Sunday Post: Alone Time Please

The Sunday Post hosted by the Caffeinated Reader is an opportunity to share with the blogging community what bookish things are happening in our world. So what have I been doing?

theminiaturistReading | I finished The Miniaturist, and to be honest, I can not wrap my mind around my feelings on it. I read it, I enjoyed reading it, some of the intricacies of the story were truly intriguing, and yet I was very underwhelmed throughout, as if constantly waiting for something to happen which would tie it all together. Hopefully I’ll work it all out and then get a review together soon. I’ve pretty much given up on Miss Timmins School for Girls, as in I haven’t read a word of it in weeks, so we’ll see if I pick it up again.

Listening |I’ve been loving podcasts so very, very much for the last year, that I decided, on a whim really, to join Audible. For my first book, I figured I’d play it safe and get a book narrated by a podcaster I enjoyed, so I started listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. It’s exactly like listening to his podcasts, so I am loving it.

Blogging |Last week, I posted reviews of Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation and V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. This week I have a review for Seraphina and Shadowscale finally going up after three months of putting it off – not due to a lack of enjoyment. I just couldn’t figure out what to say. I’m not sure what else will be going up as I haven’t had time to write any other advance posts. 🙂

alonetimeWorking | Work has been a whirlwind these past two weeks between the TYCA conference and then meeting after meeting after meeting. I am involved in a bunch of projects which is a love-hate relationship for me. I truly enjoy the work; I love the idea of continuous quality improvement; and I’m excited about these projects. Simultaneously, the time these projects is added on top of my normal workload which is a full-time job in and of itself. Also, it means way less alone time in my life overall which is rather stressful for me. I feel like I haven’t had time to recharge as I haven’t been alone for about 13 days now.

Anticipating | I have big dreams of at least one afternoon, possibly Wednesday, where I will have approximately three hours between leaving work and having to pick up my kids. Three blissful hours of alone time where I am determined to not grade anything, clean anything, or even answer a phone call. I may just sit in silence and quite literally do nothing.



Girl in Translation

girlintranslationGirl in Translation by Jean Kwok was the One Division, One Book read for the Spring 2019 semester where I work. Basically, that means we were encouraged to assign the text in our classes and we held events around the themes of the novel. I chose to include the text in my American Literature since 1865 course – which worked out perfectly as I was determined to teach only one white male author in the entire semester.

The story is, in essence, about a rather quintessential story of modern day immigration. Kimberly Chang and her mother move to Brooklyn to be near Kimberly’s aunt, a detestable woman I will probably rage about later on in this review. But back to the summary. They do not find a land of opportunity; instead they find themselves living in squalor, working in a sweatshop, and struggling to stay alive.

The story is an odd and wonderful combination of the naivete of a child as Kim talks about boys she likes and the struggle to make friends and the hardship of a poor immigrant as we see Kim working and living in conditions so far outside the acceptable range of experience as to be horror-inducing. Then we throw in the difficulties faced by so many trying to balance acclimation, acculturation, and tradition. And an Aunt like Aunt Paula. Okay, so I didn’t even make it very long before talking about the elitist, snobbish, selfish, horrible, horrible woman. She pays for her sister and niece to emigrate from Hong Kong and then promptly puts them to work in her garment factory while housing them in a vermin infested apartment with no heat. I can’t imagine treating people the way this woman does.

Kim, and her Ma, knows that the only way they will survive is if Kim saves them by “making it” in America (i.e. kicking ass in school and becoming a doctor or a lawyer), so Kim studies and studies, all the while working at the garment factory as well so that she and her mother can eat. At times, this exceptionalism did annoy me though. Kim is brilliant, and thank god she is because this story would have been quite different had she been of average intelligence. While I appreciate the idea of life-improvement through education – I am, after all, a college professor – I also sometimes get annoyed at hardship-to-success stories that have geniuses as their central characters. While Kim certainly studies hard, she has a natural intelligence that is her true lifesaver. We see her succeed in the full knowledge that without this, she would miserably fail – as so many others in her position have throughout history.

The students in my American Lit class appreciated reading a book from a very different perspective than their own – and they really enjoyed the comparative discussions we had between this, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and the film Winter’s Bone. They did, however, feel the book was a bit tedious at times, and many of us had conflicting feelings about the ending.

V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series

shadesofmagicV.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic is one of the best fantasy series I’ve read in ages.

In the first book, A Darker Shade of Magic, readers are introduced to Kell, one of the last of the Antari. While everyone in Kell’s London is capable of magic, the Antari are like the gods of magic, capable of traveling between worlds, specifically three different Londons: Red, Grey, and White, all set in 1819, all geographically similar, but all wildly different. Long ago, the doors between the worlds had been open, but when a fourth London, Black, was overrun by magic in a very concrete demonstration of absolute power corrupts absolutely, the doors were closed to save the other three worlds – or at least to save Red London. Kell travels between these worlds, serving as an ambassador for the kingship of Red London and sidelining as a purveyor of otherworldly items – which is strictly forbidden. When he unwittingly smuggles an item from Black London into Red London, he sparks a chain of events with far-reaching consequences.

Kell is joined on his adventure by Lila Bard, a thief with dreams of being a pirate, who finds herself embroiled in a world she never imagined as magic does not exist in her London, Grey London. The antagonist in this installment, Holland, is the only other Antari Kell knows of, the Antari of White London, a brutal land run by Athos and Astrid (two of the most wretched characters ever).

I think, at its core, this entire series is about the possibilities, responsibilities, and dangers of power, and the first book does a great job setting this up. The second book, A Gathering of Shadows, furthers this theme as Red London gears up for what is in essence a magical Olympics, the Element Games, also known as a great event to bring all our main characters together. But the darkness awoken in Black London will not rest until he has consumed the other worlds, and Kell et. al. have a lot of work in front of them to save Red London. In the final book, A Conjuring of Light, the darkness finally reaches Red London, bringing the fight right to Kell’s front door. I wish I could tell you more, but honestly there is just no way to talk about these books without spoiling something. There is so much to love in this series – the strength of all characters regardless of gender, sexuality, or status, the extremely complex and real relationships, the number and depth of the subplots alone is extraordinary.

The writing is superb, the world building is intricate and imaginative, and the characters are simultaneously relatable and wholly unique. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Sunday Post: After TYCA

The Sunday Post hosted by the Caffeinated Reader is an opportunity to share with the blogging community what bookish things are happening in our world. So what have I been doing?

Reading | My reading is pretty much the same as last week as I spent all week prepping for my conference presentation. So, still wishy-washying my way through Miss Timmins’ School for Girls, savoring The Miniaturist, and avoiding Descartes’ Meditations.

jordanpetersonListening |I just started listening to the Jordan B. Peterson podcast, and I am loving it. Dr. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and a professor at the University of Toronto. His podcast includes interviews and recordings of his lectures on wide-ranging topics which are absolutely fascinating. I aspire to be as intellectual and entertaining as he is as a professor.

Blogging |Last week, I posted reviews of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger and Susan Cain’s Quiet. This week I have reviews going up for V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series and Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation.

Doing | I was at the Two-Year College Association Midwest Conference for English teachers, geeking out on awesome sessions and presenting on my college’s hybrid project. And eating. I was definitely eating.

Loving | The last few days of summer…Well, actually I live in Illinois, so we’ve got patches of 80 degree weather here and there for a month yet; still, there’s no guarantees these days.

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Wishing and Working | Will someone please grade all my papers for me? Please. Pretty please.



50/50 Friday: Books with Black Covers

50/50 Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Carrie from The Butterfly Reader and Laura from Blue Eye Books.

Their Prompt: “Now what is 50/50 Friday?

Everyone has a favorite and then we also have something we dislike. Like a coin, there are two sides to every question. Example: best sequel you’ve read/worst sequel you’ve read. So that’s what 50/50 Friday is all about. We will have a new topic every Friday (something bookish of course!). If you have ideas for this meme don’t be scared to let us know!”
This Week’s Question: Favorite/Least Favorite Black Cover Design
My Answer: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
I haven’t read this book since my early high school years – so we’re talking way back in the 90s – but I can still remember the feeling I had after reading this. Despair pretty much. I felt the same way after watching the movie Requiem for a Dream.
Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is also a favorite for a completely different reason, so I’m including it too. Plus, I wasn’t sure if this really counted as a black cover.
Now for my least favorite, here’s a book I have never read, but I truly despise the cover:
blackdahliaI mean, I really really don’t like the cover….

Quiet: the Power of Introverts….

quietbookcoverSusan Cain’s look into the world of the introvert is downright fascinating. This book was suggested to me ages ago – I think back when I was blogging at eclectic/eccentric – but it languished upon my shelves for a decade until my cousin Hannah recommended I read it. We both have introverted daughters and it seemed like a way to understand them, and ourselves, better.

I am an introvert. You can check out my personality type post if you’d like. Much of this book spoke to me. I prefer being alone; I get exhausted by social events and large crowds – although I do not dislike them nor am I uncomfortable in them;

What I found fascinating was Cain’s explanation of how we came to the Extrovert Ideal. She provides an overview of the path that led us to idealizing and idolizing those who are extreme extroverts which consequently has us diminishing the importance and respect given to introverts. We quite literally train our children to be extroverts through education and culture.

I was very happy she included a section explaining that not all introverts are shy. I am not a shy person; I’m actually a TMI person who will talk to you about personal information at our first meeting. I might even touch you as I am a touchy-feely kind of gal as well. Things change a bit if we are not one-on-one though. I can sit in a group of 20 people and join right in the conversation – if it’s on a subject I am passionate about. For example, conferences in my field of study are fantastic opportunities to delve in to critical conversations. BUT, but. If you want me to make small talk at an evening out with acquaintances, I’m slightly anxious and quite bored. And finally, I need my alone time. Desperately. That’s how I know I’m an introvert. I feel horrendous if I don’t have time to myself daily.

I have learned how to pretend to be an extrovert quite well, and Cain spends a lot of time talking about this phenomenon. She even uses a college professor as an example which works perfectly for me. When I tell my classes I am an introvert, they don’t believe me. How can I be a professor if I (and I quote here) “don’t like people” or “am scared of people”? Ah, the misconceptions about introversion.

Cain does a great job of both dispelling those misconceptions and offering great anecdotes and profiles of introverts who have made a difference. I highly recommended reading this…introvert or not.

Stephen King’s The Gunslinger

gunslingerI am embarrassed to admit that I read this book, the first in King’s The Dark Tower series, way back in December 2017. This was before I started to get back into blogging but considering the timing, it seems like it should have been one of the first books I reviewed…and yet here we are, 10 months after finishing the book and I’m finally writing a review.

Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger, is the protagonist of this epic tale which spans 8 novels – King thinks of them as one novel. Deschain is set up as a good man who has been thrust into extraordinary circumstances, a man on a quest to defeat the man in black, a sinister bringer of destruction. The story takes place in a world that feels like our world turned upside down, a futuristic western in which the world is dying and has been for a very, very long time. Our world still exists and it is even possible to travel between worlds, which happens to young Jake Chambers who finds himself stuck in the middle of Deschain’s revenge narrative.

I fell in love with this slow-roll of a story. Even if we ignore the fact that the characters are absolutely fascinating – which we shouldn’t – we have a setting so intricately designed, so essential to the story, and so oddly mirrored in our own that it is worth reading for that alone. For example, the song “Hey Jude” by the Beatles appears in Roland’s worth with slightly altered lyrics

Also, this book is like a mash up of some of my favorite genres. I mean it’s a post-apocalyptic western fantasy novel focused on one man’s obsession. It’s people with extraordinary powers fighting their way through a desolate landscape with a laser-sharp focus I find intriguing. And to top it all off, what’s happening is remarkably unique. I am, in no way, capable of predicting this story. I do not at all feel like it is a regurgitation of the same old-same old.

Many people do not at all feel the way I do. The book is criticized for being too slow, for being too disjointed, and on and on. Others, however, love this book to the point of fandom. This seems to be a remarkably divisive book. You’ll love it or you’ll hate it.

Anyone who wants to sum up the book, hell the series, uses the opening line of this installment, and I just can’t help but do the same:

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

I suggest you follow as well.

Sunday Post: Well, hey there

The Sunday Post hosted by the Caffeinated Reader is an opportunity to share with the blogging community what bookish things are happening in our world. So what have I been doing?

Well, hey there! Long time no see. I’m baaaaccckkk. Again.

Reading | So in my giant hiatus from blogging, I have finished a few and started a great many books. Here’s the rundown in brief:

  • V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. Finished. Fantastic. Fan. Tas. Tic
  • Miss Timmin’s School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy. Currently Reading. Meh. Has anyone read this? Should I keep going?
  • Descartes’ Meditations on the First Philosophy. Currently Reading. I’ve made it through the first two meditations of which I’m quite the fan. I love his idea of methodological doubt. I haven’t read the next three because I’m not sure I’m ready for him to undoubt everything he just doubted which is my understanding of what’s coming next.
  • Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. Currently Reading. I’m tending towards liking this one despite what feels like a serious lack of action.

Watching | I finally stopped bingeing Stargate (after season 8 so two seasons to go), watched a few episodes of Stargate Atlantis, and am now off the binge and onto the obsessive viewing of random new shows on the fall lineup. I am enjoying Manifest so far, I’m feeling pretty blah about New Amsterdam and FBI, I am seriously not feeling Magnum P.I.. Those are the only new shows I’ve seen, so please tell me what good ones I’m missing out on!

Listening |I just downloaded Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath from Audible, but I haven’t had a chance to start it yet. I figured I’d give it a try since I love Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast.

Blogging |This week I have reviews going up for Stephen King’s The Gunslinger and Susan Cain’s Quiet, two wildly different but both wildly awesome reads. I did update by Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge as I read two of the books I originally listed and added a new one!

Anticipating | I’m heading to Indianapolis this week for the TYCA Midwest Conference where I will be presenting on the Humanities & Social Sciences division’s plan to increase hybrid offerings from 3% to 60% in a two-year span, including our plans for setting guidelines for hybrid instruction, scheduling rules, student and instructor satisfaction surveys, assessment of student success plans, etc. Any other two year teachers out there who are hitting up this conference?

Loving | We all went to my cousin Tara’s wedding a few weeks ago, and this picture is the kids, at approximately 11:30pm after doing some serious dancing at the reception:

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50/50 Friday: Chicago Baby

50/50 Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Carrie from The Butterfly Reader and Laura from Blue Eye Books.

Their Prompt: “Now what is 50/50 Friday?

Everyone has a favorite and then we also have something we dislike. Like a coin, there are two sides to every question. Example: best sequel you’ve read/worst sequel you’ve read. So that’s what 50/50 Friday is all about. We will have a new topic every Friday (something bookish of course!). If you have ideas for this meme don’t be scared to let us know!”
This Week’s Question: Favorite Book Set Where You Live/Another Place
My Answer: I live about 60 miles south of Chicago, and believe me, no books have been written set in my under 3000 population farming community. Chicago, on the other hand, has been the setting for quite a few stories.
Black and white portrait profile of young black man
Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun is such a wonderful and important play.

Least Favorite:
thejungle.pngI will admit that I could probably re-read this now that I’m an adult and have a quite different experience; however when I read it in my early twenties, this novel made the list of books I despise.

Sunday Post: Jury Duty

The Sunday Post hosted by the Caffeinated Reader is an opportunity to share with the blogging community what bookish things are happening in our world. So what have I been doing?

Reading | In one glorious day, I read hundreds of pages in V.E. Schwab’s A Conjuring of Light, the third in her Shades of Magic series. I rarely get to sit and read for uninterrupted hours, but as I had jury duty last Monday – an uneventful, we just stayed in the room all day jury duty – I was able to read and read and read. And I’ve never seen so many people reading in one place….not even a library.

bingewatchingWatching | You guys are probably tired of hearing it, but I’m still working through Stargate SG-1. It’s my second go-round with the show and I’m still loving it. I feel like I’ve made a sort of swap over the last ten years. I used to watch a dozen shows at a time and read only one book; now I tend to read multiple books simultaneously but only (binge)watch one show at a time.

Blogging |Last week, I posted reviews of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon and Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I also posted a 50/50 Friday on the best and worst novel set in a school which was fun.

Anticipating | My cousin Tara gets married this coming weekend, so the family and I are headed out to Iowa.

Loving | Madison got to bring home the macaw Malachi for the weekend and she was so excited. And of course, Carter was excited too. First order of business, make a mask of Malachi so we could all pretend to be him…

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I think Madison did a great job on the mask!