May 6, 2016

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

Pamuk's Nobel Prize in Lit cannot possibly be a result of this book.  If it is, I don't get it.

1) Ka, the main character, is a weak, whiny little pith of a man and I honestly do not like him.  Furthermore, he falls in love with alarming rapidity.  It is basically insta-love.  No thanks.  He talks about being scared ALL THE TIME, to people he doesn't even really know, and is supposedly there to be investigating suicidal girls.  I get things are kind of weird but calm the eff down already.  We get you are the nervous sort.

2) The Turkish political situation is interesting, but it is explained very randomly.  Maybe this is something in the translation, but it will be repetitive conversations (ugh) and then an info dump. 

3) There isn't really any glue holding this story together.  It is a very long list of things that Ka experiences and his reactions to them.  Okay so it is a character-driven novel, fine, but since I don't like Ka, I don't really want 400+ pages of that.

4) I got really tired of the talk of snow.  Yes, I know that is the name of the book, but it was really a lot about snow - and always the same 3 thoughts about snow.  As you can see, the repetition got to me quite a bit.

5) I enjoyed reading the debates on whether women should wear head scarves or not and what is happening to them at school, at home, in their minds, at their mosque, with their friends, etc.  Once again, however, the same conversations were had over and over without new information being added or so little that I felt I wasted my time reading that chapter.

6) I would love to read about the politics v. religion, tradition v. modernity of Turkish culture and Islam, but I don't think this was the book to experience this.

Do you have any recommendations for books with similar themes that I might enjoy more?

May 3, 2016

Cover Discover: Horizontal

 Cover Discover is all about judging book covers (frontlist and backlist) within a particular theme.  We'd never judge the story inside by the cover outside, but it's fun sometimes to judge the cover on its own!

I tally up the votes for each of the questions and include rank as a percentage, as well.
Example: 5 votes for Favorite Cover
counts as higher than
4 votes for Favorite and 1 for 2nd favorite cover
which counts slightly higher than
1 vote for Favorite, 5 for second favorite.

First, here are the results from the last Cover Discover: FRUIT SALAD


Which covers did you choose?  Did they place?

 Here are the contenders for your vote: 


Review: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

This book??

But in a good way.  

This is a story that needed to be told.

Hurricane Katrina is coming to Bois Savage, Mississippi and shit is about to get all kinds of real.

This family?  I think I fell in love with them all in the first or second chapter.  Ward immediately lets the reader know exactly who they are dealing with in the family.  Junior, the youngest by several years, is to be nurtured; Randall, the eldest, is the surrogate dad (their real father is a hard drinker and their mom died some time ago) trying to figure out a way out of Bois Savage; Skeetah is the big dreamer, but he is also the one most caught up in the life there with his beloved fight dog, China, and her new litter; and Esch is the sole female at 15, trying to figure out how to be a woman in a world of no female role models and boys who don't do her any favors. 

Esch winds up pregnant by a boy who is involved with another girl and Esch is totally alone and bewildered as to what to do now.  In the background - behind the stories of pregnancy and pit bull puppies and Randall's basketball dreams and poverty - is the looming threat of Hurricane Katrina.  Their father does at least prepare the house for Katrina, so he is not completely useless.  The family doesn't always know how to interact with each other - especially since the death of the mother - but they ban together when it matters, and the tests keep coming.

I seriously wanted to adopt all four of these kids and keep them safe!!!  Perhaps they reminded me a lot of the children I taught - disadvantaged in numerous ways and struggling to figure this world out.  It is my soft spot and my passion and my instinct.  The more I think about it the more I am sure this is why I bonded with this family so quickly.

My only wish is that the section where Katrina comes is a little longer.  I really wanted more details.  There was a lot, but I think I am hungry for stories about what it was like living through that storm and the after math. If you know of more books that tackle the subject, please let me know!!!

This is not a happy story.  It is not a sad story, either, exactly.  It is just a tough story.  A gritty, heartfelt story of the struggle to survive - physically, mentally, and emotionally.  It is a story that will stay with the reader for a long, long time.  I hope you will read it.

April 26, 2016

Cover Discover: Fruit Salad: PART TWO

Cover Discover is all about judging book covers within a particular theme.  We'd never judge the story inside by the cover outside, but it's fun sometimes to judge the cover on its own!

**Last week you picked your favorite covers from 11 groups of 3. This week you get to choose your overall favorites from the favorites of last week.  Here they are: 













April 21, 2016

How Poetry Jumpstarted My Creativity

When I was 7 and 8 years old I used to write these amazing stories.  My mom cherished them and kept them all in a folder.  One day when I was a few years older, I found them, and realized they did not always make sense and that there were quite a few spelling errors and who knows what else.  Much to my mother's complete and total horror, I sat down on the kitchen floor and began erasing the stories to try to "improve" them.  

When my mother found me, I had never before experienced her in such a state of shock and disappointment and heartbreak.  Her reaction freaked me out, tbh.  I thought I was improving them, making them better.  What my mother knew, and what I would not realize until nearly a decade later, was that school had instilled in me hardcore that to "improve" something meant that it had to be logical, grammatically correct, it had to be able to take place in real life, it had to be written in a certain way and in a certain pattern.

In other words, I had learned to let go of creativity and imagination.

Fast forward to my junior year in high school.  I signed up to take a creative writing elective by one of my favorite teachers.  It seemed like a fun way to fill in that 3rd period 90 minute block every day.  Mrs. G had us writing from our hearts, from our souls.  I was not sure I could even do that.  What did that look like exactly?  Didn't someone need to tell me what to do like every other subject in school?  Weren't there RULES?

Thankfully, the biggest rule Mrs. G had was to get things turned in on time.  She allowed us to get creative, and slowly but surely, I realized I did still have lots of creativity inside of me.  It had lain dormant, but I was able to get in there.  We started off slow by writing our autobiography and getting all of the "junk" we held inside out so that creativity could find a place within us to nest.  Next, we wrote a children's book.  This allowed us to come up with any story that we wanted to, as long as it fit the format of being for children.  It needed a beginning, a middle, and an end, but the in-between was all up to us and wherever our imaginations could take us.  I wrote a story about a small bird who wanted to learn to fly, and eventually learns that all he needed was to believe in himself.  Looking back, I think this was probably a metaphor for my life and the journey I myself was taking.

The final assignment of the semester was an anthology.  In this anthology we could include any work that we had, any work that we wanted to create.  Mine was chock full of poems.  There was a couple of essays, but it was mostly, as I said, poems.  The reason for this?  I was reading TONS of poetry - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe (I had memorized most of The Raven), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Langston Hughes, Anne Sexton, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, Lord Byron, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou.  I had fallen in love with the format, which at the time I took to mean short, sweet, and to the point, but in a seriously elegant way.  

Reading all these great poets (though noticeably not very ethnically diverse), I became inspired and creativity just flowed out of me in a river of stanzas.  I experimented with rhyming couplets and quatrains ( favorites at that age), haikus, acrostics, ballads, limericks, lyrics, panegyric and odes, free verse, occasional poems about particular events (the war in Kosovo one of my topics),  and I even wrote a poetic elegy about my grandparents.  While it is obvious that they are poems written by a 17, 18-year-old (and sometimes I swear I was not even on a teenage level - some are yikes! awful), creativity was flowing out my fingertips.  I rather miss my muse and I am hoping that reading lots of poetry this month will jumpstart my creativity again like it did all those years ago.

I would love to share with you a few of the poems I wrote during this time.  Please note they are not very good, but the point is I was writing, and experimenting, and CREATING.

I believe this one was inspired by some Anne Bradstreet poems I read:

As you can tell, this is not really my voice.  I was experimenting, and that is fun!

This one was inspired, quite obviously, by unrequited puppy love (*sniff*):

It is quite obvious that I took after Emily Dickinson when I did not know what to title a poem, using instead the first line of the poem, like with this one:

And, finally, this one somehow got into our high school's annual poetry anthology book, Whispering Leaves, voted in by my peers (poems were submitted anonymously).

  • How has poetry affected your life or your reading?
  • Who were the first poets you remember enjoying?
  • What has given you much-needed sparks of creativity in the past?
  • Are you reading any poetry for National Poetry Month?  What are you reading?