Category Archives: reading

Oh, We Have to Talk About Snape …

Snape

I never intended to fall in love with another fictional character, but I did. Over the course of the seven Harry Potter novels, Professor Snape won my heart by his courage and undying love for Harry’s mother, Lily Potter. No other fictional character, with the possible exception of Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, can hold a candle to Professor Severus Snape. As much as I love Fitzwilliam Darcy and all of his wonderful brooding moodiness, he is now a distant second. I have to ask myself why. Why, out of the hundreds of fictional characters I’ve been exposed to over my lifetime, does Severus Snape stand out?

Always

First, from the moment he is introduced in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I was intrigued. Maybe it is because I am a writer, but Snape had “story!” written all over him. He obviously had a past, and I wanted to know more. If you haven’t realized it by now, I always want to know more, and secrecy is a surefire way to keep my interest. I cut my teeth on mysteries and only lost interest when they became too predictable. I argue that Snape is the final and best mystery revealed in the Harry Potter series. It is the love story – and it is a story born out of true love – that drives the action. I can’t imagine if I had lived the rest of my life without reading the entire series.

Second, Snape stands out due to the complexity of his character. It is telling that I immediately purchased and read Snape: A Definitive Reading by Lorrie Kim after I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I became so caught up in the ending that I needed to go back and read the evidence. Kim’s Snape: A Definitive Reading painstakingly chronicles Snape’s actions throughout the entire series, even using quotes and page numbers. She provides just enough commentary to keep it from becoming too dry. It did help me more deeply appreciate the most complex fictional character I have ever come across.

Ever since I finished the series, I’ve asked myself why my favorite fictional characters from childhood – Laura from the Little House on the Prairie series, Anne of the Anne of Green Gables series, and Nancy from the Nancy Drew series – seem utterly dim when compared to the complexity of Snape? The answer is unbelievably simple. With the exception of Laura Ingalls, the characters mentioned above didn’t grow much throughout the course of the series, especially Nancy Drew. They were simply the same characters who were thrown into new situations. The fictional Laura is a special case because she did grow as a character in complexity and in age throughout the series. However, I find the real-life Laura Ingalls Wilder, the writer and mother who had a complex relationship with her only daughter, infinitely more interesting. Snape’s complexity is apparent from the beginning, but it doesn’t come front and center until the end of the series. I have nothing else to compare his character to at the moment. Nada.

Finally, Professor Snape’s love for Lily Potter and the courage he demonstrated in keeping both Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy safe, along with his final interactions with Dumbledore, almost defy the imagination. Yet, his entire life prepared him for and led him to the final events of the series. I can’t even begin to imagine how he managed to teach and face Harry Potter on a daily basis when all Snape could see in him was the man whom Lily Potter ultimately married. Snape felt responsible for James’ and Lily’s deaths, and he had a living, breathing reminder of that guilt and unrequited love in his classroom. Snape even managed to drill important lessons into his students’ heads outside of the classroom, knowledge that would ultimately help them survive. He may hold petty grudges and act extremely unprofessionally as a teacher, but he did get the job done.

After All This TIme

The Patronus

When I first read the scene in which Harry is led to the Sword of Gryffindor by the silver doe patronus, I knew that it was meant to be a pivotal point in the series, but I didn’t recognize just how pivotal it was until the final novel. We later learn that Snape’s patronus is Lily’s silver doe. He loved her that much. He never stopped loving her. If I were to write or describe magic, I would do so with the silver doe patronus scene in mind. So much love wrapped up in one simple, beautiful symbol. Not only is it a symbol of Snape’s undying, unrequited love for Lily, but I also see it as a symbol of Lily’s love of Harry – a mother’s love and protection. As a woman who grew up in the northern woods of Michigan, there are few things more beautiful than deer. There are few fictional scenes that leave me with goosebumps; this was one of them.

Undoubtedly I will read the entire Harry Potter series again, even if it isn’t until I have a child of my own. I am so glad that I read the entire series, even if I am not exactly a reader of fantasy. I can now fully understand why those novels will stand the test of time and inspire such a loyal following. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Professor Snape. Always.

Know It All

Is it just me, or did Hermione Granger seem to have a bit of a crush on Professor Snape?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Several months ago now, my book club decided to read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There was only one problem: I had never read the original series. When the books originally debuted, I was already in high school and then college. I’d already fallen in love with what I considered to be more important literary fiction. I simply didn’t have time for what I considered to be a mere series of children’s books. The thing is that I’ve never been a reader of fantasy or science-fiction, although that is changing. I often wonder if it might have been different without the elements of magic and fantasy; maybe I would have come to the series much earlier.

In the end, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child became my catalyst to finally read the Harry Potter series. I am still in the process of reading the entire series, but two things have become increasingly clear:

1. My idea to have a protagonist of a children’s book series grow and develop throughout the series is a valid one. This entire subject deserves its own blog post soon.

2. There is simply no way I could not read the entire series, not if I want to write a series of children’s books, whether they are eventually published or not.

Even though I had only read the first two books in the series prior to reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it was enough to get a sense of the series and the characters. What I loved about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is what it says about parenthood. In the play, and it is written as a play, both Harry and Draco Malfoy struggle as fathers. Both seem eager to help their sons avoid the pitfalls of their own childhoods. The problem is that Harry’s son Albus is not the famous Harry Potter, nor is Draco’s son Scorpius exactly like him. As a result, neither father can ultimately protect his son from evil. Even though I am not yet a parent, it made me realize that one cannot base parenting solely on their own experience. Biological or not, your child is not exactly like you. He or she may be nothing like you. It is interesting to me that one of my first introductions to the world of Harry Potter took place when Harry, Ron, and Hermione were adults – and parents. I love the fact that they are supposed to be roughly my age, and if one follows the timeline during which J.K Rowling wrote the books, it works.

Frankly, if I am completely honest with myself, I cannot wait to read the Harry Potter series with my child(ren) one day, along with so many other books. Will I force it? Of course not, but I will at least try. I’ll be happy if my child(ren) finds a genre he or she (or they) love(s). I do think it is true that people who don’t like to read just haven’t found the right books yet.

In Like A Lion

march-1st

The best of intentions don’t always work. I intended to start blogging again in January. It just didn’t happen. Life happened. So far in 2017, Grandma Reid passed away, I’ve finally been matched with a little sister through Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and my exam schedule for my teacher certification tests is set (one down, three more to go!). There is no easy way to write about my life at the moment. I’m not quite ready to write about Grandma Reid yet – although I will one day. I can’t write about all of the wonderful experiences I am having with my little sister – at least not in a way that is true to the whole story. I understand why, certainly, but it could be such a fun topic. As far as my career is concerned, nothing can really change until all of my tests are complete. Instead, I am going to have to focus on blogging about reading and writing for the moment.

I’ve read so many great books lately, thanks to book club and my sister. Reading is becoming a habit again, and I am a better person for it. Finally reading has largely replaced TV and movies in my life. I can’t ask for much more than that. As I have said before, I need to go back to keeping a list of books I’ve read. I want to share them with all of you. By listing the books I read on my blog, I became an intentional reader. I still am. I need to get back to sharing what I read. I plan on eventually sharing book reviews on GoodReads as well.

Writing is another story entirely. I always miss it when I don’t write. I need to write. Even though I’ve owned Scrivener for over a year, I finally took the time to go through the entire tutorial and learn how to use it properly. I don’t think I will be without it ever again. I love it, and it is exactly what every writer needs. The capacity built into Scrivener to meet the needs of almost any type of writer imaginable is mind-boggling. It becomes apparent once you go through the tutorial and start using the program just how customizable it truly is.

At the advice of a friend, I’ve also started using 750words.com. The verdict is still out. I do like the idea of free writing 750 words each and every day without it having to be used for a polished piece of writing. I’ve also been exploring RedNotebook, which I’ve been using as a personal journal. In fact, you can actually create numerous journals. It is basic, but great for creating lists too.

In April I hope to attend at least a couple of writers’ conferences. Nothing is settled yet, but the reality is that I could attend writers’ conferences every weekend in April, with the exception of Easter weekend, if I wanted to do so. I ask myself why I go, and then as soon as it is over, I realize that I always take away something useful. In fact, one of the reasons why I am so excited about these particular conferences is due to a possible opportunity to present on education for writers in an upcoming workshop this fall. If nothing else, I will take away something. There are other things going on behind the scenes as well, as always. So many things to do and never enough time!

As a future teacher, I can only hope to reach a point in my career where I can tell it like it is, only with slightly more tact.

As a future teacher, I can only hope to reach a point in my career where I can tell it like it is, only with slightly more tact.

A Cracking of The Heart: The Life of Sarah Horowitz

A Cracking of the Heart

Goodreads Review – A Cracking of the Heart by David Horowitz

Where do I even begin?  First, A Cracking of the Heart is first physical book I’ve read in quite some time.  Lately I’ve only been reading Kindle version of books.  I mention this because I collect physical books, and frankly, I can’t stand when people bend pages to mark a page.  Well, there were so many passages that I want to remember and revisit that my hardcover version of the book is hopelessly dog-eared.  I will be rereading this particular book, possibly more than once.

It goes well beyond the fact that Sarah, the woman’s whose life is the subject of the book, and I share the diagnosis of Turner Syndrome.  Sadly, Sarah dealt with many more issues and complications than I ever have.  What strikes me most about Sarah’s journal entries and inner dialog in the book is that the struggles she discussed most are the same ones that I have battled most of my life.  It is stated that Sarah never adopted due to her concerns about her financial stability.  This is the reason why I am working so hard to achieve that financial stability.  Everything that I am currently doing in my life will eventually put me in a position to finally create the family I’ve always wanted – hopefully.  There is no other way.  I refuse to believe that I am not meant to have a family of my own.

One passage that deeply disturbed me is the detailed description of Sarah’s failed attempts at finding love.  She did fall in love.  That same man loved her.  However, it didn’t end in marriage.  Instead of choosing to marry Sarah and accepting her for who she was, Joel married another woman.  In the book he admits that he made a mistake, that at the time he was drawn to the physical, and that his resulting marriage only lasted a few years.  He implies that he should have married Sarah.  This is my worst fear writ large.  No matter what I do, no matter how much I love, and no matter what I achieve in life, men will not be able to look past my physical characteristics.  I have yet to be proven wrong.

meaning-of-life

If the truth be told, everyone let Sarah down – society in particular.  In her short life, she continually fought to be taken seriously, fought for her independence, and fought to achieve in spite of the physical obstacles she faced.  Her father, famous political commentator David Horowitz, implies that he regrets certain aspects of his relationship with his daughter.  Father and daughter happened to disagree politically.  Frankly, my personal political beliefs are more aligned with David’s; however, he makes a compelling case against Sarah being naïve or easily manipulated in her convictions.  Even though we may have been in serious disagreement politically, I like to believe that Sarah and I would have had a lot to share if we had ever met.  I love the fact that she, like so many women with Turner Syndrome, was stubborn to a fault.

There is so much in her life to which I can relate.  For example, I share her love of words.  She struggled to find her voice and found it difficult to write about her personal life.  Same here.  In the last decade of her life, she found solace in her Jewish faith.  I am just now discovering that organized religion might have something to offer after all.  It goes on and on.  I like to think that her faith offered her some sort of solace in all of the adversity she faced just to complete daily tasks that most of us take for granted.  It will be a long time before I read another book that touches me on such a deep emotional level.

You can read more about Sarah’s life and the book here.

chapter book

My First Love

Roald Dahl

Without a doubt, my first love happened to be books.  A conversation last week made me think of what books I loved as a child and how they shaped the adult I became.  Unfortunately, this list may date me.  The funny thing is, there is no way I could limit it to just one book, one series, one period of my childhood and teenage years.  Instead, I – and by extension you – will have to settle for categories.

Poetry –

Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein

This was the first book of poetry I ever owned, and I absolutely loved it.  It still holds a special place in my heart.

Favorite Children’s Authors –

Roald Dahl

All of Roald Dahl’s books were in vogue with elementary school teachers throughout my childhood, and frankly, elementary school would not have been the same without James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, among others.  Some of my favorite elementary school memories are tied to his books.  My first grade teacher read James and the Giant Peach, and none of us could get enough.  Even in 5th and 6th grades, the best part of the school day hands down happened to be the half hour after lunch recess when teachers would read to us.  I even know a certain 5th grade teacher who can fake out her students with The Witches.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

The popularity of the TV show, even in reruns, during my early elementary school years ensured that I would discover The Little House on the Prairie series eventually, but my 2nd second grade teacher read The Little House in the Big Woods to our class.  I couldn’t get enough.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s work is at least part of the reason why I write.  I reread all of The Little House on the Prairie books as an adult, including Farmer Boy and The First Four Years.  I also read collections of her essays and letters, including West from Home.  Reading even more of her work made me admire her even more.

Favorite Series –                                                          

Anne of Green Gables

I read and loved all of the Anne of Green Gables books.  They captured my imagination as few others.  Anne reinforced my love of strong female protagonists.

Little House on the Prairie

See above.

Nancy Drew

I discovered Nancy Drew early in elementary school thanks to my Grandma who let me borrow her collection.  Once I read all of the traditional Nancy Drew novels, I started on the new series.  I could not get enough.  Unfortunately, I loved Nancy Drew so much that I burned out on mysteries.  I tried getting into the Kinsey Millhone mystery series by Sue Grafton as a young teenager, but soon became bored, even though I loved Kinsey.

Choose Your Own Adventure

These books were not great children’s literature, but they were entertaining.  I could not rest until I read every single version of the story.

Favorite Classics –                                                          

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I read this book the summer after 8th grade.  It took me most of the summer, but I lost myself in Civil War era Atlanta and Tara.  It was the perfect antidote to an 8th grade English teacher who spent most of the year on short stories more appropriate for younger students, along with spelling and grammar.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

It saddens me that I didn’t love this novel more when I read it in 10th grade.  I am grateful that I reread it for book club as an adult.  It deserves its revered place in American literature.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Another book read as part of the 10th grade English curriculum, this is one that stayed with me long after high school.  Never underestimate teenagers.  Never.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Even though this isn’t an Oprah Book Club pick, I associate it with that era in my life.  I used to rush home from school to watch Oprah, and her book club influenced what I read in my later high school years.  There are many school of thoughts as to whether or not this novel should be taught to teenagers.  I understand both sides, but I did love it.  I am glad that teenagers can find it even if it isn’t taught.

Edgar Allen Poe

I swear I came across one or two of Poe’s stories in an ancient collection of spooky stories in my elementary school library.  I question the memory simply due to the fact that it was an elementary school library.  Then again, the book itself was so old that it could have possibly dated from when there was a high school at the same location.  I like to think that I really did come across Poe in elementary school, and that it was his short stories that fed my love of ghost stories.  I have no idea why today’s high school students hate studying Poe – and they do.  I loved it.

Favorite Historical Fiction –

Christy and Julie by Catherine Marshall

These books introduced me to historical fiction, the Cumberland Gap, and Appalachia.  I loved them, even if I probably wouldn’t pick them up now.  They did spark my love of historical fiction.

Honorable Mentions –

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and Let the Circle Be Unbroken by Mildred D. Taylor

These books, depicting racism in the segregated South, made me recognize just how much I took my life for granted.  The children in these books faced so many obstacles on a daily basis just to get to school.

Randall’s Wall by Carol Fenner

The book itself isn’t all that remarkable, even though it does have a good anti-bullying message.  The reason I included it is due to its author.  As part of a young writer’s club in elementary school, I had the opportunity to meet her.  I even had her sign my copy of the book, and I almost missed the bus.  Another favorite elementary school memory tied to books, reading, and writing.

The Cay by Theodore Taylor

My Mom taught this novella as part of the 6th grade social studies curriculum.  She also happened to be my 6th grade social studies teacher.  She was the first teacher I had that used literature to teach social studies.  As a future social studies teacher, I plan to do the same.  My Mom may not know this, but she is largely responsible for my interest in teaching social studies and Latin America in general.  Recently I saw 6th graders carrying around The Cay; it is still taught nearly 25 years later.

Childcraft

Ten Books to Keep Your Brain Happy

love-fictional-characters

The Ten Most Important Books to Feed Your Brain

I’ve been on a reading kick lately, and frankly, after finishing A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, nothing is going to compare to the emotional intensity of that book.  Fortunately, I came across this list of books that contains titles that offer something different.  I expect to be intellectually challenged, but in these titles, at least I won’t be looking for the emotional intensity and character development of A Little Life.  I do not remember the last time I became so emotionally invested in fictional characters.  In fact, it will be nice to read something other than fiction for a change.

What drew me to this article is the author’s list of what he considers to be the top 10 braingasm books.  He defines these books as books that can fundamentally change lives.  If the one book I’ve read (Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers) included on the list is any indication, all of the books deserve to be read at least once.  In fact, the way the list is structured, it offers additional titles for anyone willing to do a little research.  As for Malcolm Gladwell’s books, I can recommend them all.  In fact, I might just reread Outliers.  Above all, I love coming across lists like this.  I will never be able to read (or reread) all of the books I love or are highly recommended, much less books that just sound interesting.  I will never understand why people do not like to read.  I am convinced that he or she simply hasn’t found the right title yet.

 

The Iowa Caucus and Sarah Horowitz

cracking

A Daughter Brought to Life – National Review

Teacher, Writer, Human Rights Activist Dies Unexpectedly at Age 44

What My Daughter Taught Me About Compassion – David Horowitz

Whenever I think of the Iowa caucus, I think of Sarah Horowitz.  I first learned about her during the winter of 2008 when she spent time campaigning for Barack Obama ahead of the Iowa caucus.  While I can’t pinpoint the exact online article that brought her to my attention, I will never forget her story.  As you can tell from the headline of her obituary in the JReview, she spent her brief life pursuing education, both as a teacher and as a student, and serving as a political activist.

In order to fully understand Sarah’s story, it is best to start with her father, conservative commentator David Horowitz.  Originally a product of the new left during the 1960s, his political views changed considerably over the decades, and during the 1980s, he became a well-known conservative commentator.  He is still well known in conservative circles, and the stark contrast between his political views and those of his daughter highlight the best and worst of our current political system.

I first came across David Horowitz’s work more than a decade ago when I was a certified political blog junkie.  I doubt that I would have ever came across his work today.  I would not know Sarah’s story if it were not for her father.  While deep political divisions have a way of tearing families apart, it is clear from his columns and everything written about his daughter Sarah that David Horowitz not only loved his daughter, he admired her too.  I suppose that is the larger point.  Both the left and the right have much to offer.  Why aren’t we all listening to one another?

After learning that David Horowitz wrote a book about Sarah’s life, I purchased it.  At that point, her life intrigued me.  The sad fact is that even though I’ve owned the book for over seven years, I have yet to read it.  Sarah Horowitz had Turner Syndrome, and the fact that she passed away in her 40s from heart complications quite frankly scares me.  Even though my personal political views are vastly different from hers and I can’t begin to imagine all of the physical complications (both from Turner Syndrome and additional causes) Sarah faced on a daily basis, I still see myself reflected in her story.  It is time I finally read the book.

Vision of Unity – Tablet – An interview with Sarah Horowitz published just prior to her death.

Included in Tablet interview, 2009.

Included in Tablet interview, 2009.

Quick Update

Longed_to_ReadI finally updated some of the pages I wanted to include here.  Here is a quick explanation of each page.

About Me – A quick overview of yours truly.

Anonymous – An interesting conversation I had here several years ago with an anonymous commenter.  I still have no idea who anonymous is.

Bucket List – It is extensive.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.  What is on your bucket list?

Reading List – A list of most of the books I’ve read going back to 2009.  I may yet add some of the novels I read for my classes as well.

writing

My Life in Books – Back to Square One

read-writer

As part of my original blog, I religiously kept a log of books I read.  When I began keeping track, my reading life took off, particularly after I read Reading Like a Writer by Francine Pose.  I finally recognized that what I read is just as important as what I write if I am ever to be a successful writer.  It is still true.  Unfortunately, as I became so focused on my classes, I simply didn’t read quite as much.  Fortunately, I still read to keep up with book club and a few of my writing courses.

Even though I did keep reading over the last couple of years, I do feel as though I’m starting over as an intentional reader.  I used to plan my reading.  There was a method, although I wouldn’t be able to fully describe it.  I wish I had kept better track of what I read over these last few years, although I may attempt to recreate the list (thanks to my book club lists and an old syllabus or two).  It will be interesting to see how well I succeed.

There is another component to all of this though relating to my theme of “home.”  I have a fairly large personal library that needs to be cataloged and organized.  I need to somehow manage working my way through my personal library, both traditional books and e-books, with discovering new authors and titles.  So many books, so little time.

books