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
goaskalice
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.
thenightcircus
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:

2018-09-22 22.56.41

 

 

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…

2018-09-08 15.31.10.jpg

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

somethingwicked.png

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.