigue.  Instead of instant recognition of the error of his ways, he allowed his pointing and middle fingers to bask in the coolness of the pale-green liquid.  My eyes were now glued to this finger-drama unfolding in front of me, and I was unable to turn away.  After what seemed like minutes, he finally lifted his fingers from the scene of the crime only to rub his finger pads together- in an attempt to remove the salt- in my full line of vision.  Sitting a little straighter in my seat awaiting an offer of a replacement drink (to which I would have waved away) or an apology at the least, he leaned close to the woman next to him and whispered into her ear.  I don’t believe the verbiage in question included romantic overtures because both sets of shoulders in front of me began shaking.  They were giggling like schoolkids at my thirst’s expense, and I was finding this behavior quite contagious.  I then told the tale in a soft voice to my buddies on either side of me, and the laughter found root and spread. 
     Keeping in mind The Love Dare’s theme of Day 1, patience, I am so grateful this was in the back of my mind.  Allowing events to unfold without interruptions resulted in an entertaining, unforgettable minuet.

Learn More about Author Annie Fox

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . . Just one?! But I’m so easily moved to tears! OK how about 3: Ghost, Tootsie, Up 

Describe your first kiss
. Two 11 year-olds at the beach. Surprising. Sweet. Fantasy-inducing.

Your favorite children’s book, and why . . . 

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Such pathos, such empathy in just a few words and some simple line drawings. 
A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why . . . Bullying. While kids grow, their sense of self is so vulnerable. When they’re targeted by others (at school or at home) the way they think about themselves is altered in unhealthy ways. They can start to assume there’s something “wrong” with them that makes them “deserving of disrespect.” That will undoubtedly erode their self-confidence and hold them back in life. Kids whose aggression is tolerated are also being changed. They assume that threats, manipulation and violence are acceptable ways to behave. That can set them on a path of regrettable choices. And there’s a third group… the largest one playing a part in the dramas that take place daily in schools around the world: the silent bystanders. The Culture of Cruelty changes them as well and they begin believing that they’re powerless in the face of injustice.  That’s no way to help develop a new generation of leaders.

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. She brought herself and others out of darkness into the full bloom.

A quote that motivates you . . .
“If you’re not modeling what you teach, you’re teaching something else.” (I don’t know who said it first)

The title of the one song you could take with you to that deserted island . . .
“Defying Gravity”  
 Wishes:
To work together to make our own corner of the planet a safer, saner, cleaner, greener more equitable place for everyone.
 
Favorite game you played as a child . . .  Pretending that my bicycle was a horse and riding really fast

Annie Fox

Learn More about Author Susan Stephenson

A film that brings tears to your eyes: The Blind Side.

Describe your first kiss
: I don’t remember my first kiss, but fortunately I can recall the last one in complete sensory detail – sweet and romantic.

Your favorite children’s book, and why
: My favourite children’s book changes day by day. But an old favourite is Enid Blyton’s The FarawayTree. I love the world that Blyton built and how it feeds our imaginations.

A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why
: Children’s literacy is of huge importance to me. I love to read, write, create and educate myself. I believe many of the world’s ills could be solved by such education, particularly encouraging parents to read to their kids. And the thought of libraries closing due to lack of funding absolutely appals me.

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
I would be Anne in Anne of Green Gables. 

Explain the worst job that you’ve held.
My worst job was being Latrine Officer in a children’s camp. When one of the kids dropped her gold watch into the pit, it was my job to fetch it back for her. I came to fully understand the meaning of trust as I was lowered by my ankles.

A quote that motivates you
:“It is better to create than to be learned, creating is the true essence of life.”  (Barthold Georg Niebuhr)

The title of the one song you could take with you to that deserted island
: “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside” – in the hope that such a positive affirmation will help me withstand the solitude!

Three Wishes

   1. For me: I wish, oh how I wish, that I could draw.
   2. For my family and friends: health and happiness.
   3. For the world: an end to greed.

Favorite game you played as a child:
Imaginative games – roleplaying Robin Hood and building cubbies in the bush so we could spy on the Sheriff.

The Book Chook

Learn More about Author Derek Haines

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .
The God’s Must Be Crazy for sure. The final scene with the girl, the table and the continually toppling red and white Tupperware had tears rolling from my eyes. They still get damp at the mere thought of the movie.

Describe your first kiss.
Inaccurately aimed at first, then sort of somewhat damp.

Your favorite children’s book, and why . . .

Noddy by Enid Blyton, because it was banned. It probably did unimaginable harm to me in my formative years. 

A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why . . .
Difficult question for a heartless soul like me. But probably oil. I hate it because it doesn’t just run cars, it starts wars. I’d prefer cars to run on milk or grass clippings. 

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
Zaphod Beeblebrox without a doubt. Anyone who signs the destruction order for Earth because he thinks someone just wants his autograph is someone who really has celebrity coolness. His extra head also offers a lot of advantages on lonely evenings alone. 
Explain the worst job that you’ve held.
Easy. Author. All the rest paid a salary and I didn’t get criticised daily.
A quote that motivates you . . .
When one door closes, there always seems to be another ready to slam in your face.

The title of the one song you could take with you to that deserted island . . .
“Honky Tonk Woman” by The Rolling Stones. 

Three Wishes
   1.  A red Ferrari.
   2. World peace.
   3. Three more wishes.
Favorite game you played as a child . . .
Mouse Trap without a doubt. The greatest board game ever invented. I really should buy it again!
 


Learn More about Author Rhonda Tibbs

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .Steel Magnolias

Describe your first kiss.
Quick, a little bit scary, sweet

Your favorite children's book, and why . . .
Harry the Dirty Dog, because I read
it to my son approximately 1,254,999 times

A cause that's closest to your heart, and why . . .Stopping domestic abuse,
because my mother died at the hands of my stepfather.

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
  Beth Thomas,
because she never loses sight of who she is or her core values 

Explain the worst job that you've held.
  Making boxes, midnight shift.

A quote that motivates you . . .
“You did then what you knew how to do, And when
you knew better, You did better.” Maya Angelou


The title of the one song you could take with you to that deserted island . . .

Wow, so many choices! Til I Gain Control Again - Blue Rodeo


Three Wishes

    1.  I wish all my children health and happiness
    2.  No more mistreated, lonely, broken, abandoned, hurting children
    3. I would like for more people to read my book (selfish wish)

Favorite game you played as a child . . .
hopscotch
 
Rhonda Tibbs

Learn More about Author Carol Galusha

My first kiss: seventh grade on the back of a school bus - sooo not romantic :(

Favorite children's book: I loved Pokey the Puppy. I always wanted a dog like him.

Favorite character from a novel: Melanie from Gone With the Wind. She was pure goodness!

Quote that motivates me:
Success is the best revenge. (I consider being happy a great success.)

Three wishes:

1) My children to be happy.
2) For my husband and I to retire together and travel.
3) For people to be kind to one another.

The one song I would want on my iPod if on a deserted island:
can't pick one song for my island living. But I would love to listen to the Eagles while I'm sippin' on my fruity drink!

Also, the book I'd take on the island: To Kill A Mockingbird 
 
Favorite game as a child: I loved playing Chinese checkers. My mom taught me. My siblings and I would put on our pajamas and play a few games before we went to bed. That was many, many years ago, and the thought brings tears to my eyes. 
 
Carol Galusha

All we need is a little patience . . .

     Yesterday was one of those days which would have gone a lot better if I could have stayed in bed all day.  Having two squirts eliminated this as an option unfortunately.  A highlight of the day . . .  I thought I would be not only politically correct by purchasing the glass bottle of milk versus the plastic jug, but also fulfilling my aspirations of being an extreme “couponer” because the sign flying proudly in front of the product read that I could return empty bottles to customer service for $1.50 refund.  Thus, the advertisement effectively lured me in and captured my attention.  Beaming with eco-friendly pride, I proceeded to the check-out with a restless three-year-old in tow.   Attempting to occupy the preschooler, I had her assist me in placing the items on the conveyor belt, yet I sensed trouble loomed 5 feet in front of me.  The man ahead of me in the process of checking out received troubling news that the cash register had gone blank.  The checker requested help, and the manager attempted to remedy the problem by removing a panel and crawling beneath the register.  Beads of sweat began to form on my forehead as I realized I had limited time- we were due to pick my other child up from preschool.  I decided to break grocery shopping etiquette by quickly dumping my breakfast sausages, Cardinals purse (impulse purchase, but too cute), prized milk, and the like back into the cart and made a beeline for the 20 items or less checker. Knowing I could not conceal my overflowing cart, I opted to plead with the checker for the sake of my child needing to be picked up from school.  Checker sympathy ensued, and I was soon loading eco-unfriendly plastic bags (left the reusable ones in the car) into the trunk.  Despite the obstacles, we arrived safely at home where I hurriedly began to carry bags inside.  As if deemed inevitable by fate, the plastic bag housing the glass bottle of milk tore and, literally, milk was spilt all over my garage floor.  Determined to make lemonade of lemons, or in this case, rising above the loss of $1.50 refund, I sopped up the white liquid with sheet after sheet of paper towels knowing I single-handedly hurt the environment probably more so due to my failed attempts to save it.
      However, with yesterday coming to a close, I nearly tripped on a book jutting out from beneath my  bed.  Retrieving the dusty piece from the floor, I realized I bought The Love Dare, a 40-day challenge for husbands and wives to understand and practice unconditional love, with honest intentions, but failed to read and participate in its journey.  Opening to page 1, I see Day 1 reminds us that love is patient.  An appropriate theme given yesterday’s events.  Follow and share with me in this challenge, but, “Shhhhhhh!  Don’t tell my hub!”  The Love Dare