Senior Book Club

One of my favorite things about my job is when I get to lead the monthly book club at a local senior center once a month. Don’t ask me how a teen librarian ended up with this task – it doesn’t make sense, but I love it.

I didn’t choose the booklist for 2015 because the branch’s previous teen librarian chose them before I started. This is good and bad. It’s good because when the ladies don’t like a book they can’t blame me for it since I didn’t choose it. It’s bad because when the ladies don’t like a book they can blame me for it because I am representing The Library. May’s book was Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson and let me tell ya, the women were not pleased. It’s a “historical novel” that takes place during WWI but the war is happening in the background the entire time and a weird love story takes center stage. At the end there’s a fairly graphic sex scene that lasts for a few pages, steering from the typical course of the predictable “…” authors use to allude to the deed. The women went nuts over it! I was nervous to mention anything about the scene, but this group has now taught me that women 70+ enjoy talking about sex more than women 20+ enjoy talking about sex.

The main character becomes an ambulance driver for the war and there are multiple scenes describing having to cut the clothes off of wounded soldiers. At the end of the book when she’s about to do the deed she “sees a man” for the first time. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when one of my favorite ladies in her late 70’s with her delicate, frail voice starts going off on a tangent:

“The author tries to say she’s never seen a man before when she was around wounded soldiers all the time! She cut their clothes off before surgery! You’re trying to tell me she never snuck a peek? She’s not as innocent as the author wants us to think, we all know she snuck looks when she could! Didn’t we all?”

 

Ladies and gentleman, the book was terrible but the conversation was A+

 

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Foundation

One of my favorite quotes from J.K. Rowling, for when I start feeling sorry for myself about completely ridiculous and controllable things:

I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I still had a daughter who I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

 

The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise

ambersunrise in-bloom

This month I selected the book The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise for my Teen Book Club to read. It’s advertised as the next The Fault in Our Stars because it’s about two teens with cancer but for as much as the two books have in common there’s just as much that’s different about them.

In Amber Sunrise, the main character Francis is a relatable, slightly narcissistic 15 year old who cares a lot about what other people think about him and calculates pretty much every one of his sentences and reactions. When he’s diagnosed with cancer he meets a girl named Amber who is snarky and sarcastic and even though they’re nearly total opposites they quickly bond and, naturally, fall in love.

In all honesty what I loved about this book was some of the character descriptions and some beautiful prose that would pop up here and there throughout the story. Other than that, I had a similar to reaction to The Fault in Our Stars book which was: “meh”. I love TFIOS film because it took out pretty much everything that I hated in the book, so maybe I’m not crazy for not agreeing with pretty much 99% of the general population. The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise was originally published a couple of years ago in the UK under the title In Bloom and the entire time I was reading I thought I liked that title better… until the very end when an extremely subtle passage makes you realize why the US version has the title that it does, and I started crying. After losing a friend last year, I completely related to this and shared the same feelings of hopelessness and anger and sorrow over  having to move on and reading it hit me like a ton of bricks. This passage is a spoiler-alert but if you read the book jacket you already know how the story goes. If you don’t want to know the ending, skip ahead!

I stayed up all night the next New Year’s Eve. I wanted to claw at the year before, to catch it in my hands and drag myself back into it. I knew that once the New Year came Amber’s death would no longer be something that had happened. Soon she would enter the past tense… I cried as the sun rose on January the first. Amber’s death felt like the last thing we could ever do together. Of course her bit of it was over. But grieving for her, loving her, missing her… they were all things I still had to do.

I don’t think grief is the same for everyone but I do believe that everyone goes through similar hurdles when it comes to grief’s relationship with time. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, that time you talked until the early hours of the morning that started out about T.V. shows and turned into how social media hindering real life experiences with each other. Time moves on and it feels wrong. Some days are numb, some days you sob out of nowhere, and some days are maybe even okay. That’s what a lot of this story is about and even though this book isn’t one of my all-time favorites, I do appreciate the author’s realism with handling grief.

I’ll end this with a couple of my favorite passages that made me both nod with approval and laugh out loud, so they’re winners to me.

More than losing my virginity, more than cancer, more even than the time I saw a lady fall over in the street and didn’t laugh, this was the exact moment I felt the last shred of my childhood disintegrate.

But I knew boys like Paul… boys like him were, essentially, pasta. Everyone thought they loved him because they had never been forced to experience the true blandness of him on his own.

…Then she figured it might be an allergy of some sort, so she threw out all the toiletries and replaced them with white bars of soap that said soap-free on the packet (!?).

So This Happened Today

Today about an hour before my shift ended I returned a missed call I had received, only to find out that it was a den leader asking (yet telling) me to give his troop a library tour and lesson on Thursday night because if I don’t then they won’t get a communicator badge and graduate to Boy Scouts.

muppetdisapproves

Grown Up Status

I HAVE ENTERED THE 21ST CENTURY. I HAVE INTERNET IN MY APARTMENT. I HAVE WATCHED 9 HOURS OF NETFLIX IN 3 DAYS. LIFE IS GOOD.

 

Well! It feels strange to write again, but I reckon that if I don’t start now then I never will. I’ve basically been M.I.A. since last spring/summer so let’s do a life recap, shall we?

  1. I spent the entire summer of 2014 walking an average of 30 miles per week in my neighborhood, according to the Map My Walk app. I continued to eat garbage 50% of the time. I did not lose weight.
  2. I spent the entire autumn of 2014 going the the UC Rec Center to work out in an official place. I continued to eat garbage 50% of the time. I did not lose weight.
  3. I got promoted a couple days before Thanksgiving to a Teen Librarian position at a new branch. (!!!!) I had excitement, stress, nerves, and all the feels. I continued to eat garbage 50% of the time. I did not lose weight.

That about covers it, I think.

In all seriousness, I am very excited to have a full-time job for a career I went to school for. I underestimated how stressful it would be to be a librarian – besides a dozen or so other things, one thing I’m learning how to be better at is thinking long-term while also being on top of what needs to be done in the present. I had no idea going into this that I would need to plan several programs and book displays at least three months in advance. That seems fine enough until you add on everything else that needs to be done now: making schedules for student shelvers, outreach, patron issues, reference questions, implementing the current programs, etc. It’s no cakewalk being a teen librarian. Children librarians get a lot of visits from local schools and parents who want their toddlers and babies to interact with others before starting preschool or kindergarten. Adult services librarians get a lot of retirees. Teen librarians have to realize that most kids who know how to drive think they’re too old to spend time in a  library, and we remain at the mercy of kids who can’t drive and have to ask their parents to bring them to a program.

Other than work, one thing I have been doing is trying to keep up with my new year’s resolutions. I will share them all at another time, but one thing I’m going to try a lot harder with this year is learning german. For Christmas my mom got me a set of Rosetta Stone and I’m going to give that a go just so I can see what it’s all about. I know it’s not the “only” or “best” way to learn, but the program has seriously good reviews AND seriously bad reviews, meaning I need to find out for myself. I definitely wish I was still a student and could take an official course for next-to-nothing, but this has got to help at  least a little. I was wanting to try to have enough saved up to go on a trip in October but I don’t know how realistic that is at this point with new fun terrible things to pay for like health insurance and retirement. Mmmm. Adulthood.

Why I want to learn german:

  1. If I could live in Berlin/Germany, I would. Since I “can’t”, I plan on visiting as often as I can afford to. It would be nice to be able to speak and understand the language.
  2. It would be cool to have the accomplishment of being bilingual.
  3. I just really want to know what Casper and Cro are rapping about in their songs. I love them already, but I might even love them more if I understood more than 20% of their lyrics.

Tonight I worked on it for an hour after work. You have to wear a headset that makes you look like a receptionist/call center employee.

Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam.

(yes, that s a fathead poster of Evgeni Malkin.)

rosettastone

 

xx.ls

I Just Purchased…

Although I try to live pretty frugally until starting a full time job (no internet/cable, stacking books on the floor to save money on bookshelves, etc.) I have a hard time saying “no” to buying books! I get my fair share of books at the library, but there are some titles (old and new) that sound too good to just “rent” and I think I’ll want to read more than once. Today I took a trip to the bookstore and while I wanted to buy nine books I settled on two: Yes, Please by Amy Poehler and The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp.  I’m all about the nonfiction genre and I know Amy’s book will be hilarious (though I doubt more hilarious than Rachel Dratch’s) but sometimes a girl just needs a good work of fiction. When I read the description of Ben Tripp’s teen novel it made me excited – a combination of historical fiction and fantasy. This is the description from the book jacket:

In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales. Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, gobling attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows…. Fans of classic fairy-tale fantasies will find much to love in this irresistible YA debut by Ben Tripp, the son of one of America’s most beloved illustrators, Wallace Tripp (Amelia Bedelia). Following in his father’s footsteps, Ben has woven illustrations throughout the story.

I haven’t read it yet, but I’m excited to start this novel because it sounds so different from most of the other young adult books being published lately.  I think that even teens eventually get tired of reading about different vampires/mythical beings falling in love or independent heroines surviving-and-eventually-leading their dystopian society. I know I do. Fingers crossed that today’s splurge was worth it! I technically bought three books today and gave the third one to charity. When I was checking out the man at the register asked if I wanted to purchase a book for children, teens, and their families in the hospital. I can’t remember the name of the charity but every year Barnes and Noble do similar book donations around the country and I think it’s for a great cause. You can choose any book you’d like to donate, but since I was already purchasing at the register I chose one that they had on display (because I think we all know that I’d go straight to Harry Potter if I had picked one) and ended up donating The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I LOVE THIS BOOK. And I mean Love with a capital L. I enjoyed every chapter and cried more than once while reading Liesel’s journey that was both heartbreaking and heartwarming – kudos to the author for accomplishing that difficult feat. I hope that a teen in the hospital will enjoy it as much as I did! xx. ls

Oops!

Well, it turns out that blogging is pretty difficult to keep up with when –

a. I don’t have internet at my apartment and-
b. I work two jobs with stupid hours and I really like to sleep in my off time.

Anything embarrassing you want to share with me, you’re asking? I’ll tell you! I’ve forgotten a lot of books that I’ve read since June. I’ve become one of those people – the type of library patron that I had never understood who would put 8 books on hold and then return 5 of them at the desk because they “forgot” that they “already read them”. However, the “good” news is that judging by the looks of my coffee table & magazine basket I have read approximately 30 magazines this year. That counts for something, right?

Okay, want to hear something even more embarrassing?

I’m currently sitting in a Starbucks right off of campus waiting for my video chat book club with friends (or Stacked, as we’ve named it) to start and listening to the Michael Buble Christmas album and kind of really loving it.

Sometimes I like being around campus because I feel like I get to enjoy the college experience without actually being in college. I honestly didn’t enjoy my college years because of the incredible amount of stress that was constant, and my friends that did “have fun” (yeah, that’s what we’ll call it) typically had very poor grades and would ask me around every exam time how I was able to get my work done.” Uhh– because I don’t go out. I eat ice cream on my couch and study.”  My major required a 3.7 grade point average to stay in the program and I’ll never forget the day my mom called me saying that there that been a voicemail from the school saying I was on academic probation after getting a couple Bs and a C during midterms. MIDTERMS. It scared the crap out of me, to put it elegantly.

But those days are over and yet I’m around campus a lot ever since I got a membership to the UC rec center. It’s about a mile from my apartment and when I walk there I get to waltz around campus with my super light tote bag holding only a lock for my locker and water bottle, watching the other people lug around bags filled with about $2,000 worth of electronics and textbooks and smile to myself. “Aww yeah, Hell Week is the worst!” “Ugh, DAAP is killing my soul.” “Let’s go watch guys play frisbee on Sigma Commons.”

——————————————————————————————————

For what it’s worth, I can only remember reading a handful of memorable books this year. It wasn’t a great year of me following my instincts on some titles/book covers. I’m still annoyed at that Longbourn novel.

I now make a promise to myself and to you, dear reader, that I will try to write an entry every week until the end of the year. This seems pretty feasible considering the hustle and bustle of the holiday season means I will be going to my parents’ house, which has a wifi that works about 65% of the time. That’s the allure of visiting the countryside, after all: gambling the odds of the mobile and wifi signals.

xx.ls

Lean In

Yesterday I started reading Kathy Freston’s book The Lean: A Revolutionary (and Simple!) 30-Day Plan for Healthy, Lasting Weight Loss.  Harry Potter series aside, I try to avoid reading anything with a title longer than four words – but when it comes to health and fitness I don’t think that’s a possibility. The only exception is Suzanne Somers’ books like Forever Sexy. 

The book is around 350 pages and I’m 120 pages into it after a day, though most people who pick it up for the first time may follow the program and only read one section a day for 30 days. I’m choosing to read each section/day and consider the changes she’s suggesting to do, which so far are simple and make sense. One thing I particularly like about the book is that she takes time to focus on the emotional aspect of undergoing a lifestyle change. I have picked up way too many “diet” books that don’t take into account the range of emotions people feel when going through change, which can lead to early failure. “I’m such an idiot! I can’t even cut out all sources of sugar from my diet starting on day one! I accidentally put jam on my toast! This is impossible, why even try?”

Freston is a vegan but she doesn’t make you eliminate all animal products all at once – making it easy for the average person to gradually ease in to it and see the health benefits of dropping them from your diet. This is the approach typically suggested to people who are considering going vegetarian or vegan – ease in to it by dropping certain products one at a time until you have eventually rid yourself of all of them. If you do it all at once cold turkey then you’re more likely to fail at handling such a big lifestyle change. 

I can understand why meat-eaters would be opposed to trying this – if you look at the reviews on Amazon you’ll read the low-rating reviews are basically all from people who eat meat who feel like they were tricked into going vegan. HOWEVER, this is not a new approach: I highly doubt that people who went on the Atkins Diet ate that much meat every day prior to starting the diet. I really don’t think people who do the master cleanse already drank those lemon and cayenne pepper concoctions on a daily basis. The entire point of trying a new “diet” is to TRY something new, something different from your lifestyle, and see what your results are. At the end of the 30 days bring a little meat or dairy back into your life if you really desire to – but really this is about introducing more greens and produce in general into our diets because the truth is that most of us don’t get enough of them and we rely on fast food or processed food. This is the reality. Simple. Not easy.

I am vegetarian so I already apply many of the stages to my daily life, such as swapping out dairy milk for substitutes like almond or soy milk, but I can also do better in aspects like eliminating all cheeses in favor of a vegan “cheese” substitute. Day one starts out so simple but not easy for me (because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that just because the answer is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy): drink more water. No, this is not breakthrough science but I know that I and many of my friends do not drink enough water every day. A rule of thumb is to take your body weight and divide it in half for the ounces of water you should drink every day – though this varies depending on your level of daily exercise. Okay. Drink more water. I can do this. 

I’m not finished with the book so I don’t want to give an overall review/rating of it, but so far roughly half way through it’s one of the best nutrition-related reads I’ve experienced, though there are times she dumbs things down too much or uses way too many exclamation points. I don’t want to judge her too much on this because there’s a fine line of wanting your information to be accessible/relatable to the average person and not wanting it to sound like a science class textbook. 

So far, it seems like almost everyone could benefit from adopting at least some of her tips. Like I said before, I know many people who don’t drink any water during the day and I also know many Junk Food Vegetarians/Vegans who may not consume animal products but they also don’t consume a healthy diet – because much of the junk food available in the grocery/vending machine is vegan so it’s easy for them to make the same unhealthy mistakes as a meat-eater. 

I will accept a 30-day Lean In challenge after I’ve finished reading the book and give a final review/update then. I even took “Before Photos” of myself looking terrible in a swimsuit and up close of my face to see if I notice a difference in my complexion. People always talk about getting a glow when they eat clean. I want to glow.  In the meantime, this is what keeps me drinking another water: I need to drink at least two of him a day. Challenge Accepted. 

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Longbourn

I just finished Longbourn by Jo Baker and have been left, yet again, completely underwhelmed by a novel. 

Taking place during the same time as Pride and Prejudice, Longbourn is told from the viewpoint of the servants downstairs – Sarah being the main character. My issue with the book is that characters all come across as shallow beings with no true character about themselves and it isn’t until the last fourth of the book that you start to learn any backstory on any of them. Without a personality to go with the people I’m reading about, I don’t really care what happens to them. Nor am I given a reason why Sarah loves who she loves. It all comes across as tragically stiff and mechanical: I am a servant. I will fall in love with another servant. He will fall in love with me. We will be in love. But I will not smile about it. 

I love historical fiction but Longbourn reads as though Baker was trying to prove everything she had learned studying about the period by putting everything she had learned in her novel. Over and over again we are told about the pains of removing mud from shoes and picking up chamberpots but not in a satisfying style of mimicking the repetitive life of a servant. There is little, if anything, to rejoice about in the story which makes me annoyed as a reader. When Austen would celebrate beauty, Baker would delve in the dark, hopeless, utterly sad world of the life of servants. 

Okay – but at least make your characters interesting