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    Book Club in a Bag

    Fifty Shades of Summer

    by Suzen - 1 Comment(s)

    Unlike many of my colleagues, I didn't get a chance to take a traditional vacation this summer. While everyone else was jet setting to exotic locales like San Francisco, Orlando and Edmonton, I didn't even make it past the downtown core, never mind leave the city! Truth is, I didn't mean for my summer to turn out this way. I had big plans to take a road trip through the Rockies, even ride my bike through Regina, or go shopping in Montana but I unintentionally turned into one of "those people" I vowed never to be. You know the type of person that tries to juggle a million different things at once and constantly forgets to take time for herself until the entire summer has gone by and she doesn't even have a tan to show for it. You know, one of those...

    The closest I came to taking an actual vacation was to put my brain on one by reading the most popular adult fiction book of the summer: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Along with the other books of this trilogy, Fifty Shades has been on the New York Times Fiction Bestseller List for past 27 weeks and counting. The Calgary Public Library consistently has over 750 patrons on the wait list, including normal paperback, large print and electronic formats. And any retailer that sells books – be it Chapters, Costco or Walmart – has hundreds upon hundreds of the prolific but unassuming black and white covers lining the shelves.

    Fifty Shades of Grey by EL JamesFifty Shades has saturated the adult reading market, grabbing the attention of avid readers and occasional readers alike. I picked up the trilogy in ePUB format after weeks of fielding requests for the novel at the information desk. I had no idea what the book was about when I picked it up and at page 150, I still had no idea what it was about. Even now, after finishing it, my comprehension of the plot is still quite hazy. Here's what I know:

    Fifty Shades of Grey introduces our socially awkward heroine, Anastasia Steele, a recent university graduate who is as hopeless with computers as she is in love. Ana meets a man that completely turns her world upside down, Christian Grey - a mysterious 20-something billionaire who, despite his designer clothes, aloof demeanour and casual use of the company helicopter, has noble philanthropic inclinations. As the story meanders along, Ana and Christian become tied together in a predictable "opposites attract" dynamic. Ana, annoyingly insecure in her appearance and sexual prowess, channels her "inner goddess" to crack Christian's painfully constrained outer shell. As their relationship slowly progresses, Ana falls in love while Christian remains at an arm's length, expressing his affection through aggressive and controlling behaviour. The constant push and pull between Ana and Christian goes nowhere pretty quickly, the emotional tension lifting only by the barest of measures during their sexual encounters which are, at times, long winded and emotionally tiresome.

    From what I can figure, Fifty Shades of Grey has a character-driven plot but the characters are so devoid of depth that it is impossible to decipher any plot at all. It's my opinion that the driving force behind this otherwise plotless romantic story is sex. Like many books in the contemporary romance genre, steamy love scenes are integral to the progression of the story and often the primary reason we're drawn to such escapism. What makes Fifty Shades different from the majority of popular contemporary romance is the taboo nature of such steamy love scenes which are less about "lovemaking" and longing glances from across the room and much more about sadomasochistic desires and being flogged for pleasure. Christian, an emotionally unavailable man, expresses his (un)affection with Anastasia by controlling everything she does - including what clothing she wears, what she eats, how she acts in public and her role in the bedroom. Granted, Ana doesn't take to the submissive role easily and repeatedly questions Christian's actions; but she ultimately resigns to the predictable romantic but ultimately self-destructive adage "If I love him hard enough maybe I can change him!". And we all know how that age-old story ends....

    While I pride myself in being very liberal minded and open to all sorts of subjects when it comes to my reading, I was put off not by the taboo nature of the story but how the book was written. I know I am not alone in my opinion when I say that Fifty Shades is not the most scholarly or poetic book ever written. All over the Internet you will find extensive reviews that center on this aspect alone. E.L. James, herself, admits to not being a writer and is genuinely surprised about how well this book (and it's sequels) are doing. There's an excellent interview on CBC Radio's Q with Jian Ghomeshi where James speaks candidly about her literary beginnings and the inspiration behind the trilogy. The author, a former television producer, caught the writing bug after reading Stephanie Myer's Twilight series and decided to write her own version of the vampire saga but with non-supernatural characters. The book, first self-published online as fan fiction, received a cult-like readership and eventually garnered attention from publishers before catching on like wildfire across the world. Yet, despite it's unprecedented popularity, Fifty Shades of Grey is meandering and repetitive, and would have benefited greatly from a critical once-over by more than one editor. James' lack of experience as a fiction writer is so evident that the story feels as if it is just a vehicle for describing, in provocative and explicit detail, sexual encounters that are meant to shock readers as much as it is supposed to enrapture them. However, I suppose that is what erotic fiction essentially is, in which case E.L. James totally hits the mark.

    Now for all the criticism I've been giving this book, I should be completely honest with you: I read Fifty Shades from cover to cover in a matter of days. Sure, it may have been out of sheer stubbornness and the naive belief that maybe, just maybe, this book would get better as I read on, but I read it just the same. It is the epitome of a guilty pleasure read: guilty because I took so much pleasure in reading something I genuinely disliked from beginning to end. The experience can be equated to the cult-classic television show, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, where a man and his robot companions spend every episode watching terrible B-grade movies and make hilarious commentary about what they are seeing throughout the entire screening of the film. I received more enjoyment talking, criticizing, philosophizing, pondering and making fun of this book than I ever did reading it and I think that is where Fifty Shades of Grey gets its strength.

    This book has an uncanny ability to engage readers. Whether you loved it, despised it or couldn't care less, you probably have an opinion about it. So, I'll leave this forum open: What do you think about E.L. James trilogy Fifty Shades? What number are you on the wait list? Who should play Ana and Christian in the movie slated for production in the next few years? Give us all Fifty Shades of your opinion in the comments!

    The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

    - 0 Comment(s)

    “The narrator, to be honest, has often found it difficult finding his own way around, but feels a competent reader need not become lost in the detail and should enjoy the story just the same.”

    -from an afterword titled ‘Useless Learned Explanations’

    As a semiotician, philosopher, essayist, literary critic and former Harvard professor, we can be sure that Umberto Eco is a smart, well-read man. If he creates a narrator who has difficulty navigating his own creation, what chance do we readers possibly have at it?

    None.

    If you need to know exactly what’s going on in a story as you read it, do not go anywhere near this book. But if, as the narrator suggests, you are a ‘competent reader’ who doesn’t get ‘lost in the detail’ you are likely to enjoy The Prague Cemetery immensely. The narrative takes place all over the second half of the nineteenth century, featuring spies, counter-spies, secret service agents, literary giants, and Simonini, our dual-personality protagonist who has the world in his palm thanks to unusual talents as a forger of documents. There is no natural space in this plot for anything resembling ‘clarity’.

    Most novels can’t pull this off, but for the author of such historical masterpieces as The Name of the Rose and The Island of the Day Before, readers know they are in good hands and Eco proves it by pushing the novel forward at a dizzying, schizophrenic pace. It helps that every 4 - 5 pages the author’s own ink-drawn illustrations are added to animate the endless barrage of characters. And food. It’s hard to get to know any characters in this world, but they are always eating, always hungry, and maybe that’s how Eco made this impossible novel work so well.

    P. R.

    Summer. Read. Week 9

    Summer. Read. Week 9

    - 4 Comment(s)


    We’re on the final theme for Summer Read! For the last two weeks of the program we’ll be focusing on “Be” – have you borrowed anything recently that helped you with an issue or made you think of your life in different way? This theme is all about that. If you’re thinking about your spiritual self, thinking about a change in career, want to expand your interests by trying out a new hobby, drop into a branch and find something to quench that thirst for books!


    We also have a lot of fiction that is applicable for the “Be” theme. Classics like “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” newer best-sellers like “Life of Pi” and “the Shack,” and newer fiction like “the Opposite of Art” and “House of Secrets” would all be perfect for “Be” and might give you something to ponder.

    So join the Calgary Public Library for a 9-week summer reading adventure. Each week we're diving into a new theme: explore, play, imagine, create, live, laugh, learn, grow, and… be. Together we’ll discover new books that will keep you reading all summer. We’ll post information about the weekly theme every Wednesday here on our Readers’ Nook blog and on our Facebook page.

    When you comment on our Summer. Read. Facebook posts, telling us what books or DVDs or CDs you’ve been enjoying, you’ll be entered to win great prizes. There are weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and CPL tote bags, as well as ten grand prize Kobo eReaders! You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local library.

    Summer. Read. Week 8

    Summer. Read. Week 8

    - 3 Comment(s)

    Grow

    Summertime is the time for growth at the Calgary Public Library. Have more success growing a variety of plants with our extensive gardening collection, help your children grow with our hundreds of parenting titles and help your community grow by reading about urban planning.

    Maybe you would like to do the growing with our wonderful self-help books, CDs and DVDs or maybe you'd like to grow your own business with a book on small business creation.

    Pour your heart into it


    So join the Calgary Public Library for a 9-week summer reading adventure. Each week we're diving into a new theme: explore, play, imagine, create, live, laugh, learn, grow, and… be. Together we’ll discover new books that will keep you reading all summer. We’ll post information about the weekly theme every Wednesday here on our Readers’ Nook blog and on our Facebook page.

    When you comment on our Summer. Read. Facebook posts, telling us what books or DVDs or CDs you’ve been enjoying, you’ll be entered to win great prizes. There are weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and CPL tote bags, as well as ten grand prize Kobo eReaders! You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local library.

    Summer. Read. Week 7

    Summer. Read. Week 7

    - 3 Comment(s)

    Learn

    What have you always wanted to learn? To speak another language? To repair your own car? How about yoga? Or world history? Well, the library can help you learn how to do all these things and more! The problem will be deciding what to do first. Every time I walk through the library, I discover something else I would love to learn about. Check out books, CDs, DVDs and the E-library for all kinds of learning opportunities!


    So join the Calgary Public Library for a 9-week summer reading adventure. Each week we're diving into a new theme: explore, play, imagine, create, live, laugh, learn, grow, and… be. Together we’ll discover new books that will keep you reading all summer. We’ll post information about the weekly theme every Wednesday here on our Readers’ Nook blog and on our Facebook page.

    When you comment on our Summer. Read. Facebook posts, telling us what books or DVDs or CDs you’ve been enjoying, you’ll be entered to win great prizes. There are weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and CPL tote bags, as well as ten grand prize Kobo eReaders! You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local library.

    Summer. Read. Week 6

    Summer. Read. Week 6

    - 3 Comment(s)

    Knock knock! Who’s there? The Calgary Public Library with books, CDs, and DVDs that will leave you in stitches!

    Don’t worry, we won’t tell if you snort while you laugh.

    So join the Calgary Public Library for a 9-week summer reading adventure. Each week we're diving into a new theme: explore, play, imagine, create, live, laugh, learn, grow, and… be. Together we’ll discover new books that will keep you reading all summer. We’ll post information about the weekly theme every Wednesday here on our Readers’ Nook blog and on our Facebook page.

    When you comment on our Summer. Read. Facebook posts, telling us what books or DVDs or CDs you’ve been enjoying, you’ll be entered to win great prizes. There are weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and CPL tote bags, as well as ten grand prize Kobo eReaders! You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local library.

    Summer. Read. Week 5

    Summer. Read. Week 5

    - 5 Comment(s)

     

    Do you have a bucket list like Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman’s characters in the 2007 film The Bucket List?

    With so many things to do and see in Calgary and around the world, I am inspired to add new items to my bucket list every time I visit the library.

         

    And there are lots of books, audiobooks, and DVDs on healthy living for me borrow, so that I can accomplish all my goals before I kick the bucket.

     

         

    So join the Calgary Public Library for a 9-week summer reading adventure. Each week we're diving into a new theme: explore, play, imagine, create, live, laugh, learn, grow, and… be. Together we’ll discover new books that will keep you reading all summer. We’ll post information about the weekly theme every Wednesday here on our Readers’ Nook blog and on our Facebook page.

    When you comment on our Summer.Read. Facebook posts, telling us what books or DVDs or CDs you’ve been enjoying, you’ll be entered to win great prizes. There are weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and CPL tote bags, as well as ten grand prize Kobo eReaders! You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local library.

    Summer. Read. Week 4

    Summer. Read. Week 4

    - 0 Comment(s)

    Create banner

    Summer is here and the time is right for… being creative! The library has books, CDs, and DVDs to help you start all your creative endeavors. In addition, Freading, our newest eBook service, has lots of great cooking, crafts & hobbies, and gardening titles! Why not challenge yourself to take better photos, make delicious preserves, or create music with your iPad this week?

    Or take a moment to appreciate the creativity of authors like David Weber, who dramatically creates the world of Safehold in his series of the same name, or Michael Crichton, who crafted compelling plotlines in which regular people struggled against unfavorable odds.

    So join the Calgary Public Library for a 9-week summer reading adventure. Each week we're diving into a new theme: explore, play, imagine, create, live, laugh, learn, grow, and… be. Together we’ll discover new books that will keep you reading all summer. We’ll post information about the weekly theme every Wednesday here on our Readers’ Nook blog and on our Facebook page. When you comment on our Summer.Read. Facebook event page, telling us what books or DVDs or CDs you’ve been enjoying, you’ll be entered to win great prizes. There are weekly prizes of leather-bound journals and CPL tote bags, as well as ten grand prize Kobo eReaders! You can also enter by filling out a paper ballot at your local library.

    Summer. Read. Week Three!

    Summer. Read. Week Three!

    - 1 Comment(s)

    Imagine


    Let your imagination run wild at the Calgary Public Library with an abundance of titles to help you kick start your brain during the dog days of summer!

    Imagine distant worlds and alien races with our extensive science fiction collection. Look at alternative histories, historical fiction and virtually any fiction title to have yourself dreaming of complex characters living in faraway places. Whether your heart’s pounding to the dystopian future put forth by Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games or you’re imagining a boy stuck on a lifeboat with a ferocious tiger in The Life of Pi, using your imagination while you read is great exercise for staying mentally sharp. Why let Peter Jackson tell you what the shire looks like in The Lord of the Rings when you can imagine it all on your own?

    So join the Calgary Public Library for a 9-week summer reading adventure. Each week we're diving into a new theme: explore, play, imagine, create, live, laugh, learn, grow and… be. Together we’ll discover new books that will keep you reading all summer. We’ll post information about the weekly theme every Wednesday here on our Readers’ Nook blog and on our Facebook page. When you comment on our Summer.Read. Facebook posts, and tell us what books or DVDs or CDs (etc!) you’ve been enjoying, you’ll also be entered to win great prizes. (CPL tote bags and Kobo Readers!) You can also enter by picking up a paper ballot at your local library.

    The Hunger Games

    Life of Pi

    SS-GB

    The Yiddish Policemen's Union

    The Hunger Games

    by Suzanne Collins

    Life of Pi

    by Yann Martel

    SS-GB

    by Len Deighton

    The Yiddish Policemen's Union

    by Michael Chabon

    Summer. Read. Week Two!

    Summer. Read. Week Two!

    - 0 Comment(s)

    Play

    Most adults think of play as something only children do, but it’s important to recognize that we all play in some way or another!

    What does play mean to you? Whether it’s throwing a frisbee to your dog, kayaking down the Bow or playing chess at the Central library downtown, playing is an important part of everyone’s life and it can provide much needed physical and mental exercise. Isn’t exercise more fun when you’re playing? The Calgary Public library has as many books about play as there are games to play, so come on in or peruse our website for a variety of options.

    Get your hands dirty and play in one of our new Encana sponsored community gardens at the Southwood and Forest Lawn libraries. If gardening is your thing, the library has hundreds of books and resources to help you plant and maintain a healthy looking garden all summer.

    Others like to play in the kitchen. Take a look at the thousands of cookbooks to suit all levels from novice to master chef.

    To some, the world is their playground, take a look at our travel collection for guidebooks and travel stories for your next “playcation”.

    So join the Calgary Public Library for a 9-week summer reading adventure. Each week we're diving into a new theme: explore, play, imagine, create, live, laugh, learn, grow and… be. Together we’ll discover new books that will keep you reading all summer. We’ll post information about the weekly theme every Wednesday here on our Readers’ Nook blog and on our Facebook page. When you comment on our Summer.Read. Facebook posts, and tell us what books or DVDs or CDs (etc!) you’ve been enjoying, you’ll also be entered to win great prizes. (CPL tote bags and Kobo Readers!) You can also enter by picking up a paper ballot at your local library.

    Basketball

    Zen Gardening

    Discover India

    Leiths Simple Cookery

    Basketball: Steps to Success

    by Hal Wissel

    Zen Gardening

    by Sunniva Harte

    Lonely Planet's: Discover India

    Leiths Simple Cookery

    by Viv Pidgeon & Jenny Stringer

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