Friday, July 31, 2015

Random Summer Obsessions

It's a strange thing, when regular TV goes to re-runs.  There's a void.  I don't necessarily miss the shows themselves, but I'm left wondering what to do with the little extra time I have after work.  Usually, during the summer, I pick a show and binge watch.  I've been tackling my second viewing of the BBC's Merlin (including the 5th and final season which I refused to watch the first time around).  It hasn't been as "magical" as the summer I discovered Chuck, but the show is amazing and keeps me highly entertained.

But the randomness really became obvious in the late evening hours when I discovered "MeTV."  There's nothing quite like retro television.  Mondays are filled with memories of getting ready for school in the morning watching Saved By the Bell.  Tuesdays I discovered that the Fonz was kind of a bully in the early episodes of Happy Days.  Wednesdays have left me in stitches watching Laverne and Shirley, but it's Thursday, much to the chagrin of my family, that I have had the most fun.

Yes, Thursdays are awesome because they are Welcome Back, Kotter days on MeTV.  Don't judge me.  The jokes are terrible and the characters are terribly annoying, but I love it.  I love the laugh track and the ridiculous situations the Sweat Hogs find themselves in each week.  I love the cranky vice principal and the too cool John Travolta.

And to top it all off, every week day evening after all of the fun is The Carol Burnett Show.  Tim Conway is a comedic genius.  He mastered physical comedy and delivers every time, sometimes with a smirk on his face praying not to dissolve into a fit of laughter.  But when he makes Harvey laugh, well then the show is at its best.


So this summer has been a random TV viewing fest.

But wait, it gets weirder.  Because, you see, I have rediscovered my love for 90s country music.  You couldn't pay me to listen to any current country radio station, but give me 90s classics from Garth Brooks, Hal Ketchum, or JoDee Messina, and I'm singing at the top of my lungs (minus George Strait who irrationally terrifies me.)  It doesn't make any sense, believe me, I know.

And what's even more strange is the inevitability of this post and me spouting my love for music that is twangy and overly sentimental.  But it's the memories that go along with it.  It's piling into the car and driving to Greencastle, Indiana to spend the weekend with my grandparents.  It's visiting the free stage at the State Fair.  It's cassette tapes and long drives that make them so endearing.  90s country has its place in the soundtrack of my life alongside Peter and Gordon, The Beach Boys, and early John Mayer.  Just thinking about them now puts a smile on my face.  Surely you too have music that is quite embarrassing but makes you smile.

What random things have you been enjoying this summer?  Surely I'm not the only one with unique tastes in TV and music!

And because this is my here blog, and I LOVE lists, I might as well share my top 10 favorite 90s country tunes.  (Feel free to click on the links to enjoy the songs on YouTube!)

10) "Every Once in Awhile" - BlackHawk
9) "I Told You So" - Randy Travis
8) "Passionate Kisses" - Mary Chapin Carpenter
7) "Wild One" - Faith Hill
6) "Wide Open Spaces" - Dixie Chicks
5) "She's in Love with the Boy" - Trisha Yearwood
4)  "If the World Had a Front Porch" - Tracy Lawrence
3) "I Know Where Love Lives" - Hal Ketchum
2) "Straight Tequila Night" - John Anderson
1) "We Were in Love" - Toby Keith

And of course, anything by Garth Brooks!

Dear goodness, I really think I need to get back to my usual routine...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Library GrabBag: The NEW GPL TeenScene

Just a few years ago I wrote the following in a Year-End-Review for our library board:

"Once upon a time there was a Teen Room that was situated on the second floor of the Greenwood Public Library.  It was your average, every day type of Teen Room with books, tables, and colorful window decorations.  It was a good Teen Room, filled with the chorus of laughter and excitement during the after school hours when the teens magically appear.  And boy did they appear in large numbers, so large in fact that the nice sized Teen Room seemingly shrunk in size.

What if the teens were given a room of their own, away from the glaring stares of adults and the never-ending shushing of staff?  What if teens were allowed to be just that, loud, obnoxious, hilarious teens?

In a city nearby, there is a new Teen Room situated on the first floor of the Greenwood Public Library.  It is more than your average, every day type of Teen Room.  It is still filled with books, tables, and colorful window decorations.  There is still a chorus of laughter and excitement, and the teens are still magically appearing.  Boy, are they still appearing.  But this new Teen Room is special, different.

This Teen Room is a safe haven, a home away from home of many teens throughout Greenwood.  It is a place that one teen was willing to empty his bank account to save (when the library was facing financial troubles).  Staff are still learning from the "what if's" of a space just for teens.  What they've learned is that it can be a place where teens can loudly beat the Librarian during a competitive video game tournament, loudly challenge one another to an intense card game, loudly finish eminently due homework assignments, loudly attend a club or participate in a program that might have them dressing up as a zombie or racing around the room in a rolling chair, and loudly sit back and relax with their friends."

I wrote that three years ago, and we're still learning from the "what if's."  We're still mesmerized by the awesomeness of teens and how, when given the opportunity, they can and will do amazing things. The program continues to grow by leaps and bounds, but only because we have an administration that supports Teen Services, a Friends board that believes in our mission, and a community that understands the importance of libraries for all ages.  So thank you to our sponsors and staff for making our "new" Teen Room truly a place for teens (and especially for the dedicated, passionate Teen Librarians who have helped me build this thriving program: I'm talking to you Taryn, Becky, and Jessica!  It is not only a pleasure to know you, but to be inspired by you).   And thank you to our teens, especially our current Teen Advisory Board, for making what we do so much fun, for believing in service, and for bringing smiles and ideas that are infectious.

Before, it looked like a room meant for something else.  Now, there's no denying that it's a place just for teens.  A place for them to be loud, and obnoxious, and completely hilarious. [Sure, there's still a little work to do, namely actually getting a ceiling, but I just couldn't wait to share :)]

I've mentioned before that I love my job.  And let me show you why...

Before the chaos
Before the chaos
Before the chaos
The NEW Teen Scene GPL
The NEW Teen Scene GPL
The NEW Teen Scene GPL
The NEW Teen Scene GPL
The NEW Teen Scene GPL




Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Library GrabBag: Movie Magic Camp

Just to prepare you...I'm catching up on a lot of library related posts I had planned to write.  So yes, you'll be diving into my world a bit for the rest of the week.

I'm a librarian who loves books, but I am also a librarian that loves filmmaking.  And when you are surrounded by talented teens who also enjoy the art form, fun things can happen.

For the last couple of years I have been playing around with the idea of a library "camp" for my middle and high school students during the summer.  I don't have it in me to plan an actual day camp, but an extended class could work, especially if it was a topic I was familiar with and excited to conquer a couple of days a week.

So this year we offered "Movie Magic Camp," a three week class that met on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1-4pm.  Each class started with a discussion about film followed by time to work on a group project.

The challenge:  Create a parody 5-10 minutes long of a story in which you are familiar.  What happened next, well, was exactly what I predicted: a crazy filmmaking experience that would leave me rolling on the floor.

Itinerary

Day one: 
- Introductions
     - What to expect at Movie Magic Camp
     - Goals
          - Fostering an appreciation of filmmaking by dissecting and discussing filmmaking and storytelling
          - Harness creative talents of teens in our community
          - Practice working as part of a team
     - Reveal of "The Challenge"
- Script Writing
     - How to format a script
     - Storyboarding
- Acting
     - Stage Tips
     - Acting Tips
     - Memorizing Lines
- Filming
     - Filming equipment
     - Techniques and shots
     -Do's and Don'ts
- What is a parody/spoof?
- Begin work on projects

Day two:
- What is a film adaptation? (Discussion and examples)
- Work on projects

Day three: 
- Films throughout history (Discussion of filmmaking, historical timeline, examples of early film)
- Work on projects

Day four:
- Animation and multimedia storytelling (Discussion of techniques, history, examples)
- Work on projects

Day five:
- Alfred Hitchcock - a look at classic horror/thrillers
- Video editing
     - Software
     - Techniques
     - Do's and Don'ts
- Work on projects

Day six:
- Appreciating the awesomeness of Stephen Spielberg
- Finish projects
- Project viewing and pizza!

It was A LOT of fun.  Things learned: teens don't really "discuss" movies.  They like projects, but they don't fully appreciate the importance of understanding film, studying the past, and planning to create great work.  Allowing teens to create their own work with few guidelines is the best way to spark their creativity and encourage imagination.  They are a bit insane, but my goodness are they interesting and delightful.  And group work is hard.  Not every teen is suited for big projects.  But it is so, very, important to learn.

We'll definitely be doing some kind of class again next summer.  It was a fun way to spend time with a talented group of teens who love the library and what we have to offer.  Not quite sure what the topic will be (maybe a bit more of the same???) but I'm excited to start planning.

And in case you're interested, here are the final results:






Tuesday, July 28, 2015

10 Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds

Top Ten Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

As a lover of books, writers, and the amazing smell of a library or antique bookstore it's always nice to find a kindred spirit who appreciates the awesomeness of pages bound together in a beautiful whole.  It's even better when you find it in real life, and thank goodness the library profession is filled with such people.

But here are a few of my favorite book loving characters...who is on your list?

Happy reading!

1) Thursday Next, The Eyre Affair series by Jasper Fforde
"Take no heed of her...she reads a lot of books."

2) Cath Avery, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
"To really be a nerd, she decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one."

3) Celaena Sardothian, Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas
"No. I can survive well enough on my own - if given the proper reading material."

4) Hermione Granger, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
"Because that's what Hermione does," said Ron, shrugging.  
"When in doubt, go to the library."

5) Josie Moraine, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
"I leapt eagerly into books.  The characters' lives were so much more 
interesting than the lonely heartbeat of my own."

6) Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!  How much sooner one tires 
of anything than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, 
I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library."

7)  Margaret Lea, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
"There is something about words.  In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner.  
Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled 
you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts.  
Inside you they work their magic."

8) Helen Rossi, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
"It was good to walk into a library again; it smelled like home:
"When you handle books all day long, every new one is a friend and a temptation."

9) Liesel Meminger, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
"I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right."

10) Mortimer, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
"If you take a book with you on a journey," Mo said when he put the first one in her box, 
"an odd thing happens: The book begins collecting your memories.  
And forever after you have only to open the book to be back where you first read it."

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

Author: Candace Fleming
Info: Schwartz & Wade, copyright 2014, 304 pages

Here is the tumultuous, heartrending, true story of the Romanovs - at once an intimate portrait of Russia's last royal family and a gripping account of its undoing.  Using captivating photos and compelling first person accounts, award-winning author Candace Fleming deftly maneuvers between the imperial family's extravagant lives and the plight of Russia's poor masses, making this an utterly mesmerizing read...

~Goodreads Description

As a history major, I know I studied the Russian revolution, especially in the context of WWI.  But I'll admit in the years since, little was retained.  The generals, sure.  Names, dates, concepts.  But the particulars are hidden somewhere deep inside my brain...memories that are starting to darken (if you've seen Inside Out).  What replaced all that authoritative information is my love for the cartoon movie Anastasia.  Anyone?  "Once Upon a December"?

This was another assigned reading, but it was one I quite enjoyed.  I'd forgotten, in the teen fiction fog, how much I enjoy nonfiction history titles, especially those written in a way that tells a story and doesn't just regurgitate facts.  Fleming does an excellent job bringing the time, place, and circumstances to life in a way that is accessible, especially to young learners.  And the story of the Romanov family and their eventual demise is quite interesting.

The Family Romanov is the story of destiny in a way.  A young man becomes Tsar of Russia, ill-equipped to lead and ignorant of the lives of his people.  It's a story of love and family.  It's a story of wealth and privilege.  It's a story of ignorance and misuse of power.  And it's the story of tradition versus a new age.  Fleming includes excerpts from Russians of all walks of life that paint a great picture of the turmoil facing the country at that time, as well as pictures that illuminate the lives of the royal family and the peasants.  (By the way...Rasputin was a pretty creepy looking dude.)

This was a quick and easy read that I highly recommend.  And when you're done, settle down with Anastasia on Netflix just for fun.




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: Queen of Shadows

Author: Sarah J Maas
Info: Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 656 pages
Release Date: September 1, 2015

Everyone Celaena Sardothian loves has been taken from her.  But she's at last returned to the empire - for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to se her again.  She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison.  And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen's triumphant return.

Celaena's epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe.  This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena's story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world

~Goodreads Description

This book, and this book alone, is enough incentive to hurry up and finish my "assigned" reading.  I haven't quite gushed over the Throne of Glass series like I have Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys, but dear goodness do I love this tale.  It's big, and it's complicated, and it's building into an amazing confrontation that I am both excited and terrified of seeing.  Celaena isn't without her faults.  She's super stubborn, but she's fierce.  And she's wild.  And she's full of mystery.

So excited!  If you haven't picked up the first one yet, please do yourself a favor and get on that.  Because it's about to get really good (even though it's already really good...but you know what I mean.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

10 Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters

10 Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)

Perhaps this makes me a bad reader, but I don't really choose books specifically for their diversity or diverse characters.  I see a book as a whole.  If there is an LGBT character, great!  There's an LGBT character.  If the story is set in another country, great!  Then the story is set in another country.  If the story focuses on a character of a different race or religion, great!  Then the story has someone interesting to read about. 

I look at plot as a whole and determine what I find interesting.  I don't like to be hit over the head with topical issues, and I often fall prey to the terrible reading reality of too much hype.  But when diversity and interesting characters happen organically, as a part of the story and not a gimmick, I have an infinitely more rewarding reading experience.

Here are a few that I have appreciated:

1) Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
An LGBT character

2) The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The story of a young man from a Spokane Indian Reservation

3) Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Told from the perspective of a young man on the autism spectrum

4) Takedown by Allison Van Diepen
Set in the inner city

5) The Good Braider by Terry Farish
The story of a Sudanese refugee

6) Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
A character who is a quadriplegic 

7) Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Shows different socioeconomic backgrounds in a historical Louisianna setting 

8) Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Shows different socioeconomic backgrounds in a historical setting


9) The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
A young girl raised in a polygamist community

10) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Told from the perspective of a young man on the autism spectrum

Monday, July 20, 2015

Yes, Please

Author: Amy Poehler
Info: Dey St., copyright 2014, 329 pages

In Amy Poehler's highly anticipated book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious.  Powered by Amy's charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.

~Goodreads Description

I can't really muster up a summary for this one.  It was kind of all over the place.  Like, all over the place.  Eh.  That's how I ended this audiobook.  There were moments I laughed, and Poehler's voice is fun to listened to, but after the awesomeness of Bossypants, this was just eh.  Amy talked a lot about hating the writing process and that kind of shows.  They are all individual essays that don't really fit together, and to be honest, I tired of talk about drug use.  I'm not a prude, but I get it...you did drugs...let's move on.

And about the audiobook.  There were "guest" readers, but it seemed a waste to invite Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner, and Carol Burnett to just read chapter titles.  Don't tease with great voices and actors and just give us that.  I did enjoy the interludes by Seth Meyer and Amy's parents.  It was a welcome break and interesting shift on perspectives.

Now don't get me wrong, Amy is funny.  She's "approachable" if that makes sense and doesn't take herself too seriously.  That was definitely refreshing.  She's confident, fierce, honest, and yet vulnerable.  And she's Leslie Knope, so she'll always have that going for her.

Should you read it (or listen to it)?  Sure.  But either before or after, make sure to pick up Bossypants if you haven't already.  I am now tackling Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me.  We'll see how that goes.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave.

Oh Captain! My Captain!  Malcolm Reynolds was a beast.  Quick witted, fiercely loyal, and an everyman outlaw.  For Firefly fans, Malcolm Reynolds IS the captain.  And for those of us who are still left pining for more adventures on Serenity, luckily there is a pretty awesome comic book/graphic novel series penned by the Whedon brothers.


All four volumes really felt like a true extension of the story.  Additional episodes.  Flashbacks and continuations of a story that is most beloved.  I'm gushing a bit.  You'll just have to get over that :)  The series starts before the movie.  To avoid any unwanted spoilers (even though if you're unfamiliar at this point, shame on you!) all cast members are present.  There's a bit more context, some additional background which is a lot of fun to discover.  As the series continues, we move past the last episodes and the movie into new territory which is bittersweet but awesome.

And to top it all off, cast members have written blurbs about their Firefly memories, and who doesn't want to just sit around all day and listen to Nathan Fillion tell you why he loved the series so much?

Hopefully your local library has purchased these for you to snatch up.  If not, and if you're a fan, head on down to your community comic book store!

Oh!  And just in case you haven't seen this yet...


Who's excited?  This girl!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Belzhar

Author: Meg Wolitzer
Info: Dutton Books for Young Readers, copyright 2014, 264 pages

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield.  She'd be watching old comedy sketches with him.  She'd be kissing him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn't be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn't fair, and Reeve Mayfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve's arms around her once again.  But there are hidden truths on Jam's path to reclaim her loss.

~Goodreads Description

This was an assigned read that I was first drawn to because of the cover, but quickly became engrossed in the story.  It was also an audiobook read that just took me a couple of days which is relatively unheard of.  What can I say...I was on a roll.  And finally, it's difficult to review without giving away a whole lot of spoilers.  And this book kind of depends on the journey and not necessarily the destination.  So I will do my best to keep you in the dark so you are forced to read it yourself.

Jam Gallahue is suffering.  Her boyfriend has passed away and she's not coping well.  She's failing at school, at being a big sister, and at life.  Jam can't let go of Reeve, and her parents are at a loss on how to help her.  Enter The Wooden Barn, which is the oddest name for a special school.  As the description reads, Jam is selected to participate in Special Topics in English where one author is studied for the entire semester.  This semester, the five members of the class are diving into the world of Sylvia Plath, in particular The Bell Jar.  A journal assignment leads to unexpected experiences and the chances for growth, forgiveness, and the ability to live life.

Overall, a pretty decent book.  Despite Plath being at the foundation of the books, she's kind of pushed aside through most of it.  There is definitely a "Oh Captain, my Captain," Dead Poet Society vibe.  I was just waiting for someone to stand on a desk.  So this didn't really feel new.  Even the "journey" (a.k.a. spoilers) weren't all that surprising.  It's really a very sad book, but one that might help a teen struggling with depression, or fear, or regret.  Wolitzer is a force to be reckoned with.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Last Ten Books That Came Into My Possession

Last Ten Books That Came Into My Possession
(Feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish)
 
Hi folks! Feels like it has been awhile.  Hope you're doing well and reading fabulous books.  I'm "off" work this week (due to construction in the building), so I stocked up on some non-essential reading...which will all get pushed aside because Ernest Cline's Armada comes out today.  Celebrate!

Here is what I've taken home lately.  What are you reading?

Library
 
1) Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
 
2) Green Wake Volume 1 by Kurtis Wiebe
 
3) All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

4) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling
 
5) Daytripper by Fabio Moon
 
6) My Little Monster Volumes 1-2 by Robiko
 
7) Noragami Volumes 1-3 by Toka Adachi

Bought
(Because the MUST be in my collection and I can't believe they weren't already.)
  
8) The Raven Boys & The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
 
9) Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
 
10) A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Felt Fun by Emily

I'm taking a small break from blogging this week to get ready for the Greenwood Public Library Craft Fair!  If you're in the Greenwood area, I highly recommend that you stop by this Saturday from 1-4 to peruse some of the awesome wares that local crafters will have for sale.  And don't forget to stop by the Barbara's Bag Boutique table and check out some awesome purses, aprons, and crocheted goodies made by my mama.  (Side note...I tried to convince her to call her Etsy shop Barb-o Baggins, but she refused.)  While you're there you can also pick up a pop culture felt masterpiece from "Felt Fun by Emily."  (That's me :)  Please come get one. They're cheap, and I have no need for a dozen tablet covers!

I'll see you next week with more reviews, lists, and general ponderings!


Friday, July 3, 2015

This is My Life

It was a week.  Decisions were made, conversations were had, work was conducted.  My week was pretty normal in that aspect.  Nothing extraordinary happened.  But the week was sprinkled with moments that left me thinking, with a smile on my face, "this is my life."

It's kooky.  It's random.  And it's full of happiness.  Am I exactly where I want to be in life?  No, not really.  Do I have an overwhelming itch to leave Indiana, explore the world, face my fears, enrich my life with exotic people and beautiful landscapes?  Absolutely.  But for every moment that I look somewhere else, I have five others that leave me happy and contented in a life in the heartland that is truly blessed.

I have friends that I can call or text any time and they immediately respond.  A bestie that I can send random 90s country lyrics to, and she understands my obsession and shares in the ridiculousness without judgement.  She knows me, and that is such a comfort.  And I have a "tropical" friend that worries about me because she cares and shows me every day that a big life is filled with following the things that you love and trying things that you never thought possible.  

I have co-workers that I admire, who inspire me daily.  They challenge me and encourage me and support me in all my crazy endeavors.  They also don't even blink an eye as we scheme to dress as Disney princesses for our Halloween program.  Grown women absolutely giddy about looking ridiculous with a pact that no one will be Belle because Belle is everyone's favorite and that's just not fair.

I have a job that lets me play on a daily basis.  I get to be an important part of the lives of the teens that walk into my library.  I get to make friends and connections with truly amazing human beings.  And I get to annoy the heck out of those same teens by playing Newsies every day much to their chagrin.  (Sidenote...we're pretty sure, by osmosis, that the boys are learning all the songs.  Mission accomplished.)  It's a job full of imagination and service that has made me a more compassionate, fierce person.

I have a family who I actually like to spend time with.  I have parents that love and support me enough to drive a goofy float in a local parade.  I have a mother that I want to call daily and a father who enjoys life and isn't afraid to sing loudly at a Grease sing-along with a shower cap on his head.   I have brothers that I don't get to see too often, but that I can call for advice or meet for a beer and just relax.  They have given me my sense of humor and more amazing memories than I can count.

I have a dog that is always happy to see me when I walk in the door and a cat that I'm convinced is plotting to kill me but that can be an awesome napping buddy.

Yes, it's a blessed life.  It's a life stocked full of dreams and ambitions.  It's a life I'm learning to cherish.  And it's a life that I firmly believe is made better living in a great country.  Looking past politics, it's a country rich with history that can make us stronger and more compassionate if we can just open our hearts, check our egos, and respect our neighbors.  I am free to dream and succeed if I allow myself that opportunity, and for that I am thankful.

Happy 4th of July!  I hope the day finds you surrounded by those you love, looking toward the sky at some great fireworks display...maybe a hotdog in hand (and if the soundtrack is Ray Charles's "America the Beautiful" like in The Sandlot, even better!)  And I hope you stop to appreciate the moments that make life great.

This is my life, and it's a good one.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

First Frost

Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Info: St. Martin's Press, copyright 2015, 291 pages

It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly.  As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn the Waverly women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree...and all the magic that swirls around it.  But this year, first frost has much more in store.  

Claire Waverly has started a successful new venture, Waverley's Candies.  Though her handcrafted confections are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance.  With each passing day she longs more for a baby - a namesake for her wonderful Henry, Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney's daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to...if only he could see it, too.  But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before.  And through it all, the Waverly sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

~Goodreads Description

Sarah Addison Allen is whimsy and magic.  She's southern charm and comfort.  And she has a knack for creating towns I would love to live in and women I'd love to meet.  Much like the Sargent family in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys series, I want to meet the Waverleys.  I want to become their friend, I want to attend their family functions, and I want to eat their food.  Strong women who depend on one another and who just happen to have a bit a magic of their sleeve.

I also want a house that locks its doors if it doesn't like you and an apple tree who picks favorites in the backyard. I want it all.

The story continues several years after Gardenspells ends with the Waverley sisters happily married and their mystery still the talk of the town.  Claire has taken to making candy, and Sydney's hair is turning red as she deals with her emotions and worries.  Then there's Bay.  Wonderful, beautiful Bay who has a knack for knowing exactly where things belong...even her own heart.  When a stranger comes to town, things begin to change, and the women are desperate for the First Frost of the year to reset their lives and make things better.

Allen's writing is light, but not fluffy.  Her characters are flawed and full of worry, but their real and genuine.  She makes you a part of the family.  Now if I could only cook...

Not quite as good as Gardenspell, but so glad to revisit Bascom, North Carolina.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mid-Year Reading Rundown

Six months down, so I thought I'd do a reading check-in...so I thought I'd go back and take a look at my reading goals for the year.  A quick glance let me know that I should probably have kept an eye on them this first six months, because now they're feeling a little out of reach.  But you know what...my goals are more like guidelines, ideals, something to strive for not to accomplish.  Over the last month I've been doing a lot of grabbing what looks good, not what I think I should be reading, and it has been freeing.  I don't ever want reading to feel like a chore.  I love it too much.

Like a total book nerd I've been keep track of what I've been reading.  How am I doing so far?  Let's see...

I've read 58 books and 44, 027 pages.

Goal 1) Read 20 adult books.  I'm at six which is four more than last year which is a TOTAL success.

Goal 2) Read a work of Russian literature.  I bought Crime and Punishment.  First step accomplished.

Goal 3) Listen to 15 audiobooks.  5 down, plus I've got one in my car and another on my phone.

Goal 4) Read 5 nonfiction books.  2 down!

Goal 5) Read all of the books on the TBR winter/spring/summer/fall lists I create.  Probably not going to happen.

Goal 6) Read at least 1 hour a day.  Hadn't been happening but starting to schedule it into my day.

Goal 7) Read at least 125 books...fingers crossed!

Goal 8) Visit 5 new libraries.  Done!  Thank you strategic planning process at work which included library field trips :)

Goal 9) Read at least 10 picture books.  Haven't even started this.  I shall talk to a Children's Librarian tomorrow.

Goal 10) Update my blog, Goodreads account, and awesome spreadsheet for every book I read.  Done!

Feeling pretty good about that number...not because I think it's a lot, but because it is a variety.  It's not just teen and it's not just fiction.  And I'm having fun (mostly).

How are you fairing on your 2015 reading goals?

Happy Wednesday!
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