Doll Bones by Holly Black

I do not recommend reading this book alone or at night. It has just enough creepiness to make one shiver and pull the covers up closer. The first time I encountered Holly Black was probably the Spiderwick Chronicles but the first time I read a Holly Black book was her modern faerie tales series: Tithe, Valiant and Ironside. That series and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series were what introduced me to the world of fantasy and fairies. If I ever write a book someday they will be in the dedication because they were my inspiration.

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Doll Bones has nothing to do with fairies but it has everything to do with growing up and balancing being a kid and an adult. I remember when I started middle school and suddenly I found I didn’t have time to play pretend anymore. It was a slow transition; it didn’t happen overnight but I just remember waking up one day and realizing that I was growing up. It was scary because my pretend world was my safety net. It was where I went to escape life when life became too much to handle. It’s the same way for Poppy, Zach and Alice. Every one of these kids has something in their life they are trying to escape from. Every one of them doesn’t want to give up their pretend world because that means facing reality and reality isn’t as fun as adventuring on the high seas.

However when Zach is forced to choose between growing up and giving up pretend Poppy doesn’t give him the chance. Poppy has been dreaming of the Queen (the bone china doll in the cabinet) and how the ghost of the dead girl won’t rest until they bury her in her grave. Poppy, Alice and Zach must go on one final quest and along the way discover that maybe they don’t have to choose between their world and growing up.

-A

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How many synonyms are there for the word awful?

 

According to thesaurus.com there are thirty-four synonyms for awful and yet that alone would describe the week I had. My financial aid is still on hold (insert sad/angry face) because despite the millions of forms I turn in every year they never seem to have the one they need. My education courses and my English courses never seem to align and then I am faced with the dilemma of producing what the professor wants and what I know is right. My brother texted me with some news that made my blood boil and then frustrate me to the point that by the time Friday rolled around I was so ready for labor day weekend. I spent the weekend working which was a blessing in disguise because I was able to focus on work and forget about school. I went out with a friend on Friday night and was able to vent my frustrations over drinks. I then hung out with a friend today and overall it was a good end to a horrible, miserable, awful, disgusting (need I go on) week.

Will I have these weeks while teaching? Oh, yes. I do not look forward to them but I read an article on Teaching the tough kids and it brought it all back into perspective. I will get through this semester. My financial aid will come through. Despite what my brother and his fiancé want I will be there for them. I have friends in English Education who are in the same boat as me and are going to be fighting the same battle as me but we will do it together. Some of these “tough” kids, as they are called, do not have the same opportunities as I do nor do they have people fighting alongside them. It is a really short article but one dear and near to my heart. I was not a tough kid whatsoever but I saw kids who were and I saw teachers leaving those kids behind because they didn’t have the energy to deal with it. These are the students who need you the most because they will slip through the cracks. I just spent a solid fifteen minutes trying to find another article to share but I can’t :(. This other article was about a teacher who at the beginning of every school year would have students write down an imaginary seating chart. She never used these seating charts nor shared them with the class. She was using them to see the students who didn’t have any friends in the class. The students who were likely to fall behind because they didn’t have peer encouragement or support. These are the students we need to be looking out for. The “tough” kids because at the end of the day they aren’t tough, they are alone, afraid and lashing out the only way they know how.

As teachers we will go home to a house, food, and preferably some kind of companionship (furry or human). Some of the students in your classroom will not be going home and may not even know which home or where home is that day. Some of your students will only be getting one meal a day, their free lunches at school. They may not be paying attention not because they find Shakespeare boring but because they didn’t have breakfast and are experiencing low blood sugar.

When I walk into my classroom someday I’m not going to see labels I am going to see students. I’m not going to judge them based on the past because they deserve a new start and they don’t deserve that label. Just like I am allowed to move on from this menacing, enraging, pull my hair out, last week my students are allowed to move on as well.

-A

 

Love in Excess by Eliza Haywood: Part 1 and half of part 2

I have not read a lot of early novels or what are defined as early novels. I have read a lot of Jane Austen but she was writing well after novels had become a thing. I would define Oroonoko by Aphra Behn as a early novella but when I compare it to Love in Excess I find myself liking Oroonoko better. I find the characters more likable and I feel emotionally in the characters in Oroonoko then I do in Love in Excess.

A brief character study of the characters in Love In Excess reveals to me that D’Elmont (abbreviated DE) is a man who is aware of his natural charm and uses that to his advantage. He doesn’t necessarily believe in love and when he first meets Amena he assumes just because she is nervous in his presence that she was the one who sent him the note. He’s arrogant and I don’t like him for that especially when considering the fact all he wants is to sleep with Amena and then move on. He needs to marry someone who has money and that clearly isn’t Amena. However, in the second half of the novel he feels bad for what he did to Amena so he tries to apologize but he still doesn’t want to associate himself with her because he has a new target. This new target is again a young impressionable girl who he is charge of! She is his ward and yet somehow magically he finds himself attracted to her. Of course she finds herself attracted to him because she’s vulnerable (her father just died) and he is her guardian, not to mention the fact he is charming, handsome and older than her. It is ironic and well played on the part of Haywood to start off the second half of the novel this way. In the first half of the novel DE tries to seduce a young woman and the same thing is happening in the second half.

The next character to study is DE’s wife Alivosa. Alivosa likes DE because he is rich and handsome. Social convention at the time however prevents her from publicly declaring her attraction to DE, so she sends him a note. DE is very arrogant and because of this the first trembling girl he sees must of course be the one that sent him the note…

This infuriates Alivosa so much so that when she finds out that DE is trying to seduce Amena, Alivosa sends her manservant to alert the family of what is happening. Now this where the structure of the novel in my opinion slightly crumbles. Up to this point in the story the pace of the novel has been slow and very focused. DE is trying to seduce Amena and Alivosa is trying to prevent it all in the hopes that DE will find out it was her not Amena who sent the note. As soon as the drama with Amena almost being seduced and DE finding out who actually sent the note times flies very quickly. The next thing I know as a reader DE and Alivosa are getting married and Amena has been sent off to a convent to escape public shame and scandal. The first 82 pages of the novel are pretty steady and then the last page covers an extensive amount of time just so we can get to the second half. I like proper pacing in my novels and when people mess with the timeline it throws me off.

A theme I noticed in the first half was that love was a game for all the characters except Amena. Amena reminds me of myself a little in that I have standards and while I want to stick to them I find myself gravitating toward guys I know aren’t good for me. Amena knew letting DE seduce her was wrong and she struggled with it, but her little conniving servant Anaret (the names get very confusing) convinced her it was a good thing just like Juliet’s nursemaid in Romeo and Juliet did. Now she is disgraced and has to go live in a convent…

After DE couldn’t seduce Amena he realized that Alivosa was willing to marry him and she had lots of money so why not? I don’t think Alivosa loves DE I think she sees him as a nice trophy husband, so I question why they are getting married in the first place. It’s all a very interesting social commentary on love and I can see where the critics are coming from. Granted most of these critics are men and they think that by debasing Haywood and claiming that she is prostituting herself by writing about love then they don’t have to feel threatened by a popular female author. Pope’s comments reminds me of Swift’s poem a Lady’s Dressing Room. These men are threatened by a woman expressing herself and I love that Haywood’s response to all this is to just publish another romance.

All the characters in this novel make me angry but it could be because I am looking at this novel as a 21st century woman and Haywood was writing it as a 18th century woman?

-A

Week One: In the books!

I have been knee deep in books all week trying to read everything I can before I fall asleep from pure exhaustion. It’s been a rough first week of school but I am so excited! I get to read actual fun books (and yes Professional Development books are fun) and by having them as an “assignment” I can justify to myself that reading Phoebe and Her Unicorn graphic novel counts. If you haven’t read Phoebe and Her Unicorn I recommend it, but more so I recommend graphic novels and audiobooks for those “picky” readers. I had just myself to play with growing up so I spent a lot of time reading, but that is not the case for everyone. I only really started getting into audiobooks and graphic novels in recent years, but every time I hear someone say their kid likes graphic novels or audiobooks I always insert myself into that conversation because I want to know the why.

I have a friend whose son is eight and he is listening to the Harry Potter Books on audio cd. I asked his mom if he likes audio, and she said he loves it. I personally am a physical paper copy type of girl, but whatever gets kids interested in books and reading is worth trying. Some kids don’t like to read simply because they aren’t strong readers not because they don’t like books. When a pleasurable activity becomes a chore most kids won’t be interested anymore. I know I hated assigned reading in high school and college and I love reading!

I’m excited to be taking a course that will help teach English Language Arts, but I already know that as a teacher I just need to do two things: I need to model reading and writing. I  know that is not all I need to do, but if I come to class every day prepared to read and write just like my students it shows them I value reading and writing-it’s not just a task I want them to do.

I have slowly been discovering my voice through the power of poetry-something I never thought I would do. I have never really liked poetry, but words have a way of expressing feelings you never could have thought possible. Words are crazy beautiful things that can open up a whole new world for students only if we show students that it doesn’t have to be a chore but a way to express themselves and discover their own unique voices.

-A

My Professional Year

The 2017 fall semester is the start of my professional year as they call it in the education department. If all goes well and I pass all my classes I will be student teaching next spring. It is exciting and terrifying at the same time but after 4 years of college (this will be my fourth year) I am ready and done.

This fall I am taking several classes and two of them are Methods and Novels. If you are in either of those classes and are trying to read my blog posts just look at the categories tab on the right of the screen and look for Novels or Methods. If you aren’t in any of my classes and simply follow my blog because you enjoy what I have to say you don’t have to worry about that at all. Please feel free to explore any of the categories as I try my hardest to update the book reviews category as I read the books.

-A

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

I’ve always enjoyed books that focus on the aftermath of an event because we never talk about it. I think that is the reason I liked Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher so much because it was life after suicide. And We Stay is also the story of the after, after Emily Beam’s boyfriend kills himself in the school library. It is the story after her abortion and the guilt that drives Paul Wagoner to kill himself in front of his girlfriend.

We as a society don’t often talk about the after. We either focus on the before or the event itself but never the after. Why was there so much personal outcry against Thirteen Reasons Why? This is just my opinion but I think because it talked about the after.. Hannah Baker couldn’t be saved and we as a society couldn’t accept the fact that suicide happens and people are successful at it. It’s a sensitive subject because we probably all know someone who has committed suicide and we don’t want to talk about it because it hurts too much. We need to talk about it. I cannot stress how much we need to talk about it because there are kids out there hurting who feel they can’t talk about their suicidal thoughts because then they would get labeled. There is such a stigmatism surrounding suicide that some people are fearful of talking about it because they are not sure how people would react.

A girl recently convinced her boyfriend to commit suicide and that is tragic. Her boyfriend reached out to her and she obviously did not help him but let us use this as an opportunity to talk about suicide. I’m sure everyone at some point in their life has thought “why go on?”. However will any of us openly and publicly admit this? Why?

We live in a world where Netflix can take a book about suicide, make it into a tv show and then in everyone’s opinion “glorify” suicide. I admit I haven’t watched the entire series nor do I plan to simply because of Netflix’s decision to show Hannah’s suicide and not in the way she did it in the book. However that hasn’t stopped me from rereading the book I loved as a middle schooler and still do. I know this is not a review of Thirteen Reasons Why but what And We Stay and Jay Asher’s novel have in common is suicide a subject that is never talked about enough. Jay Asher wrote a story about a girl who committed suicide. It happens and we cannot ignore it by saying people shouldn’t write about it. It’s like saying let’s not write YA novels about love. As much as I would love to say that teens don’t think about and/or commit suicide it happens. I still shake my head at a comment I read about Thirteen Reasons Why which essentially said Hannah could have handled her suicide better. First of all Hannah is a fictional character. Second of all suicide is a tragedy and it doesn’t matter how we handle it because for someone to get so sick of life that they wish to end theirs is just awful. I don’t care how they do it what matters is that they feel life is no longer worth living.

I’m reminded of the scene in the book Thirteen Reasons Why when Hannah wrote the word suicide on a slip of paper and the remarks her fellow students made. Lots of people say those things because we don’t want to talk about suicide. We hope that by saying “it is  a selfish decision”, “why would you want to kill yourself” and “think of those you are leaving behind” that somehow it will make everything better. Actually being there for people and listening to them when they are hurting is going to help more than just making blanket statements about suicide.

What about those of us left behind wondering what went so horribly wrong? Emily Beam, a fictional character, is left wondering that as well. She made a hard life choice to abort her child and then she lost the only other person she could turn to. She turned to Emily Dickinson to help her and this is why literature that talks about death and suicide is so important. Sometimes the only place hurting people can turn is to stories that mirror their own life. I am an introvert and as I explore the world of introverts I find that I am not alone and that when I want to be I can be an extrovert. I read an amazing book called FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell and it was the first time I found myself staring into a mirror as I read the story of Cath the introvert. I had never before read a book that so perfectly described my life and it makes me sad to think that it took me 20 years to find a book that described me.

Thirteen Reasons Why and And We Stay are those books for people who are reeling from a suicide of someone they know. We need to be able to talk about the “tough” subjects because if we simply ignore them those students/people who are hurting and need to talk about suicide, depression, anxiety, or whatever else you are dealing with they are not going to get the help they need.

 

Recommended Reading:

After by Amy Efaw

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

-A

James Breakwell Vs. John Green

First of all let’s define who James Breakwell because thanks to Tumblr/Youtube/Fault in Our Stars I am pretty sure everyone knows who John Green. James Breakwell is a father of four who tweets what his children say (@XplodingUnicorn). He’s a pretty popular guy and I was introduced to him by the wonderful people of Pinterest who screen shot his tweets and then pin them. I just recently got into Twitter and so I started following James and I haven’t regretted it yet. He’s a funny guy who has a great Twitter presence unlike some people who aren’t original and just retweet stuff all the time, oh yeah…that’s me. When I heard James was publishing a book I was like “cool for you” and didn’t think much of it. Just recently however James started a competition where if you pre-order his book by August 1st and tweet it to him he will put your name into a drawing to have a conversation with him. I don’t know why, maybe the fact I have no social life and spend all my time reading tweets by some middle aged dude about his little family of four, but for some reason I really wanted to enter this competition so I pre-ordered James’ book.

What does of any of this have to do with John Green? Well James’ book comes out the same day as John Green’s new novel Turtles all the Way Down (I honestly don’t know if this is the title nor I do I really care enough to look it up). I dislike John Green’s pitiful attempts at writing a young adult novel. He has a great Youtube channel: Crashcourse in History. It’s fun and I’ve watched it several times in some of my classes (high school and college). John is a great guy he just cannot write a young adult novel. However, I cannot lie…I did like Fault in Our Stars. Out of the four books he has written he got lucky one time. I have read three of his books, Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and Fault in Our Stars. I couldn’t bring myself to read another one of his books so I never did read An Abundance of Katherine’s, though I did have a friend named Katherine read that one and she didn’t like it.

I read Paper Towns when I was in middle school. It was new and a requirement for book club. Well, not really a requirement but if I read it and ten other books I would get a $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble. B&N! B&N people! I would have read the dictionary cover to cover to get a gift card to B&N. I actually have a twenty dollar limit when I go there because I would spend a $100 on four books and not regret it. Anyways back to how dumb the ending to Paper Towns was. I actually liked the plot but then I got to the end and it left me so angry it didn’t matter whether or not the plot was good because without a solid ending it just left me empty. As an author you cannot create this really strong plot and send these kids on an epic road trip and just have it fizzle out at the end because there really is no climax just a sad bunch of kids and disappointed readers.

The book that would have turned me off from John Green permanently, and did, was Looking for Alaska. If I had read this book before I read any of his other books I wouldn’t have read Paper Towns or Fault in Our Stars. I HATED Looking for Alaska. First of all, the characters were flat, boring, not likable and just frustrating. The main character made me want to punch all prepubescent boys in the crotch. He was sad, whiny and really just needed to grow up. Don’t even get me started on Alaska. She was a tease of the worst kind. She didn’t deserve to die and that is not a spoiler because the whole book is a countdown and you know it is coming. In fact I didn’t even finish the book because by the time I got to that point I was so done, I just quite. Why is Pudge looking for Alaska, I don’t know because she isn’t worth it; you are too young to know what love is and you all suck as characters!

Fun fact: I read this class for a book club in college. Half my book club liked, the other half hated it and one kid just walked out when the yelling match started.

The point of this story is that James Breakwell is a great guy and even though I haven’t read his book yet and it’s not YA, I know it will still be better than anything John Green will write. So pre-order his book instead and help support a family man instead of a middle aged man who thinks he can write about teenagers.

-A