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Writing Bliss

"If they do not write the kind of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves." -C.S. Lewis

Abandonment

abandoned houses

When I lived in Annapolis, Maryland, I did not encounter abandoned homes like I have after moving to North Carolina. The writer in me craves to know the secrets behind these monuments. Whether it be a grand old mansion, an average two-story house, or a double-wide, I always want to know the answers to the unanswered questions that an abandoned house holds. Who lived there? Why did they leave? I like to picture an average day in that house. Was it a family that lived there? I envision a man coming home from work, a mother picking up the kids from school, a family dinner while watching TV. Maybe an older couple lived there. Grandparents who passed away and their kids never wanted to do anything with the property. Maybe they did not have kids. Or kids who cared anyway. Sometime I imagine scenarios more sinister. Maybe an abusive man who murders his wife then kills himself. It amazes me that something as simple as an empty house can stir up all these ideas.

Every house has a story. Think about that next time you pass an abandoned home.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month

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November is National Adoption Awareness month. I am one of the leaders of the College, Career, and Coffee Book Club, a themed book club out of the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville, North Carolina. More importantly, I am also adopted. I was adopted when I was two days old, so adoption is a topic near and dear to my heart. The book club meets once a month to discuss the books we have read within a certain topic. Last night, we had some good discussions about adoption, both traditional and modern, and the many forms adoption may take.

Our other fearless leader Lisa started us off by talking about the books she read. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman is about a couple living on a secluded island in a lighthouse when they discover a boat containing the body of a dead man and a living baby. The woman, who has had several miscarriages and desperately wants a baby, begs her husband to keep the baby. They do and raise the little girl as their own. After many complications throughout the story, the birth mother becomes involved in the saga as the story unfolds. This book was made into a movie and two of our other book clubbers (Sam and Becca) read the book and watched the movie, also. Lisa said the book was very similar to the movie and she loved the writing. It is a book that ignites many emotions and raises conflicting questions. Taking Flight by Michaela De Prince is a nonfiction book about a girl who was an orphan in Sierra Leon. Adopted by a white family, she learns the true meaning of love and successfully integrates into her adoptive family. The author discussed the hardships of breaking into ballet as a black girl, breaking racial barriers, and fighting stigma in a culture that judged the family by its differences. She eventually gets to meet the dancer who inspired her, and in turn inspire her role model in the process. This was an uplifting story and Lisa highly recommended it. The Lonely Doll series by Dare Wright is a children’s picture book series about a doll who is adopted by a bear family. Written in the 1960s, it has since been under scrutiny for its use of corporal punishment, but Lisa enjoyed the story itself and the images that went along with it.

Natalie read The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. This story is about children who are placed on a train in order to try to find them families. The story goes back and forth in time and Natalie’s advice to readers is to pay attention!! At any moment the story could turn and you could get lost. The story makes you want to keep reading and discover how the story lines converge. Natalie said there were likable characters in this book and she grew attached to their individual stories. Family Wanted is a collection of stories written by writers who have participated in adoption. These are true stories of love from perspectives of both adopting parents and adopted children. Natalie said it provided a unique view of adoption and revealed some things about the process that surprised her.

Our newest member, Bette read several books that she was able to talk about. Her favorite was Cider House Rules by John Irving. The story takes place during WWII in an orphanage in Maine. The doctor in charge of the orphanage performs abortions safely, but illegally. It is something he believes in and a service he feels called to do. Homer is a young boy who grows up in the home and is mentored by the doctor. He refuses to help with the abortions even though he knows how to do it because he disagrees on moral grounds. A young couple come to the orphanage seeking the doctor to perform an abortion. Homer leaves with them and tries to live life outside the home. Homer gets involved with an incestuous family and ends up performing an abortion on a young girl impregnated by her father. This story clearly covers some extremely complicated and controversial issues. It also covers adoption in an unexpected way. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is about a girl without parents who is taken in by different guardians. This is a different form of adoption, but one that is still extremely powerful. I Am Number Four is a young adult book about a young boy Number Four is next to be killed in a futuristic/alien setting. He has no parents, but he does have a guardian. Bette brought up that both of these two books deal with kids needing parental figures. Both books have examples of those relationships. The Secret Garden is a classic tale by Frances Hodges Burnett about an orphaned girl goes to live with her uncle.

Sam, our little self-proclaimed urban fantasy junkie, read Soul Summoner by Elicia Hyder. Sam loved that it was a local story set in Asheville and a bunch of other North Carolina cities. The main character is a girl who is found in a hospital with no parents as a baby. The story is about her trying to figure out who she is. She finds herself attracted to a boy who is found about the same time. She worries he might be her brother. They discover they are not in fact related and in book two they find their parents. Her parents are crazy but her adoptive parents are great. She was very content. This brought up the discussion of how many children find they do not have the need or the drive to find their birth parents because of the happy life they have lived with their adoptive parents.

I talked about a book I had already read called Greenglass House by Kate Milford. This is a kid’s book and on the Battle of the Books for North Carolina readers this school year. This book was about an Asian boy who is adopted by a white family. He talks about how people always take second glances at his family because of the biracial factor. People automatically know he is different. While he loves his family, he begins to fantasize about his birth family; what were they like, who were they, etc. The story is about his life living in a Smuggler’s Inn run by his family when on a snowy Christmas break, mysterious strangers begin to come to the inn. Something about the house has drawn them there and the little boy and his friend decide to invent a role-playing game in order to discover the secrets of the house. Throughout the story, he learns to accept his family and appreciate them more than ever. This was a very sweet and inspiring story. The second book I read was Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain. This story was about a young couple (Molly and her husband Aidan), unable to have children of their own, going through the process of adopting. Molly is hiding dark secrets in her family’s past that she is afraid will come to light during the adoption process and jeopardize their chance to have a child. Molly herself was adopted. Her wheel-chair bound father was a child psychologist who specialized in “pretend therapy,” hence the title of the book. He had been involved with a woman who left him. After he had remarried, the woman shows up at his doorstep with his child and asks that they raise the little girl. Molly grows up knowing she is adopted by her mother while also spending time with her birth mother who lives on the family property. This complicated situation brought up a conversation about open adoption. I mentioned that I thanked my mother for having a closed adoption because the concept of having three parents was weird to me. The thought was brought up that maybe open adoption is a more modern concept with the growth of social media and the idea of keeping up with family medical records. I highly recommend this book. It was very engaging and the story was very emotional.

We had an overall great discussion. We missed a few regular members who hope to be back next month. December’s topic is Winter Stories. I personally, like to judge books by their covers, so feel free to pick up a book with a pretty winter scene on it, or a book that takes place during the coldest season of the year! If you are in the Iredell County area, our next meeting will be Thursday, December 1,  at 7:00pm. I should post about our discussions shortly after!

October is National Reading Group Month

 

 

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October is National Reading Group Month, and what better way to celebrate than to read book club selections?! The College, Career, and Coffee Book Club at the Iredell County Public Library decided to read titles that have been selected by other book clubs. This includes the New York Times choices, Oprah’s Book Club, Goodreads group selections, and the book club selection in the Statesville location of the ICPL.

We started with Natalie who, as the running joke goes, read a few chapters of two books! The one she read the most of was The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. It is the story of a woman who discovers a box in her attic that contains a letter addressed to her, written by her husband, that she is not supposed to read until after his death. She reads it anyway unleashing a mirage of secrets that threaten to shatter her family and her marriage. Natalie really likes the characters and the twisty plot. The family discord and marital conflict add a level of realism to the story and makes it very intriguing.

Sam read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini at the recommendation of another book clubber, Becca. Sam also read A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi. Both books take place in Afghanistan and focus on the struggles of women in and around the city of Kabul before and after the takeover by the Taliban. Before the Taliban begins to control the region, the area is peaceful and economically prosperous. The culture is thriving and women are not only respected, but many even hold positions of power within their communities.  Hashimi’s book is about women who have been wrongly accused and are sent to prison and it documents their struggle for freedom, both outside the walls of their prison and within their own minds. Sam noted that while Hosseini’s story is more historically based and full of important cultural and historical information, Hashimi’s book plays more to the reader’s emotions. Sam is now on an Afghan women kick, and is hoarding more books on the subject, both fiction and nonfiction. She is inspired to learn more about the truth and the struggle of Afghan women in history and in their current plight in the Middle East. While on the subject of feminism, we all joked that our resident feminist, Becca, was not even present to enjoy the conversation!

Tara returned!! It has been a while since we’ve seen her, and we were so happy to have her back with us. She is halfway through a book from the book club collection called I am One of You Forever by Fred Chappell. Tara felt the book is somewhat confusing, but interesting. She could not initially find a plot summary and this was more of an impulse read. She is enjoying the characters so far, so she is looking forward to finishing. One of her favorite books of all time that is also a book club selection is Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. She highly recommended it to the group.

Lisa, always the over-achiever, read four books this month. First was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Lisa loved the concept of humans fulfilling God’s will to care for the animals. She watched the movie also, and said it was similar and very well executed. Quiet by Susan Cain is a nonfiction psychology book about the difference between shy people and introverts. Lisa has always considered herself an introvert and values her alone time. The book also talked about one of her personal heroines, Rosa Parks. Parks is considered an introvert. Had she simply been “shy,” she may not have taken the stand she did on that bus during the Civil Rights movement. This conversation led us to discussing which type we are. Tru and Nelle by G. Neri is a fictional kids book about Truman Capote and Harper Lee who were friends growing up as children together. This book was complimented by The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin which is an adult fiction also about Truman Capote and the Roaring Twenties, one of Lisa’s favorite time periods in American history.

Shellie and Becca both read Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain, which is a story that takes place in North Carolina in 1960 and covers the controversial topic of the sterilization of women in the welfare system. This was a very emotional book and the author clearly did her research on this topic. The group talked about the two extremes presented in the book. One character who begged and pleaded to have the surgery done because she could not care for any more children was denied because she did not meet the criteria set forth by the government for sterilization. Another character, a 17-year old girl, was sterilized without her knowledge with the consent of her grandmother, all while dreaming of a big family and wanting five more children that she can never have. The social worker, who is the main character, is introduced to this world and tries to make a difference in the lives of these families. This book has been read by book clubs for a reason and it definitely sparks a lot of good discussion. Becca was happy Shellie read this book. She remembers reading the book as the real-life lawsuit for victims of sterilization was going on in North Carolina and how much of an impact the story had on her. The second book she read, and one that Becca had planned to read for this meeting as well, was The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This book was recommended to Shellie by a patron who normally reads fantasy. Her immediate reaction was, “What on earth makes you think I will want to read this book??” It takes place in the early 1800s and spans 35 years from the perspectives of a young white girl, Sarah Grimke, from a privileged South Carolina family and the young slave girl, Handful, who was given to Sarah on her 11th birthday. The story weaves an inspirational tale of love and freedom based on historical characters. Sarah and her sister were two of the earliest feminists and the first female abolitionists in America. Shellie listened to the book on audio and highly recommended listening to this book as opposed to reading it because there are two narrators; the voice of Sarah and the voice of Handful. By listening to the book, you can really visualize these characters and it brings to life the historical struggle. Sue Monk Kidd did an amazing job researching these characters.

We had such a fun time with Subway cookies and coffee this month! November is National Adoption Awareness Month so we will be reading stories about adoption. This can include pets as well! Join us at our next meeting on November 3 at 7:00pm!

Themed Book Club: September Blue Books

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The College, Career, and Coffee Book Club is a monthly book club that meets at the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville, North Carolina. I’ve talked about the concept of a themed book club here, and it was very well received. If you are local to the Statesville area, STOP BY! Or join the discussion here on my blog. Happy reading!

The birthstone for September is sapphire, and because blue is a gorgeous color, the College, Career, and Coffee  Book Club decided to read books with blue covers.

Natalie’s book was Keeper of the Stars by Robin Lee Hatcher about a girl who loses her brother in a tragic car accident and is forced to come to reconcile with a member of her brother’s band in order to move on from the tragedy. Natalie appreciated the writing style of the author and enjoyed that the chapters were from different perspectives, including the dead brother as he’s growing up. She admitted this was not the type of book she would normally pick up, but the cover was blue and the plot sounded intriguing. Overall, she found the read very emotional and found the conflict between love and family very engaging.

Sam was unable to make our meeting this month, but she read one of the books that Becca read which was The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. Becca truly enjoyed reading this book and she went with Sam to see a special screening of the upcoming movie in Charlotte this past week. The book is about a couple who lives alone in a lighthouse on an island. They have been trying to have a baby but the woman continues to miscarry. When a dead man and an infant wash up on shore in a small boat, the woman sees this as her chance to finally be a mother. They take the child in and raise her for several years before they get caught. This is a heart wrenching tale about family and doing the right thing. Becca enjoyed this read and said the movie was very true to the book. There were several plot twists throughout the book, and just when you thought you knew how it was going to end, something would happen to prove you wrong. It was a page-turner, for sure, and Becca rated it four stars on Goodreads!

Becca’s second book was The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty by Amanda Filipacchi which, for a lack of all other descriptions, she referred to as “weird”. The idea behind this book was to focus on beauty and man’s idea of beauty and how it can be detrimental. This book was about a girl who was beautiful and her best friend fell in love with her. When she did not reciprocate, he killed himself and from that day on, the girl saw her beauty as a weapon and strived to make herself undesirable by wearing a fat suit and in various ways making herself unattractive. Becca liked this concept and was looking forward to a good book. Things started getting weird about halfway through the book and despite its promising beginning, ended up with a two star rating on Goodreads from Becca and a highly DO NOT recommend status.

Becca’s third book was Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover. Although not Becca’s normal preferred genre, she said this one was decent and the writing was good. It got a little “50 Shades-esque” at some points, but the story was not bad. The cover was definitely a pretty blue so it qualified, and in good sport fashion, she finished the read and gave it three stars.

Lisa read two books. She started us off with her favorite book of all time, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This is her favorite book because she identifies with the author. This book is about an independent woman in the 1950s who defies tradition and does not want to be married. Lisa loves the author’s descriptions. Sylvia Plath was actually a poet and her ability to describe transferred into her prose. Lisa read a few passages for us so we could understand and appreciate the intimacy of the novels words. Becca took Lisa’s recommendation and picked up this book as well. Lisa also read Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood, which, like Natalie and Becca’s books, is not something Lisa would normally read. It is a mystery that takes place in the 1920s and the lead character is a woman who goes undercover as a flapper. This character is also independent and sassy which is why Lisa really enjoys this series.

Shellie, like Becca, decided to try and be an overachiever by reading three and a half books. First, she read A Dog’s Purpose by Bruce Cameron, which was “AMAZING” according to her. This was a must-read for dog lovers. This story is about a dog who lives multiple lives, coming back as a puppy after each life. Each life teaches the dog new lessons that he carries with him into his next life. This book made Shellie cry constantly (in the best possible way), and she is greatly looking forward to the movie release in January. Her second book was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne about a young boy whose father is the SS Commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Told from the perspective of a nine-year old, this book holds all the innocence of what a boy that age would see but not understand, which makes this book even more powerful to adult readers. Shellie loved this book and the movie, even though the subject matter is something that is very difficult to read sometimes. She said what struck her the most was the fact that we all begin life so innocently. It is the world that provides us with the opportunity to hate. Bruno made friends with a Jewish boy on the other side of the fence and had no idea what the consequences of such a friendship could be.

Her third book was Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes, which is the first of a new series that is a new take on the legend of Peter Pan. For anyone who watched the ABC show Once Upon A Time, the idea of an evil Peter Pan is not new. In fact, even for those who haven’t watched the show, it is not a stretch to turn a character who represents rebellion, eternal youth, and a life without responsibility into a bad guy. But in this book, Pan is really bad and Wendy must break the enchantment of Neverland, regain her memory of her previous London life, and rescue her brothers to take them back home. There was some teen angst in this book (which is to be expected in a YA book), but interestingly, the angst served its purpose well. In a perfect example of how this book club is supposed to function, Lisa took the book off Shellie so she could read it next!

Our newest member Laurene came to her first meeting and told us about her book The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson. A mystery writer, Davidson writes about a caterer who stumbles upon murders and subsequently solves them. Laurene said it was a nice easy read, similar to last month’s beach reads theme, but she enjoys the twists and turns of a classic whodunit. There are also delicious recipes in the back of the book and Laurene brought homemade goodies to share with us! Laurene, you are welcome back any time.

Join us next month for a new theme. October is National Reading Group month so we thought it would be fun to read books that have been read and discussed within other book clubs. You can find online books clubs, Oprah’s book club list, or find a book from the Iredell County Public Library book club section in the Statesville library. Join us for books, discussion, snacks, and COFFEE Thursday, October 6th at 7:00pm.

Don’t live locally and want to participate in the discussion? Comment below and join the fun of our monthly themed book club! What have you read this month with a blue cover??

Book Review: Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

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This was a wonderful book that covers the very controversial topic of the North Carolina Eugenics Program which lasted until the 1970s; longer than any other state in the nation.  I had mixed emotions throughout this entire book. On the one hand, I was not opposed to the option of sterilization, especially for those women who wanted it, could not care for the children they already had, or had limited capacity to care for children. On the other hand, a government sponsored sterilization program should not be abused and in the case of the Hart sisters, it most definitely was. I highly recommend this book and I understand why so many book clubs have picked this up.

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I have five required criteria in order to earn the coveted 5-star review on Goodreads. This book definitely has all five.

  1. Characters- I have to be attached to the characters. From the very beginning I loved these characters; Jane with her naive expectations of life and the world, Ivy with her independent yet care-giving spirit, Mary Ella with her simple-mindedness and innocence. I instantly wanted good things to happen to these characters, and was sad when I immediately saw that it was not a guarantee, or even a likelihood.
  2. Research- Diane Chamberlain definitely did her research when writing this book. The Eugenics Program in North Carolina was a devastating time for families, and many were unaware that they were even affected by it. A story like this can only be told with accuracy. Blending history with just the right amount of fiction went a long way in making the story believable and the characters realistic.
  3. Story- Anything that can make you cry, scream, curse, and laugh all at the same time is worthy to be considered a good story. This book was a page turner from the very beginning and I could not put it down. When I stay up until 1am just to finish, you’ve certainly earned a seat at the table of “good stories.”
  4. Writing- Chamberlain is a great writer. The story opens with an interesting present-day character, Brenna, and closes with her story while in between reverting back and forth between Jane’s and Ivy’s perspectives. There were not too many characters to keep track of, I always knew where I was in the story and never felt confused, and more importantly, the story flowed together in a way that felt superbly natural.
  5. Relevance- I usually don’t put any of these criteria in any particular order, but for this book, I’d say relevance is the most important criteria that it meets. This story is extremely relevant today because these problems have not gone away. Sure the Eugenics Board no longer exists, and the victims of the program have been since compensated by the North Carolina government, but that does not mean the problems of this story have been solved. Far from it! We still have a welfare program which is both abused by many families across the country, and not available to others who need it. There is a huge divide between classes, and the middle-class is getting poorer, tightening the gap between it and the poor while the upper class continues to grow exponentially. There are still hundreds of social workers who use the system as a crutch to get out of helping the truly needy, and not enough Janes who care “too much” and actually attempt to make a difference. This story carries a message; that one person can make a difference, and it does not matter who you care about, but care. And care enough to make that difference.

Visual Writing

A few years ago, I started doing “visual exercises” where I took an image and created a scene with it.  I want to get back into doing that for two reasons:

  1. The last time I did these, one post inspired me to write my first fantasy novel, which I’m trying to finish this year.  Maybe doing some more will inspire me further.
  2. It serves as writing prompts, which keeps my creative juices flowing.

I love the image I’m going to use today.  The town reminds me of Bree from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, but the hanging man reminds me of something you’d find in a Game of Thrones episode.  Let’s see where this image takes me today.

The Cursed Land

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Grayson did not want to be here.  This place was cursed, for sure.  Perhaps at one point in history this place was a thriving street market, complete with food carts and wagons from the outlying farms.  Today it was a ghost town; a dark, wet, depressing ghost town.  Every step he took led his boots through a sloshing mud puddle.  He looked up toward the castle on the sharp, jagged rocks staring down on the village.  The look of it made him shiver as he pulled his black cloak hood over his head.  He stepped out of the shadows and rounded the corner to be faced with a grim sight.  Straight ahead hanging high above the street was the body of a man, flayed, beaten, and already torn apart by the crows, and his arms and neck were wrapped in chains.  Grayson stopped dead in his tracks, stunned by the image.  He had never seen a dead man before.

“Oiright, lad!” A booming voice greeted him from the doorway of one of the village shops. “Lost your way, have you?”

Grayson pulled his collar up around his neck to hide the colors of his garments and pulled tighter on the hood.  Though no one would recognize his face here, he could not risk that they would guess he was from another kingdom.  He walked away quickly before the man could shout at him again, the hanging man swinging in his chains and the crows shouting at one another above.

As he ducked into another alley, he almost tripped over a rat scurrying away from the street.  No matter how hard he tried, he could not get the image of the hanging man out of his head.  The vivid sight, he was sure of it, would haunt his dreams for at least a few nights.  This was a much more dreary place than he originally thought.  The king more devious and dangerous.  Perhaps this meant the king was loosing his head and making rash decisions, like flaying his people and hanging them in the street.  Perhaps this was what he had wanted to do all along in Grayson’s kingdom, but was never given the opportunity.

Whatever the reason, Lord Grayson of Brendt House was here on a mission, and he could not cause himself to lose sight of that mission.  He was on a mission for his Queen, and she would have the answers she required of him, no matter what the cost.

Book Review: Greenglass House by Kate Milford

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This book made it onto the Battle of the Books list for 2016-2017 in North Carolina and I absolutely loved the cover. Yes, I judged a book by its cover. This book was adorable and I loved it. The main character is an adopted boy and of course, I took a liking to him straight away for that. Milo is Chinese so every time people look at him with his family, they already know he’s different. I never had to deal with that, but I can certainly see how that could be conflicting for a young child. He is a relatively boring child, if I’m not being too harsh, but that all changes when he meets Meddy, the cook’s daughter, at the beginning of what he’s hoping will be an uneventful Christmas break. A bunch of random, mysterious guests arrive who all have connections to the inn that Milo’s parents run at Greenglass House. Meddy is an adventurous child and forces Milo to use his imagination in order to play with her. Together they discover secrets of the house and its guests, and they also put their nose to the ground to try and recover lost items that go missing from the guests. From the very beginning this book hooked me into the plot. It was almost like a kid’s version of Clue, trying to figure out who is who in the house, how they’re connected to it, who stole what from whom, and how to catch them.

The message in this story was very heart-warming as well. Adopted kids, even kids like me and Milo who were adopted as infants and never met their birth families, are always going to be curious about their biological families. But family is not defined by DNA. It is defined by love and that is the lesson that Milo learns. This book is on the middle school list but I recommend it to anyone who loves an adventure and imagination.

A Themed Book Club

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Have you ever been a part of a book club? Typically, everyone in the group reads the same book and then get together to discuss it. I find this boring. I mean, if I was a part of a group where every member enjoyed the same types of books as me, then I guess it would be that bad. Read The Hobbit this month, read Harry Potter the next month, then let’s read Game of Thrones. I could get used to that. Not only is that type of group incredibly hard to find, it is also very limiting. You’re limited to what interests you. That sounds strange coming from a person who insists that teachers should let students choose what they want to read and they might like reading better, but hear me out. You can choose to read what you like even in a genre that you would normally not read.

At the Iredell County Public Library this past January I started a new type of book club with a co-worker of mine and I AM LOVING IT! The College, Career, and Coffee Book Club is geared toward the younger generation of up and coming college students, career driven young adults, busy middle-aged working class, and of course, the coffee addicted. This isn’t your mom’s book club where you are forced to read “To Kill A Mockingbird” for the hundredth time (though you are not barred from reading it). Here, we choose a theme each month and you can read whatever you like pertaining to that theme.

January we started New Year New You. I encouraged people to read something that they normally would not read. I chose a biography of Anne Perry, the mystery writer and subject of the Peter Jackson film Heavenly Creatures, on a friend’s recommendation. I’ve never read Anne Perry before, nor have I seen the film. I picked up the book and read it anyways, and I found it very intriguing. Someone else read “Pretty Girls” by Karin Slaughter on my recommendation even though the person usually does not read suspense/thrillers. February was Love At First Bite month and we read vampire books. March was Page to Screen in honor of the Oscars, where we were also challenged to watch the film of the book we read and compare the two. In April we read Civil War books in honor of Confederate History Month and we discussed many controversial topics in addition to the books we read. For National Pet Month in May we read pet stories which is always a favorite. For this year’s Summer Reading theme of sports and healthy living, we are reading fitness, exercise, sport-related books for the month of June.

The CCC Book Club is something different and I welcome that! Libraries are constantly having to adapt to technology, changing trends, and evolving young generations. This has been a great way to bridge the gap between age groups and come up with something fun for adults. The best part is that by reading different books, there is no end to recommendations from people in the group. Everyone is reading something different! If you don’t already have a program like this at your local library, I highly recommend that you suggest it. This is one of the most fun groups I’ve been a part of and I’m so proud to say I helped create it.

Shifting Alliances in Reading

[WARNING: Game of Thrones SPOILERS are in this post, so only continue reading if you are caught up in the books and the show.]

This is a post relating specifically to Game of Thrones, but generally to any story long enough to expose its readers to multiple characters in various different lights. I have been thinking a great deal, in light of the unfolding of Season 6 of the HBO show and my re-reading of the first book, that my alliance as a reader has shifted a great many times. Obviously, there are two reasons for this:

  1. The story is long enough, presumably a series, that readers are exposed to several perspectives and a series of events that have changed their opinions of certain characters and
  2. The author is a good enough writer that readers are compelled to follow their lead from one opinion to the other.

Take for example, Jaime and Cersei Lannister (the former more so than the latter). Fans of the books and show will see this image

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and cringe with fear and writhe with anger because you know this is the scene that Jaime Lannister shoves his dagger through Jory Cassel’s eye, eliminating Ned Stark’s Captain of the Guard. This is after he pushes Bran Stark, a mere boy of 7, out of a window for discovering his secret affair with his twin sister, paralyzing the boy. Suffice it say, at this point in the show, you are NOT a fan of Jaime Lannister. If he met some ill fate worse than Jory’s, you would only welcome it. I know I said as much. In fact, come Season 2, this scene

jaimeseason2

is incredibly uplifting. He’s a prisoner! Of Robb Stark’s! This story is going exactly how I wanted it to! It gets only better when he loses a hand in subsequent episodes from some outlaws. From your perspective as a reader and a viewer, things are going swimmingly and you are happy with where Jaime ends up at the end of Season 2.

Now think of this. If you’re watching Season 6, this sight

jaimeseason6

is glorious! Jaime riding to the defense of Queen Margery. If nothing else, he is standing against religious radicalism and a government ruled by a nut-job who doesn’t wear shoes and thinks justice is stripping people naked and parading them through the street like cattle to be spit upon and have feces flung at them.

Wait. What just happened? We were just talking about how happy we were to see Jaime in chains and without a hand and now we are applauding his triumphant entry on the screen? We’re treating him as a hero?? This is where perspective comes in.

Just for fun, and a less dramatic example, let’s look at Cersei. Here she is in Season 1,

cerseiseason1

insisting that a direwolf pay for the “suffering” of her son. Nevermind that the wolf who ends up headless had NOTHING to do with the incident in question. As an animal lover, I wanted to chop HER head off. Following this, and other unfortunate incidents involving this sour queen, I welcomed this scene,

cersei-purple-wedding

especially after the Red Wedding. Joffrey dying at his own wedding with Cersei there to cradle him in his final moments…just beautiful. Best part of the show up to that point. I’m serious, the emotions that George R.R. Martin is able to invoke in this series is striking. So much hate, FOR FICTIONAL CHARACTERS! Anyway, by the time we get to this scene,

cerseiWalkOfAtonement

I’ve softened toward her a bit. A BIT! Calm down, I didn’t say I liked her. Cersei’s transformation is not nearly as clean as Jaime’s, and even his is still shaky at times. But let’s face it, this scene

cerseimyrcella

is slightly pitiful. A fallen queen with no power who has just been humiliated in front of the whole city is now barred from attending her own daughter’s funeral, the second child she has had to bury?? Come on, we’re not that heartless. On some level we feel for her. Yes her children were the bastards of incest, but Myrcella was an innocent victim in the game of thrones.

The point of this long post is to say that as we progress through this series, our opinions and emotions change. In the books, it may be in part due to the fact that Jaime and Cersei begin receiving their own POV chapters starting in books three and four, respectively. POV has a lot to do with how we view a character. The narrator is that character and you are inside their mind, not simply seeing events unfold through someone else’s eyes. Granted, if Bran’s fall had been told through the perspective of either twin, I still think we’d want them dead, but wouldn’t we see the scene differently? We’d see a different motive.

As a writer, I am challenged by this. Even if I don’t write a chapter from the perspective of all my characters, I am at least interested in writing a backstory or maybe even a chapter for my own benefit. Slip into the mind of all your characters, so that when they are featured in your book, you understand them, even if your audience does not. It’s up to you whether or not you reveal those perspectives, but it seems to have worked for George R.R. Martin. I look forward to seeing what else this series had in store…..Well, maybe not…

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