Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spotlight: Short Stories

“A short story is the ultimate close-up magic trick – a couple of thousand words to take you around the universe or break your heart.” – Neil Gaiman

Lucia Berlin has been publishing astonishingly good stories since the 60s. It wasn’t until the August 2015 release of A Manual for Cleaning Women, however, that readers got to know her name.She passed away in 2004. 

Lucia Berlin wrote largely from life, which, over 68 years, included enough heartache, adventure, physical pain, and joy for a number of lifetimes. The 43 stories that comprise A Manual range from tiny, flash-like pieces (“Macadam,” “My Jockey”) to longer, more traditional narratives.

Her stories pull us into sunken circumstances with an earnest appreciation for the simple things. They are insightful and real, and readers will be warmed by Berlin’s unexpected observations and spellbinding voice.

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters - Bonnie Jo Campbell

The collective message that mothers pass on to daughters in some of this book's most powerful stories might be summed up simply as "danger ahead," whether that be from predatory men or the difficulties engendered by the power of their own sexuality. In the sobering title story, a dying woman who can no longer speak aloud argues her case for her approach to life, and her record as a parent, in the presence of her adult daughter. "Women get themselves hurt every day — men mess with girls in this life, they always have, always will — but there's no sense making hard luck and misery your life's work."

Bonnie Jo Campbell is a 2009 National Book Award finalist. She will spend spring 2017 teaching creative writing at DePauw University* in Greencastle, IN.

American Housewife - Helen Ellis

An email battle between neighbors over the decoration of a shared hallway gets heated, then homicidal. The members of a book club recruit a newbie, only to reveal plans to use her body, parasitically, for their own purposes. A co-op board president’s wife carries on friendships with the ghosts of people she’s murdered to keep her husband in power. A failed writer goes on a ferociously competitive antiquing reality show in a final attempt to salvage her career...

In her collection of short stories highlighting the women who manage (and at times destroy) the home fronts, author Helen Ellis takes readers into the unexpected corners of wifedom.

Ellis is a high-stakes poker player and general badass. Margaret Atwood named American Housewife one of her favorite books of the year which is pretty cool, if you're into Margaret Atwood (and who isn't?).

Crow Fair - Thomas McGuane

You don’t forget a story like “Motherlode.” It’s the centerpiece of Thomas McGuane’s latest book, Crow Fair, and rests at its heart between 16 other tales. “Motherlode” is as wayward a short story as you'll come across. It bares the intricacies of a novel-length thriller, with the subtle tone of a Coen brothers’ film, and in the refined manner only a seasoned author like McGuane can bring.

He asked, “Ray, do you feel like telling me what this is all about?”
“Sure, Dave. It’s all about you doing as you’re told.”
“I see. And I’m taking you somewhere, am I?”
“Uh-huh, and staying as needed. Jesus Christ, if this isn’t the ugliest country I ever seen.”
“How did you pick me?”
“I picked your car. You were a throw-in. I hadn’t took you along you’d’ve reported your car stolen. This way you still got it. It’s a win-win. The lucky thing for you is you’re my partner now. And you wanna pick up the tempo here? You’re driving like my grandma.”

*I went to school there; you have no idea how upset I am about missing out on this opportunity. But I mean, I saw Bill Clinton speak while I was there. So that's pretty cool? 

Resolve your stress for the win!

As the Fox River Valley Public Library gears up for its Summer Reading Program Reading for the Win, Stress Less will be focusing on  how to make our goals become reality.  Make this your year:  five steps to keeping your new year’s resolution, Yoga Journal, January 2016 issue, Elizabeth Marglin focuses on 5 steps to achieving your goals. 

The word resolution comes from the word resolve, or to undo. According to Ms. Marglin, "Resolve is a form of surrender, a way to set our most heartfelt desire free into the world. What sustains resolution, then, is more a willingness to grow than sheer willpower. It is a discovery of how our own happiness is inextricably intertwined with the well-being of others-and that comes down to great; bigger-than-life' goals." Each 1 hour class will break down 1 of the 5 steps to help you learn new breathing, meditation, and yoga techniques. But the fun does not stop there. Stress Less also happily invites the community of the Fox River Valley Public Library to explore the vast collections and programs to make your a goal become reality. 

March 19th, 2016:
Step 1: Surrender (iswaraprandaya)

April 14th, 2016:

Step 2: Inquire (atma vichar)

May 14th, 2016:

Step 3: Commit (tapas)

June 11th, 2016”

Step 4: Persevere (abhyasa)

July 30th, 2016:

Step 5: Envision (darshan)

*Please note the times of the program vary each month.

Marglin, Elizabeth. "Make This Your Year!" Yoga Journal Feb. 2016: 80-86. Print.


Friday, March 4, 2016

FRVPLD Yoga/Breath/Meditation

A new addition to the programs at the Fox River Valley Public Library District is the Stress Less program. I started the class because I have been practicing yoga and meditation for 15 years and I would like to extend that knowledge to other people. Being a librarian, I feel there are so many resources I would like to share with the Fox River Valley Public Library District community. Yoga, breath-work, and meditation are tools that take no space and virtually no time during 24 hours. It’s something that everyone can take with them and use when they see fit. I provide a space that is both comfortable and safe for everyone and try something new. I give modifications to yoga poses that may be challenging and alternatives cues if one is not comfortable or to better understand the practice.

On February 20th, we touched on the basics of Sun Salutation A or Suyra Namaskar A. Sun Salutation uses the body to create asanas, or poses. Suyra Namaskar is sanskrit, which means to bow to the sun.  As the body moves through the poses, all of the muscles are engaged, lengthening and strengthening the limbs, and keeping the person focused for the rest of the day.

 Then we focused on our breath by learning about chakra meditation. This type of meditation helps focus your attention on different areas of your body. While breathing, we focus on the 7 areas starting at the root of the spine through the crown of the head; all while visualizing colors that area represented with these areas. 

Sun Salutations, by Shiva Ray, has a great evideo on Overdrive showing the steps to the Sun Salutations. Videos are a great way to learn yoga poses while at home. 

Chakra Yoga, by Gurutej Kaur  is another evideo on Overdrive. Again this is a great resource if you want to create your own yoga practice. 

Practical centering : exercises to energize your chakras for relaxation, vitality, and health, by Larkin Benett, is a great resource for learning chakra meditation. It is a simple guide that is easy to follow. 

Friday, February 26, 2016


Last week, inspired by the Oscars, the Fox River Valley Public Library held its first Book Awards readers’ advisory program. We ate cookies and chocolate, and had fun talking about books.

The winners in the Most Anticipated Read category are:
Lifetime Achievement Award:

Learn the secrets behind Tiffany’s stained glass masterpieces when you step into the women’s workshop in Gilded Age New York City

Historical Epic:

The Calligrapher’s Daughter – Eugenia Kim

Journey with a nameless upper class girl, from her strict Confucian home to the former royal court in pre-World War II Korea


The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley

Follow 11 year old amateur chemist Flavia de Luce as she rides her bicycle all over her 1950’s English village, searching for clues in her first mystery

Check these out, then stop by the Information Services Desk: Anna will be glad to provide you with additional suggestions!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Discover Will

People in this area have a don't-miss cultural opportunity this month: to see the First Folio or "the book that gave us Shakespeare." The First Folio is making the rounds in the U.S., and the only location in Illinois that will have it on display is the Lake County Discovery Museum, located in Wauconda. Admission is free for this exhibition that runs through February 28.

The First Folio is a compilation of many of Shakespeare's plays that was published in 1623 to preserve his work after death. Find out more about the exhibit and accompanying programs.

Read more about the Bard or one of his works. Discover Will this winter!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Recommended Read: Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton

This is the kind of book to read when you're looking for something sneakily soulful. Photographer Brandon Stanton has put together a fascinating book based on his blog. Stanton went around New York City and took portraits of people and includes a usually short, often very personal, quote from the subjects. He elicits some intimate information from these people. Although the book isn't laid out in a particular order, he often juxtapositions entries that are connected by theme of the subjects' statements or because the subjects have similarities in life circumstance.

The photos are lovely, but it is the quotes that ultimately resonate. Some statements are devastating ("I found my mom's meth stash when I was four." "What'd you do with it?" "I ate it."). Some statements are insightful ("My ex-girlfriend seemed to love me a lot more than I loved her, so I made the mistake of thinking I didn't love her." or "For the longest time, I was so focused on being deaf in my left ear that I almost forgot my other ear was perfectly fine."). Some statements are complicated and lengthy, others are simple and to the point (an older gentleman states "It takes a hell of a lot of pills to keep me going."). It doesn't matter that these people live in New York. These are lives and stories one could find in any city or town. It's good to be reminded of our humanity sometimes.

Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton
Find it in the catalog!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"Barbara the Slut" and Other Favorite Fiction of 2015

This year I got back into reading fiction. I took a break for a while because I was trying to seem sophisticated and knowledgeable by only reading biographies and critically acclaimed nonfiction. Needless to say that got really boring really quickly.   

Packer's splintered narrative style and rich characters made The Children's Crusade one of my favorite titles to hit shelves this year. Families, by definition, are dysfunctional. Mine is, and my best friend’s is, and you’d be lying if you said yours isn't. And that's the ugly truth. In Packer’s latest family saga, Bill Blair’s four children (one unwanted) navigate their way through a precarious childhood in an attempt to keep their misguided mother, Penny, from falling off the deep end. Set in what is now Silicon Valley, The Children's Crusade jumps around in time and point-of-view — not in a needlessly confounding way, but as a way to intensify another one of its themes: that the four Blair children (like all children) each came fully loaded at birth with their own idiosyncratic temperaments. 

While we’re on the topic of dysfunction, let’s talk about my group of friends: and yours, too, for that matter. Separately, we’re messy people each leading very different lives. Together, we’re still messy people leading very different lives who just happen to appreciate each other’s quirks. Lisa Lutz explores the dynamics of friendship in her 2015 novel How to Start a Fire which follows three college friends through the treacherous territory that is adulthood. Kate Smirnoff (like the vodka), Anna Fury, and George Leoni met in 1993, when all three were students at UC Santa Cruz. Freshman roommates Kate and Anna found George passed out on the lawn outside a party they had all attended. The girls quickly become friends and are bound together for life after a traumatic experience in their mid-20s.  

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh 
It’s rare to find a novel that’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. Letty Espinosa is suddenly handed responsibility for her two children, 6 year-old Luna and 15 year-old Alex, after her parents (the children's former caregivers) return to their childhood home in Mexico. At first, Letty struggles with the inevitable challenges that motherhood presents, fumbling her way through a series of bad decisions before she gains her footing. Diffenbaugh paints an eye-opening picture of modern day San Francisco for readers; she introduces us to the immigrant families who are hoping to build a life for themselves by working three jobs and living in devastating poverty, simultaneously holding their families together.     

Act of God by Jill Ciment 
A mysterious, luminescent mold infestation spreads through Brooklyn in the summer of 2015, sparing no New Yorker in its path. The ‘supermold’ is first discovered in the apartments of a rowhouse, entwining the lives of its residents: the elderly twin sisters, Edie and Kat, one a retired librarian, the other a failed bohemian; Vida, a middle-aged actress; and Ashley, an 18-year-old Russian au pair discovered hiding in Vida’s closet. The narrative shifts between the four women as they’re evacuated from their homes, until Edie eventually dies from spore inhalation and Kat is left to face the entire bizarre situation alone with only the company of a crazy cat lady and the unbearable grief that came with the loss of her twin sister. The novel is in some ways a character study and, in others, a play on science fiction in its entirety. Ultimately, it’s weird and that’s what I liked about it. Plus--the cover is really pretty.  


Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes 
Living can be a distressingly solitary activity and Holmes explores this hard truth with unexpected poignancy, subtlety and humor. Her characters are students and urbanites and rule-breakers and quarter-life-crisis-havers, some of whom own dogs or want to. Holmes is so skillful at characterization — weaving in specific details that illustrate everyday desires, failures and striving — that I was suddenly skeptical when I came to "My Humans," the third-to-last story in the book, which is told from the point of view of a dog. “My Humans", however, is every bit as moving as the other stories in the collection and while not perfect it tells us just as much, if not more, about human nature than the stories actually narrated by people.