Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

To be honest, I had no intention of reading this book. Then my sweet husband who has no interest in the literary world heard my talking about this book with a friend. Unfortunately Seth missed the part where I said "The Girl on the Train" wasn't my type of book and went to four stores trying to find a copy to give me for Christmas. How could I return it after he tried so hard to get it? I got my book club to choose it for April's book, so I'd be forced to read it....

And then when I finished the book last night, there were not enough lights to turn on or doors to lock to make me feel comfortable. I really am not conditioned to read stories where none of the characters are likable and where the conflicts seem so based in real people's problems. Hawkins did a fantastic job setting up an unreliable narrator that still captivates her readers. I can't recommend this book because twenty-four hours later, I'm still so anxious just thinking about it...but wow - what a ride.

Happy reading--
ps. Emily Blunt has been cast to play the main character in the movie version. Even with how much I love her, I'm not sure I'm brave enough to go see this movie. "Gone Girl" was way too much for me to handle...and for the record, casting Emily Blunt as someone who is supposed to be unattractive is a little unkind. ;)

An Open Letter to Ginny and Hermione

Dear Ginny and Hermione-

I read a disturbing commentary recently that women are appreciated for two main things: being beautiful and being mothers. While being beautiful is, of course, not a bad thing and being a mother one of my greatest desires, neither of those things should define a woman's worth. Thank you for being much more complex that - for being smart, fiesty, strong, and passionate. Thank you for fighting for what's right and for never backing down from a challenge. I can't wait to introduce my daughters to you. You're exactly the type of girl I want them to grow up to be. 

Love, Me

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows...Round 5

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I want to write something that does justice to how much I love the conclusion of this series and to the series overall, but it all comes out in "fangirl" and I just don't want to do that. So, today the short version is that I love the detail in this book. I love that Rowling pays attention to little characters and nuanced detail as much as she does the title characters. I love that there are stories within stories and that I notice new things every time I read. Few reading experiences leave me feeling as satisfied as the Harry Potters. Rereading the series over the past six months is no exception. There is always a perfect blend of nostalgia and magic - I can't get enough of it.
Image result for harry potter and the deathly hallows part 1
Happy reading to all the muggles who are also still waiting for their letter to Hogwarts--

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6)Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Someday when my fantasy dinner party convenes, I will sit with Jo Rowling and ask her how much of the Harry Potter story she knew from the first book. This time through these books, I am captivated by the nuanced details - the layers of character motivation and descriptions that seem like they are just flavoring the story, but are actually setting up major plot and character revelations. My only disappointment with this book is that I can't actually go into the pensieve with Dumbledore and Harry.

As one of my students says, Harry Potter isn't just a book, it's a way of life. Freshmen are dramatic, but somehow this one rings true...and somewhere in other room, Seth is rolling his eyes. :)

As always, happy reading!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Current Loves & Obsessions

*I cannot get enough of Peter Hollens. I put his youtube channel playlist on every chance I get. If you haven't heard him, stop what you're doing and look him up. LOVE.
*I started listening to the Harry Potter books again in the fall. I'm now nearing the end of the sixth one. I am so content to get lost in Rowling's world of Hogwarts, unlikely heroes, English phrasing, etc, etc. Plus Jim Dale's voice is now so familiar that I start to miss it if I haven't heard it in a long time. I will be sad when the final pages of book seven are over. Then I think the next time I go through the books will be with a future son or daughter...if I can wait that long.
*I should probably be over this, but I am obsessed with our wedding photos. We still are trying to figure out which to hang in our apartment and which to include in a wedding album, so I use that as an excuse to pour over our pictures and relive our blissfully happy day.
(All wedding photography credits go to the amazing Kristina Curtis)
*My sophomores are studying "The Book Thief" right now. I love watching them appreciate Zusak's master storytelling. I could not love this story or Zusak's writing more.
*Henry got glasses, and he's beyond adorable. He chose black frames to be like Batman. 
*March 8 was International Women's Day. Amidst all the horrible political rhetoric, I was inspired by the hope and message of the day. One of my sophomores, a petite Indian girl who will be an extraordinary woman someday, came dressed very subtly as Rosie the Riveter. These girls really will change the world if only given the chance. #onedayIwill
*That, of course, leads me to Emma Watson's work on the HeForShe campaign. I love this campaign, particularly Emma's work, because it has not focused on women's rights at the detriment or chastisement of men. It's about people being treated fairly, not because they are men or women, but because they are human. Empowering others doesn't take away from our own strength, but rather increases our own potential. 
*My sisters and I went to Disneyland last weekend with Seth, Chad, and Mae. One of my favorite (although uncaptured) views were Mae's little arms stretched as high as they would go whenever we were on any sort of roller coaster. She really is a powerhouse in the making.
*Wouldn't be normal life if I didn't include something about Seth that I am currently loving...not that I could ever choose one: that guy's smile just melts my heart, his earnest desire to see me happy, the fact that he chooses my company over everything else he could be doing, that he goes on adventures with me, and kisses me good night and first thing every morning. I love my Mr. Mann. 
Happy spring. Happy life. 

The Book Thief...Round 4

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marcus Zusak said that when he wrote The Book Thief, he was trying to write someone's favorite book. He succeeded. The Book Thief is truly my favorite book. I can't believe I am lucky enough to be teaching it to my sophomores this year.

"I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I ever simple estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant."
(*Not so secret desire: someday I hope my son or daughter has a friendship like Rudy and Liesel share.)

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth TaleThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As my friend Alicia said, The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to people who love books and writing. The plot is buried in so many details and layers that I think some people get lost and stop caring about the story Setterfield is trying to tell. I love it though. I love the mystery shrouded in love and loss and fear. The sentences are so well crafted and the words so well chosen. The word delicious kept coming to mind as I was reading - the taste of writing so eloquent and beautiful that I wanted to share line after line with someone. Setterfield's depth left me feeling like I was curled up in a window seat of a fine English manor watching the snow swirl over the moors. The only thing missing was Heathcliff or Elizabeth Bennett coming through the mist.

As always, happy reading!
[A picture in front of one of the most impressive gothic manors I've visited in England. Hello Vida Winter, and of course, hello Crawley family.]