Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Two Middle-Grade Mini Reviews: Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times and The Tell-Tale-Start

Author: Emma Trevayne
Genre: Middle Grade- Steam Punk
Publication Date: 20
Page Count: 306
Rating: 3/5

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Jack is bored with London. He is bored with his parents who don't pay attention to him and longs for an adventure, until he stumbles upon one in the form of a mysterious man who does parlor tricks to entertain his mother and her friends. The adventure comes after Jack steps through a doorway and finds himself in an unusual place named Londininum, where everyone is at least a little bit made of metal and The Lady rules all. 

This was a really fun middle grade read. It was the perfect mix of whimsical and dark, and the steam-punk elements worked perfectly to build the atmosphere. My favorite part about this book was the art! I loved the cover art and the illustrations inside and thoroughly wish there would have been more.

The world was enticing and is a setting I would have loved to read more about. Jack was nothing out of the ordinary, but the side characters from Londininum were very interesting and well developed. The atmosphere was thick and encompassing, but the plot was just alright for me.

I really enjoyed this book and found it a fun middle grade adventure. I am interested in checking out Emma Trevayne's other works. 

Author: Gordon McAlpine
Genre: Middle Grade
Publication Date: 2013
Page Count: 208
Rating: 3/5 

Edgar and Allan Poe are the great-great-great-great grandnephews of the famous writer Edgar Allan Poe and they just so happen to be connected through some freaky physics. The twin brothers can hear each others' thoughts and that means they have the potential to be super useful for a not-so-good science professor...

This story was super cute. I loved the elements of classics literature that made an appearance and the humor is great. This was a super fast read, and I have since moved on to book two. Like the above book, this one has some really great art, but of a different style. I loved the sketch- type art in this one and thought it went perfectly with the story, I think this is one that can be enjoyed by both kids and older readers as it's a lot of fun. 

I have been gravitating towards middle-grade lately as I have been pressed for reading time. Both of these books were quick reads but I really enjoyed them and found them to be a lot of fun.   

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Banned Books That Have Changed My Life

Today is Banned Books Day! I look forward to Banned Books Week every year, and I love posting about it. Yesterday I made a post that spotlighted some of the banned books on my TBR list, but today I thought I would spotlight some banned books that have impacted my life.

Here's the list of frequently challenged books for young adults that I got these books from.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margret Atwood
This book is brilliant and is feared because of it's plausibility. Reading fiction is a great entry way to real-world issues like feminism. Whether you're interested in feminism, a huge supporter, or skeptical, you need to read this. I promise you it will impact you.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck 
This was one of the first classics that impacted me. I read it as a freshman in high school and it reaffirmed my decision to spend my life studying literature. This small book touches on so many facets of being human and will break your heart. It doesn't sugar coat what it means to love and be human. 
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton 
This is a must read for teens. Hinton captures the struggles teenagers face to accept those around them and themselves. I really loved and respected this book as a young reader. 
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I have read it more times than any other book since my childhood. Every time I read this book I find it even more brilliant.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 
Oh the irony of those trying to ban this book. This book illustrates the dangers of book banning just perfectly. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a world where knowledge and books are forbidden. 
Deenie by Judy Blume 
Another book (and author) I loved as a young reader. Young girls need Judy Blume. 
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson 
Laurie Halse Anderson has been connecting with young readers for many years. This novel touches on the ever important and relevant topic of rape and consent. It was one of the first YA novels to touch on such an important topic and got a lot of slack for it. Let's make the choice to continue to educate young women about the right they have to make the decision regarding who has access to their body through fiction. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Happy Banned Books Week!

Happy Banned Books Week! I do at least one post each year highlighting this event and the wonderful site that is the American Library Association. This year, I am working with my college's English Society and working a table to celebrate Banned Books Week in real life, and on the blog, I thought I would highlight some of the frequently challenged books that are on my TBR and talk about banned books that have changed my life.

As always, here is the link to the American Library Association website.

My 2014 Post
My 2015 Post

As I am getting closer to being a certified teacher, the idea of banning and challenging books becomes more real to me. It is very possible that parents or possibly even administrators will attempt to control or change what books I use in my classroom curriculum or the books I have available for students on my classroom bookshelves. I love these graphics that break down some of the statistics of book banning and challenging. If you know of a case of a book that has been removed from your school or library shelves, please visit and file a complaint. They will help you get that book back on the shelves.

Banned Books on my TBR 

Tomorrow is Banned Books Day, so look out for another post about banned books that have impacted my life.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Book Outlet Haul!

I made a HUGE Book Outlet Haul the other day because they had so many books that were on my wishlist! Of course school has started so my time for reading and blogging is short, but I'm really looking forward to reading all of these as soon as I can. This haul consists of adult fiction and middle grade fiction. I have been loving middle grade lately as it is so quick to read when I don't have a lot of time to dedicate to reading.
Adult Fiction 
Almost Famous Women, Megan Mayhew Bergman
short story collection about women that were close to famous men/women but 
were not famous themselves

Radiance, Catherynne M. Valente
"decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood"

How to be Both, Ali Smith
A novel told in two parts, one taking place in Italy during the Renaissance, 
the second in the 1960s.  

 At the Water's Edge, Sara Gruen
A historical fiction hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. 

A Love Like Blood, Marcus Sedgwick
A vampire story that takes place in the 1940s.
Sedgwick is one of my all-time favorite authors and is an auto-buy for me.

Middle Grade Fiction
The Tell-Tale Start, Gordon McAlpine
I'm reading this cute middle grade about the great-great-great-great nephews of
Edgar Allan Poe aptly named, Edgar and Allan Poe.

Once Upon a Midnight Eerie, Gordon McAlpine
Book two in this series. There are three out currently.  

The Case of the Missing Moonstone, Jordan Stratford
A young Mary Wollstonecraft solves mysteries with literary 
connections in this series.  

Kat, Incorrigible, Stephanie Bergis 
This is a Jane Austen-esque middle grade series, but with magic! 

Have you read any of these? Thoughts? What was the last book you bought? 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Recently Read: milk and honey

Author: Rupi Kaur
Genre: Poetry collection- modern
Publication Date: 2015
Page Count: 204
Rating: 3.5/5

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More posts on poetry 

If you spend any time on the internet, I am sure you have seen this poetry collection or a poem from it floating around. Rupi Kaur's poetry and illustrations are floating around tumblr and the blogging community. I had seen a few of her poems ages ago and have been wanting to pick this up ever since. I finally got around to buying it and read it in an evening when I was feeling a little off and needed something to pick-me-up. I would not say that this is a happy collection or a feel-good collection, but after reading the words of another human and connection to them, I felt better.

This book has gotten a lot of hype, but it also seems to be polarizing; some people love it and others are not impressed. I am sitting in the middle. I really like the idea of this collection. It is very modern and Kaur has her own unique and mastered style. The poems deal with a variety of topics, each one as important as the last, and the illustrations are a really great addition to the collection. The poems are very short and in prose form which I know some people are not a fan of, but I thought it worked in this case. One of the things I love about poetry is how it cannot be defined. I have read and loved some very, very complex poetry as well as some very short and simple prose poetry.

This collection did have an over-all feminist message which I loved. This collection is very intimate and personal and I always respect a poet who writes such intimate things so publicly. One of my favorite poems and illustrations is a commentary on female body hair, another is on respecting other women's choices about their own bodies. I don't think this collection is mind-blowing, but I did connect to a lot of the ideas and expressions in this collection and I enjoyed reading it. This is a collection I can see myself rereading from time to time because it was quick and enjoyable. It has also made me itch to pick up some more modern poetry. I have been wanting to get into the genre for quite a while but never knew where to start. I have discovered a few collections I really want to start with, so I am thinking about making a modern poetry TBR post in the near future.
Let me know if you have any poetry recommendations! What did you think about this collection?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Recently Read: I am Malala

Author: Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai
Genre: Non-fiction/ Memoir
Publication Date: 2013
Page Count: 327
Rating: 5/5

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Similar Reads:
Aman: The Story of a Somali Girl by Virginia Lee Barnes  
Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Malala Yousafzai was a young girl in Pakistan who loved school and took pride in being first in her class. Her father built the girl's school she attended and traveled the country talking about the importance of education. Malala joined her father to campaign for girl's educational rights and became a well-known figure in all parts of the world. One day while coming home from school on the bus, she was shot by a member of the Taliban and she became even more famous and went on to be the youngest person to ever win the Noble Peace Prize. This is Malala's story as told by her.  

Education and particularly education for girls around the world is a very important issue for me. I am myself an educator and very interested in women's rights and learning all that I can about feminism around the world. I had of course heard of Malala and knew the bare basics of her story and impressive awards, but I was really interested to hear more about her. Let me tell you, this is one impressive young lady. 

Before I get into my thoughts I want to mention that I listened to this book on audiobook and I highly recommend reading this book in this way. There are a lot of words in various foreign languages, and the names are very difficult to keep straight. If I was reading this in physical form, this is something that would have stalled me a little as I would have made a bigger effort to keep these names straight and would have be slow reading the book. Listening to the narrator pronounce these words beautifully was great because I heard the correct pronunciation of the word and was so involved in the story I didn't worry about keeping unimportant names straight. Plus, Malala reads the prologue herself  which was super cool. 

I loved hearing about Malala's life in Pakistan before she was shot, which is when most of the book takes place. I had no idea that she was so active before the shooting and did a number of very brave documentaries and interviews. I loved hearing about her family, particularly her father who was very nontraditional and was also very active in spreading awareness about education for girls. 

Reading this has made me want to do more research about her and girl's education around the world. I did a lot of reading and research on this topic a few semesters ago when I had my Women and Global Activism class and found it to be a topic that really calls me to action. I would love to find ways for me to help girls around the world get the access to education that they deserve, and reading this book has re-inspired me to find ways to help. Her and her father have started The Malala Fund (link here) which I really want to spend some time checking out.

If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend picking it up. I would love to read this book with a high school class in the future because Malala's voice is so strong and education is something that so many students takes for granted. She is such a humble and inspiring person. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten T.V. Shows in my Netflix Que

My Netflix Que is so full right now. I sometimes get in these moods where I don't feel like watching anything for a long time, and then if I do want to watch something, it takes me forever to commit to a show. Therefore, my list just keeps getting bigger and never goes down. Here are ten T.V. shows from my list, let me know which ones are the best!

1. Twin Peaks 
This is going to be the next show I watch because finishing Stranger Things left me craving the paranormal. 

2. Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell 
So happy to see this added to Netflix! I was going to try and read the book first, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. I might have to break the book lover's rules and watch the miniseries first!

3. The Twilight Zone
I have seen quite a few episodes and love watching the T.V. marathons so I really need to add this into my Netflix rotation! 

4. Luther 
This has been on my list forever! I love detective shows and the BBC. 

5. Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries 
Love a good female detective; my mom has watched and loved this show. 

6. Call the Midwife 
Another show at my mom's recommendation. I really love the BBC and historical shows so this will be great. Also love the female cast!

7. Land Girls 
Same situation as above. Love the BBC and WWII is a time period that I really love to watch/read about. 

8. Bomb Girls
Not sure which of these two WWII shows I should start with because they have very similar plots. This one follows women working in the factories where the above show follows women in the Land Army. 

9. The Ascent of Woman
This documentary series is everything I could ever hope for. A look at women's history and accomplishments through out the world. 

10. Broad Church (British version)
Love David Tennant! I have seen some of the American Broad Church (which he also stars in oddly enough) but I want to check out the British version. 

Let me know what I should watch first! 

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Forgotten Women of American Literature (Classic Remarks)

This post has been in my drafts for months. A couple of semesters ago, I wrote a paper for my American Literature class about women finding their place in the public sphere through the printed word, particularly in magazines and journals and I knew I wanted to make a post about these awesome, but sadly overlooked, women writers. When I stumbled across the Classic Remarks questions, I knew this was just the kick I needed to get this post done.

I'm stretching this question a little bit to fit my needs, but today's question to answer is:
Recommend a diverse classic.  Or you can argue that a diverse book should be a classic or should be included in the canon. 

Now the canon is so hard for a lot of people that don't spend their lives studying literature to understand because it's a pretty abstract concept. The canon is basically the collection of literary works and authors that are considered worthy, readable, and important. Women and people of color have been excluded from the canon for the majority of its existence and many important literary scholars are still fighting to get more diverse works into the canon. Today, I'm highlighting a few of the forgotten women authors and literary pioneers of nineteenth century America. Although these women have made undeniable contributions to the literary world and paved the way for later women authors, they are often left out of the canon. A good way to think about the canon is to think about what you read in high school or college as required reading. Those assigned books are safely in the canon and almost exclusively by white men.

Judith Sargent Muarry
Murray wrote her essay "On the Equality of the Sexes" in 1790, which is basically the American version to Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman." She also wrote for a number of editorials under a pen-name of Constantinia or her fictional persona of "The Gleaner." In her articles written by The Gleaner, she talked about such topics as women's rights, women's education, and societal vice. The articles were very popular, but Murray was slow to claim them as her own writing. Murray was one of the first women to have a very large role in the pubic sphere through the medium of journals and magazines and many women would follow in her footsteps and use the printed word as a means to participate in the public sphere in a way that was traditionally denied to women in that time. 

Sarah Margaret Fuller
Fuller was a leader of the Transcendentalist movement along with the better known Thoreau and Emerson. She was the editor of Dial, the magazine that made Thoreau and Emerson well-known, as well as a writer for the magazine. Fuller did the editorial job with no pay, and was also a well respected literary critic. The Dial was a place where liberal thoughts were expressed and Fuller was also passionate about educational reform. She spent two years as a teacher before she started her "Conversations" for women, which were basically salons for women intellectuals. Fuller wrote many feminist pieces including her novel Woman in the Nineteenth Century

Fanny Fern 
Real name Sara Willis Parton, Fern was a very well-known journalist in her time and was quite the celebrity. Fern was the first woman in the United States to write a regular opinion column and, at the height of her career, negotiated a contract with the New York Ledger to be paid one hundred dollars a week to write a weekly column, a very large weekly income for the time and particularly for a woman. Fern supported herself financially and even ordered her second husband to sign a prenuptial agreement. Her column commented on social issues with a focus on women. What's unique about Fern is although she wrote under a pen-name, her pen-name is undeniably feminine. Interestingly, Fern faced a lot of criticism and speculation for the way she looked.
Male critics continually wondered about the appearance of Fern and implied that she must look masculine or ugly. This of course if because they, and society as a whole, were uncomfortable with her public influence and voice, which is something a lot of women still face today. 

The influence of these women are further proved by the very sexist attempts of popular male authors of the time to compliment the women on their talents. 

Edgar Allan Poe says of Sarah Margret Fuller:

Woman in the Nineteenth Century is a book which few women in the country could have written, and no woman in the country would have published, with the exception of Miss Fuller.”

And the ever bitter Nathonial Hawthorne will forever be dragged by literary scholars and lovers for his statements regarding women writers and Fanny Fern in particular. 

“The woman writes as if the Devil was in her; and that is the only condition under which a woman ever writes anything worth reading. Generally women write like emasculated men, and are only to be distinguished from male authors by greater feebleness and folly…

"America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash-and I should be ashamed of myself if I did succeed." (In reference to the success of Susanna Maria Cummins' novel The Lamplighter which I reviewed here.)

I highly recommend checking out the works of these women and learning more about their lives as they are really fascinating literary pioneers!

You can see the rest of my posts about women's lit for the Classics Club Women's Lit event here!