Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thursday Thinks: The Divine Comedy




I'm not usually one to point out my own flaws (I'm awesome, and that's that), but many of you know that I don't do well with poetry. Give me the most-difficult-to-read novel that you can think of and I'll get it done, no sweat. Give me Julius Caesar, and I'm lost.

We never really studied poetry in school-- we read poems, sure, but never learned to properly read them and/or decipher the meaning when they don't say what they mean, and you have to rad between the lines.

Poets such as Edgar Allan Poe; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; and my personal favorite, Robert Frost? Those I can handle! Shakespeare? Super old poetry? Not a chance.

That said, I have wanted to read Dante's INFERNO for years now, and never picked it up because I wanted to find it in a nice hardback. Well, I found a gorgeous copy of THE DIVINE COMEDY, and my parents got it for me for Christmas, so I've begun working on it.

I can positively say that it is going to take me for. Ever. To get this done. There's an average of ten pages per chapter thingy ( I DON'T KNOW POETRY OKAY), so I'm thinking of reading one chaptery thing a day. That would leave me finishing the trilogy in about three months.

BUT THAT IS SO LONG. THREE MONTHS TO FINISH THREE BOOKS? 

UNSPEAKABLE!

So, I'm hoping that by the time I get a bit into INFERNO, it'll start to come easy and I can speed through it.

Such are my hopes and expectations. 

Have any of you read INFERNO? PURGATORIO? PARADISO? If so, I want to know!

Happily,
Stephanie

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tuesday Reviews: Poe: Stories and Poems: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Gareth Hinds


Title: Poe: Stories and Poems: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
Author: Gareth Hinds
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: August 1, 2017
Format Read: Paperback
Rating: Three Stars

Description from Goodreads: In a thrilling adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's best-known works, acclaimed artist-adapter Gareth Hinds translates Poe's dark genius into graphic-novel format.

It is true that I am nervous. But why will you say that I am  mad?

In THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO, a man exacts revenge on a disloyal friend at carnival, luring him into catacombs below the city. In THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, a prince shielding himself from plague hosts a doomed party inside his abbey stronghold. A prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition, faced with a swinging blade and swarming rate, can't see his tormentors in THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, and in THE TELL-TALE HEART, a milky eye and a deafening heartbeat reveal the effects of conscience and creeping madness. 

Alongside these tales are visual interpretations of three poems, THE RAVEN, THE BELLS, and Poe's poignant elegy to lost love, ANNABEL LEE. The seven concise graphic narratives, keyed to thematic icons, amplify and honor the timeless legacy of a master of gothic horror.


OKAY SO.

I am not a fan of graphic novels. 

I've read my fair share of manga, I tried reading comics for a while (Captain America, wuuut), and I do own a few graphic novels that I've read, but I'm just not in love with them. 

See, there aren't enough words for me. In my opinion, we should leave the illustrations for children's books and those random black and white inserts in the classics and leave it at that. That said, graphic novels have blown UP in the last two years. Even my 11 year old cousin is reading graphics, but I've still yet to find one that piqued my interest.

That is, until I saw Poe.

I may not read a ton of classics, but I do have a strong appreciation for those authors, ESPECIALLY Edgar Allan Poe.

Most kids had THE RAVEN as required reading in middle school, if not high school. For us, it was seventh grade, and while 2/3 of my grade was memorizing THE RAVEN for a grade, the other 1/3 of us (who had the best English teacher e v e r) were reading and discussing the Tell-Tale Heart, which is my favorite of all of Poe's works. 

To this day, I've still never read THE RAVEN to the end.

But I noticed that TELL-TALE HEART was part of this graphic novel, so I picked it up.

Turns out, I love this graphic novel. The illustrations were AMAZING-- I was surprised at how realistic the pictures were, and how the expressions on their faces were so perfect, especially during scenes of horror.

My favorite part of this graphic novel, though, was the key. In the beginning of the novel, there are a set of symbols, and then on the title page for each work, you find some of them. It's basically a key for the thematic elements in each story, so for, like, stories with insanity, there will be a little straight jacket, and for stories with angels and/or demons, there's one angel wing and one demon wing. It was a fantastic element to add-- that little touch made for so much fun upon getting to the next story.

It was so interesting to reread these stories with such detailed and intricate illustrations; even if they were condensed versions of the stories and not the entire thing (more words! more words!)

In conclusion, it was good, but graphic novels still aren't my thing. However, if you have friends or family members who love graphic novels but don't like reading, this is the perfect gift for them! It's a great way to expose them to some of the classics (there are more of these than just Poe, ex: Grimm Fairy Tales) without making them have to read the entire novel!

Happily,
Stephanie

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Thursday Thinks: Happy New Year!




Congrats, guys! We made it to 2018! 

In our house, we have a New Year's Eve tradition. We grab some sparkling juice, play Rummy, and watch Dick Clark's New Year's Rocking Eve. We do this every year, and even though we'd been traveling (nine hour drive) that day, and were all nearly falling asleep, we held up our tradition.

Or at least, we tried to.

See, we'd been gone for Christmas, and this was our first day back, meaning we had no sparkling juice. Therefore, we made a trip to the local grocery store at like 10pm. It was cold-- I'm talking like -5-- which one should expect from a Chicago winter, but I was not ready for this and wanted to move to Florida immediately because this week is supposed to get down to -15.

Anyway.

So we go to the store, pick up stuff for dinner and made sure to get that sparkling juice. Our house is only a few miles from aforementioned store, so within ten minutes we were carrying things in, which is when one of the bags broke, and the sparkling juice fell in slow motion onto the sidewalk. You heard it hit the sidewalk with a hard thunk, and then all of a sudden this ShAtTeRiNg, and there went the sparkling juice.

The store had been ridiculously busy, and it's right next to a pizza shop which was also ridiculously busy, and it had taken us like half an hour to get there and back. Plus, we still had to shower those traveling germs away before we could get down to business, and did I mention how cold it was? 

Yeah, there was no way we were going back for more

We were now on crisis alert, because jUICE. HOW CAN WE TOAST THE NEW YEAR WITHOUT JUICE?

But we had to move on-- get things done before we started with our tradition. So I gave the dog a bath (she'd been traveling with us), took a quick shower, waited while the parents took their showers, and then dinner. We had fishsticks and I was like that gif of Pooh, so I turned on the tv while we ate and searched for Dick Clark on the channels, but 

he

wasn't

on.

Instead, Steve Harvey was doing a NYE special, so I thought maybe they'd replaced it. I put Steve on. It was NOT the same, there were like four songs total and I knew like two and it was more talky talky than singy singy and that was sTRIKE TWO for our NYE.

It wasn't too long before we finished eating, and that means it's card time. At this point, its like 11 or so, maybe a bit after, so I go grab a deck of cards.

See, I love playing cards. It's rare that I win at Rummy, but it's my faaaavorite, so I'm all excited and grab my new deck of cards, themed: Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2-- Baby Groot. THESE CARDS ARE ADORABLE. I'd flipped through them before to see what they looked like, and they were so cute.

 What I didn't pay attention to, however, was the numbers. 

I take first deal, get everything set, pick up my cards, and Dad points out that the numbers are so. hard. to. see. They're done in this weird script and the black isn't dark enough to stand out good against the blue and red and it's obviously going to be a struggle. Especially for my dad, who needs glasses, and my mom, who has contacts but did not have hers in at that particular moment.

But we play anyway, because it's like the only deck of cards in the house that we could locate within two minutes.

We play, watching Steve and having to bend over the table to read the cards, until like fifteen til Midnight, at which time mom gets up and goes into the kitchen. She returns with three mugs-- Tinkerbell for her, Grumpy for Dad, and Rey for me-- and they're filled with Kool-Aid. 

Thank God for Mom. It wasn't sparkling juice, but it was something, which was better than what I'd thought we were going to have.

So, we continued on with our tradition, toasting with our Kool-Aid at midnight and and finishing up our game of Rummy, which mom ended up winning. Texting everyone HAPPY NEW YEAR at 12:00 and being surprised at who answers and who doesn't (It always seems to be the opposite of who you'd think).

It wasn't quite what we were expecting, but it was still a great NYE. I went to bed around 2am on January 1, 2018 feeling pretty pleased with our evening.

That is, until one of my friends texted to see if I'd seen the Imagine Dragons performance.

The one that had aired just before the ball drop

on Dick Clark's New Year's Rocking Eve

that had apparently aired for everyone

but

us.

Happy New Year,
Stephanie

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tuesday Reviews: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds



Title: Long Way Down
Author: Jason Reynolds
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Release Date: Ocotber 24, 2017
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: Four Stars

Description from Goodreads: A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer.
A tool
for RULE 3.

Or, you can call it a gun. That's what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That's where Will's now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother's gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he's after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that's when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn's gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn't know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck's in the elevator? Just as Will's trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck's cigarette. Will doesn't know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Shawn had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END... if WILL gets off that elevator.



I'll be honest-- I never thought I'd like this book, and I had my reasons:

1.) I knew nothing about it other than it was a BIG DEAL, and usually the books that become a BIG DEAL before I read them don't end up being a BIG DEAL to me.
2.) It's written in verse, and I hate poetry. If it's in verse, odds are it'll take a pretty strong push to get me to read it. (I'm stubborn, I know)
3.) I'm very white. I haven't had any experience with life in the ghetto, or the fear of territorial gangs, and so I worried that I wouldn't appreciate the book. 

However, I LOVE learning about people other than me. Religions, walks of life, races, because all we ever really know is our own lives, unless we look for more. I'm always looking-- I want to learn as much as I can about about our world, and that includes the people. 

So LONG WAY DOWN was on my tbr, it just wasn't high up.

And then, I just kept hearing more and more about it. Kirkus reviews, awards, nominations, raving tweets, and suddenly it was one of (if not THE) biggest book of 2017. So, naturally, I thought it would be a good First Review of 2018.

Like I'm sure most of you did, I sped through this book and ended up loving it. It was written in verse, but not the way I expected-- it wasn't rhyming poetry and ridiculous "ne'er" type stuff that really just sounds the same as when you say "never"-- it was a story being told in shorter lines, clipped sentences, and it was GrEaT for emphasis.

And most of you guys know, I LOVE emphasis.

Plus, all but like ten pages of this book takes place in a single elevator ride. The book begins with floor 7 and ends on the ground floor, and I have always loved the idea of a book that takes place over one day, let alone a single. elevator. ride.

As well as this, the story is evocative in a way that I didn't expect. The pages aren't riddled with details, but I could see everything so clearly, and it was surprising.

Something else is that this is like a 300 page book, but I read it in an hour. Partially because of the writing style, but also because I wanted to know more. I wanted to know who the people were as they got on the elevator. Who they were, how they related to Will, how they related to Shawn-- it was all necessary information that Reynolds expertly teased out of them, and I couldn't wait to find it out.

AND THE ENDING. WOWOWOWOW.

Not saying  W O R D about that.

Not.

A.

Word.

This was my first Jason Reynolds book, and he executed LONG WAY DOWN perfectly. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about it, which was a pleasant surprise and definitely not what I was expecting. 

I give this novel-in-verse four stars and suggest that everyone go read it so that you can have that major WOW feeling that I had when I finished the book. Seriously, I was amazed.

Have you guys read this one? Tell me what you thought/think!

Happily,
Stephanie

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