mysecondcupofcoffee


Next On My List? – Part 1

What should I read next?

I know this questions isn’t as deep as, say, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?,” but it’s a conundrum that has plagued readers since Gutenberg’s press spat more than just the Bible. The problem isn’t that it’s hard to come up with an answer; the problem is that there are SO MANY answers.

I received this text this morning:

It took me forever because of school stuff, but I finally finished “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” Once I got to the second half, it was hard to put down. Is there another book I should read?

As I have a deep love for this question, especially when it is asked by a high school senior, I responded immediately. In hopes of narrowing down the options, however, I asked the questioner a few preferences.

Romance?
Yes

Mystery?
No

Literary Classic?
Yes

These responses, alas, still left me hundreds of options. I quickly began to jot down the books that popped into my mind. The original list had well over 20 books (which I was reasonably proud of considering it took me less than 5 minutes), but I whittled it down to these current top picks.

Wuthering Heights
The classic love story of Heathcliff and Catherine. I’m never quite sure whom to love in this tale. It’s a classic, with a sad twist, and a tormented ending.

Farewell to Arms
The love story of Fredric and Catherine (yup, another one). The dry humor is a delightful backdrop to the war the story is set in. It’s a classic, with a sad twist, and a tormented ending.

The Great Gatsby
The love story of Gatsby and Daisy, and fast cars, parties, and swimming pools. It’s a classic, with a sad twist, and a tormented ending.

The Scarlet Letter
Hester Prynne’s journey to turn old-school Boston on its head as she blew stereotypes out of the water (OR: How red thread changed a women’s life and killed a man). It’s a classic, with a sad twist, and a tormented ending.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
“Fred” and Holly Golightly take on New York (sort of). Capote answers the questions: What is an American Geisha? I think a part (no matter how small) of every women wants live in Holly’s shoes. It’s a classic, with a sad twist, and a tormented ending.

Did you notice a theme? Surprisingly enough, I love all these books save one. Bet you can’t guess which one!

As I was composing this post, I received the following text:

Book recommendations? (Yup, twice in one day! I could have hugged my sis-in-law when she texted me this!)

Quite giddy with excitement, I responded…

Genre? Classic or modern?

Response…

All of the above!

…Challenge accepted! My top picks at the moment are…

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
22 essays and the full spectrum of human emotions. Clever, witty, and charming.

Lamb
The life of Jesus as told by his best friend (and hell of a sinner), Biff. This is a DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER moment, if I ever saw one.

Perks of Being a Wallflower
Letters, all letters. But poignant and powerful in the way a teenager is honest and real and raw.

Wild
Hike a trail, find yourself. It’s an emotional workout hiking everyday with the author, but the end is worth the journey.

Fight Club
The first rule of Fight Club is…. This must be the first Chuck Palahniuk book you read. Why? Don’t ask questions; just do it! No really, it’s a great book and an incredibly clever writing style. I appreciate how you can almost step into Chuck’s mind.

And Then There Were None
Possibly my favorite murder mystery. Agatha is a genius… and everyone dies. Whodunit?!

The Host
(Sigh) It pains me a bit to add this to the list (just because I have issues with the author), but it’s the best book Ms. Stephanie wrote and if you want something light, this isn’t a bad weekend read. It’s pretty clever, actually.

So there you have it. This concludes
Part 1 of Next On My List?. 
Tune in next time for a new batch of books!

On a side note, if you want to check out my thoughts on book censorship, click here.


Book vs Movie: The Age-Old Question

Don’t judge a book by its movie.
J.W. Eagan

Eagan is right, you know. You shouldn’t judge a book by its movie, but the same is true in reverse as well. Movies are constantly judged by their book. Before you get your literary panties in a twist, let me be the first to say that the lack of Peeves in the HP movies broke my gosh-dang heart and I berated the director’s lack of foresight. BUT, that oversight doesn’t mean I hate the movies and refuse to watch them. In fact, I love the movies.

Let me explain.

Movies can be brilliant. Books can be brilliant. If movie-watching-readers (like me!) can just learn to separate one from the other, the world would be a happier place. Am I right or am I right?

Accept the fact that screaming “that wasn’t in the books!” doesn’t diminish the pain you felt when Dobby died. I mean, the complete removal of a brilliant character like Glorfindel doesn’t negate the power of Aragorn screaming “but today is not that day!,” does it? Of course not!

See what I mean? Accept the movies and the books of fandoms as two sides of the same coin. Acceptance is the first step to recovery…


Rickering

Rickering (click to watch the video!)

While scheduling/posting tweets, I stumbled across this gem of a video. It includes a Robin Williams/Kim Kardashian look-alike contest and a clip near the end about the new craze hitting the Trekkie world… #Rickering.


An Ode to Java

Oh bitter liquid that starts my day,
How lovely and smooth you are.
A dash of cream, you billow steam,
I drink you in the car.

Oh brown beverage that keeps me sane,
How tempting and rich you remain.
You fill my cup; you wake me up,
I would drink you on a train.

Oh addictive drink that has me enthralled,
Your absence hurts my head.
You have my soul; I’m out of control,
I guess I’ll stop when I’m dead.

Check out my Confessions of a Coffee Addict.


Confessions of a Coffee Addict

Hi, my name is Lynette Fager and I’m a coffee addict. I feel like I should be sitting on a folding chair positioned in a circle amidst others with this same affliction. I didn’t even realize I had a problem until a few weekends ago when I went 72 hours without coffee. I was at a retreat and without access to a coffee pot or Starbucks. If you are a multiple-cups-a-day kind of person (like me), you know this was a challenging.

As hard as it was, however, it was also eye opening. When that withdrawal headache kicked in at hour 18 or so, I chalked it up to the weird weather and lack of sleep. But when it stuck around for hours, not as a full-blown, cranium-splitting headache, but rather as a dull, mind-numbing annoyance, I knew there was more to this headache than I wanted to admit.

I tend to drink coffee like its part of my job (and it was part of my job for years when I was a barista!). I’m one of those individuals who realizes simultaneously that it’s noon and that I have consumed four (or five or six…) cups of coffee already. This, I have deduced, is the problem: I drink it without thinking about it.

Though I’m sure there are worse things to which I could be addicted (crystal meth comes to mind), I don’t care for the idea that a substance can affect me like this. So, I have decided to confront my addiction. I’m not excited about it, but confront it I shall! I will keep better track of my cups of coffee throughout the day and I shall order a grande, not a venti, when I hit up Starbucks for my fix. Will I remove coffee completely from my life? Oh, heck no; it’s far too tasty for that! But will I master the hold that it has on me, yes indeed. It will be a challenge, but I think I’m up to it!

FYI: It’s 10:30 a.m. as I write this and I’m only on cup number two. That’s not a bad start, right?


Yippee-Ki-Yay-Mother-Russia

I went into “A Good Day to Die Hard” with low expectations, I admit. I exited the theater, however, feeling pleasantly surprised. I appreciate when a movie can make fun of itself and when a franchise understands that it is time to move on. As this movie had decent acting, lots of explosions, a reasonably good plot, and was self aware, I give it a B-.

Don’t go into this movie expecting to have you mind blown and you will leave with a smile on your face. There were some plot twists along the way, but the gist of this short film was, in my opinion, to keep the franchise alive by passing the torch. Bruce Willis is getting up there in years and though he is a damn fine action actor, I think the powers that be made it pretty clear that he is passing the Die Hard torch to his son, John McClain, Jr. (also known as Jack and played by Jai Courtney).

No spoiler warnings for this review, just a thought to parents: Don’t underestimate your kids. It could bite you… or not.

To sum up: If you’re loaded – see it in theaters, explosions are better on the big screen. If your broke, this movie can definitly wait until it hits RedBox.


Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

I’m a fan of taking an old story and making it new again, assuming, of course, that the remake (and retake) is done well. That being said, I award Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters a B on my movie rating scale.

Though a bit more gory than expected (a troll stepping on a dude’s head, another dude exploding from an excess of maggot ingestion, dudettes flying through razor wire … you get the idea), it had a pretty impressive story line considering its youthful origin. Based on the classic fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel, this film took that basic plot and elaborated a bit. Instead of living happily ever after, the brother/sister team that cooked the witch that tried to eat them spends their life getting back at witches in general. But, is there a moral to the story? Yes, there is (because every good fairy tale has a moral). H&G learn that not all witches are bad. Who knew?! Oh and *SPOILER ALERT* Gretel finds out that she has a lot in common with their prey.

*SPOILER ALERT* and train of thought continued: The good witch/bad witch thing wasn’t a bad concept, but there was very little resolution to it. So Gretel is a good witch? Or isn’t she? Does she just have the blood of a good witch in her (since she is female) or does she actually use her witchy ways? So many unanswered questions…

So, we have a badass bro/sis team of witch hunters, enough action to be getting on with, and a decent plot… where’s the bad? I don’t know if I would call it bad, but, hmmm, how shall I phrase this: Mind the surprise nudity! I’m not a prude, but it was a bit random.

On the acting front: I’m a fan of Jeremy Renner (Hansel), and Gemma Arterton (Gretel) was a nice surprise considering she had to keep up with Hawkeye/the new Jason Bourne. Their relationship, however, wasn’t incredibly well developed. You just see snippets of how much they care about each other. This unsettled relationship bothered me at times and then I reminded myself that this is an action movie and I felt better. I also had to remind myself that this movie isn’t about well-developed and complex characters; it’s about a team of witch hunters. It’s a frickin’ cool profession, so I am willing to forgive this character-complexity oversight.

On a more random note, thanks to a massive ingestion of candy at the hand of the mean ol’ witch that tries to eat them in their youth, Hansel has diabetes. They don’t call it that in the movie, but in my mind it was a pretty obvious allusion to it. Am I wrong? Personally, I felt that this was a random addition to the plot, but not a necessary one. The only time it comes into play is in the last fight scene and even then, it’s so minimal you could skip over it without a thought.

To sum up, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is a good one. If you have the extra cash, check it out in theaters. Gore is always better in theaters (as is Jeremy Renner). If you don’t have the extra dough, don’t sweat it. Redbox will suit this one just fine.

Oh, keep an eye out for the films most lovable character, Edward, who is far smarter than anyone gives him credit for since he sees Gretel for what she truly is long before most of the audience does.

Click here for a cool H&G fairy tale sketch.


You Drive Me Crazy

My unofficial thoughts on the quirks in marriage and Britney Spears.

Opposites attract. So do magnets. That’s why my husband, Josh, and I are a good match. Not because we are magnets, but because we are opposites. I could explain all sorts of ways in which we are opposite, but I’d rather explore a few of the little things in marriage that can drive you crazy. How does this relate to our oppositeness? Well, those little things that drive you crazy in a relationship are typically rooted in opposite ways of doing things and living life. Pretty simple, eh?

Example #1:
My husband isn’t bothered with a burning need to put things in their proper place. He walks in the door and leaves his shoes right next to the coat closet (where the shoes belong). He walks two steps past the door and deposits his coat on the back of a chair instead of hanging it in the coat closet that he just walked by. He takes two more steps and leaves his keys on the table instead of the hook by the door … you get the idea. This drives me crazy. I’m much more of a put-it-away-as-you-go kind of person.

Example #2:
On the flip side of crazy, I have never understood the point of carefully rolling toothpaste from the bottom of the tube to the top as you use it. I simply squeeze toothpaste onto my toothbrush and continue in this pattern until the tube is almost empty and then I start squeezing from the bottom of the tube to maximize my toothpaste investment. This drives Josh crazy. He is all about the careful process of rolling the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube for the duration of that particular tube.

Example #3:
I have heard of other marriage misdemeanors involving such weapons as a roll of toilet paper. The couple in question has an ongoing battle of wills. The husband is of the opinion that the toilet paper should roll from the top and the wife is insistent that the paper should be pulled from the bottom. Last I heard this war was still raging. Happily, Josh and I are both of the opinion that toilet paper should be rolled from the top.

So what is the moral to this tale? There isn’t one. These are merely amusing anecdotes about the little glitches that can either stress or strengthen a relationship.

Oh, and there were no thoughts on Britney Spears. I just wanted to use the amusing title.


I Am (Super)Woman

Here me roar… Meooooowwwww!

There are moments when I am supremely proud to be a woman. To be honest, I’m typically very proud to be a woman (though that span of time every 28 days blows), but during the Superbowl halftime show, Beyonce made the power of females come alive.

Superbowl halftime shows have become an ongoing competition for the best pyrotechnics and staging. The past two years have been, in my oh-so-humble opinion, a step in that direction. The past two shows (Madonna and Beyonce) have had awesome staging and costumes and all that jazz, but they have showcased powerful women doing powerful things. Madonna walked up to the door of power, Beyonce marched right through it in black leather stilettos.

I’m not a feminist in the most liberal sense of the word, but I do appreciate when women take a step forward and show the world yet again that we are here and we will be heard on our own terms, not speaking in a basso profondo, but rather in a resonate and clear female sound.

That is why a stage filled with women was appealing. Women playing a (literally) flaming guitar. Women playing drums. Women dancing. Woman in silhouette created the configuration of the stage for Pricilla’s sake! It was a halftime show that wasn’t about having sex on stage, it was about the power and might of women.

I was proud.

Did I like that she was dressed in what a friend described as “scraps of leather and lace” …? I was neither pleased nor saddened. Beyonce is a hottie. But it is more than that; she is the embodiment of the song “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” She isn’t a size two, but she is an hourglass… all curves and muscle. While typically superstars add “body issues” to my list of insecurities, Beyonce doesn’t. In fact, she makes me a bit proud of my figure… funny how that works.

So to sum up: Well played, Beyonce, well played.


Rebecca

Did you ever want something really badly, but you couldn’t conclusively explain why? I have. Maybe you can relate to my tale, maybe you can’t. Either way, I was amazed at the memories (and emotions) a doll could invoke in a 26-year-old’s psyche. Poetic, I know. This is my tale (and my attempt to conclusively explain)…

When I was little, I desperately wanted an American Girl doll. I read through the magazines and I admired the dolls of my friends. Yes, I had dolls of my own (and a slightly unhealthy admiration for Barbies) but there was something about the American Girl Dolls that I longed for. I didn’t realize it then, but I understand it now: I wanted to be a part of her (their) story.

I remember when Addy was released in 1993. She was my instant favorite. I was 6 years old and completely enamored by her. I poured over her books whenever I could get my hands on them. There was something about her life that seemed epic to a 6 year old (and there was something to the fact that she looked different than my other dolls). I didn’t understand at the time that she was a runaway slave and that she, along with her mother, were in search of freedom and the rest of their family. I just knew that her life was constantly changing and that she part of an adventure that I couldn’t possibly emulate, no matter how much I wanted to.

But Addy wasn’t my only American Girl Doll dream, she was just the only one I remember anticipating. There were other stories that I read that planted themselves in my young and impressionable mind and grew in my imagination.

I remember Felicity (released in 1991), the spunky colonial girl growing up as America is on the brink of the Revolutionary War. Looking back, I understand that I was drawn to her free spirit and tomboyish nature (I had a bit of both myself), but when I was young, I just thought she was wild. She rode horses and, instead of learning to be a proper gentlewoman, she went off on adventures. She was who I wanted to be when I was tired of being “good.”

I remember Samantha (released in 1986). Samantha was a rags to riches story (in my childlike mind). She was an orphan but her grandmother (and guardian) was rich and I couldn’t imagine a better way to grow up when I was young. I also desperately wanted a nickname and Samantha had one… Sam. She lived in the early 1900s. She lived in a world that was constantly changing; she was a part of the change and yet, she knew her place in it. She was the one that I wanted to be when I fantasized about a proper, high-class, urban life.

And to round off my list of favorite American Girl Dolls, there was Kirsten (also released in 1986). When I was little, I called her Kristen because I didn’t know any better, but she was special because she reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the real live person whose life I wanted to emulate (until I caught on that she had to use an outhouse and even then, I might have been persuaded). Every day for Kirsten was a challenge and a surprise because she was from “somewhere else” (that’s how my child’s mind  thought of it… she was from Sweden). She was part of the pioneer fantasy that I equated to discovery, wide open spaces, and freedom.

Every American Girl story was so different and I desperately wanted to be part of them all. Well, really only the ones I just mentioned. The only other one I knew and liked when I was a child was Molly and she reminded me of my sister because she had glasses. That was the only similarity, but I was a kid and didn’t know any better. I would fantasize about their worlds and lives. I would wish and pretend to be there.

Even at that young age, I remember feeling acutely the emotions of Addy’s journey as if I was running to Philadelphia with her and her mother. Their stories left a deep impression on my child mind. But somehow, I suppressed their impact as I grew. I attached myself to the Barbie world and left the history and stories of these dolls behind. It wasn’t until I was much older (almost 20 years older) that I realized how much those dolls had meant to my childhood imagination.

It was when I went the house of a dear friend and saw her American Girl doll sitting in a place of honor on her shelf even though my friend hadn’t played with her in many years (she is my age, after all) that I realized that that longing to be a part of the American Girl story was still there.

Call it silly, but I felt as though I had missed out. I felt as though my imagination had been hampered and that, somehow, this missing part of my childhood had impacted my adult life.

Then a gift came from my dear friend… something I never expected. In a small box, just a bit talled and slightly thinner than a pop can, lay my very own American Girl Doll (Did you know they made mini-American Girl Dolls? I didn’t!), a new one whose story I didn’t yet know. Her name is Rebecca Rubin and she is a 9-year-old girl living on the Lower East Side in 1914 with her Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, siblings and a grandmother known only as Bubbie.

It wasn’t until I took her out of her box and admired her historically accurate clothing and pretty face that I remembered the stories of Addy, Felicity, Samantha, and Kirsten. It wasn’t until I started to read Rebecca’s story that I realized how deeply rooted my memories of those other childhood friends were. And as I began to re-read their stories (thank you Google), the memories of why I love them so much welled back up inside me. It is really only as I write this blog that I have put words to my childhood imagination and even now, it makes my heart simultaneously smile and hurt.

Thank you dear friend, you know who you are, for re-opening a long shut door to my childhood. You didn’t know that’s what you were doing, I’m sure, but that’s what you did and sentimental me feels that you need to know how much that simple act meant to someone still searching for her own story.