Saturday, January 28, 2012

Love Across the Genres

February is fast approaching, and so is the opportunity for me to create another display at the library! Now, it's my goal to think outside of the box as much as possible, and though a "love" theme isn't too far out of that container for February, I'm attempting to put a unique spin on it: Love Across the Genres. In the next few days, I will be pulling general fiction, mysteries, science fiction, horror, graphic novels, nonfiction, and, yes, romance titles for a display celebrating that four letter word in coordination with that gooey, mushy holiday: Valentines Day. And I promise, no pink hearts, chocolates, or flowers will be seen on the shelf (unless, of course, they're on book covers). Here are a few of my favorite love stories that I'll be including on the display:

I'll start with Science Fiction. When I was in high school, I amassed quite the collection of the expanded Star Wars Series. I was almost obsessed, so you could imagine my eagerness to see each of the prequels in the theater as they were released. Then I read the novelizations. Because they were written from the script and included much more than the movies, I appreciated the latter much more. Among its many themes (good vs. evil, coming of age, etc.) the Star Wars saga developed a powerful love story with Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Though some may have found it trite, I appreciated the relationship between the young Anakin Skywalker and former Queen turned senator, Padmé Amidala. Blinded by a desire for power, Anakin unintentionally sacrificed his relationship with Padmé, and ultimately her life. "Anakin, you're breaking my heart....You're going down a path I cannot follow..." I remember thinking how simple that line was, but in reflecting on it, I grew to appreciate it. I feel I can relate to it because I've been in the situation in which someone you think you love turns into someone you don't know, and that's why I love the story so much.

How far can you stretch the definition of love? That's one question Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Beloved, forces readers to ask themselves. After having escaped from the bonds of slavery with her four children, the central character, Sethe, kills her daughter and attempts to kill her other three children when a posse arrives to return them to the plantation from which they fled. Rather than see them enslaved, beaten and tortured under the hands of Southern plantation owners, would you kill your own children? That's the underlying question this novel begs of us. Years later, as Sethe and her youngest, Denver, try to rebuild their lives in the free state of Ohio, the murdered daughter returns from the grave, angry and spiteful, to haunt their house, literally forcing the young mother to deal with the ghosts of her past. Sethe's story is engrossing and unforgettable--how far would you go to protect someone you love?

I love a good mystery, and the best thing about a cozy mystery series is the chance to get to know the protagonist almost as well as you do your own family. Starting with Grime and Punishment, Jill Churchill's Jane Jeffries Series provides a glimpse into the life of the aspiring author and Midwestern mother living in the suburbs of Chicago, dealing with the loss of her husband and a string of unrelated murders that surrounds her. In the most recent (and hopefully not final) installment, The Accidental Florist, Jane marries her longtime beau, Detective Mel VanDyne, and it wouldn't be a Churchill mystery without a murder! Mel convinces Jane and her friend to take a self defense class that ends up cut short when a dead body's found. So between the wedding planning, battling with her mother-in-law-to-be, and a new writing project, Jane takes it upon herself the solve the crime. This series was a favorite of my grandmother's, who recommended it to me, and I've enjoyed each quirky, quick read.

In order to keep my blog posts under novel proportions, I'll go ahead and stop there for this post and continue with more of my favorite love stories next week. In the meantime, I hope the start of your February is fantastic!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Poetry Social: Renewal

Though there were only six people in attendance, I have to say last night's "Renewal" themed Poetry Social was a major success. I began the evening with a writing prompt, as usual, using the soundtrack to the movie, Map of the World. After every few minutes, though, I instructed everyone to pass what they had written to the person next to them, and informed them that their neighbor would continue creating their poem. I could tell a few of them had never done a writing exercise like this and were a little hesitant or nervous, but everyone was willing to participate. After three or four times passing, we developed some nice verse and took turns around the room sharing what we had come up with as a group.

The second part of the evening was the "open mic" reading, in which I opened it up to the participants to share whatever they had brought. I was impressed with the eagerness and the vulnerability with which some of the participants read. One was hesitant to share some poetry that she thought was sad, but with a little encouraging push from the group, she opened up her laptop and read. This, I think, has been one of my goals and purposes of the Poetry Social--to provide a place for people to share, not just their poetry, but themselves and to meet people with similar interests and passions. As a closing to the evening, we were treated with song--one of the participants volunteered to sing a song he wrote, "An Inconvenient Truth." (The title, he explained, was inspired by Al Gore's reference to global warming).

I'm really looking forward to next month's on the them of "Passions." In the meantime, here's one of my favorite "patchwork" poems we created:

The Circle

Eyes open for the first time,
wide and seeing,
into the newly unknown.

I’ve been here once before,
longing, learning—though
now I am grown

and my heart keeps on yearning
for people I’ve known and
things of the past.
I dream of them often,
these people of love,
these people of light,

but I must go on and complete the circle
as old and ingrained
as the passage of time
so someday people I know now will
think of me

as they touch the things I’ve owned
and yearn
and see.

     Poetry Social participants

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

eFrugality and the "Dark Side"

So I've finally done it. I've bought a Kindle Touch and "joined the dark side," as my cousin put it in a comment on my Facebook timeline when I updated my status, announcing the purchase. Kind of an impulse buy, I waited until after the holidays to make sure no one had gotten one for me, then on a trip to Target, I decided to make the purchase, not wanting to pay for shipping and wait for it to arrive through the mail. And though the purchase hasn't instigated as much excitement in me as my fiance thought it should, I'm liking it more and more as I use it.

As I've mentioned before, I'm kind of frugal. I've made the tentative plan to only purchase eBooks with gifted Amazon certificates or those that I earn by doing surveys and earning points on Also, the first thing I did when connecting to the Amazon store was search for the free books in the public domain. The Jungle Book, Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace--I think this will be a great for me to get started reading some of the classics I've always told myself I should. Another benefit, some of the titles for my other blog, What Would Alfred Read, are in the public domain, which will make it so much easier to track them down.

Then there is the prospect of being able to download free eBooks provided by the State Library of Kansas at some unspecified future date. I had initially debated buying the Kindle, because at this point, 3M, the vendor of eBooks the State Library is now working with, doesn't currently have eBooks that are Kindle compatible. However, as the Kansas EZ Library's website explains, "they are working on it." I figure by the time I get through the classics and some of the titles that I purchase with a gift card my fiance gave to me, they might have compatible titles. If not, as a resident of Northeast Kansas, I can always apply for a library card at the Topeka and Shawnee County Library, who's signed their own contract with Overdrive, another eBook provider that does have Kindle compatible titles.

So where am I going to begin? Well, for now, I'm actually going to be trying to finish the physical copy of Haruki Murakami's newest tome, 1Q84, within the next two weeks. I just got it back after having to turn it in unfinished because of the 2 week check out period (and I'm much too frugal to pay the $14.99 for the Kindle version...). Then we'll see!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review: Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee

Sometimes a cover attracts me to a book (despite the well known adage). Sometimes it's a good review or a friend's suggestion. With Megan Boyle's Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee, though, it was pretty much the title. As it infers, the book is a collection of blog posts written by a twenty something year old girl of Hispanic decent who works at the Asian fast food restaurant and lives by herself in an apartment with a couple of cats. The entries span a year and a half from January 2, 2009 to July 3, 2010 and document the author's thoughts and experiences with sex, drugs and failed relationships.

Mundane activities like deciding what to eat, a trip to the hospital for a stomach ulcer, an annotated list of sexual partners, and vacillations on her career path--Megan holds nothing back. To be honest, several of the posts did make me think, "Why would you have this published?!" and "Why am I reading this?!" However, I found myself reflecting on my own early twenties--I too lived by myself with a couple of cats and did a few things my parents might frown upon--and the many unpublished thoughts, poems and blurbs that have come through my own head. However, I'd have to say Megan's experience and writings were much more interesting.

Overall, the collection of blog posts provides a snapshot of what could be any single, twenty something girl's college life in Baltimore and is a good, quick read remenisicant of a Tao Lin novel.