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...)



  1. Some great reads here! I really need to check out FINNIKIN and FROI already. Too many books to read... :-)

  2. I'm loving Finnikin--it's really fast-moving, and I find myself looking back a lot, which I enjoy because it's keeping me on my toes rather than making it easy for me. I recently got some notes on a chunk of my WIP, and a lot of them were really great, but one of them was that I should tone down my vocab--so reading books like Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Finnikin are really nice, because that was the note I totally rebelled against. Yikes, rambling. But yeah, check it out.


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