Whatcha Reading…? 9/20/2019 Book Update

If I cannot tackle a book in one evening, I will probably start another. Hence why I occasionally like putting together these “Whatcha Reading…?” posts. It helps me keep track of everything I’ve got going! Currently I’m reading 6 books: King Lear by William Shakespeare (technically a play but whatever), The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Wicked Fox by Kat Cho, Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen, My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart, and A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. 

I was inspired to pick up King Lear after finishing Hamlet. For some reason, I marked it to-read in high school along with As You Like It (and only those two. No other play made the cut on Goodreads!) I’m enjoying it so far but not as much as Hamlet

The Cost of Discipleship, meanwhile, is one of those books I feel like I am eternally reading. I’ve been at it for almost 2.5 years now. It isn’t bad, quite the opposite. I find it so profound that if I read more than a chapter a day I feel like I am missing something. So I read a chapter one day, forget about it the next, and read another chapter a month later when I stumble upon my copy again. And then forget about it the next day. Slow and steady, I guess. 

Wicked Fox is, in theory, a Korean drama lovers dream. It involves Korean mythology and modern day Seoul. But I won’t lie, I’m finding it super disappointing so far. The author does a lot of telling but not a lot of showing. Characters are profoundly psychological in ways that feel at odd with their age. And by golly, I’m over a 100 pages in and nothing is happening. I am not sure I will make it through all 424 pages. 

On the flip side, I’m finding Only Ever Her surprisingly enjoyable. I heard about it on a blog I follow and picked it up on a whim. It is supposed to be a thriller but so far I haven’t found anything that scary. Just good character build-up. The first person present narrative style does get a little annoying but I’m hooked. 

I’ve fallen hard for Mary Stewart’s novels so there was no way I wasn’t going to like My Brother Michael. I’m not very far into it but I can already tell I am going to love it. Be warned: her books are going to overwhelm my end of the year 5 star reads blog post. 

Out of all the books I’m currently listing, however, A Curse So Dark And Lonely has taken me the most by surprise. It presents yet another Beauty and the Beast retelling and I’ve read enough of those to last me a lifetime. But so far, this one is really, really good. It hits the right note of familiar fairytale while simultaneously presenting enough ‘new’ to keep the reader hooked. I hope it can keep it up.  

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Office Hours

As a TA, I keep office hours. When I first learned of this requirement, my fellow TA simultaneously informed that no one would come. I sort of took him at his word but didn’t really expect no one to come. 

But seriously, no one comes to office hours.

The bright side is that I have my office hours in the department library so I’m surrounded by great books on politics, economics, philosophy, and literature. 

Today I read Hamlet. Good stuff. 

Next week I think I will tackle Sophocles. 


I Speak Football

We’ve been discussing Herodotus’s Histories in the class I TA for. (In other words, the plot of the movie 300.) As part of the discussion, we talked about the importance of honor going to the city state instead of the individual. We also talked about the importance for Spartan soldiers not to break rank (either for cowardice or glory) since doing so endangered the soldiers fighting beside them. 

Image result for phalanx

At this point, the professor inserts a football example. 

“Take *football player I do not know*. He’s a great player but he thinks the game revolves around him. No one likes that guy.” 

A few people nod. A few look confused. As a football coach’s daughter, I feel obliged to nod and look like I am personally acquainted with this player. ‘Yeah! What a jerk. I mean, come on.‘ 

Then comes discussion groups. Sports are actually a pretty great analogy for this topic. Soldiers don’t run to battle in formation any more, but football players do. Hence the desire for “team players.” 

To help illustrate the point, I decided to draw the Spartan formation on the board like a football play. I figure I’d seen enough of them. Just use Xs and Os!

XXXXXXX

OOOOOO

Then an arrow that shows one X charging ahead leaving a gap in the ranks. Simple!

XX   XXXX
X
\
OOOOOO

Except my plan backfired. Non-athletes took one look at the board and glazed over. Actual athletes took one look at the board and couldn’t figure out what my scribbles meant. Turns out I cannot draw football plays. 

For the next discussion group I focused on an orchestra: “Doesn’t matter how beautifully the violinist plays, if it isn’t the current symphony, it isn’t going to work.” 

Thankfully no one called me out on how little I know about orchestra. 


Killing Perfectionism

I sort of tumble through Tuesdays as a general rule of thumb but today felt particularly bad. I actually did the readings for my first class but when the professor called on me, I hadn’t a clue what the answer was. Unfortunately, it proved to be a rather vital point so he pointed at me every time it came up for the rest of class. 

I had about an hour till my second class and I planned to read for it beforehand. But turns out I left my textbook at home. And as it happens, this professor cold calls so I had to own up to not doing the reading so I wouldn’t get called on. It is quite demoralizing to admit to someone that even though you’ve had an entire week to do the readings, you didn’t. 

Then my third class. I did the reading. It didn’t matter; I barely understand a word of Immigration Law. 

And then finally my fourth class, where I don’t have the textbook yet so I didn’t read for it. 

It doesn’t sound too bad listing it like that. But when you add in trying to prep for discussion groups tomorrow and wrapping up a project for my Foundation job and the guilty knowledge that final edits on my law review article are due and, oh, any other number of e-mails and projects slipping out of my grasp….it feels exhausting. 

And I am reminded that every semester I tell myself I won’t listen to the perfectionist in my head. I will do what I can and make the best of how it turns out. But it still stings. I want to do it all. I want to be perfectly prepared for class. I want As. I want to turn in perfect work assignments and spout wisdom to my students and somehow maintain a social life and be a good big sister while I’m at it. 

And I just can’t. I need to intentionally give up my expectations. Physically set them aside and say ‘no.’ So I do. And once I do I think I’m done for good. But no, it sneaks back. Again and again and again. The pressure to Do Better. To be perfect. 

And then I go and forget my textbook at home. 

I don’t know what this semester will bring. I hoped it would be less than last year. From a pure “listing” of things, it is less. But being a 3L comes with new types of responsibility. (If I’m even a 3L, as Thailand hasn’t sent my official transcript to the law school yet so as far as any formal records show, I’m a semester behind and still a 2L…but that’s a rant for another day.) 

I know there is an entire spiritual element missing from this post. God pours many blessings into my life. And sometimes I do recognize and appreciate that fact. But if I’m honest, perfectionism hurts me in my spiritual journey as much as anywhere. I don’t live up to the goals I set for myself. I don’t read the Bible or pray nearly as much as I should. And so I just let that weigh on me, yet another “extra” that doesn’t get accomplished. 

It isn’t so much a battle with perfectionism as a war. Some battles perfectionism wins. Some I win. And some days, like today, it ends in a draw because I’m too tired and confused to process anything. 


In Which I Celebrate The Return of You Might Be A Homeschooler…

Honestly, I’ve lost track of how many “You Might Be A Homeschooler…” videos Blimey Cow has made. But they’re always great. Do yourself a favor and watch the most recent one. Someday I’m going to be 90 with three doctorates and I will still nod along as if these happen every day. (Sorry, Mom, once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler.)


Silence For the Dead by Simone St. James

Silence For the Dead

The Great War just ended but for many the horror still remains. 21-year-old Kitty Weekes is on the run. Determined to get out of London, she forges credentials and presents herself as a nurse at Portis House, a “madhouse” for soldiers suffering from PTSD. But Portis House hides its own secrets. The previous owners mysteriously disappeared. An unknown stalks the corridors at night. And the men all suffer from the same terror…someone coming for them at night. Someone now coming for Kitty, too.

4 out of 5 stars

Silence For the Dead attempts two things. Separately, they succeed. Together, they fall short of full success. But surprisingly, not as short as I initially expected.

First, the book presents historical fiction with a psychological twist. The plot takes place post-WW1 in a “madhouse” for soldiers suffering from PTSD. Kitty experienced abuse as a child and suffers her own form of PTSD. It all feels very realistic and well-crafted. While the heroine might demonstrate a little too much ‘open-mindedness’ for true historicity, the modern mindset towards mental health does not really permeate these pages and that helps a lot with the setting. These men—and the people around them—view themselves as cowards for giving into their nightmares. As historical fiction I found I really enjoyed the setting and the balance the author strikes. 

Second, this is a ghost story. Think And Then There Were None but with ghosts. The characters all live in isolation with no chance of escape, even the staff. Something is coming and they are helpless to stop it. The mystery of the abandoned house-turned-hospital remains an open ended question until the climax. Very intense, very eerie, and very enjoyably put together. I am as a general rule skeptical of ghosts and “mad” characters who act without rhyme or reason. They make such terribly convenient excuses for irrational actions. But the author doesn’t give into the convenience; she does a good job laying the groundwork and setting up the climax. It really pushed this book up a star in my mind.

Separately, then, two good plots. The problem comes when you combine them. It is hard to take the soldiers’ PTSD seriously when ghosts stalk around causing trouble. But on the flip side, it is hard to genuinely enjoy the ghost story when the author so carefully presents actual, psychological issues. The fantasy disrupts the realism and the realism disrupts the fantasy. I never felt the full “punch” of either story line because the other one kept dancing in my peripheral vision, distracting from the actual emotions before me.

But it works in the end. Not, perhaps, as well as it could. But well enough that I do recommend this one if either of those genres catches your interest. It was an engrossing, fun story. I’ll definitely find more by this author.

(PG-13 for a fade to black scene.)


Not Part of the Wedding Party

It is odd attending a wedding as a non-wedding party member. I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m at that age where most of my friends are getting hitched and the last few I attended involved me participating at some way. But let me tell you, not being a bridesmaid is so…low key. 

I just showed up. I ate. I danced. And then I left. No clean up, no prep, no extra care over hair. Weird stuff. I still feel a little guilty leaving without at least stacking a chair or sweeping or something. 

In other news, happy wedding day, Jon and Noelle!