The Same Birthday Book Club

     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.

Carol Galusha

40+ and Fabulous Book Club

     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.

Sondra Wright

Learn More about Author Anene Tressler

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . . Cinema Paradiso

Describe your first kiss…
  A very nervous and emotional affair; I was certain I looked different afterwards.

Your favorite children’s book, and why . . .
King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry—a lovely story about a horse…and I was mad for horses as a child.

A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why . . .
Animal rights. Because I cannot bear the ideas that animals suffer —often because of our actions or greed—and have no recourse The senseless suffering we often inflict on animals is a source of shame and grief for me.

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
Any of Dumas’ Three Musketeers (I’m a fool for derring-do); Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series (she’s smart, she has lots of adventures and she knows magic, too)

Explain the worst job that you’ve held…
I once worked in a hospital department that  helped physicians write up their research. Everything about that job was wrong…from my micromanaging boss to the people I dealt with.

A quote that motivates you . . .
“Without fear, there is no courage.” I’ve seen that quote referenced a lot, but I’m not sure who said it originally.

The title of the one song you would take with you to that deserted island . . . Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1… or, with lyrics, any of a number of Leonard Cohen songs.

Three Wishes

   1. World peace (I may sound like Miss America there), but just imagine what it would be like
   2. More wishes
   3. The wisdom to choose those wishes well.

Favorite game you played as a child . . .
Hide and Seek. It scared me….especially when I hid so well I couldn’t be found.

Anene Tressler

Learn More about YA Author Stacey Darlington

A film that brings tears to your eyes . . .Mary Queen of Scots, starring Vanessa Redgrave springs to mind. I saw it as a child was was deeply affected by her execution and the way she accepted it so elegantly. I usually don’t watch sad movies.

Describe your first kiss…
My “best friend” stole a kiss from me when I was eight while we were playing cowboys and Indians…I punched him out! haha

Your favorite children’s book, and why
. . .I will always love Where The Wild Things Are. I have an affinity towards monsters and the misunderstood….later I was all about Nancy Drew and Alfred Hitchcock.

A cause that’s closest to your heart, and why . . .
Literacy for young people. I found such an escape in reading when I was a child. It’s a blessing to be able to enter a fantasy world away from a sometimes turbulent household. I also do volunteer work at children’s homes…my mother was an orphan.

If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
Noelle Page…Forever Amber

Explain the worst job that you’ve held…
Working at KFC when I was 16, had to clean the oil and mop the floors. I still found a way to enjoy it, though.

A quote that motivates you . . .
To the victor go the spoils

The title of the one song you would take with you to that deserted island. . . Cheeseburgers in Paradise

Three Wishes
   1. That my book series catches on and becomes successful
   2. To make enough money to help the hungry and homeless in a BIG way
   3. That the people on this planet would stop hating and battling and become spiritual and peaceful

Favorite game you played as a child . . .
A card game I invented with my best friend to practice our ESP. We would take turns hiding a penny beneath one of the fifty two cards we had arranged in a circle. We would move our hand over the cards and select the one that hid the penny. We both got it on the first try every time. I also liked Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board. I have always been drawn to the occult and supernatural.

Stacey Darlington

Reading Camp Finale!

     Last I reported, my oldest squirt and I along with our buddies completed week 2 of Reading Camp.  The hub escorted our daughter to week 3, and we played hooky for week 4.  Thus, the final week, class number 5, met today.  Although sitting next to our child was preferred, I was banished by my daughter to the seat behind her for which I was happy to oblige considering I felt she was asserting her independence (a change from the usual Momma’s girl).  Class began with the optional sharing of homework (under Miss Rebecca’s direction) before the class (aaaah, the days when it was exciting to stand in front like the teacher) followed by thunderous applause after each student’s presentation.

     Enthusiastic cheers, “I have this book at home!  I’ve read this book!” rang out once Miss Rebecca passed out the day’s reading, Dr. Suess’ Cat in the Hat.  Again, the young students were given autonomy over their learning by handling the book themselves and being in charge of the turning of its pages.  My daughter graciously gave me the thumbs up after I requested (yet again) the seat next to her in order to follow along.  Yes!
    After the oral reading, Miss Rebecca reviewed the story by selecting a page from Cat in the Hat, reading orally to the students again, yet this time omitting some key words much like the cloze technique.  The four and five-year-olds then shouted the missing vocabulary word at Miss Rebecca’s pause.   Thus, they “knew” the story nearly verbatim without literally being able to read using their memories and the pictures as guidance.  The pride at knowing the correct word emanated from their faces, a joy to see.
    The final activity of the day consisted of a spelling game where the teacher handed each student two letters.  She then wrote a word on the board.  If a student had one of the letters in the word, he/she was to move to the front of the class and place himself/herself in the correct letter order in relation to the other students at the front of the room.  Thus, not only were students asked to identify the words on the board, but also recognize which letters comprised that word and in what order those letters needed to be placed in order to mimic the word on the board.  Thrilled at the recognition of his/her letter in a word on the board, a student would hurry to the front of the room in order to participate in the spelling.
     Thus, Reading Camp came to a close.  Although a storybook as a token of “graduation” would have seemed appropriate (considering the tuition amount), we walked away without even a certificate symbolizing all of our intended hard work.  What matters, though, was the memorable experience facilitated by a young, motivated teacher determined to make a difference in the lives of her students.

‘Twas the Night before Forty

‘Twas the night before forty, when all through the house
My three-year-old was stirring, much like a mouse;
The Spanx were hung by the shower rod with care,
In hopes that one day the tummy’s not there;

The hub and I were nestled all snug in our bed,
Until I started snoring right next to his head;
He whispered, he shook me, and finally a hard tap
Before solace in the Princess Lounge for a much-needed nap,

When out in the Big Room there arose such a clatter,
I stumbled from bed to see what was the matter.
My life until now was before me in a flash,
Giggling and crying, I prayed this streaming video wouldn’t crash.

Through the window, the moon shone on my pajama tank top
Reminding me that my “girls” have yet to drop,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a memory of when growing boobies equaled fear,

Laughter emerged, so lively and quick,
Until the next moment I saw my dad in bed sick.
More rapid than eagles an adult you become,
At the passing of a parent, certain trauma in life’s album.

“Now, chin hairs! now, age spots! now, menopause and pimples!
On, wrinkles! on scars! on, stretch marks and dimples!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
Someone approaching; panic set in; I was no longer aloof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney my present self came with a bound.

I was dressed all in sweats, from my head to my toes,
My clothes covered with finger paint, glue stick, and “who knows!”
A bundle of laundry I had flung on my back,
And I looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

My contact-colored eyes — how they twinkled with glee!
At the sight of my children and the man who loves me!
My Burt’s Bee pink mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the joyous tears from my eyes did flow;

I sprang to my bed, to the night’s events blew a whistle,
And away my youth flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard myself exclaim, beckoning middle age into sight,

Cultivating Radiance Book Club

     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.

Tamara Gerlach