Why do I read?

Reading is one of the greatest gifts anyone can receive. It is a shame that so many of the 8th graders that pass through my classroom openly mock my love of reading and claim that they have better things to do. That is why I try to share my love of books and display positive reading habits for my students (I’ll save my how to guide for another post). This is why I read:

I read because adulting is hard. I totally get where the kids are coming from. Having strict deadlines and difficult assignments can often take the fun out of reading. I myself remember several books that I was supposed to read in school, that I simply didn’t because I was an obnoxious weirdo who thought reading spark notes made me a rebel. I understand that be told that you have to read, often makes you not want to read. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized how important taking time to read can be. Being away from your parents for the first time is not easy and I found refuge in the books I read for my King Arthur class. Reading about the Round Table and the once and future king helped me forget all the stresses that come with being an adult. And this class is what inspired me to become an English teacher.

Now that I have graduated and am about to begin my second year as a teacher, I cherish reading more than ever. I often tell my kids that it can be hard to find the time to read. Even though I love my books more than anything (apart from my cat), it is a heck of a lot easier to sit around with Netflix after a day of dealing with 8th grade shenanigans. That is why I set a schedule. I shoot for about a chapter a night during the school year because once I get started it’s very hard for me to stop. That chapter becomes two and then three and so on. Before I know it I’m lost in the story. Traveling far away from my bills and my work, and the dishes I should be doing, into a world that is completely separate from mine. Books take me to places that I’ve never been, or they take me back to places that I want to visit again. For those hours that I spend reading I have forgotten all of my troubles. They are still there and must be faced, but I always approach challenges with a bit more confidence after I’ve read about some hero overcoming obstacles that are far worse than my own.

This is why I read. This is what I try to teach my kids. There are lessons in books. The more you read, the more you learn, the happier you will be. In my life there is nothing that beats sitting in my comfy leather chair, sipping tea, and reading a book with my cat curled on my lap. The only thing that could make this scene better is if it were raining outside the window.

Why do you read?

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Outlander- Diana Gabaldon

I cannot believe I haven’t read this sooner. I’m hopelessly addicted, and cannot wait to watch the show and read the rest of the series. Diana Gabaldon (shout out to my fellow NAU alum) is a genius. The plot of Outlander is richly layered and marvelously entertaining. I started this book as an audio book for my road trip home from Washington. The narrator, Davina Porter, is wonderful and perfectly captures all the accents and the characters. I started it during my drive from San Francisco to Phoenix. This trip got me a good chunk of the way through but I still had a long way to go, so I continued listening as I unpacked and set up my new apartment. After a surprisingly short amount of time (I have A LOT of stuff) this task was complete so I hunkered down with a hard copy of the book. Once I was able to read at my own pace I plowed through the final chunk.

The book follows Clair Randall, as she is transported back in time from 1945 to 18th century Scotland. Needless to say that this transition comes as a bit of a shock, but Clair quickly recovers and sets her sights on returning home. Unfortunately she is dragged far away from the Sanding Stones that transported her and she ends up working as a physician for a young laird in Scotland. As outlandish (pun totally intended) as this seemed to me at the beginning I very quickly found myself engrossed in Clair’s journey through the highland with young Jaime Frasier and the Mackenzie clan.

All the characters are extremely complex and  they each present certain amount of mystery that Clair struggles to piece together. Some of the most likable character like Jaime can be seen as barbaric, while the most detestable, like Captain Randall, present a sympathetic side (not that Randall’s actions could ever be forgiven). The amount of research that went into the story is evident in the accuracy with which Gabaldon describes 18th century Scotland. There are moments of serenity that provide a close look at the daily life in the Scottish Highlands, and there are also moments extreme excitement that offer a look into the barbarity of the time. There are even steamy scenes that would make most people run for a cold shower cold shower. It is fascinating to watch Clair adapt to her surrounding as her decision to return to 1945 becomes more complicated than she had originally intended.

By then end of the book I found myself longing to return to Scotland as I reminisced about my first visit. And I can already tell that the show is going to be excellent. The casting alone indicated perfection. I was planning on taking a break and reading something else but I don’t think that I can. (sorry Sarah but the moment I finish watching season 1 I will start reading Dragonfly in Amber. You had better get reading if you want to catch up). So you should probably cunt on my next few posts being strictly Outlander related.

PERFECT CASTING FOR CLAIR AND JAMIE!!!!!!!!!!!

Gabaldon, Diana. Outlander. New York, NY: Delacorte, 1991. Print.

Side note: I have been trying to post every time I finish a book but I think that my posts have too few and far between. Once the new school year starts I’ll have even less time to read so I am going to try to post twice a week whether I’m done with a book or not. 🙂

Something Rotten In My Classroom

So I am a huge musical theatre nerd, and a huge Shakespeare dork. So when my good friends Monica and Lauren made me listen to Welcome to the Renaissance from Something Rotten, my brain just about exploded. I spent nearly  six hours sitting in a Starbucks making the masterpiece below. I officially cannot wait to teach Shakespeare again and use the video. My plan is to show the video to my kids then they can choose something mentioned to create a short research presentation to share with the class. The song covers a lot so I think that this will be a great way to get kids excited about the Renaissance and Shakespeare. I hope you enjoy!

Welcome to the Renaissance! Intro Video.

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Damned by Chuck Palahnuik

Chuck Palahnuik is a genius. For those of you who might not be familiar with his writing, he is the author of Fight Club. I hope that, even if you haven’t read the book, you’ve seen the film adaptation with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton (F***ing AMAZING MOVIE!). Palanuik’s more recent work, Damned, is just as original and just as irresistible as Fight Club (I’m having a strong need to watch this movie all of a sudden). Damned follows thirteen year old Madison after she kicks the bucket because of a marijuana overdose. Madison wakes up after a humiliating funeral, staged by her wealthy and narcissistic parents, finding herself damned for all eternity. Madison is surprisingly calm about the whole situation and quickly finds herself a group of friends and they proceed to wreak havoc as they travel across hell’s unique landscape.

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This book is Breakfast Club meets Judy Blume meets Dante’s Inferno. And it is brilliant. Palahniuk’s disturbing descriptions of Hell are entirely unique. Some of Hell’s landmarks include Dandruff Desert, the Great Plains of Broken Glass, and the Great Ocean of Wasted Sperm. On top of this disgusting landscape, Hell is littered with demons who originate in cultures across the globe, and are described with pinpoint accuracy. I found my self utterly enraptured by the wide variety of demon’s found in Hell and I would very much enjoy learning more about each one’s origins.

Madison is clearly a fan of The Breakfast Club (another great film, and if you haven’t seen it you need to rethink your life choices) and she quickly starts referencing the film when she finds her own version of the princess, the jock, the nerd, and the rebel. It is utter perfection the way this ragtag group bonds over their shared circumstance and attempt to make the best of their time in the after life. Palahniuk also captures teenage angst by satirically referencing Judy Blume. He begins every chapter with “Are you there Satan? It’s me Madison” (1). Madison continues to make confessions to Satan as she explores her new home and learns more about herself.

Palahniuk delivers a hilarious satire that had me cringing a lot of the time. There were a few moments when I was utterly disgusted but then I remembered that this book takes place in hell and it makes total sense for Hell to be gross. And through all of the pop culture references and descriptions of Hell’s mountain of toenail clippings, Palahniuk delivers a clear message that can easily be summed up in one quote:

“The only thing that makes Earth feel like Hell, or Hell feel like Hell is our expectation that it should feel like Heaven” (247).

Life is what you make it, and so is death. Madison struggles to make herself into someone she is proud to be in her afterlife, when that is what she should have been doing during her life. I can think of a few people that should not read this book, like my elderly relatives and anyone who is easily offended my graphic descriptions of bodily functions, but if you do read this book take the message to heart. It’s a powerful one that is hidden beneath a hilarious and enjoyable ride through Hell’s landscape.

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Palahniuk, Chuck. Damned. New York: Doubleday, 2011. Print.

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

First of all, you should know that this book comes out on August 1st. I just got a kindle and got it for free in this fancy new Amazon Prime thing that I still don’t fully understand. Everything We Keep is a STRESSFUL book. But I’m OK with that, therefore I liked it. The book opens on the wedding day of a girl named Aimee, only instead of marrying her true love, James, she’s burying him. As far as she knows James died on a fishing trip to Mexico, but as you get further into the book it becomes clear that something else happened entirely and Aimee is stuck in the middle trying to learn the truth.

When I first started reading I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t like it. Aimee was giving me some Bella Swan (Twilight) vibes. Her relationship with James seemed super unhealthy and it seemed very likely that she would never recover and be completely dependent on James forever. The more I read however the more sucked into the plot I got. Aimee came out of her Bella Swan slump with flying colors by opening her own restaurant and meeting a cute photographer, before more mysteries present themselves. There is drama around every corner (in a good way, not in an After You way), and it is super stressful to watch Aimee deal with all of this.

Overall I really loved this book. The only thing that is bothering me is the epilogue. I’m not going to give anything away but just know that I am super frustrated. Lonsdale cannot end a book this way and not write a sequel. I NEED A SEQUEL! I need to know how some of the loose ends are tied up and how things change for the characters after the HUGE twist you find in the epilogue. No pressure, Kerry Lonsdale, but I need this sequel ASAP. even though your first book hasn’t come out yet… my needs are the only ones that matter in this situation. Please give me a sequel!

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I do hope that you enjoy this book if you choose to read it when it comes out on August 1st!

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Lonsdale, Kerry D. Everything We Keep. N.p.: Lake Union Pr, 2016. Print.

 

Paddle Your Own Canoe

Well it seems that between spinning yarn, knitting, sailing and just plain enjoying my time in northern Washington (dear god I love vacationing with my parents), I have finally finished a book. Nick Offerman’s Paddle Your Own Canoe is the lucky book that I took forever to read. PREPARE FOR SWANSON GIFS.

I adore Nick Offerman. Hopefully you know him from watching Parks and Recreation. If you have not watched said show I am here to tell you that Offerman’s performance as Ron Swanson is reason enough to become a fan. On top of being an absolutly hilarious character actor, Offerman is talented in a great many other ways, and his book helps reflect that.

Throughout the book Offerman tells a series of stories that help depict what shaped him as a person and as an actor. Many of his fans imagine him as the epitome of the manly man. I have also described him as a mustachioed example of pure masculinity. I can now see that I, like many others, had inserted him into a very narrow idea of who he is. Offerman, after all is an actor, which makes him an artist, which makes him the artsy one in his family. What makes him even more admirable is that acting is a profession he chose, that he has a degree in theatre and has made huge contributions to Chicago’s theatre community.

While he did grow up on a farm and has a passion for woodworking and red meat, he is much more than the traits that epitomize Ron Swanson. He has struggled to make a career out of acting and has depicted several compelling stories about his rise to stardom. One of my particular favorites is the chapter where he describes his time touring Japan with a Kabuki acting company. There is something about Offerman performing kabuki that has given me hours of laughter and enjoyment. I only wish I could see this performance because I’m sure that, as a amusing as the image in my mind is, he pulled it off brilliantly.

The book is brilliant because of his amazing storytelling and because of his masterful use of the English language. Offerman is an incredible writer. There is a maturity and complexity to his writing style that helps add to the humor of the stories. His use of repetition and sentence structure is nothing short of perfection. I applaud his writing style and have zero doubts that, had he not become an actor, he would be a writer of the highest caliber and respect. By the end of his book it had become clear that he was born to play Swanson and my respect, and admiration for him has only increased.

Offerman, Nick. Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living. New York: Dutton, 2014. Print.