November 11, 2018

I had a really rough time getting into this one; the story is given to the reader in little glimpses of the aftermath of an event which rocked a town, then the narrative slowly, grudgingly unfolds and becomes clearer in the voices of the people involved. It’s a painful story of anger and power and secrets and pain. There’s love and betrayal, kindness and cruelty, generosity and greed and everything in between in a town called Ruby and the nearby manse known as the Convent. Perhaps the characters were too real, too extreme for my comfort, but for the most part I just didn’t like them, I couldn’t identify with them or their choices. Not a very fun read, though perhaps an important one in order to see the world from a different viewpoint.

Points: 17.0; Current Point Balance: 56.5

November 8, 2018

This was a tough one at times, emotionally wrenching and excruciatingly vivid in the first story about the burning of a black man as witnessed by a child, and light and entertaining in a series of stories about two boys with great imaginations and too much time on their hands. Ellison’s words paint a picture of life in America from the perspective of a people who, having been forcibly brought to this country into slavery and later emancipated without having been given any real help in recovering from it, their society has slowly, painstakingly emerged within hostile territory, a culture submerged within another, subjugated and suppressed by the dominant society. That dominance is clear and present in each story, a part of their every day lives. Eye-opening, humbling, horrifying and heartbreaking for the reader at times, but frank and realistic and educational as well.

Points: 8; Current Point Balance: 39.5

November 2, 2018

This is one of my favorite light comedy plays. I love the witty turns of phrase, the plays on words and the sweet innocence and silliness of the characters as they pursue their heart’s desires, find their paths blocked by their own doing and resolve the issues through the most unlikely chance occurrence. I’ve seen this play on stage and film, this was my first time reading it through, and I still found it to be delightful and fun. What a pleasure!

Points: 3.0; Current Point Balance: 31.5

November 2, 2018

I must admit, I find myself unsatisfied upon reaching the end of this adventure to reach what I can only call a cheat of an ending. No spoilers here, but I found the characters rather one-sided and uninspiring and Nemo himself contemptible; despite his eventual anguish I felt no pity for him or validation for his actions. Additionally, as a conservationist, I had a difficult time with the gleeful pursuit to destroy what they thought was an unique creature of the deep; though I understand this was the prevailing practice of the time and appropriate to the story, I found it distasteful and unpalatable.

Points: 28.0; Current point balance: 28.5

November 1, 2018

Poor Mr. Knox, that Fox in socks is hard to follow – he makes your tongue trip and twist until it’s hard to swallow and that paddle puddle fiddle faddle has got my head all in a muddle!

We always include a Dr. Seuss book each year and I traditionally whack it out first off; Challenge begun!

Points: 0.5; point balance: 0.5

Posted by: JulieAloha | October 31, 2018

Admissions Reading Challenge 3: Getting ready!

For the last two years our department has held a Reading Challenge – a list of 100 books covering many genres, topics, ages, genders, fiction and non-, fantasy and alternative reality, stories from all over the world. Each book is designated a point value based on the Accelerated Reading system, length of the book and reading level. We begin the challenge November 1 and continue through January 31, logging our books on a Master List as we complete them and tracking our points. I’ve…ahem…won the last two Challenges – so everyone’s poised to out-read me this year. I haven’t decided if I’m going to enter the Challenge officially, but I’ll be tracking the books here on my Blog at the very least. I’m close to completing my GoodReads Reading Challenge of 100 books over the course of 2018; to date I’ve read 76 this year, though I stopped blogging about them last May when I tore my anterior tibialis tendon and life got more complicated than usual.

For your edification, here’s the whole list for this year’s Challenge and their point values:

1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1615) 91.0
2. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1880) 74.0
3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1991) 60.0
4. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce (1939) 45.0
5. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (1977) 39.0
6. The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner (1943) 35.0
7. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte (1848) 33.0
8. Swing Time by Zadie Smith (2016) 30.0
9. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (1940) 28.0
10. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (1981) 28.0
11. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1869) 28.0
12. Another Country by James Baldwin (1962) 27.0
13. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1967) 27.0
14. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938) 26.0
15. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905) 26.0
16. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy (1984) 25.0
17. The Iliad by Homer (750) 25.0
18. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (1928) 25.0
19. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (2003) 25.0
20. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897) 25.0
21. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende (1998) 24.0
22. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (2013) 24.0
23. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami (1985) 24.0
24. Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros (2002) 23.0
25. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011) 23.0
26. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (1996) 23.0
27. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1851) 22.0
28. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (2018) 22.0
29. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017) 22.0
30. Black Boy by Richard Wright (1945) 22.0
31. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (2000) 21.0
32. The Book of Night Women by Marlon James (2009) 21.0
33. Wild by Cheryl Strayed (2012) 21.0
34. Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger (1988) 20.0
35. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon (2007) 20.0
36. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (2015) 20.0
37. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (1991) 20.0
38. Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817) 19.0
39. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) 18.0
40. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos(1989) 18.0
41. Misery by Stephen King (1987) 18.0
42. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling (1999) 18.0
43. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (1968) 18.0
44. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (2000) 17.0
45. The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich (1986) 17.0
46. Paradise by Toni Morrison (1997) 17.0
47. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (2014) 17.0
48. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (2009) 16.0
49. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (2007) 16.0
50. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (1993) 16.0
51. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002) 16.0
52. The Martian by Andy Weir (2012) 16.0
53. Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory (2008) 15.0
54. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (2013) 15.0
55. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (2001) 15.0
56. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969) 15.0
57. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012) 15.0
58. The Epic of Gilgamesh by Anonymous (1750) 14.0
59. Lucky Us by Amy Bloom (2014) 14.0
60. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay (2017) 14.0
61. My Son’s Story by Nadine Gordimer (1990) 14.0
62. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (2006) 14.0
63. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2004) 14.0
64. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez (1991) 13.0
65. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (1968) 13.0
66. Red Azalea by Anchee Min (1993) 13.0
67. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) 13.0
68. Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (2011) 13.0
69. Shrill by Lindy West (2016) 13.0
70. Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman (2007) 12.0
71. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (1937) 12.0
72. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011) 12.0
73. Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh (2005) 12.0
74. Selected Poems of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes (1959) 12.0
75. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927) 12.0
76. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer (2011) 11.0
77. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908) 11.0
78. Quicksand by Nella Larsen (1928) 11.0
79. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris (2004) 11.0
80. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel(2007) 10.0
81. Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks (1963) 10.0
82. A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro (1982) 10.0
83. Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya (1954) 10.0
84. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky(1999) 9.0
85. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (1989) 9.0
86. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1930) 9.0
87. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958) 8.0
88. Flying Home and Other Stories by Ralph Ellison (1996) 8.0
89. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961) 7.0
90. Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid (1985) 7.0
91. Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali (1943) 6.0
92. The Flick by Annie Baker (2014) 6.0
93. My Lady’s Choosing by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris(2018) 5.0 (+1.0/additional ending read)
94. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843) 5.0
95. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002) 5.0
96. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (1993) 5.0
97. Ruined by Lynn Nottage (2009) 4.0
98. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (1895) 3.0
99. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda NgoziAdichie (2014) 2.0
100. Fox in Sox by Dr. Seuss (1965) 0.5

Feel free to read along!

Posted by: JulieAloha | May 29, 2018


You’re doing just great...for the most part,
We like what we the main,
We can tell you are
  some people have some complaints;
When you try to assist, they’re offended,
As if you think you know better than they;
They see you reach out
  to be friendly,
  they feel you’re overstepping your place.
We know it’s a case of perception,
You couldn’t possibly know what they thought;
They could have just come to you,
  talked to you,
  it's not really your explanation they sought.
So don’t offer to help, it’s too bossy;
Do your job without stepping on toes.
Keep your kindness,
  be careful that none of it shows.
Now try not to feel hurt or downhearted,
We can see the tears rise in your eye.
We hope that you won’t feel  
  that I do...
    and I'm terrified even to try;
I’m afraid now to trust those around me,
I’ll say or do something they think is wrong.
I cried all the way home
  in anguish,
    with sorrow
      and hopelessness
  I have to pretend that I'm strong.
So the mask that I wear is illusion,
The face that they see isn't mine.
A visage of confidence,
     and wholeness,
    I'm dying, a word at a time...

Malala Yousafzai is one of the bravest young women I’ve ever learned about and her book, I Am Malala, is an amazing journey through hardship, poverty, war, the cultural suppression of women and life threatening danger – but it is also a testament to a young girl’s conviction and strength, her faith and steadfast belief in the rights of all to be educated no matter their background, gender or means. She has become a leader for educational rights for women in her own country as well as all over the world; her name is synonymous with courage. Her story has a great purpose and her life’s journey is not yet finished – she has much more to do – but one of things I love best about her book is her use of language, her poetry of images and words, her descriptions of the world around her, of her beloved valley, so vivid and tangible, I felt as though I were there beside her and I longed to see it and for her to be able to see it again. Beautifully written, thought provoking and inspirational.

Last year I saw the movie, and loved it, and this year I read the book: Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures is the true history of the contribution of black women “computers” to WWII, aeronautics and NASA’s aerospace success. I find it incredible that these amazing women had to work so hard for so long without the credit due them. As both minorities and females, their work was overlooked in a man’s world and industry, their names were not credited on the work they did and they had to put up with the shamefully racist practices of segregation both at home and at work, and yet they strove to learn more, work harder, and model their intelligence and ability to a new generation of bright young women and men, proving that they were a force to be reckoned. What a legacy these pioneers left behind!

Once again, Isabel Allende has made me cry – not just a few glistening tears, oh no – great wracking sobs of anguish and joy in an empathetic catharsis of emotion. This is not the first time she has undone me with her words, and I’m sure not the last. The Japanese Lover is a story which unfolds with grace and mystery. It begins by following a woman named Irina as she starts working at a residence for the elderly, leading to introductions of several other residents and staff. When Irina meets resident Alma Belasco and agrees to do some extra work for her, Irina starts to uncover the true history of Alma’s life and relationships and in the process begins to open the pages of her own painful past. Beautifully written and intriguing; couldn’t hardly put it down.

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