Sunday, October 27, 2013

Begin the Week with Words

I often come across a sentence or a paragraph and just want to share it...sometimes I don't even know why. So, my weekly Sunday post will be these sentences or paragraphs I've come across in my reading and need to share! (Yes, I'm using you ;)

Today's quote is one Walt Whitman would be especially proud of, which is also the reason it caught my eye. Two men, a hundred and fifty plus years apart, resonating with the same idea. 

"The public library contains multitudes. And each person who visits contains multitudes as well. Each of us is a library of thoughts, memories, experiences, and odors. We adapt to one another to produce the human condition."

from The World's Strongest Librarian, by Josh Hanagarne

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Book of Secrets

The Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Joy Arnold is simply amazing. It is indeed a story chock full of secrets and just as you think you are piecing one section together, it changes or adds another dimension to the overall puzzle.

The story is told by Chloe Tyler, a woman who owns a bookstore with her husband Nate. Upon Nate's sudden trip to see his sister, Chloe finds a secret coded book. As she decodes it, finding Nate's innermost stories and life, we see her as a young girl who has only her mother, never knowing anything about her father. She meets the children of the Sinclair family, Grace, Nate, and Cecilia, and soon becomes entranced in their fairy tale life. They have books, imaginations, and a mother who homeschools and participates in their lives fully everyday. What young Chloe doesn't fully see, and couldn't fully understand, are the secrets the fairy tales hide. Secrets that will haunt her from the day she enters their home until the last page of the book, approximately 27 years later.

Any story with secrets and twist endings is bound to have potential and suspense, but may not necessarily be well written or well executed. For example, although I somewhat enjoyed the Maze Runner books by James Dashner, it soon became obvious every book was going to end with many more questions than answers. Answers that ended up vague and/or unsatisfying. Not so with The Book of Secrets. Arnold grips you with suspense from the first page and intricately weaves the pieces of the overall secret throughout the story. The reader is left to literally put the pieces together in his or her mind as he or she reads, each satisfying piece leaving the reader craving the next. And as the end draws near, everything you pieced together falls apart.

Some criticism I've read of this book says that the characters are over dramatic and it seems unlikely they'd live so long without working through some of their issues. However, anyone who has a broadened experience with the public outside their own little bubble can tell you how bitterness and grudge will eat a person up and that abused people can suffer way beyond the abusive time period itself.

The Books of Secrets is a worthwhile read! Any other good books about secrets you've read and recommend? 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?


Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?, by Ilana Garon
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Publication date: 2013
Category: Memoir
Source: I requested a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

I don't know where to start. After seeing Ilana Garon's book, Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?, reviewed on some fellow bloggers' sites (Love at First Book &  Words for Worms), I knew I had to read it. Garon teaches high school English in an inner city school and I teach in what we grew up calling a "hick town." So I assumed we wouldn't have too much in common, but I am always up for real life teacher stories. Within pages I found that, although the environment in which I teach is drastically different from Garon's, there are numerous parallels to students and experiences I've had. It's crazy really to think that the same experiences exist in drastically different environments. (You know what they say about "assuming," don't you?)

Garon mentions that her story is one of reality, not of the "hero teacher" type seen in movies such as Freedom Writers and the Ron Clark Story, which although true stories, are so far from the norm. Garon states the purpose of her book best when she says, "It's a story about...learning to distinguish between mitigated failure and qualified success. This is a book about the trial by fire all teachers must undergo, about making mistakes, and about learning from one's own students. It's a book about trying to work within a broken system, while at the same time being bolstered by the very same kids you came in wanting to save" (xvi). I couldn't agree more with the truth in this statement. 

Garon's teaching environment is definitely more dangerous and frightening than mine, but as I said before, I related to so many of her experiences. The types of students she describes caused faces and names of my own students to pop into my head from as far back as ten years ago. From the student who told me I looked like a dyke lesbian in front of an entire class my first year, to the student who lied insistently even though he knew you saw everything, to the student I helped clothe and naively attempted to broaden his world only to lose him to suicide the next year. I can even somewhat relate to Garon's realization that she will never be a "permanent resident" of the environment in which she teaches. While her students accept her for the most part, she is "already far too displaced from it all to do anything but empathize" (223). Even teaching in a town identical to the one I grew up in, I have found myself an interloper when faced with students whose lives are nothing I can seem to fathom.

Garon nails the experience. The high and low emotions, the self questioning and doubt, the mistakes, the risks and chances taken, the commitment, the rewards, the satisfaction, the love...and by the end of the book I teared up as she described the decision to quit teaching for graduate school (she did go back after graduating). As tedious as the education system can be, I don't find myself dreading a new school year every August and my thoughts often trail to my students in the off hours of any given day. I wouldn't rather be in any other profession and Garon gives a good example why.

Give a shout out to your great teachers! They deserve it!

Monday, October 14, 2013


Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper star as the Pembertons in Serena

Whenever I hear a book is being made into a movie, it instantly moves up on my reading list. This is how I came to read Serena by Ron Rash this past week. Not only is Serena a book-to-movie (no U.S. showings yet), but the title character features Jennifer Lawrence, aka Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. What bumped the book to number one on my reading list was the fact that Lawrence has two more book-to-movie roles in the process: Cathy in East of Eden and Agnes in Burial Rites. (Burial Rites is on hold for me at the library and East of Eden will get a reread closer to the movie release, whenever that may be.) Knowing Cathy to be the bad girl of East of Eden and Agnes a murderer in Burial Rites (thanks to my fellow bloggers' great reviews), I wanted to know who the Serena character could possibly be in comparison.

Well, let's just say Lawrence may end up so typecast by the end of these three films, the likes of Katniss Everdeen may never be seen again. As I read, I couldn't even visualize Lawrence playing the part. A very telling description of Serena comes in the first quarter of the book: "When a crew foreman asked Doctor Cheney what [Serena] would want the [dead rattle] snakes for, the physician replied that she milked the fangs and coated her tongue with poison" (102). Yikes, a woman that not even a rattlesnake could kill?! I like you Jennifer Lawrence, but you may be in over your head.

While the character Serena earns her position as the book's title, the storyline itself is slow moving, even though things are happening. It wasn't until the last 100 pages that it felt like the story finally picked up speed. Consistent action picks up in the last quarter of the book, but without the rest of the story, the actions of the end lose meaning. So while it was a slow enough read that the making a movie is what pushed me forward, I am really interested in how this story will translate on screen.

And, as always, my fellow bloggers rub off on me. In recent posts, a few posted about things in stories that bothered them. I have very few of these and typically am not bothered by much. But one pet peeve mentioned was being preached at within a story...particularly if it feels like the author is doing it purposefully. The 60 page John Galt speech at the end of Atlas Shrugged is the only time I recall noticing it blatantly. However, there seemed to be a few such moments where men logging in the camp wonder at the absence of good water and animal life that had been present years before the area was logged. The stripped, stumped landscape is compared to land in France after WWI, "like there's been so much killed and destroyed it can't ever be alive again" (335). And a character who stops speaking throughout the entire middle of the book speaks up, comparing the land to an apocalypse of sorts saying, "I think this is what the end of the world will be like" (336). (Please note: I have neither an opinion of these comments and logging nor knowledge of the author's opinions. Just something I noticed. Thought my fellow bloggers would be proud!)

What do you think of Jennifer Lawrence's new bad girl image?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Light Between Oceans


I've been hearing about The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman for awhile, so I was very excited to stumble across a hardback copy for $4.98 at Barnes & Noble back in August. I enjoyed the book, but I'm not sure if it's because I can relate as a parent or if others may find it slow moving. Let me explain.

Set in Australia with the backdrop of a recently ended WWI, the premise of the book is that Tom and Isabel Sherbourne, the couple who run the Lighthouse on Janus (an island), find a dead man and an infant in a washed up rowboat. Not having any contact with the mainland for months and years at a time, the couple decides to keep the baby as their own and bury the man. It is at this point the reader starts waiting. There is no way any good can come from this. Years pass before events conspire to bring about the unfolding the reader knows is coming. 

This is where I wonder how much audience experience and/or sensibilities play into the book. As a mother of three, I had no problem reading through parts with less action, because I understood the feelings of the couple's situation and the potential problem. And when the problem hit full force, I could grasp the whirlwind of emotion that rips through everyone. I wonder if someone without kids or who doesn't work with kids would be a little bored with the years between the start and the end, where life just goes on. I'm not suggesting people without kids are heartless, just wondering if the identifying makes the book better. I don't know, just a thought.

What I really liked about the ending is the show of mercy, forgiveness, and love displayed between characters who have no earthly reason to do so. No, it's not the norm, but I think mercy, forgiveness, and love should be our aim. I enjoyed this story very much.

Also, there's a movie in the works! Here's the one little article I glimpsed of it. Have you read it? Would it make a good movie?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Need Your Opinion

I just took a book blog survey over at River City Reading (if you're a book blogger, head over and take it) and among the questions was what other kinds of posts do you do besides book reviews? It got me thinking...I've noticed that many blogs I follow have a standard non book review post they put up on a regular basis. Some of them are weekly memes, monthly wrap up posts, quotes, etc.

So I've been thinking about taking up a regular non book review post. Give me your favorite memes or types of non book review posts in the comments below. It can be one you write yourself or one you read elsewhere. If your favorite is already posted by someone, mention it again! ( Include a link if needed so I can look into your the home blog a meme comes from.)

Or if you have an idea for a new type of post, I'd be interested in that too! Trying to shake up this blog a little bit. Thanks for the help ahead of time.