Wednesday, November 15, 2017


You guys, I've neglected this poor little blog of mine so terribly, but it's not for lack of interest. I have so much I want to say and write and post here, but the issue is time, like always. Still, I needed to give myself a break from all the crazy term paper writing and grading I'm in the middle of this month, so I'm popping by to write a few of those swirling thoughts down.

Also, I've got a little treat of a guest post in the pipeline for you, which you really ought to be excited about (I know I am).

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about today was composition. I teach a course that is sometimes referred to as "Freshman Composition," and in my practicum course we do a lot of talking and reading and theorizing about what "composition" means. The biggest thing we talk about is how composition isn't just about words or writing. Composition happens in many modes: visual/picture, sound/speech/music, body/gestural, and spatial/design. This means there is a move in composition courses to emphasize not just writing, but projects that involve all of these modes.

In fact, my students right now are in the middle of creating multi-modal projects. For this assignment, they were required to make an argument in a way that involves two or more "modes" of composition. Many of them are choosing to make videos, but I'm getting a lot of PowerPoint presentations, some picture books, photo essays, and one student is even making a blog.

This has kind of been a shift in thinking for me about what a freshman writing course should be. I mean, I get teaching writing. I'm comfortable teaching writing. I kind of thought that's what I signed up to do.

But video editing?

Photo composition?

Heck, even PowerPoint?

I'm totally out of my depth.

There's this old school, born-before-the-internet, averse-to-change side of me that's like "This is not what writing is!!! Can't we teaching writing in a writing class and leave all this technology/visual/mode stuff to tech people? Artists? Graphic designers? That's not me!"

But there's another side of me, this side that blogs and writes on the internet, that totally understands and is actually excited by this move. See, here's how the argument goes: Composition happens in all of these modes, but they've only been taught to the masses insofar as technology has allowed the masses access to these modes. The technology for writing just happened first. We got pencils and papers in such a cheap place that the masses could all be taught how to write (and technically, to draw too. It actually used to be much more common for people, especially women, to learn how to draw well.). But now technology has developed to such a point that every one of us is walking around with these devices in our pockets that can compose in all these other modes. It can take pictures. It can record video. It can edit. It can record sound. You can even do certain kinds of graphic design.

And now that this technology has become so ubiquitous, it kind of only makes sense that we begin teaching how to compose in all of these modes. I see this with my students. I can write an essay without blinking an eye, but edit a video? Haha. But the vast majority of my students are far more comfortable putting together these highly sophisticated videos than they are with any of the written assignments I've given them so far. It's put me in a bit of an awkward position, where my students are the experts on how to do the assignment, and I'm the amateur (worse than amateur). It's humbling.

But all this discussion about composing in different modes has made me see my five-year-old's play in a new light too. He is a composer. It was his drive to write stories that inspired his interest in learning to read (totally backwards of most children, who are interested in reading first and then learn how to write.) He still writes quite a bit, but his recent passion has been making movies. His imaginative play is all about practicing for his "movies" that he's going to make. He's constantly using my phone to take pictures and record videos (I never have space for the photos I want to take because of his creations). Luckily he has a wonderful father who's far less of a neophyte than I am, and who makes movies with him on Saturday mornings. They started out with stop motion photography on an app, but have since progressed to green-screens and special effects (see below, one of their first attempts, which is by no means professional, but pretty impressive to me). Friday night movie night is now less about the story of the movie, and more about how the movie was made (he was fascinated when we pulled out Honey I Shrunk the Kids a few months ago, and still talks about the sets and the "movie magic" that made that film possible).

I don't know if this means he's going to grow up to be a film producer or movie director. Maybe, maybe not. But I do know he's going to grow up completely understanding that stories and information can be communicated in many different modes, and he will be able to compose in any of them because of technology.

Also, he's definitely getting his own digital camera from Santa this year. Because I want my phone back.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Books I Read in October

My commute has quickly become my favorite part of the day, for two reasons. One is the scenery. You guys, I know Kansas gets all sorts of flak for being a fly-over state, and flatter than a pancake, and I've never heard anyone rave about natural beauty around here, but I'm totally falling in love! So, there aren't my beloved mountains, but our side of Kansas is actually not particularly flat (so surprised by the hills I have to climb every day on campus!). And it's no New England, but there are actually trees that change color here! A real fall! My drive through thirty miles of sparsely populated country and farmland surprises me every day with just being spectacularly beautiful. I've loved watching the scenery change through this month of October, as various trees and plants have flared in beautiful brilliant colors. It just fills my soul to be surrounded by such natural beauty. And every day I promise myself that I'm going to pull over to the side of the highway and take pictures, just to show everyone how beautiful Kansas is (but of course I never do, because I'm always in such a rush to get home or get to school).

The second reason I look forward to my commute is obviously, the audio books. Long stretches of beautiful scenery, easy driving, and wonderful books? When things are particularly rough, I'll find myself thinking "Well, in a couple hours I'll be driving home, with nothing to do but listen to my book!" It is the me-time that is getting me through this crazy stage in our lives right now.

I was able to finish five books in October, which brings my total to the year to 54. So, I've already reached my original goal of reading 52 books (a book a week), with two months to go! And I read some really good ones this month, so let's chat about them!

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier

Okay, when it comes to the month of October, I'm always on the lookout for good, creepy, suspenseful, thematic reading (that's not horror). I loved Rebecca, so this year I planned to try another DuMaurier in the hopes it would be another haunting, suspenseful, beautiful read. And, I will say this was beautifully written. DuMaurier has impeccable command of the language, I just enjoyed listening to these sentences being read aloud. It was gorgeous. But, both the plot and characters are extremely stupid. Everything about the characters is Freudian and frustrating and supposed to be mysterious but is mostly just ridiculous. I cannot recommend it for the plot or for any likable characters, but if you appreciate beautiful writing (and have already read Rebecca), then you might find some value in this one.

 A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I read Rules of Civility  a few years ago, and while I recognized at the time Towles could turn a lovely phrase, I just couldn't bring myself to appreciate the characters in that book. So many stupid choices! However, I'd heard such high praise for this one that I was more than willing to give it a shot (this one wasn't getting compared to The Great Gatsby, so it had that in its favor). And you guys! This one is in strong, strong contention for my favorite book of the year! It was just... amazing. I don't really know how to describe it, because it's not plot heavy at all (although there is a meandering kind of plot), and its place is slow and philosophical. But I LOVED every single character in this book so much, and the writing was incredibly gorgeous. I couldn't stop listening to it, but didn't want it to end. I was so sad when it was over, and definitely plan on rereading it again. It felt like a funny, mostly happy homage to Russian literature (which is usually neither funny nor very happy), and it made me want to go back and read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and all those other classic greats (really, Russian literature is soooo goooood!). I just can't praise this one highly enough, except to say that I wouldn't mind owning this one (which is high praise coming from me).

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

This was my second attempt at a thematic October read. Nothing like a good murder-mystery to set the tone, right? I read Still Life last year, and it was quite enjoyable. Also, it took place in October, so it just felt wonderfully suited. This one, however, takes place over Christmas time, so it felt less appropriate for October (although, I'm not sure a murder-mystery is appropriate Christmas reading either). And while I still quite enjoyed it, it wasn't quite as good as Still Life. For one thing, I guessed who the murderer was from almost the beginning. I know some people would consider this a triumph, but I'm terrible at guessing this kind of thing, so if even I could spot the murderer, I think it means this one just wasn't clever enough. It surprisingly lessened my enjoyment to guess correctly so early on. Also, Inspector Gamache made some comments at the end about not liking the name Suzanne, so obviously there was some love loss there ;). All in all, I think I liked it well enough to try the third in this series, but it better live up to the first one or I might give up.

Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

This was my third attempt at an October themed read, as what could be better than a retelling of a favorite, creepy gothic novel? And here's what I'll say: it was fine and enjoyable enough. There were some clever things Shoemaker did to flesh out Mr. Rochester's backstory. But in the end, it just couldn't live up to the excellence that is Jane Eyre, so immediately after I finished reading this one, I tried to go read that one. Alas, it's not available as an audio book through my library (why?!?).

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

To make up for not being able to listen to Jane Eyre, I settled on the next closest thing: Jane Austen. In retrospect, I probably should've picked Northanger Abbey instead of Sense and Sensibility, as that one is at least a parody of the Gothic genre, but instead I finished up this very un-creepy, very delightful novel on Halloween morning. It's been a long, long time since I've read Sense and Sensibility, but it was so wonderful to bask in Austen's beautiful language again. Apparently it inspired me to go an Austen kick, because I've already finished Pride and Prejudice and started on Persuasion (but you'll hear about those in my November wrap-up), and might see what other Austen novels I find available this month.

Anyway, so I really love my October theme reading, but clearly I start it too early in the month, and never have enough material to last until Halloween. Oh well, it's still super fun. And, in case you don't follow me on Instagram and missed this gem of a picture, here you go:

The literary family themed costume lives for another year! I just couldn't resist resurrecting this family costume, considering we now live in Kansas. Luckily the boys were on board with this, especially after we watched The Wizard of Oz for Friday night movie night (they loved it!). Our little scarecrow talked excitedly for weeks about being a scarecrow, but was less enthusiastic about actually wearing his costume (he cried for 10 minutes after I wrestled the shirt onto him, and point blank refused to wear the straw hat). It was classic, all around. (Check out last year's post to see the history of our literary family themed costumes.) Hope you all had a Happy Halloween!

And what did you read this month?

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Book Blab Episode 15: The Joys and Sorrows of Book Recommendations

Well, it's been a couple of months since our last one (my fault, I've had the crazy schedule lately), but Amy and I are back with another episode of The Book Blab. You guys, this one was seriously so much fun to record, we both had such funny stories about book recommendations gone awry! I'd love to hear your own stories in the comments. Also, apologies for the less than stellar lighting. We had to film at night because, once again, my schedule is crazy. Enjoy!

Show Notes

0:20 - Suzanne's new PhD program
1:35 - Today's topic: the perilous territory of making and receiving book recommendations
2:30 - Personal experiences with bad book recommendations
  • 3:00 - Suzanne's experience
  • 5:20 - Amy's experience
7:25 - How to handle a book recommendation that you didn't like
10:28 - The joy that comes from getting a good recommendation

  • 11:10 - Suzanne's experience
  • 11:50 - Amy's experience
13:25 - The anxiety of giving a book recommendation (but we love making recommendations anyway!)
15:40 - Suzanne's book recommendation gone wrong
18:20 - The times we've forced a book on someone, and it's gone over well
  • 19:00 - Amy's experience
  • 20:05 - Suzanne's experience
20:53 - The moral of this discussion
22:40 - Two seasonally appropriate reads for October
  • 23:30 - Suzanne's reccomendation
  • 24:50 - Amy's recommendation
28:08 - Conclusion

Books and links mentioned in the show:

Suzanne's recent post about time: Never Enough Time
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (Amy's review)
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Suzanne's review)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Suzanne's review // Amy's review)
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Suzanne's review // Episode 6 of The Book Blab)
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman (Amy's review)
The God Who Weeps by Terryl and Fiona Givens (Suzanne's review)
Dracula by Bram Stoker (Suzanne's review
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Amy's review)

Friday, October 6, 2017

What Makes an Author?

I'm teaching English 101, the freshman writing course, this semester. It's been fascinating. So many things have changed since I took my own freshman writing course over 10 years ago.

The textbook we are using in my course is title Everyone's an Author, and we spent our first day of class reading the introduction and discussing whether the title is a true statement. Is everyone an author?

The authors of the textbook put forward an argument in the introduction that anyone who participates in social media or interacts online (which is basically everyone these days) is an author because they compose, "publish," and create work that has an audience (namely, whichever friends and family follow them, but potentially the world, since anything these days can go viral).

But while my students "publish" writing all the time to social media, very few of them felt like they could legitimately call themselves "writers," let alone something so endowed with cultural meaning as the word "author." During our discussion, I was able to pull out some of my own research interest knowledge and talk about how the invention of the printing press changed the way we view authorship culturally. Before the printing press, when anyone wealthy or lucky enough to find themselves in possession of a quill and parchment could write, the word "author" held a different meaning than it does today. In point of fact, it was much more closely related to the word "authority" (and it's not terribly hard to see how those two words are etymologically connected). An author was simply anyone who had the skill, the knowledge, the ability to write with "authority." Chaucer was an author because of his mastery of the (middle) English language. He could write with skill, he could write with authority, therefore he was an author.

Then the printing press came along, and things changed. Over time, printing press owners and then publishers became gatekeepers of the term "author," awarding it only to those writers they selected and allowed to move into print. No matter your level of skill or mastery of a subject, you could not call yourself an author until someone else, someone with the "authority" of a publishing house behind them, bestowed that title upon you.

In today's world of technology and social media, however, that is changing. Now, anyone with a computer and an internet connection can "publish" almost anything they want, from tweets to novels, and find an audience who will read them. The publishing house's role as gate-keeper is becoming narrower and narrower (although, it still pretty firmly exists). The term "author" is being applied to blog writers, people who self-publish novels, or those who write fan-fic. Our definition of who is an author is loosening, expanding, reforming with our technology.

But the point I put forward to my classes in our discussion is that I believe, in our new age of online publishing, the term "author" will need to revert to it's root connection to "authority." Yes, anyone can write whatever they want and post it over every social media account they want, but you should only be able to call yourself an "author" if you write from a position of "authority," a position of mastery and skill over the English language. And my goal for each of them, by the end of the term, is to help them gain that mastery and skill over the English language so that they can feel comfortable with claiming that mantle of "authority," so that they can truly consider themselves "authors."

But do I even consider myself an author? I, who only write in this small corner of the blogosphere, with my small and limited audience (hi, mom!). Do I even consider myself a writer? It's hard to claim those terms for myself. It feels like someone else, someone with "authority" needs to award those terms to me with a publishing contract and a book in print.

But at the same time, I do feel like I write with some skill, with some level of mastery (if I didn't feel that way, I sure would feel uncomfortable in my role as writing instructor at a public university). I do feel like this little hobby of mine, this little blog thing, however small my audience may be, is actually for an audience! People read my words! Doesn't that make me an author, at least in some sense?

I believe it does, and so I just want to say thank you. Thank you for coming here, for reading my words (however unskilled and unpolished they sometimes are). Thank you for participating in this space that brings me so much satisfaction and joy. Thanks for making me feel like in some small way, I can claim the title of "author."

Monday, October 2, 2017

Books I Read in September

You guys, my commute to school these days is loooong. I'm spending quite a bit of money on gas, and it's only a matter of time before I get pulled over because not a day goes by I haven't seen flashing lights somewhere on my drive (this portion of K-10 seems to be over-monitored, in my personal opinion).

But! I don't even mind, because two things: 1.) My drive is surprisingly pretty (in that Kansas, golden corn-field, sunflower, rolling green meadow kind of way). This may change come winter, but right now I'm loving the views. And 2.), you guessed it, the audio books. I made it through five books in September thanks to that commute, and some of them were quite good. So, let's jump in.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Unfortunately, this was not one of the good ones. I mean, the description of it sounds good. Librarians? Mysterious and beautiful old books? Mermaids and traveling circuses and magic? It kind of sounded exactly like my thing. Alas, it failed to deliver, and my general recommendation is to skip this one. I just found it rather boring and uninteresting. I failed to care about any of the characters, the mystery at the center was obvious, there were plot-holes, and there was some content that just made this one not that enjoyable.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

This one! Epistolary novel at its best! So this is written from the perspective of an older creative writing professor at a second-rate university where funding keeps getting cut and the building is falling apart around the poor, neglected English department. Having long given up on his own career ambitions as a novelist, and beset by numerous requests for various letters of recommendations (LORs) from students and faculty alike, Professor Jason Fitzger uses these letters as his outlet for creative writing. The result is hilarious. Maybe I found it so enjoyable because of my current re-entry into the world of academia, but this one was just so much fun. I highly recommend (with the caveat that there is a little bit of language at some points).

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Backman strikes again. I just don't even have words to describe how powerful this one is. I mean, it's incredible. It was masterfully written, and I will be thinking about this book for a long, long time. The only reason it will not replace Ove as my favorite Backman is because the content is quite a bit darker, and the language considerably rougher, and therefore it is a harder, less enjoyable read. I just can't even believe how realistic Backman makes his characters, and how much sympathy he made me feel for everyone in this story. And there are some horrible people in this story! The one complaint I had is that at the end, the resolution felt a little too poetic, a little too... satisfying? I have a hard time explaining what I mean by that without giving away major plot points, and I simply don't want to spoil this for anyone. But if you've read it, I'd love to chat with you about it.

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

This one was just a complete delight. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's just my kind of historical fiction, as the tone and style feels like it could've been written in early 19th Century England. Except there are dragons. What fun! The characters and dragon lore and everything were very carefully crafted and this was just a super enjoyable read. My only complaint is that there wasn't a romance (everything is better with a romance), which I kind of understand given the circumstances, but I still wanted one. I'm tempted to read the next in the series (although, holy toledo there are like, nine books! Ugh!), but the plot preview doesn't leave much room for a romance in that one either, so, kind of less motivated. Anyway, still a fun, solid recommend.

The Hate U Give  by Angie Thomas

I suggested this one (before reading it) for my virtual book club, and after reading it I'm kind of super horrified because SO! MUCH! SWEARING! I mean, it's a YA book, and while there's generally been an increase in swearing in contemporary YA, this is way, way, way more swearing than I've probably read in any book ever. That being said, the swearing is all super realistic, and the book for certain would not be as authentic or believable without it. Still, just be warned before you begin, should you choose to read this one. And, despite the cussing, I do still recommend this one. It is a powerful, powerful book about very current controversial racial issues (the main character witnesses a police shooting of her friend), and I'm actually excited to talk about it with my book club because there is so much to talk about. The characters in this book are amazing, there is a lot of funny humor in between the horrible stuff, and I learned so much I didn't know before about people who have a very different life than mine (the point of reading diverse books). There is a reason this is a best seller right now, and I agree that it deserves it's place and should be read and talked about. But yeah, so much language. So, so much language. Just don't listen to it on audio (which I did, because that's the only way I can read books right now, so I know from experience that it's not a good idea, even though the narrator gives a fabulous voice to all the characters).

Anyhoo, what was your September reading like? Read any of these ones before? I'd love to chat about them if you have!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Never Enough Time

Today is my birthday, and I'm giving myself the present of time to write a post here. It's been a while, and I've missed writing here terribly. But I'm still having quite a bit of trouble adjusting to my new schedule. I'm hoping it's just a this semester problem, I'm hoping things will settle down a bit and I'll get more efficient at all my new responsibilities and be able to breathe a little bit more often. But this past month has just been... intense.

I recently read a post on social media from a friend. She's a stay-at-home-mom, and another working mom had made a comment to her about how much time she must have for things. She was arguing back that stay-at-home moms work too, it's not all sitting around eating bon-bons and watching TV.

This debate is as old as... I don't know. Whenever moms started working outside the home regularly. Who has it harder? Who works more?

I've been a mother for almost six years now, and the vast majority of that time I've been and considered myself a stay-at-home mom. Even when I was a "full-time" student working on my master's degree, I wasn't gone for more than 15 hours a week, which hours-wise is less than part-time. I spent way more time "mothering" than I did studying. I was a mother first, a student second.

But this PhD thing is different. I'm outside the home 30 hours a week, twice as much as before. Technically, that is still less than full-time, but it's still been a HUGE difference. I'm not just a student now with classes and homework, I'm also a GTA. I'm a teacher, designing lesson plans and holding office hours and grading papers and getting paid (pittance, but I'm still getting paid). For the past month I have felt not just like a student mom, but like a working mom. And my time... my time as a working mom looks so different than it did as a stay-at-home mom.

But do I think working moms have it harder?

Here's the thing about time. We talk about time as if it is a standard thing that everyone experiences the same, but that just isn't true. Time moves so differently depending on your situation, your expectations, your desires, your emotions. Here's what I can say about my experience with time as a stay-at-home-mom and as a working mom.

As a stay-at-home mom, I spent a lot more time with my younger children. I spent more time preparing their meals, making home-made baby food, cooking meals from scratch, cleaning the dishes. I spent more time going to story-time at the library, play dates at the park, and hanging out with other moms of children my age. I had time to do a pre-school co-op, reading lessons, and home-school activities. I had more time to play with my children. Every moment of that time with my children felt loaded with deep, deep value. I was doing the most important work I could be doing, and it was hard but so valuable.

But I also spent more time in mind-numbing negotiation with toddlers. I spent so much time not being able to enjoy a coherent thought because of the constant chatter, the constant demands on my time. There was always a diaper to be changed, a snack to be dispensed, a baby to nurse, a toy to fix, something that had to be done right this minute or it would lead to a total meltdown. And all the luxurious time to run errands? Well, if I could time it right and get out the door in that perfect fifteen minute window after the baby's nap but before we needed to be home for lunch, then maybe I could get to the store. But if we missed that window, it meant the outing would inevitably end in tears.

As a working mom, however, I have time to think complete thoughts. I can sit for an entire hour in my office and not be interrupted. I can focus on reading an article with complex ideas without trying to block a constant stream of toddler chatter and requests and destruction in the back ground. I have time to listen to audio books during my commute. I spend six hours every day in clothes that have no spit-up on them and are not nursing friendly. I spend time doing my hair, wearing make-up, and wearing my contacts every day. I spend hours talking to other adults who talk back to me with intelligent thoughts, and we are not distracted by someone smearing spaghetti sauce on the walls or throwing toys at the baby's head. Spending my time this way feels incredibly luxurious, almost selfish even. I feel like I do not deserve it.

But also, as a a working mom, I cannot find the time to go grocery shopping. I cannot find the time to make baby food from scratch. I cannot find the time to go to the library, or play dates with other mothers. I feel so cut off from the other mothers in my area, because if I didn't meet them in the two months before I started school, I feel like there's no hope now. I have no time for this blog, for photography, for all those other hobbies I love and used to fill my evenings with. I haven't watched a TV show since before school started. I don't check social media any more. I get way less sleep.

And then there are those other things about my time now, the kind that just add to my guilt. Like how the nanny taught my two-year-old how to spell his name, or how I watched the video on my phone of the first time my daughter pulled herself up to a standing position because I wasn't there in person to see it. Or about how the birthday present that my husband gave me this year was to take all the kids over to grandma and grandpa's house for the night so I could spend one night without being woken by the baby, one morning sleeping in without children chatter. And it was amazing, and glorious, and I feel so much better after getting nine hours of sleep for the first time since... I don't even know when, but also somewhat guilty that the only present I wanted was to spend more time away from my children. (My baby woke my husband at 3 AM and 5:30 AM, so I'm more glad than not, it was a lovely present.)

I have felt stretched so thin these past few weeks. I have felt so fragile, because three children, and a house to keep up, and a full-time job on top is just really a whole, whole lot. I've found myself sitting in the parking lot at school, crying and praying and wondering again and again why I felt inspired to get this PhD thing. Why I'm bringing this level of craziness into our lives. Why am I using my time this way?

But on the other side, I've had such amazing experiences already. I've been reading so many interesting things, thinking so many thoughts! There are so many things I've been wanting to write about here, ideas I've had while teaching or from my classes. I've felt so lucky. What a privilege, to have this time to learn. What a pleasure, to be teaching again, things I'm interested in to students who actually want to learn (or who are at least paying a lot of money to be sitting in my class and therefore invested in getting a decent grade). I just feel so grateful that I get to be spending my time this way.

And I still do have time to make dinner every day. I'm still home every minute that my oldest is home from school (stupid full day kindergarten). I still have time to read to my boys before bed. I still have time for date night. I still have time to cuddle my baby in the morning. I still have time for the essentials, the most important parts.

Time is such an interesting thing. It stretches out at some points and speeds by at others. There is never enough of it, yet everything gets done in the end. As a stay at home mom, I never had enough time. I never had enough time for coherent thoughts, I never had enough time in adult conversation. I spent my time negotiating with toddlers and coaxing babies back to sleep, and it was exhausting and mind numbing. As a working mom, I never have enough time. I don't have enough time to do all my work and still play with my children. I spend my time flat out running and juggling and trying to not let any of the balls drop, and it is exhausting and guilt-inducing. There will never be enough time.

But time is all I have, and I firmly believe it's just a matter of learning how to use my time more efficiently. I'm still trying to figure it out, I'm still learning how to manage my time and how to fit everything in. Unfortunately, this blog is still going to be taking a backseat for a while, but hopefully not forever. There's just a huge learning curve here at the beginning. It's intense. But I'll figure it out, because this is my life, and I have to make time for all the things I love.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Books I Read in August

Well, August was an intensely busy month, but I still managed to read a few books. And by that, I mean that thanks to my hour long commute every day, audio books are keeping me in the pleasure reading business! It's so fun to look forward to my commute, although, also a little bit discouraging that I am restricted to audio books, because not every book is better on audio. Also, I haven't fully explored it yet, but my new library system doesn't seem to have quite as large of an audio book offering as my last library, which is problematic. But I'll figure out how to keep my audio book queue stacked one way or another.

Anyhoo, let's jump in!

Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge

As much as I love Jane Austen, I've found that most knock-offs are fun but substantially lacking. True for this one. It's a sweet little retelling of Sense and Sensibility, and it was fun to see how Lodge fit the story into a modern context, but beyond that there wasn't much to this one. It was squeaky clean and nice light fluff reading, but not much more. Still recommend if you like a nice light and fluffy romance.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Look, I love Lincoln, and I read a couple of rave reviews about this book, so I was excited to give it a try. And I will say, this was an incredibly creative new way to tell a Lincoln story and explore social issues during the Civil War. I was fascinated by the format, and the way entire chapters were made up of nothing but snippets and quotes from other books, biographies, and historical letters and documents carefully woven together to tell a narrative. I learned a lot. However, I categorically cannot recommend this book. I have a fairly high tolerance for swearing and sexual content, but this book surpassed my tolerance level significantly. Parts were just crass and gross (which I found so weird, considering the major characters are ghosts without bodies). This whole conception of the afterlife was just... depressing. Also, the unique format makes for a TERRIBLE audio book. If you must read it, read it in a print format.

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

Considering how much I loved A Man Called Ove, I find it a little strange that I'm only just now getting around to reading some of his other books. But part of the delay is that I just didn't see how he could write anything that lived up to Ove. And this book does not live up to Ove. But I still liked it quite a bit. The characters are just as wonderfully fleshed out and complex, and I realized what I love about Backman's style. He has this way of telling a story in a certain way to make you believe certain things about the characters, and then he'll take a step back and reveal the larger context and suddenly everything changes about how you see that character. It's brilliant writing. The critique I'd heard about this one is that the seven-year-old protagonist is just too unrealistic. She's supposed to be smart, but even still, no seven-year-old girl acts/thinks/talks this way. And it's a fair critique. But surprisingly, it didn't bother me too much. I still liked this little girl quite a bit, even if she wasn't a believable character. The story-line itself isn't quite as tight as it should've been, and there's a fantasy story element that kept me disoriented for a bit (it felt so different from Ove), but I still quite enjoyed it, and I'm putting all his other books on hold now.

Slade House by David Mitchell

I just love David Mitchell so much. I meant to read this one when it came out a couple years ago, but never got around to it. So when I found it as a featured audio book on my library's e-catalog page, I pounced on it. But I wish I would've saved it for October! It was such a delightful, creepy story with just the right amount of suspense and horror, it would've made for perfect seasonal reading around Halloween. This is a companion novel (maybe novella? It's short) to Bone Clocks, so you really need to read that one first. But I recommend everything by Mitchell (start with Cloud Atlas, it's by far his best).

What about you? Read any of these books? Any recommendations I should look into?