Book Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Moira Young’s Blood Red Road is actually a reread for me. I read it a few year ago for a university class I took about teaching young adult literature. It’s a very Hunger Gamesesque book about a girl named Saba living in a post apocalyptic world. She, her twin brother, Lugh, their little sister Emmi and their father live in almost complete isolation by a lake that has nearly dried up. Saba, like Katniss in The Hunger Games, has a fierce loyalty to her family, in particular her twin brother. The action kicks off when Lugh is kidnapped by a group of strangers in black and Saba’s father is killed. Saba then sets off with Emmi to rescue Lugh from his new enemy.

When I first read this book it irritated the hell out of me. Saba is out first person narrator and there is a complete lack of proper grammar and I found her accent distracting. However, the more I read the more it made sense to me and the more engrossed I was with the book. Saba lives in a world without schools and has had almost no contact with anyone other than her direct family. This lack of education is clear in her misspellings and improper pronunciation and grammar. The emotions behind the story seem more genuine through the very unique narrative voice.

Saba herself is definitely a character to love if you admire Katniss Everdeen. They share many traits and display a clear image of female empowerment for young readers. During her adventures Saba crosses a never-ending desert, becomes a slave cage fighter, joins a band of warrior women who burn towns to the ground and faces a group of mutant monsters. It is action packed and also teaches a variety of lessons that are important for young readers. Te reason I chose to reread this one is that it’s part of a series and I have finally procured the next two books. I decided that it was best to refresh my memory before plunging forward, into the next chapter.

I would highly recommend this book for any fans of the Hunger Games. I can’t wait to read the next installment in Saba’s journey.

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TV Review: Cowboy Bebop

Yes, I do enjoy the occasional anime. I think that there are a select few anime shows that display a unique look at human nature. Some of my favorites include Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Attack on Titan. Both of these shows examine humanities desperate nature, and how easily someone can be pushed to the brink. Cowboy Bebop is a new experience for me and is a show that premiered in the late 90’s and has had a cult following ever since.

Let me just start by stating that there is a reason it is a classic. It’s animation is uniquely beautiful with deep, thoughtful story lines that some anime’s lack in my opinion. Apart from its popularity, what appealed to me was the set number of episodes. One thing that I find rather exhausting about anime’s like Naruto and Bleach, is the never-endingness of the show. while both of these are enjoyable they have hundreds and hundreds of episodes and are still going. At 26 episodes Bebop is a quick watch that is absolutely jam-packed with action and drama. I definitely wish there were a few more episodes, though there is a film that I’m excited to watch.

Cowboy Bebop is about a group of bounty hunters in a future where all the planets in our solar system have bee terraformed and are occupied. It’s essentially a space western, that occasionally reminds me of Joss Whedon’s Firefly. The group is definitely ragtag and each member has a fascinating back story. Spike is the main protagonist that used to work for a crime syndicate before faking his own death. Jet is a cyborg and former cop, Faye is a gambler with severe memory loss and a mountain of debt. Edward, is an odd little girl who happens to be a genius level hacker, and Ein is a Welsh corgi that was created as a “data dog” in an illegal laboratory. Each of these characters has an important role to play in the overall narrative and each is examined with a fine tooth comb.

This show definitely boils down to the characters. There is a complexity to each one that helps establish the rock solid foundation of a great show, and each episode reveals a little more about them until you finally reach an understanding of what led them to bounty hunting. This shows expert use of animation and music creates some of the most hauntingly beautiful episodes I’ve ever seen in an anime. They have left an impression on me that I never thought possible.

Cowboy Bebop is a must watch for anime lovers. Hopefully you will be as hooked as I was from the very first episode. My only real issue is Faye’s outfit. I mean come on that much skin is not even close to necessary. I really don’t understand how that could be comfortable to wear everyday.

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Me…One Week Until School Starts (Told in Gifs)

When I realized I only have one week left to sleep in

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When I decide to be happy about the new school year

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When I go to school for the first time all summer

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When I start setting up my classroom

 

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When I remember that I have a mini fridge to hide behind my desk

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When I reexamine my syllabus

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When I go shopping for school supplies

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When I spend hours browsing Teachers Pay Teachers

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When I see my class sizes

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When I wonder why I chose this profession

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Then I remember that I get to teach The Hobbit, The Book Thief, The Outsiders and Shakespeare this year

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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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