Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

My first experience with the steampunk genre, Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan was a fast paced, adventurous read and definitely not a disappointment. Westerfeld reimagines World War I with steam powered iron walkers loaded with machine guns and cannons and genetically fabricated animals bred and raised by British Darwinists to serve humans. Caught in the middle of the multi-country conflict are Aleksander Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian empire on the run after the assassination of his parents, and Deryn Sharp, a girl pretending to be a boy so she can serve in the British Air Service.

Absconding in the middle of the night in a Cyklop Stormwalker with his mechanicks master and fencing instructor, Alek doesn't know who to trust when he's told the news of his parents' death. His mother having been of common blood, many see him as unfit to rule and even a threat to the empire, so he must flee. They don't make it far, though, before they're discovered and must do battle with their enemies. Meanwhile, Deryn, going by Dylan, manages to prove herself a capable airman through a freak incident involving a Huxley - a jellyfish-like creature that flies by filling itself with hydrogen. She winds up on the Leviathan, a gigantic living ecosystem that doubles as a military aircraft, where she must continue to prove her usefulness on top of keeping up her disguise. When the Leviathan must make a crash landing in the neutral Swedish territory, Alek's and Daryn's paths cross, which only leads them to further adventure.

The first in a series under the same title, Leviathan was a great introduction to the steampunk genre and an intriguing look at what the world would be like if science and technology would've advanced earlier. In addition to the author's writing, illustrations by Keith Thompson throughout the pages help bring the images and scenes of the story to life. Written for a young adult audience, the story does have some death and violence - but it isn't overly graphic or gratuitous. Though the idea of a girl in disguise as a boy to serve in the military clearly isn't a new one, I found Westerfeld's character in this role fresh and likable. I'm looking forward to reading more from the series.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Top Five Friday: Authors I Love

For Top Five Friday this week, here's five authors who've touched me, impressed me, thrilled me, engaged me and entertained me:

1. Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye was the first book by Toni Morrison that I read, and I knew I was going to love her. During my senior year of undergrad, I took a seminar course in which we read all 8 of the novels she had published at that time, in order of their release. Each class session we pretty much just discussed each novel - if it weren't for the tests and papers we were assigned, it would have been just like a book club. Discussing the books in this way, though, allowed me to see them from my classmates perspectives, learn all the things I didn't pick up on, and learn to appreciate her writing all the more. Toni has a wonderful way of describing the world, and a true talent in creatively opening the eyes of her readers to the injustices of society, particularly when it comes to African Americans and their longtime struggle for equality in this country. I was no less impressed with her latest release, Home - but I wish I were still in that seminar class so I could discuss it!

2. Chuck Palahniuk

I was first introduced to Chuck Palahniuk in college. I read Invisible Monsters in one sitting (and the book instantly became an absolute favorite). And then I had to read Fight Club, because the movie, I admit, kind of confused me. Then I read Diary. And I couldn't stop there. Sometimes disgusting (check out the short story Guts included in Haunted), sometimes fascinating, always brutally honest, Chuck holds nothing back. From vindictive transexuals to part-time historical tour guides who pretend to choke in fancy restaurants for pity money, his characters are fascinating, if not downright detestable (in an engaging manner). I always look forward to a new release (though admittedly I didn't much care for Pygmy), and he's pretty much one of the few authors whose books I all own. I certainly can't wait to get my hands on Invisible Monsters Remix due out next month!

3. Joe Meno

"Oh, sounds a bit like Perks of Being a Wallflower." That's what I thought when I first picked up Joe Meno's Hairstyles of the Damned. But it was much more punk, I discovered - and just as good, if not better. I had moved on to this title after reading The Boy Detective Fails, hoping it was just as brilliant. I wasn't disappointed. Joe's novels are primarily character driven, and each of those characters are as real and relateable as your neighbor or the kid sitting next to you in math class or that family arguing on the street you passed. His books are the kind that I hesitate lending to others and get really upset if they never return them. And then I end up grudgingly buying another copy. Joe will be releasing his newest title, Office Girl, next month and I've already got a hold on my library's copy! (I'll probably end up buying a copy of my own though.)

4. Jill Churchill (Janice Young Brooks)

My grandmother introduced me to Jill Churchill, and after reading Silence of the Hams, I was hooked and had to read the entire Jane Jeffrey series. Then my grandmother told me that Jill's real name was Janice Young Brooks, that she was a local author, and that she used to write historical fiction. I was fascinated when I found Seventrees, and I was the least bit embarrassed to admit to reading it despite the busty figures on the back cover. "It's historical fiction," I'd tell those who pointed it out. I then tracked down each and every one of her books, even the two titles she begs readers to ritually burn. Yes, like she admits, some of those titles aren't that great, but Janice/Jill became a way I could connect with my grandmother, and that's probably why I appreciated her so much. Her stories are pretty good too, and I'm sad that we haven't seen anything new from her in quite some time.

5. Stephen King

Carrie, The Shining, The Stand, Dolores Claiborne, the entire Dark Tower Series - I can list a number of Stephen King's books that I've read and loved over the years. I've always wondered where he finds the time to write so many books - especially those that reach well over 1,000 pages. From short stories to saga length series, from horror to adventure, his writings are as diverse as they are numerous. Some say he's overrated. Some he's wordy. Some say he's a terrible writer. Others, and I'm included, couldn't disagree more or care what the critics say and read his books anyway. He's got an amazing imagination and certainly has a way of conveying a story that has caught the attention of millions for nearly 40 years. I started reading his books in junior high, and I still anticipate seeing what he comes up with next.

Now what about you? Who are your favorite authors?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What kind of punk are you?

Hoping to expand my reading knowledge, I've recently been attending a number of genre workshops sponsored by the Mid-America Library Alliance in pursuit of their Reader's Advisory Certificate, which is intended to provide individuals in the RA field with a well-rounded foundation. Yesterday, I took a trip over to the North Independence branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library system to attend the workshop,Choose Your Illusion: A Look at Steam, Cyber and Splatterpunk Fiction. Another opportunity for me to peek into the world of a few genres I've pretty much no experience with, the workshop supplied me with interesting facts about Steampunk, Cyberpunk and Splatterpunk fiction, some tips on how and what to recommend to interested patrons, and several titles to get started with.

The first presentation was on Steampunk, given by Susan Schafer, a Public Services Specialist at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. Citing the Urban Dictionary definition, she explained that Steampunk basically offers and idea of "what the past would look like if the future had happened sooner." With very early roots, which include H.G. Wells's The Time Machine and Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the genre has seen a resurgence in the past few years. The Clockwork Century Series by Cherie Priest, the Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, and the Burton & Swinburne Series by Mark Hodder were among the more recent titles Susan featured in her presentation. She also pointed out that Steampunk wasn't just about books - from music, movies and television to modded tech items, websites and conventions, Steampunk has become a lifestyle.

Up next was Kelly Fann, director of the Tonganoxie Public Library, and her presentation on Splatterpunk. A long time fan of all that's horror, Kelly explained that Splatterpunk sets itself apart with its graphic, gory and over the top descriptions of violence. The term was coined by the author David Schow, and the movement was initiated as a revolt against traditional horror stories that were meekly suggestive at best. Kelly covered several gut wrenching titles, including Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door, Joe R. Lansdale's The Drive-In, and Schow's The Kill Riff. She cautioned that unless someone specifically asks for Splatterpunk, these titles should be suggested with careful knowledge of a patron's interests. Someone who approaches the desk and asks for some good horror starter titles may be turned completely off by some of these titles. However, as Kelly explained true Splatterpunk titles were written only in the 80's and 90's, chances are a lot of these titles won't be on your library's shelves.

The final presentation was given by Lorna Condit, an English instructor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, on Cyberpunk. Starting with a few thematic questions - What does it mean to be a human in an increasingly post human world? What role do art and imagination have in a world dominated by technology? - Lorna provided the attendees with an academic look at the genre. Published in 1983, Bruce Bethke's short story Cyberpunk is known as the first use of the term, which now is used to describe science fiction with a focus on "high technology and low life." William Gibson's Neuromancer, though, is considered the premier Cyberpunk novel, and it earned him recognition as the "father" of the genre. Bruce Sterling, Lewis Shiner, Pat Cadigan and Shariann Lewitt were among several authors known for their Cyberpunk novels that Lorna also mentioned.

Overall, it was another good workshop and I'm glad I got the chance to attend. Of the three genres, I think I'm most interested in looking more into Steampunk - I've already picked up and am eager to get started with my library's copy of Westerfeld's Leviathan! I may take a chance with Splatterpunk too...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Creating Spaces in the Stacks

If you work in a library that serves a relatively large community, you'll know that to satisfy the needs of your patrons when it comes to best sellers and ensure no one has to wait months and months for a copy, collection development librarians will purchase multiple copies. In my particular library, they generally order one copy for every five holds that's placed on the title while under the ON ORDER status in the catalog. For example, as I'm writing this post, I notice there are 105 holds on that steamy best seller, 50 Shades of Grey, and we own 27 copies, plus we have 7 more on order. That's a lot of grey! As long as all those titles are checked out, there's pretty much no issue, right?

When popularity on titles decline and weeding duties fall behind, though, shelves can become pretty crammed with these previous best sellers and popular books. At my library, there are only one or two people assigned to weed the fiction stacks, and that responsibility is just one of many of theirs, so our stacks are pretty tight. Our temporary solution to the problem: a "Best Sellers You May Have Missed" display!

Knowing we had done something like this before, our assistant director actually came to my supervisor and suggested we free up some room on our shelves by putting it up again. Not needing to write up a list and get too creative with a sign, my colleagues and I were able to quickly put up this display in place of our Mother's Day feature.

Usually our displays are just one or two titles face out on each shelf, but my supervisor wanted me to cram as many books on the shelves as possible. Another colleague commented and said it really lent toward a cozy bookstore feeling. Besides weeding, what are some other ways librarians can create space in the stacks?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Top Five Friday: On Screen Moms

In honor of Mother's Day coming up this Sunday, I've decided to blog about my favorite TV and movie moms:

1. Roseanne Conner from Roseanne

Whether it was at a plastics factory, behind the counter of a diner, or at home, Roseanne Conner worked hard to support her family. She got angry, could be a little bossy sometimes, and wasn't afraid to tell it like it was. Some may have just thought of her as a "big-boned, loud mouthed banshee," but I always appreciated Roseanne Conner because she represented what the real working class American mother was - not always perfect. The thing that resonated most with me about Roseanne is the importance she placed on ensuring that her children knew that they were loved. Though everyone in the Conner household may have not always got along, Roseanne made sure her kids and her family knew they were welcome in her home.

2. Lynette Scavo from Desperate Housewives

Lynette Scavo is tough. She's passionate and protective. She's headstrong, outspoken and realistic. But most importantly, Lynette cares about her family and wants to see her children lead healthy, successful lives. She's not afraid to admit that she would have loved to focus on her career, but that sacrifice only empowers her to do the very best she can at being a mother. She survived raising four kids, operating a pizza restaurant, a gunshot wound, a tornado and cancer. Though she does come off as (more than) a little controlling, I appreciate Lynette because she's always had her family's best interest at heart.

3. Mrs. Gump from Forrest Gump

"Mama always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.'" Imparted through her son, Mrs. Gump's wisdom is as timeless as it is unforgettable. Forrest may have been simple minded, but that didn't stop his mother from loving him for all he's worth and providing him with countless amounts of encouragement and support. She stood up for his right to an equal education, taught him important life lessons like valuing oneself no matter what others think, and always welcomed him home with open arms.

4. Nancy Botwin from Weeds

She's pretty, but she's no where near perfect. Since her husband died after a heart attack leaving her to raise her two teenage sons on her own, suburban housewife, Nancy Botwin, has always had to make the best of a bad situation. Without a post secondary education and with very little to no work experience, she decides to join the lucrative but highly risky business of dealing pot to make money. This venture, though, often lands her in tight situations and trouble. Fiercely protective of her children, Nancy always has a plan - and though she sometimes loses sight of how carrying out that plan affects them, she always has her sons' best interest at heart.

5. Selma Jezkova from Dancer in the Dark

When asked why she gave birth to her son knowing that he may suffer from the same blinding affliction that she had, Selma Jezkova said, "I just wanted to hold a baby." Since seeing Dancer in the Dark for the first time, I've always remembered her for her truly inspiring self sacrificial love. Selma works day and night at a factory, trying to save up enough money for an operation for her son that will prevent him from losing his sight, and, when her trusted landlord, whose wife has an expensive taste, steals her savings, she's forced to make a decision that has serious consequences.

Make that top 6...

This last mom isn't a movie or television figure, but she's just as inspiring - if not more! I can't do a Mother's Day post without giving a shout out to my own! I feel as if she embodies the best qualities from each of the on screen moms I mentioned here - wise, encouraging, supportive, and loving. From working minimum wage jobs to going back to school to get a nursing degree, from raising four often times unruly kids to caring for the elderly, from providing me and my siblings with a safe home to helping and encouraging us as we began our lives on our own, I will always celebrate and appreciate all she has done. Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book Review: The Wind Through the Keyhole

A story within a story within a story that's nestled somewhere in the middle of a seven book saga - that's the simplest way to describe the Master of Horror's newest release, The Wind Through the Keyhole. When Stephen King released the seventh book in his Dark Tower series, many readers thought that was it. Heck, even King may have. In the forward to this newest addition, he wrote, "I was delighted to discover my old friends had a little more to say. It was a great gift to find them again, years after I thought their stories were told." Maybe he's grown too attached to his characters. Maybe there was a more to say. King is a firm believer that stories write themselves. Whatever the excuse, the story of Roland the gunslinger and his ka-tet - or band of heros - clearly wasn't finished.

Those who have read the entire series would figure out that the events in The Wind Through the Keyhole take place between the fourth and fifth books, Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. Roland and his three companions, Eddie, Susanna and Jake, find themselves taking shelter from a starkblast - a raging, windy, winter-like storm in which the temperature drops so far below zero it causes trees to instantly contract with a pop. To pass the time, Roland begins telling a story from his youthful gunslinger beginnings. Not even old enough to shave, he was sent to a village where a beast had started mutilating and terrorizing the people. While investigating the situation, young Roland ends up watching over an orphaned boy, Bill, who's father was killed by what turns out to be a skin-man - a human that turns into different beasts. As they're hanging out in the local police station, using a jail cell as a temporary bunk, Roland begins telling Bill a tale his mother once shared with him called The Wind Through the Keyhole...

The longest section of the book, young Roland's tale is about another young boy, Tim, who looses his father and takes on a quest to set things right again. Seeking a cure for his mother, who's beaten and blinded by the man who takes her as his wife, Tim travels deeper and deeper into a dangerous forest and falls victim to the ploys of a tax collector with mysterious powers. As life threatening as his journey is, Tim must find the legendary Maeryln, a powerful wizard who holds the key to restoring his mother's sight. Young Roland's early wisdom becomes evident in the use of this story to prepare Bill for the trials he must face as the sole witness and survivor of the skin-man's most recent murderous rampage. Though I may have initially balked at the idea of yet another story related to the Dark Tower series, I was instantly drawn in to the multiple layers of this novel. It's definitely another treasure from a master storyteller worth checking out.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Top Five Friday: Star Wars Novels

In honor of Star Wars Day (may the 4th be with you), I've decided to share my top five favorite novels from the Expanded Universe. For those of you unfamiliar with anything beyond the films, the Expanded Universe refers to any book, graphic novel, film, or television show that expands the story beyond the original six movies. The geeky teenager I was, I developed a slight obsession with the Star Wars series after the release of the first prequel in 1999. I collected nearly 80 of the titles between 9th grade and college, and though I sold most of them (I moved into a tiny, tiny apartment), there are a few still sitting on my bookshelf. Any who, here are the most memorable to me:

1. The Thrawn Trilogy

Set roughly 5 years after the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command, all written by Timothy Zahn, were the first Star Wars novels that I picked up. Still battling the remnants of the Empire, the Rebellion, now the New Republic, goes up against the forces of Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the most dangerous leaders of the Empire since Emperor Palpatine. Thrawn enlists the help of Dark Jedi Joruus C'baoth, who makes it his personal goal to seduce Luke, Leia Organa Solo and her children (Yes! Han Solo and Leia eventually marry and have children!) to the Dark Side and become his apprentices. I - along with many fans - imagined this trilogy to be the supposedly long-promised sequels to episodes IV, V and VI.

2. Rogue Planet
Published the year after Episode I: The Phantom Menace came to theaters, Rogue Planet by Greg Bear takes place three years after. Young Anakin Skywalker, now a Jedi Apprentice, and Obi-Wan Kenobi are sent on a mission to Zonama Sekot, where organic, living ships that are the fastest in the galaxy are grown. Racing others with more sinister reasons for wanting access to these ships, the Jedi Knight and his apprentice encounter a disturbance in the force unlike any other on the mysterious planet. For me, this book served as temporary filler for the next film installment, which wasn't released until 2002, and I appreciated the chance to learn more details about Anakin's past that wasn't shown in the movies.

3. The Courtship of Princess Leia
Like many who followed the saga, I was eager to learn as many details about the characters as possible, and this title certainly satisfied that desire. Written by Dave Wolverton, The Courtship of Princess Leia, answered many fans' questions about the circumstances which led to the marriage of Han Solo and Princess Leia. Taking place roughly four years after Return of the Jedi, the Alliance seeks the help of Hapes consortium, a group of high-tech worlds, in order to successfully survive against the remnants of the Empire. They're happy to offer their assistance; however, there's a catch: Leia must marry the Queen Mother's son, Prince Isolder. Clearly unhappy with this, Han Solo tricks Leia into accompanying him to the remote planet, Dathomir, where he tries to win her heart and convince her not to marry.

4. The New Jedi Order: Traitor
Taking place 20 to 30 years after the last movie, The New Jedi Order series introduced a brand new threat to the New Republic and the galaxy: the Yuuzhan Vong, a race of extra-galactic religious zealots who happen to exist outside of the Force. As they invade several planets, including the capital world, Coruscant, they kill millions and wreak havoc to the planetary ecosystems. Luke, Leia, and Han, their children - now grown to near adulthood - and the New Republic must form alliances with former enemies in order to repel this horrible race. In Matthew Stover's contribution to the series, Traitor, Han and Leia's son, Jacen, has been captured by the Yuuzhan Vong. In the care of the mysterious creature, Vergere, Jacen is exposed to a new way of experiencing the Force - one that could lead him to darkness or play a key role in saving the galaxy. Out of the entire NJO series, I appreciated this one the most, because of its look at good and evil and what lies in between.

5. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
My favorite of the movie novelizations, R.A. Salvatore's Attack of the Clones moved me. Based on the script for the film, the novel includes a little bit more than what made it to the big screens. It's probably the only Star Wars novel that made me cry. Yes. Cry. (What could say? I was a nerdy, obsessed teenager not afraid of my more sensitive side.) Those who've seen the movie probably have an idea of what happens that would have caused this - but in the novel, it's so much more emotional. I'll refrain from giving that part of the plot away though. Ten years after he leaves his home to join the Jedi, Anakin Skywalker finally reunites with Padmé Amidala, now a senator, who's ordered under the protection of the Jedi after an assassination attempt. As the galactic senate prepares to take a potentially disastrous vote on the creation of an army and the Republic's foundations edge ever closer to ruin, Anakin must deal with forbidden feelings for his long adored Amidala.

As with probably many, the Star Wars series provided me with countless hours of entertainment and good reading when I was a teenager and young adult - and I continue to enjoy it today. Sometimes I do miss my expansive collection of the novels, but I'm fortunate to know of a place where I can get them again (without having to break my pocketbook): the library! For more details about the Expanded Universe, you should check out the awesome Star Wars wiki (from which I pulled most of my information)!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Workshop Review: Trends in Major Genres

This morning I attended another workshop sponsored by the Mid-America Library Alliance (MALA), this time at the West Wayandotte branch of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library. The topic of the half-day session was "Trends in Major Genres" and covered everything from Male Urban Fantasy to space operas. From 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., nine different librarians from the Kansas and Missouri area shared brief, 20 minute presentations on specific genres - needless to say, by lunch time, I felt overloaded with information and quite hungry, but I definitely feel it was worth it. In order to avoid a novel-length post, I won't go into detail about each presentation, but I will share highlights from my favorites.

Up first was Cynthia Dudenhoffer, academic librarian at Central Methodist University, and her presentation on Male Urban Fantasy. Generally set in cities (and thus, "urban"), books in this genre feature often sarcastic, awkward main characters with tragic pasts who become amateur detectives. Cynthia explained that the Urban Fantasy genre is dominated by female authors, and thus female characters, but noted that male authors and leads have become increasingly popular too. Most notable in the field is Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, which, though more modern and action oriented, espouses some of the classic motifs found in the writing of older predecessors like Fritz Leiber and Brian Lumley. Others Cynthia noted were Mike Carey's Felix Castor series, Simon R. Green's Novels of the Nightside series, and Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles.

Another enjoyable presentation was Assistant Branch Manager at Mid Continent Public Library, Anna Huckeby's presentation on "Returning Heroes in Romance." She started by explaining that, since she personally began reading Romance 20 years ago, the genre has come full circle in that the war hero motif has become popular once again. Romances typically involve two or more people in a relationship that usually go through some kind of test that strengthens it. There's the alpha males, who have trouble expressing themselves, but do have a softer side - Anna compared them to gummi bears - and the strong, supportive women. She referenced the wars that have been taking place since the beginning of the new millennium, which have popularized the returning war hero in Romance novels once again - war is romantic, after all. Lori Foster's Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series, Maya Bank's KGI novels, and Robyn Carr's Virgin River series were a few that Anna shared.

Other memorable presentations were Brandi Blankenship's fun Zombie Lit talk and Louisa Whitfield-Smith's exploration of High Fantasy. Brandi, another representative from Mid Continent, prepared us for the coming zombie apocalypse by introducing different types of the walking dead - voodoo zombies, slow zombies, little zombie girls, etc. - and shared a couple of zombie apocalypse preparation tools like Max Brook's The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead. Louisa, from the Johnson County Public Libraries, began her presentation by sharing about how she's recently been trying to re-spark a youthful interest in the Fantasy genre as an adult. She took us through some of the classics, like the Homer's Iliad and Tolkien's ever famous Lord of the Rings, and then introduced us to more modern Fantasy titles, like George R.R. Martin's popular Song of Ice and Fire series and Brandon Sanderson's standalone, Warbreaker.

Overall, each of the morning's presentations provided attendees with a treasure trove of resources and titles that will help us in becoming more familiar with some of the major genres and helping our patrons find books they're interested in. I even came away with a few titles that I'll be adding to my own to-read list!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Game of Life: A Display

Ah. May. Springtime. Students - both high school and college alike - are looking forward to an ever approaching end to the spring semester and the school year. Seniors, hopefully already gotten started thinking about their futures months beforehand, are now anticipating a new step in their lives, whether it's higher education or starting the job search. I think this time of the year also instigates thoughts of finding love, starting families, and searching for homes. This was the inspiration for the display I finished setting up this morning: "The Game of Life."

Using the imagery from the Hasbro board game, I made a sign using black and white foam core and printed the L-I-F-E using our color printer. The display features nonfiction titles on searching and applying for college, job hunting and resume and cover letter writing, buying or renting properties, and raising children. A couple months ago one of my coworkers set up a hobbies display and used little icons to represent different ones like woodworking, music, knitting, etc. Stealing - or as we librarians like to say - borrowing her idea, I used Microsoft Publisher to create "LIFE" cards to represent each of the subject areas and mounted them on black foam core.

If I had the resources and time to do so, I would have tried crafting either a spinner or a car with a couple of the blue and pink little people in it. However, with the limited space on the shelf, that may have just crowded it even more than it already is. If I did have more room, I probably would have added subjects on relationships and marriage, purchasing insurance, winning the lottery and retirement! I had a ton of fun creating this display and seeing it come to life (pun intended xD), and I look forward to seeing how well it goes over with patrons!