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.
Favorite:
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!

 

 

50/50 Friday: School Settings

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 Book Set in a School
My Answer: Let’s be serious people, Harry Potter is most certainly the first series that came to mind for this question. Hogwarts is like the boss of all schools. eleanor & park by Rainbow Rowell also jumped into my head as did Stephen Chbosky’s the perks of being a wallflower, that Gail Carriger series, John Green’s Looking for Alaska, boy meets boy by David Levithan, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, and the list goes on and on and on. But my winner has to be:
Favorite:
themagicians
There is just something about Brakebills that both appeals and horrifies me.
Least Favorite:
neverletmego
While I realize many love this book, I was disturbed in a completely not good way. Worst school ever.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

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Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show rolls into Green Town, Illinois a week before Halloween, tempting the townspeople with the ringing of a calliope and the tickling lure of mystery. Will and Jim, two local boys, are particularly drawn to the rather sinister carnival, the carnival that desires only to destroy.

What a beautifully mysterious tale of good and evil. I particularly enjoyed the characterization of the two main characters, Will and Jim, as diametric complements. One light, one dark. One a thinker, one a man of action. One subtle, one bold. And yet, I purposely do not use the phrase diametric opposites; for while they are opposites in many ways, they are not good versus evil. No, the evil in this book comes in a much more sinister form than that of a young boy. Evil is the circus.

Well, we all knew that. Clowns are terrifying and circuses have freak shows and mysterious traditions and a distinct yet hidden subculture; all of which has combined to lend a romanticized and dark air. But Cooger & Dark’s is more than just a dingy, dirty, dark carnival; it is alive, it breathes, it feeds. It is temptation, and that is why Bradbury’s carnival creation is so much more sinister than other literary carnivals and freakshows I have read about. Here, young boys can grow older, the old can return to youth, age is something which can be changed as easily as taking a short ride on the merry-go-round.

This story is beautifully written and I think would be a great back-to-back read with The Night Circus. Two more books for you to consider if you are participating in R.I.P.

Memorable Scene: There are multiple scenes where the boys are running, half-racing each other, but they always tie. This age, this friendship is not ready for one to win, for either to excel at or differ from the other in any significant way. They are at an age of mutual experience. These scenes were beautiful to me.

Memorable Quote: So, in sum, what are we? We are the creatures that know and know too much. That leaves us with such a burden again we have choice, to laugh or cry. No other animal does either. We do both, depending on the season and the need. Somehow, I feel the carnival watches, to see which we’re doing and how and why, and moves in on us when it feels we’re ripe.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

curiousincidentWritten from the point of view of an autistic 15 year old boy, the curious incident of the dog in the night-time shows readers a very unique perspective on family, relationships, trust, and taking the train to London. I fell in love with the main character, Christopher; his not-quite-perfectly logical nature, obsession with math, desire to be a detective, and bravery combine to create a personality that is simultaneously heart-warming and heart-breaking.

The book is a quick read; simple sentences are used and words and ideas are expressed efficiently and clearly. As narrator, Christopher does not pontificate needlessly on the veins of a leaf on a tree. In fact, he only includes descriptions because his teacher told him to.

The world is a difficult place for Christopher. He desires nothing more than to be left alone. Readers can feel his frustration with adults who want to talk all the time and yet never say what they mean. But I can also feel the frustration of the adults Christopher comes into contact with. The difficulty of autism exists within and without the spectrum and Haddon did a wonderful job, in my opinion, of expressing that difficulty – the opposing desires of the two sides, the inability to communicate effectively with each other. I felt for Christopher, and for his parents and neighbors.

The unique perspective inspired me to assign this novel as one of the three read for my Introduction to Literature course. I haven’t quite figured out exactly how I’m going to use it yet, but I have a few ideas. Obviously, analyzing the text from a narratological standpoint works well, possibly even from a sociolinguistic oral storytelling perspective. I have some half-formed ideas on using Russian Formalism and defamiliarization. Then I think I’ll finish it all up with Reader-Response.

If you have any thoughts on how to use the text in the classroom, please let me know in the comments!

The Sunday Post: Into September

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?

darkershadeofmagicReading | I’m still working on the second book in V.E. Schwab’s DSoM series. I tend to be a polygareader these days, but I haven’t found another book to begin quite yet. I think that’s because going through each and every book on my shelves has put me in that weird place where I love them all so much I couldn’t possibly pick one.

Watching | I am – either sadly or awesomely – on season 6 of Stargate SG-1. I guess it all depends on how you look at it; I’ve been in a viewing frenzy recently as I’m not getting enough sleep to maintain focus during the day for reading.

partiallyexaminedListening |I started a new podcast called The Partially Examined Life in which three former philosophy doctoral candidates discuss the theories of philosophy, the philosophers themselves, and the texts they wrote. As each episode revolves around one short philosophical text, I might actually go full-on geek for this one and read the texts they discuss, and since I am sooooo far behind on this podcast, I have easy access to the lists of texts they covered.

Blogging |Last week, I posted a review of Lady Audley’s Secret to kick off my participation in the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge. This week I have a review going up for Mark Haddon’s the curious incident of the dog in the night-time and Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Doing | Completely overhauling my library!!!! Seriously, it was a mess, and I absolutely hate that I didn’t take a before picture to show you guys. I really didn’t plan the overhaul; I was just sitting at home one day, doing everything except grading papers, and I suddenly went for the bookcases. I’m still not done, but here’s a quick view of where I’m at:

If I get myself going, I’ll set up some giveaways of those six boxes of books I’m removing from the shelves.

Anticipating | Jury Duty. Tomorrow. Bah humbug. I get that it’s my civic duty, but this is my FOURTH jury summons and over half the people I know have NEVER BEEN CALLED FOR JURY DUTY. I’m calling bullshit.

Lady Audley’s Secret

As we get started with the RIP season, I thought I’d share a review of Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, a strangely swirling tale that certainly meets the eery qualities required. In the novel, Lucy, a governess, marries Sir Michael Audley, a much wealthier man. It is their story. Simultaneously, Robert Audley reunites with an old friend, George, recently returned from Australia and looking for a happy homecoming with his wife. It is their story. And it is the marriage of these two stories that really sets off the mystery.

This is one of those books that is difficult to talk about for fear of revealing anything that will be more exciting if revealed by the text. Of course, the mystery itself is actually not much of a mystery in my opinion. I – and I think most readers – knew very early on what Lady Audley’s secret is. Sort of like Victoria’s secret, Lady Audley’s is not exactly well hidden.

What is so intriguing about this tale is not the mystery, it’s watching Robert decide if he wants to actually solve it and it’s contemplating Lady Audley’s actual culpability and motivation. Despite the relative obviousness of the text’s twists, the novel remains suspenseful throughout, and I was flipping the pages as fast as I could without losing the intricacies of the plot.

The novel brings up very powerful points regarding womanhood in the Victorian Age and specifically the role of a wife and mother – the two roles a woman was encouraged (required?) to strive for and succeed at according to a strict set of guidelines and traditions. Still, this is a sensational novel, not a realist one, and any social commentary is secondary to the spectacle which is the focus. A thinking reader can see the difficulty of Lucy’s position and pontificate on what Victorians called “The Woman Question“. The problem of direct social commentary on the role of women is complicated by Braddon’s – and many other author’s – contrary desires: to say something important and to have a bestseller, an issue I may actually tackle in a future post.

Of course any discussion of the novel would be remiss without pointing out the amazingly obvious, in my opinion, homosexual undertones in the relationship between Robert and George. An even more controversial issue than The Woman Question, homosexuality, or at least homosocial desire, abounded in Victorian literature, and yet it was a subtle inclusion, a suggestion, a coded language even. Perhaps a Victorian can read the novel and see a simple friendship, but many a modern reader sees much, much more in the relationship between Robert and George.

Ultimately, this is a riveting tale that is both a landmark novel in Victorian and sensationalist literature and also simply good read, so I recommend giving it a go if you haven’t already.

If you are looking for an RIP book, I highly recommend this one.

Readers Imbibing Peril Challenge

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R.I.P is a reading event right up my alley. The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.

Back when I blogged much more regularly (before children) I participated yearly. Finally, I am able to join in the macabre fun once again.

Putting together my list of possible reads for R.I.P is actually almost as fun as actually doing to reading. Expect this list to change as I go!

  1. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
  2. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
  3. The Alienist by Caleb Carr
  4. Sympathy for the Devil by Tim Pratt
  5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (reread)
  6. A Discovery ofW

There are a few levels of participation to choose from and there are also a few side challenges to participate in. I plan on participating in Peril the First which requires you to read four books and Peril on the Screen which involves watching a film or tv series meeting the mysterious criteria. My current possibilities are:

  1. Last Year at Marienbad
  2. Pan’s Labyrinth
  3. Twin Peaks

I’m really looking forward to immersing myself in the eery.

Sunday Post: The Long Month Recap

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?

Doing | I’ve been on a month-long hiatus from blogging due to my two-week family reunion and then the start of the school year. In other words, I’ve been busy with a lot of this….

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Reading | I read a bit while on my fun-filled hiatus. I finally finished Susan Cain’s Quiet and loved it. The hilarious Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read But Probably Didn’t was consumed in about 20 minutes. I finished V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic and then immediately began reading the second in the series. I’m working on that one now, and I have to say that I think this may be one of the best series I’ve read in years.

Watching | While I still throw on Shameless from time to time, I’ve been binge-watching Stargate SG-1…for like the third time in my life. I know, I know. Geek.

Listening |Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell and Lore by Aaron Mahnke are still my top two podcasts, but I have been listening to Aaron Mahnke’s Cabinet of Curiosities as well. While the first two are longer podcasts, approximately 30-60 minutes depending on the episode, the Cabinet tells two strange stories in about ten minutes. Great for when you just want a quick fix…like waiting in line, or on a day when the dreadmill just seems stupid…

Blogging |Since my last Sunday Post, reviews have gone up on the blog for Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series, Kassy Taylor’s Ashes trilogy, the first part of The Wicked + The Divine graphic series, and Richelle Mead’s The Glittering Court. As I’ve been absent, I haven’t gotten to read any comments on these posts, but I promise I’m getting back in action now.

Anticipating | In the next month, the family heads to Iowa for my cousin’s wedding which I am really looking forward to.

Working | We are now two weeks into the semester, and I’m teaching three sections of Composition 2, Introduction to Literature, and Introduction to Film Study. So far my students seem awesome (to me, this means engaged and talking).

Loving | School has begun. Madison is in first grade and Carter started three-year-old preschool. *sniffsniff  It just seems like my babies are growing up so fast. Carter’s having a rough time in the morning drop off, crying because he wants me. But his teacher assures me that it lasts about two minutes and then he’s good to go. Luckily, the school is really good about sending parents pictures of what their kids are up to, so I get to see Carter having fun after I leave….and not crying in a corner, desolate and alone, feeling abandoned by everyone and suffering as I originally pictured through the tears in my eyes as I bawled in the parking lot after leaving him the first day.2018-08-17 07.27.38.jpg

So what have all of you been up to? I can’t wait to read the serious long backlog of blog posts I have saved in Feedly!!

 

 

 

Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Series

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I read Shadow and Bone way back in 2012, but as the next book wasn’t out yet, I sort of forgot about it as my reading time was overwhelmed by my kids. Then, at a used book store, I saw Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising on the shelves, and got all, re-excited. I re-read Shadow and Bone and then read the other two installments within five days of each other. Total. World. Immersion.

Yay!

The Grisha series is set in Ravka, a country divided by a huge expanse of darkness wherein lie carnivorous beasts of terrible origin. The Fold, as it is called, is the result of a magical ‘accident’ perpetuated long-ago by a Grisha. Our protagonist in this world is Alina Starkov, an orphan of limited appeal or abilities who primarily follows around and half-moons after best friend Mal who is a skilled tracker and quite popular with, like, everyone. Everything changes when Alina displays extraordinary power, shedding light on the Fold, powers unlocked in an effort to save Mal and other members of her Army regiment. Her ability to summon light, to summon the sun, may be the key to destroying the Fold and bringing peace to Ravka.

The series revolves around Alina’s progression from a shy, unknown cartographer to one of the most powerful people in Ravka, worshipped as a Saint by some. Along her journey, she engages in numerous, interesting interpersonal relationships, and readers are privy to some of the most fascinating characters, both minor and major, of any series I’ve read. The story is fast-paced without losing world-building or character development, and I will, honestly, miss this world.

And it is written well. Bardugo has a way with language, her writing the perfect combination of clean and rich, and she maintains it throughout all three installments. I’ve read a few series lately where the writing fell off a bit in exchange, I’m guessing, for speed and excitement.

Of course, this genre is not complete without a love triangle, (I hate superficial love triangles if you don’t know that yet), but damn did I like this one. The Darkling-Alina-Mal struggle is nothing like the majority of triangles out there. And of course, the series then throws in a third possibility, Nikolai, who complicates things not because Alina loves him too but because he may just be the right choice for, you know, the world.

All in all, very well done.