I didn't expect much from this book. I saw it had good reviews, saw it was available at the library, and so I picked it up for a quick read. Wow. LikeI didn't expect much from this book. I saw it had good reviews, saw it was available at the library, and so I picked it up for a quick read. Wow. Like its title, this book is a beautiful thing.
I have lightly dabbled in advice columns before, mainly as writing material for my students up at Utah State. Those authors were always wickedly cruel to the people writing in, and often made them feel like an idiot for bearing their soul. It was funny, but probably not an answer best received by the person who needed counseling most. Dear Sugar is completely different than those Dear Abbie impersonators. What makes Sugar unique is her vulnerability. Recognizing she is not a therapist and therefore often unqualified to give sanctioned advice, she offers stories, often very personal and very painful, in order to share what she has learned in similar situations to what these people who have written in have gone through. In every letter, no matter how much you want to say to the struggling soul "really? Are you really asking that question? How stupid can you be?", Sugar is always respectful, loving, and understanding in her reply. And how she responds often surprises you. But she is also honest. She doesn't sugarcoat (hehe unlike her name) anything. I've never seen an advice columnist willing to be so transparent and give examples of imperfection in his/her own life to give solace to someone else. It was refreshing.
Reading this book, I found quite a few letters that could have been written by me they were so closely similar to things I am currently going through or struggling with. Her responses are golden and have been the encouraging words I never even knew I was seeking. Hence the reason why literature and storytelling are some of my favorite things that have become so valuable to me. They expose you to realizations you never knew you needed to have. It helps you relate and sympathize with others and understand that you are never truly alone.
Although I didn't like all of Sugar's excessive expletives (extraneous swears that don't have a purpose always bother me a bit), I found her advice to be sound and very insightful. An interesting read to anyone at any point in life. ...more
There were so many moments I literally LOLed in this book, which was unfortunate because I was on the plane; I had multiple people glancing at me, wonThere were so many moments I literally LOLed in this book, which was unfortunate because I was on the plane; I had multiple people glancing at me, wondering who this crazy person was they were forced to sit by. Luckily I was traveling with people I knew and happened to be sitting next to my mom, but even she would jab me in the side and give me a warning glare that I needed to keep quiet. I tried, I promise.
I was first introduced to David Sedaris in a nonfiction writing course in my Master's program. I loved his writing style and swore I would pick up one of his novels in the near future. A very long two years later, I finally got around to picking this book up and it wasn't a disappointment. Sedaris has such a unique way of phrasing things! Here is a taste of some of my favorite moments:
"I hate computers for a number of reasons, but I despise them most for that they have done to my friend the typewriter. In a democratic country you'd think there would be room for both of them, but computers won't rest until I'm making my ribbons from torn shirts and brewing Wite-Out in my bathtub...They're power hungry and someone needs to stop them. ...Unlike the faint scurry raised by fingers against a plastic computer keyboard, the smack and clatter of a typewriter suggests that you're actually building something, At the end of a miserable day, instead of grieving my virtual nothing, I can always look at my loaded wastepaper basket and tell myself that if I failed, at least I took a few trees down with me" (147).
And this beauty:
"I'm thinking of making a little jacket for my clock radio. Nothing fancy or permanent, just something casual it can slip into during the wee hours. I'm not out to match it with the curtains or disguise it to look like something it's not. The problem is not that the clock radio feels underdressed, the problem is that I cannot bear to watch the numbers advance in the heartless way common to this particular model. Time doesn't fly-it flaps, the numbers turning on a wheel that operates much like the gears on a stretching rack" (248).
Absolutely amazing. Time, in all scenarios but especially this one, does seem rather cruel in those types of clock models - he expresses it perfectly! And my favorite chapter is "Smart Guy." Be sure to read that.
But seriously? This guy is genius in his unique perspective and description of the mundane. I love it. However, I did rate it 4 stars because at times it felt a little disjointed - maybe I am one of the "smart guys" (really meaning dumb guys) who needs to be in a class to discuss what is happening in this book. But at times I did feel a bit lost and was unsure how everything fit together. If you have read it, let me know and fill me in on your thoughts. But aside from that, I just heartily enjoyed basking in his witticisms and the beauty of his language....more
For those who love a linear storyline and despise plots deviating from that traditional setup, this book will definitely throw you for a loop. LouiseFor those who love a linear storyline and despise plots deviating from that traditional setup, this book will definitely throw you for a loop. Louise Erdrich uses each chapter to flow in and out of characters lives and in and out of time periods. This has been my first exposure to Erdrich's writing, and I already know that she is a master storyteller with a strong talent for embedded symbolism.
I will warn you that this book does include some sexual scenes, so beware ye faint of heart. :) But I rated this book a 5 for pure talent in the control of language, endless possibilities for in-depth discussion, and symbolism. I already know I am going to need to reread this book for deeper meanings and to piece together her woven intricacies of what "love medicine" really is; the many buried symbols of water, egg shells, hearts (both physical and metaphorical); and the connection between Indian-ness and modern-ness.
As usual, I have selected some scenes from the book (but there are so many more - I love the poetry and crispness of Native literature, which you can see through my absolute rave of Winter in the Blood) to share. The first one I have to share because it symbolizes the love and bond that exists among women. During church we discussed the capacity women have to love and empathize with others, which gives us a unique connection to each other. Erdrich captures this perfectly. This particular passage is coming from a woman who has had a rocky relationship (to put it kindly) with her mother-in-law until her mother-in-law helps her with the birth of her child. She says, "What she did went beyond the frailer connections. More than saving my life, she put the shape of it back in place....Because we shared the loneliness that was one shape. Because I knew that in her old age she shared that same boat where I had labored. She crested and sank in dark waves...the water beating and slashing across her unknown path. She struggled to continue. She was traveling hard, and death was her light." Just previously, the narrator had been discussing that because the birth of her son was so difficult, she too was a passenger on this boat that led perilously to death. We, as women and even just mankind in general, have only each other as we are rocked by the waves of life. We are each other's lifelines and salves down a path that so often proves to be lonely and even frightening.
My next favorite passage is about eternal nature of love - it never dims. One character says, " You see I thought love got easier over the years so it didn't hurt so bad when it hurt, or feel so good when it felt good. I thought it smoothed out and old people hardly noticed it. I thought it curled up and died, I guess. Now I saw it rear up like a whip and lash. She loved him. She was jealous. She mourned him like the dead."
And now, just to show off her writing: "Everyone sat down. Then the boys began to stuff themselves with a savage and astonishing efficiency. Before Bev had cleaned his plate once, they'd had thirds, and by the time he looked up from dessert, they had melted through the walls. The youngest had levitated from his high chair and was sleeping out of sight."
Ah...isn't this writing so lovely? There is so much to pick through and relish in this novel. Someone please read it, and then we will reread it together and discuss. Yay for beautifully crafted literature that stirs your brain! I love it. ...more
This is going to be a lot shorter than all my other reviews, mostly because this book, or rather books (within this particular edition, the first twoThis is going to be a lot shorter than all my other reviews, mostly because this book, or rather books (within this particular edition, the first two books are actually included), doesn't really deserve a more thorough response. After seeing the movie a few months ago, I was intrigued by the story and thought I would give this book a try. My reaction to both books in this combo pack: meh. It's your typical, simplistic young adult Fantasy novel that's sole purpose is to merely entertain the reader, which of course is fine, but just know there's nothing too special in it and can at times be a bit boring. The development of character is lacking, as well as the formation of the plot. But, if you want a blah read by the pool that is full of witches and witch-hunters (called spooks), this is your book. ...more
This book is very intriguing. I have read snippets of Sherman Alexie's writing before, and finally I have now gotten around to reading a novel. That'sThis book is very intriguing. I have read snippets of Sherman Alexie's writing before, and finally I have now gotten around to reading a novel. That's the only benefit of a 24-hour plane ride; you get caught up on your t.v. shows, movies, and reading.
I have a soft spot for young adult literature, and this book did not disappoint. It is definitely a little bit on the crude side, but it is from the perspective of a teenage boy, so it's true to nature - from what I hear, anyway. :) And after teaching my students about coming of age novels, this one is the perfect example of that. Coming of age novels are some of my favorite novels because everyone in their life, multiple times, not just when they're young, have these moments where they grow and change as a person. Such is the case with the main character of this story. Junior, or Arnold, if he's going by his white name, tells a heart-wrenching tale of his decision between staying loyal to family, Native tribe and land, or pursuing his dreams that would take him far away from the ones he loves and the life and culture he has always known. It's about taking risks, being brave, and building the confidence to stand strong to your convictions in any situation. It's no wonder why I love this book - it explains the road we need to travel to discover our true selves and how to be brave enough to show that raw persona to others.
Alexie is a true wizard of words. I always love reading the works of Native American authors because they have such a unique way of capturing images and emotions on the page - I'm so glad I got to experience this lovely concoction of comedy, loss, heartbreak, and the rocky learning curve every teenager experiences (to some extent) in their lifetime. ...more
The Fault in Our Stars: a story of two star-crossed teenagers, both cancer survivors who have fallen in love. Already you know this story is a recipe The Fault in Our Stars: a story of two star-crossed teenagers, both cancer survivors who have fallen in love. Already you know this story is a recipe for sadness. And it is. Don’t read this novel without a full box of tissues by your side.
This book has some really witty, funny lines that are a brief reprieve from the abysmal waves of despair and crushingly sweet, tender moments crashing into you on every page. It is smartly written and I enjoyed it—but it wakened feelings from a past relationship that I thought I smothered into oblivion. Nope; they were very much alive and waiting just below the surface—much like Augustus’s cancer.
A line that I loved in this book spoke of the impact of writing. To summarize, it said that many people think that writing is a way to preserve a memory of someone. One of my favorite books of all time—The Things They Carried—mentions this very idea, in a deeper, more articulate way. But this book claims that writing doesn’t preserve—it buries. And I think in many ways, that’s true. Writing is often used as a tool to fix or deal with problems and essentially bury emotions that you no longer want to deal with; at least that is the case for me. But writing serves many purposes, and you’re never quite sure what the outcome will be. The annoying and fun thing about writing is that it tends to have a will of its own.
This was a harder novel to get through, but it had some really beautiful moments that are true reflections of the human psyche, no matter how bleak. Was it worth dipping into the surprisingly near and vivid memories of my own past “death” of a relationship? Ask me in a few days. I’m still processing. ...more
When I first read this book in ninth grade, I hated it. But now, after one of my roommatse in grad school wrote a whole thesis dedicated to this book,When I first read this book in ninth grade, I hated it. But now, after one of my roommatse in grad school wrote a whole thesis dedicated to this book, and after rereading it with my eighth graders, I have really come to appreciate this book a lot. Besides, the first chapter talks about blackface minstrelsy, which was my thesis, so I immediately felt a connection. :)
A common misconception people have is that life was so much easier and happier during the 1950s, which is when this book was written. But as we see in F 451, every decade has had its issues. Those issues may not have been discussed as much, but they were there. Ray Bradbury's issue with the 1950s was his concern that 1950s society was spiraling downward in ways of literacy and knowledge - which was extremely prophetic of our modern day. Many of the characters in Montag's society remind me of our current youth; they need instant information and to be constantly entertained by something - they have no attention span whatsoever. But what made this book rough reading for my student were Bradbury's extended metaphors that lasted for pages - many students were confused on what was a metaphor and what was the plot. But, considering Bradbury wrote this book in about a week, I think it's pretty darn good. I love digging into these metaphors, and searching for his deeper meanings behind recurring themes and motifs, like the image of fire.
I'm so glad I was able to give this book a second chance. Cheers to the character of Montag who pushes against society and reacquaints himself with the beauty captured in quality books and learning. In fact, the three most important components of life (says Faber, one of the characters in F 451) are quality information, time to think about this knowledge, and the right to act in the way we wish based upon what we have learned. It is when we are not allowed these things that we know society has definitely taken a downturn. If that should happen, let us hope we can be as brave as Montag and Clarisse who weren't afraid to ask questions and sacrifice for the things that are essential to living a good life. This book is a great reminder that a "good" life doesn't mean it's fluffy and "happy" all the time - if you live your life that way, it becomes dull, stagnant, and meaningless. You can't be afraid of the misery, nor the bad things that come with daily living. It's what gives life it's depth. It's what makes life both agitating and exciting. And it's the multiple, dynamic experiences we have that help us grow intellectually, socially, physically, and spiritually to truly comprehend what life is really about....more
I liked Allegiant better than book 2, but there were still a few things that bothered me. In this book, Roth decides to write from both Tobias and TriI liked Allegiant better than book 2, but there were still a few things that bothered me. In this book, Roth decides to write from both Tobias and Tris's perspective, which really threw me off. Not only is this incongruent with the previous books, which are all written from Tris's point of view, but the two voices sound exactly the same. It is extremely difficult to tell when Four is speaking and when it switches to Tris, unless you are paying close attention to the designated name at the top of the chapters.
I think it would actually be cool if Roth wrote the book like a journal...for those of you who haven't read this, stop reading my post while I give away the ending. Ahem. Since Tris is able to read entries from her mom's journal (who, as you remember, dies in book 1), I thought it would be interesting to have Tris's entries in book 3 also be in that alternative font that designates her mom's journal entries (signifying Tris also wrote in her journal) and have a future Four reading Tris's journal entries. That would be really trippy, but I think it might mesh the book better and give Four something tangible of Tris's to hold onto and remember her by.
I'm sad about the ending, but is it evil to say that I'm actually glad a main character dies? In Harry Potter, I always wanted Harry to die. I know, blasphemy. But it just made more sense for him to die, since he's like a Frodo character to me. Surprisingly, for this book I never really wanted Tris to die, but again it just makes sense; though I really regret that Four and Tris can't be together. Just once, I wanted them to have a "normal" relationship. So sad. If Tris had died in Book 2, I don't know if I would have felt quite as bad. She's cured of her annoying streak by book 3.
I really liked one of the quotes from Four at the end of the book. He says, "There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater. But sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through the pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life."
Maybe it's because I have hit a very low, difficult point in my life, but his words actually made a lot of sense, though rereading them now they don't seem quite as articulate or poignant. But after reading book, I can't help thinking that yeah, I am pretty brave. And when you define bravery in all these contexts, everyone is brave to some extent. And of course, any time you love someone else makes you the bravest of all.
I enjoyed the series! It's nice to have a YA book that goes a little against the grain and surprises you. ...more
This is an absolutely amazing story. I love that this book focuses not only on Adam Brown's life as a Navy Seal, but instead centers around his personThis is an absolutely amazing story. I love that this book focuses not only on Adam Brown's life as a Navy Seal, but instead centers around his personal growth from birth until death.
Brown's ambition, charity, and perseverance in all aspects of life have convinced me to pattern my life after his example. His strength came from his devotion to God, a component I feel is not often included in some of these war stories. But Adam Brown was a very religious, or as he calls it "spiritual", man and lived as the perfect example of bravery, both physically and spiritually.
My auditory version of the book included an interview with Blehm, the author, who related that his goal for this book was to step out of the story and have the audience form their own opinions and come to their own conclusions about Adam Brown. That to me, is excellent writing. An author should let the words and the story speak for itself because the scenes depicted are so strong and pure. I can tell you that no embellishment is needed for these stories of Brown's life. They paint a beautiful picture of the man he must have been - weaknesses included. Blehm does not sugarcoat the addictions and weaknesses Brown struggled with, which is what Brown would have wanted. It is a story of consistent internal battles, a story of hope and perseverance, a story of new beginnings, and a story about forgiveness.
After listening to this interview, I learned of the divine guidance involved with capturing Adam Brown's life on paper. It's incredible, and I am a changed person for reading the inspiring and uplifting account of this amazing man. ...more
After reading the first book, Divergent, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the second! But this one was actually rather disappointing. The first halfAfter reading the first book, Divergent, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the second! But this one was actually rather disappointing. The first half drags on and on, and Tris was getting on my nerves with her constant whining. The whole book is a bore until the last few chapters. The story finally picks up and gives you the energy for the third and final book to finish the series. I'm half done with Allegiant; so far so good! ...more
Heartbreaking and simultaneously strangely comical, The Remains of the Day is one of the most fascinating books I have read in a while. Instead of a fHeartbreaking and simultaneously strangely comical, The Remains of the Day is one of the most fascinating books I have read in a while. Instead of a focus on plot, the book centers its attention on the characters and their relationships with each other.
The book is told from the perspective of a head butler serving at one of the grandest old manors in England. After reading the first hundred pages I couldn't stop thinking, gee, Mr. Stevens sure sounds a lot like Mr. Carson from Downton Abbey! They would be immediate friends.
It's interesting to hear Stevens's definitions on what makes a "good" and "dignified" butler - though the definitions seem to take a turn at the end of the book after he journeys to see Miss Kenton, or Mrs. Benn as she is then called. It almost reminds me of a Walter Mitty type moment where we see Stevens, who appears to be an emotionless, static character, turn into something quite different after a weekend excursion which he has never allowed himself previously to take. Obviously he isn't jumping out of helicopters and fighting off sharks like Walter Mitty, but he does do things that seems out of character for him along the way. He also shares Walter Mitty's propensity to day dream, only instead of day dreaming about the future, he dwells in day dreams of the past. I think that is the key that makes this character and the book so relatable: who hasn't thought about what life would have been like if they had done something different, even if it was just a small thing. What could I have done that would have made my life better?
Thinking things like this will drive you crazy, as Stevens relates. But the heartbreaking thing with Stevens's reminiscence of the past is that he recognizes he has "given what [he] had to give" to his first employer, Mr. Darlington, who has passed away. Because of this, he has missed out on opportunities to give his affections and dedication to a more lasting and romantic relationship with Miss Kenton. The turn of the novel occurs when Stevens confesses to a stranger at the station that he "can't even say [he] made [his] own mistakes. Really - one has to ask oneself - what dignity is there in that?"
I guess therein lies the beauty of choice, even though I am the most indecisive person and the thought of having to make a decision makes me anxious. But even if it's a wrong decision, at least we are able to choose it. There's power in that, as Stevens soon realizes, that a life without choice and without true knowledge and understanding of what you're doing is a hard life to live. Loyalty and passivity alone will not bring you the happiness you are searching for. Perhaps dignity, then, is the bravery to ask questions, to be curious, and to fight the ambivalence I see so rampant in the new rising generation. For those of us who struggle as Stevens, we have the power to make wonderful what remains left of the day.
This book is written absolutely beautifully. It really sounds like a butler, lost within the "dignity" of his occupation. If you want something that is beautifully crafted and will make you think, be prepared to be entranced. ...more
Wow! This book was a really fun read. I finished Divergent in San Francisco and wanted the second so badly I almost bought the $18 hardback copy at thWow! This book was a really fun read. I finished Divergent in San Francisco and wanted the second so badly I almost bought the $18 hardback copy at the airport's grossly overpriced bookstore. Don't worry, I'll be reading Insurgent soon enough!
Sadly, I watched the movie before reading the book, but the producers did an excellent job summarizing! And I was so relieved to find the typical YA Fiction love triangle was overturned in this book. I also really enjoyed reading some of the bonus material at the back that included a few quotes that inspired the book - really fascinating stuff. This book will definitely keep your interest! I'm excited to read the next!...more
Maybe it was because I read the last two books so long ago, but Reached wasn't my favorite. I do remember loving Matched, the first book of the seriesMaybe it was because I read the last two books so long ago, but Reached wasn't my favorite. I do remember loving Matched, the first book of the series, but thinking Crossed was a definite nosedive. Reached finished out the series pretty well, and Condie had some really smart, enjoyable moments, but the book was still painfully predictable. I'm also getting annoyed with the love triangle so often found in these YA novels: two guys like same girl. It's very formulaic, and very...boring. However, I do like how she solved the problem in this last book; it was more realistic and even heart-wrenching. ...more
Wow...I really enjoyed this book! I feel it is a definite must read for all teachers, and also for those who don't understand what teachers really expWow...I really enjoyed this book! I feel it is a definite must read for all teachers, and also for those who don't understand what teachers really experience. In my mind, he captures teaching quite accurately - you go to college to prepare for the classroom, but you never learn what you really will be doing. You're not just a teacher; you're a confidant, a story teller, a therapist, a parent, a friend, a police officer, and so many more occupations. I don't pretend to understand the plight of a high school teacher (I'm well aware that my teaching position at a university is a piece of cake compared to what public school teachers endure), but I do feel that you never understand quite what you're getting into until you're thrown to the wolves that first day of class, when all those eyes are staring you, sizing you up, expectations, fears, and judgement etched in those faces. It's terrifying.
The first words of this book are: "Here they come. And I'm not ready, How could I be? I'm a new teacher and learning on the job." That summarizes my feelings that first day my first semester teaching.
The hard part of teaching is that you have to feel around for your own grounding and toss much of what you learned in college out the window. It's about the students; what excites them? How can you kindle their passions? What readings should you assign to capture their interest? What are their struggles? Every class is so different, and your teaching style demands flexibility. It's hard, it's exasperating, it's terrifying, and it's the most rewarding work I've ever done. This book has at least given me hope in my own teaching style. And no, I don't love teaching all the time. Sometimes I feel a like a fraud, especially when other English teachers are feeding their students amazing essays I have never encountered or teaching strange philosophical concepts that are completely foreign to me. What this book has taught me is to "find what you love, and do it." And even more than that, find what you love, and incorporate it into your teaching. If you're passionate about something, it's contagious, and your kids will feed off that excitement.
Anyway, this review is turning into my own novel so go read this book for yourself. McCourt is hilarious, his stories are endearing, and this book pays homage to the many inspiring teachers throughout the world. Teachers are power, baby. I'm so thankful for them. ...more