Refurb |

As most of you know, I haven’t blogged in almost two months.  I’ve been overwhelmed with work, moving, feeding the animals that we hoard in our home (3), and keeping up with day-to-day life.  So, I’ve given myself a challenge.  To blog at least every three days for the month of June.  Even when I’m too tired, even when I’ve worked a full day and there are no words in my brain to communicate anything to the world.  Even when all I can do is review the four reality television shows I just watched on Bravo because I couldn’t do anything that contained more thought.  Teaching will be over by the tenth and I will be dedicating myself to my small nook of internet.  Looking forward to reintroducing myself to you, guys.  I hope you like the new look.

-POP

A Wishbone of a Book

Wishbone @The Blaze

Like Austin, Texas, I picked up Amber Spark’s story collection The Unfinished World thinking Let’s get weird. Full disclosure, I actually clicked that wishbone toggle on NetGalley and Norton granted my wishes.  Thank you, fairy [odd] grandfather, W.W.  The wishbone toggle is kind of a fitting romance for this book of stories, which I didn’t know had a novella, but apparently that is what the readers are saying.  It’s fitting because these stories were all a bit dreamy, a bit other sphere of imagination.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 3.44.03 PMOn the outset, they reminded me of A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel, a collection that I could read again and again.  This is also what I would think Miranda July would create if put out into space in a retro yellow space suit and asked to write until her fingers bled dry.  Something like this odd creation that Amber Sparks has developed.  Don’t get me wrong, I was enthralled from the beginning.  There are pages on pages of quotes from this collection hidden away in unrecognizable font in my journal.  A few of the stories I particularly loved were, “The Janitor in Space,” “The Cemetery for Lost Faces,” “The Logic of a Loaded Heart,” “For These Humans Who Cannot Fly,” “The Process of Human Decay,” and “The Fever Librarian.”

I thought each of these stories was doing something either quite new, or those made famous for their oddness had done something similar and this was a new take. For instance, “The Logic of a Loaded Heart” is a word problem.  It seamlessly blends the math of third grade, with the math of the every day world telling a narrative that makes the reader question the ifs and buts of their life, the way it looks on paper like a math resume of sorts.  It became like a “choose your own adventure” type of story, rather than a math problem, in parts, but that didn’t diminish the effect of it being thoughtful and not at all redundant. t know that Margaret Atwood has done something similar with “Happy Endings,” but who doesn’t want to be referenced in the same sentence as that woman, especially if you’re going for the oddness factor.

“The Janitor in Space,” was just sparkling new for me.  I would never think to put a janitor in space and since this is the opening story, it really set the tone for the rest of the story.  While I didn’t think this story was particularly science fiction(y) or even fantastical, as Sparks parades through these genres in the collection, I realized that she was setting me up from the jump for this sort of mystical train of thought.  It didn’t always work, but “The Janitor in Space,” definitely left me wanton.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 3.43.53 PM“The Fever Librarian” is an obvious choice of story for any book nerd.  The librarian that keeps all the “fevers” of the world at be, drenched in her own lust.  It was exciting to watch her downfall or her upbringing, depending on the way you read the story.  And “For These Humans Who Cannot Fly” and “The Process of Human Decay” both discuss what happens to people after death.  I thought “For These Humans Who Cannot Fly” was a tad more interesting just because it was almost written as historical fiction.

It’s about the annals of the German mortuaries where Germans (half-believed) that people might wake up from death and kept them in this windowed enclosures so if they woke up they could get up and continue with life.  I’m still honestly not sure it’s a part of history or if Amber Sparks just made it up for the fun of toying with her reader.  To be completely honest, Google had nothing for me. However, this was more interesting because the narrator is the husband who started them and his wife wanted to fly, which consumed her, and ultimately caused her death.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 3.46.32 PMMy favorite story was “The Cemetery for Lost Faces,” because it was about a brother and sister who create taxidermy art and live in a museum of their father’s strange creations and eccentricities.  Although this story was definitely not the happiest story in the collection, there was something about the relationship that I really loved.  It’s not often that writers get that brother-sister relationship right without it being trite, or too short to really grasp.  (I’m hoping that Rachel and Lotto get to that place in Fates and Furies as I read it).

The best part of this story collection was just the invention. I felt like I was reading the book I wanted to write, but also that I was reading a book by someone with a brain that just thought much differently from my own.  There were turns in the stories that I wasn’t expecting and the language was put together like a new math problem and not a memorized formula.  I love it when writers use words in ways I’ve never seen them used and Amber Sparks did not upset.

25622828While I think that the beginning stories are a lot stronger than the stories in the middle or towards the end, mostly because she asks too much from the reader for the suspension of belief.  Some of the stories were too far for me to even telescope towards.  I really wish that I could get there because I was so into Amber Sparks by the time that I got to those stories that I was a little more wounded when I didn’t like them. Man, sucks to have feelings sometimes.

Presidential Book Club [Reads Based on Candidates]

Earlier this morning, I took the Isidewith.com quiz because I thought I might use it in my classroom.  I’m not sure how to infuse it just yet into my weekly lesson plan, but I did decide on a blog idea.  In this quasi-political episode of the blog, I’m going to recommend reads based on candidates.  Next week, I will recommend reads FOR candidates because I think there’s always an alternating side to our beliefs that can be discovered through literature, and although we may not agree, we can better understand.

First up, Bernie Sanders.  If you’re feelin’ the Bern, and you find his Larry David-looking independence and firm hand on the people’s hearts an easy way to declare a vote, here’s some recommendations from me that would align with Bernie’s political stances.

Bernie Sanders:

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  1. 1984 by George Orwell: I think most people read this book in American high schools, however, if you haven’t, I think the world Sanders is in the fight against the future concocted by Orwell in this book. Thought Police, drones in windows, Big Brother, and opinions that are lost in the abyss of brains that are not allowed to remember them.
  2. The World Without Us – Alan Weisman: Weisman introduces the concept of mass extinction of humans and how the earth, the literal geographical and environmental structure of the earth would continue to thrive.  Weisman uses too many scientific studies to count to show the stamp humankind has left on the earth and gives a visual where the reader can infer how their carbon footprint influences the effect of global warming, and climate change.
  3. Teaching to Transgress – Bell Hooks: I love this woman, I love all her books, but this one especially speaks to my profession.  In Teaching to Transgress, Hooks emphasizes the power of teachers in the classroom to rub up against and break down the boundaries of sexuality, gender, race, and cultural differences.  She’s inspiring, but also practical in her approach to politics and “politically correctness” in the classroom.
  4. The American Way of Poverty – Sasha Abramsky: This book emphasizes the war on poverty in America.  It discusses economic inequality in both an emotional and political way and looks to the future possibilities of poverty in one of the richest nations in the world.

Donald Trump:

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  1. Women Who Make the World Worse: and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports – Kate O’Bierne: sexist / anti-feminist

  2. The Turner Diaries – Andrew Macdonald: Racist and White Supremacist

  3. The Doctrine of Fascism – Benito Mussoline: facsist / dictator
  4. Mein Kamph – Adolf Hitler: dictator / anti-semitic / racist

Hillary Clinton:

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  1. Lean In: Woman, Work, And The Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandburg: This book is just a wonderful look at women in leadership positions and how to have it all.  She took a lot of heat for this book, but I believe it’s a great growing tool for women with a mind of entrepreneurial spirit.
  2. The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party Revolution and Battle over American History – Jill Lepore: Lepore never writes a book that disappoints.  This book blends politics and religion and the definition of American History based on the battle between the two.  Plus, she overanalyzes Sarah Palin which just makes me giggle most of the time.
  3. The Men We Reaped – Jesmyn Ward: A meditation on the lives of black men in America.  Ward lost five men in her life in quick succession and this book has an emphasis on the worth of bodies in America based on race, but also asks critical questions if it’s audience on the role of race, particularly black men, in America.
  4. Negroland – Margo Jefferson: This book is especially powerful in the wake of having an African American president reach practically a full term in office (YES!).  It discusses, in memoir fashion, the lives of elite African-American families and the boundaries placed around privilege from both white people and black people.

Ted Cruz:

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(I feel like I’m clearly missing The King James Bible here).

  1. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power – Jon Meacham: This book is actually AWESOME.  Ted Cruz wants to restore the constitution so people who vote for him should probably understand the founding of that constitution.  While he wasn’t physically there to write it, he was the first enforcer of it.
  2. In The Name of Identity – Maalouf: This is a meditation on how identity is not one thing but multiple things, and that parts of our identity are on the forefront most often when we’re threatened which makes identity almost directly, in today’s world, lead to violence. (My students actually read parts of this one and loved it).
  3. Undocumented – Aviva Chomsky: A professor who discusses the role of immigration and immigration reform in America.
  4. Mr. Gatling’s Terrible Marvel – Julia Keller: The history of Mr. Gatling and the Gatling gun. Definitely written more like fiction than nonfiction.  Mr. Cruz wants to protect the second amendment, so we should probably discuss where it began.

Feel free to comment for additions to the list.  I’m not really in the mood for a political debate, and I will do my best not to respond rudely to any of you that are #teamtrump.  As an educator of the population he would like to keep out of our country, I just have too many views on how his words impact his build it while he flies it platform.

Happy semi-political reading! Follow next week for reads you should pick up (based on my opinion) if you want to know more about the heavy hitting platforms in this years elections.  Can’t wait!

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Why I Suck at NetGalley

Creating a bio on social media is one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done (I feel like this deserves #firstworldproblems).  How do you compose everything about yourself in 140 characters? Goodreads at least gives you a solid paragraph of bio.  On WordPress, I could have a whole blog dedicated to who I am, and even then, it’s like the longer the bio allowed, the harder it gets to pare down what you want to say.  In a bio of a few sentences, you choose the markers of your self-hood.  Creating a bio on a place where I get approved or rejected based on said-bio is even worse.  On Shark Tank they say to lead with the numbers, but I always lead with the cereal-obsession, or the standards of being a cat lady, or the brutal statistics of my love for wildflowers (a la Alice).

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This is one of the reasons why I suck so hard at NetGalley.  I can’t create a bio that sells me as a reputable blogger.  And let’s be honest, lately, I haven’t been.  I’ve been slacking on reviews, unable to come up with interesting blog topics, and I’m in yet another reading funk.  As a teacher, I find it hard to read when all day my brain has been actively influencing other smaller brains to work.

Twitter

The best reason I suck at NetGalley though is because I hate people telling me what to read. Yes, I have the power to request the books that I want to read.  But even then, the idea that now I have to read it in order to review it for a publisher that was nice enough to grant me early access makes me avoid it all together.  This is the exact reason I still haven’t read my favorite authors newest book, Fates and Furies. (I have read every review ever though so it’s almost like I’ve read the book without all the fancy). I may also be avoiding it until I know she’s working on another book so I don’t have to wait too long to have her words again in my hand.  It’s like buying really beautiful pieces for your wardrobe and then never wearing them because you don’t want to ruin them.

I suck, because like high school, when you tell me I have to read something by a certain date I pointlessly avoid it with the power of procrastination and Catholic guilt.  NetGalley does this to me every time.  It’s not even like I read the books that have been gifted to me, I’m not reading them because if I was I would definitely be reviewing them.  I might even buy them in the store or get them from the library after I’ve had them on my NetGalley dashboard for months.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 10.06.47 PMI have a 40% review rate on NetGalley.

NetGalley recommends an 80% review rate.

This. is. sad.

Then, there’s ebooks. I love my kindle.  It’s got a cute case.  It’s easy to access.  It carries like two hundred and ninety seven books on it so when I’m traveling it’s perfect.  However, it has to be charged. I have to swipe to turn a page.  All the pages of every book look the same. Poetry gets this weird, ridiculous format.  It glows, but it doesn’t show in color and if I want color then I have to read a computer screen for most of the evening.  There’s no perfect ebook on the market and if you have one that doesn’t strain your eyes, or truly feels like a real book, then let me know because I will buy it.  The closest I’ve found is my Kindle Paperwhite.  And look, it just ain’t a real book.  It highlights yes, but then to find that page again is a three step process and I keep a book quote notebook (#BUJO) and I need easy access to everything I loved about that book.

My obsession with post-it note flags can’t be enacted on my kindle.  I can’t brush my hand along the side of the pages and feel each little mark of love.  I can’t write my own handwriting into a kindle.  There’s no annotation feature.  If I was a college student, I would be dead in the water with a Kindle.

There is no other way to read books with Netgalley.  You get an email, or you get a pdf, or you get both.  I’m a reader who needs a paper copy.  I have to want to pick up my kindle.  For your information, my kindle fell behind my bed’s side table in the beginning of December and I just picked it up and charged it because I got access (on NetGalley) to Kate Tempests new novel.

AND NOTHING WILL KEEP ME FROM THAT BOOK. EVEN MY OWN SUCK.

(This doesn’t mean I’ll stop sucking anytime soon though, there will just be less suck for a time.  Kind of like history). Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 4.05.13 PM

How’s your relationship with the galley? Are you able to push yourself to the 80% suggested reading rate, or do you have to take time off from Kindle ever so often. There’s too many used bookstores in the world, cheap, cheap, cheap used bookstores for me not to read a paper back that opens like a locked chest in my hand.

PS. Can I send this as a review for all those books on my shelf that I didn’t review yet? Sorry (not sorry).

 

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Spring | Letter A Day

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A few years ago I wrote a “Letter a Day in May” to followers and readers of the blog.  It led me to some wonderful penpals like Claire (@ Word by Word) and Muzette, who I still write to this day and she knows some of the most important thoughts in my head.  I love a good penpal and I love good gossip (the good kind as in, “tell me a good thing.”  If you want to participate in “Spring Letter A Day” starting March 1st and until I run out of people to write, fill out this simple Google Form.

In fifth grade, I was given a penpal that lived in another country.  My mother kept those crayon-written letters.  The lines were tipped downwards and the letters got bigger and then smaller like they appeared under a microscope, but I thought it was magic that I could communicate with someone so far away.  I didn’t know what longitude and latitude were but I could feel miles on the drives back and forth to Florida.  This was my first experience with a penpal.  Since, I’ve written my best friend Seth for all the years he lived in South Korea (we even have a symbol that we both own to commemorate those funky posts).  My dear, Sarah, who moved to New Zealand after her whirlwind marriage, wrote me back and forth for ages.  Bri, who follows this blog, and has one of her own, has written me from Nevada for most of last year.

So, if you think handwritten is a thing of the past, or you just wish something other than bills came out of your mailbox, sign on up.  I can’t wait to write you.

Again, Google Form here.

I look forward to single-handedly keeping the US Post Office open. (Because come on, those uniform britches have to stay on the waists of middle-aged men and out of museums for things of the past).

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We’re going to call this one, “A Big F You.”

Recently, I got an email to be a part of a new reviewing website that promoted themselves as being “similar to Netgalley.”  Now, there’s a reason reviewers love Netgalley.  It’s a database of up and coming books from major publishing houses, to small publishers, to self-published authors.  It’s honestly, a beautiful thing for a reviewer because it’s like walking up to someone’s shelf and being allowed to request access to anything on that shelf.  It’s a library in shrink wrap.

I don’t always finish my Netgalley books in a timely manner and if I’m being honest, I’m a binge Netgalley user.  I don’t request a book from them for months and then when I do, I request seventeen books all published in two months time.  So, obviously, I struggle to keep up with my own reading load on top of reading the entirety of the internet to be able to better teach my students.  If you ever say something like, “she’s just a teacher,” I want you to remove yourself from this blog immediately. However, I digress.

What I hated about this email was that after looking at the website, I was under the assumption that self-published authors pay this site / publishing house / wannabe Netgalley.  Note to publishing houses: make your websites REALLY RIDICULOUSLY clear. Well, everyone, actually. On this website it said that reviewers could pay for a review of $289 for a review in 5 to 8 weeks, and for an extra $100 your review could be sent to you like an Amazon package from a Drone in 3-4 weeks.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 7.01.14 PMFirst off, when people pay for reviews, there’s this automatic expectation that that review will be positive.  For me, this eliminates the whole point in reviewing the book.  Slap five stars on that thing and call it a day. There’s no point in having an opinion when an opinion is forced down your throat.  Isn’t that why people leave the home of their parents, to open their minds and learn more about the world than just the ideas their parents instilled in them? COME ON.

The second part of this “paying for reviews” douchebaggery is that this company would be making money on my reviews. They are middle-manning book review culture.  They aren’t paying the small business blogger.  They are paying themselves, which in my book can be as heinous as witch craft and wizardry.  While this turned out to be untrue, they have “professional reviewers” review those books on various book database websites, but I’m still miffed.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 7.00.25 PMWhat exactly is a “professional reviewer” unless your some swanky old white man writing for the NY Times or some other well-established news magazine.  While yes, NY Times bestselling authors are often reviewed by the newspaper first, I know plenty of FANTASTIC reviewers that run their own outlet with crowds of followers who believe in the truth of their recommendations.  No wonder small business owners everywhere want to fight the man.  I feel a little bit like I have to defend my small section of the internet in this situation.  Don’t come to my suite and tell me you aren’t going to pay me, but you’re going to pay someone who doesn’t use “douchebaggery” as commentary on a book.

I can’t replace this mouth with someone who has a filter.

I really, really, hope that publishing is not drifting to this middle man mentality.  While I would love someone to pay me to be this person all day, I have a village to raise and innovators, entrepreneurs, and global citizens to help build.  Don’t try to finagle your way into my bliss without making it worth my while, and definitely don’t tell me at the end of the email that you plan to pay your best reviewers. How about you take a note from this teacher, “best” is not possible when you believe that everyone comes to the table with different and excellent skills, and everyone comes to the table to prove mastery in a new and engaging way, and everyone comes to the table expecting you to know their uniqueness makes them the best.

You can shove it.

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Salt Water and Leftovers

It took me almost a month to read this book. The odd part, for me as a reader at least, was that I didn’t pick up other books during my breaks on this one.  Island of a Thousand Mirrors is exceptionally hard to read.  Lovers are separated and have to watch the other turn to dust while a child stumbles in the belly of another.  Families are held together by a piece of yarn wrapped in tradition and expectations.  Culture, to the extent of the Parsley Massacre, is questioned in the burn of tires around ribs. The writing is so heartfelt, that the reader must handle each word one by one.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 5.09.40 PMIsland of a Thousand Mirrors is the story of the Sri Lankan Civil War.  I knew absolutely nothing about this when I began reading this book.  I even looked at the map and had no idea that Sri Lanka had ancient civilization ruins.  While my closest relationship to anything Sri Lankan was Nicki Minaj, reading this story made me want to hoard books on the island, and devour Nayomi Munaweera’s perfectly timed new novel.

So, of course, when you’re useless for knowledge, you Wikipedia (like it’s a verb).  I learned a lot of statistics about the war, but this book gave the stories of the people and one of the most eye opening moments in literature for me, when I read the inner voice of a Tamil suicide bomber.  Civil War short: the island had two deep-seeded cultures Sinhala and Tamil.  From what I’ve gathered from reading the book and doing a tidbit of research, the Tamil wanted to create an independent Tamil state (based possibly on Sinhala prejudice) and the leader of this revolution called the fighters, the Tigers.  Eventually, after twenty-five years and countless deaths, the Tamil Tigers were defeated by the Sinhala.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 5.15.36 PMI really liked Munaweera’s historical fiction of the Sri Lankan Civil War because it gave me both sides of the argument.  I wasn’t tied to either side of the fight because in her painful and deliberate words, I saw the desperate frustration from both cultures.  While there are two different family lines portrayed in the novel; one Sinhalese and one Tamil, both families suffered equally.  I was drawn more to the Sinhalese because the amount of story behind that family really spoke to me.  The Tamil family gave sons and daughters to the war effort and unspeakable atrocities happened to the female members of the family.  The Sinhalese family also suffered the loss of family members, and from neighborhood vigilanties no less.

I really, really, really, loved the beginning of this book.  The grandmother, who is clearly prejudice, on the Sinhalese size, fiercely protects the Tamil tenants living upstairs that have become almost inner circle to the Sinhalese.  She handles threats from the outside world.  Not only that, but the family house woman, although she never really speaks, is such a strong character. I find the most poignant writers can make characters that may not have a voice literally on the page, but have such a strong voice in the undoing of the novel.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 5.17.59 PMThis particularly grandmother is reminiscint of all strong grandmother figures in the lives of women outside of the US.  There’s something uniquely me about attaching to a grandmother figure.  I lost my grandmother when I was nineteen, and when I was eleven, she had a stroke that left her a ship anchored at sea with only the sound of “doe” in her mouth.  I have spent years trying to write her strength, her southern, her brick shit house onto the page, but it’s proven difficult.  My grandmother is almost too much woman for the page and Sylvia Sunethra is that dominant on a page as well.  These entire novel is built on female characters made of withered stone.  It is demandingly female, but that’s not to say that it is specific to that gender as a reader.  This book is true to the spirit of womanhood, no matter the culture, but readable.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 5.21.28 PMI feel like I’m almost doing this novel a disservice because it has been my favorite book in a very long time.  I recommend setting a month or two aside to take patience with this book, and kind of pull it apart at both ends.  It’s a difficult read and every few pages I had to stop and remind myself to take a breath.  The pain on the page can be overwhelming, but the story is worth being pigeonholed into sadness. I found so much mercy for these characters that are from such a different postal code than I am.  It’s such an important experience to read books about cultures that remove all of our pretenses and just give us hope and satisfaction.  I am emotionally drawn to Sri Lanka now and will forever scour the used bookstore for stories of this island built on history and salt water.

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Notable Quotables | From the Moleskine

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 10.22.54 AMMy brain, lately, has been almost too fried to read.  I can’t exactly follow a plot without getting distracted by something else in the room.  I’ve become an impatient reader.  In this world where everything is so instant, I find myself unwound by a book that takes time, and polite pleading.  However, I’m also reading the most perfect book to remind me of the purpose of the wait.  Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera is too beautiful.  It reminds me how hard it will be to fashion my own book after pages like this have been written.  Today, I’m going to share a quote that I think anyone who reads this blog can respect.  Later this week, my quote will devastate you.  This is both a warning and an introduction.

In this quote, the narrator has traveled to America from Sri Lanka (due to the beginning of war on the Tamil people) and she has discovered libraries.

“If La’s particular obsession was the precise moment as which blue becomes green, mine had to do with books, words, paragraphs, and the ways they fit together on a page, nestled next to each other, waiting like time bombs.  The greatest thing about America to me was the constant availability of books.  The first time I walked into an American library, bells rang and cherubs sang about my head.

I wandered about in rapture, borrowed books by the armload, and became known to the librarians.  I liked to inhabit books, devour them.  Reading seemed so similar to eating, to consumption.  I didn’t like to eat now unless there was a book open by my plate.  A habit Amma hated and shouted at me often over.  If I could get away with it, I would have written in the margins of my favorite books, drawn diagrams, arrow, and small pictorial commentaries in direct conversation or argument with the writer.  Instead, I read in the bathtub, at the dinner table, on the bus, leaving a trail of books behind me.  Amma and Thatha revered books.  They read carefully without bending pages or breaking spines, bent to kiss them if they fell on the floor.  There were aghast at what they saw as my irreverence, and I in turn could never understand the politeness with which they read” (Munaweera, 116).

Quote from Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

Quote from Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

The moment that got me in this quote was “words…waiting like time bombs.”  I think that little phrase gets at the reason why there are so many readers, and so many readers throughout time.  The words are like a field of improvised explosive devices.  But not the kind that have murdered those who serve, but the kind that open small holes so that as Leonard Cohen so famously said, light can get in.  While I read, I’m allowed into this alternate world that I could never know otherwise.  Someone is giving me the opportunity to travel, to experience, to empathize, to add significance to things I didn’t know previous.  I love this about the world of words, the vastness of it, and the small garden plots, barren lands, and topped mountains that rise (or don’t) from this world.

Like the narrator, I am not a polite reader.  I fold pages of library books with wet thumbs.  I leave crumbs in the cracks from granola bars.  I can’t erase the coffee splotches that I spilled while I read with action.  I leave them in dusty places in my apartment and move them when I move.  The words might get wet, the pages might crease, the margins might be filled with doodles or more words.  Words on words. I try to teach my students the art of annotation and the messiness in conversation.  Every human conversation is messy, and so is every conversation made in the margins of someone else’s words.

The mess is where the light is.

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Diagon Alley Dippage

THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER

Guys, I realize I only read to book four before we went to THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER in Universal Studios so everything I’m about to say may be null and void to you.  However, I promise you that I will read all seven books when I get them from my house next weekend. BECAUSE, THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER is the most epic experience.

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Hogwarts Express

Seriously…we couldn’t even find Diagon Alley until we watched some people sneak behind a wall.  The first day, we rode the Hogwarts Express and saw Hogwarts and did a walk through.  We obviously also drank butter beer (IN EVERY FORM BECAUSE IT’S DELICIOUS). And we were talking about how much the other part of it sucks (Universal) and this part of it was so great (Islands of Adventure).  Little did we know that the next day we would find Diagon Alley and Knockturn alley and literally stand there like doofs in awe when we came through the little passage.

We. nerded. out.

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Diagon Alley Dippage

There are interactive wands. You can turn in your muggle money for goblin gallions.  There’s a dragon that breathes fire (although we could never actually catch him doing it, we just had to look at other people’s shots from Instagram). There’s butter beer which you will see mentioned about fourteen more times in this blog post.  All the buildings are so accurate.  JK Rowling had to come down to look at the plans and choose all the most precise colors and design everything exactly how she had imaged it in her mind.

We bought beanies, the boyfriend is obviously a Gryffindor and I am clearly a Slytherin.  So, naturally, the whole time all the Wizarding World Staff said, “It’s always sad when a Weasley goes bad.”  We got a (he who shall not be named) wand for my nephews birthday and the wands are so well made.  They are study and fascinating.  Truly, the Sirius wand spoke to me with all its symbols and strategy, but wands are expensive and so are real lambs wool sweaters, and Hogwarts notebooks that were made by the same people who made them for the movie and especially robes.

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“It’s always sad when a Weasley goes bad.”

All I can say is that I came home with a whole lot of magic and a new found love for the series.  The fact that one woman’s mind created that much quirk is beyond me.  Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the Wizarding World.

PS. I still think Harry Potter should have died totally in the last book.

 

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Notable Quotables from The Moleskine

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 12.06.30 PMI finished My Name is Lucy Barton in a plane ride, however, I never got to share the brilliant little trinkets found in this one.

“When my great-uncle died, we moved into the house and we had hot water and a flush toilet, though in the winter the house was very cold.  Always, I have hated being cold.  There are elements that determine paths taken, and we can seldom find them or point to them accurately, but I have sometimes thought how I would stay late at school, where it was warm, just to be warm.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 12.08.23 PMThis quote spoke to me because as a teacher, I’m constantly trying to evaluate the motives of my students.  Why would that kid answer a phone call from work in the middle of class? Why does this child where pajama bottoms every single day? How is it that seventy-five percent of my new students this semester have moved more than three times in their life? It’s a part of worrying, I guess.  This quote from Lucy Barton means a lot to me because it’s such a simple reason.  She didn’t like being cold, so she stayed late at school and was able to get the tutoring or study time she needed to be successful in high school.  What a tiny thing that I keep for granted, that my house has heat and I can turn it on with a switch.

“Still, I loved him.  He asked what we ate when I was growing up.  I did not say, “Mostly molasses on bread.” I did say, “We had baked beans a lot.” And he said, “What did you do after that, all hang around and fart?” Then I understood I would never marry him.  It’s funny how one thing can make you realize something like that.  One can be ready to give up the children one always wanted, one can be ready to withstand remarks about one’s past, or one’s clothes, but then — a tiny remark and the soul deflates and says: Oh.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 12.09.54 PMThis. is. dating.  I had so many thoughts when I read this quote back again just now.  The thought that my mother, before dating my father, dated a man who was so selfish that he didn’t buy her Christmas presents, but refused to celebrate with her so she wouldn’t know.  He did however, buy himself everything he wanted, to the point where he was a bit of a hoarder.  When my ex-boyfriend decided to buy a video game, while he was jobless, and let his mother pay for my Christmas present, I realized how much I had repeated my own mother’s past in a new way.  This quote says all of that.  Those Oh, moments.  I think it’s safe to say that those tiny moments also inflate a relationship.  My boyfriend, who homemade me a Happy Birthday banner by cutting and stringing and coloring.  This man inflates the soul, he is an Oh moment with an exclamation point.

I highlighted and scribbled so many more quotes into my notebook, but maybe I’ll save those for another time when I’m reading a book that has very little beauty and I have to question why I’m reading it.