Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line

WARNING: This is a giant spoiler of the movie. 

Veronica Mars is back! She's traded in her fancypants law degree to move back to Neptune to become a private detective. It's spring break and college kids have descended like locusts, turning the quiet beachfront into a giant all-hours rave. Even after one girl goes missing, the party slows but doesn't stop. And Veronica steps in to find the missing girl, who disappeared from a house owned by a man with serious criminal ties, and ends up finding herself in more danger than she planned on.
"Ah, the twin pillars of outrage journalism: slut shaming and victim blaming." - The Thousand Dollar Tan Line 
I loved it. This is the book all the cool bloggers were blogging about a year ago. The book series launched after the movie launched by the most successful Kickstarter ever. The movie that came out 11 years after the show ended. But don't worry, if this is where you want to start your relationship with Veronica Mars, I think you'll be ok. I love Veronica Mars, but I wouldn't say it's like, my main fandom. I read it when I should have been writing papers and I definitely meant to read "just one chapter" before going back to work and then finished the last 1/4 of the book and had to stay up until 2am finishing the paper. This was the story of winter quarter. A bunch of people gave me Amazon cards for Christmas/my birthday and I spent them on books I kept meaning to read but never got from the library at just the right time.  I read so many books. It was glorious. (Speaking of which, I do still have the second book on hold at the library right...? I do. Oh good. OMG I have 21/25 digital holds*...Why can I only have 25 holds?? It's not like I get to read them! I'm like 128th in line on some of them! This is a great injustice.)

Back to the "cool bloggers"...is that a thing? I think vloggers are the in thing. I keep being like, "yeah, I should make a vlog..." and then I realize that I can't do that in my pajamas while my roommates are sleeping. I tried once, to make a vlog post, and realized that the lighting everywhere in my house was the worst. Because it was 10pm and that's when I work best. Maybe one day I will try again. But then I'd have to shower, and do my hair, and makeup, and find a physical version of the book instead of my kindle. Just thinking about it makes me want to run away from my responsibilities. Which reminds me, I should probably go running. But I've been sick and I can't tell if it would make me feel better or worse. But I have a 5k in a week so I should probably go...ughhhhh.

Monday, May 4, 2015

One Plus One

Jess is a single mom who's husband has run off and left her with his teenage son, who spends all of his time in his room and comes home beaten up more often then not, and their daughter, a genius. Jess works as a bartender and a maid to make ends meet. Ed is a rich tech guru who just got busted for fraud. When Jess's daughter gets the opportunity to compete in a math contest that would give the family the money to send her to a better school, Jess will do anything to get her there.

Incidentally "anything" means taking a wad of cash Ed dropped when she drove him home from a binge at the bar she works at. And trying to drive her ex-husband's ancient car on a road trip. Which breaks down. And guess who picks her up? And decides, against all reason, to help the family get to the competition? Ed.

I devoured this book. It is the perfect love story. A book you read and go, "that's it, I'm reading only this author forever and no one else."

But...the next book I read from her was a whole different story...

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Fairest (4) Marissa Meyer

This is the fourth published book in the Lunar Chronicles series. The Lunar Chronicles is a delightful Sci Fi/Fantasy series taking beloved fairy tale characters and making them more badass. Cinder, the first book, is Cinderella-esque (ball and all!) but Cinder is a cyborg. I can't explain this series without making it sound ridiculous but I swear everyone I've talked into reading it has loved it. It's for the Once Upon a Time crowd more than the Game of Thrones crowd, it's lighter than Hunger Games and definitely leans on the prince/princess love stories. 

Fairest is the prequel to the existing series, where we see the origin story of the series' spooky villain Queen Levana. Winter, the fourth book in the actual series was supposed to be published in January, and instead we got Fairest. The book that nobody wanted. It's like the forth book of Game of Thrones* when we have to constantly listen to Cercei, and I almost quit the series. And I love this series. It's my new Harry Potter. Well, no, it isn't. But I need something to look forward to in my life, and Winds of Winter isn't going to be published ever.** 

Except it isn't actually. It's so dark and creepy and I couldn't put it down and begged my friend to read it so I could talk to her because I needed to talk about it with somebody. I think I gained a lot of respect for Marissa Meyer. I was worried she was more of a Stephanie Meyer and would name characters Renessme or some crap, but no! She can write a villain's story and you can understand her, and empathize with her, and still think she's scary and awful and hope Cinder and the rest of the original characters can defeat her. But maybe not too mercilessly because now you can see how damaged she is.  

Now I want to go back and re-read the series, but I can't quite bring myself to since I still need to finish The Bone Clocks (Day 77 and counting...). BUT GUESS WHAT?! As of this post, I have caught up! With this post. Which is adorable to look at. Oh, precious, you're 13 books behind? That's cute. Since I posted that I read 20 more books. TWENTY. And that's not even counting the daily doses of children's picture books I read. So what will I finish first? 20 blog posts or The Bone Clocks? Stay tuned...

PS Winter will be out in November and Facebook is already showing me adds for it. Facebook knows me too well. 

*Yes, it's called A Song of Ice and Fire but everyone knows it as Game of Thrones and I try not to sound as pretentious as I actually am. 
** Maybe 2017? GRRM stopped writing the show so he could work on it but I don't trust him. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Goldfinch

 I don't even know where to start with this book. It's 771 pages of crazy. Of hope in between despair and love and friendship and most of all, a painting. We start in New York, with thirteen-year-old Theo Decker. His life is changed, he accidentally steals a super famous painting, and then he roams from home to home and grows up a bit broken.

I can't do this book justice. If you read literary fiction, it won a Pulitzer and if that's your cup of tea, you've probably already read it. If teas not really your thing, this would be a good book to start with. It's long, it's dark, but it certainly keeps you on your toes.
"...if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don't think, 'oh, I love this picture because it's universal.' 'I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.' That's not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It's a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you." - The Goldfinch
Honestly, this is another one of those books. The mammoth ones that span decades of time. Just when I decide I'm really rooting for Theo and the way his world is working, something new happens, and we jump several years forward. And them I'm like, "ew. I don't know who you are anymore or what you're doing and why should I care?" It's like starting a whole new book. So I go read a nice small bestseller that I can devour in a couple hours. And then after a few weeks, I come back and try and figure out what's going on in the book.

How am I going to teach children how to read and be real adult readers one day if it I read only two books of merit a year and 100 books that are as worthwhile as Cosmo magazine? This is when I have to go back to my new Bible, The Book Whisperer, where Donalyn Miller reminds me that, yes, we adult readers have bad habits. We abandon books or get distracted and read other books, and that's ok. I mean, it's not perfect. But it's ok to admit to your students that we all do this. You can be a reader, a good reader, a master reader, and still sometimes get caught staying up all night reading some page-turner drivel that will be turned into a movie that everyone will forget about in five years. That's ok.

And maybe at 27, I'm still growing as a reader. And maybe that's ok too. I don't have to have all of the answers to teach elementary school. Maybe the most important lesson is that no one has all the answers, it's ok to ask for help, and all of us are still learning.

One day I will read a massive tome of literary fiction without disappearing for weeks at a time into bestsellers. Maybe in my 30s. Maybe after that year I finally get off my butt and run a marathon. But today is not that day. (She says, writing blog post after blog post instead of finishing The Bone Clocks. pg 284 of 624. Day 76 of currently reading.)

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (5)

Junior lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation with his family. He goes to the school on the rez. He's friends with other boys on the rez. Until his teacher tells him he deserves so much more, and he transfers to the all-white farm town high school. Sometimes, when gas money runs out, he walks all the way to school.

from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Based in part on Sherman Alexie's own experiences, this a funny and beautifully written book boiling with anger at the continued racism and inequality that exists today. It's an honest look at the world without being entirely jaded. 

"But in Reardan, my coach and the other players wanted me to be good. They needed me to be good. And so I became good. I wanted to live up to expectations. I guess that's what it comes down to. The power of expectations." - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 

This is my mantra for life, and especially for teaching. Over and over again the books talk about high expectations and part of me is like "well, isn't that obvious?" It's nice when the research backs up what you've always known to be true. If you set the bar low because you think kids are lazy or don't care, they'll meet that expectation. But if you raise that bar and help them climb up your tower of high expectations, giving them the support they need to reach that level, they'll meet those expectations. I hope I always stay this idealistic, and don't let the standardized tests get me down...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Terrible and Wonderful Reason Why I Run Long Distances

There are lots of reasons to run: to lose weight, to relieve stress, to escape danger...
Matt Iman runs to beat the blerch. The blerch is a fat little cherub full of all the delicious sweets and junk food that you want to eat while sitting on the couch marathoning Netflix. Matt Iman used to be chubby, but now he runs ultra marathons. The blerch is all that he used to be, and he imagines it chasing him as he runs. And he runs to seek Nirvana but I like to ignore that and look at his successful, lazy pieces and really take those to heart...

The problem with books like this is I take in all the gluttony and laziness and don't do the actual marathoning. I just think I'll be ok because lots of people are successful and lazy....

But I did run the Beat the Blerch 10k in 2014 (before I read this book). AND I'M GONNA DO IT AGAIN THIS YEAR!! Woo!!! So maybe it did inspire me a little. I'm running a bit faster, but certainly not "fast."

ok "ran" might be a strong word choice...
we came in at just under 1:30:00

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Station Eleven

So, if you've read other posts of mine you may know that I tend to read books without actually knowing what the book is going to be about. Sometimes this goes well, and sometimes it goes really badly, like when I thought 50 Shades of Grey was about a werewolf. For this book, it went well, but it was weird. I knew it was about a troupe of actors. And it starts out during a swanky production of King Lear when a famous actor collapses while playing the titular role. And then the apocalypse happens. And I was like, "whoah I didn't see that coming," because I thought it was going to be normal theatre drama not actors meet the cast of Revolution. The book jumps around between pre-apocalypse and fifteen-years after, following the collapsed actor's wife, a young actress that had worked with him, and the doctor that rushed on stage to help him when he collapsed.

I have to say, I love books like this. not necessarily the post-apocalyptic whatever, but the non-linear mashing up of characters with different timelines, playing with how they intersect. It was fun. I could have done with more theatre and less apocalypse, but I think that was more my fault than the books...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Fault in Our Stars

Oh my god, this book. I mean if you haven't heard of this book, I don't know what rock you've been hiding under because it's definitely a movie. It's not even cool anymore it was so big so long ago. But ok, let's pretend you don't know what this book is about. Hazel was diagnosed  with terminal cancer awhile ago. She's a ticking time bomb and tries to guard those she can from liking her so that they won't be hurt when her inevitable end comes. Her parents can't be helped, but no one else. But Augustus Walters has other plans. They meet at a cancer kid support group, and Augustus breaks through Hazel's shell.

You'd think, given that story, that this would be some sort of whiny YA drivel, but it is so not. This is YA because it's about teenagers but they are real and wonderful and the book is so beautiful. I read this book near the end of summer. I stayed up till some ungodly hour of the morning finishing a big assignment for my correspondence course and then was so hyped up on stress and red bull I couldn't sleep. So I read the second half of this book and cried myself to sleep. This is how I deal with stress.

Speaking of which, it's the season where people are announcing that they got into grad school and half of me is like

and half of me is like

"IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO SAY NO! Turn back before it's too late!!!" Winter quarter was really rough and I think I'm still recovering. And now I'm an intern which is it's own special type of stress because I'm never quite sure what my cooperating teacher is thinking or what I'm really supposed to be doing. But I feel like I should.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Valley of Amazement (4), Amy Tan

This is another audiobook that I listened to to fall asleep after a long, stressful day of grad school. That being said, I don't know that I have a lot of profound thoughts about this book. This book is a beautiful tapestry of life in Shanghai courtesan houses, a remote Chinese mountain village, and nineteenth-century San Francisco. It is a tale of mothers and daughters, of loss, and ultimately, of love. It's a little sexy, a little tear jerk-y, a little

Yep. Go read it if you're into pretty, expansive historical fiction. It was one of those books I listened to over the course of a couple months, falling asleep pretty easily a half hour at a time...until I got to the end and was like "ugh why does the narrator sound so annoying if I try to speed it up? I need to know what happens!"

But it's definitely one of those books that if you want to throw across the room. Like the time Umbridge locked up Harry Potter's broomstick in Order of the Pheonix.

Oh the feels...

...How did I link Amy Tan with Harry Potter? Because Harry Potter is the most universal way to describe feelings and if you don't know what I'm talking about...

Speaking of which, our landlord came over to sign some paperwork because we're getting another roommate, who also came with a cat, so now my house has TWO CATS. The point of this segue is that my cat is named Hermione, which the landlord thought was cool, he was all, "I could be friends with you guys." Which, if he was not my landlord I would totally be cool with. I then muttered, "her name is actually Princess Hermione Everdeen...so...you can see how seriously I take my life," or something like that. To which he replied, "I love all those movies." And I smiled back, because I am a good person. But inside I was screaming, "THEY ARE BOOKS, SIR! BOOKS!"

Hermione trying to hide.
At 1 year old, Hermione is not taking after her namesake. Maybe by 11?

And at this point I would like to add that I somehow have friends, but I'm aware you probably think this is a lie. In this post I have talked more about Harry Potter and my cat than the actual, beautiful, book I read.

Most of my friends DO like Harry Potter. And cats.

I swear my friends are real, human people. I swear. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Girl with All the Gifts (4), M. R. Carey

Update: You guys! I finally did the .2 second google search to figure out how to add a spoiler button. Welcome to 2015, blog. Or 2000. Whatever. I am awkwardly slogging through my backlog of books that I never wrote blog posts about because I'm reading a really "good" book that is too long ("good" = beautiful/intriguing/incapable of holding my attention with the surplus of shiny unicorns surrounding my tiny brain). So things may be minimalist for awhile. 

ALSO: Apologies to the 10-12 people who have been clicking on my blog post when it comes up for the last TWO MONTHS. I like to believe its the same 10 people who desperately crave my book reviews, who click each time. To you ten, I apologize. I thought if I scheduled a post for every week it would mean that I would actually write the posts, at last. Instead I wrote papers. Lots of papers. I also read lots of books. So I still had a couple weeks of empty blog posts when I stopped it today. And I read like 20 more books. The Stack of blog posts is looking as insurmountable as The Stack of to read books I have on my shelf. 
Today, I am recovered and may write more posts. I may also do the things I should be doing, the jury's still out on that one. If I ever catch up it will be a Christmas miracle. I assume, if it happens, it will be around Christmas time. 

I got really excited about this book when I stumbled upon it on Goodreads and read the entire 5+ chapters excerpt in one sitting. But then I didn't buy the book for awhile because I was poor and in the middle of eight books and I think I was in finals.

Melanie is the brightest girl in her class. Every day soldiers come to her room to escort her to her classroom. Some days her teacher is one person, some days another. The best days are the Miss. Justineau days.

It's more fun if you discover what this book is about as you read it, but if you're not that kind of person, I will talk more about what's going on at the end of this post. So skip that if you want to read the book with a fresh outlook.

Click below if you want the first couple chapters of the book spoiled for you. It's more fun if you don't know...

Melanie and the other children are zombies. They are locked into wheelchairs so they cannot attack the humans. They shower in chemicals and eat maggots once a week. The humans that work with them get sprayed down with chemicals to block their scent so the zombie children don't want to attack them

Reading this book from a self-aware zombie's perspective was fascinating. Having a zombie/human student/teacher relationship to discuss the love we have for each other was so great. I devoured this book.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Pretentiousness, Thy Name is Me (Or, Why I Don't Like Orange is the New Black, the TV Show)

Pretentiousness, Thy Name is Me 
Or, Why I Don't Like Orange is the New Black, the TV Show

Has anyone actually read Orange is the New Black and still like the Netflix show? Ok, better question, has anyone read the memoir? No? Just me? Ok well they are both about a blonde woman named Piper who delivered a suitcase full of drug money for her girlfriend Nora. Ten years later Nora turns her in and Piper ends up in jail.

Here's a problem I have. I listened to this on an audiobook and talked to someone who read the book and watched the show and while I said that an episode one plot point did not happen in the book, she argued that it absolutely had happened. I'm not sure that my listening skills were top notch while I listened to this book, so take that grain of salt and read my opinion.

The major theme I took away form the memoir was how normal everyone was, how boring prison (jail?) was, and I questioned the needs of  those in prison and how well those needs are being met.

For example, going into this book I thought "oh, white collar prison is not so bad. They have cable! They have everything!"
But the beauty of Orange is the New Black (the book) is that you see the agony of boredom and the beauty of the community that is created by the women of the prison. I felt like Piper made friends and while bad things happened, people generally looked after each other.
But maybe I spaced out while running and wasn't listening during the bad parts.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Doll Bones (5), Holly Black

Zach loves two things: playing basketball and playing in an imaginary world he has created with his two best friends Poppy and Alice. Using dolls and action figures, this game has developed into an epic story, full of complex characters, plot twists, and the Queen, an antique porcelain doll Poppy's mother keeps locked in a glass case.

Zach's father, on the other hand, thinks that Zach is too old to play with dolls. After an argument with is father, Zach decides his only course of action will be to tell the girls that he no longer wants to play the game with them. Then, Poppy informs him that the Queen came to him in a dream and told her that she is the spirit of a murdered girl, whose bones were ground up and put in this doll. Now all three of them are cursed unless lay the doll, and the dead girl's remains, to rest in the girl's hometown. The final chapter of their game begins as Zach, Poppy, and Alice embark on an adventure to lay the Queen to rest.

Author Holly Black, cocreator of The Spiderwick Chronicles, weaves a magnificent story melding the real, the gothic, and the paranormal. This is a wonderful book about growing up meant for 10 to 14-year old readers. It walks the line between the fantasy and innocence of childhood and the cynicism and reality of adolescence to tell a story so specific but universal. When do we have to leave the toys of our youth behind? As an adult, and an educator, I raged against the father who wouldn't understand his sons relationship with his friends and the creativity involved in their game.

I read this book in the middle of summer and actually had to put it down at one point because I was a little creeped out. I mean, it was 1am and I should have been asleep anyway but still. I'm trying to read more middle reader books so that I have some idea about what the kid's are reading when I am teaching next year. I was inspired by Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer last year as I was working on my grad school applications, and in my dream world I would be able to craft my Language Arts curriculum based on some of her ideas. Now, being in my second quarter of grad school and actually studying Literacy and curriculum development, it seems like a dream world but also a movement that schools are working towards. Most of the schools that I have been in have developed programs around student's reading a lot of books. What was special about Miller's curriculum was that she gave the students time to talk to each other about the books that they are reading and have loved. As a voracious reader, this feels like the missing piece in many schools. Yes, obviously we need to teach children how to read, but its also important to help them find joy in reading to create lifelong readers.

Wow, that was a long soapbox rant wasn't it? And I just promised you all I'd write shorter posts. *sigh* the lies I tell myself.

Grown Up Gothic
Let's Talk Love Story
More MR fantasy
lighter MR

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2015: All the Books, None of the Time

Have you ever fallen so very, very far behind that you realize you will never catch up? And you get really, really stressed out and want to curl up in a ball in your bed and...read a book? 

I have read six books since my last post.

I was seven books behind at that point. 

And people keep handing me books. Lovely, lovely people who say, "you like reading. Here, read this thing. I loved this thing. I think you'll like it," and half of me says, "WOW, you are so wonderful! I DO love books, and I do love YOU and I'm sure this will be fantastic!" while the other, saner, less nice half of me goes, "NO THANK YOU. I love you BUT I have a to read list that is literally a mile long and I don't think I will ever read this book." 

I have so many, many books I want to tell you about. And so many homework assignments I should be writing instead. And as much as I dearly love procrastinating, I just can't bring myself to write other things when I have such important items I actually need to write. 

But I so desperately want to tell you about some of these books I've been reading. So I might start posting some very short posts. 
For now, I will leave you with this oh-so-delightfully depressing thing I found on Pinterest.