Rasputin’s Shadow Book Club

Everything turned into a blur of claws and swings and shouts and punches until Maxim felt something warm in his hands, something he was absolutely compelled to squeeze until his hands met each other in the middle, and when clarity returned to his eyes, he saw Pyotr’s eyeless, bloodied face turn a livid purple as he snapped the man’s neck. (4)

If the above excerpt taken from Raymond Khoury’s Rasputin’s Shadow does not seduce you, I am not sure what will.  This historical fiction novel, ripe with espionage, intrigue, and vivid characterizations may turn even the most devoted admirer of memoirs (like myself) into a defector.  Having to keep this novel hidden between readings from my hub, a lover of spy fiction,  I embraced not only the complex storyline and subplots, but also the no-holds-barred descriptions:

Despite a skull that was so pulverized it looked like it had been made out of plasticine before some giant baby had squashed it out of shape, it was still clear that we were looking at a white male adult with dark, short hair, somewhere in his thirties and in good shape, at least before the fall.  (23)

The triple-XL Weyland Enterprises T-shirt stretched against the folds of his wobbling flesh as he grabbed the menu and started eating the entire thing with his eyes.  (67)

Need examples of visual imagery for a class you may be teaching?  Look no further . . .  Rasputin’s Shadow definitely exemplifies the “how to” for showing versus telling in writing.

Hoping for the presence of machismo in this novel?  Well, readers, you have a plethora of agents and hostiles from which to choose.  My favorite, of course, is Reilley, point man on the investigation with a generous sprinkling of sensitivity in regards to his four-year-old son Alex.  Because of him, I may just forgo the country omelet for the garden omelet as he does at IHOP.

For the purposes of book club, though, a variety of food choices may be necessary in order to represent the different cultures in this novel.  Perhaps, a medley of Russian pastries with shots of the Sledgehammer’s preferred brand of vodka as well as Korean pastries with green tea (but definitely pass on the poisonous vino) in order to encourage discussion over Rasputin’s Shadow.

Fun with Thank You Cards

Repeatedly finding the repetition of the word “fun” minus any explanations, elaborations, and/or exemplifications in my English 111 student papers, I had no choice but to deduce that activities these young adults find “fun” may well be the same activities a forty-something, such as myself, finds “fun.”   Thus, some time spent making cards for the purpose of thanking others, a cherished pastime of mine,  was in store for our next class together.  At the very least, perhaps after a class spent creating cards, students may think twice about choosing the familiar “fun,” and, instead elevate their writing with more mature vocabulary choices.  

Instead of the anticipated moans and groans of disdain, what I found were more than willing participants for this card-making workshop.  Young men and women alike cared for the appearance of their cards by making use of the stickers, colored Sharpies, and paper puncher while their words were chosen with care and creativity.  Although a majority of cards were sent to the tutors at the Writing Center on campus, students were given autonomy over whom they would like to thank.

In truth, the results far exceeded my expectations.  Reviewing the cards for revisions, I could not help but smile at the depth of their thoughtfulness and sincerity.  A child of the original Star Wars era, a former high school English teacher, and a devoted fan of The Hunger Games trilogy, the letter below resulted in a rash of goosebumps on my skin: 
Mrs. Meyer,

I’m writing to you today to thank you for teaching me the ways of the Force, also known as English. Your teaching abilities have influenced me greatly, and I could not have asked for a better teacher. Though we had our differences at first, butting heads like a pair of male goats fighting for the position of alpha, you have brought me so far, not only maturing as a writer, but as a young lady as well. If it were not for you, I would not know what a well written paper should consist of, nor would I know how to go about writing it. Again I thank you for being the best influence a scrawny high school student could ask for. 

Best wishes, and “May the odds be ever in your favor,”

Carliann Huelsmann
So, have some “fun” today and every day by sending a thank you to an unsuspecting someone.  You will be thankful you did.

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.