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+

 

Advertisements

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 (!?).

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

“Lit Gifts”

If you’re a nerd book enthusiast such as myself, chances are you’ve received your fair share of book/library-inspired gifts. I love them. And this year I got two gifts that are totally share-worthy.

Gift #1 is a Harry Potter necklace from my best good friend Nissa that  has the “9 3/4” sign from the platform to Hogwarts. I’ve always thought if I ever got a tattoo that I would get 9 3/4 on me somewhere. Most fans go for the Deathly Hallows symbol or “Mischief Managed” (can you tell I’ve researched this?) but I like the idea that the platform was Harry’s first real step into the world where he was always meant to be.  Also, reading Harry Potter was the first time I felt like reading was extraordinary. I was in the 4th grade and already knew I liked reading and writing, but I was always sitting in Mrs. Genslinger’s room staring at a huge poster of The Sorcercer’s Stone in the upper right hand corner of the room, with Harry on a broomstick about to grab a snitch. I was enthralled with this poster, transfixed by it – I had to know more. But every week we went to the school library it was always taken out by another student… until my luck changed. Mrs. Helmers, the school librarian, started reading it to us one fateful Friday and after one chapter I went home from school and demanded (probably timidly asked) that my parents buy it for me so I could read the rest. And they did. And the rest is history.

Gift #2 is an awesome “Bibliofile” book that came from my friend Kate in Pittsburgh. I moved away almost 6 months ago but it’s friends like Kate that make me really miss the city. This book is self-described as “a reading journal for book lovers” and is full of pages to enter books you’ve read, their authors, your rating, notes, and what other subjects it has inspired you to study. Not only that, but there are a quite a lot of biographical pages for the reader to fill out concerning their favorite authors, places they like to read, the best and worst films based on books, etc. The end even has lists of Pulitzer Prize winners according to year, among other awards.

I have great friends.

photo-11

photo-12

photo-13

Literary Resolutions

It’s the end of 2013 and as I’m finalizing my resolutions for 2014 I couldn’t help but think about this time last year when I decided to add reading resolutions for the first time.

In December 2012 I had just finished my first semester of grad school and was embarrassed that I was a library student who hadn’t read a novel since school had started almost four months prior! Don’t get me wrong, I was reading, but it was mandatory library and information science-related readings. It had felt like ages since I could get lost in a book’s story… in a way that wouldn’t affect my grades. I decided to take action.

For 2013 I made a resolution to read at least two non-school books a month. The good news? I succeeded! The bad news? I kind of cheated. Out of the 28 books I ended up reading this year, I had already read 14 of them. Every year I try to make a point to read Pride and Prejudice and I read Jane Eyre every winter. I started to reread Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia because I love both of the series and hadn’t read them in a few years, and the rest of the books I reread were just because I’m the kind of person who doesn’t have a limit on that sort of thing when it comes to books I enjoy – especially if I see them everyday on my shelf.

Although I’m happy I technically fulfilled a resolution, I don’t feel much accomplishment from it because of all the repeats. This year I’ve decided to challenge myself harder, particularly because I won’t be balancing grad school at the same time. I present to you:

2014 Literary Resolutions:

1. I will read at least 30 books I have never read before.

2. I will make a book club with friends. 

3. I will read all of the works of Hans Fallada currently available in english print.

4. I will write at least “a line a day” following a writing prompt from the book “A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves. (This will be separate from my yearly resolution to journal at least three times a week.)

Here’s hoping for a successful 2014!