Category Archives: Lindsay

Small Space Bookcase

This week has been an emotional one. I’m less than 2 weeks away from having my Master’s, I’m applying for jobs (as in like, the real deal), and my hubby and I had a big shift in perspective about our futures.

We have never been… conventional. That’s not to knock conventional! Things usually become the norm for good reason. However, we have been thinking about buying a home for years and something has always held us back. Yes, that “something” has generally been our existing lease, but even when we talked and planned, it felt like we were discussing compromises more than opportunities. I’ll be up front with you all, we’re going to have a humble budget. And as we should! At the end of the day, I’m a teacher and the hubs will eventually get his nursing degree, so we have no delusions of grandeur. I’ve always imagined myself living in a small cottage (with Hannah and a million puppies, but I digress), so when my husband suggested that we guy land and construct a yurt, it was one of those EUREKA (*insert mental image of a light bulb lighting up*) moments.

OF COURSE!! Land and privacy have always trumped square footage for me, plus it would give us the space and opportunity to work with solar panels, composting, and other “off the grid” tools. Needless to say, literally from that moment on, I have functioned in society while dedicating a (sometimes small, other times large) portion of my thoughts to yurt life. I won’t go into detail about all the many things we’ve had to consider since this is a book blog, but you can probably see where this going. Reducing my living space risks book space! I won’t lie to you; this was a huge consideration for me. Although the prospect of getting rid of needless items thrills me, books are not needless. I cannot live in a space that does not afford space for the wellsprings of my life. Thus, an obsession was born: the tiny space bookcase.

One thing you have to plan for with small spaces is that every inch of that space needs to be considered for utility, storage, or both. Things like staircases to the loft should never just be stairs. That’s a perfect space to allow for maximized usage.

Don’t forget about wall space. Now, a yurt will have roof studs for hanging shelving and lattice walls that won’t support much weight. That space still needs to be used, though, so leaning or standing shelves can serve the purpose.

We’ll have a few walls that will separate the bad and bath areas, so there will be precious small room for hanging things. This means bookcases and shelves need to be able to hold books, pictures, and potted plants (I aim for our home to look like Fern Gully always). There are sets like this one that you can buy online, but you only have to be moderately skilled with a screwdriver to buy the materials and do it yourself.

One thing that excites me is that the rolling ladder as seen in Beauty and the Beast is a distinct possibility. A 30′ yurt will allow for a pretty sizable loft space and we want a ladder for accessing it. If we use the wall built for the aforementioned bed/bath, we can create shelving across the whole wall with a rolling ladder so we can access books on the living side and dishes in the kitchen area. It’s not only possible, but practical!

Another consideration for having a tiny space, be it a yurt, a “tiny home” construction, or even a converted storage container, is security. Of course, whatever structure we choose will be secured and monitored, but you can never be too sure that your most valued possessions are safe. I found this idea on Pinterest and it would be a great addition to our small space, or any home!

Is anyone else rocking a small space bookcase? Let’s have a look!

 

 

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Book Tag: New York Times by the Book

As mentioned earlier, we were graciously nominated for this book tag by Dr. Awkto at The Inky Awkto. Thanks so much! These are always so much fun and such a nice change of pace amongst my blathering about teaching and books. Let’s go!

What book is on your nightstand right now?

I have several books on my nightstand right now. I’m finishing up Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles (so Bekah and I can do another podcast. SPACE BOOKS!); I’ve paused The Perks of Being a Wallflower since it makes me supremely uncomfortable, but it’s there to remind me that it’s unfinished; and lastly, Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle is next for me, so it is sitting there to motivate me to hurry.

22466429What was the last truly great book you read?

David Arnold’s Kids of Appetite. I got this book at ALAN and I now wish I had run around to find David Arnold and talk to him, since his writing style is just a seamless flow of sarcastic but meaningful thoughts and dialogue. I fancy myself sarcastic but meaningful, so I imagine our convo would’ve been book worthy.

If you could meet one author (living or dead), who would it be? What would you ask?

Tolkien, obvs. I think I’d have to ask “What the heck is Tom Bombadil?! Man? Spirit? Nature or Time itself?! Tell meeeeee!”

What books might we be surprised to see on your shelf?

I think the only book I’ve read that surprised someone (presh student) was a book on bird watching. I did a great deal of bird watching in college, so I’ve combed through the National Geographic Birds of North America guide more than a time or two.

How do you organize your personal library?

I have (currently) 3 major bookshelves. The main bookshelf is the one that I made with my father. It has a sort of jigsaw style and each shelf means something. It is where I house my favorites, not like “oh, I enjoyed that” but like, “this book changed me.” Thus, it is home to HP, LOTR, & RR, plus Dracula, Jekyll/Hyde, Frankenstein, Beowulf and all their friends.

The other two bookshelves are arranged with textbooks (my teaching and the hubby’s medical texts), adult fiction and non-fiction that we will keep, and young adult texts that will eventually move to my classroom. Which means I need another bookcase!!

What book have you always meant to read but haven’t gotten around to yet?

All of them, right?! If I had to pick one, I guess it would be Heart of Darkness or some other classic that I just haven’t yet met.

22752127Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn’t?

I hate to say it but I really couldn’t get into The Serpent King. I wrote about it in a recent post, so I’ll spare you the many details, but suffice it to say that it made me sad in a way that didn’t feel… productive??

What kind of stories are you drawn to?

I try to be versatile, but when the choice is mine, I usually pick up something related to WWII or the Holocaust, be it fiction or non, or a scifi/fantasy work.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

This is dicey and I try to avoid politics, so I’ll just say that I’d recommend All American Boys and be done with it.

What do you plan to read next?

As mentioned above, Grasshopper Jungle is awaiting my attention.

Thanks again for the nomination and I hope you all enjoyed this interlude from the teacher ruminations. That simply leaves me to the nominations, so here they are!

The Orangutan Librarian, Read Voraciously, The Critiquing Chemist, Zezee with Books

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Re-reading Things Because I Must: Part 1

Many years ago, not long after Hannah and I started this blog, I ruminated on how the simple task of assigning a text to a high school student pretty much guarantees that said student will HATE said book, not because it is particularly hatable, but because it is mandatory. Interestingly enough, I wrote this long before I decided to become a teacher, so not only do I now think I have some level of prophetic ability, but 40+ hours a week, I’m just swimming in the relevancy of that statement.

Everything I got to teach this year, I had read previously. See my Re-Read or Not post to review my feelings on this. We started the semester talking about To Kill a Mockingbird, which was as heavy as ever. We then moved on to Lord of the Flies, a text about which I blogged and faithful readers might recall that it ended with the statement, “I’ll never pick it up again.” PSYCH! I did pick it up again, but only because I had to do so in order to make sure that when my students had questions, I was able to answer them. When my students didn’t understand the text, I was able to explain it. When they didn’t see the point in reading it, I was able to prompt them to think about it another way.

I’ll go ahead and say that I still do not like this book. Most of the kids did not like it, either. HOWEVER, through teaching it with a central theme and alongside supplementary texts, I truly do see why it is still relevant to be read by young readers. Students started the unit reflecting on the prompt, “all humans have the capacity for brutality.” They placed themselves on a Story Spectrum based on where they fell between totally agree and totally disagree.

While reading LotF outside of class, we read “The Lottery,” “Harrison Bergeron,” and an article about the Stanford Prison Experiment in class.
Each time we finished one, they moved their name on the Spectrum to match how/whether their opinions on the prompt had changed. As you can see, there was a massive amount of movement and progression of thought, and I’m THRILLED with the amount of meaning that the students extracted from the unit.

 

spectrum

The final project for this unit was for students to get into groups and record a podcast where they discussed their progressions of opinion. These podcasts were some of the most profound discussions I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear. I’m honored to have been a part of those insights.

I’ve completed two other units this semester, both of which had primary texts that I had to re-read, as well as supplementary texts that I added to the unit in order to enhance an overall central theme. I’ll work on posts for these units in the next few days, because I’M ON SPRING BREAK!!! I’ve also recently been addicted to a book, so I need to spew about that, and I also completed a book that was on my New Year’s Recommendations post. Plus, we’ve graciously been nominated for a few awards, so I need to get to those. Hopefully, lots to come, folks!

 

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Masochistic Reading

WHY?! Why do I read things that hurt me?!

I just finished Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King and I’m SO DEPRESSED!! My Goodreads review simply stated, “this was sad 75% of the time, and I’m not about that life,” but AM I?

I am known for my commitment to intake as much WWII and Holocaust information as I can (seriously, I imagine my Nexflix documentary history has me on some sort of watch list). Now, we all know how those stories turn out; aside from the general overthrow of the Nazi party, there is very little about that time that was… uplifting. Every time I read Holocaust literature, it makes me cry. It gives me nightmares. It weighs on me as I continue living my privileged life. Nevertheless, as soon as I finish one, I anticipate which will be next. If these stories continue to break my heart, why do I continue to seek out more? In this particular case, it’s hard to explain, but it’s a matter of respect and remembrance. My life has been beautifully and blessedly persecution-free, so the least I can do is read the stories of those who have endured things beyond my comprehension in order to give respect where respect is undoubtedly due.

If you know anything about The Serpent King, you may be asking, “why are you rambling about the Holocaust?” Valid question, since Zentner’s work has nothing to do with WWII. However, similarly, it was crushingly sad for the majority of the novel. It tells the story of three high school kids living in a poor, rural area in Tennessee. It addresses difficult topics like domestic abuse, child pornography charges, being disowned by one’s own parents, depression, bullying, and the loss of a loved one. It was heavy and disheartening, and I know of at least 5 trustworthy reader friends who LOVED IT. WHY?!?!?! Why love this? Yes, I’m from the South so yes, I find the small-town characteristics to be relatable. Aside from that, nothing about this book was relatable. I wasn’t bullied or “othered” in high school, I don’t find myself swimming in a sea of racism every time I go home to southern Georgia, I didn’t endure alcoholism or abuse or extreme poverty during my childhood and I didn’t watch friends endure it. This depiction of life in the South is far more severe than my actual experiences while growing up there, so why did others from the South recommend it to me?

I think we all have our own “thing.” That something that speaks to you and calls out to your interests. Whereas Holocaust literature is something that educates me on the experiences of a certain peoples, it may be Southern Lit that educates others. Again, my privileged childhood may be the reason that I can’t find solace in this depiction that directly contradicts my own experiences, but it may parallel the experiences of others. And sadly, it may parallel the experiences of my current and/or future students. I couldn’t disconnect the experiences of the protagonists with the possibilities that my own students are enduring these horrible circumstances, which further contributed to my depressed state. This book hurt my heart; I will NOT seek out more books like it, nor will I recommend it to anyone who enjoys being happy and unburdened. The fact still stands, though, that people I trust derived joy from this text. It caused them sorrow; it made them cry; and yet they value it. Book masochism at its finest.

First of all, sorry for all the caps. The wound is still fresh. Secondly, does anyone else experience this? Are there any stories that cause you pain but you just keep coming back for more?

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2016: What Would You Recommend…?

I’m seeing a lot of Year End Summary posts, and they’re really making my TBR explode with all the texts I now feel inclined to read! I thought about reviewing the best and worst reading experiences of 2016, but I feel that I need to exercise my recommendation muscles more urgently than I need to say what I liked and disliked.

I hear you asking me ,”Why?” As a future teacher, I understand that my likes and dislikes actually mean very little to teenage readers who, believe it or not, will not think I’m even moderately cool. It doesn’t matter whether I like or dislike a book; it just matters that students are exposed to as many texts as possible so that, among the masses, each kid can find something that appeals to his/her interests. One way to increase exposure to texts is through Book Talks; another way is to recommend a text based on that individual’s interests, not my own interests!

SO!! Today, we’re trying something new and I’m calling it a Challenge! My rules for myself are very simple: when recommending a book, you must do one of the following:

  • Recommend a book that you read in 2016.
  • If you know of a book that suits the reader but haven’t yet read it, hereby vow to read it in 2017.

The point is that, at least for me as a teacher, every year needs to be filled with diverse texts so that I am better equipped to make recommendations. If there is a category or type that I didn’t fulfill throughout all of 2016, that is a problem that I can easily fix in 2017! This makes me a more well-rounded member of society and a way better teacher of diverse little humans. Win-win! So, without further ado…

What Would You Recommend To:

Peter:
Age: 14.
Interests: Video games, technology, virtual reality, outer space, scifi, D&D
Books He LikedEnder’s Game, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
RecommendationReady Player One is the obvious option, although I feel like this kid would have found that one and devoured it already. I might also suggest Eragon. I, personally, didn’t care for it but it’s akin to Le Guinn’s work & gauging his reaction can help with future recommendations.

Matilda:
Age: 17.
Interests: Writing, reading, feminist culture, the arts, deep conversations about touchy issues.
Books She LikedWar and Peace, The Handmaid’s Tale, anything Jane Austen.
Recommendation: Definitely The Bell Jar. Definitely.

Alex:
Age: 21.
Interests: reading, creative writing, poetry, LGBTQ issues, social activism, gender anonymity, identity exploration, politics
Books She LikedThe Lord of the Rings Series, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Ask the Passengers
Recommendation: Alex is exploring her own identity indiviually, meaning that it is a private experience into which I do not wish to intrude. Some Assembly Required would NOT be a book that I openly recommend, but rather would introduce through book talks, making it available but not overt.

Mike:
Age: 12
Interests: Adult cartoons (not like “adult” but just cartoons for adults), comic books, graphic novels, superheroes, origin stories, action, Star Wars
Books He Liked: all Marvel & DC comics, Archie comics, Percy Jackson books
Recommendation: This kid gets a graphic novel, for sure. Unfortunately, the only one I read in 2016 was Nimona, which I loved, but feels a little too on the nose. I got a copy of Gareth Hinds’ graphic novel of The Odyssey from my beautiful butterfly of a professor and I hereby add it to my list, since I’m hoping this will be the perfect segue from his existing interests into heavier mythology (always the ultimate goal!).

Taylor:
Age: 28
Interests: Series works, Scifi/Fantasy, outer space, environmental science, outdoor activities, non-fiction medical/scientific literature
Books He LikedA Game of Thrones Series, The Martian, Expanse Series, The Mechanical
Recommendation: This one is based on my husband; we’ve introduced each other to some great fandoms over the years and I think this one is next. I read Sleeping Giants this year in the midst of my X-Files mania and I think it’s right up his alley.

Adam:
Age: 17
Interests: team sports, chicks, weight lifting, writing, sports books & magazines, his yellow lab, college scholarship (sports and academics), reading
Books He Liked: Grasshopper Jungle, The Shining, Fight Club, the Dexter Series
Recommendation: My 2016 reading list was largely a product of my interests, so 2017 needs to involve a lot more of what I’m calling “dude-books.” Male protagonists, male problems, male thoughts, and the like. So far, I’m recommending Winger to this stereotypical teen and also to myself.

Katie:
Age: 14
Interests: Grey’s Anatomy, Gossip Girl, love stories, scifi/fantasy, mythical/magical creatures, magazines, writing fan fiction, pop culture
Books She Liked: The Selection Series, the Twilight Series, Cinder, the Divergent Series
Recommendation: I can fully support a bit of brain floss, but I think the best recommendation for this impressionable young woman would be SWEET. Increase independence, self-confidence, and expectations for a healthy relationship, decrease celebrity obsessions.

Daniel:
Age: 18
Interests: social and political justice activism, urban art, spoken word poetry, basketball, soccer, live music concerts
Books He LikedBooked, Between the World and Me, I am Malala,
Recommendation: Add this to my 2017 promises! Recommending All American Boys for this imaginary kid and myself!

Silas:
Age: 18
Interests: Hunting (!!), the great outdoors, fishing, baseball, adventure.
Books He Liked: The Hunger Games Series, The Maze RunnerThe Lord of the Flies
Recommendation: OBVIOUSLY!!! No, but seriously, this is based on a real former student and I made him promise to read this book and then come talk about it with me.

Lynn:
Age: 45
Interests: Gardening, animals, family time, reading, bird-watching, outdoor activities, country life
Books He Liked: The Secret Garden, A Christmas Carol, Little House on the Prairie
Recommendation: So, this one is loosely based on my mom; she always asks for recommendations and I never know what to say! We have different likes and dislikes, so I don’t think my recommendations can be trusted! I’m making her read the Harry Potter Series (obvs!), but otherwise…?? She has a gentle soul and doesn’t like for her books to cause her stress. HELP, follow readers!!

Please keep in mind that I’m making up these profiles based on my imagination embellishing actual readers in my life. I am still striving to read outside of my preferred genre so I can recommend books to those with interests different from my own, but I welcome suggestions, feedback, and others picking up this post and doing their own version. If you do so, please link back to this post so I can see your selections! When it comes to exposure to diverse texts, I can never get enough!

Don’t forget to follow me on Goodreads to make sure I uphold my promises (LindsayC-T). Happy New Year, everyone, and best of luck in your 2017 reads!

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ALAN is Mecca

Beautiful readerly people, life is just so much! Last week, I finished a 2 week marathon session of teaching The Odyssey to delightful 9th graders, expedited the Thanksgiving festivities with my family, and attended the ALAN conference in Atlanta (got books, met authors, lived life)… oh, and I got a dog.

First things first, let me subject you to feelings of severe jealousy based on the spoils of my Heroic Journey that was November, 2016.

alan

All ALAN attendees (mostly pre-service and certified teachers) get a 40 lb box of books plus a “swag bag” with more books. Additionally, most (if not all) of the authors in the books and bags are speaking at ALAN, so you have the opportunity to get all 40 lbs signed. As my friends and I quickly discovered, this is a divide and conquer task, since I got well over 40 books, so one must prioritize based on author.

I, personally, put 100% of my effort into meeting A. S. King and M. T. Anderson. You know how they say “don’t meet your heroes”? Don’t listen to them. Meet them. Meet all the wonderful, inspirational people you can, especially authors. These magical unicorns of humans have dedicated their lives to telling important stories and offering insights that are often misunderstood or misrepresented, so they have earned your spazzy fanship.

Behold:asking

As I stood (first!) in line to have books signed by Jason Reynolds, I looked upon the undoubtedly fascinating conversation between A. S. King, M. T. Anderson, and some guy. Ignore the rando and just enjoy the fact that great minds are magnetized to each other.

Speaking of Jason Reynolds…

jasonr

And M. T. Anderson…

mtanderson

It was a darned good time! I hope to be able to go in future years. And thank God teachers are paid so well that we can jet-set across the nation every November to highly anticipated and moderately expensive conferences!! OH WAIT, WE’RE NOT!

Also got another nerdy tattoo!

tat

Lastly, this is my puppers. I realize this is not book-related but you can get over it because he is adorbs and this is my blog.

groot

Have good days and I hope to be back as soon as possible!

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L: Review of Ware’s “The Woman in Cabin 10”

Life got busy; these things happen. Luckily, I found a hot minute to type up some musings, so here goes nothing.

I just want a book to be scary!! Is that too much to ask?!?! Ruth Ware’s most recent novel, The Woman in Cabin 10, was included in a list of “October Reads” and we all remember how much I obsessed over SWEET (the dust-jacket blurb comparison is uncanny), so I really just threw myself at this book in full-fledged desperation. Firstly:

In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

As is often the case, I think all the hype that preceded this book’s release was a contributing factor in my semi-disappointment. But… I don’t think I’m really disappointed in the text itself. It did everything it promised. I think I have myself to blame for the fact that it just wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped. Maybe I watch too many scary movies, read too many scary books? Maybe my understanding of “scary” does not align with the general public’s “scary,” so I have gypped myself out of a whole slew of typically scary books. Regardless, I didn’t consider this book to be scary even for one moment. I found it to be adequately suspenseful, but those words are not synonymous in my mind.

So, we’ve determined that the hype set it up as a good “scary” read, and I’m afraid I have to disagree, but who cares, right?! On the other hand, it was also often paralleled with The Girl on the Train and I will go right ahead and concur, good sirs! Except, in all the ways that I found The Girl on the Train to be unlikable, I found The Woman in Cabin 10 to be utterly victorious. The characters were likable!! Imagine that! We have a protagonist who is still a hot mess, no doubt, but Lo Blacklock is familiar and relatable in ways that remind the reader of herself, or at least that one friend about whom you find yourself saying “bless her heart.” Lo is the spirit animal version of every woman when she’s set aside thriving & is just worried about surviving. Thankfully, Lo’s particular circumstances are not familiar to most of us, but the novel is written in a way that makes it seem entirely plausible and personal. Readers are able to relate to Lo’s trepidation, fury, mistrust, and desperation without actually experiencing the horrible events that result in such feelings. Thank goodness!

The mystery aspects of the novel were great! I kept thinking, “wow, I just cannot wait to see how all this gets resolved” because, let me tell you, it was a tangled web she wove. No one was safe, no one could be trusted, and every moment was a potential clue. I thought the mystery itself was masterfully written, but I will say that I found many aspects to be repetitive. For instance, insomnia reared its ugly head enough times that it eventually felt like beating a dead horse. “Yes, OKAY! She’s so incredibly tired. Got it. What else?!” Similarly, there were entire swaths, paragraphs and eventually pages, that I felt were just there to take up space. I counted 18 pages towards the end that recounted Lo’s panicked thoughts that could have been summed up in one page. I noticed Ware repeating herself and rephrasing the same thoughts many times throughout the book. Maybe this was a plot device? Who am I to judge? However, I do know that my students do this in order to use up more space on a page requirement, so… that’s not out of the realm of possibility for me.

I’d love to read In a Dark, Dark Wood in order to experience more from Ware without preconceived ideas of what the novel will be. I thought The Woman in Cabin 10 was good enough for some, but just not for me.

Scarier, please!

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