Friday, April 22, 2016

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Tomorrow

Yes, it's 4/22, and I'm returning to my blog for another readathon.  Reading has been a struggle since school started, and while I go in major reading jags, I simply can't settle in to any one book or genre.  Simply put, I need a focused readathon to pull me back together.  I'm always excited for these readathons, and I've invited my students to participate.  Some will, some won't, and some might cheat--true.  I really just want to get them to see reading in a different way and to see book culture for what it is, a great community of readers who support one another's reading habits, interests, and likes.  What more can I say?

Tomorrow morning I have to administer a practice AP test, so in the midst of that, I'll be grading and trying to read.  I can't say that I'll do much of that though.  Once I finish, THEN I can come home and get things rolling.  Here is what I plan to read for a bit:

I'm about 25 pages from completing this AMAZING little book.  I am excited to read the final section, close the book carefully, and then contemplate the messages.  What a book!

This one I have on audio, and I think you should always have an audiobook on hand, when you just can't focus or need to get up and do something.  This one is narrated by Dan Stevens, from Downton Abbey and other fine films--enough said, and is set during WWI.  I've been taking a few classes on WWI, so I wanted to listen to a fictional story set in that era.  Gritty, but good so far!

 When I want an emotional read, I'll switch to the follow up novel to Me Before You to keep reading the story that leveled me and left me feeling forever changed.  I really want to keep going on this one, but realize that I need a time I can just focus on this one and not be interrupted.  Tomorrow is the perfect time!

I really love this series, and since this is book 2, I would like to wrap this magical read up so I can move into the 3rd book.  I've been reading these for much too long, especially considering how much I enjoy them.  Here's hoping I get to this one!

Finally, when all else fails, sleep--I mean READ about sleep.  I picked up this new book by Arianna Huffington, as a long-time sufferer of several sleep disorders.  As I've gotten older, the sleep issues have changed, and I'm always trying to figure out what works best other than consecutive days in a row of little sleep to send me into one glorious night of sleep.  (That method doesn't really work.)  I recognize the joy and wonder of sleep, and I'd like to get better about my sleep habits, so I'm eager to dive in with this one as well.

All right.  There's my introduction to the readathon tomorrow.  Here's where you can go to sign up and to learn more:  

 Will you be joining in on the readathon tomorrow, and if so, what are you most looking forward to about it or to reading?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Review: The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

What is the true power in a person's stories?  I'm not talking about the ones we make up or read to children before bedtime.  I mean OUR stories; the stories of our life that build the unique individuals that we really are inside and out.  There are the things that have happened to us, the things we have been taught, and then the things we tell ourselves about both--which really shape our perception of the world and who we end up being.  It was in this layering of identity that we get Thrity Umrigar's, The Story Hour.

Synopsis:  Our two main characters, Maggie and Lakshmi, come into contact with one another after an attempted suicide by Lakshmi, the lonely arranged wife of an Indian man running a local Indian restaurant and store.  The marriage was one of distance, hurt, misunderstanding, and distance.  Lakshmi felt so alone and so unloved or even seen, that she attempted suicide, which landed her in a state facility.  There, she met Maggie, the psychologist who came to learn the reasons behind her attempted suicide, and in the process crosses the boundary between doctor and patient to care very much about Lakshmi's "stories" that have built her life.

Review:  The Story Hour is one of those novels that sneaks up on you, and before you know it, you care deeply about the characters involved and want to sit with them to hear more about their lives.  Complex and yet quiet in its complexity, our two main characters, Maggie and Lakshmi, create a friendship out of a shared understanding of what it means to feel alone, feel overlooked, and/or even feel unheard.  Maggie learns about Lakshmi's past in India, and what brought her to the marriage that has left her so lonely; a journey that somehow feels relatable, regardless of where you're at in life.  Maggie, who has a spectacular marriage and husband, also feels that something is off-balance in her own life, but examines it more quietly, through her visits with her patient, Lakshmi.

The thing I found most appealing about this novel is the way that the story binds and connects the characters and readers to one another.  That is a powerful metaphor and symbol, throughout the novel, that represents and speaks for that lifeblood that connects us all as human beings.  While the characters were subtle, and not without their flaws, we can relate to them.  These are qualities which make me take their stories to heart.

There were moments in the story where I worried about the direction it might head, and I worried we would be left hanging at the end, yet there is a satisfactory conclusion to the problems and concerns our characters find themselves in.  Lakshmi is a woman of courage and deep emotion.  Maggie is a woman filled with conflicting emotions and a lack of foresight.  Together, their lives--stories, help to heal wounds they both carry, and help them to understand things about themselves they would have ignored had they not been bound together.

Overall, I was captured by the language and emotion of the "story" told.  It made me think deeply and to feel deeply.  In short, I walked away with a greater appreciation for the lives we lead and a respect for the journeys each person must take.