Wednesday, February 29, 2012

RTW: Best of February!

Happy Leap Day, everyone!  Are you all wearing blue and yellow and making plans to watch everyone's favorite Jim Carrey movie, Leap Dave Williams?  Me too!

But I'm also road tripping!  Today, Road Trip Wednesday asks:  
What was the best book you read in February?
Goodreads is making this so much easier!  Looking back at what I read this month, I can tell you without a doubt that my book of the month was Cinder by Marissa Meyer.  I posted my review here a few weeks ago, but really?  Don't even worry about going back and looking at it, just go read Cinder.  If you like humor or romance or suspense or, I don't know, dreamy-but-grounded princes, just go do it.  You know you wanna.
And look at this gorgeous cover, to boot: 
Happy Leap Day!  Take a leap--read Cinder!

Friday, February 24, 2012

What Day Is This?

I've got vacation-head, where I completely lose track of what day and/or time it is most of the time.  But I'm pretty sure it's Friday, and that I'll go back to work bright and early Monday morning.  Yikes.

I've had a great vacation, and done very little that might be considered productive.  I read, like, a third of a book (but oh man, what a book--finally got around to Across the Universe by Beth Revis--it's excellent but a little stressful) and got my new sewing machine set up for some last-minute costumes (our school production of Annie opens three weeks from yesterday.  I also sketched out an outline of the TV Writing and Production course I'm going to be teaching next trimester...but it's a very, very rough one.

Other than that, I've been neglecting work a bit (I'll have a normal weekend this weekend, where I put in a good 8-10 hours of know, those easy-peasy teacher hours.)  I've also neglected this blog.  So:  time for catching up!

First of all, Road Trip Wednesday had a question I definitely did not want to pass by:

February is Black History Month and it's also the month of Valentine's Day. So let's show some writerly love by answering the following question: Who is your favorite African American author or fictional character?

I also wanted to think about this one.  The first character who came to mind was Calpurnia, from To Kill A Mockingbird.  And I do love her.

But I knew I could come up with more contemporary favorites.  Mr. S. reminded me of Sticky Washington, from the Mysterious Benedict Society books by Trenton Lee Stewart.  (Seriously, if you have not read these--do it now.  They're completely hilarious and clever MG mystery novels about a group of gifted kids fighting the good fight blah blah blah stop reading this and go read the books.)

And of course there's Rue from The Hunger Games.  Annnnnd...that's what I could come up with.  I think I'm suffering from Monoethnic Dystopia Syndrome.  I'll have to keep an eye on that.

And today is Friday!  So, let's have some Friday Fives time:

How I Spent My Winter Vacation: A Guide to Awesome Entertainment
by Mrs. S

1)  Since I'm getting ready to teach a TV class, I thought I should probably take one as well.  So I'm doing an online course through Gotham Writers' Workshop.  It's only in its second week, but so far, so good.  The course is structured around writing a spec script, so I've been re-watching the series I've chosen to write, Happy Endings.  I had planned to write for Parks and Rec, but this season they're doing a bit more of a long plot arc than they have before, which makes it hard to write something that fits in.  Anyway, Happy Endings is excellent.  It's like if Friends was faster-paced and sharper and I was the age of those characters when it aired.  I'm looking forward to writing for it.
"Draw an alligator, swimming in a pool, eating Pinkberry."
2) Godspell again!  I went back on Wednesday, and scored a seat in the pillows-on-the-floor-in-front-of-the-stage section through the ticket lottery and the kindness of a stranger, who let me take his winning lottery ticket since he preferred standing room to the (rather tightly squashed) seating on the floor.  So, long story short, I got pulled onstage to do some audience participating, had to draw in front of people (Pictionary style), and had a blast.  Although my students will not be surprised to learn that after the show, when the cast was kind enough to sign my drawing for me, Hunter Parrish looked at my drawing, frowned a little, and said, "Um, alligators have feet."  (For the record, the alligator was swimming, as per Hunter's instructions, and therefore his feet were under the water.  But I digress.)

3) And have I mentioned that Godspell has the hardest working cast of any show on Broadway?  Not only can they sing and dance and play guitar and trampoline at the same time, many of them have other projects going on.  We saw two of those on Wednesday night.  The first was Missed Connections, a very funny (but definitely not family-friendly, so don't get any ideas, students-of-mine) show taken from the Missed Connections section of Craigslist.  On this particular evening, it featured George Salazar, maybe the goofiest member of the Godspell cast.  He was great, and super-friendly.  
4) After Missed Connections, we headed over to see Morgan James do a set at the Rockwood Music Hall.  That. Girl. Can. Sing.  She's got serious pipes and knows how to bring it old school.  She said she'll have a recording out later this year and I'm pretty excited for that.

5) And tonight, we're going to a show that somehow has nothing to do with Godspell!  It's called The Total Bent and it's by the creative team behind Passing Strange, Stew and Heidi Rodewald.  Mr. S and I loved Passing Strange when it was on Broadway a few years ago, and in a wacky coincidence, this show is also designed by a guy who taught at Williams when I was there, AND directed by a woman who directed a show I was in there.  Basically, we HAD to get tickets.  Should be a good way to round out the break. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: Special Edition

Why special edition, you ask?  Let's see:

  • Well, first of all, I'm on break from work this week!  That's special enough all by itself.
  • I'll be posting reviews #19 and 20 this week--I'm pleased with myself for keeping on track to my 150 book goal for the year.  Twenty books by February 19th is pretty good--it reflects a lot of time at home, when I would normally be playing dopey computer games or reading the internet, which is a change that makes me feel better about myself and life in general.
  • I have a bonus, non-book review--because I saw Godspell on Broadway last weekend and can't stop talking about it.
  • AND on top of all of that--this is my 50th post!
So, welcome to this very special edition of Sunday Sunshine!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Yay Jaime!

Hey y'all--

Just a quick note that my friend Jaime is having a great giveaway at her blog to celebrate her 100th follower!  Go check it out (and follow her, if you don't already--she's always got something funny and insightful to say!)

And happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday: I Hate The Word

Today, Road Trip Wednesday over at YA Highway asks a great question:

What words do you absolutely hate? Which ones do you adore?

I've been thinking about this all day.  See, there is a word that, without a doubt, takes first place in the "words I hate" competition.  And in fact, I hate it so much that I won't print it here.  But to give you an idea, it's the OTHER F-word, one used as an anti-gay slur.  It once meant a bundle of sticks, or if you're British, the short form can (could?  I'm an American, what do I know) mean a cigarette.  If you want to see the word, as well as a history of its evolution provided by GLSEN, you can click here and scroll about halfway down (but of course they use the actual word, so...just know that.) 

But here in the States, and now in 2012, it really only means that at best, the person speaking is completely ignorant of the import of the word.  And at worst, it's absolute hate speech.  You know the word I'm talking about.

As a teacher, I hear kids toss around words that they shouldn't all the time.  "That's so gay" and "that's retarded" and worse.  And I always try to put the kibosh on that.  But when I hear That Word--lord help that child.  Because that business gets Shut. Down.  See, unlike the words I mentioned above, which have uses that are appropriate, if they're not being used casually as insults, That Word has no acceptable modern-day American use.  None.  So rather than entering into the English Teacher Usage Hour like I am prone to do with the other words, I simply inform the kiddo in question that what I just heard them say was hate speech and it's not ok, not ever.  

I've had kids ask me what the big deal was, and it's possible that my position sounds extreme.  But when I see a kid pounding on another kid, I don't first try to calmly educate them about non-violence--I end the fight.  Talking can come later.  As far as I'm concerned, The Other F-Word is just as violent and damaging as actual physical fighting (maybe more).  

And you know what?  I've been at my current school for two and a half years.  My first year, I heard that word at least every other day.  Now?  I'm actually not even sure the last time I heard it.  I'm not naive and I'm sure some of my students still use the word.  But I've at least gotten them to stop using it where I can hear them, and once they have to think before using it some of the time, I hope they will think before using it more and more of the time.  Granted, I think the reason they don't use it in front of me is that they're just sick of hearing me talk about it, but it's a start.  

Ok, end-of-soapbox.  But I had to say it.  

And words I love? 

  • Inexplicable
  • Actually (but only the way it sounds when Lola says it on Charlie and Lola, a totally adorable TV adaptation of an equally adorable picture book series by Lauren Child.)  So, "Act-ually".
  • Anthropophagi, a recent discovery in Othello, which I'm teaching.  I just love words that I can look at and put together the word parts.  Ironically, after the above screed, one of my favorite word roots is "phag", meaning to eat.  It crops up in the weirdest places!
I don't know--there are definitely more of them, and I go through phases.  But "inexplicable" will, somewhat inexplicably, always be my favorite.

Whew--it's practically Thursday.  I promise to keep it shorter next time!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: A Productive Week

So...I read three and a half books this week.  This was due in large part to the arrival of an ARC of Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver...yesterday.  I won it from the Vault over at YA Confidential and I wanted to get it read this weekend so I could pass it on to my students ASAP.  But first I had to finish Finnikin of the Rock.  So I read a book and a half today.  The other books were Cinder by Marissa Meyer and half of The Glass Collector by Anna Perera, which I had already read half of sometime back in December.  Anyway:  I read a lot this week.  And it was awesome.

What I Read This Week: 

 Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm still in a daze. It was, without a doubt, a five-star read for me. But I can't put my finger on exactly what elevated it above the many other futuristic fantasy dystopias or fairy-tale re-tellings or however else you might define this. I just know that I'm smitten. I can't stop thinking about this. I mean--the world-building definitely stands out, as Marissa Meyer has created not just one but TWO worlds. I've read that this is the beginning of a bunch of stories about fairytaleish characters, and I sincerely hope that this is true, because: I want so much more. If you like strong, realistic protagonists or charming, conflicted love interests or complex, sprawling, tantalizing worlds, or immensely satisfying plotting--well, you have good taste, first of all, and second of all, you need to read Cinder ASAP!

  The Glass Collector. Anna PereraThe Glass Collector. Anna Perera by Anna Perera
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**This is a book I got for free, in advance through Netgalley.** I read The Glass Collector in two halves a few months apart. The story itself, and the detail with which Perera described the life of the Zabbaleen, were fascinating. The Zabbaleen are a community of people who live in a village just outside of Cairo, and who collect and recycle much of the city's trash. Clearly, Perera has done her research, and it shows in the strongest parts of the book, which depict life in the Zabbaleen village of Mokattam. Most of the book focuses on Aaron, a young man whose obsession with glass makes him both a skilled trash collector and, later, an outcast in his own village. Aaron's story held my attention, but occasionally the third-person narration would shift to give the perspective of a different character, and that jarred me out of the story a bit. Overall, though, I would recommend this book simply based on the chance to read about a community I had never heard of--it almost feels invented, like I want to praise Perera's world-building--but it's very real and essential to the functioning of a major city.

Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles, #1)Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After hearing raves about Melina Marchetta's writing from many, many bloggers whose taste I trust, I decided to start with Finnikin of the Rock. My verdict: Ms. Marchetta has not been overhyped. Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy fantasy like this--which, really, is historical fiction with just a touch of magic thrown in here and there. This story had all the ingredients I look for in fantasy--a long journey, a hero to root for, a girl who has to repeatedly prove her grit and strength--along with some things I didn't expect (cussing, casual sex talk) that startled me at first but then added to the reality (I've started to take the absence of casual profanity in many novels for granted, just like I don't worry about the inexplicable presence of light in outdoor nighttime scenes in movies. There was nothing in Finnikin that's any worse than the things I hear in my classroom every day, but if you're someone who'd rather avoid dirty talk altogether, consider yourself warned.) It was a dark read, that only got darker as it went along, but that makes sense given Marchetta's note at the end of the book that she was writing from a place of reality--considering the problems in our own world that she feels are most compelling in a humanitarian way--rather than trying to emulate classic fantasy. That said, the entire thing is about finding hope and rebuilding, so it's not as though it's designed to make you want to curl up in a ball and rock back and forth. Also: the characters are often funny, and I found myself tearing up happily more than once. I'm very excited to have received an e-galley of the sequel, Froi of the Exiles, so look for that review some time next week.

Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having won an ARC of this book just a few weeks before its release, I resolved to read it ASAP and then pass it on to my students. Well--I opened the package about 25 hours ago, during which time I had to finish about half of the book I was currently reading, sleep (for about twelve hours--it's been a long week), and go out for lunch. Friends, I devoured this one. It's one of the sequels coming out this year that I was most excited for, and it lived up to my anticipation. The thing I admire most about Lauren Oliver's stories is their structure. She doesn't re-invent the wheel, and it sounds like a kind of basic, boring thing to admire. But she just uses story structure like such a pro. It gives this great experience of familiarity overlaid with breath-stealing suspense: I think I know what's coming--but it can't be true. She did it in Delirium and she did it here. I won't say much about the plot, because I don't want to spoil anyone--but listen, if you don't finish this book desperate for the next one (*sigh* Spring 2013? But what if the world ends this year?!?) then I think you must have been Cured or something. Girlfriend knows how to end a book, y'all.

View all my reviews

Waiting In The Wings: 

   (This is a picture of Ivyland by Miles Klee.  He is a friend of mine from college, which is why I snapped this picture today when I picked up his novel on the "New and Noteworthy Fiction" table at McNally Jackson!  I'm really excited to read this and will report back soon.) 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Too Good To Miss

Hey y'all:  if you've ever entered a giveaway, or thought about entering a giveaway, or just don't hate awesomeness, here's something you've gotta check out.  For some reason, Tahereh Mafi feels like she needs to give the world MORE than just the most gorgeous prose ever and an amazingly compelling fantasy dystopia...she's also doing a book giveaway.  And including her own signed books in each of the SIX book packages she's offering.  I mean, really. 

Check out the giveaway here!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Let me entertain you, let me make you smile...

Let me do a few tricks
Some old and then some new tricks
I'm very...

Yes, friends, that's right--I'm lucky enough to have received another blog award!  This one comes from Jaime Morrow (check out her recent posts on InstaLove and InstaLoathe--always hot topics!)

So, at this point, I have entirely lost track of the requirements of the many blog awards that seem to be circulating through my blogroll these days.  I do think they're a lot of fun and a good way to point readers at some of the many awesome blogs out there, so I will be naming a few folks (those who I have not recently caused to post lists of things about themselves!).  I will not be doing the List of Things about myself, though; instead, I will be sharing some pictures of my newly re-arranged bookshelves!!!

1)  Lining the top of the shelf, you can see my recently completed collection of Community figurines, from the stop-motion-animated special "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas".  Any other Community fans out there?  Anyone?  Bueller? [Hey guys, think about watching this show.  Especially if you are a Nielsen family.  It's wonderful and could use the help.  Coming back to Thursdays on NBC any month now!]

2) Ok, books for real:  the top shelf here are all of our graphic novels/comics/whatever you would call my beloved Amphigoreys. 

3) When confronted with the great big pile of ALL of our books (mine and Mr. S's--I couldn't have married someone who isn't a reader!) I noticed that the largest single category was--very broadly speaking--fantasy.  So this shelf encompasses everything from Narnia and Harry Potter (on the bottom out of sight, since they take up a whole shelf between them, so they're not needed for browsing) to things that are more properly science fiction or magical realism.  Basically, if it couldn't happen in real life, it's on the shelf.  It's a fun way to feature most of our favorite books in one collection that's easily accessible to guests.

Okay, this is my favorite.  The top shelf here is devoted to signed copies!  Living in New York, it's relatively easy to come across signed stock in bookstores (especially Books of Wonder!  I picked up the signed copies of Shiver, Where Things Come Back, and Across the Universe there this weekend, and it looks like Beth Revis will be coming through again next week to sign A Million Suns, so I'm going to try to go two for two!  Also Marie Lu will be there, so I'm going to try to wrest my copy of Legend away from my students long enough to get it signed.)  Anyway, I've put little arrows next to two of my most prized signed copies:  Mockingjay, obviously--I mean, it's stamped, not signed, because Suzanne Collins had a wrist injury or something, but I actually went and spoke words to her while she was stamping it, and it was amazing.  Also Bridge to Terabithia--I met Katherine Paterson at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning two years ago and she was AWESOMESAUCE. 

Also, bee-tee-dubs:  the orange book?  The one with the little star drawn on it?  That's a book co-written by a friend of my husband's family, Jake Halpern.  It's called Dormia and I recommend it!

And those two very very full shelves?  TBR!!!!!  Uh-oh.  (If only you could also see the inside of my Kindle, you'd have a better idea.)

Ok:  Blog Awarding Time!

(To my student readers:  A few of these links--namely, the Tumblrs--have a wide variety of non-book-related content and I can't guarantee that it's always 100% G-rated.  Read at your own discretion.)

1)  Inspector Spacetime Confessions.  Do Tumblrs count for blog awards?  Well, let's say they do.  While I'm shilling for Community I'll also highlight this creation from fans of BOTH Community and Doctor Who.  (And I KNOW I have some Doctor Who fans reading this!)  Inspector Spacetime is the Doctor Who analog on Community.  It's gotten a handful of mentions and very, very short clips on the show, but then The Internet happened, and now I think it may be scripted through its first season. 

2) Rebecca Behrens.  Definitely a versatile blogger:  her last three posts are about coffee, True Grit, and Groundhog Day.  I mean, come on.  (Also:  I will be adding True Grit to that ginormous TBR!)

3)  Ok, another Tumblr: Hate the Future.  This one is by a college friend of mine, Miles Klee.   Each post is like a tiny little dystopia in a few lines and usually an image.  He's also got a book out that I'm super excited about (I will be McNally Jackson this weekend picking up my copy, I swear!) called Ivyland.

4) I'm Here, I'm Queer, What the H*ll Do I Read?  Lee Wind maintains a really great reading list of books for teens featuring LGBTQ characters, and he also offers thoughts about all things LGBTQ and/or writing related. 

I'm gonna call it a day here--you're all awesome, but I don't want to induce blog award fatigue.  I leave you with this picture from my weekend project to CLEAN ALL THE THINGS AND SORT ALL THE BOOKS.  (Don't be too alarmed--in the middle of that pile is my coffee table.  So it's not all books.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: This is my brain; this is my brain on fairy tales.

I managed to get back up to three books this week!  That's largely because I read one of these books in like, two sittings.  I've finished my McCourt binge, and started my two-book bop through Cinderella.

After this one, though, I need to shift my focus a little.  It's a new month; that means a new focus in my quest to diversify my reading.  And this month, I'm going to focus on clearing out some of the backlog of e-galleys I've picked up on my Kindle!  That means my Sunday Sunshine posts will be shifting a bit, as I try to write actual reviews rather than my usual rambling responses.  I may also write my reviews now but hold off on posting until closer to the release date, depending on the publisher's preferences.  I'll try to keep reading some already-published stuff, but it won't be at the same rate.

And, slightly belatedly:  I set an overall reading goal for myself for the year.  After gauging my pace throughout January, I decided that I could probably get up to 150 book.  So there's now a little widget in the sidebar where my progress will be displayed for all the world to see.

And now, here's what I read this week: 
 'Tis'Tis by Frank McCourt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, I couldn't hold out on the fifth star anymore, Mr. McCourt. Usually, I prefer the childhood piece of memoirs, but in this case, I think the young adulthood/adulthood portion was even stronger. Was this largely because of his pitch-perfect ear for what a class of students sounds like when they smell inexperience on a new teacher from out of town? YES. Yes it was. Am I deliriously excited that McCourt's third book focuses just on his teaching career? YES. Yes I am. There is no schmaltz and no bravado when McCourt writes about teaching--which is unbelievably rare. And, also, in addition to making me actually giggle on the subway, 'Tis made me tear up, where Angela's Ashes never did (oops, sorry, that might make me horrible. Or maybe it just means I'm used to stories from my own great-grandmother that started, "When I was growing up, back on the farm in Ireland, the only way to get all ten of us children to church on Sunday was to hitch the donkey up to the cart for the little ones to ride. So we'd get up, and go out to the field and catch the donkey, and we'd have to chase him..." I guess Frank McCourt would say, at least you had a farm and a cart and a donkey, but if 'tis sibling deaths you're after, sure my great-grandmother's family had their fair few. So maybe I'm immune?)

Anyway: 'Tis was more of what I loved about Angela's Ashes, with less of the ultimately tedious drunk-father-chasing (in my defense, I imagine it felt pretty tedious to the McCourts as well.) I highly recommend going straight through McCourt's books, all at one go.

Teacher ManTeacher Man by Frank McCourt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While parts of this book made me very, very happy, and I finished it with tears in my eyes, overall the impact was not quite as strong as 'Tis. That's hardly a dig, as 'Tis was one of just two five-starred books I read last month--and I found a lot to love in Teacher Man. Frank McCourt writes New York City teenagers like I suspect only a teacher can--completely on the nose in his characterizations of their group behavior, and at the same time painting each individual with such striking detail that they leap out and stick in your head. And so much of his frustration with bureaucracy and paperwork, etc, feels like it came straight from my own head. I suppose what I really wanted was more beginning--teacher memoirs are often too cutesy in their self-deprecation, or else they have an impossible sanctimonious tone: "I was letting my students down. Looking back, my one regret is that I only spent twenty-two hours a day working. I could have given them so much more, if only my spouse wasn't so unreasonable about spending time with me." (The only time I will go on record as rooting for a Patrick Dempsey character is in Freedom Riders. Those kids were great and all. But ughhhhh, that movie.) Anyway, Frank McCourt sounds like an honest-to-god overwhelmed young teacher. He really likes his students (mostly, sometimes) but the job as a whole does often feel like the walls are closing in, and he nails it. As a teacher who had a seriously rocky first year (hi there, students-of-mine, who unfortunately had a front-row seat for that) I am overjoyed to read someone writing this well about what it's like. It was almost hard to see him get better--even though my job has gotten a LOT easier, I'm still not the thirty-year vet he was by the end of the book.

Yikes. When people complain about reviews getting too personal, they usually mean the author's personal life, not the reviewer's. Ok. Well, these aren't really reviews, they're just a good place to keep what would otherwise be free-roaming blog rambles. Anyway, bottom line: if you are a teacher, especially in a big city public school--pick this one up. If you're about to be a teacher...maybe wait till you're a year or two in?

AshAsh by Malinda Lo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very quick read for me...and it felt like the kind of thing that might actually be told, rather than written down. Saying that an adaptation of Cinderella "feels like a fairy tale" sounds almost tautological, but what I really mean is that this had the dreamy quality of a story being performed by a master storyteller. It's one that makes me wish for daughters, so that I can read it aloud to them. I wanted a little bit more at the ending, as I felt there was so much build-up to the fairy world that I wanted the scene we didn't get to see. But sometimes that's the way of fairy tales, and overall I thought it wrapped up nicely.

View all my reviews

Currently Reading: 

Waiting In The Wings:

 (I actually started this one a little while ago and then life got in the way, but it was just released so at least my review will be timely.  I'm looking forward to getting back to it.)

 (Ok, this is a cheat, but I did want to read some Melina Marchetta this year, and then I got an e-galley of Froi, so...)


Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Fives: Novel Envy

It's been a while since I've gotten to a Friday Fives post, simply because it's been a while since I've gotten around to reading blogs at a reasonable hour on a Friday!  But this week's topic from Paper Hangover is a fun one: 


1) A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I've mentioned my love of this book before, but the writing combines the simplicity of Sara's ideas about life and being nice to people and imagination with some incredibly lush and evocative descriptions.

 2) Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  I think this one sprang to mind because my current WIP has some structural similarities and I despair of ever getting into some kind of shape that is even half as urgent and lovely as Delirium.

3) An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.  I think I mentioned my love of the narration in this book when I posted my response/reviewlet/whatever after I read it.  That's like, the least of John Green's gifts--I can't even wish I wrote Looking For Alaska, because I don't even understand how that book happened in someone's brain, but I can wish for John Green's 3rd person narrative voice in An Abundance of Katherine's because it's at least like something I've attempted before.  

4) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  I was nervous about reading this one when it was assigned in my college Intro to the Novel class, because I had an out-and-out battle with Dickens when we had to read A Tale of Two Cities my sophomore year of high school.  But I wound up getting so sucked in by Great Expectations that I actually gasped out loud reading a particularly suspenseful section alone in my dorm room.  It's such a great story.  (English majors aren't really supposed to talk like that.  But I wasn't a great English major.) 

5) Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.  Yeah, I went there.  I chose this one on the strength of a four word phrase near the end of the book that I think I may someday get tattooed on my wrist to remind me what words can do.  (It's "this is what happened" and it's right before The Awful Thing happens, and no book has ever made me want to slam it shut and stop reading more than that phrase did, because I knew as soon as I read it.) 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Yay!  I've received the Liebster Award from Marcie Colleen at The Write Routine!  I really like the idea behind this award:  it's for blogs with fewer than 200 followers, to help get the word out!

So, before I share this with some of my fellow bloggers, I'm meant to share five things about myself:

This is the backyard of our house.  Yes, it was beautiful.  But.  37 other people.
1) The first time I ever left North America, I was 21.  Not one to do anything by halves, I flew for 19 hours to get to Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Did I mention I hate flying?)  I spent three weeks living in a house with 37 other people--yes, 37, half from my college theater department and half from a theater conservatory in Jo'burg--and taking the public bus through Jo'burg to work each day.  (Did I mention I adore public buses?)  It was undoubtedly the most intense three weeks of my life: literally across the planet from anywhere I had ever been before, living with 37 other people, and having another day of flying to look forward to.  And, not to be a total cliche, but: I'm so, so glad I did it.

Find this candy bar.  Now.
2) PSA: Trader Joe's has started making speculoos-filled chocolate bars.  Speculoos, if you haven't tried it, is like a spice-cookie spread.  Like the texture of peanut butter, except it's made of cookie.  Needless to say, they have become a staple in our house.

Who took the picture?  Why, our new friend, the cabbie.
3) My Blogger picture is me, on my great-grandmother's farm in Ireland.  My great-grandmother grew up there and then came to the States when she was about 18, leaving behind her parents and nine siblings.  Mr. S and I honeymooned in Ireland and found our way to this tiny farm, which we only got to because our cabbie kept stopping and asking after my great-grandmother's sister-in-law, and everyone in the village knew her.  When we got there, the door was open--I mean, standing ajar--and the cabbie led us inside.  I introduced myself--Kitty's great-granddaughter from the States--and just like that, I was handed a beverage and given a tour of the farm.  My great-grandmother may have planted the rosebush that I'm standing in front of in that photo.  And above is me with my newly-discovered relatives (and newly acquired husband!)

4) I can recite at least 50% of the following movies:  Beauty and the Beast, The Sound of Music, A Christmas Story, Clue.  Also the entire run of Sports Night and at least the first season of The West Wing.

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5) I have performed the following embarrassing numbers in front of my classes:  Gold Digger (rap) and the Dougie (dance).  Both times students laughed so hard other faculty members came running to see if everything was ok.  They were not laughing with me, except that I was also me.

Ok, now to pass the award along!

1) Jaime Morrow at Jaime Reading and Writing, who is a friendly and encouraging blog pal, and who is always one step ahead of my TBR list!

2) Kristen Pelfrey at Kristen Pelfrey Writes, who writes about teaching with a clarity and honesty that I really admire. 

3) Colin D. Smith, who is a tireless advocate for all the things he loves, including Doctor Who, Divergent, and Scott Westerfeldt's Leviathan trilogy (excellent taste, no?)

4) Jim Randolph at Teacher Ninja, who I discovered through a recent comment challenge, and whose blog totally fascinates me because being a school/children's librarian is like, the secret dream I keep where most people keep their dreams of playing pro sports and winning American Idol, and he makes it seem exactly that cool.

5) Bailey Hammond at Over Yonder..., who has excellent taste in books (read: is also a fan of The Scorpio Races) and hobbies (read: oh Bailey why did you have to blog about Skyrim, now I am going to have to PLAY it, there goes spring break...)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

RTW: Best Book in January

Well, for once, I have an answer to the usual end-of-the-month Road Trip Wednesday question: 

What was the best book you read in January?

I called this one back when I finished the book, on New Year's Day.  In fact, I called that it would be the best thing I'd read all year, but one thing at a time.  I read two books this month that I gave five stars on Goodreads (check back for Sunday Sunshine this week to see what the second one is) but The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater, takes the prize.  I keep having to stop myself from just going back and re-reading it instead of attending to my lengthy, lengthy TBR list.  I've already waxed poetic about it, here, so I'll keep today short.   But if you are the kind of kid who read a lot of horse books as a child, or if you're looking for a slow-burning, rich, lyrical read--you may want to consider reading The Scorpio Races like, immediately.