LibrarianSpivey, the Reboot!

Testing, testing….1,2, 3….is anyone out there? Hey, I just noticed that I have a dormant blog. It’s been sitting here doing nothing since Halloween of 2013. That was back when I had way more time on my hands. Charlotte was still an infant and I probably wasn’t sleeping. The memories are vague. Now I’m lazy and filling those nighttime hours with slumbering, as long as no one is ill and Gavin’s not having parties with his fire trucks during the wee hours.

So what am I doing instead of blogging? Laundry, mostly.

Well, all that is about to change. LibrarianSpivey is back and ready to rumble.

What was I talking about again?

Oh yes, a reboot. Bigger and badder than ever. It’s like The X-Files, except without the aliens or the monsters or anyone really caring🙂

I’ll be back, as soon as I fold some laundry….

LibrarianSpivey

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This Blog Post Is Based On A True Story

Happy Halloween all. In Northeastern Ohio we look forward to a warm but soggy Trick or Treat night, after a perfectly dry week. What a good way to kick off the cold and flu season! Nothing that a little chocolate and nougat won’t cure. It was a standard morning in the Spivey household, besides the fact that I left the house towing a Minnie Mouse, Spider Man and a tiny pumpkin. At least choosing outfits today was easy…

My husband and I got into the spooky spirit last evening by watching “The Conjuring,” a spine-tingling flick which purports to be based on a true story. I find them slapping that term on every horror flick released today, to make it seem a little bit scarier. Luckily, we have the Internet to tell us what’s true and what’s not. Everyone knows that the Internet wouldn’t lie.

In doing haphazard Googling in the past, I’ve found that “based on a true story” thing usually means “based on a very flimsy connection to what may or may not be a true story.” In the case of “The Conjuring,” I’ve learned that many of the facts match up. At least the facts that can be considered facts, i.e. the family involved, the location and the ghost hunters called in to dispel the spooks actually existed. All parties closely involved claim that most of what was portrayed in the movie actually happened. Whether or not the paranormal side of it occurred….who knows? It just makes me happy that the cover of the DVD wasn’t blatantly lying to me. I’m just a simple librarian.

Speaking of truth vs. fiction, reality vs. non-reality, and the blurred lines between the two (get out of my head, Robin Thicke,) I did notice one other thing after our scary movie viewing last night. I find that I am more likely to be scared when awaking in the middle of the night after watching such a film.

I’m not trying to be stupidly obvious here. It’s more than being a little creeped out by scary scenes when actually viewing them or immediately afterwards. Long after said movie is finished, I can wake up for a 3 A.M. baby feeding or pre-dawn trip to the bathroom and feel that objects in the dark are more suspicious and make up more creative sources for strange sounds than I normally would. (It doesn’t help when your three-year-old tapes an origami ghost to the wall right before her own bedtime. Jeez.)

“Duh,” one may say. And one would be right. But leaving out the fact of whether or not I actually believe in ghosts, I’m just wondering how many people who claim to have seen or experienced paranormal events are fans of scary movies. Just saying.

How about you? Have you experienced any sort of paranormal activity? Did it occur directly after viewing Paranormal Activity? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

LibrarianSpivey

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LibrarianSpivey is Back. (And Will Think of Something Good to Say Eventually)

LibrarianSpivey has been silent for a long time. My last post was a book review on July 12, 2012. I only had a pair of Baby Spiveys at that time! Since then I have added one more to the brood and now we have a pair of bookend daughters- both beautiful and brilliant—and a rambunctious, jolly and bright (in all ways) boy in between. The Spiveys are living the good life—but we are exhausted.

Quite honestly, I can’t use the third child as an excuse that holds much water for not writing blog posts. After all, I hadn’t posted for an entire year before she was born. I can’t even use the third pregnancy as much of an excuse (do the math!) So, now I am merely reminded of what always happened when I tried to keep a diary as a young girl. I would write faithfully—for a day or two—and then peter out. Not much of an aspiring writer, am I?

Well, I won’t make promises. You won’t believe me anyway, all of you invisible people reading this entry. All I can do is try. I’m going to do my darnedest to think of interesting things to say, and I’m going to write them down. Possibly when I’m up in the middle of the night feeding my baby. I think it’s only fair to share those crazy thoughts with the world.

While not much has been going on with pen meeting paper, there have been some things going on in my mind. So there, writer’s block or laziness, or whatever you are.

LibrarianSpivey is back.

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Book Review: “Between the Lines” by Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer

As I have recently begun reading more fiction written for young adults and I generally read Jodi Picoult’s novels as she publishes them, I was rather intrigued by the fact that Picoult and her teenage daughter, Samantha van Leer, recently wrote and published a book together.

Between the Lines is a charming book, and a nice break from the normal Picoult offerings. Her books tend towards taking serious issues of the day and heartbreaking medical issues, usually involving children, and dramatizing them to the point that I sometimes feel as though I am being emotionally manipulated as I read them. This one though, goes in the complete opposite direction and merely deals with the idea of “happy ever after.”

The novel tells the tale of young Delilah, whose father left her mother when she was very young and started a new family in Australia. Though she now a teenager, she often seeks solace in the pages of her favorite fairy tale. Between the Lines, also the title of the fairy tale featured in the novel, is the story of a not-so-brave prince, Oliver, whose father was killed when he was an infant. Oliver, though lacking the normal princely bravado, finds himself in a situation where he must outsmart trolls, mermaids, dragons and other mythical creatures to save the lovely maid Seraphima.

Delilah is drawn to both the happy ending and to the main character—she feels a bond with the also fatherless Oliver. Things change when the character goes from figuratively “speaking to her” to literally speaking to her—as in, holding actual conversations.

Despite how it may sound (and how it appears to her poor mother,) Delilah is not going insane. As it turns out, when the pages of the fairy tale are open, the players of the tale are in full character, going through the motions and acting out the plot over and over and over again. When the book is shut, however, the characters are “off the clock.” The evil villain Rapscullio is actually a decent chap who collects butterflies and paints. The boy-crazy mermaids are hard-core feminists. And Prince Oliver is tired of being entrapped in this world and forced to reenact the same tale for the rest of his days. So, he reaches out to Delilah, who is so emotionally involved with the book and its characters that she can actually hear him when he cries out for help.

The book is arranged into segments, utilizing Picoult’s normal method of telling the tale from multiple viewpoints. This time, we hear from Delilah and Oliver in turn. We are also treated to occasional segments from the text of the fairy tale itself and to some really stunning illustrations featuring the standard fairy tale fare of princes, dragons, mermaids and more. These full color illustrations, done by Yvonne Gilbert, make the book worthwhile. The story itself is a relaxing if not incredibly complex read—we follow the pair as they first fall in love and then work to find a method to get Oliver out of the book. (With some intriguing scenes featuring Delilah inside the book as well.)

The actual action and plot of the story is not nearly intriguing as the concept itself. It does make you wonder what exactly goes on with your favorite characters when the book is closed. I have often wondered the same thing—not so much in envisioning them playing chess or baking pies while the book is closed, but more imagining what my favorite characters would make of our world and what it would be like to spend a day with them.

I did actually enjoy this book more than I have enjoyed some of Jodi Picoult’s latest adult novels. Samantha van Leer, a junior in high school, pitched the idea of this story to her mother and convinced her to collaborate on the project with her. The story is a fascinating one, and I was glad to read it, but I’m also a tad jealous that I don’t have such an easy entrée into the publishing world!

Regardless, it is a good summer read for adults and young adults alike.

LibrarianSpivey

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Book Review : “The Sandcastle Girls” by Chris Bohjalian

My favorite thing about Chris Bohjalian is that when I sit down to read one of his novels, I never know where I’m going to be taken. Novelists, including most of my favorites, tend to write books that are similar. There are usually familiar themes, character types, settings, time periods or, at the very least, the same genre. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this—it’s often the reason that I continue to read some of the authors that I do. There are certain familiar worlds to which I am always happy to return.

It takes a great level of creativity and skill, however, to do as Bohjalian does and go from writing about midwifery in rural Vermont to exploring transgender issues to Jay Gatsby’s Roaring Twenties or the waning days of World War II (just to name a few.) I enjoy the fact that last year’s release, The Night Strangers, was a chilling contemporary ghost story and psychological thriller and his latest book ,The Sandcastle Girls, (which will be out on July 17) is about as far away from that as you can possibly get.

It is quite evident that  The Sandcastle Girls is a book close to Bohjalian’s own heart. The novel shares a piece of history that many readers are likely rather unfamiliar with—the Armenian Genocide. The novel’s narrator calls the genocide “the slaughter you know nothing about.” I didn’t, before reading this book. These events, which took place between 1915 and 1923, were carried out by the Turkish government against the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. It is estimated that more than a million and a half Armenians were slaughtered outright or taken to the desert in Syria to perish slowly. This is generally known as the first genocide of the twentieth century, though to this day allies of Turkey are hesitant to recognize the fact. That includes the United States.   

The tale shifts between present day and the events of 1915. The narrator is Laura Petrosian, a novelist (the author admits it is a female version of himself) of Armenian descent. Petrosian recalls fond memories of her grandparents’ home and the pervasive Armenian feel of it, but neither she nor anyone else in the family is aware of the events that occurred around their meeting.

Armen Petrosian, a grieving Armenian survivor who has no idea what became of his young wife and infant daughter, and Elizabeth Endicott, a Bostonian who has accompanied her father on a relief mission to Syria to aid the exiled Armenians, meet and fall deeply in love. The events that occur are recorded by letters between the two, as Elizabeth remains in Syria and Armen joins in the fighting against the Turks in the Dardanelles. Simultaneously, a young pair of German engineers, while technically allied with the Turks, are horrified by the treatment of the Armenians and begin taking illegal photographs of the victims, intending to somehow share this with the world.

It is one of these photographs, published in a newspaper years later, that captures Laura’s interest and leads her to the letters and papers of her grandmother, which tell the tale that no one in her family has ever been privy to.     

The novel is layered, with Laura’s voice frequently entering to provide background information and history lessons and this method is masterfully done. It would appear as though we know the end of the tale at the beginning – Armen and Elizabeth clearly got married, moved to the United States and produced children and grandchildren. It is a testament to Bohjalian’s writing and storytelling skills that he still manages to create a tale that keeps the reader spellbound and in suspense. We learn all of the secrets along with Laura, and the end results in combined joy, hope and heartbreak.

It’s obviously not a pleasant tale by any means. I have a particularly hard time as a mother with detailed scenes describing children being carted away for death and a particularly heartrending image of a mother carrying her dead infant for days. Bohjalian cannot tell this tale without adding the horror in full detail—what would be the point otherwise? However, knowing that Armen and Elizabeth clearly make it to old age adds a little bit of comfort for the reader. The jaunts back to Laura and our familiar modern world also provide brief respites from the images of war and horror. Bohjalian’s characters, including the brave, funny German engineers, the kindly Muslim doctor, the widow and orphan girl who are thrown together during the march and become each other’s family, the American consul determined to get the truth of the genocide to the outside world, and many others provide the hope that is needed in order to wallow through the suffering.

Chris Bohjalian uses his own grandparents as the inspiration for this novel. While he says on his website that The Sandcastle Girls is complete fiction and that Armen and Elizabeth’s tale in Syria is not his grandparents’ story (though they were in Western Turkey during the genocide,) Laura’s remembrances of experiences in her grandparents’ home in Boston are his own memories. As in the book, his mother referred to the home as “the Ottoman Annex.”  The book is clearly an homage to his heritage and to his family, and it is a very worthy one.

Read this one, and his others. You won’t regret it.

Until next time,

LibrarianSpivey

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Book Review : “The Next Best Thing” by Jennifer Weiner

Even librarian bookworms need relaxing summer reads—tales that don’t make you think too hard and leave you with a warm glow. It is an absolute delight when said librarian finds a book that meets those criteria AND is well-crafted and exquisitely written. Such is the case with Jennifer Weiner’s latest The Next Best Thing, which will be released tomorrow.

I generally don’t read much chick lit—not for any specific reason other than the fact that there are not enough hours in the day to read every book ever written (though I have tried.) Chick lit is a genre that has seemed to evade my greedy clutches.

I did venture into the chick lit world a few years ago though, when I heard such good things about Weiner’s first novel. Good In Bed featured a funny, smart heroine named Cannie Shapiro whose world is turned upside down when her ex-boyfriend publishes a column discussing the travails of loving “a larger woman.” I loved the book, and have eagerly devoured everything that Weiner has published since. I am rarely disappointed.

 The Next Best Thing is no exception. Weiner again features a heroine who is imperfect physically. Ruthie Saunders suffered a horrendous car accident as a toddler—an accident that took both of her parents from her and left her permanently scarred. Her grandmother immediately takes charge, helping Ruthie through her many painful surgeries, acting as a mother figure, and serving as a constant companion and roommate. A steady stream of cozy half-hour sitcoms, especially The Golden Girls, serves as the second major force and source of comfort in Ruthie’s early life. She dreams of a life in which one can always count on friends, family and all problems being solved in 22 minutes or less.

 Ruthie, despite having a less than perfect childhood, finds herself following her dreams of writing and producing her own television sitcom. She, along with her grandmother, packs up and moves to L.A., where she experiences life, love and heartbreak in Hollywood. Eventually, with the assistance and support of her bosses and mentors, the Two Daves (two of my favorite characters, ever) Ruthie finally finds herself on the verge of seeing her own sitcom, based on her own life, become a reality. Besides the fact that the characters, even the “villains,” are endearing and the story is riveting on its own merits, Weiner adds to the pleasure by presenting us with a behind-the-scenes look at the world of television.

We’ve all seen the parade of T.V. shows that appear every fall, with many of them disappearing before we are even able to register their existence. Through Ruthie, we see the pain, heartbreak, compromise and effort that go along with each of these efforts. It seems to be a crapshoot as to which shows will succeed, so just creating a quality well-written and well-acted show is no guarantee that a show will last past episode three, let alone into syndication. Weiner actually lived through the experience of writing her own television show, adding a great deal of credibility to the tale. Her show, State of Georgia, unfortunately did not make it.

I would most definitely recommend this one. It’s Weiner’s strongest work since Good In Bed, and a perfect blend of summertime escape and excellent writing.

Thank you for being a friend,

LibrarianSpivey

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A Happy Case of “The Mondays”

Yesterday was one of those typical, crazy Mondays that people complain about. I started out with a sleep deficit, as my three-month-old has recently declared 10:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. to be “party time.” To add to that, a young raccoon got trapped in the rainwater that had accumulated in one of our garbage cans overnight, and gave us a screeching early wake-up call. From then on came the normal travails of a Monday—rushing to get the kids off to daycare, doing housework and cooking dinner early to compensate for a late work night, a workout in heat and humidity, and then the workday itself.

All in all, it was an excellent day, and every moment of it delighted me.

I was extremely happy to be going through the normal Monday craziness because last Monday, I was sitting in a hospital room with my three-month-old son. Before going too much further, as I just mentioned that he has taken to partying the night away, you can correctly assume that he is completely fine now. We were admitted to the hospital because the little guy had a fever that wouldn’t go away. Typically, if a child is younger than three-months-old, this merits an automatic trip to the ER and a 48-hour observation in the hospital. Since Gavin is only a little past that three-month mark, he was treated to the same care.

Overall, I am glad that they took the precaution. He underwent tests to make sure that he didn’t have any of the serious newborn sickness possibilities, and it was decided that he just had a “virus of some sort.” We never got a clear answer on what it was, but were reassured that it wasn’t anything serious. Though my stomach dropped when I heard that he was being admitted, my mother’s intuition told me that there was nothing seriously wrong with him. Still, though I knew in my heart of hearts that he would be fine, it was not pleasant to see him poked and prodded and connected to wires. That was not fun. (Neither was attempting to sleep in the hospital with an already iffy sleeper and trying to caffeinate myself with hospital coffee—ugh!) The poor little guy had a rough time of it, but happily seems to have gotten over it quickly.

I wish that I never had to find out what having a child in the hospital is like. It felt as though we were in The Twilight Zone for a few horrible days. I absolutely cannot imagine what it is like to have a more seriously ill child, and my heart goes out to all parents who find themselves in that situation. For me, 48 hours in the hospital was more than enough.

The strangest part about the whole experience was the feeling of being completely removed from the rest of the world. Obviously, when a child is ill, everything else just falls away completely. It was impossible to worry about the things that normally consume my day—housework, working out, work itself, etc… I knew that if we could get past this, and get Gavin home, the rest of it would be okay. Nothing would fall apart.

And guess what? It didn’t. We came home and Gavin was fine. The library didn’t fall apart without me. We caught up with the housework. I got back into my workout routine. I’m blogging again. Life is back to delicious, chaotic normalcy.

That is why a normal crazy Monday was so welcome. It’s nice to get back into the routine, even if it’s one that runs us ragged on a normal basis. My family’s health is something that I will never again take for granted. If we have that, all else is secondary. God Bless all of you, and well wishes for the health of your own families.

Speaking of health, the raccoon that got trapped in our garbage can is just fine as well. I’m sure his Mama is very happy.

Until next time,

LibrarianSpivey

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