Monday, April 17, 2017

Recently Read: Belle Epoque

Author: Elizabeth Ross
Genre: Young Adult- Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2013
Page Count: 336
Rating: 3/5

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Maude has run away from her home and father to avoid an arranged marriage to a man more than double her age, and she has landed in Paris. There she finds the city to be a difficult place to survive on her own, until she comes across an ad in the newspaper offering work to young women. Maude soon finds out that this work is acting as an average-looking foil to the society women who want to appear more beautiful. Maude must decide if this work, and a new-found friendship with her first client, is worth the sacrifice of her pride, or if the job even requires any sacrifice of her pride at all.

I ordered this book from Book Outlet quite a while ago and didn't know much about it, besides the basic idea of a foil and it taking place in historical Paris. I'm glad I ended up picking this one up, as it was an enjoyable read. 

The pacing of the book was spot on, and Maude was a likable character. I was intrigued by the idea of beauty foils and was not surprised to find out that this practice is rooted in fact. It is interesting to examine the lengths that women of the past and present go to in order to obtain 'beauty' and how that idea of beauty changes with time.  If you're a fan of historical fiction, this one is worth checking out. It was quick and enjoyable and the historic Paris setting is always amazing to visit.

One of my favorite elements of this novel was that it was set against the backdrop of the construction of the Eiffel Tower, which the majority of people detested at the time. This worked perfectly as a metaphor for the changing ideals of beauty, as the Eiffel Tower is now the most well-known symbol of Paris and one of the most recognized structures in the world. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Recently Read: The Sun is Also a Star (And Thoughts on Fate)

Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publication Date: 2016
Page Count: 348
Rating: 5/5

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Natasha is about to be deported. She is spending her last day in America trying to find a way to stay instead of returning to Jamaica, a place she doesn't feel like she will ever fit in. Daniel is on his way to an interview for Yale, where he will go to be a doctor, just as his Korean parents expect him too. Fate, the universe, or random chance brings them together on Natasha's last day in a America and the meeting impacts them for the rest of their lives. 

I have a weakness for books that deal with fate. I'm fascinated by the idea of fate and the invisible governing force in the universe, whatever that may be. Because of this, I was really interested in reading this novel, and I really loved it. I flew through this book and lost myself in it. I liked both Natasha and Daniel, they felt real; I love when a young adult novel reminds me of what it's like to be a teenager and feel intense emotions and this novel definitely did that. Natasha and Daniel's interactions made me laugh, they frustrated me, and I found myself quite emotional at the end of the novel, which is always a sign that a book is a five-star book for me. 

I've seen quite a few reviews that complain about 'insta-love' in this novel, and I can see their point, but I think they are missing something. I think the point of Natasha and Daniel's immediate and intense connection is that it's governed by fate, or that higher power that orders the universe. I didn't find they're relationship unrealistic; there was growth and doubt in their relationship. I believe that you can feel connected to someone very quickly, and outside circumstances can heighten that connection and cause a sense of urgency. So in short, I didn't see this novel as a case of insta-love, and I really enjoyed Natasha and Daniel's connection and relationship.

This book made me do a lot of thinking about fate. What makes fate so interesting to me is that it can function as an alternative to religion for some people. I myself, am not religious, but I can't deny there seems to be some higher power that orders the universe. Many people, myself included, are uncomfortable with the idea of the universe and our lives being completely random and in our own control, so fate or destiny can act as that higher power we can blame in bad times or hope to in uncertain times.

The idea of, and desire for, a higher power is something shared between all humans, and in my opinion is one of the greatest appeals that religions make to human nature. This makes fate such an interesting and common theme to explore in art, and I think this novel is a thoughtful and well-done addition to that list of art. 

In short, I really liked this book. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me think: everything I could want from a novel.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Poetry Spotlight: Wilfred Owen (Happy National Poetry Month)


In my second year of college I took an Introduction to Poetry class and I fell in love with reading poetry. Before then, poetry was always a little intimidating and a medium that I didn't have much experience with. But after that class, I became addicted to reading poetry, and during the class I actually found myself thinking in and expressing myself in poetry- which I never would have guessed would happen in a million years. So, with this series I'm here to share some of my favorite poems in a way that I'm sure will turn out rambley and unorganized.

SEE THE REST OF MY POETRY SPOTLIGHT SERIES HERE


There's a lot of stuff going on this month. It's the 100th anniversary of the U.S.'s entry into the first World War, and it's national poetry month. So as a lover of history and poetry, naturally, I have combined them into today's post about one of my all time favorite poets Wilfred Owen. The poems I will be talking about today come out of Penguin's Little Black Classic collection of his works, which I highly recommend. This edition has all of the essential Owen's poems, in a small and affordable package.

Author Bio
What makes Owen such a remarkable poet and recorder of history is the fact that he served and died in WWI. Up until WWI, many of the poetic recording regarding wars in America, the Civil War is a great example of this, were recorded by poets who were not fighting the wars and were only outside observers. During WWI, we see a shift in the attitudes regarding war in art. In the Civil War, for example, poetry highlights the honor, righteousness, and even beauty associated with war and defending one's country, but in WWI, the poetry highlights the horrors of war and even suggests it's lack of purpose. This has everything to do with the advanced technology of war that debuted in WWI including machine guns, trench warfare, mustard gas, and fighter planes. The death toll for this war was unlike anything the world had ever seen, and it left a whole generation of men missing, or "lost" as Gertrude Stein phrased it (hence the literary movement named The Lost Generation). Young men lined up to join the war, eager to earn the honor and respect that the older generations associated with war, but many felt that nothing had been gained from the conflict and all of the bloodshed was for naught after the war's conclusion. There was no clear winner or loser. This is also the first time we as a society come to recognize and try to treat PTSD or shell-shock as it was referred to.

Owen was from England, and wrote all of his poems in the just-over-a-year that he served in the British army before being killed in action at the age of twenty-five, one week before the Armistice. Owen met Siegfried Sassoon, another well-known and excellent WWI poet, in an army hospital while being treated for shell-shock, and the two became friends. Sassoon was responsible for publishing much of Owen's works after his death. 

You can read more about Owen at the Poetry Foundation
  
Spotlighted Poems 
Like I mentioned above, WWI poetry was revolutionary for the way it talked about war. In many poems, the divide between generations regarding the purpose of war and the honor associated with participating in it. Poetry of this era is honest and brutal and even bitter and sarcastic. Owen is one of the best poets to come out of WWI, and his poems are breathtaking and so poignant. Many of these poems left me speechless after reading them for the first time. 

Poem titles link to poems 

Dulce et Decorum Est- If you read one poem from this post today, make it this one. This poem left me absolutely speechless after I translated the last line of the poem from Latin (It is sweet and proper to die for one's country.) If you have taken a literature course, you have probably read this poem, and rightfully so. This poem forces the reader to face the horrors of the trenches as a solider would, while also applying traditional poetic techniques such as rhyme and alliteration, causing quite the contrast. This poem has that bitter and sarcastic punch ending that many war poems have, and also highlights the shifting attitudes towards war. 
Bonus: Here it read by Christopher Eccleston here.

Anthem for Doomed Youth- This is another poem that illustrates the shifting attitude towards war by the young generation that is currently facing it. The "Doomed Youth" of this poem is of course the generation of soldiers fighting in the war. Again, Owen paints a clear and horrifying picture of life at war with traditional poetic devices. 
Bonus: Here it read by Sean Bean here.

The Parable Of the Old Man and the Young- This poem alludes to the biblical story of Abraham and his son Isaac, whom God asks Abraham to sacrifice in order to prove his devotion. Owen uses this story to create a parallel between Isaac and the soldiers. Once again, we see the shift in thinking from the older generation to the younger. 

The Chances- This poem is interesting because it deals with all of the chances a man takes when he signs up to be a solider. Owen lists all of the bad things that can happen, including going "mad." This is an early poem to deal with the psychological and physical affects of war, and Owen does it in a very powerful way. 

As usual, leave me your favorite poems or poets below! 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Recently Read: V for Vendetta

Author: Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Genre: Graphic Novel/Comic
Publication Date: Originally serialized in 1982-1985
Page Count: 296
Rating: 3/5

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This graphic novel takes place in a bleak London future. The government is fascist and all-controlling, but even worse, the people have lost their lust for revolution and justice. A mysterious, masked figure named V aims to restore that lust for revolution through any means possible.

I hadn't read anything by Alan Moore, but his graphic novels have become a staple to the genre, so I wanted to check them out, and I thought this would be a good place to start. I was also unfamiliar with the movie version of the novel, so I knew nothing about this story, and I think that added to my enjoyment of the novel. 

The art is traditional comic book art. It's dark and realistic; it's nothing mind-blowing, but it suits the story perfectly. I was really entertained by the first half of this novel. I lost myself in the first half and kept turning the page to find out exactly what was happening and what the motivations of each character were, and I even forgot I was at work while reading it. The second half, however, was a little slow for me. It was still entertaining, but I feel like it dragged out a little too long. 

Don't get me wrong, this story is quite over-the-top and self-indulgent, but it was entertaining. I found the masked figure of V to be compelling and was a big fan of the symbolism weaved into his character. I found some of the characters, particularly the government leaders, to be difficult to keep track off, but I was still able to follow the story just fine. 

This story was written in the 80s in serial form, so it was interesting to see the past's fears for the future. If you are a fan of dystopians or conspiracies, this novel is worth checking out. It's an interesting look at the function of government and revolution in the lives of humans. I'm really interested to watch the film adaptation, as I have a feeling it will be very different from the book, but I think it will be a good film as this is a story that will translate well to film. 

I'm glad to have my first Alan Moore under my belt, and I'm looking forward to moving on to his other works. Watchmen comes highly recommended to me by my brother, so that might be the next graphic novel I tackle. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Literary Look: Modernism

I'm finally bringing back one of my favorite series I've started on the blog: Literary Look. If you are new to these posts, I use them to take a look at the authors and works (and sometimes art pieces in other forms such as traditional art and music) that make up an artistic/literary movement.

Today, I was interested in the Modernist moment, so I decided to record my findings in a post.

You can see the past Literary Look posts here

General Information
The Modernist movement is set in the early 1900s with beginnings in the late 1800s. The movement really picks up momentum after the end of WWI in the 1910s. This movement was of course a response and rejection of earlier movements, such as Realism, as well as a physical representation of the distress caused the utter destruction and violence of WWI. The slogan of this movement was coined by Ezra Pound: "Make it new" and the movement desired to do just that. Authors explored the complexities of the human mind in new narrative styles. Literary terms such as stream of consciousness, the unreliable narrator (one of my personal favorites), and multiple points of view narration were introduced and used by many of the prominent authors in this movement. Many in this movement were inspired by the works of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, as well as the idea of questioning the rationality of the human mind. Works of psychology and philosophy were of particular importance and influence to this movement because of how heavily the works dealt with the human mind and the stream of consciousness narrative style. 

Many historians have chosen 1910 as the start date for this movement, but earlier works can be fit into the movement as well. 

Major Authors and Works 
James Joyce

Joyce's most well-known works include Ulysses, A Portrait of the Artist as a Yong Man, The Dubliners, and Finnegan's Wake. Joyce is one of the most well-known contributors to the Modernist Movement, and his novels were highly experimental for the time. Many of his works use the stream of consciousness narrative style, which adds to the difficulty of their reading. Ulysses covers the events in the life of the main character over a twenty-four hour period, in the style of Homer's The Odyssey, in a stream of consciousness narrative style. Finnegan's Wake is a stream of consciousness narrative written in puns and word-plays, much in the style of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky. Joyce's short stories are much easier to read and less intimidating than these two huge works, and they are all I have read of Joyce myself.   

Virginia Woolf 
Woolf is an author that interests me greatly, as I have not read many of her works. Her fiction pieces such as To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway are two of the most popular Modernist novels. Both use a stream of consciousness narrative style and focus on the inner thoughts of her characters. Her works were popular while she was alive and tend to focus on lyrical inner-narratives rather than plot. Woolf was also a pioneer in the literary world of writing about gender, her essay A Room of One's Own illustrates the difficulties that women writers face because of their gender, and her novel Orlando deals with gender and society's black-and-white view of it. Woolf suffered from depression and mental illness, and killed herself in 1941 by drowning.

Franz Kafka

Kafka's works, originally written in German, have come to define the Modernism Movement and Surrealist Literature. His works deal with themes of isolation, anxiety, guilt, and absurdity. His best known works include, The Metamorphosis, The Trial, and The Castle. I read The Metamorphosis quite a while ago, you can read my old review here, but I would like to read it again to see how I feel about it now that I have been studying literature for such a long time. I am also eager to try The Trial. Kafka also has a very interesting collection of drawings that accompany the Modernist Movement quite well.    

Poetry and Poets 
T.S. Elliot


Carlos Williams Carlos 

Carlos William Carlos' poems are very interesting, and much like the poems of Pound below. His poems are short and without a lot of poetic language and devices. His most famous poem is The Red Wheel Barrow, which you have probably read, but also check out This is Just to Say and Complete Destruction.

Ezra Pound 

Pound was a silent leader of the Modernism movement, offering advice and council to many authors including Elliot, but never published anything too well-known himself. He has published quite a few poems and of course they fit in with the Modernism movement. His poems are quite accessible compared to Elliot's. His poems include In a Station of the Metro, "A Girl", and A Pact

Other Art Pieces

Picasso and Cubism
Les Demoiselles D'avignon

Georgia O'Keeffe 
Ram's Head with Hollyhock 

The Treachery of Images by Rene Magritte 

 More Information

Friday, March 31, 2017

Diversity Bingo Update #1

Hey guys, if you remember this post, I mentioned some short term goals I had for this year and why I decided not to set as many long term goals. One of my long term goals for the year was to complete as many squares from the Diversity Bingo board that's floating around as possible. I've read quite a few books that cross-off some squares, so I thought I would update you.



Categories Completed:
Diverse nonfiction: Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin (Transgender Youth)
POC on the Cover: Ms. Marvel vol. 1-3 (Reread)
Book by an Author of Color: The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
Non-Western Real World Setting: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Spain and Egypt) 
Neuro-Diverse:The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (Autism Spectrum Disorder) Looking at this square, I see that it says own voices, so I will have to find another read for this square as well. 

Currently Reading:
Displaced MC: The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon

I'm really enjoying this project and am happy to see that a lot of the books that I pick up without consulting the board, have a place on the board. This confirms that I am a naturally diverse reader, which makes me very happy. I'm excited to continue with this board throughout the year. I'll have another update soon! 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Recently Read: The Heart of a Woman

Author: Maya Angelou
Genre: Classic/ Memoir
Publication Date: 1981
Page Count: 352
Rating: 5/5

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You might also like:
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings


This is the forth book in Angelou's memoir series and takes place in 1960s. Angelou writes about her involvement in the American Civil Rights Movement as well as her time living in South Africa as the wife of a South American Civil Rights leader. 

I love Maya Angelou; she's one of my heroes and all-time favorite poets. I am loving her memoirs; she was such an incredible woman. I haven't reviewed all of the memoirs I have read so far on the blog, but I have enjoyed each one. This was one of my favorites, along with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I love how frankly Angelou discusses her romantic relationships and sex in her memoirs, and this one was no different. I really enjoyed reading Angelou's account of her relationship with Make, the South African Civil Rights leader. They had an intense relationship for many reasons, and Angelou writes about it with heart, clarity, and compassion. 

I also loved hearing about her efforts in the Civil Rights Movements of two different countries on two different continents. She was such a smart and brave woman, and I love her activism and insights. These novels trace the changing relationship between Angelou and her son Guy, which is great as well. I have loved seeing him grow up and seeing how she has raised him with love and respectful space. 

Angelou's writing is captivating, and you feel like she is speaking directly to you while you read these memoirs. This one had a hilarious moment in it, that had me laughing for days afterwards whenever I thought about it. I loved the humor and bravery the moment showed and the way Angelou wrote it. 

If you haven't read her memoirs yet, I can not recommend them enough. 


Monday, March 27, 2017

Recently Read: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Seaenz
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publication Date: 2014
Page Count: 359
Rating: 5/5

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Aristotle is your average Mexican-American teenage boy in the 1980s. He's lonely, moody, and trying to find his place in the world.  He feels alone in his family with his older sisters moved out of the house, and his older brother in jail and erased from the family history. His dad is a war vet still struggling with PTSD  and Ari just can't connect with him. One summer day, a boy named Dante swims into his life as his first real friend and jump-starts Ari connections in his life. 

I devoured this book. I read it in two sittings and couldn't put it down until I had finished it. I really loved Aristotle's narration, and it's been quite a while since I have gotten sucked into a YA contemporary like this. Obviously, I'm the last human on Earth to read this book, but I'm so glad that I finally did. It's a book that is somewhat sad and happy and romantic and frustrating all at once, just like real life. 

I loved the romance; I loved the characters; and I loved the theme of family and self-discovery. I loved the diversity elements in this novel as they were so natural. I really appreciated Dante's personality and sensitivity because that's not an element seen in young male characters very often. I also loved how Saenz place Ari and Dante's families side-by-side in the novel. Dante begins the novel with a very strong relationship with his parents, where Ari feels very distant from his father who is a Vietnam vet. This juxtaposition of the families and their development throughout the book was really beautiful and worked to illustrate the different forms that families and love exist in. Making and maintaining connections is one of the hardest but most important elements of being human, and it's explored beautifully in this novel. 

If you are looking for a read to loose yourself in, this one is perfect. I can already see myself rereading this one in the near future. It's also a great read to mark off a square on your Diversity Bingo sheet if you are participating. I''l be updating you on my progress soon. 

This has put me in the mood for more YA contemporaries, so leave me your recommendations as always!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Recently Read: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho
Genre: Fiction/ Modern Classic
Publication Date: 1999
Page Count: 177
Rating: 3/5

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This novel is a modern classic, originally written in Portuguese. I decided to pick it up as part of my Short Reads February TBR, as I have been meaning to read it forever. It follows Santiago, a young Shepard, who has a reoccurring dream about a treasure at the base of the Egyptian Pyramids and sets out to find it and his destiny.

This novel reads like a combination of a fable and a religious tale. It's simple in its language and plot, but rich in theme and wonder. This novel deals with the ideas of fate and destiny and how these concepts work in tandem with the universe. It's heavy in life advice and wisdom, but it doesn't feel preachy. I can see why this novel has earned the title of modern classic, and I think it will continue to be read in the years to come by many readers. 

This is a novel I can see myself rereading in the future and is worth checking out if you haven't read it yet. I am always interested by works that deal with the ideas of fate and destiny and this is a great examination of those topics.

I rated this novel three stars because although it was pleasant and enjoyable, I find myself without a lot to say about it. I expected a tiny bit more from it because of its reputation, but overall, I did enjoy this work and its message. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day Reading Recommendations

Happy International Women's Day! I'm here today with some recommendations of books by women from around the world. I'll be posting again this month highlighting some of the books by women that are on my TBR, because most of my TBR fits that category. Please leave me your favorite books by women below! For some classics by women that I have loved, check out my Women Writers page and my Women's Lit Classic Club Page. 

Passing By Nella Larson- America
This book is not read enough! It was written during the Harlem Renaissance and deals with the choices of two black women who were childhood friends; one chooses to pass as a white woman and one decides to continue to live in the black community. 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou- America
Maya Angelou is my hero. Her autobiographies are second to none. This novel made me so emotional and proud. A must read. 

Gigi and The Cat by Colette- France
Review
I enjoyed both of these novellas as they were my first Colette works. I'm eager to read more of her works. I thought Gigi was a thought provoking read, and is something I wouldn't mind revisiting. 

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb- Pakistan 
This is another must read. Malala is so young but so wise and full of compassion. Her narrative voice is so honest and smart. 

Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Dunn- Worldwide
This is a nonfiction work about women's tribulations around the world and how they overcome them. This work changed my feminism for the better. 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley- Britain
Shelley's most famous novel is a masterpiece. She pioneered the genre of science-fiction and wrote a novel that is endlessly thought provoking. This novel is what great literature is meant to be. 

Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding- Britain 
I love this book! Bridget is the hero of all single women! If you need a laugh, pick this up. It's even funnier than the movie. 
    

Monday, March 6, 2017

Recently Read: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Author: Muriel Sparks
Genre: Classic/ Fiction
Publication Date: 1961
Page Count: 128
Rating: 4/5

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Miss Jean Brodie is a woman in her prime. She is a teacher at a girl's school and doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the teaching staff. She is eclectic and unpredictable; she teaches her girls about life, love, and art and butts heads with the headmistress over educational philosophy. Miss Brodie has her set of favorite girls, and the novel follows them and Miss Brodie through the years. 

I really didn't know what to expect from this short novel. It was my first Spark, and I knew almost nothing about the plot. I had heard good things about Spark, and I loved this beautiful Penguin version, so I decided to add it to my February Short Reads TBR and I'm glad I did. I was surprised by how captivated I was by this novel and really enjoyed it. 

Although this novel is very short, it is packed with complexity. Sandy and Miss Brodie become the most developed characters and are very real. Both characters are so flawed and complicated on their own, that they combine to make a point about the complexities of human emotion and motivation. This novel is an interesting comment on how children view adults, and how they can admire them, hate them, love them, and be intimidated by them, all at the same time. It's also an interesting comment on loyalty and trust, as well as the enigma that is romantic entanglement. 

This is a novel I would have had a lot of fun writing a paper about, as it is short but packed full of complex and very-human themes and ideas. I may lose myself in the rabbit hole of academic writings on this novel the next time I find I can't sleep (totally normal to read academic journals when you can't sleep, right?) I'm interested to see if people are writing about this novel still, and if so, what they are saying. 

I'm really interested to pick up more of Spark's work now, and equally interested in the movie adaptation where Maggie Smith plays Miss Jean Brodie! 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Recently Read: Men Explain Things to Me

Author: Rebecca Solnit
Genre: Nonfiction/ Essay Collection
Publication Date: 2014
Page Count: 130
Rating: 3/5

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This is a collection of essays that center around feminism written by Solnit. This collection has been buzzed about quite a bit, and you know I love gender and feminism, so I was super interested in this one. It came in to my library at exactly the right time, as this collection fit in perfectly with Short Reads February. I don't usually read essays, so I thought it would be best to start with a short collection on a topic that I am really interested in.

Overall, I liked this collection. As usual with collections, some essays were more interesting to me than others, but I didn't dislike any of them. Some of the essays began to feel a little repetitive as each essay seemed to have the same statistics or case studies, which wasn't too bad because they were important stats.

I liked the title essay. The idea of men explaining things to women that already understand is not new to any woman. I'm sure this has happened to the majority of women out there, as I know it has happened to me, even though I work in a field that is majority female. I thought the essay was the perfect balance of fact, personal antidote, and expression. Unfortunately, when women write/speak about sexist traditions or experiences, they are often dismissed as whiny or preachy when they make an emotional appeal, but Solnit is careful to avoid that and stick to the facts.

I enjoyed the few essays in this collection on rape and rape culture, and found they were treated with the same care as the title essay; rape statistics and figures are really stunning on their own, but Solnit's writing works to place them into context and offer reasons behind those numbers. I found her ideas about masculinity and violence interesting and agreed with them wholly. I think the way we view and define masculinity is harmful to everyone, both male and female.

I'll be picking up more essay collections in the future, particularly ones on feminism. Leave me your favorites!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Recently Purchased: Two Classic Memoirs by Women

You might remember this post  from earlier in the month where I showed my latest book purchases by women authors. Well, I am continuing that pattern, and here I have my latest book purchases, and one from the library, all of which are by women! I'm hoping to get to these soon because I have very high hopes for them.

From the Library

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

This is a short collection of essays based around feminism that has been quite popular since its release. Essays are not my usual genre of reading, but because these are so short, it's been rather enjoyable reading. I'll be reviewing this one soon. 

Purchased

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neal Hurston 

I haven't read any of Hurston's full length fiction yet, but I am really interested in reading her memoir. I have of course heard never-ending praise for Their Eyes were Watching God and have enjoyed the few short stories of hers I have read. I really don't know anything about Hurston's biography so I was happy to discover this existed and even happier to find it used at my local bookstore. 

West with the Night by Beryl Markham

This one has been high on my need-to-buy list since I read and loved Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, which is a fictional account of Markham's life in Africa and as a female pilot. This memoir written by Markham connects with the novel Out of Africa by Karen Blixen, as Markham is one of the characters in that group of people and is featured in the movie version and possibly the book (I'll let you know when I read it.) 

I may have to make March a month of reading memoirs because I have so many that I am dying to get to.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Recently Read: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Author: Frederick Douglass
Genre: Classic/Memoir
Publication Date: 1845
Page Count: 100
Rating: 4/5

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a piece of writing that I hoped, and expected, to read while getting my degree in English. Unfortunately, my American Lit. part one professor preferred the awful works of white men to any quality works by women or African Americans, so I took it upon myself to read this piece, as it is a staple of American literature. 

Douglass was born a slave and remained a slave for the early part of his adulthood. He moved from master-to-master until he escaped to freedom. What makes Douglass' story unique from other slave narratives is that Douglass was taught to read and write by an early master's wife. From there he secretly continued learning to read and write by any possible means and wrote Narrative unaided and published it in 1845. Douglass went on to be a very important figure in the Abolitionist movement and spoke against racism publicly for the rest of his life. 

I really enjoyed this short narrative. Douglass is endlessly smart and compassionate and communicates his experiences to the reader in a matter-of-fact manner that make his narrative impossible to deny or ignore. This is not an easy read, but it would be a disservice to history and the experiences of many if it was. It's not overly graphic, Douglass does not rely on shock-value or emotionally preach to his reader, he just relays his experiences and that is enough. I found Douglass' thoughts on religion and religion's role in slavery quite interesting, and I really enjoyed his writing voice. Douglass is a person I would love to learn more about as a human and in regards to his role in anti-slavery activism. 

I highly recommend checking this one out if you are interested in American history, slavery, or African American activists. I'll leave you with some of Douglass' wise words, "I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence."  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Unconventional Romances

I am not  fan of romance novels and never have been. I don't know why, they just aren't my thing. But I do love Valentine's Day and showing a little extra love to your loved ones. Here I've put together a list of unconventionally romantic books and poetry collections. They either have a unique romance or don't have a romance per say, but discuss the topic of romance and love in general. I would love for you to leave your recommendations below for unconventional romances or books that discuss romance and love more-so than contain romances. 

 

This is one of those novels that discusses romance and love without actually having a romance in the story. In fact, as the title suggests, this novel is about the end of a romance. I really loved this novel and the juxtaposition of religious faith and romantic love. 

This is a magical realism romance that has to do with dreams. I really enjoyed this one; magical realism is beginning to make its way to the top of my favorite genres lists. The magical elements kept this from being stereotypical, but the romance and high school setting, made it a quick read. 

Nothing about this novel is conventional. It's an Odyssey retelling that takes place at the end of the world. The characters are so unique they become mythical and the setting is just as unique.  



This is one of my all-time favorite novels. It deals with self-discovery and love that is on the wrong side of fate. This book is beautifully written and set in 1930s New York. I need to reread this one this year! 

Once again, this is another completely unconventional novel. In this one our main character is one the LGBTQ spectrum and battles giant man-eating grasshoppers who cause the end of civilization as we know it. The romance is not the main focus of the novel, but it was one of the most interesting aspects of the novel for me. 
  
6. Breakfast at Tiffanys by Truman Capote 
Another classic that deals with romance and love without the typical romantic plot line. The novel is very different than the movie (but I love both) and it doesn't have that same romantic, happy ending, which to me, is much more interesting. 

 

7. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
This book takes place during WWIII (yes you read that right) and features an unconventional romance between two cousins. Very unconventional. 

This collection deals with heartbreak, self-love, and the rediscovery of love. I love the illustrations in this collection, and the poems aren't mind-blowing, but I did enjoy this collection. 

9. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
This collection was written by Hughes and published after his death. Almost every poem in this collection is about Sylvia Plath. If you know anything about their biography, you know they had an unconventional (i.e. unhealthy) relationship. I am still working through this collection, but these poems are raw and provide an interesting contrast to Plath's poems (although I will always prefer Plath's poetry over Hughes'.)


10. Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay 
Millay is one of my favorite poets. She writes about love, sex, and romance in a completely liberated and witty way. Her poetry is smart, sassy, and addicting. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Recently Read: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Author: Mark Haddon
Genre: Adult/Literary Fiction
Release Date: 2004
Page Count: 226
Rating: 4/5

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Christopher is fifteen years old and lives with his father. He is a math genius and logical without fail. Christopher is also on the autism spectrum. One day Christopher happens upon a crime scene and takes it upon himself to discover who has killed his neighbor's dog, Wellington, and along the way, discovers a lot about himself and his father. 

I have been seeing this book around for years and have always meant to pick it up, and I'm glad that I finally got around to it as part of my short-reads February. I really enjoyed Christopher's narrative voice and the lengths the author went to to ensure his voice was authentic. I am a new high school teacher and have had students with autism before, and of course talked about autism in my special education classes, so I really appreciated this novel. Autism can be frustrating for both the person that has it and the people around them, and this novel was honest about that. Christopher and his father were real people with real emotions, frustrations, and love. 

I enjoyed the way that the plot unfolded and found it easy to loose myself in this novel for large chunks of time, as I read it in two sittings. I thought this novel was a very accurate portrayal of autism, as far as my knowledge allows me to make that judgement, and it is a novel that I would keep on my classroom shelves without hesitation. If you are looking to diversify your own reading I recommend this novel. 

If you are interested in an 'own voices' novel about Autism, I have recently added Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet to my TBR.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Recently Purchased: Works by Women

I've been slowly spending my Christmas money on books, and of course, everything I have bought, has been written by women! I started this spree by buying volumes 2-5 of Ms. Marvel by Willow G. Wilson, and continued it by buying the books below. These books have been on my to-buy-list forever so I'm glad to finally have them.
Out of Africa, Isak Dinsen (Karen Blixen) 


 Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 


I have been meaning to get my hands on something by Adichie forever now, and I'm glad to have two of her novels now. I bought both of them in the gorgeous patterned editions, and I'm hoping to collect them all because I love them. I have been wanting to read Out of Africa ever since I read Circling the Sun. Next on my to-buy-list is Beryl Markham's West with the Night, another read inspired by Circling the Sun. I have been craving books set in Africa ever since reading that novel and have rounded up quite a few for my shelves with this haul. 

What's your favorite Adichie novel? What was the last book you bought yourself? 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Recently Read: Viper Wine

Author: Hermonie Eyre
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 410
Rating: 2/5

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Venetia Stanley was known for beauty and the art and poetry it inspired great men to write. She has since married and the greatest tragedy known to human kind has befallen her: she has aged. She attempts to convince her alchemist husband to make her an anti-aging serum, which is all the rage in the court of Charles the I, but he refuses. Venetia is forced to find the tonic on her own in order to restore her beauty.

I had super high hopes for this book. I loved the cover and the premise, but I was disappointed with this one. This was such a slow read. It took me ages to read and I ended up just skimming the last one hundred pages because I just wanted it to be over with. There wasn't much of a plot in this novel, which can sometimes work out just fine as I love character driven novels, but in this case, it just didn't work.

Eyre attempts to weave together magic, science, and superstition into this novel by allowing glimpses of the future into the past. Sir Digby (Venetia's husband) can see glimpses of the future of science and serves as a somewhat 'enlightened' figure. I found that this element of the novel just disrupted the historic setting Eyre had built and really didn't add anything to the story. I think Eyre approached this novel with a unique storytelling voice and some very original ideas, but they just didn't match up with my reading style. 

However, this novel did make some interesting and relevant comments on how society views aging women and what women are willing to do to hide their aging. Women have always gone to drastic (and less drastic) lengths to change their appearance. In this novel, women paint their faces with lead paint as makeup and try a variety of superstitious and off-the-wall beauty remedies to hide their aging. It is easy to draw parallels between the market for Viper Wine (a beauty serum made from viper's venom and pregnant mare urine, among other unsavory ingredients) and today's market for diet pills, beauty creams, and surgical enhancements all aimed at women who are attempting to defy their age. I found this element of the novel to be intriguing, but it was not enough for me to enjoy the slow reading experience that this novel provided. 

I would be willing to check out Eyre's future works though, as I think she some very original ideas and a unique voice. 

If you liked this book, I think you would also enjoy All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders because the writing style and magic/science elements in Viper Wine really reminded me of this novel.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Short Reads TBR

In this post I talked about some of my short-term reading goals I have set for myself. One of those was to use February to read some of the short books that have been on my TBR for ages! I've picked out six books that are under or around 200 pages that I have been meaning to get to for ages. If you've read any of them, let me know what you thought!


The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman- 241 pages
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark- 128 pages
They do it with Mirrors by Agatha Christe- 202 pages
The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass and American Slave by Fredrick Douglas- 110 pages
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho- 177 pages
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon- 221 pages

I would love to get through all of these this month, as they are all well-beloved books. 

What are your reading goals for this month? For the year? 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Some Short-Term Reading Goals

Usually at the beginning of a new year, I make a hefty list of "stuff" I think I am going to complete in multiple areas of my life, including reading. This year, I decided not to make any large reading goals as I really don't know how my reading year will be because of an unsure school schedule, but as I was laying in bed the other night trying to sleep, I came up with a few short term goals I really want to accomplish within the next few months. I think making multiple short-term goals and resolutions is the perfect fit for my life right now, and I can't believe I didn't think of it earlier! So here are some goals I have for the next few months for my reading life. I will do another couple of posts like this throughout the year when I complete these goals, and I will be posting more about these particular goals before venturing to finish them.

January 
My main goal for the end of January is to finish reading Viper Wine by Hermonie Eyre. I have been reading it for way too long. I'm liking it but for some reason it is taking me forever to read (it takes me forever to read one page, and I can't seem to find the time to sit down and immerse myself for long periods of time, a dangerous combination.) It's a pretty hefty book, but it's not outrageously long; I have also been reading other things while reading this too, which is just delaying the finishing process.

February 
Because this read it taking so long to finish, my goal for February is to read a lot of my short reads. I will start on this goal right after I finish Viper Wine. I will be making a post shortly featuring the books that are on my short-reads-TBR. I'm hoping to whip through a bunch of short books (nonfiction and fiction) that have been on my TBR forever.

Longer-Term 
One longer-term goal I'm sort of setting for myself is to complete as many square from Diversity Bingo as I can. This is a reading challenge that has been set up by a bunch of bookish people (see the board below for more info.) and I think it's a great idea. I want to use this board as inspiration to find some new-to-me books. I'll be aiming to fill as many square as possible, but won't be sticking strictly to the squares or rushing to complete them all. Again, I will be posting about this goal as I work on it, and in the immediate future with some possible reads.