Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday Blatherings: Maybe It's Time...

It's been awhile, and I finally found myself missing the space here to write and share what I'm reading, so I thought I'd give this another shot and see where it goes.  Who knows?  All I know is that I want to talk about what I'm reading, and thankfully I have my own space to do that!

To be honest, work stole my mojo for awhile, and I felt like I just wanted to shut it down and focus everything I had into getting the things completed that needed completing, and then shutting out everything that needed shutting out.  Books were not on the "shut out" list, but the pressure of finding time to post and separate everything in my life was definitely on that list!

Things are good now.  While I was sad to lose my grandfather this fall,  saying goodbye to the last of my grandparents, I felt better equipped to handle it in comparison to where I was at last year.  In general, I've fallen back on working hard, playing hard, and embracing the positives in life--not the negatives.  That has been a real life-saver for me.  Thankfully, I have great family, friends, and co-workers who also embrace that spirit.  And at the end of the day, I seriously don't let things bother me. 

Having said that, books never went off the radar.  Where would I be without the different perspectives and viewpoints that books afford us?  This last year has been a good one for reading, and I've loved so many of the books I've read or listened to.  Having discovered BBC Radio 4 has turned work time, whether during my prep hour or after school, into something magical!  They have had some amazing books and plays broadcast on there, so much so that I'm always scouring their page for upcoming pieces.

I've also fallen in love with FutureLearn's free online courses, where I have taken a number of amazing literature & history courses.  Seriously, as a teacher I sometimes feel like I need to feed the engine that got me into teaching in the first place--the passion behind the practices--books and history.  I quickly found that after taking these courses, I feel more knowledgeable in my own classroom, as well as inspired to learn more on my own.  What could be better than that?  (Okay, so I have some classes that took me a year to get through, but I'm not paying for them, nor getting any credit.  It's all good!)

Okay, let's get to the real deal now and talk about books!  I've been on a modern/contemporary classic binge this year, and finished a number of great novels and am in the process of reading some great contemporary reads.  Here are a few:

The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton, forced me to read with an attention to detail that I haven't in a very long time.  The number of characters and story lines were so tightly interwoven that you really had to pay attention with this one.  I won't lie, that this book took me well over a year to complete, but so worth it for the richness of the mystery set in New Zealand, and the intriguing characters in that time in history.

This book, Redeployment by Phil Klay, I listened to as I drove to and from work.  Let me not lie here.  It was a tough book to hear.  The pain, sorrow, anger, and emotional pain that came through each soldier's story made it difficult for me to hit play each day, and yet I couldn't silence their stories.  This collection really reshaped some of my thinking about our vets and the psychological toll they suffer by going to war.
**This is a really gritty novel, full of language and graphic experiences.  I'm not sure how you would separate that from their lives or characters and still get the full impact of their stories, and I wouldn't ask anyone to.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a jewel of a read that I'm currently in the middle of reading.  My school is using this text for honors classes, and I have put it on my AP reading list, even without finishing it!  There are certain books that grab at you from the very first page or chapter, and this is one of those.  I'm eager for Christmas Break to get here so I can binge-read the last half!

What can I say?  Thrity Umirigar has won my heart and spirit.  Both of her novels I received through the Amazon Vine program, and although I'm slow to get through most novels (no thanks to my crazy reading habit of reading about 20 books at once), her novels and characters REALLY speak to me.  I love her characters and her ability to craft a story about women and men that you can grow to understand and care about on such a deep level.  I'm a little over half way through The Story Hour, about an Indian woman in counseling with her female psychiatrist after an attempted suicide, and I really can't say enough about Umrigar's rich narratives that keep giving.  I feel like these women are very real.  What can I say?  Go look this one up!

Finally, I recently started, and immediately binge read a huge chunk of The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.  Confusing at first, I stuck with the splintered narrative to gather who these characters were and the connection to Tasmania, Australia, and the time period--WWII that we get through the narrative.  Each character is nuanced, so you have to stick with them so that they will reveal what drives them and why they do what they do.  It's an amazing novel so far, and one that sticks with me for days after I read even a short chapter or two.  I can't wait to finish this one!

There's the gist of what I've been up to and what I've been reading, listening, or studying!  I'm excited for the holidays and for this next year.  What about you?  What have you been reading or doing the most of this past year?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Spring Readathon Wrap Up--Finally

Yes, I'm FINALLY posting my wrap up for the readathon.  Between work that I could be doing around the clock right now, holding a practice test on Saturday, and then trying to stay awake to read, this was probably my least "reading" productive readathon in a very long time.  Having said that, I was still happy to get to participate for just a bit.  Besides that, I got involved doing a bit of cheering this year, which was fun!

Let's talk stats real quick, so you see what I mean by a not-so-hot readathon, this go around!

End of Event Meme:

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?  All afternoon & evening after I jumped back in to the readathon.  When you don't get a enough sleep from the week before, pulling through the day was tough!  I kept falling asleep and ended up taking several naps.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?  Some years I say read graphic novels or short reads, but I'm starting to think that you just have to read what you love most.  That's it.  In the end, it's not about finishing things quickly, unless that's what you want to do.  Otherwise, find what you love most!  I like to rotate books, which means my #'s are low, but I rotate until I find something I enjoy.  A good Laura Florand, Lauren Willig, or Harriet Evans novel will always keep me flipping pages.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?  Nope.  The readathon is awesome!
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?  I love how cooperative it always is, so that we feel supported and part of a group.  That really is the best part of it all.
  5. How many books did you read?  0 =  Although I did rotate through about four different books and am close to finishing a couple. 
  6. What were the names of the books you read?  I spent some time reading the following:  I Was Here by Gayle Forman, Not Without You by Harriet Evans, Bella Fortuna by Rosanna Chiofalo, The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand, and My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?  Because I'm nearing the end, My True Love Gave to Me.  I've really loved reading those short stories, and it's been fun getting into each individual story to see where it take you.
  8. Which did you enjoy least?  None of them.  Life's too short!
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?  No.  They were awesome, and I enjoyed helping out with that as well!
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?  I'll always participate, even if it's just for an hour!  I would always love to come back around to hosting a challenge or something, but October might find me just participating, since school will be gnarly this fall!
Well, there's my verbose discussion of my somewhat jumbled readathon this year.  While I didn't get as much reading done as I would have liked, it sure did jump start a bit more reading on my part.  Here's hoping I've turned over a new leaf!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Readathon Starting Point--Kind Of

This morning I'm proctoring our last full-length practice AP Literature test at the high school, so I had to get up and get here for that.  While I should be doing a number of other things first, such as grading this massive stack of quizzes, essays, and annotated bibliographies looming beside me, I thought I'd hurry and check in!  As per my usual style, I thought I'd juggle things a bit and try to rotate my work a little so that I can still participate to refuel my batteries.  I'll be a much more efficient teacher--overall--if I can at least do a little "readathoning" today.

Since the school has blocked the "24 Hour Readathon" site (strangely), I looked it up on my smartphone and will just keep it moving so that I can get back to grading, which will then lead to READING.

I'll say that I really wish I would have known Dewey.  I think I came into the blogging scene right after she passed away, but know that her enthusiasm for the book community was what pulled me in back then.  It is THAT community that from time to time I still yearn for and sometimes think I'll come back to.  Obviously, I haven't given up my book blog and do think I'll bring it back at some point, but just haven't had the energy or time to do so.  For now, it's my readathon central, and that's okay.  I can say thank you to Dewey for the legacy of readers and camaraderie she left us with.  For that, I feel like I knew her, for sure.

As for getting started, here we go:

1)  What fine part of the world are you reading from today? 
Well, obviously I'm at a high school in Utah--administering an AP practice test.  :)  By noon, I'll be back to SLC doing some reading, both of the bookish kind, as well as the AP essay sort.
2)  Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
I actually just picked up Gayle Forman's newest, I Was Here from the library, and I'm really looking forward to mixing it in!  I'm a big rotater with all things in my life, including books, so I know I won't just read it straight through.  I am, however, eager to start it and see how this new book goes.
3)  Which snack are you most looking forward to?
I haven't picked anything up yet!  :(  We're going to stop on our way home, and I'm going to pick up some chips and guacamole, some roasted cashews, and some dark chocolate.  I think that will tide me over, right?
4)  Tell us a little something about yourself!
As you can tell, I'm a high school English teacher, with a bit of a crazy grading and work schedule at times.  I really love my students though, which makes all of the essays and grading worth it!  I grew up in Idaho, out in the boonies, but ended up going to school in Kansas to get my MA in English.  I guess you could say, my entire life has been about books in some way, as that's what I flourished around as a little kid, and that's what I studied as a young adult, and now that's what I teach for my career. 

As for beyond work, I live a pretty quiet, but full life.  This summer I'll be heading to Italy and France on a much-planned for trip.  We've been saving and planning for this trip for over 10 years, in anticipation of my mother's retirement and my best friend getting out of med school as an anesthesiologist.  It's going to be epic!  I can't wait.  :)  And yes, I have a pile of books and e-books that I've been rifling through, deciding what I'll take on the trip.
5)  If you participated in the last readathon, what's one thing you'll do different today?  
I actually don't think I'll do anything different.  I've learned to just go with the flow and do my best.  I know that I can't participate "perfectly," so why stress?  I'll proctor this test, and then head home to do a little grading and read a bit, back and forth.  It's just nice to have a community of readers and friends to join up with for this!  So many of you I don't talk to as often, so I just enjoy meeting back up with through this forum!