Category Archives: book review

Reading to Know You

“Could I talk to you?”

I’ve been locked up for 264-days.

The train station at Pebbleton, dark and sooty though it was, glistened in the mist.

The world might be sunny-side up today.

It was a little after midnight when Lance McKendrick left his tiny bedroom in Max Dalton’s New Jersey base and padded barefoot through the corridors and out into the base’s large garage.

I am an hourglass.

These are all the first sentences in books that are, or have been, my favorite books.

This was before I knew the characters

who I now love

this was before I knew their fears,

loves,

goals,

and failures.

This was before I meet some of my closest friends

and also people who I would never like to meet.

These words were the first judgement I made about the characters,

not their appearance, voice, or reputation.

In books,

it is so strange because I am reading to know people.

It doesn’t matter that they are made out of ink and paper

or caffeine inspired imagination.

What matter is that these people, these characters,

live and breathe in my heart.

That is were it counts.

With each word written I get to know the character

better

and better.

But their lives do not come to a stopping halt

when the last period is placed

and the finally page is turned.

They continue to live on in my heart.

That is were it counts.

“Why?”

I’m ready.

After all he had accomplished, and considering how much he had learned and how far he had come, it is a curious fact — indeed, a remarkable one — that what Nicholas wanted now, more than anything, was to get started.

And I’m leaving my gloves behind.

“He’s human,” Lance said. “And it’s about time he understood what being human really means.”

“I can’t wait to watch them try.”

first-page

 


Books in order of lines:

Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Hunter by Michael Carroll

Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

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The Words Themselves

I am currently re-reading my second favorite book.

I got a copy of it for my birthday

and I am writing all over it,

Underling phrases

Blocking off paragraphs and pages

Scrawling in the margins little notes to myself

It seems like when I do this

then I become a part of the book

and not just the book a part of me.

The book becomes personalized,

an outward sign of the impression the words have left on my heart.

So when someone else reads the words I’ve written

and the phrases I have underlined

Then they see to my heart and my mind.

The second reader trespasses on my personal

private

heart and soul.

And that’s something deeper,

sometimes,

than the words themselves.

book

So Do Our Heroes

To you, oh comicbooks, do I appoint the dedication of this poem to

All your intricacies and simplicities

All your realities and complexities

You reflect our hearts

of what they are and what they wish to be

Victory and vanity

Freedom and failings

Honor and hesitation

These are you

These are us

We created super-powered beings

with ink and paper and imagination

We created beings with powers due only to gods

We created false gods

knowing that we do the same with flesh and blood

not just ink and paper.

We imbued you with powers beyond comprehension

to change the world

and not just your’s

with evil masterminds

and cat burglars

and devilish henchmen,

but also to change our world.

To give hope

and dreams

and nobility

to little boys and girls

reading your pages.

So that when they grow up

to become big boys and big girls

they can change the world.

Yet,

in giving you powers beyond our comprehension

we also heightened your

failures and faults and flaws

We created Superman

and we created kryptonite

We created Spider-man

and we created Uncle Ben

We created Wolverine

and we created his savageness

We created heroes

and we created their weaknesses

to comfort us

to know that

we have failures and faults and flaws

and so do our heroes.

Hulk 1 cover

Takes You to New Worlds

In third grade, an author visited my elementary school. At the time I hated reading. Our whole school gathered around him and sat criss-cross-applesauce on the cool tile gym floor. He talked about writing his famous book series and his writing process. Then he challenged us to read and write more so that we could become authors like him, if we wanted to.

Now I am expecting that you think this was my big writing epiphany. By all means it was not. Quite the opposite in fact.

The author had said what my mother and father had told me since I started reading, which was the same thing my teachers had said everyday during reading time.

“Reading books takes you to new worlds.”

The first, second, twentieth, and one hundred seventy sixth time I heard that line I believed it was false and to this day do I still believe so. I insist upon it to this day. Reading books does not take you to new worlds.

Now, anyone who knows me at all knows that I love reading. I am always reading a book if not five or six. I will read anything except for horror or heavy romance. I average about forty-five books a summer. Quite the opposite from my younger self.

But still I insist that reading does not take you to new worlds.

I read We Were Liars and yet I could never feel the sand underneath my toes on the Sinclair family beach.

I read Minders and yet I could never feel the cement streets beneath my feet as I ran.

I read The Great Gatsby and yet I could never feel how tight my feet felt in my shoes on the very hot fateful day.

I read the Shatter Me series and yet I could never feel the Persian rugs on the marble floors.

I read Anne of Green Gables and yet I could never feel the grass in the spring time.

These are just to name a few that even my toes could not tactical touch their worlds. Yet in my own world, I can recall every memory of my toes digging into the sand on summer vacations and of my toes discovering again the grass on my bare feet in the spring time.

I insist that reading does not take you to new worlds, but instead you meet new people.

I read so many books with so many characters and yet they are the ones I can recall swiftly. I can remember exactly when and where I was reading the book. I was grounded in this world, but I was talking and thinking in the manner of the characters in my head.

From the first books that got me hooked on reading A to Z Mysteries and My Side of the Mountain to the novel I just finished two hours ago No Place to Fall, no character is the same just like no person is the same or snowflake.

In books you are able to meet people in so much more of an inmate way than in reality. You know his thoughts, so vulnerable, and his past that is so much more than what is written on his face and clothes. (Pun not intended, of course!) You learn what is his driving passion and weakest downfall through out the two hundred plus pages that a quick five minute conversation could not.

I met a narcoleptic orphan genus boy in The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict that was my favorite when I was younger not because of world he took part in, but because of who he was. I learned about motivations and how people always have reasons behind their actions that may not even be the most logical ones.

I met an aspiring comicbook (sorry graphic novel) artist and writer in The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl that was my favorite a few years ago because of his creativity and passion for superheroes that I formed a connection with. His world was forgettable, but he wasn’t.

I met a talented, tortured, and tormented slave in The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Traitor to the Nation Volume 1: The Pox Party who taught me about the cruelty of humanity, if I did not already know. I learned what freedom truly meant.

I met a super-powered broken fighting girl in the Shatter Me series that is my current favorite. I have never connected so deeply with a character, a person, like her before. I have never experienced a writing style like Mafi’s before because writing is truly an experience.

That is another problem with what the author said, “Reading books takes you to new worlds.” I am not taken anywhere. I meet new people and experience new writing styles.

Reading is a journey, from the first glance at the spine of the book to the last punctuation mark. Along the journey you meet friends and quite possibly enemies, but they are people all the same. That’s what they should have said to my little third grader self.

narrative-794978_960_720

Pixabay/user:Comfreak

 

Read This Before Class

 

So many people that I talk to say that they could never be teachers. For whatever reason they give, the students, the grading, the stress; they always end up saying that they would go insane. In Dave Barry’s, yes that Dave Barry, words on reviewing See Me After Class he says “. . . Well, this very funny book proves that you definitely would [go insane]. But in a good way.”

See Me After Class by Roxanna Elden is a humorous teacher self-help book. When Elden started writing this book, she wanted it to be an easy read, amusing and honest and get right to the point. See Me After Class is divided into twenty short chapters focusing on everything from organization and grading to the teacher’s lounge. Elden normally starts with an entertaining, for the reader that is, day-gone-wrong story followed by steps to have the problem, hopefully, never happen again and positive, or negative, stories other teachers around the country have shared. The main direction of the book is how to succeed at all the ‘unseen’ things educators do from the month before school starts to forming a teacher personality to due dates. Elden always makes sure that her advice is not just a little phrase that experienced teachers throw around, but that it actually works and is practical.

My personal favorite part of See Me After Class is Elden’s style and voice. She sets up the book with anecdotes that every teacher can relate to, but never admits to because, “It’s not okay to say, ‘I’m working with kids and I might be bad at it.’” Elden allows this book to be a trustworthy companion after a very bad day, but after reading it, teachers now have the tools to return to their classrooms. Right on the cover it says “Advice for teachers by teachers” which can be clearly seen in “. . . all people who shared their stories in this book went on to become successful, experience teachers. They’re not administrators (who, don’t get me wrong, do important jobs). They’re not counselors (who also do important jobs). They’re not presenters or auditors from a downtown office (who do . . . jobs).”  This means that the advice is practical and other teachers have faced these same problems before and rose above it. As noted before, Elden has broken down the chapter into subtopics with steps to take and more stories. It is teaching, of course, there are always stories!

See Me After Class was written with an audience in mind, obviously teachers or people who are closely associated to education. Beyond that, this book really helps new teachers to have confidence that they are not the only ones with strings of bad days and how to step into the classroom the next Monday. Nevertheless, Elden’s book could strengthen experienced educators’ spirits and classrooms, but new teachers would benefit the most.

As a future teacher, I have read a number of ‘teaching books’ but See Me After Class is the best one yet. It is everything an educator wants insight on and stories that make you smile, laugh and pull out your hair. If books were graded on the 4.0 scale, it would be a 4.0 or in book language 5 stars!

 

see me after class

Hope?

Hope

it allows us to dream dreams

of heavens and royalty and love and other treasures

when we have nothing of the kind

when we have nothing

hope allows us to dream of having something

it can lift our spirits and guide our actions

hope allows for wonderful visions of the future

when the present is anything but wonderful

How glorious and empowering hope can be

***

Oh, but of dashed hopes

of false hope

of lost hope

of wrongful promises

of cracked dreams

of shattered faith

How disastrous that can be

How vengeful that can be

Of a man who had his trust, his faith, his everything

in his hope

and somehow, lost it all

How disastrous that can be

How vengeful that can be

He then sets his life mission to be

to thwart and reverse every action he had his hope in

Oh, to lose hope

How disastrous that can be

How vengeful that can be

one’s purpose seems to have vanished

one’s goal seems to be part of magician’s disappearing act

***

Hope

Hope is like a fire

it can create or it can destroy

it can give warmth and change things to a better state

or it can rip, rend, and sear its image on us.

Hope is like a fire

it can be the one thing between

life and death

sometimes the life giver

sometimes the death bringer

***

Hope seems to be able to bring us

to the highest heights

and yet the deepest depths

because power can work both ways

for and against us.

So is it right to hope at all?

***

To have shining, bright, up lifting hope

and yet to have

cracked, shattered, broken hope

Is it right to hope at all?

No

It is not right to have that kind of hope

hope that can be shattered like glass

is nothing to have hope in at all

something easily broken should not carry our dreams

for dreams are immense beings

that grow and change and have lives of their own

and a fragile container such as a glassy hope

is not fitting for dreams.

***

So dream dreams

and hope everyday

for things of risk

are things of reward


“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21

hope

It Was Written In the Sky

On a long bus ride, I was reading Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 over again. I can tell how good of a book it is by how much it has impacted me. This is going to be my fourth post inspired by it. Few books do that, where you read it and instead of wanting to just devour more of its glorious ink marks on tree pulp that was inspired by life itself, you want to compile the building thoughts from the novel and write about it.

But this time instead of applying a truth learned, I wish to write how I came upon the truth.

So there I was on the ten hour bus ride with 33 high school students who smelled like peanut butter and too much cologne. Did I mention that it was a ten hour bus ride? I think I did, but I’ll say it again, a ten hour bus ride . . .

With a book in my face and head phones (or should I say “Seashells”?) turned up loud playing Beethoven, I tried to block out the rap music and the girly-girl talk.

Across the country we went, mile after mile, page after page, song after song.

I was looking for wisdom and wonder in between the lines of a 63 year old book. Trying to block out the youthful folly around me.

Coming to one of the quotes from other books, I search for the quote on Google. While it loads, I look up.

So focused I had been on the book and on the teenagers that I tried to block out, that I had blocked out what had been transforming around me. Winter dreariness with bald trees and fallow fields, had been transformed to spring animation with blooming trees and sowed fields.

So focused on the inside, I had not looked outside. I had only seen one option, and by my lack of observation, I had deprived myself of choice.

In trying to find wisdom I originally looked to a book, and forgot the world.

What I was trying to find in a book was already written in the sky, all I had to do was look. Wisdom and wonder and life was written in the sky. No ink or graphite or typewriter or digital “little black box” needed. Only eyes or ears or hands or mouth or nose needed, to understand what was written in the sky.

Oh, how precious are books, yet even more precious are the things that inspire them.

After marveling at what had been out my window all those hours and miles and pages and songs, I looked back at my phone, and of course it was still loading.

I looked back out the window and wanted my phone to keep loading so that I would never have to look away.


“‘It’s not books you need, it’s some the things that once were in books . . . No, no it’s not books at all you’re looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.'”

-Page 79 in Fahrenheit 451