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Jan. 9th, 2011

Way behind!

See, I knew this would happen!  Life always gets in the way of good record keeping.  Well, I think I have only read three books since I last wrote, but perhaps I will think of another later.  Who knows?!

1.  The Teahouse Fire 
 I picked this one up on clearance at Borders because it looked to be about Japanese culture and the art of serving tea in Japan.  I was correct, but it was much more than that.  I learned so much about the samurai, the social and economic structure of Japan in the 19th century and about the beautiful ritual and deep traditions of serving green tea.  It really captured the stubborness of people with respect to preserving tradition at all costs, even if it means they die in the process.  I found what close, erotic relationships developed between young women because they were not allowed to have sex with a man until they were married (which was often VERY young).  I was surprised at the honest, sincere nature of the writing, because the book was fiction.  Not for everyone, but very interesting all the same.

2.  Great Expectations (Dickens)
While babysitting, I was bored out of my mind and picked this one up because I felt it a necessary part of my repretoire, since I am going to be a librarian and all (is War and Peace next?!).  So it took be about 300+ pages to get into this storyline, and it really started to get good when Pip finally came around to his senses and realized what an insufferable git he was being, only to end in 20 pages.  Boo.  Poor form, Dickens!  I get why you were lauded as a genius, and still are, but I don't think I will be reading too many more of your books...sorry. 

3.  Where the Lost Things Go (Connelly)
Wow.  That's all there is to say about this conglomeration of fairy tale, myth and outright horror.  Narrated by a little boy of 12, set during WWII in England (and a competely fictional world), this story was like no other I have ever read.  It was reminiscent of Harry Potter or Juniper Game, but it really takes dark to a new level, and is technically an adult book, so there isn't the childlike quality the others I mentioned have.  The story could either be entirely about a boy that simply cannot deal with the death of his mother, the war, his father's remarriage and the birth of a new baby, or it can be about the possibility that an entirely secret, scary, wild realm exists that only certain children can access.  I literally had a nightmare after reading this, but I wouldn't have put it down before finishing for anything.  Highly recommend it, if you dare.


Sep. 11th, 2010

Back on track...

Alright, I did it, as I knew I would -- I wrote incessantly over the summer about my books, and as soon as school started I fell off the wagon.  This is always what happens!  If only I could actually log in to this site at school.  Stupid @*#!ing network blockers!

Anyway, I have read through Mockingjay in its entirety, and I felt like I was losing something amazing when I turned the last page.  The writing was compelling, much darker and more grown up than the last two books, and I loved every second of it.  I was held in suspense, I felt depressed with Katniss, desperate with Peeta and in the end, I had tears in my eyes with the poor little sister as she died trying to help little children that had just been blown up.  I felt sweet justice when that stupid woman in charge was killed, and some sort of closure when the little ones played on the last few pages.  I would call this one a success to be sure.  My students are eating the series up, which is more than I can say for last year.  I guess the younger ones are more into such books?

Since, I have picked up Stephen King's memoir on writing, which is hilarious and has been infinitely useful for me as a teacher and as a potential writer.  I must say, however, that I felt inspired in my proficiency as a (somewhat) professional reader as well.  All of the sudden, I feel like it's ok that I don't feel comfortable with becoming a writer one day.  This isn't to say that I won't attempt to publish -- certainly I won't feel like a success until I see my name in print somewhere important -- but I have been validated in my genre, which is certainly NOT fiction. 

I have lots of quotes to record, for future use of course, as this book doesn't belong to me.  It is on loan from WTHS...but I left it at school!  More later...

Aug. 16th, 2010

Anatomy of Wings

I finished Anatomy of Wings this weekend, which is just a book I happened to pick up at Big Lots on clearance that looked interesting.  The whole book is the journey of a ten-year-old girl that is trying to make sense of her sister's untimely death, so it is a bit depressing, but there are parts that are rewarding.  I loved the way that Jennifer, the main character, always found solace in her love of nature, particularly birds of prey.  She spoke about wanting to have wings to fly away, and always talked about the top five birds she'd be if she had the chance.  It reminded me of Eli the Good by Silas House, in a way, but the writing wasn't as good.  All in all, I really wouldn't recommend this to the book lovers I usually recommend to, but to someone who has lost a sibling to suicide, or to accidental death, I would. 

Aug. 2nd, 2010

The end of the series...so far

I finished all three Tana French books, and they were each equally amazing.  I have to say, though, that I liked the second one best and I haven't really determined why.  Perhaps it is due to the fact that the main character is a girl, but I am not sure that's the reason as much as that I liked the storyline.  It became extremely mixed up at times, and pushed me to consider what I would do in Cassie's place, but so did the third book.  In fact, I saw each character taken to the brink, to their breaking points.  Rob, Cassie and Frank were each tested to the max, thrown into situations that poked their personal buttons, and each did some questionable things when they were in these situations.  I found that French pushed the idea that it is easy for an outsider to say what they think is the right thing to do, but when in the situation, each character did what they felt they had to do.  Very thought provoking, as French picks at human nature, and the nature of evil.  She always points out, albeit subtely, that evil lurks in places one does not normally think it might.  Sometimes it is so blatantly obvious, but too difficult to see.  Truth is shaky, at best. 
So, I am signing off of reading for a few days.  At a faculty retreat right now, with no way to get a new book, other than another Erdrich.  Not sure if I am into starting that, as I couldn't even bring myself to finish Love Medicine.  It fell too flat for me.

Jul. 25th, 2010

In the Woods

I finished In the Woods last night, and I actually felt some satisfaction with the ending of it for the first time in a long time.  I have been so pissed off after reading nearly every book in the recent months due to ineffectiveness on the part of the author, or because it left me feeling crazy about the loose ends.  Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of unanswered questions about Adam Ryan and his missing childhood friends, but the main plot of the story is complete.  He doesn't get the girl, the bad guy is caught while the real bad girl is actually a nut bag, left to roam the streets freely and probably repeat her nasty behavior.  The actual case was solved, and that was more than I can say for most novels as of late.  The characters were very well developed, and extremely believable, down to the emotions and very human mistakes they made.  For example, Adam Ryan, despite his recognizing that he was wrong in the very moment things unfolded, still proceeded to kiss his best friend, and sleep all night (and part of the next day) with her, knowing full well that it was a mistake and that he was not in any way capable of handling the result.  AND, he even proved to be a truly believable human when he screwed everything up from then on out, ignoring her, feeling weird about the whole thing, and eventually losing her to a fellow detective.  Bravo, Tava French!
So now I am on to the next installment, The Likeness, so we shall see if I feel the same way as it unfolds. :)

Jul. 11th, 2010

Three Junes

So I took quite a hiatus from finishing any sort of book since the last one because I was (GASP) out living life so much that I just didn't take as much time to read.  I delved into some short stories by Barbara Kingsolver that have intrigued me, and prompted me to save them for future conversations with colleagues and friends.  She writes about pretty hot-button issues in a way that is both engaging and infuriating in some ways, but somehow she manages not to alienate me with her strong opinions.  I get the idea that we would be friends in real life, friends with much to discuss. 

I've also discovered, thanks to Ben, that Half Price Books carries National Geographics from 1982 - present for $0.25!  I have been reading through articles that interest me, including some on animal behavior and bionics.  They will be perfect for teaching non-fiction, and I have some great ideas for using them in AP Junior English as well. 

I just finished (this week) Three Junes, a first novel about three different people, connected by one man.  There are three parts to the novel, each beginning in June of a particular year (1989, 1995, 1999).  The narrator changes in each section, and I must admit that although slowly, it drew me in to the tale of the family being described in intimate, yet detached detail.  It tells, through the eyes of her widower, the story of a dynamic Scottish mother that could never quite be loved as much as her border collies could love her, as this was her life's passion.  Being recently obsessed with my own dogs, I was instantly won over by her, and by this book. 

It took me on an unexpected journey to NYC next, however, that threw me for a loop.  It described the life of this woman's oldest son, Fenno, as he was dealing with the death of both his parents and many of his friends, being gay and HIV positive in the 1990s, while he was simultaneously trying to make his way far away from home in Scotland as a cautious, very reserved gay man.  It was a perspective I am not sure many could write adequately without having been touched intimately by the circumstances, which makes me think the author, though female, certainly had to have been involved somehow. 

The book takes yet another turn my switching perspectives to the female, Fern, a hopelessly frantic pregnant artist looking to find, and keep, love in New York, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter.  This is the shortest section of the novel, and ends abruptly, without much satisfaction for the reader, which is the plight of bestselling literature in my opinion.  If writers insist on leaving cliffhangers, write a sequel for fuck's sake!

That's all for now...at KY Lake trying to finish Barbara Kingsolver as she treks through remote Africa, again. 

Jun. 15th, 2010

The Death of Little Bee

Little Bee ended in the most disconsolate, desperate way...it must have been a success (lol).  I loved the language in the book, as I so quoted before, and the remarkable way that Cleave was able to write a woman's perspective in two different ways, even though he is clearly a straight, British, married man.  That is talent. 
I am sitting in AP Lit and Comp training at U of L, while the pool sits there, lonely, waiting, refreshing, calling my name.  I am bored to tears, but luckily I still have my lifeline at my fingertips.  I feel like a caged bird, to use a trite comparison...I keep thinking of ways to escape this concrete block freezer box. 
Off to lunch for now...and back to sanity.

Jun. 12th, 2010

Man I love movies.

Since I didn't go to sleep until 5 AM, I really spent the day doing little to nothing.  I managed to go to Target and walk the dogs, two of my favorite things, but the rest of the day has been spent watching Lifetime movies.  I know, pathetic to some, but I would say to them, you don't know what you are missing!  I was just telling someone last night, at 3 AM in the rain, on top of a building, that the thing about movies is, they can change your life.  Just as when I immerse myself in the fictional (or completely real) world that a writer creates when I read a book, I am emotionally affected by movies.  Of course, not all of them, but today was the day.  First I watched a SUPER sad one called "Reservation Road" with Joaquin Phoenix and Mira Sorvino.  I bawled like a baby!  The acting was superb, and it truly captured the range of emotions involved when two completely devoted parents lose a child.  I simply cannot imagine ever getting over that kind of thing.  Then I half watched some movie that was like an episode of Snapped or something called "Not My Life" about some psycho doctor that drugged a woman, erased her memory and created an entirely new life for them both.  Weird, but I still wanted to watch the whole thing so I could see the end.  Third, I moved on to "Where the Heart Is", which is just about one of the most adorable movies ever made.  Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd and Stockard Channing?  I mean, with those three in it, it couldn't be bad.  I love the way Portman can just look at the screen, and you can see into her soul.  I would love to know her in Real life.
AND, I got the new "Alice in Wonderland" in the mail, so we'll see...perhaps I will pop that in tonight.  I am feeling decidedly female, though, which usually calls for chic flicks or those tried and true movies that I can't live without, like "In the Land of Women", "The Secret Garden" and "Jane Austen Book Club".

Jun. 11th, 2010

Little Bee

OK, so my boss recommended this book to me, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, and since she loved Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, I figured that perhaps we could agree on this one thing.  Actually, truth be told, I like her, even though so many people don't, and I happen to think we get on quite well with one another. 
Anyway, back to the important stuff...
So far, Little Bee has certainly captured my attention.  It is purely fiction, which is dissapointing in a way because it is about a Nigerian refugee's experience in London, England.  However, the writing is wonderfully descriptive, and I am always amazed when a man can so judiciously write a woman's perspective, much less several, very different women.  Notable quotes so far:

"On the girl's brown legs were many small white scars.  I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and moons on your dress?  I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here to please agree with me that a scar is never ugly.  That is what the scar makers want us to think.  But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them.  We must see all scars as beauty.  Okay?  This will be our secret.  Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying.  A scar means, I survived." (9)

~I love this for many reasons, because the language is beautiful to me, as is the explanation of something that is often so horrible, and it makes me think of Ben, who has a giant scar on his head that will be there for the rest of his life.

"And then, since we were both awake and Charlie still asleep, we made love.  I used to do that with Andrew sometimes.  More for him than for me, really.  By that stage of our marriage it had become a maintenance thing, like bleeding air out of the radiators -- just another part of running a household.  I didn't know-- in fact I still don't know-- what awful consequences are supposed to ensue if one fails to bleed the radiators.  It's not something a cautious woman would ever allow herself to discover." (27)

~Yet again...awfully on the mark for the feelings of a woman...can't believe it's written by a man!

So now I am on to the part where it begins to explain how Little Bee came to live in Surrey with a newly widowed middle class white woman and her son, who's called Charlie but only answers to Batman.  Her husband has committed suicide, and it is related to Little Bee.  What a way to begin!  May just be enough to de-anger me after the ending of My Name is Memory. :)

Jun. 10th, 2010

Finished, and moving on...

Today, as I sat in the doctor's office waiting for Ben to have blood drawn and a physical done, I finished My Name is Memory by the Anne Brashares.  I have to say, it had me entranced until the very end...and I mean, the VERY end.  The last chapter was a cop out on her part.  She took care to create an entire relationship that lasted over one thousand years, through lives, bodies, continents, many deaths and even evil, and then she just quit on me.  The story was amazing because she made me truly consider reincarnation, about which I need to spend much more time learning, and to think about the idea that perhaps that is why I have often felt like I was born in the wrong era.  Perhaps I am remembering a past life in a very small, deja vu type of way.  Maybe I was last born in the fifties; that would certainly explain why I love the music, was obsessed with being a wife, mother and teacher my whole life, and only recently came to embrace the many freedoms that the 21st century allows me as a young woman.  I loved the way that I was able to identify with Lucy as she craved solitude, but felt lonely in it because she was missing her other half...only to be let down when they had to swim toward a storm in the middle of the ocean until they miraculously found a rock, a fisherman picked them up and magically Lucy was sent to a monastery while David eliminated Joaquim.  What?! 
All I can say is hopefully she plans on writing another book that follows this one.  If not, she's failed with the ending.
Another good day with Ben...I certainly hope it lasts.  We went to the doc, after I withdrew eight-freakin-hundred-dollars to bail my mom out on her house payment (which she nearly interrupted my awesome massage with Milena to tell me, mind you) and then we headed to grocery shop at Sam's and Wal-mart.  We got along quite easily, and we are back to our old joking and story-telling mode.  Again, I am starting to believe if I continue to talk about it and write about it, perhaps it is almost like a channel to fate, or to him somehow.  If it is printed, maybe that makes it more real?  That sounds totally nuts, I am sure, but hey, if I believe it, doesn't that make it real?
Love, K