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Showing posts from 2014

Tuesdays at the Castle

41. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George Apparently, I forgot to write about Tuesdays at the Castle. I read this adorable children's book back in June, when I was preparing to teach my summer class for fourth and fifth graders. I used the book as an example for setting description, and students were so interested that a few decided to do their independent book project on it, and many more fought over the library copy in my classroom. Now, there are two sequels out: Wednesdays in the Tower and Thursdays with the Crown . Tuesdays at the Castle is one of few books where the setting takes center stage. As such, it's great for illustrating the importance of setting to a story, but it's also just really fun. Princess Celie, our ostensible protagonist, has a special relationship with the eponymous Castle Glower. Tuesdays are the days that Castle Glower adds new rooms, turrets, or other features. Celie is the only one who never seems fazed by the castle's pecul

Top Ten Books I Read in 2014

Happy Top Ten Tuesday ! Again, I switched this week's and last week's, since tonight is the last night of Hanukkah (Happy Eighth Night, y'all). 1. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie Obviously a Hugo award winner for a reason, Leckie is a new and exciting writer in contemporary science fiction. 2. Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn by Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed Although less widely recognized and certainly not "new," the writers' retelling of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is a compelling reflection on the ancient tale, and modern sensibilities. 3. The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir Weir's narrative voice and methodical structuring are perfect for this most troubling of historical mysteries. 4. The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, and Amanda Pressner I read this twice this year. To any young, single woman who dreams of travel, it's irresistible. 5. The Best American Travel Writing 2013, edited by

Brief Reviews

39. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher Six-Word Review: Gift for erudite academic, otherwise forgettable. Slightly Longer Review: A library browse find, Dear Committee Members was an entertaining read for the two hours it took me to finish. The conceit is a novel written entirely in letters of recommendation from one roguish professor. The letters are witty and verbose, and sure to bring a smile of recognition to the face of any academic. Many a faculty member will wish they had the cojones to compose such missives. Unfortunately, however, the plot is thin and plays on stereotypes without transcending them. Ultimately, Dear Committee Members is funny but forgettable, though perhaps a good gag gift for the English professor in your life. 40. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova Six-Word Review: Brooding artists abound; no real swans. Slightly Longer Review: I purchased this audiobook back in July, but due to a number of interesting circumstances, didn&#

Top Ten Bookish and Teaching Items I Wouldn't Mind for Hanukkah

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! I'm reversing the posts for today and next week, especially since Hanukkah starts tonight (Happy Hanukkah!). Teaching 1. Paper clips The number one item that I actually really want is paper clips. Before becoming a teacher, I never realized how valuable paper clips are. I use them all the time, and I never have enough. Plus, I like the colors and cool designs they sometimes come in. 2. Binder clips If paper clips are useful, binder clips are indispensable. Paper clips are great for individual assignments, but if I have a whole stack? Binder clips are the only way to go. And even these come in fun designs now too. 3. Post-It Notes Post-It Notes are so great for jotting down notes for me, notes for students, notes to anyone and everyone. They're so quick, easy, and accessible. And nobody can get mad when I'm writing on a hot pink background, right? Or lime green? You just can't take it that seriously. 4. Book Markers/Post-It Flags

On Sexual Abuse, Shonda, and Concealment in (Orthodox) (Jewish) Communities

38.Sexual Abuse, Shonda , and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities by Michael Lesher Michael Lesher's Sexual Abuse, Shonda, and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities is a clear-headed, investigative account of the systematic protection of child sex abusers, and corollary silencing of child sex abuse victims, in Orthodox Jewish communities. The book is meticulously documented, and unfortunately at this point, less shocking than it is confirming of what many of us have already suspected or known. I am not an Orthodox Jew, but I am a Jew, and many aspects of the culture depicted in this book are familiar to me on some level. While I want to stress, as Lesher does, that sex abuse is not condoned in Judaism (far, far from it), I am familiar with that paranoia that somehow "they" (the other, the gentile) will get wind that we have done wrong, and use it as an excuse to persecute and annihilate us. This attitude may sound crazy in present-day America--but comi

Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2014

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! 1. Ann Leckie I'm probably not the only one who has Ann Leckie on their list this year, and I only found her after everyone else did. But I will be following her output very closely from now on! 2. Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Day Al-Mohamed I was truly blown away by Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn , it's definitely one of my favorite books of 2014. I only found it because the authors asked me to review it, but I will definitely be seeking out the sequel. 3. Rhett C. Bruno I had never heard of Bruno before he queried me to review his novel, The Circuit: Executor Rising , but I was very impressed with this not-quite-dystopian space opera, and look forward to the sequel. 4. Anchee Min Her books were some of the few of my local library's relatively small audiobook collection that interested me. Her fictional memoirs of China's last empress are exquisite, and Min herself is fascinating. I heard her speak (and sing!) at the National Boo

Book Review: Ancillary Sword

37. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie If Ancillary Justice was an epic space opera bursting with its core concept, Ancillary Sword is the magnifying glass pulled closer, examining the implications of this universe, and this character, on just one planet. One of my favorite aspects of Ancillary Justice was the twin story arcs, one from the past, and one in the present, that cohered to explain the narrator, Breq's, identity. The first book had an epic ending to go with its epic scope, but the second book picks up in the same place. Going forward is slower going and makes for a different, but no less thoughtful, novel. The pace is different, instead of a race to discover the corruption at the heart of civilization, this is a slower, more revealing investigation of the injustices on just one planet (okay, solar system). Breq, now Breq Mianaai, official cousin to Anaander Mianaai, leader of the Radch empire, is sent to protect the Athoek System from the recently outbroken war. I

Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2015

Happy Top Ten Tuesday ! These are probably supposed to be 2015 new releases, so I'll try to put a few of those, but really these are just books I hope I will get to read in 2015. 1. The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin Hardy-har-har. 2. Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear I intend to buy and read it by 2015 at least, if not before! 3. The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books by Azar Nafisi It's out! I've been waiting for this book for years! 4. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link It's time I learned what the fuss is with Kelly Link's short stories. I feel especially interested in her since I met her, once, at the Boston Book Festival. 5. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder The unvarnished story of The Little House on the Prairie books is finally being published. 6. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel This pre-and-post apocalyptic novel has garnered much praise this year, perhaps I should check it out. 7. On a Red Station, Dr

Book Review: Jane of Lantern Hill

36. Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery Rapture, creamy, dreamily--these are the hallmark words of an L.M. Montgomery novel. Jane of Lantern Hill is the perfect amalgam of Montgomery's best plots and descriptions--refined, elevated, reified. Montgomery is notorious for her descriptions that run off the page (especially of flowers and sunsets), her protagonists' soliloquizing tendencies, and her plots' lazily episodical nature. All of this is present in Jane , but the flowers are pruned, the protagonist is capable as well as dreamy, and the plot's episodes contribute to a clean arc. Jane, unlike Montgomery's other famous protagonists, grows up in Toronto, with her soft-willed mother and forbidding grandmother. But of course she's magically whisked away to the infinitely divine (another one of Montgomery's words) Prince Edward Island, by the father she doesn't remember. Jane will have to reconcile her old and new selves, and heal some old wou

Top Ten Bookish Things I'm Thankful For

This week's Top Ten Tuesday at the Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Books on My Winter TBR List--but I don't feel like making another TBR list I'm not going to fulfill. Instead, I want to take a moment in honor of Thanksgiving and think about all of the things I'm grateful for, and I'll attempt to make it bookish. 1. Junot Diaz, and my students I'm thankful that many of my students really strongly responded to the Junot Diaz short story I assigned them, it's clear that they've taken ownership of the material and feel like it "belongs" to them. They've even shown interest in reading more of his work! 2. The growing popularity and abundance of short stories, sci fi and fantasy in particular I usually read novels growing up, but I think it was less of a conscious decision than that was just what was around. Now, everywhere I turn, authors are releasing short story collections, and more and more anthologies are gaining attention. Tor.

Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait to Get

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish ! 1. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie I'm cheating, I already got it =D 2. T he untitled sequel to The Circuit: Executor Rising by Rhett C. Bruno 3. Bombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier Also, already got it! 4. The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin But, you know, not holding out too much hope for this anytime soon. Sequels That I Want, But I Guess I Can Wait For (since, you know, I've waited this long) 5. The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss I was waiting for the third book... 6. Allegiant by Veronica Roth It's complicated. 7. The Magician King and The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman Again, it's complicated. My feelings about this series are so conflicted. 8. Son by Lois Lowry It's not complicated. I'll get to it when I can, I just don't actually own it. 9. The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory Not complicated, just a matter of priority. I needed Ancill

Reading Update: Short Story Time

I have been doing plenty of reading, but more of the sort to keep me sane between work (read: bouts of grading). Recently Finished: Old Missouri Reviews Years ago, an old student of my dad's got wind that he had a literary-minded daughter. She was cleaning out her closet, I suppose, but didn't want to throw out a large collection of Missouri Reviews that she had accumulated. Instead, she gathered them up, and presented them to my dad, instructing him to give them to me. I was flattered, but overwhelmed, by the gift. For years, they sat in my closet, unread. Finally, I decided it was no good just leaving them there, and enacted a ruthless purge. I went through and took out issues with prize-winning stories, or issues with stories by authors whose names I recognized. The issues that made it onto my shelf have provided most of my reading recently. I've read almost all of the stories now. I admit to skipping most of the poetry, I didn't care for it. The issue a

Top Ten Characters I Wish Would Get Their OWN Book

Love this topic over at the Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday. 1. Ismene from Sophocles' Antigone I always thought it was unfair that Antigone gets a whole play when it's her recklessness that gets her poor sister Ismene killed. It's only fair that calmer, wiser Ismene get her own story. 2. Gustav III of Sweden from Francine du Plessix Gray's The Queen's Lover Gustav III stole the show from Marie Antoinette a bit, and I hope du Plessix Gray writes more about him. 3. Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter I feel like Luna's life is destined to be interesting. I'd love to learn more about her early life, but also what she went on to do. 4. Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings, and his daughter Elanor I wish there were continued adventures of Sam, and then Elanor. I'm sure that she has to go see the Elves, just like her Dad. I imagine her sneaking off to Lothlorien, and Sam having to follow her. 5. Oscar Wao from The Brief Wondrous Li

Book Review: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

35. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie Have you ever heard the joke that one person is a world? In Ancillary Justice , one person is a ship. It's an idea that we can all relate to, stunningly realized by Ann Leckie in crisp, simplistic diction. This idea, of a ship that is a person, is what makes this story sing (literally). Ancillary Justice is a compelling example that great science fiction is essentially the literalization of metaphors (according to Seo-Young Chu in Do Metaphors Dream of Literal Sleep? ), or a cognitive estrangement from the mimesis of reality (a wordier but not more complicated idea from Darko Suvin's criticism). Breq, the narrator, is the last remaining "piece," if you will, of a vast artificial intelligence network that controlled an enormous troop carrying star ship, which led ominous "annexations" for thousands of years. To complicate matters more, Breq is actually a human body, that hundreds or thousands of years ago was wipe

Top Ten Characters I Would Want to Be for Halloween

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! True story: I have dressed up as most of these characters at one point or another. 1. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter I never actually dressed up as Hermione, but I always thought I looked way more like her than Emma Watson did. For one thing, I have DARK brown hair, and for another, my hair is/was actually messy most of the time. 2. Jo March from Little Women I have dressed up as Jo. With a patch on the back of my dress. Nobody got it. 3. Eponine from Les Miserables I did this in middle school. Suffice it to say, NOBODY got it. 4. Arwen from Lord of the Rings I've been told I look kinda like Liv Tyler? 5. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation So, not a book character, but I acquired a Data mask at a Star Trek exhibit at a young age, and my sister and I went trick-or-treating as Worf and Data respectively. The best, most appropriate costumes for elementary-schoolers. 6. Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager Also not a book ch

A South Asian Feminist Sci-Fi Utopia: You're Welcome

Today I saw an article from that had me nearly jumping out of my skin with anticipation. The Tor newsletter described it as Utopian. Sci-Fi. From the Subcontinent. Three of my favorite things! In one! And as you can see above, it's actually FOUR of my favorite things in one. So, go read this rad introduction at Tor, and then immediately read "Sultana's Dream" by Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein. My only disappointment is that it's so brief; as a book, it could be the South Asian Female Man (except better, because science. And South Asian.).

Top Ten New Series I Want to Start

Happy Top Ten Tuesday over at the Broke and the Bookish. Not to mention series that I want to finish... 1. The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin 2. The Uplift Trilogy by David Brin 3. The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde 4. A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell 5. The Promethean Age series by Elizabeth Bear 6. A Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 7. River of Souls by Beth Bernobich 8. The Dreamblood Duo by N.K. Jemisin 9. Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal 10. Dies the Fire series by S.M. Stirling

A Fragrant Message

34. Messenger by Lois Lowry "It was a quick and fragrant touch to his lips that gave him courage." - Messenger , Lowry, p. 113 Lois Lowry's prose is stark. As opposed to the pyrotechnical language of Catherynne Valente, Norton Juster, or even Suzanne Collins, Lowry's stories feel almost naked. And yet, it is their barrenness that highlights what is truly important. When I read The Giver many, many moons ago, I long recalled the definition of "apprehension" that Jonas mentions in the first few pages. It is that particular word that captures Jonas' state of mind, and the reader's state of mind for most of the book. Likewise, in Messenger , the word "fragrant" is distinguished among its more simple compatriots. It is important that the lips are fragrant, because they stand in contrast to the growing corruption in Matty's town. (Matty, a character first seen in Gathering Blue , is the protagonist in Messenger ). Messenger is

Top Ten Tuesday: My Fall TBR List

My fall TBR list is quite short this year: 1. Whatever I feel like reading. I've taken on quite a workload this fall, and so anything outside of work will be purely auxiliary. Probably, a lot of articles, short stories, re-reads, and impulse library grabs will abound. However, it would be nice if I read some of the yet-to-be-read books on my shelf, namely: 1. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert 2. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Top Ten Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

Thank you Top Ten Tuesday, I feel like this is always happening to me! 1. Karen Lord I read The Best of All Possible Worlds almost two years ago now, and I still need to read Redemption in Indigo . At least I'm not too far behind! 2. Marge Piercy I really loved Woman on the Edge of Time , I imagine I would enjoy her other works as well. 3. W.G. Sebald I really enjoyed The Rings of Saturn , have been meaning for years to check out his other work. 4. Elizabeth Gilbert I found Committed to be a very thoughtful read, and The Signature of All Things is sitting on my shelf. Maybe I'll even get around to Eat, Pray, Love one of these days. 5. Karen Joy Fowler The Jane Austen Book Club is one of my favorite books, but I wasn't really riveted by the idea of the next couple of books she put out. The latest sounded interesting though. 6. Philip Pullman Not sure if this counts exactly, since I did read the whole His Dark Materials trilogy, but I haven't r

As Good As New by Charlie Jane Anders

Although I've been reading more collections of short stories, I'd stopped reading as much individual short fiction as I did last year. My primary source has been, and for a while I wasn't very impressed with the offerings. But I decided to take a chance on "As Good as New" since I recognized the author name, and the plot description intrigued me. "As Good as New" is one of the cleanest, most satisfying short pieces I've read in a while. Marisol, a playwright turned medical student, is possibly the only person to have survived the end of the world. Holed up in a panic room, she eats frozen dinners and watches "The Facts of Life." And then she finds a genie in a bottle. Read it if you like classic, thoughtful stories. It's pared down, with just two characters, and just one clear plot with a couple of underlying ideas that underscore the whole piece. Enjoy!

Book Review: Rav Hisda's Daughter: The Enchantress by Maggie Anton

33. Rav Hisda's Daughter: The Enchantress by Maggie Anton *Published Sept. 2, 2014* Hisdadukh is a charasheta , or enchantress, who is learned in the ways of healing and protective magic. She is the daughter of a historical Talmudic scholar, Rav Hisda, who is himself learned in priestly magic. In Anton's world, the wives and daughters of Talmudic scholars have an equivalent brand of magic that they use to protect their families and communities. It's an interesting portrait of feminine power in a highly misogynistic era. Anton is known for her earlier historical novels on the daughters of Rashi, arguably the best known Talmudic scholar. The Enchantress is the sequel to Rav Hisda's Daughter: The Apprentice. Although I have not read the first book, I was able to get into the story fairly easily. That said, I think my knowledge of the eponymous viewpoint character would have been deeper if I had read it. Many of the events in the earlier book are referenced here.

Top Ten Books I Want to Read But Don't Own Yet

I'm a little late with Top Ten Tuesday... 1. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin 2. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman 3. Marriage, A History by Stephanie Coontz 4. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons 5. Messenger (And Son) by Lois Lowry 6. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore 7. Wild by Cheryl Strayed 8. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones 9. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon 10. The End of Men and the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin (Now the real question is how many books do I want to read that I DO own...)