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...