Sunday, March 30, 2014


Book menu for Christmasville
by Michael Dutton

I absolutely loved this novel and couldn't put it down.  I've been telling everyone who will listen about it.  I'm sure I will read it again and again.  It's certainly not just for reading at Christmas time.  Christmasville is told from the point of view of 14 year-old Mary Jane.  This story is filled with humor, wit, good feeling, and mystery.  There is even a key scene that takes place in one of my favorite places...the public library!

ISBN of edition I read: 9780978665593 (trade paperback)

Food mentioned in Christmasville:
Tollhouse cookies, 3-4, 67, 89-90, 94, 105
Turkey sandwiches, 4
Hot cocoa, 5-7, 11, 13, 16, 21, 30, 37, 70, 72, 97
     113, 149, 155, 184, 197
Candy canes, 7, 34, 116, 129
Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, 11, 21, 184
Chocolate bars, 11, 15
French fries, 27, 29, 39
Belgian waffles, 30
Ice cream sundaes, 36, 49
Chicken teriyaki, 37, 42
Texas toast, 37, 111
Swedish meatballs, 38
Boston cream pie, 38, 111, 311
Cheesecake, 38, 111
Hot apple cider, 49
Butterscotch pudding 67
Malted milk balls, 67, 137, 211
Baked ham, 67
Apple pie, 67
Gingerbread cookies, 67, 80
Ice cream sodas, 68, 199
     Black Cow (chocolate ice cream w/rootbeer), 119
Eggnog, 115-116
Fudge brownies, 118
Lemon meringue pie, 118, 142
Penny candy, 123, 129
Fruitcake, 131
Mincemeat pie, 131
Black forest cake, 142, 144
Berries jubilee, 142
Jellybeans, 143
Chocolate custard, 146
Jack Daniels, 184-185
Clark Bar, 193
German chocolate cake, 212
Ginger ale, 221
Meat loaf, 224
Coffee cake, 227
Corn muffin, 247
BLTs, 284
Chicken soup, 303
Cheese and crackers, 303

Discussion questions for Christmasville:
What do Mary Jane and Otis and Willy Wright have in common?
Describe Mary Jane's relationship with her father.
What other books or movies did you think of while reading Christmasville?
What themes run through this story?  What, if any, are the author's messages?
Christmasville is told in the female first person point of view by a male author.  Does this work?
Describe Mary Jane in one word.
Will you read the sequel, Finding Christmasville?   Why or why not?

My favorite passages from Christmasville:
p. 107 "Are there whole worlds that are bigger than us? Smaller than us?
p. 144 "The whole notion of remembering--of memory--is something that is almost too much to bear."

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Room of Tears

Book menu for Room of Tears by Linda Merlino

Room of Tears is a mysterious, haunting, and beautiful story.  When I first glanced at the cover, I felt it's too soon to read a book about 9/11. I'm glad I pushed through it. Ms. Merlino has combined unusual ideas and concepts into this brief but lyrical novel. 

ISBN of edition I read: 9781927792100 (trade paperback)

Food mentioned in Room of Tears :
Coffee, 3, 71
     Espresso, 18
Canolis, 3
Napoleons, 3
Lemonade, 8, 12
Irish whiskey, 14
     Italian red, 14
     Grenache, 98
Calamari, 17
Chili, 21
Cookies, 21, 72
Fried plantains, 45
Empanadas, 45, 78
Revoltillos, 45
Spaghetti and meatballs, 60
Italian frittata with cheese, spinach, and mushrooms, 71
Lasagna, 72
Brownies, 72
Cheese and crackers, 81
Sandwiches, 94
Pancakes and sausage, 107
Sliced fruit, 107
Danish, 127

Books/Authors mentioned in Room of Tears:
Everyman / Anonymous, 1, 40, 80, 110
"Sonnet 60 ", William Shakespeare, 110
Nostradamus, 142

Title mentioned on pages 24, 109, 113:
p. 24 "I close the door to my bedroom and cry. I have cried for so many days that it has become a room of tears."

p. 109 "No one would question Antonio, not even Peter. Not until he became Pope, as his mother predicted, then the two men would sit in the Room of Tears with her handwritten letter, and Antonio would finally be able to explain."  

p. 113 "'The conclave has placed me here, in the Room of Tears.' Peter gestured with wide arms to the walls around them."

Discussion questions for Room of Tears:
1. How do Diane's journal entries affect the overall story?
2. Describe the deal Billy makes with God.
3. After reading the ending, were you compelled to go back and reread certain passages?  Which ones? Why?
4. What surprised you in this story?
5. Describe Room of Tears in a single word.
6. Before reading the book, what was your reaction to the cover?