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Category Archives: Adult

Insta-reviews

I’ve written before about completing Riotgrams Instagram challenges– a photo each day for a month around the prompt set forth that usually aligns in part with holidays, seasons, and suggestions from Book Riot‘s followers. I thought I’d share some book recommendations based on the prompts and my pictures so far this month. Keep in mind it’s only October 15th, which means there’s still a half of a month to go!

2017-10-14 08.43.42Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs is an addition to the Miss Peregrine’s series. This book is a collection of short stories written under the guise of a historian for peculiars and tells the tall tales that only another peculiar can tell. Some are light-hearted but some are downright depressing. But it brings out the best in Riggs’ creativity and is a perfectly natural (see what I did there?) addition to the family of books.

This post’s inspiration was “books in nature”.

 

 

 


2017-10-09 11.40.35The Round House by Louise Erdrich is an adult novel written in 2012 that is a multi-layered and emotionally-draining portrayal of a family torn apart on the North Dakota reservation of the Ojibwe tribe. This is the kind of book you dive into with every fiber of your being and continue to think about after you’re finished. It’s likely a book I will re-read when I don’t often do that.

This post’s inspiration was “Native and indigenous reads.” 

 

 


2017-10-10 19.19.47-1Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson is the final book in her Gold Seer trilogy that I finished about fifteen minutes ago. I bought it on it’s book birthday because I had to have it and finished it within a few days, though if I could ignore adulthood, I could have been done the following day. Carson demonstrates the facets of immigration and race relations in the 1850s during the Gold Rush though it began years before that in the south after Leah’s parents were murdered and she needed to run, hiding herself in plain sight as a boy and meeting up with a band of interesting people all pushing their way west. If I can provide more encouragement to read the series, know that I had at least one night of dreams set in the wild West myself that demonstrates Carson’s command of setting.

This post’s inspiration was “books & candy”.


2017-10-04 08.01.19Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence is a must-read for librarians (duh) and avid book lovers. Her uniquely humorous style provides glimpses into her reading habits and her life. Her and I are kindred spirits because we share an all-time book favorite The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. Her approach had me laughing and smirking making for awkward public interactions. But readers certainly can find ways to incorporate this style– a love letter to your books– into some epic internal conversations or as part of your next book group meeting. Love, Alicia.

This post’s inspiration was “current read.”


2017-10-03 16.03.30-1And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard has one of my favorite covers. So while it’s not winter and I wasn’t going to dress in all-black, you get the point. This young adult novel features poetry and inspiration from Emily Dickinson in one of the ways I appreciate contemporary YA authors– bringing back the old by incorporating it into the new. The main character has experienced something tragic and is now at a boarding school and channeling Emily Dickinson to heal. The mystery unfolds over the course of the book and readers get to go back in time and revisit some of Emily Dickinson’s best poetry while Hubbard flexes her own poetry muscles and has Emily writing her own which is just as beautiful.

This post’s inspiration was “three word titles.”


2017-10-11 15.34.27Lab Girl by Hope Jahren is an adult biography that I have recommended widely since reading. While I will never know what it’s like to be a scientist, I felt like I understood the life of one, with the added benefits of chronicling Jahren’s personal life alongside her academic one. Without a doubt, it is eloquently written and organized in a studious manner, with three sections being named for plant life weaving these plants into the story of her own life and her lab partner. It’s as serious as it is cerebral with commentary on mental health, family, friendship, and science itself.

This post’s inspiration was “underrated read”. 

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Bad, difficult, and nowhere

Over the last several weeks, I’ve read titles that deal with girls in bad places, girls taking a stand as “nowhere girls”, and an adult essay collection by Roxane Gay called Difficult Women. To say that #shepersisted would be an understatement.

GirlinaBadPlaceThe first, Girl in a Bad Place by Kaitlin Ward is a copy I’m reviewing for VOYA, so you can read the full review there, but suffice it to say that when a girl is in trouble, sometimes she finds the path of least resistance and when that path leads to dangerous individuals, it’s important to have a girl friend to keep it real.

TheNowhereGirlsAnd keepin’ it real is what a group of girls in The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed does when a new girl moves in to the house formerly housing another student who moved after a traumatic rape. The school and community’s lack of justice for her and subsequent girls who have tolerated this behavior are ready to stand and fight led by three very unique girls who empower others’ voice. Erin’s autism is useful as she continually discusses how she is underestimated by others. Rosina’s pressures include the conservative Mexican-American expectations of her family as she explores her sexuality and sense of duty. Then there’s Grace, the new girl, who provides fresh perspective couched in a liberal church community that her mother heads. What is admirable and respected in the story are the richness of the voices, but the very real conversations Reed has with her readers.

DifficultWomenAnd while the third book is an adult essay collection with a great deal of sexual content, the rawness of the approach is what won me over. I hadn’t read any of Gay’s other works that include Bad Feminist and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body so I cannot speak to those but each story while sometimes with similar character profiles or development allows for reflection. I’m the first one to admit I love dark books and this one fits the bill as Cornelius Nepos says “after darkness comes the light.”

So, explore womanhood in its many forms in these three newer books.

 

Stepping back in time

After a short long weekend away from home where we were able to travel back in time and breath in the history of a long ago time while enjoying what it is in 2017, it got me thinking about the books that make me want to travel to a specific time or place.

  1. Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck uses the Fitzgerald’s specifically Zelda and her private nurse, Anna to bring readers to the 1930s using a main character whose husband is MIA from the war, a young daughter who died, and her new charge, the unstable Zelda Fitzgerald to bring the Jazz Age to life.
  2. Mary Coin by Silver is a haunting, heartbreaking, and lyrically romantic interpretation of the subject of Migrant Mother, the photographer, and a possible relative focusing on the Great Depressions far-reaching effects.
  3. Garden of Stones by Littlefield uses the same concept as Silver with the comparison of different generations in one story and how they all persevered. In this story it focuses on a woman’s survival at all costs during the Japanese internment.
  4. Into the Wild by Krakauer takes us to the wilds of Alaska and leaves us to wonder, what was Chris really thinking?
  5. Mudbound by Jordan shows us the dead-end life that Laura is feeling she’s living after relocating to the Mississippi Delta in 1946. The intricacy of relationships romantic and otherwise bring this story to life.

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All of these are adult titles whose authors have a particular penchant for historical fiction or in Krakauer’s case, writing nonfiction with a bevy of research and purpose, that provide readers with an experience. The kind of experience I had sitting for brunch with a pomegranate mimosa and eggs benedict  in the oldest tavern in the United States that opened its doors in 1697 and where the Colonial Legislature would meet. All you need to do is close your eyes and listen to the creaking of the wood floors and feel the bustle of life that long ago. I’m guessing it would be far noisier and smokier and sans white linens.

 

Hop, skip, and jump

I love when books give me a taste of something I didn’t know before and leads me to other things; one thing should always lead to another, just like thinking about chocolate almost always leads to peanut butter or reading one book by a gifted author (hi, Ruta!) always leads to reading everything she publishes.

In fact, I blogged about my discovery of “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne after reading A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry. I adore authors like Sarah Cross who revitalize fairy tales. I picked up Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast after delighting in Ericka Robuck’s Hemingway’s Girl. Even though I disliked the new The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle, I read Christina Rossetti’s 1862 poem “Goblin Market” (adored it!) And though I still haven’t read Shakespeare’s play “A Winter’s Tale” which inspired E.K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued by a Bear, I look forward to it soon.

Switching gears from books that lead to other books, what about books that lead to field trips? I anticipate an on-site tour of the Albany Shaker site after reading Ann Sayers’ book “Their Name Is Wicks…”: One Family’s Journey through Shaker History.

BooksCheapestVacation

Living in a state like New York, and upstate no less, provides rich history lessons everywhere we turn, so I took the opportunity to dive into the world of the Shakers. And it didn’t hurt that I know the author and went to the book launch at the Shaker Heritage Site. You can see my post published yesterday after finishing the book that day. But it brought life to these people and this location.

I remember joining a book group that read the beautiful All The Light We Cannot See by Doerr and having the very real conversation about going on a field trip to France as I’m sure most book groups who read it thought about doing too.

So, what books have you read that ultimately led you to another book or embarking on an adventure? Likewise, have there been books that completely transported you to another time and place providing the cheapest vacation money can buy?

 
 

Reclaiming Conversation

In January 2017, I read Sherry Turkle’s 2015 book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age and I find myself referencing it frequently in my own conversations with others. So I wanted to share it in the context of this week’s #edublogsclub challenge prompt around digital citizenship. My stance aligns similarly to Turkle’s in that she isn’t anti-technology, she’s pro-conversation.

ReclaimingConversationYes, we need to have digital citizenship lessons, but we have forgotten to continue the lessons on personal citizenship because of and ignorant of our digital lives. We believe we know people because we are connected with them on social media. We believe we are better than or worse than people because of what we see on their feeds. We compare ourselves to Photoshopped images in advertising. We reserve the right to demean others either because we are behind a screen or because we think it is our right. Turkle shares a few stories that I can only compare to why teenagers are less likely to get their drivers license. We have scared them with advertisements, statistics, and more. And the same thing is true in real life. We have scared teenagers into speaking less because they see what happens when people say the wrong thing. The instant screenshot or video immortalizes a misstep. For whatever reason, Turkle’s example of a teenage boy who ignored a phone call from a college recruiter so he could email him instead later was explained by the boy as a fear of saying the wrong thing over the phone. He shared that a phone conversation is too quick for him to think about what he wants to say and the fear of saying the wrong thing drives him to email instead because he can think as he types.

How many of us have seen or engaged in inflammatory Twitter conversations? How many have posted a rant on Facebook? We know things can get out of hand quickly but it’s coupled with the positive use of social media as demonstrated in the Middle East and North Africa during Arab Spring in which youth were protesting their governments and convening for the cause. In this case, the instant spread of information was beneficial.

So it’s the quickness of the digital age that means that we must still empower everyone’s voice outside of their digital presence and how they are IRL. How should we prepare to ask the right question to the customer service representative over the phone? How can people guide conversations deeper when most everyone wants a shallow conversation they can maneuver in and out of because what’s on the their phone is more important?

These are the gems that Turkle shares and truly made me think about how I am and how I want to raise my kids and how I want to teach my students. I want to reflect on Turkle’s lens through Thoreau’s thoughts on the subject in which he said his cabin had three chairs: one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society.

We need to remember how to be by ourselves and know ourselves before we know others, we also need friendship, the real kind not the followers kind, and we also need to know how to interact in groups. Turkle’s book was for me the kind of book that comes at the right time and has left an impact on me. While the last third of the book was recycled lessons, the first two thirds of the book provided enough material to think on that I must have used an entire pad of Post-its. It should give anyone thinking about digital citizenship thinking not only about the digital side, but also the personal side.

 
 

The art of the booktalk

This post originally appeared on the Books Blog for the Times Union

The art of the booktalk. When a friend asks you about the book you’re reading or you’re sharing a recent fabulous read, how do you approach it? Do you ask a question? Perhaps have a pre-planned teaser or maybe you’d rather share an overview. Sometimes I’m so blinded by the emotion of absolutely loving a book that I clutch the book to my chest and whisper I love this book and then just hope that someone will take my word for it. Luckily I’ve got some street cred with this approach.

2017-03-30 15.40.02-1But, I was thinking about the art of the booktalk after spending two days in classrooms talking to tenth graders about choosing a classic book to read for their fourth quarter project. I had a lot of ground to cover and not all of the books I had read. Yet that is nothing new because I booktalk frequently on topics that I may only know slightly and I am a firm believer that you can booktalk a book you haven’t read. I organized the books into categories that helped channel the number that I was talking about and then prepared my cheat sheet (things like publication date, title characters, main ideas, themes or topics, or a relevant current topic that paired nicely). And while this is necessary, I generally don’t use it as much as occasionally reference it since Benjamin Franklin put it best when he said

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

It’s there if I need it, but the preparation solidifies my approach and then I don’t actually need it. Especially when I capitalize on others in the room who may have loved one of the books and ask them to share. When I talk about a book I may ask a hypothetical question or have a one-liner that intrigues someone, saying little more. And I learn from others. I facilitate a book group of local school librarians and everyone has a slightly different approach, all valuable in their own way. There are some I could listen to all day myself, admiring their vocabulary and word choice. I aspire to be better after each delivery and rework it until I hit booktalk gold. We only get better with practice.

So not only am I constantly honing my booktalking skills based on my audience, I also realized I have a lot of classic literature to read (or reread to refresh my memory). Maybe I can make this a monthly post to review a classic book as a way to kickstart this exploration. Which would you start with?

 

Chain Mail 2.0

Yesterday I was tagged in a Facebook chain message. My first response, like any chain snail mail or email from years past was to ignore it, but this one was about books, so how could I resist?

The purpose was to quickly share, without too much thought, ten books that have stayed with you in some way. Here were my ten (with a brief explanation of why):

1. Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck is a beautiful piece of literature that seamlessly weaves real characters and intersecting them with everyday people. The juxtaposition between Edna St. Vincent Millay and Laura Kelley is brooding with layers of passion and sacrifice that touches me deeply.
2. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly focuses on Mattie who wants to better herself and she does it by learning new words and seeking knowledge. This is the motto of my life.
3. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton moves me on an elemental and mystical level. It’s the deep-seated family history and Ava’s final moments with Nathaniel Sorrows that absolutely transformed me.
4. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan is a modern version of The Awakening. A woman and her sacrifice, passion, and dreams dead-ended in their muck-covered Mudbound farm.
5. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez. Where do I begin with this soul-ripping, earth-shattering darkness that throws your emotions around like a rag doll? Naomi, Naomi, Naomi. Pain, passion, a quest for comfort and love.
6. Guardian by Julius Lester begins with “There are times when a tree can no longer withstand the pain inflicted on it, and the wind will take pity on that tree and topple it over in a mighty storm. All the other trees who witnessed the evil look down upon the fallen tree with envy. They pray for the day when a wind will end their suffering. I pray for the day when God will end mine.” There is nothing more to do than to read and follow the pain. One of the most uniquely beautiful opening paragraphs.
7. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is a contemporary classic about a girl finding her voice when it has been silenced by rape. There have been many iterations, both well-done and not-so-much, but this one takes the cake with a simple but clear message that YA readers need so desperately. And regardless of what most think, the movie was spot-on and truly showecased the mood of the book for me.
8. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold was one of the first books that I literally photocopied pages from to keep and reread. The transcendental nature of a narrator talking from haven was unique and sad and then having read Sebold’s memoir Lucky, it all came together.
9. A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman makes me want to know more and be better. Ackerman’s knack for beautiful writing and a well-researched focus feeds my need to focus on the beauty and gratitude of nature (in the form of our five senses).
10. What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World by Taylor Mali is a force for those in education. Having been able to see him a small, eclectic bar/performing arts establishment was invigorating and his ingenuity and talent for spoken word pours from him. And though his observations are spot on and the book is a testament to that, it can only be best experienced with the ear. I’m linking my favorite here: “I’ll Fight You For the Library”.

As you can see, the books that speak to me tend to be ones where characters are experiences the darker side of emotions but are trying to chase passions regardless. There is a reason my tattoo is what it is and why I feel these books on an elemental level.

Please share yours whether it’s on social media or in the comments. Not that I need more to add to be to-be read pile, but, that’s what book sharing is all about.