I saw John and Hank Green (for the second time!) when they stopped by my alma mater, Western Washington University, on John Green’s book tour for TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN. Which I haven’t actually read yet, because I’ve been reading library books and also things for class. But SOON.
Anyway, one thing to know about their tours – which they also did jointly for the release of TFiOS – is that it’s really a variety show. John talks about his book and reads from it, but then we also get Hank singing songs about science, and they do things together. This time, they answered pre-submitted questions in a sort of podcast format. (Which – it was news to me they have a podcast now? I’m out of the loop.)
The evening as a whole was really fun. They both do a great job getting the audience excited and involved, despite hating audience participation, according to John. Thinking about it, I guess there really wasn’t any audience participation involved. They just did a great job making it SEEM like we were participating, simply because they made sure we had fun. And I will say, while I felt a little weird being a lone adult attendee, it was cool seeing how many teenagers convinced their parents to take them, and how many of them were singing along with Hank’s science songs, and generally being excited about nerd stuff.
John also took some time to talk about his OCD, and how it made him less creative because not taking care of it made it harder for him to write, and he urged the audience to get help if they, like him, felt like their brains were spinning out of control and were feeling scared. Given how many people in the audience were teenagers, I’m glad he spoke about his experience so honestly, because a lot of those kids who were there really look up to him, so his words have the potential to have a really big impact on them.
Title: ANNE OF GREEN GABLES Author: L.M. Montgomery Series: Anne of Green Gables, #1 Publication Information: Puffin Classics, 2008 (first published 1908) Pages: 429 Source: Library – student recommendation Genre: Middle Grade – Classic Warnings: None Rating: 4 stars Recommended For: People who like girls who are unabashedly smart and imaginative, and who maybe don’t play by the rules at all times.
Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are in for a big surprise. They are waiting for an orphan boy to help with the work at Green Gables – but a skinny, red-haired girl turns up instead. Feisty and full of spirit, Anne Shirley charms her way into the Cuthberts’ affection with her vivid imagination and constant chatter. It’s not long before Anne finds herself in trouble, but soon it becomes impossible for the Cuthberts to imagine life without ‘their’ Anne – and for the people of Avonlea to recall what it was like before this wildly creative little girl whirled into town.
I never read ANNE OF GREEN GABLES as a child (I know! SHAME.), so I figured better late than never. One of my elementary school students read it and couldn’t stop telling me how much she loved it, so I went to the library and checked it out. And she was right (and is probably done with the entire series at this point).
Anne, the titular character, was plucky and imaginative and won me over probably the same way she won over all of the characters: she’s a little much at first, but grows on you the more time you spend with her. I think part of the reason she’s had so much staying power is that a lot of girls can still relate to her. She’s self-conscious about her bright-red hair, she forgets about her chores because she’s so lost in her imagination, and she loves her friends and family.
I also loved how Green Gables, and all of its inhabitants, came to life so clearly. It felt like a warm sweater I didn’t want to take off when the book ended. Which it did too fast, in my opinion. The book’s events span the course of several years – all of Anne’s teenage years, essentially – and it felt a little fast to me sometimes. But then again, that could just be because I didn’t want it to end.
Verdict: I’ve been checking ANNE OF AVONLEA out from the library for months now and returning it unread because I can’t get to it in time. So, you know, read it.
So, um, I guess I haven’t updated this blog since May? In all honestly, I have so much going on so much of the time, that this tends to get pushed all the way onto the very far back back burner. I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon, but I’ll make sure to update with a post or a book review or something every once in awhile. (Probably mostly book reviews, because I’ve been doing way more reading than writing lately.)
And now, here’s what I’m currently…
Colourpop. Specifically, their lipstick. I got one of their Lippie Stix in one of my Ipsy bags, and it was AMAZING, so I ordered a couple more. They’re matte, super pigmented, and SUPER long-lasting, which was all super surprising because they’re also only $5 each.
Right now, I’m juggling a few different things. Right now I’m focusing mainly on All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson because I have to return it to the library. It’s a
middle grade graphic novel about an eleven-year-old girl trying to navigate the wilds of middle school while also working with her family at a Renaissance Faire on the weekends. I love everything about it.
I’m also working my way through The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It’s an absolutely gut-wrenching story about family and identity, and what it means to be black in the United States. I can’t recommend it highly enough…and I’m only halfway through.
The other book I’m working on is Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas. Which I’m enjoying, but also have mixed feelings about. As always, I love how richly imagined the world is, but at the same time, I’m only 200 pages in (out of almost 700) and I’m pretty over Chaol thinking about his “manhood,” and there are some overlong descriptions and internal monologues that feel unnecessary.
The boy and I started Twin Peaks and got about three episodes in, but I keep falling asleep so I’m not sure when we’ll finish it. I think we’re mostly waiting for The Crown to come back at this point.
We also watched Harlots and The Handmaid’s Tale last spring, and I strongly recommend them both. Harlots was created, written, and directed entirely by women, and it really shows.
I’ve been listening to the new Taylor Swift album today and I’m not sure what I think of it yet? I feel like I don’t like it as much as her other albums, but “Look What You Made Me Do” and “…Ready For It?” really grew on me after I listened to them a few times, so that could change.
That being said, “I Did Something Bad” IS MY JAM. So.
Getting through the rest of this quarter. There’s only a month left and now the big projects are really picking up. In my Information and Society class, my group has to write a white paper about student privacy while accessing information at school, and how it intersects with digital access at home, and how both of these factors interact with privacy policies. And then for my Multicultural Youth Resources class, I’m trying to fundraise so I can donate a few #ownvoices books about POC to a middle school classroom.
So, in my last Currently… post, which was back in December, I said I was anticipating
2017 because “I would like to think things will be at least marginally better for the world in 2017. But who knows? Maybe we’re in for a crappy sequel.” I’m just going to present that without comment.
So, in August, while in the process of moving in with the boy, we took out the broken wood stove taking up entirely too much space in the middle of the living room after one of the toddlords fell and cracked his head on the bricks. (He was fine, just had staples in his head, and a noticeably depleted supply of f**** once said staples were in his head. Which is fair.)
Anyway, one of the thoughts that occurred to us was that, now that there’s no stovepipe for the cold air to come in through during the winter, maybe the house will stay warmer this winter. And so far, we appear to be right. So that’s pretty happy-making, because I really hate being cold.
Title: IN FARLEIGH FIELD Author: Rhys Bowen Publication Information: Lake Union Publishing, 2017 Pages: 398 Source: Kindle First selection Genre: Adult – Historical Fiction, Mystery Warnings: Light torture, references to war violence, light sexual content Rating: 4 stars Recommended For: People who think Downton Abbey could’ve used a little more espionage.
World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.
As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls?
I found IN FARLEIGH FIELD very enjoyable thanks in large part to the strong resemblance it bore to Downton Abbey, one of my favorite shows. Like Downton, it was set in a large country estate and followed the exploits of an upper class family during wartime.
The book follows multiple points of view as the Westerhams and the people in the nearby village wait for the surely inevitable German invasion. While some of the characters grated on me – Dido, the second-youngest daughter, particularly – I really enjoyed reading the chapters from Pamela, Ben, and Margot’s points of view (which was, fortunately, most of them). Phoebe, the youngest daughter, was also a delight and I would’ve loved more chapters from her point of view.
Central to the story’s plot is a mystery – who is the soldier who parachuted into the field at Farleigh, and who was he trying to contact? I figured it out pretty early on, but I cared about the characters enough that I didn’t really mind too much. I also loved the world Bowen crafted, both the upper class dinner parties and the intelligence bureaus Pamela and Ben worked for.
Verdict: Predictable mystery made up for with solid characters and setting.
It’s been a really long time since I posted! I’m happy to report that while this quarter sucked, I survived it. Here are some of the things I was up to when the state of the world didn’t leave me paralyzed by anxiety and/or depression:
I went to our Women’s March with the boy and his toddlords, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen so many people in one place in Bellingham. The energy was really positive and I’m glad I slacked off on homework for the day to go.
Western Washington University Children’s Literature Conference
I took advantage of having weekends off (and the student discount) to go to the annual Children’s Literature Conference at my alma mater and I’m so glad I was finally able to make it! The speakers were all incredible, although Laurie Halse Anderson (!!!) almost made me cry. Christian Robinson’s talk made me laugh so hard I almost cried. I’ll definitely be going to the conference again next year.
I loved all of the discussions of each author/illustrator’s process. My favorite advice was from Laurie, who said that she always tells people to write fifteen minutes a day, on anything, just to stay in the practice of writing. It made me feel better that, while I’ve been writing, I haven’t necessarily been writing on my WIPs.
Doug Ericksen Town Hall
In the interest of being more involved in local politics, the boy and I took a nice, romantic drive out to the County to go to our state senator’s town hall a couple weeks ago to politely inform him we disapprove of the job he’s doing. It was a very tense atmosphere, as many of the people who attended were people who drove up from Bellingham who were also displeased with him, and that irritated many of the people from the rest of the county who keep reelecting him. Senator Ericksen was very articulate and, for people unfamiliar with his Facebook posts, sounded very reasonable. He kept his cool even as people heckled and booed him (although not like the clips going around the internet from Mitch McConnell and Jason Chaffetz’s town halls). He gave very scripted-sounding answers to questions about well rights, climate change (which he believes is up for debate), his double duty (continuing to serve as our state senator while working for the EPA transition – which is what many people are angry about up here), and education funding, among other things. The only point at which I became well and truly angry was when he discussed how unfair it is to experts that if they want to teach in a public school in our state, they’re required to get a teaching certificate just like everyone else. His tone as he explained his position to my NBCT colleague felt dismissive, not to mention his response betrayed a profound lack of knowledge about the fact that teachers are experts in so much more than content. (I spent a good two hours later that afternoon crafting a letter in response to that position that was simultaneously polite and shade-filled. As expected, my wayward senator has not responded [another thing people in Bellingham are angry about].)
Title: SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK Author: Robert Beatty Series: Serafina, #1 Publication Information: Disney*Hyperion, 2015 Pages: 293 Genre: Middle Grade – Historical Fantasy, Mystery Warnings: Some scary images, mild violence Rating: 3.5 stars Recommended For: Readers who love atmospheric settings and don’t mind being scared a little.
Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.
But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity . . . before all of the children vanish one by one.
Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.
SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK was a nice fusion of historical fantasy and mystery elements, all revolving around the mysterious forest surrounding the Biltmore estate and twelve-year-old Serafina, who ventures into the forest to save the children kidnapped from the estate by an evil man wearing a black cloak.
My favorite part of this book was the setting. It’s set in North Carolina in the late 1800s, and the Biltmore estate – and the surrounding forest – really came to life in an atmospheric way that was deliciously creepy.
Another thing that kept me reading were the dual mysteries at the heart of the plot. The main mystery is the identity of the man in the black cloak – Serafina is sure it’s someone from the estate, but she has to figure out who it is. There’s also the mystery of who her mother is; Serafina was raised in the basement of the main house by her father, and she’s always wondered about her mother. I think both mysteries were woven together really well and the pacing was just right.
I also loved how much of this book was a story about friendship. In the course of unraveling the mystery of the man in the black cloak, Serafina befriends Braeden, the nephew of the estate’s owner. Neither of them has had a real friend before and it was lovely to watch them figure out what it means to be a true friend in a way that wasn’t overly sappy.
TL;DR: An atmospheric + deliciously creepy story about saving kidnapped children and what it means to be a friend.