10.18.2014

The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin

A few weeks ago, when I finished the first book in a wonderful series for young readers (The Wilderking Trilogy by Jonathan Rogers), I took a look at my reading log (a new thing I'm doing with my students) and realized I had a decided lack of color and femaleness in my selections. I don't always pay attention to such things, but because I'm requiring my students to see some diversity in their reading year, I chose N. K. Jemisin's The Killing Moon for my next read.

This one landed in my house as part of my first Book Riot Quarterly box in May, and I hadn't gotten around to it. In fact, this is the first Book Riot Quarterly book I've read yet. Alas. I'm glad I picked it up because it is a good one. Go now to Jemisin's website, and you can read the first few chapters yourself.

An excellent example of fantasy layered on historical fiction, The Killing Moon is set in Gujaareh, where peace is maintained by the Hatawa. This peace is built on the work that Gatherers and Sharers do - the Gatherers collect a tithe offered by the sick and the dying and the Sharers heal by using this tithe. This tithe is housed in the power of dreams, the dreamblood that is part of every soul as it is tethered to this earth and that is released when that tether is severed and the tithebearer goes peacefully to Ina-Karekh for eternity. It is an interesting concept, and the built world unfolds just right in this book - not too quickly, leaving the reader some good bits to chew over before new information is added.

The plot centers around Ehiru, a master Gatherer, and his apprentice Nijiri. Together with an ambassador/spy from a neighboring country, they uncover corruption within the leadership of their Hatawa and the Princedom, and though the plot is not complicated, it is still suspenseful and enjoyable. Jemisin's writing is even and thought-provoking, and though I didn't underline or pause long on any other of her fine sentences, this one is well-worth holding on to:
True peace required the presence of justice, not just the absence of conflict. (335)
That line speaks truths a-plenty.

The Killing Moon is the first of two books in The Dreamblood series. I probably won't read the next one, but this one was fun and makes for a good recommendation to my fantasy-loving high school students.

10.10.2014

You've Got Mail

What reader doesn't love this movie? Actually, don't tell me. I don't even want to know you. Some time ago, I watched this movie again and made the following notes:

  • Starbucks is genius - it sells coffee and a defining sense of self
  • This movie is good despite Meg Ryan not because of her
  • Tom Hanks is brilliant. I want to watch Big now after watching him in that boat at the carnival
  • "I lead a small life. Well, valuable but small, and sometimes I wonder: do I do it because I like it? Or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book when shouldn't it be the other way around?"
  • So many annoying things: Why does she have THREE employees? What bookstore ever had the phones ringing and people at the door when it opened? And why a chapter book (Boy) during storytime? Ok. Maybe that last one doesn't totally annoy me, but curious still.
  • "It was that she was helping people become whoever they were going to turn out to be because when you read a book as a child it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life ever does."
  • Steve Zahn!! Mossy!!
  • Why would they ALL be at the NYC Fox Books all the time? Don't they have corporate offices?
Obviously, these are just a few small thoughts. And now that I'm typing this up, I may just have to watch it all again. Sigh.

10.05.2014

Random Thoughts, Some About Teenagers

I meant to promise to post once a month. Not once a week. I didn't mean it. 

Oops. 

In humility, I offer a few random thoughts for your Sunday night:

1. I've been grading Poetry notebooks, an assignment where students have to read poems until they find 5 they like, collect them in a notebook, and reflect on two of them. Some of the poems surprised me and even made me want to add them to my notebook. Some, on the other hand, were repeated so frequently I began to wonder what they revealed about my students. The most frequent poems? "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou, "If" by Rudyard Kipling, "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe, and "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost. What does that tell me? That they all desire to be sassy, black women and strong young men who stay in love even after their childhood loves die, who take the uncharted path, and who aren't sure how the world will end? Hmmm....

2. Enos. My husband said I should title this post "Eno"ugh Already. He's funny. Not funny was watching three girls hanging an Eno from two immature trees in our downtown riverwalk area and then getting frustrated when a park employee told them they couldn't hammock there. I've decided the Eno is the single-greatest totem of today's young people. It covers all their complexities. They are burdened by stress, claiming to have hours of homework (though studies indicate they don't have more work than their predecessors). It makes sense, then, that they would need to carry with them the possibility of comfortable lounging at all times. You've got to have somewhere to put all that stress. Also, these things encase the user. It's not uncommon to find a pod of three of four enos together, with all the hammock residents safely ensconced inside. They are together but apart. Probably on instagram or tumblr. Like toddlers with parallel play but bigger. Finally, they like to be seen in their Enos. It's like wanting to be seen on instagram - always on, always visible, always obscuring the person within.

3. When I was 14, I asked for and received a hammock for my birthday. An old cotton rope hammock, no pillow. I loved it. I read for hours in that thing. Just me and a book and sometimes a blanket. It was never my aim to be seen in my hammock. In fact, decidedly the opposite.

4. Though I will try to argue otherwise in April and again in June, Fall is definitely my favorite season.

5. I ran 9 miles today, and it felt good. Half-marathon in two weeks. Then what?

6. I do not understand high school football and the fervor that surrounds it. Granted, the school I attended did not (and still does not) have a football team, but I cannot imagine being a grown-up with a real job, living across the country, and tuning in to watch your high school team play football on T.V. I do not understand making a young man feel that his athletic abilities are the most important thing on the planet, even for a few hours. I do not understand.

7. I need to grade some more.