Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I am growing increasingly fond of Swedish authors. My first love is The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared  Jonas Jonasson. My new love is A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Both of these novels examine Swedish men who are approaching the end of their lives, and both are rather amusing.

Ove is a middle aged man who is struggling to adapt to new way of life. He is a creature of habit and has mostly lived his life the same way from day to day and he is suddenly forced into retirement after tragedy has stricken his home. He is not particularly popular in his neighborhood and has managed to make several enemies due to his harsh adherence to the rules and his reputation as a curmudgeon. However, upon the arrival of a new family next door all of his habit are forced to be broken.

This novel is a wonderful examination of how a person is not always what they appear. Ove seems to be an angry, mean old man but the reality is that his harsh exterior hides a passionate person who has been through the ringer and throws himself with gusto into any problem that faces him. He’s not a man that cares about very many things but when he does care, he cares a lot.

This story has a displays a lot of tragedy and will bring many readers to the brink of tears, however, there is a layer of optimism that contributes to the humor that is sprinkled throughout. it a wonderful read that transitions seamlessly between Ove’s past and present.  Backman has definitely been added to my ‘must read’ list.

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I Have Returned!

So I have been a bit off the radar when it comes to posting. I know that I don’t have very many followers but I want  you all to know that I have missed sharing my experiences with you so much. But fear not! Summer has begun which means that my official blogging season has begun. As this last school year progressed it became too difficult for me to keep up with my blog and I want to apologize for that. The school year ended in complete chaos and I was working two jobs. I am taking some time this summer to restructure my life so that I have more time to do what I enjoy (reading and blogging). This restructure includes moving to a cheaper place so my second job is no longer necessary, leaving said second job so I have more free time to focus on fun things (already done! though it was heart breaking to leave all the wonderful people I had the opportunity to work with), and taking a vacation so that I can get healthy (I literally spent the last month and a half of school sick). And now that these things are underway I can finally get back to my book review.

I already have a couple of articles in the works but I think I’ll take today to tell you about the adventure/ ordeal/ odyssey of getting to my parents house for my brief vacation. My wonderful parents live in a very small town called Sequim (pronounced Squim). It’s up in northern Washington right on the Olympic Peninsula, and if you stand on the exact right spot on the beach your phone will get a text saying “Welcome To Canada!”. This is the moment when you look out at the sliver of land on the horizon and think “Canada is over there… I hope I’m not getting billed for international texts because I’m standing on the exact right spot on the beach”. It’s a quaint little town that is affectionately called The Blue Hole. This name come from some atmospheric phenomenon  in which the mountains essentially block the weather and Sequim gets a fraction of the amount of rainfall that the rest of the state does. (I’m sorry for that terrible explanation but I don’t actually know what I’m talking about). I love this little town that my parents have retired too, but it is a pain in the ass to get here.

I showed a couple of weeks ago and it takes a plane, train, automobile, boat and a decent about of walking to get to the house. My travel day started at about 5:30 in the morning because I live in Flagstaff, Arizona which means that getting to the airport take a good chunk of my morning. I boarded the Arizona Shuttle to Phoenix at 5:30 and arrived at said airport at about 8:30. My flight left Phoenix at 11:35 and landed in Seattle at 2:30 pm. at this point I have used 2 of the 6 required modes of transportation.

I then take the A train from SeaTac to Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle (this takes about 40 minutes). I then take a ten minutes walk to the Seattle Ferry Terminal (if your counting this makes 4 modes of transportation). I was quite proud of myself because I managed to get to the terminal at 3:42 pm for the ferry destined to leave at 3:45 WHOOOOOO! The ferry ride lasts about 20-30 minutes and then my loving parents are waiting to pick me up at the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal for the final leg of my journey which is an hour-long drive to the house.

Needless to say this journey is exhausting and takes an entire day, and I always make sure my visit last a week MINIMUM. Luckily the atmosphere waiting at the other end of this journey makes this one exhausting day totally worth it. I am slated to complete this entire journey in reverse this Thursday so wish me luck on my return voyage. There is no other word for it its a damn voyage.

Please stay tuned for more posts This week I will be posting about my experience at Wonder Woman 3D, and Fredrick Backman’s new novel A Man Called Ove. 

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Photo: “Purple Haze”; Jeffrey Murray. A Lavender farm in Sequim, Washington 

 

 

Board Game Review: Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s birthday was on April 23 and my kiddos in Shakespeare Club decided to throw a birthday party for him at our Thursday meeting. So last week while I was looking on Amazon for a birthday gift for my brother (love ya bro) I found two Shakespeare themed board games. Upon unwrapping these board games it became very clear that I would not be bringing them to the party (too many little pieces and too complicated). However I did get to play one of them with my friend Tori and it was particularly enjoyable.

Shakespeare The Board Game was created by Ystari Games. The basic premise is to put on a play in six days. You have to hire actors and stage workers and the player with the most prestige points at the end of the game wins. There are several rounds each day and you earn prestige points for a number of different reasons. Overall this is a very enjoyable game that challenges the players mentally. Initially I was skeptical because it does take some time to set up the game and it can be difficult to keep all of the steps straight in my head. I am sure that after playing a few more times I will get the hang of it and I will defeat Tori!!!!!

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The Value of Life in “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell

Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game” is a fascinating examination of the value of life and the hypocrisy of many of the worlds hunters. Throughout the story Connell uses strong imagery and symbolism to force the reader into a suspenseful and uncomfortable situation as they closely follow Sanger Rainsford. Rainsford is forcefully thrown into the role of prey as he is hunted by a madman on a completely isolated island. During this ordeal Rainsford (a skilled hunter himself) is forced to reexamine his thoughts on his favorite sport as he experiences what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a hunt.

What makes Rainsford such a fascinating character is how closely he resembles the antagonist of the story, General Zarroff. Both are wealthy hunters with backgrounds in the military. Both have very high expectations of those around them and have a slight superiority complex. Rainsford clearly states his thoughts on social status as he divides the world into “two classes– the hunters and the huntees” (Connell 2). This displays a clear disrespect for the lower class citizens of the world and reflects his view of the animals he hunts. “I rather think they [animals] understand one thing–fear. The fear of pain and the fear of death” (2). Rainsford displays complete nonchalance towards the creatures kills for sport; he acknowledges that they are capable of feeling but that it matters little, and should not hinder his game.

Sanger Rainsford is forced to confront his own views when he is faced with General Zarroff. Zarroff is even wealthier than Rainsford and serves as a caricature of the protagonist. He is a skilled hunter and has less value for life. He views everything around him as a possible plaything, a piece on his giant chessboard. He is simultaneously everything that Rainsford wants to be and everything he would hate to become. Zarroff has become bored with hunting animals and has chosen to hunt humans. Rainsford is appalled by this notion, but his own attitude towards animals is seen in  Zarroff. Rainsford is forced to examine his own point of view when he is confronted with an invitation to participate in Zarroff’s game.

Rainsford suddenly experiences what it’s like to be a hunters prey when Zarroff sets him lose on the island. Connell describes each moment of the final hunt with excruciating detail, drawing the reader into the suspense. Rainsford goes so far as to describe Zarroff as “the devil himself” (17), and acknowledges that this is how animals have viewed himself. Rains ford’s experience as a hunter allows him to get the upper hand and he displays clear ingenuity as he builds traps and winds his way through the forest. The final face off between Rainsford and Zarroff is deeply satisfying and the ambiguity as the end leaves much to the imagination. I theorize that Rainford has leaned the true value of all life and will not continue to hunt for sport.

Richard Connell is using this story to make a clear statement about the value of life during times of war. He uses Zarroff’s island as a smaller version of the first world war, in which men hunted men like animals. Rainsford and Zarrof are meant to parallel each other in order to display that enemies in war are not always so different form each other, and it is important to examine what it is like to be on the receiving end of an attack. I am currently teaching this story to my eighth graders and I have never seen them so excited about a story. They have dived headlong into the plot and many of them are hunters themselves and it will be interesting to see their input on the statement that Connell is making.

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Book Review: You Are Here by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson gets me. She has a way of reaching into my life and plucking out all of my insecurities, and making them seem small in the big picture of my life. She is someone who doodles. She is someone who doodles when she is anxious, or stressed, or depressed. She has taken things that are born during her darkest moments and has turned them into something truly beautiful. She has created a COLORING BOOK!

I love coloring books! I love the innocence that comes with coloring. There is a feeling of release when I spend a few minutes turning something black and white into something bursting with color. I am not an artist. Not even close! and coloring is the closest I will ever get to creating art. I feel truly relaxed when I am infusing a sheet of paper with color, and Jenny Lawson has helped turn this into a true form of therapy.

Every drawing is an original and she combines them with quotes and short essays. Some are thoughtful and some are rants that follow her wonderfully random train of thought. Every quote jumps off the page and reaches into your soul. Everyone has their dark moments and Jenny’s art cuts through the darkness like a knife, creating sudden and glorious bursts of light. Her quotes are honest in a way that everyone can appreciate, and her scattered use of profanity is refreshing and amusing. You don’t find random cursing in very many coloring books…or whales with guns. AND IT’S GLORIOUS!

Thank you so much Jenny Lawson fro touching my life once again and showing me that it can be dark but there is always light to be found. And there is always someone who has it better.

Film Review: W.E.

So apparently Madonna directs movies now… and I was pleasantly surprised by her film W.E.. This movie came out in 2011 and examines the relationship between Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, who famously abdicated the throne of England so he could marry the twice divorced Simpson. According to Rotten Tomatoes this movie is a total flop but I found it charming and fascinating as it examines one of the biggest scandals in British history.

I have always viewed Wallis Simpson as a kind of villain. She is always painted as a gold-digger who tears England apart for her own social standing. W.E. takes a completely different point of view by focusing on Wallis as a woman struggling to find happiness in a world that is not always kind to ambitious women.

Madonna creates a modern parallel in Wally Winthrop, a modern woman who is fascinated by an auction displaying all of Wallis and Edwards belongings. Wally views Wallis’s life as a fairy tale in which she falls in love with a handsome prince who sacrifices everything for their love. Wally is inherently trying to escape from her own miserable marriage by imaging a glamorous love story from a time long past.

The film flows between the past and the present smoothly, as we watch Wallis leave a happy marriage for a doomed one while Wally leave a miserable marriage for a loving relationship with a cute security guard (Oscar Isaac). By the end of the film it becomes clear that Wallis was neither a villain or part of a beautiful love story that ended happily ever after.

Wallis loved Edward but his extreme devotion to her put a strain on their relationship which became impossible to escape. Once Edward abdicated Wallis was tied to him for life. She was now forced to be with him for ever in order to justify the actions he had taken. People change over time and their exile form England paired with the fact that she would never be free of him placed Wallis in a very stiff box that could not be altered. I now have a new found respect for Wallis Simpson and I am curious to learn more about her to see exactly how accurate this film is.

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What Is Mine

My period is mine, you get no part in it

My period means that I bleed for one week

One week every month

Blood means injury

injury means rest, time off,

Taking a moment to pause

to get a bandage

My period means the opposite

My period means pain

It means not being able to stand

It means ruined clothes and stress

Stress that I won’t be able to make it to the restroom

Stress that I will embarrass myself

Embarrass myself because of something natural

Something as natural to me as breathing is to you

My period means shame

Shame that I have to take my purse to the restroom

Shame that I am depressed

Shame that I am anxious

My access to birth control means power

Power over my weakness

Power comes from one small pill

That pill means that I know when my period happens

That pill means that my clothes aren’t ruined

That pill means that I am in less pain

So that I take fewer painkillers

So that I can do my job

That pill means that young girls don’t have to choose

Choose between a baby and an education

Between dreams and nightmares

My body is mine

the way your body is yours

And I promise

To never judge you

To never tell you what to do with your body

If you promise

To never tell me what to do with mine

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Why I Need Feminism

I love dresses. I also love jeans, and sweatpants, and leggings, and shorts, and just lying around in my underwear. I’m not saying that I have a desire to run errands in my underwear (my self-esteem is WAY too low to pull that off, also it just seems unhygienic), but feminism means that I can choose to wear whatever I want without judgement. Feminism also means that men can wear whatever they want without judgement. If one of my male students decides to wear a dress to school I’m gonna greet him with an excessively enthusiastic “YOU LOOK AMAZING!”. He will definitely be more concerned with the fact that I am embarrassing myself more than he cares about what other students think.

I need feminism because there are days when I want to wear frilly dresses and high heels, but there are also days when I want to wear bow ties and combat boots. I need Feminism because a woman should be able to have short hair without people judging her and saying that feminine women should have long hair. I need feminism because my leg hair should be just as acceptable as a mans beard. If men are allowed to go weeks without shaving their faces, then I should be allowed to go weeks without shaving my legs, and I should not be confined to pants during that time, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT EQUALITY IS! I personally will not wear a dress without shaving my legs simply because I am more comfortable that way. I do not enjoy the sensation of my leg hairs rubbing against my skin, its prickly and terrible.

I need feminism because women should not be ashamed or embarrassed of their periods. Women are strong and powerful and we spend one week of every month bleeding. Period cramps are caused when a woman’s uterus contracts so intensely that blood flow is inhibited. I need feminism because birth control helps control this pain for a lot of women and unless you have personally experienced it you have no say in how this pain should be dealt with. NO UTERUS NO OPINION! Equality is the right to decide what is done with your body. Women have no control of what men choose to do with their bodies, there for men should have no control of what women do with their bodies.

I need feminism because EVERYONE is created equal and everyone has the right to make their own decisions. Division based on gender, race and sexuality is complete bullsh*t. I have been more fortunate than many people in this world, and I will stand for what I believe in and I will give a voice to those that have none. This is a day for more than just women. This is a day to celebrate equality and how far people have come. This is a day to stand together and be grateful for what we have and examine what we need as a society. Happy National Women’s Day.

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That Awkward Moment…

When one student requests a Shakespeare club at school, so you start one to see if there would be interest, and 20 FREAKING KIDS SHOW UP to the first meeting, and 5 MORE SHOW UP TO THE SECOND. Here are just a few things that have gone through my head over the last week:

“Welp… I was expecting five members max but this is fine too…”

“WOW he actually wrote an election speech to become president…”

“Please vote for him. Please vote for him.”

“Yes they voted for him!”

“I’m so sorry that you didn’t get elected, but the club does not need an assistant secretary, or a field trip specialist, or an official janitor. I do not need, nor want a personal assistant, thank you very much.”

“The position of Almighty Overlord has already been taken… by me… of course”

“Shakespeare Club is Snap Chat famous apparently”

“Apparently I have to meet my officers during lunch to discuss… tactics… why do we need tactics? It’s Shakespeare club for lords sake!”

“How on earth did my treasurer already raise ten dollars?! We don’t even have something to spend it on yet!”

“So my president has taken a survey and all the kids want to do Hamlet for our first play… this is gonna go so well. I hope they realize that it’s a bit more intense than The Lion King” 

“No we are not watching The Lion King, you guys chose Hamlet and we are watching Hamlet, Dang it!”

“My officers have decided that they are now called Shakespeare’s Squad”

“Why are there more of you?! I need to set a limit for number of members cause this is getting ridiculous”

“I said you could bring snacks for the movie… who paid for those five pizzas?”

“Oh look soda, popcorn and cookies too…”

“Maybe we do need a club janitor”

“Why yes, Hamlet is confusing”

“You actually like this movie?”

“You actually love this movie?!”

“A student just thanked me for starting a Lit Club…”

“I need to find a place to get club shirts…”

“I’m excited for next week too… but lets tone down the snacks just a bit”

“This was a good decision”

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I definitely have this on a shirt and the kids want this on their official club shirts as well