Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
by Mildred D. Taylor

This book! I just loved it. Through the eyes of a young African American girl named Cassie Logan we see the mounting racial tensions in a small Mississippi community in the 1930s. With her brothers, parents, and grandmother, she lives on a small farm that her family has owned for years.

I love the richness and diversely of the characters throughout the book. We see things from Cassie's point of view but we get to meet Jeremy, a young white boy who loves the Logan family and just wants to be part of it. We see his sister, who is na├»ve about her actions, a clear product of the prejudiced world in which she was raised. We see Cassie’s hothead Uncle Hammer and the damage that his attitude can have by escalating an already terrible state. We see the hopelessness of the sharecropper’s plight as they try to fight peaceably against the discrimination they are facing. We see Mr. Jamison who tries to stand up for them against the fellow white neighbors and we see the risk he’s willing to take. Each person plays their part, however small, in the fight against injustice.

The characters of T.J. and Stacey were particularly powerful. Stacey is in the midst of becoming a man and must learn how to deal with the anger and frustration he feels. T.J. is making the wrong decisions in life, but you’re left hoping he learns his lesson before it’s too late. I also loved the strength and courage of Cassie’s mother. She raises her children to have self-respect and quietly stands her ground as a teacher in the local school.

I can't believe I missed this book when I was younger. Although I went back and found a copy of another book that I loved when I was in grade school, called “Mississippi Bridge” and realize that not only is it by the same author, it's about the same characters!

I feel like this book would perfectly as a companion piece with To Kill a Mockingbird. It deals with the same issues in a similar time frame, but shows them from the opposite culture’s point of view. Cassie’s experience mirrors Scout’s, while Stacey’s mirrors Jem’s. The contrasting experiences would provide a great opportunity to give the issue more depth for students.

BOTTOM LINE: I loved it. The wonderfully written, diverse characters were empathetic and complex and made the book a must for my young adult keeper shelf in my library.

Wordless Wednesday: Cherry Blossoms

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C.
More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.

Visitation Street

Monday, April 27, 2015

Visitation Street 
by Ivy Pochoda

This mystery started out really strong for me, but it lost momentum somewhere in the middle. It all centers around the disappearance of a local girl one fateful night. 

The neighborhood of Visitation Street is so perfectly described, the heavy humidity, graffiti-tagged alleyways, the stench of garbage, etc. From the racial divisions to the encroaching crime, the reader feels like part of that dark world. We meet the owner of a local bodega who is just trying to get involved in the community, a widow who still hears the voice of her dead husband, a young girl grieving the loss of her friend, a musician who is a piano player in a drag club at night and a teacher in the local high school by day, a young black boy whose ambition is halted by his mother's failing health, and more. 

The characters are richly drawn and much more vivid than the plot. The writing is excellent and it's no surprise that Dennis Lehane was a big fan of the book. It reminded me quite a bit of his style and his gritty descriptions of Boston. 

I really struggle with the whole teacher-student relationship thing. It's so icky and no matter how well the author tries to show that it just happened and it's no one's fault, in my mind there is an adult and there is a child and there is one person who should clearly be making better decisions. I just can't get behind that story. 

I also had a hard time with the characters that seemed to have no purpose. They would be briefly mentioned, but it felt like their story didn’t go too far. Others seemed important but weren’t as interesting. 

BOTTOM LINE: I loved certain aspects of this novel, like the writing, but the plot fell apart a bit at the end for me. It felt like it was almost there, but never quite came together. I would definitely read another book by this author and I would hope that she would just keep getting better with time.

Dewey 24 Hour Readathon!

Friday, April 24, 2015

*********  UPDATED HOUR 24 ********
I was doing so good, but I keep falling asleep. I am going to keep reading as long as I can, but I might be done for the night. I'll try to get up early and read a bit more then. 

Ok, I've been asleep, but I'm back for the final hour and a half!

Pages Read: 1,507 pages
Currently Reading: Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan, Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale, I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron 

Books Finished: 7 - Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Interworld by Neil Gaiman, The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamill, Girl Walks into a Bar... by Rachel Dratch, Berlin: Part 1 by Jason Lute, Crow Call by Lois Lowry
Breaks Taken: Tons, to cheer, do mini challenges, a bit of yoga, a dinner with the Huz
Snacks Eaten: Raspberries, coffee, apple chips, salad for lunch, guacamole, fish for dinner, mint milano cookies, amazing breakfast made by the Huz.
Mini-Challenges Completed: 17

Blogs Visited and Commented On: 74

You can also find me here on Instagram, Twitter, and LibraryThing

End of Event Meme: 
1) Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour 17, I kept nodding off.  

2) Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Interworld by Neil Gaiman, The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo, Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

3) Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I was a little confused if the mini challenge winners were being announced on the main blog (like past years) or on individual blogs. I probably just missed a note saying one way or the other. 

4) What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Heather absolutely rocked the cheerleader coordination! There were so many readers, but we were all split into teams. I also felt like there was a lot of great promotion of the event before the big day.

5) How many books did you read? 7 completed, three more that I got halfway through. 

6) What were the names of the books you read? Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Interworld by Neil Gaiman, The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo, Girl Walks into a Bar... by Rachel Dratch, Berlin: Part 1 by Jason Lutes, Crow Call by Lois Lowry, Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan, Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale , I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron 

7) Which book did you enjoy most? Asterios Polyp and The Tiger Rising were both powerful stories in very different ways.

8) Which did you enjoy least? Berlin was good, but maybe too detailed/complicated for the later hours of the readathon. 

9) If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I really like splitting up my cheering instead of doing it all in one or two hours. I cheered for 5 or so blogs every hour and then went back to reading.  

10) How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Yes, of course!!! I will probably read and cheer and maybe host a mini challenge.

Mini Challenge Hour 18: Best of your reading year, hosted here.
Best Main Character of Your Reading Year: Elnora from A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter. Elnora is such a unique character. She is stubborn and driven to succeed. She's fiercely intelligent but incredibly compassionate. She is patient, giving her mother the benefit of the doubt for years. She's a hard worker, willing to make money to achieve her dreams. She has self-respect and is willing to sacrifice in order to find true happiness.

Best Setting of Your Reading Year: Middle Earth from J. R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I reread the books this year and was once again blown away by the intricasies of the world he created. The different races, the different lands, the whole world comes alive for readers. 

Best Story Line of Your Reading Year: I just loved the plot of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I was hooked from the first chapter and the traveling Shakespeare performers in a post-apocalyptic world were just enthralling from start to finish.

Mini Challenge Hour 16: Hosted here and posted in the comments. 

Mini Challenge Hour 15: Hosted here and posted in the comments. 

Mini Challenge Hour 14: Hosted here and posted on Instagram. 

Mini Challenge Hour 13: Hosted here and posted in the comments. 

Mid-Event Survey: Hour 12:
1. What are you reading right now? Midnight in Austenland, I need something lighter because I was hitting a wall with Berlin.
2. How many books have you read so far? Four completed and in the midst of 3 others.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Inherit the Wind, I can't believe I haven't picked it up yet!
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I've stopped to cheer a lot. Other than that I haven't had too many interruptions.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I thought I would have napped by now. This has been the smoothest readathon I've done so far! 

Mini Challenge Hour 11: Hosted here and posted in the comments. 

Mini Challenge Hour 10: Hosted here and posted in the comments. 

Mini Challenge Hour 9: Hosted here and posted in the comments.

Mini Challenge Hour 7: Hosted here and posted to Twitter

Mini Challenge Hour 3: Hosted here and posted to Instagram

Mini Challenge Hour 2: Classic Words of Wisdom hosted by A Literary Odyssey

“Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life…And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.” — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I've always loved that quote (and that book!) because it's how I want to live my life. So many people put off the things they want to do, but you never know how much time you have. I want to make every single minute of my life count!

Introduction Quiz:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Indianapolis, IN

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee and Gaiman's Interworld. 

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Guacamole and Roasted Coconut Chips from Trader Joe's, but not together.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! By day I’m an editor of a monthly magazine. I also review live theatre once a week. I'm one of the moderators at The Classics Club Blog. I am hopeless at keeping plants alive, but I manage to do just fine with my 80 lb. lap dog named Ollie.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? This is my 8th readathon (I've linked to the others at the bottom of the post). I think I’m going to try walking on the treadmill and listening to an audiobook at some point. I always make the mistake of not moving enough.  
Tomorrow is the Dewey Readathon! This will be my 8th time participating in the event. Every April and October, if other obligations don’t get in the way, I spend one whole day reading. It’s always so much fun and I get a ton of reading done. There’s a great sense of community, mini-challenges each hour, cheerleaders and prizes.  Heather and Andi are the incredible ladies who help organize the whole thing and you can get more details at the official site
Tomorrow I will be reading from 8 am until whenever I fall asleep. I have my stack of books ready to go (see my pile above) and I will be cheering for at least 4 hours. 

- I will be updating this post throughout the day so I don’t bomb people with half a dozen new posts.
- Please turn off your comment word verification for the day! It’s such a pain for cheerleaders.
- Tweet about your day with the hashtag #Readathon or by tagging @readathon 


April and October 2011  /  April and October 2012 / April and October 2013 / April 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Snorkeling

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Underwater shots from snorkeling in Fiji.
More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
by David Sedaris

This was one of my favorite Sedaris books that I've read in a long time. Some of his recent collections have been hit or miss with me, but this one had me cracking up over and over again. Whether he's talking about travel in Asia, colonoscopies, picking up litter in France, losing his passport, or checking out the local taxidermist, I was literally laughing out loud and that doesn't happen often. There are a few pieces at the very end of the book which should have just been cut. They don’t add anything and they detract from the overall strength of the collection. Those essays aside, it’s one of his best in years.

I will say his tone with regards to his father felt much more severe in this book that it has in past ones. I found myself wondering if some of that came from the natural reflections on his childhood the farther his is away from it. He’s always used his crazy family and odd childhood as fodder for his books, but this tone felt harsher. At the same time, some of his other stories, like a chance meeting on a train, felt sweetly nostalgic.

As always with Sedaris’ work, I love listening to it because it's always read by the author. I can hardly read hardcopies of his stories without hearing his strange nasally voice accompanying them. Somehow it just makes everything funnier. He pauses at the most perfect moments in every single story to get the biggest laughs.

BOTTOM LINE: His last few books had made me wonder if I’d just grown out of his sense of humor. This one made it clear that I haven’t. Start with an earlier collection if you’ve never tried him, but make sure you read this one if you’re already a fan.

“I've become like one of those people I hate, the sort who go to the museum and, instead of looking at the magnificent Brueghel, take a picture of it, reducing it from art to proof. It's not "Look what Brueghel did, painted this masterpiece" but "Look what I did, went to Rotterdam and stood in front of a Brueghel painting!”

“For an American, though, Australia seems pretty familiar: same wide streets, same office towers. It’s Canada in a thong, or that’s the initial impression.”