Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Roundup of Reads and Randoms for June 2015.

I thought my bookshelves would make a good button!
Hi Everyone!

I know I said I would be a posting machine once school got out, and while I have definitely been reading and relaxing, I haven't gotten around to posting. I felt guilty for a little bit, but then I remembered that it's my blog, and it's okay.

That being said, June is at an end. And just like I promised myself I wouldn't look at anything school related until July, I also let myself have the first 2 weeks of summer vacation to myself. However, I did clean, a lot, and I'm currently in the process of culling my bookshelves and reorganizing (I think I have finally reach the point where I know I need to get rid of things).

In any case, I thought that a monthly roundup of my finished books and random favorites would be fun, so here we are.

Let's start this month with the reads, shall we?

In the month of June, I read 9 books, which is pretty good considering we didn't get out of school until June 18, and 3 of those books were read over the last 4 days. In any case, I didn't read all that diversely, but I did read some great books.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

This was my most recent gym listen, and it definitely worked well as audio motivation early in the month. I'll have a post up soon, but I'm currently struggling to find a good gym listen. I need entertaining, but not serious and not something I have to pay super close attention to!

Fables Volumes 5-8 by Bill Willingham

I was planning on spacing these out over the summer, but that failed to happen. These have a way of sucking me in! I don't have any more volumes here at home, so Amazon, here I come. And if you haven't read these, try them! They're a good series!

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This book gave me a book hangover, but in the best way possible-it just gives you a lot to think about, especially if you have siblings. I have lots to say, but a post is forthcoming.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor

This was on my summer TBR, and I'm so glad I dove back in. I read the first one last year, but so much time had passed that I decided to reread it before moving on to the other 2. They're good, but lengthy. They're also responsible for my eyes hurting. ;)

For next month, I definitely need to read a few classics. I think first up will be a Bronte, and probably the Wharton I started over the winter. I also want to finish the Mistborn trilogy, as I read the first one back in May. We shall see.

And now for the randoms....

I thought it would be fun to talk about some other randoms from the month-things I've been loving, favorite moments, and more.

This meme. It spoke to me deeply on the last day of school. :)

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On one of the last days of school, I found this on my board after the kids had left. :)

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Another student drew this on the front board after he finished his exam. For context, the kids had finished watching Jurassic Park the week earlier for our science-fiction unit, and I had mentioned that Velociraptors have always scared me! I love that it's saying "meow" and holding Diet Coke, which leads me to.....

I gave up Diet Coke back in April, and I am closing in on nearly 3 months without any pop in my system. I also rarely drink caffeine now (only if it is in my tea) and I feel SO MUCH BETTER.

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There's a story behind this one....our media specialist and I devised this big book project that my sophomores worked on all second semester. The Compound by S.A. Bodeen was one of our picks, as it is a title that we both recommend often and kids always come back and say they love it (especially our reluctant teenage boys). Well, on the last day of school, a student brought this to me. Turns out Bodeen is a family friend, and she thought it was pretty cool that we were using her book. When I e-mailed his mom to thank her as well, she told me the story behind the inscription. When she asked her son what he wanted it to say, he said, "You're cool, but make sure it's spelled right because she'll get mad if it's the wrong your." Bodeen apparently thought that was funny, which is why it is spelled out. :) This is so wonderful and will remain proudly on my shelves for forever!

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And of course, lots of shenanigans with the husband. This picture is from the Mumford and Sons concert we went to earlier in the month. We also have been hitting up some local brewers, as Matt is really into craft beer (me, not so much). We've also been going to the gym, cooking dinner and trying new recipes, and playing Mario Kart. I'm sure the happy period of being able to do things will come to an end when he gets sick of me being around all the time, but I'll enjoy it for now. :)

I hope you all had a lovely June! Bring it on July!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Books on my Summer TBR

I decided that I want to have a reading plan this summer. Well, not really a plan, but more of a guideline so I'm not so overwhelmed by books on my shelves. I don't have as much prepping to do this summer, so I'm planning on spending a lot of time reading, working out, and taking care of myself. I think it's pretty well-known and acknowledged that I'm pretty focused on school during the year. Now it's time to read.

I broke up my list into subcategories....because I'm just that crazy. Let me know what I should get to first!


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte: I've had this title sitting on my shelf for quite some time, and since A Victorian Celebration is well underway, I think this will be my first read for the event. :)

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy: I actually started to read this one a few months ago, but set it aside and never got back to it. I was really enjoying it, as I seem to enjoy all of Hardy's work, so I think it's time to settle in and finish it (it's also pretty short, so it should be a fast read).

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: So, if you've been a long-time reader of my blog, you know that Dickens is my arch-nemesis...well, he used to be. I've come to love some of his work (David Copperfield.... SO GOOD). This title is one that I've hated, but I really want to give it another chance. So, you're up Dickens!

Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy: This is another slim Hardy volume that I'm sure I can fly through in a long sitting. I'm actually really intrigued by the story, so this might be at the top of my pile.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins: I loved The Woman in White when I read it a couple of years ago, and while this has been sitting on my shelf for a couple years, I'm anxious to read it. :)

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot: This title will be a reread for me, but I was so blown away by it the first time, that I just need to read it again. I consider this my favorite of Eliot's works, so I need to make sure that stands. ;)

Other Classics

The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather: I really want to get back into my Cather project, and this is the next title up. :)

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton: I only have 100 pages left....so really, I need to just finish this. It's my favorite book. Ever. But I know it so well that I don't want to finish it, if that makes any sense. It's just so beautiful.

A lot of Shakespeare. I'm teaching a Shakespeare class this year! This is the first time it's been taught in about 9 years, so I'm starting from scratch. I'm still deciding what titles to teach, but The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, and Twelfth Night are all definite (I have 2 sections-1 each semester, so I might mix up the plays a bit!). I'm also considering Macbeth as one of our tragedies (I can't teach Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, or Julius Caesar as they are taught in other classes). Any suggestions?


The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson: I finished Mistborn a week or two ago, and I need to settle in with the next two books! I'm excited to see where the series goes, so this is a definite for me!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor: I read the first one last summer in one sitting and LOVED it, but for whatever ridiculous reason, I didn't finish the series. This is going to be a reread for me, but I want to read these!

Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo: I can't remember who recommended these to me, but I bought them all at once and they've been sitting on my shelf for quite some time. I love the covers and from what I remember...from that person who told me to read these, is that these are quite good. :)

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin: I'm actually in the middle of A Storm of Swords, so I'm halfway done! HUZZAH! I'm a huge fan of the show, so I know I can jump right back into these and fly through them. Yep, they're big, but these are the kind of books where I can read 100-150 pages in a sitting.

Fables by Bill Willingham: I already read 1-4, but I have 5-8 sitting on my nightstand. These are great, quick reads, so I'm hoping to fly through them in between longer reads. I really love this series!

Random Books and Recommendations

Serena by Ron Rash: A friend at work read this and recommended it, and after flipping through it, I knew it was meant for me. I know little about it except that Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper were in the movie. And it's good. So, we shall see.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan ODell: This was another recommendation from a friend at work, and again, I know little about it. However, she really loved it and told me the history nerd part of me would love it.

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith: I LOVE SMITH. And I am slowly getting around to all of his books. I just got this one in a book swap, and I am very excited to read more by him. After this one, I think there are only 2 I haven't read (Marbury Lens and Passenger....but I could be wrong). FABULOUS writer.

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami: This is a beast of a book, but one that I have wanted to read for a really long time. I feel like this is one I'm going to wait to read until the end of the summer, but I know it's going to be a fast-paced read.

Well, there you have it-a hopeful reading list for this summer. I think it's diverse enough to keep me plenty occupied, and while I know I won't get to everything, I think I can make a pretty good dent and read some fabulous books.

Let me know what you think I should move to the top of the pile as well as your plans for reading this summer!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Just a Little Life Update and Summer Reading Plans.

First, I know I dropped off the face of the earth for a month or so. I kind of knew I needed to focus on the huge amount of crap that I had to do in the month of May. But now that June is here and I'm counting down the days of school we have left in the year (9!), I'm ready to focus on all of the amazing books and things I have planned for my summer vacation.

I submitted my first portfolio for my National Board Certification on May 20, and I'm so glad that the process is over with. The directions were so convoluted and unclear that I'm still not sure I did it correctly. But I got to the point where I just needed to be done with it and submit, whether or not it was "correct." I'm tackling 2 components next year-another portfolio and the content test. I'm not that nervous for the content test, as I was selected to take a new version later this month in return for being compensated (I figured it would give me an advantage and let me know what I need to study for). Truthfully, I did well on the practice questions, and I owe a lot of that to the reading I do. But going into next year, I'm approaching the portfolio component very differently than what I did this year. It'll (hopefully) go much smoother.

We've also had a slew of end-of-the-year stuff going on at school. I chaperoned prom this year, which was a blast. I've been processing applications for my school's chapter of NHS (I'm the adviser) and handed out acceptance/rejection letters today. I've also been grading up a storm, and as of today, I'm pretty much caught up. Given how busy I usually am at the end of the year, I'm really surprised at how much I have done. Most of my room has been torn down (posters, etc) thanks to some students, and while I have a little filing to do, I'm in good shape to wrap up my year quickly on our last day next Friday.

Which leaves the summer free for reading and prepwork. We still don't know what classes we're teaching next year (our district is actually laying off...lots of budget issues, so things are unclear right now), but I might be teaching a new class that is right up my alley. But, I also want to spend a lot of time reading and doing some things I've been meaning to get around to.

With the uncertainty surrounding jobs and employment and everything else I've gone through, I know I need to begin taking matters into my own hands and pursuing the things I really love. Life is too short to waste it by not being happy. And as I'm turning 30 in July, it's time to make those changes.

In terms of reading, I'm going to read a few Victorian novels for my event that's taking place June and July. I also want to read some bigger fantasy series to decompress. It'll be a good mix, I think. :)

Anyway, I have about 15 posts sitting in draft and waiting to go up in the next few weeks and almost all of them are book reviews and thoughts. I'm going to peck away at them over the next few weeks to relaunch my home here on the internet.

Let me know what you're planning on reading this summer, and anything else I should know about your life. :)

Master Post: A Victorian Celebration 2015.

Welcome to the master post for 2015's A Victorian Celebration! If you missed the sign-ups for this 2 month event, you can visit this post to link up your blog. :)

I'm really excited to bring this event back to life. The event I hosted a few summers ago was a roaring success and gave me the opportunity to not only read a lot of great Victorian literature, it also allowed me the opportunity to find a lot of new bookish blogs to take up all of my attention over the summer.

Here's how this works...over the next two months, read as much or as little Victorian literature as you would like. When you write a post, return here and link it on the Mister Linky so other participants can visit and comment. At the end of the Celebration, I'm giving away a few prizes randomly selected from the linked posts.

Sound amazing? I hope so!

If you're tweeting about the event, please use the following: #VictorianCelebration I'm also planning a random giveaway for tweets about the event as well!

As for my own reading, I'm planning on diving into some Charles Dickens over the next two months, as well as revisiting some George Eliot and the Brontes. Let me know what you're planning on reading below!

Happy reading!

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Classics Club Survey.

The Classics Club is a great community that I have had the pleasure of modding and working for since shortly after it's creation. If you haven't heard of it, it is simply a blogging and reading challenge to incorporate more classics into your reading and discuss these wonderful books! I've been away from blogging for a bit, so I am setting goals to get myself back into the community and reading more classics like I used to.

Anyway, not too long ago, the Club hosted a survey related to all thing classic, and I thought it would be fun to fill out. Please post a link if you've completed this as well! I'd love to check it out!

Share a link to your club list. 
My list is here. I feel like I need to update it a bit to make it a bit more manageable, but that'll have to wait until the summer when I'm a little less insane.

When did you join The Classics Club? How many titles have you read for the club? (We are SO CHECKING UP ON YOU! Nah. We’re just asking.) :)
I joined the club right when Jillian created it. Since I started blogging as a "classics only" blog, it only made sense and I loved the idea of the community from the start. Since it's creation, I've probably read about 50 titles off my Classics Club list, but I have a ton more to go. I see reading the classics as a lifelong pursuit, so I don't imagine I'll ever be "done" reading them.

What are you currently reading?
I'm in the middle of a number of books! The classic that's currently on my nightstand is Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. I'm only a couple chapters into it, but I have high hopes. I did set it aside while school is still crazy.

What did you just finish reading and what did you think of it?
The last classic I read was Persuasion by Jane Austen over the winter. It was a reread, but I LOVED it. I think it has a great love story that is believable. And Austen is a great old friend.

What are you reading next? Why?
I really want to read A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. It's on my list and the last time I read it was sometime in college.

Best book you’ve read so far with the club, and why?
The one that sticks out to me most is Sister Carrie by Theodore Drieser. I loved An American Tragedy by him as well, but Sister Carrie just blew me away. I really love books that surround "fallen" women (The House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence, A Portrait of a Lady), so I'm not surprised I loved it.

Book you most anticipate (or, anticipated) on your club list?
There are a lot of books that I'm looking forward to. I'm excited to get to the last book by the Brontes on my list-Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I also want to give another crack at Clarissa. I attempted to read it a few months ago, but I'm thinking of challenging myself to read it over the summer.

I also want to get to some rereads-some Dickens, more by Cather, etc. And I want to read more by some of my favorite authors-Twain, Wharton, etc.

Book on your club list you’ve been avoiding, if any? Why?
Clarissa. Hahaha. That book really is a beast. I also have another book by Ayn Rand-The Fountainhead-that I'm not that sure about. I read Atlas Shrugged a few years ago with a group of bloggers and slogged through most of it. But looking back on it, I do feel like it was worth my time. I have some other big books waiting as well-more by the Russians, etc.

First classic you ever read?
When I was a kid, my mom bought us a set of those Great Illustrated Classics. I avoided a bunch of them as being "boy" books, but I devoured Little Women, Black Beauty, and Heidi. I'm pretty sure I can still recite passages from those versions of the books. So, probably those. :)

Toughest classic you ever read?
Very early on in my blogging challenge I read Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky. It was actually the second book I read for my blog and while I loved it, it was challenging for me and outside my element. While I considered myself pretty well-versed in the classics prior to my project, I had avoided the Russians. I would also add Clarissa to that list. Because it is a beast.

Oh, I'll also add Moby-Dick to that list. That book was massive and unlike anything else I've ever read.

Classic that inspired you? or scared you? made you cry? made you angry?
That has to go to one of my favorites of all time-The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. It gets me every time.

Although, I would also add Germinal to that list. It's a book that really sticks with you long after reading it.

Longest classic you’ve read? Longest classic left on your club list?
I read War and Peace a few years ago, which has probably been one of the longest on my list. And the longest remaining is the oft-mentioned Clarissa. Considering it's one of the longest books ever published.....

Oldest classic you’ve read? Oldest classic left on your club list?
I still have a lot of Greek lit on my list-The Aeneid, etc. I've read quite a few older works-The Odyssey (namesake of my blog), The Iliad, Lysistrata, and a few others...

Favorite biography about a classic author you’ve read — or, the biography on a classic author you most want to read, if any?
I have a few sitting on my shelf that I'd like to get to at some point-some on Dickens, Wharton, Twain, and Cather.

Which classic do you think EVERYONE should read? Why?
I feel To Kill A Mockingbird is such a classic that if you haven't read it, you should. It's a pretty pivotal piece of American literature. I'd also say The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as well.

Favorite edition of a classic you own, if any?
My Penguin clothbounds and English Library Editions of course!

Favorite movie adaption of a classic?
To be honest, I don't really enjoy movie adaptations of classics! I find they always miss the passion, etc. That being said, I do like Shakespeare in movie form, so I'll go with the Much Ado About Nothing film.

Classic which hasn’t been adapted yet (that you know of) which you very much wish would be adapted to film.
I'd love to see a modern interpretation of The House of Mirth. Because it's my fav...

Least favorite classic? Why?
Difficult question. If you've been around for a long time, you'll know I have a deep-rooted hatred for Dickens' Great Expectations, but I am planning on rereading it in the future. I feel like now that I have a love for some of his work, I might decide I like it.

I also hate Heart of Darkness. I've read it multiple times. And I just. don't. get. it. NOPE.

Name five authors you haven’t read yet whom you cannot wait to read.
Sherwood Anderson
James Baldwin
Knut Hamsen
Guy de Maussapant

Which title by one of the five you’ve listed above most excites you and why?
I really want to read Hamsen's Hunger, mainly because I've never seen anyone talk about it and I'm intrigued.

Have you read a classic you disliked on first read that you tried again and respected, appreciated, or even ended up loving? (This could be with the club or before it.)
My Antonia. Didn't love it fully as a high schooler, but reading it for this made me LOVE Cather. I need to get back to my Cather project....

Which classic character can’t you get out of your head?
Jane Eyre is a great character. I still can't believe I waited SO LONG to read Jane Eyre.

Which classic character most reminds you of yourself?
This is a really hard question....I think I have a lot in common with Jane Eyre, but we're also very dissimilar. Actually, I have no idea who I'm most like!

Which classic character do you most wish you could be like?
Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind. The girl's got spunk and fire, and I need more of that in my life.

Which classic character reminds you of your best friend?
Too hard for me to decide... ;)

If a sudden announcement was made that 500 more pages had been discovered after the original “THE END” on a classic title you read and loved, which title would you most want to keep reading? Or, would you avoid the augmented manuscript in favor of the original? Why?
I actually wouldn't wish this. I'm very much of the belief that an author's work should stand as itself, and that a reader's interpretation is more important than how the author views it. So....I wouldn't want my impressions of a book to be altered because of new information....

Favorite children’s classic?
Definitely The Little House books, or Black Beauty.

Who recommended your first classic?
Probably my mom. :)

Whose advice do you always take when it comes to literature. (Recommends the right editions, suggests great titles, etc.)
Adam at Roof Beam Reader. He's a great resource for new lit. Not classic related, but he introduced me to Andrew Smith, who is certainly one of my favorite writers.

Favorite memory with a classic?
When I was going into ninth grade, we had to read a few books over the summer. One of those was The Count of Monte Cristo. I had brought it with me up north to my grandparents cottage, and I can remember reading it on the back of the boat as it rocked back and forth. Reading the prison scenes and escape while on the lake is still incredibly vivid!

Classic author you’ve read the most works by?
Oh man....probably Shakespeare because of the sheer amount of his plays I flew through a few years ago during Shakespeare Reading Month. I'd also add Wharton to that list, and probably Dickens.

Classic author who has the most works on your club list?
Again, probably Shakespeare, but also Dickens, Henry James, and a few others...

Classic author you own the most books by?
Shakespeare. :) I own most of his work, and I think I only have 7 or 8 plays to get to complete my little collection....

Classic title(s) that didn’t make it to your club list that you wish you’d included? (Or, since many people edit their lists as they go, which titles have you added since initially posting your club list?)
My list is SO LONG that I have no idea....

If you could explore one author’s literary career from first publication to last — meaning you have never read this author and want to explore him or her by reading what s/he wrote in order of publication — who would you explore? Obviously this should be an author you haven’t yet read, since you can’t do this experiment on an author you’re already familiar with. 
:) Or, which author’s work you are familiar with might it have been fun to approach this way?
I've already started this process with 3 authors-Shakespeare, Cather, and Dickens. I'd like to add Dostoevsky to that list. And perhaps Toni Morrison for a more modern writer?

How many rereads are on your club list? If none, why? If some, which are you most looking forward to, or did you most enjoy?
So many! I love rereading books. I'm planning on jumping into Gone with the Wind shortly, as well as Germinal.

Has there been a classic title you simply could not finish?
I've struggled through a few. Heart of Darkness was probably the worst one. I've read it at least 5 times (once in high school and multiple times in college for classes). I just....hate it.

Has there been a classic title you expected to dislike and ended up loving?
I really didn't have any expectations for David Copperfield, but man, that was a fabulous book.

Five things you’re looking forward to next year in classic literature?
I really want to get back into reading classics on a more regular basis. I've lost sight of that the last couple of years as school stress piled up. But I feel like I'm at a manageable level now....so I'm ready to dive in.

Classic you are DEFINITELY GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year?
Uncle Tom's Cabin. Considering I teach AP U.S. History, I feel like this is a book I SHOULD read. I always say I'm going to read it, but never do. Need to make it happen.

Classic you are NOT GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year?
I'm probably going to continue pushing off Ulysses.

Favorite thing about being a member of the Classics Club?
The supportive community!

List five fellow clubbers whose blogs you frequent. What makes you love their blogs?
I'm out of touch with the community, but I'll give another shout out to Adam, also Melissa, and Lost Generation Reader.

If you’ve ever participated in a readalong on a classic, tell about the experience? If you’ve participated in more than one, what’s the very best experience? the best title you’ve completed? a fond memory? a good friend made?
I love readalongs! One of my favorites was one of the first I ever participated in, for Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. It was a great group of bloggers and I really enjoyed getting into the community.

If you could appeal for a readalong with others for any classic title, which title would you name? Why?
All of them. Because fun. :)

How long have you been reading classic literature?
I started regularly reading the classics in high school, and picked up reading them even more in college. I started my blog when I was 24, so since then, I've read many that I probably would have never read otherwise.