Saturday, May 6, 2017

April Book Round Up

Oops, it's already May! Sorry!! Though to be honest, these past two days have been colder in East TN than they were in November!

So, as you saw in my previous post, the month of April has been rather INSANE! No exaggeration. This means that a lot of personal reading did not happen. In fact, zero personal reading got done. But that never means I didn't read. Did I have you worried there? Ha, I thought so.

Let's talk about short stories!!

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
I was assigned Russell's newest short story collection as my final project in my Traditions in Short Fiction course. Well, really, I picked it based off of the title. I wanted to read Sherman Alexei, but I'm SO glad that I got stuck with Karen Russell instead. (Funny anecdote: when I raised my hand for this, my professor said, "I knew you'd pick that one." They know me so well at UTC!)
I love this story collection. I've never read something like this before, both in format and the stories themselves. I would love to be a neuron inside Karen Russell's brain because MAN the stuff she comes up with is INSANE! And I LOVE IT! She combines horror and humor in a fantastic, artful way. I wrote down every single time I laughed out loud as I was reading her stories. I promise that you've never read anything like her stories.
I obviously enjoyed the actual story "Vampires in the Lemon Grove" about these vampire lovers who have settled in a lemon grove and learned that puncturing the thick skin of a lemon is nearly as satisfying as drinking human blood. But obviously, it's going to take a dark twist. I'm just not going to tell you. I also really enjoyed and was terrified by "The Doll of Eric Mutis." I'm not really going to tell you what it's about because that would ruin the surprise horror element of it. But she also has some not as terrifying stories, such as one about random former US presidents being turned into horses and not knowing where they are or how they got there or what they did to deserve being turned into a horse. They also don't know what will happen if they jump over the fence because the others have just disappeared!
So there's a small taste of Russell's work. She's also the author of the novel Swamplandia and the short story collection St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.

40 Short Stories: A Portable Anthology 
This was technically my textbook for this Traditions in Short Fiction class, along with a few stories not featured and articles on the art of the short story. No, I'm not recommending a textbook to you, just some of the stories that really stood out to me. If you haven't read these short stories, you should. (Also, if you don't read short stories in general, I highly suggest starting because there's some amazing work being done with them.)
1. "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
2. "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner (and I'm not a huge Faulkner fan)
3. "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor
4. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates (FREAKYYYY)
5. "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker (just so good)
6. "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien (you should really read the whole collection <3)
7. "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri
8. "The Breeze" by Joshua Ferris (Warning: you are meant to be disoriented in this story)
9. "Birdsong" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

And there we go! That's basically what I read this past month (on top of all my papers and editing). Right now, I'm almost finished with Libba Bray's second installment in the Diviner's series, Lair of Dreams. SO GOOD--talk about doing research to perfectly delineate 1920s New York. Anyway, that's for next month's post.

Happy Reading (of short stories :D),

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Week

If you didn't know that it's teacher appreciation week already, then you've been living under a rock. And if you haven't thanked your teachers yet, well, that's just rude. Time to pony up and give a big thank I'm doing right now.

School was not my favorite place on earth, ever really. But it also was never the worst place. School meant friends and the classes that I liked, and band. However, it also meant the classes I didn't like, the people I tolerated, and gym. Y'all I hated gym, and I'm pretty sure gym hated me in return.

However, I was lucky to live in a district with a pretty excellent school system. It's not perfect--no school is--but I got an excellent education. My teachers cared that I was learning, and most of them didn't just teach to the test. In fact, they hated the dreaded tests. Nevertheless, they prepared me to succeed and be a well rounded person. I don't know if you realize it, but teachers shape a big part of us. Think about it, we're with them a majority of our waking hours, having them shape and mold our minds. It's bound to take some sort of effect after awhile.

I'd like to thank my amazing, caring, beautiful-hearted elementary school teachers at Fort Craig, Mrs. Owens, Mrs. Hurst, and Mrs. Dotson (P.S. Fort Craig rules forever!). Thank you to my 7th grade english teacher Mrs. Schafer, the first person outside my family I let read Ascension, which was at that time still Macy the Teenage Vampire. She still has the original binder. I obviously had to like her.

Thank you, Mr. Daugherty, for making Shakespeare cool. Thank you, Mr. Mendence, for teaching me everything I need to know about grammar and always pushing my analyses to be stronger because you knew I could. Thank you to Mrs. Russell, who I loved despite hating math and who helped me through it all. Thank you to Mrs. Wilson, who is the BEST history teacher ever! She's a queen among mortals. Thank you to Mr. Kessler who helped me catch up in statistics after my concussion. Thank you to Mrs. Romines, Mr. Hayden, Mr. Burke, Mr. Delozier, and Mr. Wilkinson for making me into a musician. Thank you Mr. Schuetz for making me a cool musician. And Jeanie Parker, even though I never took your class--you're the best there is!

I know that's not all of them, but those are the ones who have left their marks on me! And there are so many other teachers in my life that I've never had a class with but have still shaped me into who I am today! So thank you to all the educators out there for doing what you do! Keep on going, even when the going gets rough! Kids, thank your teachers.