Tag Archives: reading

*Harry Potter*

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” turned 20 this year, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” turned 10, and yesterday was Harry Potter’s (and, of course, J.K. Rowling’s) birthday.

I know a lot of people are tired of hearing about it (or think it’s overrated or evil or childish or whatever, and refuse to read it–their loss!), but it is a really special series, especially for my generation. We got to grow up together! I bought the first book at a Scholastic Book Fair in elementary school; my sixth grade teacher read bits of it out loud after recess every day (and we all assumed her name was pronounced Her-me-own). The next books came out alongside all the movies, so in high school I got to go to midnight showings with my friends and whichever brave parent’s turn it was to drive us around that late. The final book came out while I was in college; I attended a midnight book release, complete with costumes and trivia and Hogwarts-themed snacks, and then stayed up all night reading. I felt I finished the fight against Voldemort alongside the trio: crying at each loss, rejoicing at each triumphant sacrifice, reaching that brilliant culmination of ten years of text. I was a few years younger than Harry when it started and a few years older than him when it ended. What an honor to go through the horrible years of adolescence side by side, haha.

There are layers upon layers of lessons to gain from the series, and as I reread it almost every summer, new insights illuminate on the page. All of the heroes have flaws, but all of them are brave and loving, too. They do what’s right even when it isn’t easy, even when it means being bullied or doubted (or targeted by crazy dark wizards). Harry is stubborn but never backs down from the battle and matures enough to walk the path he knows will fix his world–which, by the way, ends up being an incredibly Christian one, making it extra depressing how many churches condemned the books. Hermione is not ashamed of being smart, and doesn’t let others stifle her voice. Ron is aware of his family’s poverty but extends food and hospitality anyway, his heart big enough to share what he has and in the process multiply it. And that’s just the main trio… I could go on and on about others, like Lupin, Luna, Sirius, Snape, James, Dumbledore, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Neville, Dobby, even Dudley and good old Hagrid (my autocorrect just had a field day with that sentence) and how they illustrated trust, rebellion, nurturing, courage, loyalty, being unique and proud, and sticking up for those in need.

And Lily… she is so much more real to me now that I hold my own messy-haired son in my arms. Hell yeah she would have leapt in front of that baby! I’m not at all surprised that she absorbed every inch of the killing curse, blanketing Harry in a love so powerful that Voldemort could never get through.

I wasn’t going to reread the series this summer, but I couldn’t resist starting the first book on its 20th anniversary despite my exhaustion. I read through four chapters just to hear Hagrid say “Harry–yer a wizard.” I finished the final book last week and wept at all the deaths even though I knew they were coming.

I can’t wait to relive the series through my little future Ravenclaw’s eyes as we read them together, with the added bonus of the new Wizarding World at Universal Studios waiting for us afterwards. What an adventure! I can’t believe it started 20 years ago, and am so grateful that it will continue to stretch on.

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Strange the Dreamer

Oh, Laini Taylor. Will you be my friend? I just want to hang out with you and your amazing brain.

(Seriously though.)

Laini Taylor is the author of a spectacular trilogy, starting with “Daughter of Smoke and Bone.” I think the covers are horrible and don’t at all reflect the deep nature of the stories. I’m sure there are potential readers out there who were off put by the appearance of the covers, which make it look like a fluffy, girly story. (It’s not.)

Anyway, it is a beautiful, epic trilogy and as soon as I heard she was writing another novel, I knew I’d be reading it the second it was available.

The problem is, I have a newborn, so getting my butt over to Barnes & Noble to purchase “Strange the Dreamer” was much more complicated than usual. I ended up bailing on that plan and ordering it off Amazon a few days after its release date. Then Sam wouldn’t sleep (as usual), so I had to put him in his wrap and walk around my house, carrying him, while I read the book. Worth it!

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“Strange the Dreamer” is kind of a weird title, and I imagine once again there are a few potential readers who would love the story itself who don’t give it a chance based on that name. “Strange” is the character, a librarian, who is labeled “dreamer” for all the time he spends reading, dreaming, escaping his lousy life by being inside the happy places in his mind instead. The grand adventure he ends up undertaking is where the magic of Laini Taylor’s writing really unfolds: she has a way of world-building that is completely immersive. Even though it’s clearly fantastic and impossible, she treats it so realistically that your mind can visualize and accept it all. Her characters, their flaws, their abilities to love, their hopes & dreams… all so beautiful! I was engrossed from page 1.

Minor detail though: it’s the first of a two-book series!!!! ARG I don’t believe it was advertised that way at all, so I had no idea until I turned to the final page and saw the evil words “to be continued”… total cliffhanger, even worse than how Leigh Bardugo ended “Six of Crows.”

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Still, I highly recommend the novel. It’s a joy to read, and very creative and original. How refreshing when we have films out like “Pirates of the Caribbean 5” and “Fast and Furious 8” out! Haha.

I currently have new novel reading on pause while I reread Sarah J. Maas’ “A Court of Thorns and Roses” and “A Court of Mist and Fury” in preparation for the final novel in the trilogy, “A Court of Wind and Ruin,” which comes out on May 2nd. I will probably just buy that one on Kindle, which makes it a tiny bit easier to read while carrying my baby around. The cover of “Strange the Dreamer” was too beautiful to pass up a hard copy, though–although I’m jealous of the UK cover, which is way prettier!! Reason #309 that I should live in England instead of California…

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A 2016 Reading List

People tell me all the time that my English degree is useless, but I don’t know, guys. Look at the following texts of which I have extensive knowledge. Judging from recent and still unfolding events, I believe they will be a guide to life in the following few years. (Presented in no particular order):

  • “1984” – George Orwell.
  • “Les Miserables” – Victor Hugo.
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” – Margaret Atwood.
  • “Fahrenheit 451” – Ray Bradbury.
  • “A Tale of Two Cities” – Charles Dickens.
  • The entire “Harry Potter” series – J.K. Rowling.
  • “Station Eleven” – Emily St. John Mandel.
  • “The Hunger Games” – Suzanne Collins.
  • “It Can’t Happen Here” – Sinclair Lewis.
  • “The Girl with All the Gifts” – M.R. Carey.
  • “Animal Farm” – George Orwell again.
  • “That Hideous Strength” – C.S. Lewis.
  • “The Arcana Chronicles” – Kresley Cole.
  • “Brave New World” – Aldous Huxley.
  • “The Giver” – Lois Lowry.
  • “The Road” – Cormac McCarthy.
  • and of course, “The Bible” – God et al.

Anything I ought to add?

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2016, really?

Well, 2016 has not been the happiest. I suppose stating “bring it on!” was an inappropriate challenge. Let’s recap the year so far, shall we?

  • We lost the great David Bowie (I’ve been listening to “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” on repeat quite often);
  • We lost the great Alan Rickman (Jeff and I re-watched a few of his great movies in his honor, like “Galaxy Quest” and “Die Hard,” and I ran a memorial 5K as well);
  • I had an early miscarriage of a very wanted little baby;
  • I have been too stressed and exhausted with life and work (teaching) to accomplish any writing, even though I figured out a creative way to fix the ending of my Copper manuscript.

So I’ve been a little bit depressed, but luckily, have had a lot of time for reading. I’ve read:

  • Kiera Cass’ “The Siren,” her first book, which was cute but pretty dragging plot-wise (a.k.a. not much happened).
  • I tore through four different Liane Moriarty books–“Big Little Lies,” “What Alice Forgot,” “The Last Anniversary,” and “The Husband’s Secret”–and loved them all. She’s great at creating unique, believable characters and intertwining their story lines in fascinating ways.
  • Marissa Meyer released an extra short story collection “Stars Above” to wrap up her Lunar Chronicles series, and it was wonderful. I heard she’s also writing a graphic novel series that will fit in to the world, as well, which I’m excited for. I am curious about graphic novels because I think my Phoebe & Fred story would fit that format a lot better than the novel format that I’ve currently been trying to shove it in.
  • “Zeroes” by Chuck Wendig was very creative, though a little nerve-wracking since it deals with hacking, haha. I’m still convinced that hackers are going to ruin everyone.
  • and I’m pretty sure I’m missing some, but those are all the books coming to mind right now. I’m currently reading “These Vicious Masks,” which was pitched as “Jane Austen meets X-Men,” which is a marvelous combo.

So there. Lots going on, and yet also nothing. I hope the year looks up soon.

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Bring on 2016

I guess I forgot to update how NaNoWriMo 2015 went! I worked on a mixture of revising old words from the Copper manuscript and writing new scenes (from other characters’ perspectives as well as hers), so it wasn’t all 100% original writing, but I managed to get 60,000+ words this time–a personal record. I have a lot of work left to do on it… but once December 1st hit, I had to pay some attention to the stack of essays and other grading that I had been ignoring. :( Darn work.

2015 has been a good year as far as goals go. I made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, because I vaguely think about it every year, and then summer hits and I’ve done nothing about it and get totally discouraged. So this time, I used MyFitnessPal regularly to log my calories, let myself splurge once in a while, walked the dog 5 days a week, and worked up to running with the dog… I couldn’t even run a mile without stopping to huff and puff in January, I now run 5K mileage almost every Saturday without feeling like death at all! My total weight loss for the year is about 33 pounds, putting me well within a normal BMI range (I know there are a lot of issues with BMI charts, but being here in the “normal” makes me feel much better, as I was in the “overweight” category for my height last January 1st. Blech.)

As much as I love Christmas, I don’t love the holiday weight gain that comes with my difficulty in turning down delicious Christmas cookies. However, my sister and I got severe food poisoning on the 22nd, so I was too weak to enjoy any holiday food and therefore avoided all the potential weight gain! Way to find a silver lining in a horrible vomit-filled experience, right?

As far as writing goals go, well, I still don’t have any of my novel rough drafts fully revised… so that will have to be a focus for 2016. I don’t like to write strict resolutions because then I focus on how far I am from the goal line, rather than how much progress I’ve made toward the goal line, but I think forcing myself to fully revise Copper is a fair goal to publicize.

With life goals, I want to improve my 5K time (I’m a slow runner–but at least I’m running!) and… excuse my language… learn to stop giving a fuck about things that don’t fit into my fuck budget.

In case that sounds confusing, yesterday I sat down with my journal and a copy of Sarah Knight’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck” and figured out exactly what things bring me joy–things I want to devote my time, energy, and money to–and what things bring on the annoy–things I need to quit wasting my time, energy, and money on. What I appreciated most about her book is that she understands how much of a burden guilt is–how much we don’t want to hurt the feelings of those who (probably unconsciously) are draining our time, energy, or money. So she recommends a lot of word play, which my writer self can appreciate, to help mitigate potential sore feelings. The book is also split into sections to help you ramp up into the places it’s hardest to fight back against, moving from “things” to “work” to “friends/acquaintances” to “family.”

I highly recommend this book. I struggle so much to say “no!”, but after reading and completing the worksheets in her book, I feel much better equipped to face things that stress me out and make them stop. I hope to be much less overwhelmed (I often feel, like Bilbo, “butter over too much bread”) and therefore more pleasant in the upcoming months. The Pantone color of the year for 2016, by the way, is “serenity” (blue)… I’m thinking a “serenity” year is in my future! [Color and Seinfeld references welcome. No Firefly ones though. I like my Firefly completely free of the atrocious Serenity connection.] Maybe I will even look into the original book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Haha, who am I kidding? I’m messy! Let’s not overload the goals! ;)

So yeah! 2015 treated me well. I’m excited to see what 2016 will bring, as I become a better writer, faster runner, and more mentally healthy woman. I hope my readers conquer some goals in 2016 too.

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writing, reading, life. my usual tags.

Some good news:

My Beauty-and-the-Beast-themed fanfiction, entitled “War & Tea,” for “The Lunar Chronicles” contest is up on the website! It takes hitting the “load more” button about 20 times, so prepare to be patient. It makes no sense if you haven’t read Cinder and Scarlet (I placed it during Scarlet, before Cress and Winter), or if you are unfamiliar with the original version of “Beauty and the Beast” — or, honestly, the Disney version, since I referenced that in there too — but still… it’s fun to see one of my stories floating out there for the world to see. Scary, but good practice. I don’t think I’m going to win any of the prizes because I set it in the beginning of the story (with “Belle’s” family) when I probably should have set it later (with “Beast”) for maximum action and adventure. I wish I had heard about the contest sooner! I guess it started in August; I only knew about it for less than two weeks before the entries closed. Womp womp. But if I don’t win, I’ll post the text on the blog, so we’ll all still win (or something). I can’t wait for the final book to come out, by the way. I have a few predictions of events that will happen in Winter, but still a lot of questions, too… I’m excited to see how Marissa Meyer wraps it all up!

I’m reading Leigh Bardugo’s new book, Six of Crows, which came out this Tuesday, and loving it. It’s like “The Italian Job” but with more magic and knife fights and, so far, no Mini Coopers. The author shifts perspectives among each of the crew members and I’m tempted to try it out for Copper so readers experience more of the full story; maybe I’ll play with it during this final month leading up to NaNoWriMo. (I’m still torn between writing a brand new something-or-other or revising one of my shitty first drafts.) Anyway, that’s enough updating for now, because I’m only 135 pages in and want to get more reading in before bed! It’s been a long week and I personally believe I deserve a break from work/life/chores to read a great book. ;)

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farewell, August. (Wake me up when September ends?)

The first week of teaching is over… and it was exhausting. Despite doing my best to wake up early all summer, it did not at all compare to 4:45 a.m. Yeesh. I was blessed with the gift of Starbucks coffee twice, once from a co-worker and once from a former student. That helped.

Let me take a moment to complain and vent:

  • Public speaking is still terrifying
  • I can’t believe I’m teaching 3 different grades again
  • Marking essays is miserable
  • Certain adults are buttheads of the highest degree

BUT, the good far outweighs the bad, and it is important for me to record that (in case I need a gentle reminder later on, in those desperate hours of early November and mid-March…)

  • This was the easiest, smoothest start of the year by far. I knew which procedures I needed to focus on, I knew how to balance the boring syllabus stuff with ice-breakers and anticipatory sets, and I knew to get to the copy machine a week before school started so I could actually be prepared.
  • My co-workers are awesome. It was really exciting to return to work and be, on both the giving and receiving ends, surrounded by genuine camaraderie.
  • I appear to have a good set of students, who are going to behave and be open to all the stuff we have to learn this year.
  • Despite the stress of attempting to teach three different grades well, at least nothing is brand new to me this year, so I can focus on adaptation and improvement rather than creation.
  • My career allows me to be a lifelong learner (Ravenclaw nerd time)!!!
    • Over the summer, I read “Engaging Ideas: the Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning” by John C. Bean and discovered a lot of good ideas for writing prompts and grading rubrics.
    • Currently, I’m reading “Everyday Sexism” by Laura Bates and gaining a lot of good ideas (as well as depression and empowerment… oh the perilous highs and lows of embracing feminism in the midst of our effed-up society) for Women’s Literature.
    • Up next is “So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to be and Why it Endures” by Maureen Corrigan. That will help with my American Literature class, I expect. Gatsby is such an amazing book and I don’t think I’ve conveyed that well to high schoolers yet.
  • The work hours are insanely long, much more than anyone who doesn’t live with a teacher will ever truly understand, but the vacation time truly does help. 118 days until Christmas! ;)
  • I get to talk about books, writing, grammar, and communication and someone pays me for it! And I’m helping make at least a few of the future civilians (voters/procreators/leaders/etc.) not be complete idiots! Hallelujah.

Of course, writing always gets placed on the back-burner when my teacher hat is on. Perhaps this year, my third full year/fourth sort-of year at AHS, I’ll be able to make significant time to work on writing and revisions outside of NaNoWriMos. Let us hope…

and let us sleep. Good night.

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