Five Reasons Why You Should Read Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

There's been a lot of buzz around Kamila Shamsie's Home Fire and for good reason. Here's five reasons why you should pick it up immediately:

1. The modern retelling of Antigone is spot-on. I have read Sophocles' play four times and Home Fire does an excellent job of making some critical parallels but also maintaining it's own identity. I will say that you don't have to read the Greek tragedy, but it will enhance the experience if you have or do. 

2. The structure of the text, which maintains a third-person narration but provides the vantage point of the major characters in their own sections, works perfectly for the pacing of this story. Everyone possessed their own depth, revealing their strengths and weaknesses.  

3. Shamsie is brave enough to humanize a member of ISIS, but she doesn't attempt to demand sympathy, either. The social and political sentiment in timely and important. 

4. The familial relationships are incredibly strong but also ridiculously conflicted. So many of the characters were tested- what will you do for you brother? Twin? Son? Father? This would make an outstanding book club selection for that thematic component alone. 

5. Shamsie's writing is beautifully simplistic and complicated at the same time. Her descriptions are detailed without being over-the-top and the emotion she evokes palpable.

I am pretty much recommending this book to everyone I see, including all of my students, since they read Antigone last spring. It's really that good, I promise.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hey!

1. I am finishing up Home Fire right now by Kamila Shamsie right now and I absolutely floored. This retelling of Antigone through the lens of ISIS, Islam, and the Muslims in the UK will most definitely make my ten best of the year list. It’s absolutely brilliant.

 2. It was 108 here today and the only reason I’m not going to complain is because there are people who have lost everything in Hurricane Harvey. I will shut my mouth, suck up the AC costs, and be thankful.

3.     I don’t know if I’ll be able to attend, but I signed up for a Jennifer Egan reading in October in LA (don’t worry, I’ll let the organizers know in advance in case I can’t so my seats can be given up). I really enjoyed her last book and am looking forward to her newest one, due out soon (along with so many others this fall!).

4.     I am going to Ikea this weekend. With a three-year-old. Please pray for me.

5.     Last weekend I met up with a friend in Orange County and we finally went to lunch at the Anaheim Packing House, a sort of trendy, foodie, hipster-ish, food court housed in a renovated agricultural facility (see picture above). It was delicious and there were so many options. I’ll definitely be back with my family (they have pizza, so my child will survive the visit).

6.     I submitted paperwork for a $5,000 student loan forgiveness program through the federal government has for teachers and I was pretty sure they wouldn’t approve it, given the fact that they’re not really into helping borrowers any more. I was shocked when it was approved and funded today! I still have a huge chunk to tackle, but this reduced it by 25%, which makes paying it off within the next five years doable.

Perpetuating the "Nerd" Stereotype

[yup, I was reading to her]

When I walked onto campus this morning I was greeted with signs reminding the students to dress up for the various spirit days this week.* One of them in particular struck that little chord buried in my chest that makes me feel sad, a touch angry, defensive, and even a little nostalgic all at the same time.  Nerd Day is coming soon, guys.

When I was younger I started wearing glasses in first grade. Horrible glasses. For some reason my mom let me, a young child with little fashion sense, choose and they were big, plastic, and pink (see above). I repeated the process the year after with purple ones.  A few years later I got a pair of wire frames with argyle print (I am seriously grimacing while typing this). And so on and so forth until it didn’t matter because I was hiding them in my backpack and just pulling them out when I needed to see the board (they then got bent and were even uglier). Very, very few of my peers wore frames and the ones that did weren’t necessarily known as the cool ones. I was young. I wanted to be cool. I was not.

And then to compound the glasses issue was my love of reading, learning, and my overall “smart kid” status. I was given my first chapter book, Charlotte’s Web, for Christmas in first grade and I was 500% hooked. No, 1,000,000%. I read that bad boy three times before the New Year and as soon as I got to a library it was all over. I could care less about playing at recess, interacting with kids on the bus, or coloring when my in-class assignments were done like the other kids did. It was all books, all the time. This was also not seen as cool, nor was the fact I nearly aced everything, asked for extra projects, and finished everything early in class (way to brag, Christine, way to brag).

I was never blatantly bullied, except this one time when this boy who I liked clearly was mocked how I pushed up my glasses, walked, and sniffled from allergies (hello, our k-8 was in the middle of orchards and fields, thanks). But other than that I’m sure I was just too busy reading The Babysitter’s Club to notice those that probably ridiculed me behind my back. Nonetheless, I knew I was a little bit different. I wasn’t invited to as many birthday parties, I always felt that the group I claimed as friends wouldn’t miss me if I was gone, and no one rushed to be in my group in class.  

I felt like a nerd and called myself one internally. I felt excluded because I wore glasses, didn’t dress trendily, and liked school. It hurt. It was embarrassing. Luckily when I went to high school I was enveloped into the IB program, where we were all over-achievers and knew that the only way to a good college and the careers we desired was a disciplined academic mindset. But the damage prior to ninth grade had been done (I even resisted glasses until I was adult, sadly).

So when I saw the poster hanging in a high school encouraging kids to dress like a nerd it stung a bit. I know there are plenty of kids like me who feel insecure because of their desires to read at lunch or stay after class to do an extra project. They feel like nerds and they’re called nerds. And here we are encouraging the student body to mock this “type” of person? You know that’s what will happen; there will be suspenders, pants pulled up Steve Urkel-style, and glasses galore, all utilized to make “nerds” seem uncool. And while I know it’s done in good fun and no one means harm, it’s just a sad little blast from the past.

On a broader, more social level the perpetuation of stereotypes also bothers me. We, as a people, have such a huge problem putting people into boxes and then deciding if we like these boxes or not. Why encourage the labeling? Why poke fun at those who enjoy something harmless and positive and maybe don’t dress like everyone else? This is even more sobering when we consider the fact that more and more young kids attempt suicide for feeling different and for being bullied.

I know in this day and age there’s a “people are being too sensitive” rhetoric that’s being spread amongst some. But, as an admittedly sensitive person, I have to say that this dismissive mentality ends up being more harmful than anything. No, I don’t think we should all get a participation trophy, but I take issue with certain, potentially vulnerable, groups being targeted, purposefully or not. And there are many people who wear their “nerd” badge proudly, and to them I say “Good for you. You are strong and confident.” And while I now have thicker skin and am comfortable with my hobbies and love of learning, I once was not, so to those that aren’t so self-assured, I understand how it feels. Words, and their connotation, can hurt.

Let’s face it. Somewhere there’s a little kid wearing glasses, reading outside, feeling excluded, and being called a nerd, by herself or by others. Or maybe it’s a forty-year-old programmer who struggles to get a date and is called a nerd by colleagues in the break room. It’s the kid who is crazy-passionate about dinosaurs, astronomy, chess, old movies, or whatever else the masses don’t care to understand or develop an interest in. You are telling them that the “type” they’ve been stereotyped as is a joke.

Can’t we just dress up in our favorite sports team jerseys or like musicians or something?

*Just to clarify: In no way, shape, or form do I think those at my school who decided the spirit days had malicious intent when making this decision. I know it came from a place of fun and was an attempt to involve the kids in an activity; I love where I work and I respect my colleagues. Our campus typically fosters an environment of academic  success and I am always pleased that most kids seem really comfortable. But  I also feel strongly about this topic, though, so I am taking to my platform to politely disagree and defend those that might not otherwise.

Recent Acquisitions and Pre-Orders


The problem with not buying books is that when you give your permission to lighten the reins things get a little... crazy. Or just me? Fine. Now is probably the time to mention that I have a post in the works about the reasons I use to justify semi-excessive purchases to myself. 


Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides- I will read everything he writes, even if it's a macroeconomics text book or something equally boring. 

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton- I mentioned this already, but I have a soft spot in my heart for HRC.

Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden- Speaking soft spots... Also, can we get the memes back for some collective comic relief?

Sally's Cookie Addiction by Sally McKenney- I adore her baking blog and have followed along on her posts during the writing process. Showing support!

Littles Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng- Loved her first one, can't wait to see if her sophomore attempts match up. 

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan- It's been awhile since her last!

Personal Purchases

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel- Some students were discussing it, and they totally sold it to me. 

A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly- I love nonfiction books like these. 

A History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund- Just sounds good!

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg- I'm on a quest for perfection (not really).

How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julia King- I had a few insecure parenting days and ordered this one and the one below. I already read it and while it wasn't groundbreaking it had some great reminders that I can already see working. 

No-Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson 

Shall I Be a Poet Instead by Lianne Bernardo (fellow blogger self-published!)

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie- A modern retelling of Antigone (reading and loving right now). 

* i.e. things I can order and not have to pay for until later 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[shake it off]

Link up, link back, say hey!

1. I love how excited people were about the eclipse. I wanted to be cynical, but even at like 64% here in Southern California it was still really neat. I had a few students who were downright giddy, which was pretty great.

2. I wish my traffic app could predict traffic at a certain time of the day. For example, if I want to see what traffic is normally like between my work and wherever at 4 on Fridays, it should be able to tell me. Or can it? Is this a thing I just don't know about?

3. I have never stayed in an AirBnB and am still a little skeeved out by them, but I have recently started to sort of fall in love looking at ones in cities I want to visit. I find it strangely relaxing and also fun to check out how people decorate and renovate. 

4. Saturday is gearing up to be just what the doctor ordered- I am getting my hair colored and cut (man, the summer sun has made my hair way, way too light) and then meeting a friend at the Anaheim Packing House for lunch. 

5. Sawyer has had some set backs at preschool after an easy start and it's been hard for us both. My mom, a preschool teacher, has assured me that it's totally normal once the novelty wears off, but it's been tough to watch him cry some at drop off and to hear from his teachers that sometimes he gets sad during the day. I was so concerned all summer with him being potty trained that I think I sort of neglected to prepare him well enough for the other parts of this huge change (he went from a tiny home daycare with just two kids to a huge center that is structured and busy). I know it will get better and I am confident that he will acclimate, but I feel bad for not better taking into account how many changes he's been through lately. 

6. I just started Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie and am enjoying it very much so far. It's a retelling of sorts of Antigone, which I have read several times for work, so I'm on the hunt for connections, as well. 

7. Totally preordered Hillary Clinton's new memoir coming out next month. Allllll over it. 

8. My husband and I are both professional, intelligent people who can handle technology and appliances and whatnot just fine, but for some reason we absolutely never have a working printer in the house. It's ridiculous.

Mr. Linky is currently down at the time of my posting. I'll check later to see if they have resolved their issues, but for now just post your site in the comments and visit amongst yourselves. Sorry! 

A Few Bookish Children's Books

I'm a sucker for good kid's books, and better yet if they're related to reading or writing. Here are a few that we have and love:

Biblioburro by Jeanette Winter: A Colombian man decides to donate his excess books to kids-in-need by way of his burros (based on a true story). 

The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers: The more he eats, the more the boy learns! But then he gets a little carried away...

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers (he's the best): The illustrations in this book about reading and imagination are beautiful. 

My Pet Book by Bob Staake: Books are easy pets until they disappear...

It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton: A letter-writing campaign to the mailbox goes right... and then wrong... and then right again (now every time we go to the mail we talk about dragons in the mailbox).

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Link up, link back, say hey!

1. My schedule is quite a bit different this year- I am arriving home at a different time almost every day and it's taking some time to acclimate to. The beginning of the school year is always crazy, but between this, driving further to drop off and pick up Sawyer, and poor sleep, I'm just totally beat. I've also been "training for training" this month, running wise, which I know adds to my tiredness. My husband started a new job recently and has been putting in long hours, so that also contributes to the different feel of the last week. Nonetheless, I know within a few weeks we will all settle in to our new routines and it will be fine. But getting there? So much internal whining (and a little external, as we now see). 

2. This seems like a good time to articulate my annual birthday wish: a hotel room for JUST ME and a little something to help me sleep (I generally refuse to take anything, even melatonin, but my sleep cycle and schedule is shot to heck... Eventually when Sawyer is a little more reliable I'll probably have to talk to my doctor). That's all. Nothing ridiculously fancy. Just maybe fourteen hours alone, ten of which I can sleep. 

3. I had a nightmare the other day that a bottle of lotion exploded in my closet and got all over my dresses (I have a sort of dress... collection, let's just say). It was traumatizing.

4. I wish (sort of) that someone would make an app that would calculate how much I spend on Diet Coke. Maybe that would help me sleep. Just maybe. 

5. I finished Any Rand's Anthem, my first of her books, and I was pretty underwhelmed. 

6. My lunches this week have been a disaster: PB&J, Spaghetti O's, and frozen pizza rolls. Seriously, how old am I? Eight? 

7. My husband recently informed me that I can pre-order things on Amazon and not be charged, which was probably a huge mistake. For some reason I thought they billed you right away, but nope. I think I have at least one new book coming a month until the end of the year. Ha. 

8. I know that this isn't my job and that people aren't exactly checking daily for posts, but please know that I am well aware content and depth are lacking lately. The last two weeks have been so crazy and I need to be better about scheduling posts. So, for those of you that stick around, thanks! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Hey! Link up, link back, say hi! This is going to be a short one, folks:

1. I cannot even begin to describe the anger I feel at Trump right now. North Korea is like a toddler, and Trump is like the caregiver that lashes out instead of rationally dealing with the craziness. Instead of arguing about watching extra Paw Patrol we're talking ABOUT DESTROYING LIVES AND RUINING COUNTRIES. 

2. I am listening to How to Murder Your Life, a memoir by Cat Marnell, and right now it's so bad it's good. Barely. 

3. I recently finished listening to Beartown and I still can't decide about the ending (I don't want to give it away). I was enraged when I finished, and still basically am, but I've rationalized it a little. 

4. Last Friday Sawyer and I drove down to Torrey Pines, a state beach north of San Diego, and while it was warm, it was absolutely beautiful. I have been before, many years ago, but I had forgotten about how many trails there are in the area. We will definitely be back once the weather cools down a bit. We met my brother there and then headed up to Solano Beach for lunch. That area is really cute too, so I'd like to explore it a bit more.

5. I'm already getting excited about fall outings and activities, despite the 95 degree temperatures. Apple picking, scarecrow making, pumpkin patch visiting... Too bad we realistically have six weeks until we might get a brief hint of fall (and that's if we are lucky). 

6. I have a lot of reading going on- I just finished a running memoir by Catriona Menzies-Pike called The Long Run (I love her name), and am now reading Ayn Rand's Anthem and Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers, about the slums of India. 

7. I started back to work for three teacher-work days on Monday and Sawyer is in preschool full time now (I have students tomorrow), and one minute I'm totally into it and thinking how well all of our transitions are going, and then the next I am dead-ass tired and wondering how I can sustain this sort of momentum (or even half of it). Ah, adjustment periods. Always fun. 

Summer 2017 Rewind

[Torrey Pines last weekend]

I know that the beginning of August is certainly not really the end of summer, but for teachers most of us mark the beginning of the school year as the end of the season. I started work today, so for me summer is done (unfortunately that doesn't mean cooler temperatures). At the beginning of vacation I settled for a list of goals rather than doing my usual monthly installment, so I'm here to review how I did:

Be Creative:
- cook new recipes- Yup!
- cross stitch- Lots!
- work on writing projects- No (well, at least not enough to claim a yes)
- think about new ways to teach- Sorta (a few new things in the works)
- get caught up on my 2017 picture book- Yes (all the way done through July! This is the first time this has ever happened; usually I do the whole thing in December)

Read in Excess:
- blog more- Yup  
- Read at least 50 pages a day- Even more (22 books total) 
- work-related reading- Partially

- read nonfiction- Check!
- watch TED Talks- I think only one or two, so not substantial
- squeeze in documentary- Nope (pathetic) 
- Sawyer counting, learning colors, being potty trained- Yup, yup, and yup!
- consider being an IB scorer- I will going to apply in the next month (I am trying to pay off my student loans early, so this will help) 

- spare bedroom- Nope
- my workout/stuff room- Yup
- computer- Ha! No way.
- my photos- Negative
- Craft/art cabinet- Yes

- my mind- Not a chance
- my eyelids- I think I got less sleep than when working (Sawyer wakes up at the same time and because I am "off" I go to bed later)

- day excursions with Sawyer- Yes! Many! (three or four museums, three trips to the beach, Downtown Disney, Northern California for a few days, etc...) 
- be social- Yup! I saw friends at least once a week 
- do fun things at home- Check

- run- Yay! Yes! 
- walk/hike- Yeah to both
- light weights- Oops
- Yoga- Not enough (everytime I do yoga I wish I did it more, but yet I still end up doing a million times more cardio) 
- Hip exercises- Got an awesome cortisone shot instead

I'm really satisfied with this summer, and while I do have a major case of wanderlust right now, I am still happy with what we did. 

I'll be back at the end of the month with some goals (all I want to do this month is get back into the swing of things). 

New (School) Year's Goals

Tomorrow marks the start of my twelfth school year, and my eighth in high school. I will be teaching all senior IB English this year, as well as a section of IB Theory of Knowledge, which sounds like a dream, but the grading is absolutely unreal. We also have IB assessments to prepare for and conduct twice during the year, which are always super stressful, too. I help with our Extended Essay portion of things, which I enjoy, but it is still, obviously, more work. Between work, home, and my own interests, my plate is constantly full. Like go-to-a-delicious-buffet-and-get-all-the-food full. So, in order to keep things as manageable, efficient, and happy as possible, I've come up with some things I want to focus on for this school year:

1. Continue living and dying by my grading calendar- Just like I assign my students work, I assign myself a certain number of papers to grade each day. This made things a million times better spring semester, so I'm excited to start the year off with this habit. 

2. Summer work graded by 9/1- My students had a few assignments to do over the summer, and starting day one off being behind is hard (140ish students times 3 assignments = sad tears). I want to get it over with as soon as possible. The stuff they had to do is important, though. 

3. Lift weights at lunch- This is silly, but I am going to stash a set of 8 pound weights in my desk and do some reps at the start of lunch most days. I spend the first fifteen or so minutes before my friend joins me playing around on my phone most of the time, so even just five minutes five times a week will be 25 minutes more than I am doing now! My room is always freezing, so I don't have to worry about working up a sweat, either.

4. To bed early one night a week- I don't stay up late at all, but I think making an effort to go to bed thirty minutes early just one night a week will help. 

5. Keep track of hours- This is for purely scientific reasons, but I want to log the time I put into my job outside of my contractual day.

6. Suspend future worries- I have this tendency to start worrying about the next school year way too early (schedule, logistics, etc...). I need to hold off on that until, let's say, February or March at the earliest.

7. Build classroom library- It's pathetic, but my classroom library is pretty lean. I want to work on bulking it up this year.

8. Be less critical- I think one of the problems of working on a high school campus is that sometimes the teachers start acting like teenagers themselves at times. I am definitely guilty of picking up some less-than-stellar bad habits and I need to remember who I am and what I am doing. At the end of the day, my classroom and my students are what matters the most when I am work. This "be less critical" goal also applies to myself. I do a lot. Sometimes balls will be dropped. 

9. Test Prep- I want to make sure my students are confident and knowledgable as they go into their various IB tests this year. If they're willing to work, I most definitely am. 

10. 30 minutes straight of 100% Sawyer-time a day- For those of you who don't have kids this probably sounds so simple, but it's easy when you're a mom to multi-task playtime (sure, I'll play LEGOs with you, but I'm going to jump up to switch over laundry, or I'll hang out with you while you eat your snack, but I'm going to grade a few papers too). 

How many more days until summer?

But seriously, here's to a good school year! 

A Picture an Hour

I've seen other bloggers do "a picture an hour" posts before and I thought it would be a good way to commemorate a fairly-typical summer day this year (and easier than the "day in the life" posts that require so much note-taking). These sorts of posts are typically done for more selfish reasons, so I can look back later and see what a typical day with a three-year-old during my summer break was like. This was from a few days ago that was pretty typical (minus the crazy, for us, weather, which prevented afternoon pool time) for us- nothing monumental, but still good:

[6am-7am: opening the windows
before it's too hot and gross]

[7am-8am: a quick run]

[8am-9am:  finally my breakfast, easily one
of my top five cereals]

[9am-10am: last gymnastics class for Sawyer]

[10am-11am: some chores for us both]

[11am-12pm: Cheesecake Factory
for lunch with Sawyer and a friend/
previous student]

[12pm-1pm: Putting Sawyer down
for a nap]

[1pm-2pm: getting up a blog

[2pm-3pm: we made "sand castles" for
his stuffed animals]

[3pm-4pm: storm watching]

[4pm-5pm: my hair stylist lives
a few minutes away so she stopped
by to give me a trim]

[5pm-6pm: a few minutes to read while
Sawyer occupied himself]

[6pm-7pm: homemade mac and cheese
went down]

[7pm-8pm: bedtime stories]

[8pm-9pm: cross stitched while we
watched an episode of Fargo]

[9pm-10pm: running schedule for the
next six months]
[this is me, setting my alarm for
the next day, being optimistic
about even sleeping in that
long (I was woken up at 5:50...

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[our old lady]

Link up, link back, say hey!

1. Next time I write one of these I will be back at work, getting ready for students to start back the day after. I am of course very sad about going back, and am singing the normal woeful "how did it go by so fast" song, but I feel better about the return than last year. I have really done some thinking about the year and will put up a post on how I plan to navigate and manage soon. 

2. On Monday I took Sawyer for his first full day of preschool (it went well! He's doing it again today and tomorrow, so fingers crossed for more of the same), and it was bizarre to have so much time. In the past I have taken him to daycare for mornings, so to have 8-2:30 was strange. I went to the park alone to walk for a bit and then got a pedicure for the first time in months. I met my husband back at home and we went to lunch together, which was perfect timing since he started a new job yesterday. It was different, but we nice.

3. Speaking of my munchkin, I broke out the sewing machine the other day after a three-year hiatus to sew Sawyer a red cape after reading a book with one. Someday I will how to do more than just go forwards and backwards. 

4. I have looked a lot at my finances (we keep a household account, but then each have our own checking and savings accounts) this summer and have come up with three reasonable (unless something goes wrong) financial goals for the next five years: pay off my student loans, have $xx,xxxx in savings, and take an awesome vacation. 

5. I have finished most of my summer reading for work, including four Shakespearean plays. I reread Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Othello, and The Tempest, and I've had enough. I have to give Macbeth a fourth read here in a few weeks, but after that, no more. NO MORE SHAKESPEARE.

6. We let out dogs in the pool for the first time this summer, which they of course loved. They would go everyday if we let them, but they take FOREVER to dry (I have a lab and golden) and their hair isn't good for the pool filter. Out golden, Cordie, is getting older, though, and we sometimes get worried she doesn't have tons of time left. There's nothing in particular wrong, but at twelve she's just starting to show her age. She struggles to get up sometimes, she's going deaf, and she just seems a bit more tired than usual. So, just in case she (*sob*) doesn't make it to next summer, she at least got to get in this year. 

7. I registered to run a 10k in October and I'm starting to think I may run a half marathon in February (Surf City in Huntington, for local folks). I may have already drawn up a running schedule for the next six months. 

July Reviews

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this will probably be the month with the most books read all year, clocking in at twelve. The beauty of summer break, right? There were some unintentional and intentional pairs that happened- two Shakespeare books, two nonfiction books, two graphic novels, and two Richard Russo collections. Here's a quick rundown, in no particular order:

The Tempest AND Hamlet by William Shakespeare 
85 and 148 pages
It feels silly summarizing Shakespeare, so I won't. I will say that both were rereads for work and they're both... fine. It's Shakespeare. 

Get to Work... and Get a Life Before it's Too Late by Linda Hirshman
92 pages
I read about this longer essay type book in another book was intrigued. Basically, Hirshman spends 92 pages convincing women to not stay at home and to get jobs, both as a favor to themselves and the world as a whole.

Verdict: This is such a sensitive topic, but Hirshman doesn't give a damn. I agreed with many of her points, but I also disagreed, too. Motherhood and professional lives and feminism are all things that blanket statements don't always work for. Definitely interesting, a tiny bit validating, but also a bit irritating as well. Not for those who are super sensitive about staying at home, that's for sure.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
179 pages
I have read this several times for work, and this reread was for that as well. This is another one that feels lame to review, since it's so widely read, but for those who it has fell under the radar for, it's about a man named Guy Montag whose job is to burn books (ironically called a "fireman"). He sees the light, though, catalyzed by his young neighbor Clarice. The book is about his transformation and what this means for his personal and professional lives.

Verdict: This will alway be a favorite of my mine, to teach and read (although I think three times in less than ten years is enough for awhile). The intrusive nature of the government is of course timely, as is many of the other social and political commentary. Bradbury was so ahead of his time.

One and Only by Lauren Sandler
205 pages
I wrote a lengthy personal post here.

A Thousand Miles from Nowhere by John Gregory Brown
276 pages
Henry Garrett is having a rough time; his wife has left him, he's quit his job on a sort of whim, and then Hurricane Katrina hits. He heads north and stops at a small motel, only to face more challenges but to also do a considerable amount of reflection. 

Verdict: There were parts of this book that really hard me hooked, but I was flat-out bored at others. I think my expectations going in were a little different from the reality of the novel (I didn't realize it was so existential and as much of a character-study, which is fine, but just not what I had thought). 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
325 pages
Eleanor Oliphant works for a graphic design agency in Scotland and is admittedly a bit socially challenged (actually very). She lives alone, has no friends, speaks to her mother, who appears to be in jail, once a week, and is a functioning alcoholic. Yet as the book continues, Eleanor has reason to become a more social creature, and to also come to terms with her incredibly painful past.

Verdict: This was the perfect pool read for me this summer- it was smart, quick, quirky, and touching. Honeyman's writing was delightful, as were the supporting characters. I did thing the whole twist/reveal of suspension was a little drawn out in the sense that maybe she relied on this technique as a more of a crutch during certain points, but as whole it was a great summer read. 

Interventions and Trajectory by Richard Russo
205 pages and 144 pages (duplicate story page numbers taken out)
These sort stories vary in subject matter, but all maintain that typical level, deep, sort of cadence that is so characteristic of Russo's writing. One of the stories is about a nun taking a writing class, another a sick real estate agent who is struggling to sell a home. There's one about a screenwriter, and another a professor whose student is caught plagiarizing.  

Verdict: While some of the stories were better than others, I still see Russo as this sort of reliable uncle who will always show up at holidays with a decent bottle of wine and some interesting stories about his work. The quality is overall dependable, and while I think I like his novels better, these were still solid.

Blankets by Craig Thompson 
582 pages
This graphic novel is a coming-age-story (I read it because I am advising a student, but my husband has been trying to get me to read it for years) about a young man who struggles with a very religious, strict upbringing and what that means to him as a teenagers and young adult. He must deal with this identity crisis all while navigating new relationships, familial struggles, and the future.

Verdict: I have read one other graphic novel by Thompson, and saw him speak once, so he wasn't unfamiliar to me. I found the story captivating and the simplistic art full of depth and style. I am still sort of "learning," so to speak, how to read and discuss graphic novels, since they still feel foreign to me, but I can confidently say I enjoyed this one. 

Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba
248 pages
This was another graphic novel that I read to advise a student on, but many of my kids have read this for outside reading and have tried to persuade me to read it as well. This story is about an obituary writer, who is also the son of a famous Brazilian writer; there are some father-son issues, clearly. The story, though, examines snapshots of his life, and what they mean alone and in the context of his life, and then how these moments could in turn connect to an immediate death (going back to the obituary thing...) 

Verdict: I really enjoyed this book, both in terms of the beautiful artwork and the complexity of the story line. Moon and Ba have done something innovative, ignoring the normal constraints of life and death, allowing these sort of resurrections to constantly exist to propel the narrative. 

The Idiot by Elif Batuman
418 pages
Selin, a freshman Harvard student in 1995 is trying to figure it all out. How does email work? What does it mean to have Turkish parents? How does one navigate the Ivy League academic system? What exactly constitutes a relationship? The novel follows her during her first year, as she does things as mundane as return videos with a friend, but also as fumbles around an awkward crush. The story takes us into the summer, where she spends time in Paris and Hungary, trying to determine what, and who, she wants.

Verdict: This book was a lot of contradictory things- boring, yet intense. Endearing, yet annoying. Tedious, yet amusing. I still am not sure if I can say I like it, but I didn't not like it. There was something sort of endearing about Selin, and Batuman's writing about her, but I found those warm feelings fizzling out frequently. I just don't know. 

2,907 pages