Posted in Reading

Reading During the Pandemic

It’s been five months since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country, shutting down schools and businesses and sending us to our homes like children being sent to their rooms to think about what they’ve done.

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There is nothing good about COVID-19, but I’d be lying if I said the stay-home situation didn’t come with a few perks. For some, long commutes have been shortened to the walk from the bedroom to the home office, and although we can’t see friends in person, the switch to online meetings has allowed people to hang out in new ways. Some virtual gatherings have actually been larger than their real world counterparts because people who couldn’t attend due to distance can now participate.

For me, one of the benefits of this stressful situation has been the extra time to read.

Can’t go anywhere interesting? Read.
Got insomnia due to anxiety? Read.
Avoiding household chores? Read.
More walks mean more audio books.
Fewer friend gatherings mean more pages.
Ever-present bad news means greater need to escape reality.

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My dad saved this comic strip for me, which is why it has my name on it. 🙂 It hangs on my wall.

I’ve finished thirty-two books since March 13th, reading eight in June alone. Although I wish my summer had included travel and swimming and brunch and kickball games, this time with books was time well spent. Here are a few of the standouts.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, finished March 28th

This is the book that bridged the gap between the real world and the pandemic world. I started it before everything shut down and finished it after. I spent a lot of time reading it in the porch bed I made for myself. (I spent a lot of time in that porch bed this spring and plan to recreate it in the fall when the weather is cooler.) Magpie Murders is a clever murder-mystery-within-a-murder-mystery that was a nice distraction during troubling times.

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin, finished May 18th

24807186This YA alternate history was much more engaging than I expected. I listened to the audio book, and I found myself taking longer walks so I could hear more of the story. Set in a world where the Nazis won the war, the plot is about a Jewish girl on a quest to kill Hitler. The experiments conducted on her as a child in the concentration camps turned her into a shape-shifter. Now she’s working with the resistance and using her unusual gift to masquerade as someone else in order to win (hopefully) a high-profile motorcycle race which will give her the chance she needs to assassinate the dictator. The book is fast-paced with ample twists, and the sequel is equally good.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, finished May 25th

32191710._SY475_The universe is BIG. Like, blow-your-mind-and-make-you-want-to-crawl-under-the-covers-and-hide big. I love listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson talk, and he narrates the audiobook himself, so I highly recommend you listen to it. It’s not very long and is really interesting. I didn’t understand everything in it, but Tyson has a way of explaining things so that even non-scientists can grasp them.

*Funny story: I first started listening to this one night and accidentally fell asleep with it playing. I had the most irritating dream where my husband was following me everywhere talking about physics, and I couldn’t get him to stop. Walking the dog– talking about physics. Shopping at CVS– talking about physics. I kept saying, “Be quiet!” but he wouldn’t. I was SO annoyed with him! Lol. However, once I tried listening to book while awake, I really enjoyed it and did not fine Neil deGrasse Tyson annoying at all.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, finished May 31st

This novel about a man sentenced to house arrest in a Russian hotel is one of my favorite books. I read it and loved it in 2018 and then re-read it and loved it even more this summer. This funny, touching, thought-provoking story full of unique and lovable characters is the perfect companion for when you’re stuck at home and lamenting your inability to go anywhere. It wins for the most sticky notes I’ve ever left in a book.

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths, finished June 26th

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My mom recommended this book to me, and I’m glad she did. It’s a murder mystery about a high school English teacher who’s also a writer and who’s obsessed with a horror story written by a mysterious deceased author whose study was located in the attic of her school. Oh, and it’s also a ghost story. Um… check, check, check, check, check. This book was right up my alley! Despite all the gruesome murders, it still felt like a fun escape from the world.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga, finished July 11th

IMG_20200816_125101This middle grade novel-in-verse about a Syrian girl who moves to America really grabbed my heart. The writing is excellent, the main character is clever and relatable, and the struggles she goes through are perfect for middle school readers who have had to learn how to straddle two cultures and for those who haven’t. I marked so many memorable lines, including:

Americans love labels.
They help them know what to expect.
Sometimes, though,
I think labels stop them from
thinking.

And…

Hoping,
I’m starting to think,

might be the bravest thing a person can do.

I recommend this book to kids and adults alike.

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater, finished July 17th

33155325._SY475_On November 4, 2013, on a city bus in Oakland, California, a black teenage boy named Richard flicked a lighter at the hem of the skirt worn by an agender teenager named Sasha. Within seconds, the skirt went up in flames, severely burning Sasha and changing both of their lives. The 57 Bus tells the story of these two teens and their very different backgrounds and the consequences of a moment. This was a hard book to read but an important one that has me thinking about my role as an educator and a citizen and a human and how I can help create a society where the Sashas and the Richards of the world can both live safe, successful lives.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, finished July 29th

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This slow, creeping, ultimately sad horror novel is full of atmosphere and subtle but persistent spookiness. Writers are told that their endings should be both surprising and inevitable, and Susan Hill nails it. This book is still on my mind weeks after reading it.

 

Love, Teach: Real Stories and Honest Advice to Keep Teachers from Crying Under Their Desks by Kelly Treleaven, finished August 3rd

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Ignore the very messy desk in the background, please.

I have been reading the Love, Teach Blog for years, and I’m so excited that Kelly Treleaven’s book is finally in the world! Her combination of humor, heart, and crazy competent teaching advice has gained her a huge following of tired, stressed, but fiercely dedicated teachers who are thankful for her unflinching honesty and welcoming kinship in a profession where it’s really true that anything can happen. Treleaven’s book has fewer funny stories about “whisper turtlenecks” and the time she was late for work because she got a squirrel stuck on her head (true– there’s a video), but it is jam-packed with super useful tips about everything from setting up your classroom to dealing with unsupportive administrators. But don’t worry. Even though the book is serious in its mission to help teachers through the rough parts of the profession, there are still plenty of quirky stories and embarrassing moments sprinkled throughout. It made me both laugh and cry (but not under my desk). The book is aimed at first year teachers, but I’ve been in the classroom for twenty years and still found so much of the advice inside helpful. I recommend it for teachers of all ages, all content, and all stages of their career. You won’t find a more honest and heartfelt guide to education anywhere.

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What books have kept you from going crazy during the pandemic?

 

Posted in Lists, Reading

Carie’s Quarantine Reading List

Here’s a list of books to read during the apocalypse social distancing due to the Coronavirus. There’s something here for everyone.

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1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

If you aren’t freaking out enough about COVID-19, read this science fiction novel about a pandemic that wipes out most of the world.

2. Greenglass House by Kate Milford

If you’re freaking out too much about COVID-19, read this heart-warming middle grade mystery about a family snowed in at their cozy, ramshackle inn with several intriguing guests. Read my full review of this wonderful book here.

3. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Another heart-warming hotel story. This beautiful novel about a man who spends forty years in house arrest in a hotel is one of my favorite books. I highly recommend it.

4. The Shining by Stephen King

If you like hotels, but heart-warming isn’t your thing, read this very different story of a family snowed in at a large, haunted hotel. Read my post about this awesome horror novel here.

5. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Constance and Merricat are pros at social distancing. This unsettling book from the POV of that “weird house” in the neighborhood stayed with me long after I read it.

6. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

From Goodreads: “Days stretch into weeks, the weeks into months. Joined by no common language except music, the 58 international hostages and their captors forge unexpected bonds.” If you’re stuck in a foreign country or experiencing an unexpectedly extended vacation, check out this beautifully-written novel about a non-voluntary shelter-in-place scenario.

7. Surviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083 by Andrea White

This dystopian YA novel takes a look at the future of remote learning. Spoiler alert: It involves reenactments of historical tragedies and kids unknowingly having cameras inserted into their eyes to film their plight for the world.

8. Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott

This YA romance shows how you can still find love during social distancing.

9. The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Just in case this turns into the zombie apocalypse, we should all be informed.

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10. Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle

Because these are strange times we live in and these cartoons will make you smile.

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Happy reading! Remember, stay home & stay safe.

Posted in Reading

Marketable Mashups: The World Needs These Books!

This is the time of year when everyone is posting lists of books they’ve read. But what about all the books we WANT to read? And more importantly, what about all the books we WISH we could read, but we can’t because they haven’t been written yet?

I’m a big fan of cool musical mashups. Give me Glee, give me Pitch Perfect, give me more more more of that awesome dance scene in A Knight’s Tale. TV crossovers are fun too. I get a kick out of seeing the ER doctors guest star on Friends, and that episode of The Simpsons with Mulder and Scully from The X-Files is still one of my all-time favorite pieces of television. So… why not apply this cross-contamination amazing plot blending to our favorite books? I mean, come on, who WOULDN’T want to read these future best-sellers?

10 Literary Mashups That Need to Be Written ASAP:

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* On THE ROAD

A beatnik narrates his carefree travels through an apocalyptic landscape.

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* Something WICKED This Way Comes

One Halloween night, a carnival comes to Green Town, Illinois, bringing with it a misunderstood little girl named Elphaba and a cast of talking animals who sometimes break into song.

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* Emma Eyre

When witty, precocious young Emma becomes governess at Thornfield Hall, she tries to play matchmaker for grumpy old Edward Rochester by reuniting him with his wife, Bertha, but things do not go as planned.

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* We Have Always Lived in the House of Leaves

Constance and her sister Merricat live in a house that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside with their insane uncle who continually writes his memoirs over and over again, sometimes backwards, sometimes upside down, sometimes with only one word per page.

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* Anne of Green Eggs and Ham

Desperate not to be sent back to the orphanage, an orphan girl attempts to endear herself to her new family, school, and town by offering everyone she meets a unique home-cooked meal.

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* The Martian Chronicles of Narnia

Four children discover a magical wardrobe that leads to the harsh landscapes of Mars. Will the children succeed in colonizing the red planet? Or will they succumb to the Great Loneliness and perish?

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* The Lord of the RING

A Hobbit named Frodo receives a mysterious videotape that warns him he will die if he doesn’t journey across Middle-earth to cast it into the Cracks of Doom.

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* Life of Pie

When Alice’s Aunt Polly dies and leaves her famous pie recipe to Lardo the cat, Alice goes on a quest to learn the delicious secret, which takes her on a 227-day journey in a rowboat with Lardo.

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* Knuffle Bunnicula

Trixie adores her beloved stuffed toy, but when plush vegetables turn up with their stuffing removed, her parents begin to wonder. Could Knuffle Bunny be… a vampire?

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* Gone with the Wind in the Willows

An epic Civil War drama about the lives, tragedies, and tangled love affairs of a mole, a badger, and a toad.

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Ok, people, let’s make this happen. Get to writing.