Sunday, November 29, 2015

November Wrap-Up

Time is slipping away, as it does.  Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction encourages us all to share our monthly round-ups, and it is something I enjoy participating in.  So without further ado:

My Reading

Once again, I'm surprised at how few books I read--eleven. 


I'm still working my way through Margaret Peterson Haddix's Found with period five and Kate DeCamillo's Tiger Rising with period six.  Both will be done before winter break, because Tiger is short, and period five is so in love with their book they want me to read all period.  After giving up on longer, slower paced works, period four is enjoying Jack Gantos's Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key.  I try very hard not to look meaningfully at our class's Joey, but he himself says often enough, "This kid sounds like me!"  Period three went with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas as their reboot, but I'm afraid they were basing their votes off of seeing the movie, and the naive narrator is confusing them.  At home, my daughter is adoring The Lightning Thief.  I read it a few years ago and found it completely unremarkable--so much so that this read-aloud is like a first read for me.  Witnessing my daughter's delight in the humor, concern about the characters, and unprompted attempts to make connections and predictions have won me over entirely.  

The only read-aloud I finished this month was Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute, which was pretty much what you'd expect.  My son and I read it together, and it was a stretch for him, but in a good way.  All in all, I'm very happy with the read-alouds in my life this month.

Mildly Disappointing

I'd looked forward to   The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough since hearing her speak in October.  My short Goodreads review is here, but in sum, I loved the elements more than the whole.  The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie was one I started reading aloud, but the class couldn't focus well enough, so I finished it on my own.  The beginning was deliciously creepy, but then it just petered out.  Elizabeth George's latest mystery, A Banquet of Consequences, is another book I'd been eagerly anticipating, and I was so excited to see it on the "un-reservable" shelf at the library before I'd even made it up the holds list.  I read it on a long plane ride.  It was good, sure, but it wasn't great.  I had to pick up Diane Wynne Jone's Witch Week when I saw it was the impetus for Lori at Emerald City Book Review's own Witch Week celebration.  It was cute.  I liked it.  I won't remember it.  Harvey, a very short graphic novel (graphic short story?) by Herv√© Bouchard was disconcerting.  I will quote my Goodreads review in its entirety:


I was actually pretty into the story, but I'm feeling super dumb, because I do not understand the ending.

I didn't feel that any of the above were a waste of time--they were all a solid three stars.  But I'm glad I read some books I am more excited about as well.  



I scored a library copy of Julie Murphy's Dumplin' via the holds list.  I'm realizing that one advantage of being in this community is that I hear about books far enough in advance that I'm the third person on the holds list, not the 281st.  Judging by what I see on Goodreads, Willowdean is a you-love-her-or-you-hate-her protagonist, and I loved her, in all her bitchy inconsistency.  More thoughts on my Goodreads page.

I wrote about Robin Benway's Emmy & Oliver already, so I'll just say it wound up being a lot better than I expected.  Sweet, funny, and with a little extra depth to it.

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman, is the only nonfiction on the list this month.  Fadiman was known to me only as the author of the amazing The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a chronicle of a Minnesotan Hmong child with epilepsy, and the way her culture influenced her treatment.  This essay collection covers various aspects of her lifelong love of language and literature.  Some essays were more appealing than others, as is always the case with collections, but overall, I ended up wishing she lived next door.

I mentioned last month that I am a new fan of A. S. King.  My latest encounter with her work, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future reinforced my mind.  King writes these very New England working class characters and adds in what I can only call magical realism.  It's such an odd juxtaposition, and she makes it work.  Glory and her neighbor drink liquified bat remains, because of course they do, and then have visions of the ancestors and descendents of anyone they make eye contact with.  But that's not the important thing; the important thing is Glory making sense of and peace with her mom's long-ago suicide.  The visions of the future are appalling and frightening, but as Glory develops agency in her life, you start to see how the horrors of the future will be countered by the courage and strength of the future as well.  Plus, funny.  A. S. King is really funny, even as she writes about all sorts of painful and sad things.

Finally, yesterday Gary D. Schmidt made me cry at the ice skating rink.  I grabbed Orbiting Jupiter because it was short (and therefore light), and sat in the warmer area reading while the kids and cousins skated.  I hit the ending, and started crying.  Not noisily, thank God, but more than just tearing up.  Jeez, Gary, warn a girl next time.

My Writing

I wrote twelve posts again, half of which were related to my trip to Minneapolis for the National Council of Teachers of English conference.  (What a snooty name!)  The most popular of those was the one about meeting authors and getting books signed.  Three more were Top Ten Tuesdays (Books I'm Thankful For, Best Quotes, and thoughts on Movie Adaptations of Books).  The final few were the review of Emmy & Oliver, last month's wrap-up post, and a post about buying books I don't like for my classroom library.  My wrap-up post had the most views this month.  The Best Quotes list had the most comments, but the longer comments and livelier discussion were on the classroom library post.  

At the NCTE conference I heard about a writing exercise I'd like to try.  First, write a short personal narrative.  Then rewrite it as a fable or fairy tale--cast you and yours as archetypes.  I also heard Nancie Atwell quoted (she just won a million dollar prize for being the world's best teacher) as saying that all writers struggle when tackling a new form, genre, approach, etc.  This got me thinking--I love fiction, but haven't written any since about sixth grade, figuring that I am just not an ideas person.  But maybe I should try, because how else would I ever develop that skill?  

Internet Goodies


Um, did I mention I went to this conference?  And it was really awesome?  I feel like my sister, who after a trip to Ireland, engaged in a lot of self-mockery by starting all sentences with, "So, when I was in Ireland--did you know I went to Ireland?..."  

When I got back, it was to a week off work.  Yay!  I got a few walks in, spent time with my kids, started watching Jessica Jones with my husband, and continued the on-going fight with our plumbing.  (Score so far: Fixtures 3, Humans 1.)  Thanksgiving was low-key, the four of us joined my mother-in-law and her brother at her house.  All in all, it was a good month.  Two weeks of anticipation; two weeks of great times.  

We've started our annual holiday book advent tradition.  The first year the kids were with us--2012--my sisters donated all their families' holiday books, and we wrapped up enough to open one each night in December, leading up to Christmas.  I've since added enough books that we can start on Thanksgiving, and I can NOT wrap the less enchanting books in the collection.  (Mickey Mouse's Christmas being the first to go.)  Their English was still not that great the first year, so some of the books that didn't do much for them then are their favorites now.  There are a lot of challenges to parenting, and I have to say that two of the most Hallmark-Pinterest-Rosey Glasses aspects of it are Christmas and reading aloud, so this combines two events that make me feel like I'm not totally screwing this up.  

I'll leave you with a few pictures of our pre-Turkey walk at the nature park.


  1. Sounds like you had a pretty good month. I'm curious about Dumplin' so I'm happy to hear you enjoyed that one. I really want to check out the show Jessica Jones, but I'm just too busy - maybe in a couple weeks when my classes are finished.


  2. Oh dear, I'm sorry Witch Week didn't strike a chord with you, but at least you didn't hate it and throw it in the garbage. Maybe another DWJ would please you better? Have you read The Homeward Bounders? Can't help being a book pusher for one of my favorite authors, though I know she might not be everyone's cup of tea.

    1. I've liked most of her other work that I've read. One of my nieces is a huge fan, so I went on a spree several years ago. My other niece loathes, her, so--to each their own!

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog Wendy.

    I have been reading some of your posts. Your site is very impressive.

    It looks like you also finished an impressive list of books this month.

    Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader looks particularly interesting. I love books about books. I have never read anything by Anne Fadiman but I really likr her fathers, Clifton Fadiman's, work.

    1. Thank you for visiting! I'm new at this and still figuring out my approach. Anne Fadiman's book talks a lot about her family and how word-obsessed they all are.

  4. Eleven is pretty good, if you ask me...
    A couple of those I want to read too.
    Happy December!


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