It’s freebie week! I’ve been talking a lot lately how I’ve read so many books that I can’t remember all of them. This post is inspired by the first book on my list, which I cannot remember AT ALL even though I gave it four stars on Goodreads. I mean, even reading the synopsis did nothing to jog my memory. So I wondered how many other books I would find in my Goodreads that I had rated pretty highly (with four or five stars) but could not remember reading.
The answer? Seventeen. (Obviously, there are probably some books I rated with three or fewer stars that I don’t remember, but that seems normal. But to really like a book–or even love it–and not remember it? Bookworm problems, I swear.)
Anyway, here are ten books I rated with four or five stars that I do not remember reading at all. Like…at all. Okay, maybe I remember seeing the covers before but that’s it. I have also included the synopsis from Goodreads. Clicking on the picture will take you to the book’s Goodreads page.
1. Clotel, or the President’s Daughter by William Wells Brown:First published in December 1853, Clotel was written amid then unconfirmed rumors that Thomas Jefferson had fathered children with one of his slaves. The story begins with the auction of his mistress, here called Currer, and their two daughters, Clotel and Althesa. The Virginian who buys Clotel falls in love with her, gets her pregnant, seems to promise marriage—then sells her. Escaping from the slave dealer, Clotel returns to Virginia disguised as a white man in order to rescue her daughter, Mary, a slave in her father’s house. A fast-paced and harrowing tale of slavery and freedom, of the hypocrisies of a nation founded on democratic principles, Clotel is more than a sensationalist novel. It is a founding text of the African American novelistic tradition, a brilliantly composed and richly detailed exploration of human relations in a new world in which race is a cultural construct.
I have switched my hosting, which means that (a) my site looks different and (b) a bunch of other stuff is wonky, so please bear with me as I try to facilitate the changes.
This especially affects the Diversity on the Shelf challenge posts. The current link up and the sign up page have been fixed, but I have to go back and do the other five months (January-May) some day when things are a little less hectic. All links are still in the link ups. I just have to fix them so that they actually show up when you go to the link up pages.
Also, is it just me or is the WordPress.com new “simpler” visual editor super confusing? It is less intuitive than it pretends to be and over-complicates things that are simple in the admin area. UGH. STOP THAT.
So, yes, I apologize for any broken links and exposed spoiler text. Some of that stuff I will be able to fix straight away–others, I may never discover until/unless someone points it out. So that’s that.
On the plus side, all of my stuff transferred over with minimal problems, so yay.
So I realized I did the thing where I read comments and thought about what I was going to reply but never actually replied but thought I had actually typed up my replies. So I’ll be getting on that later this week. My summer class is almost done, so who knows what wonderful things await me. I mean, besides answering comments, obviously.
No, seriously. I still have ten left in the stack that I want to get to before the move, and I don’t think it’s going to happen. Also, reading them is starting to feel like work now–probably because I am trying to read them in a specific order. It might be time to start jumping around the stack.
The best stories were the title piece, the first story, and “Chocolate Pudding.” But these are all honest, real, and raw and, as someone who will likely be a spinster, I appreciated the last story a lot.
I forgot to mention that I went to see Love & Friendship, which is based on the novella Lady Susan by Jane Austen. I am not a huge fan of Austen’s books, but I think they translate really well to screen. I should state up front that I’m also not super into period pieces. However, I liked the humor in this, and I loved how Lady Susan was always ten steps ahead of everyone else. This movie is very talky-talky, so if you don’t go in much for that, you might not like it. I am generally a fan of talking movies, though, so this worked for me.
Also, I haven’t read the book but the movie kind of makes me want to and, as I said, I’m not a huge fan of Austen’s books, so it definitely has that going for it.
I do have to say that I don’t get the title at all. It didn’t seem to match the movie. Maybe I’m missing something, though. I think Lady Susan would have worked just fine. I mean, it is all about her and her machinations after all and not really all that much about friendship and Love & Friendship is so darn generic (I kept mistakenly calling the movie Love & Acceptance, for example). Ugh. Anybody else who saw it have an opinion on the title? (ETA: Duh, the title is meant to be ironic. But still, generic and bland, especially given the rest of the movie.)
As of today, I’m reading:
I was feeling kind of slumpy (and it’s almost time for The Cursed Child), so I decided to reread Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (I mean, it’s only been a little over a year since my last reread of Prisoner of Azkaban, so. It might be time is what I’m saying.) I’m about 1/3 of the way through, and I can tell you right now that the beginning of the book needed way less Quidditch. Also, there’s a lot of great foreshadowing and framing in all of the opening scenes when they head to the World Cup and before they get to Hogwarts. You know, minus the Quidditch match descriptions.
My plan was also to sign up for the Potterhead July Blog Festival, but I (a) totally missed the sign up AND (b) will be moving in July so it’s probably not the best time to commit to anything. I am looking forward to reading the posts, though.
Daniel José Older is one of my favorite people on Twitter, and my colleague highly recommended his book, so I finally decided to read Shadowshaper. I’m listening to the audiobook, and Anika Noni Rose narrates. I’m digging it so far.
I’m participating in a blog tour for Stepping to a New Day by Beverly Jenkins at the beginning of July. I’ll be starting this one later today.
I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz has been on my radar since it first came out–not only because it has won so many awards and is lauded by many, but also because my summer book club picked it a few years ago. I didn’t read it then because I had required reading fatigue (it’s a thing I tend to get every summer), but I knew I would get back to it eventually. Well, eventually came this year once I found out Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame) did the narration for the audiobook.
The plot of the book is pretty straight-forward: Aristotle (who goes by Ari) is a lonely 15-year-old who befriends Dante one day at the swimming pool. Then, you know, life and stuff happens. Big life and big stuff. I am avoiding spoilers here, obviously.
What I Liked
– First and foremost, this is a friendship novel. I LOVE FRIENDSHIP STORIES. They make me happy. Friendships can be easy and challenging and hard and beautiful, and that’s exactly what happens here.
– Dante is pretty fantastic. He’s such a great character: open, honest, frustrating, angry, challenging. He’s just so earnest! Ah, it’s adorable.
– Ari is pretty great, too. He’s the narrator, so the reader is more privy to his thoughts, and he is struggling to find his place in the world. I liked that he is pretty much just doing what comes next like a checklist for life, even if he isn’t sure what he wants yet. I think that’s pretty accurate for how many teens do things.
– This is a kissing book. Lots of talk of kissing here. Lots of kissing happening, too. I approve.
– THE PARENTS. Both boys’ parents are excellent. They are supremely flawed human beings who are doing the best they can, which means they screw up sometimes but that they love their kids so, so much–and the narrative acknowledges it. Also, Dante’s father is an English professor, so that automatically raises his level of awesome for me.
– Gina Navarro and Sophie (I can’t remember her last name). These are girls Ari grew up with who drive him insane but also love him a super lot and force him to participate in life stuff. At first, I was jarred by their presence, but I really like how they challenged him and how he came to see their place in his life.
– So basically all of the characters were great is what I’m saying.
– THE ENDING. I 100% love the ending to this book, and that’s what took me from liking it to really liking it. And when I say the ending, I don’t mean the last chapter. I mean pretty much the whole last act, starting from the moment Ari’s parents sit him down for a heart-to-heart until the very, very end. It was pretty much perfection.
– The dialogue is super realistic and I loved, loved, loved any time the characters were talking to and interacting with each other. I could pretty much see every single one of those scenes playing out in front of me. They were so great.
– One of the running threads through the book is this idea of being a “real” Mexican. I loved that exploration of the boys’ identities and how the idea is tied into not only cultural expectations but also outside stereotypes. It’s really well handled and Saenz is subtle in how he completely and most emphatically states that the only thing that makes someone a real Mexican is being Mexican. Love.
– Lin-Manuel Miranda is A+ as a narrator. I would listen to another book he reads. Also, he can definitely roll his r’s. I tried over and over to say Bernardo the way he does, and it just wasn’t happening. I also don’t speak Spanish, so you know.
What I Didn’t Like
– I thought this was a summer book. It’s not. When Ari went back to school, I was so confused and a little upset. This is all about my expectations as a reader, but it is what it is.
– I am pretty sure Ari is depressed throughout most of the novel (thought it’s never explicitly stated), and that’s fine. He’s also a pretty interior character, which is also fine. However, what that meant for huge chunks of the novel is that Ari is completely in his head and most of what he thinks is expressed in negatives. There is a lot of “I don’t know why I did this” and “I don’t know why this” and “I didn’t say anything, but” or “I didn’t ask him this.” Those moments (and there are A LOT of them) made the narration and the story drag.
Also, one thing I was taught when I studied creative writing was not to describe what a character doesn’t do and so I am hyper aware of when an author does it.
Those moments may have played out better in the text than in the audio, but just imagine listening to someone tell you for five minutes straight all the things they didn’t do in a given situation. It would get real old real fast.
On the plus side, it did make the moments of dialogue and character interaction that much more enjoyable, so.
In conclusion: A really powerful look at friendship, family, and love with great characters and an excellent ending.
5. I get to teach a lot of first-generation and non-traditional college students.
As a first-generation college student who didn’t understand or know anything about college except that I wanted to go, I love that I get to share everything I have learned about navigating college with my students. I have been where they are, and I understand a lot of what they’re struggling with. I also have the benefit of having a pretty varied college experience. I did the straight out of high school to college thing, but I also did the college after taking a break and college while working to support a child as a single parent thing.
6. I do not have to deal with parents.
Even though I teach dual enrollment students (high school students taking college courses), my engagement is solely with the students as college students. High school teachers, on the other hand, have a responsibility to keep parents informed of their students’ progress, etc. That is not something I have to do! In fact, I may have only spoken to one or two parents since I’ve started my job and they had to get express permission from their children for me to discuss anything with them. AND those calls often go to the dual enrollment office or my department chair, so it’s rare I get them at all.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with parents, but, well, see next point.
7. I am the boss, and my syllabus is law.
My faaaaavorite part of teaching college is that I tell my students what they need to do and it’s their responsibility to do it. Period. When I worked for the K-12 public school system, I was told that even if a student wasn’t doing their work or whatever, you couldn’t fail a student until you talked to the parents and blah blah blah lots of other stuff (this may have changed–it was eons ago). I never liked that because my attitude is basically, “I told you what to do. Now do it.” And that’s what happens when you teach college! Because it’s in the syllabus.
True story: I have that comic up on my office door.
8. I get a winter break, a spring break, and a summer break.
Okay, so right now, the summer break is like a unicorn since I have never not taught summer school (this summer included–although, this summer I’m teaching an online class, so I am almost there). And, okay, yes, I do spend at least a week during my winter and summer breaks doing lesson planning and course prep. HOWEVER, those breaks exist and I don’t have to go into the office unless I want to, and I can make plans to travel and relax for the holidays, and I don’t have to request extra time off.
And since I don’t have to publish or do extra research, I can actually use my breaks (minus next semester course prep, sigh) to rest. Again, I’m not 100% there, but next summer, I should be living the dream. I can almost taste it.
9. I do not have to sit at a desk from 9-5.
While I am required to have office hours, I set them myself and they have not, as yet, required me to be in my office every day until 5 p.m. In fact, I may be able to completely avoid having office hours on Friday this upcoming semester. It’s pretty sweet, I must admit.
10. I have pretty awesome colleagues.
The only thing I love as much as teaching is probably talking about teaching. And it’s pretty great that I am surrounded by other professors whose primary work is teaching. We get to swap ideas and war stories, and (almost) everyone is fun, funny, and engaging. I have been blessed in general to get along with my coworkers, but I really and truly do like the people in my department as well as the professors from other disciplines who are in my office unit.
Also, our department secretary is the bomb. I can be pretty high-strung sometimes, and she has not once let on how much I must drive her crazy. She is a goddess among women, seriously.
Please comment and tell me what you love (or enjoy, if love is too strong a word, ha) about your job!
I am still making my way through my library book sale finds, so I started Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories by Norma Fox Mazer last night. It’s a definite palate cleanser after Kill the Boy Band.
I’m currently listening to some podcasts so my audiobook adventures are on hold for now. However, I’m going to have to start packing soon (as in, I should have started yesterday), so I should really get on finding my next read.
Necessary Roughness by Marie G. Lee is another Friends of the Library book sale find. I probably picked it up because the main character is Korean—and completely ignored the football uniform. There’s a lot of football in here is what I’m saying. Basically, Chan’s parents move him and his sister Young to Minnesota from L.A. to take over their uncle’s store. There’s no soccer team so Chan joins the football team and encounters some violent racism under the guise of “necessary roughness.”
What I Liked
There’s some really good family stuff here, especially with Young and Chan’s dad and his brother and how that affects his relationship with Chan.
Chan frequently acts as a translator for his father, but his father expects him to be quiet and respectful at the same time.
I especially like that O-Ma is not to be slept on. She constantly comes through in surprising ways. She gets things done is what I’m saying. She’s probably my favorite.
As is Mrs. K, their neighbor. She and O-Ma have a great relationship.
Young and Chan are both good kids, so the conflict doesn’t come from rebelling against their parents but just from them trying to figure out their new town and how they fit in.
One of my favorite parts is Chan trying to find someone–anyone–of color he can relate to. And finding that in this particular town, that’s not an option. That is so real, especially when you go from a place with a lot of people of color to a lily-white town. It is jarring and weird and also means trying to recreate that feeling of home as best you can.
What I Didn’t Like
FOOTBALL FOOTBALL FOOTBALL. Listen, there’s a lot of football in this book, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it’s important to the main character, so he would talk about it a lot. But I find that the focus on drills and stuff in books only works if it’s to explore other stuff like relationships between characters.
There are a lot of dropped threads plot threads here: Young and Chan’s uncle, the bullying incidents, the money issues.
There are a lot of rushed and not satisfactorily resolved endings as well: the bullying incident, the money issues, Chan’s relationship with a girl, and the actual ending.
I really wanted more from this book: more character and plot development and more of a sense of the school beyond football–especially for Young. Even though the story isn’t told from her point of view, I don’t really get a sense of what her experience at the school is.
The tagline on the book is “Sometimes offense is the only defense.” Yeah, that wasn’t realized in the book at all.
In conclusion: This book had a promising start but left me wanting more. Reluctant readers who like sports might go for it, though.
Link up your reviews below. If you don’t have a book blog, but have Goodreads or Library Thing, etc., you may use that to participate and post your links to your reviews. Get more details about the challenge here. It’s not too late to sign up!