Tag Archives: reader

Can’t Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released.

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TitleEmerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews

Publishing Date: August 25th 2020

This is book 5 in the series so I will skip the synopsis. Think magic, action, sisterly awesomeness. Maybe guys without shirts on. 

And man, that is one hideous cover. And it is actually one of the better covers in this series. BUT I AM JUST REALLY, REALLY EXCITED FOR IT TO COME OUT

My old roommate got me hooked on this series and I blew through the first 4 books (and the two extra short stories) in under a week. And now I have to wait till August! Ahhhhhhhhhhh.


Schooled by Gordon Korman

Homeschooled by his hippie grandmother, Capricorn (Cap) Anderson has never watched television, tasted a pizza, or even heard of a wedgie. But when his grandmother lands in the hospital, Cap is forced to move in with a school counselor and attend the local middle school. While Cap knows a lot about tie-dyeing and Zen Buddhism, no education could prepare him for the politics of public school.

3.5 stars

I feel a teeny bit irritated with this book. As a former homeschooler, I put up with far too many people assuming my education resembled Cap’s to read about someone portraying exactly that kind of homeschooling with any equanimity. Let’s be clear, yo. I did have friends. I did use books. I did use a computer. I did not have goats. And yes, I did do school in my PJs. And with quarantine, I still do.

So, please, stop portraying homeschoolers as a bunch of weirdos!

But I get it in this book. The point isn’t so much that Cap was homeschooled in a hippie commune. (Though obviously, that plays a central motivating role.) The premise is what happens when you drop a kid raised by hippies and without much sense of modern technology in a public school.

It actually paints a really affirming and sweet look of a kid raised to know at his core who he is. And while his extreme naivety gets him in some unlikely situations, I liked how his personality changed the people around him. The book does not sugar coat middle school. And because of that, it shows why homeschooling helped Cap become his own person without dealing with all the crap associated with school.

There was a lot to like. Thanks for the recommendation, Dad!


A Final Book Count

Counting from my first month of law school to now…I have officially read 736 books while in law school. 

737 if I finish The Enchanted April tonight. 

It is a tiny victory, and yet a satisfying one. 


ALLLLLLL the Library Holds

If y’all recall on March 4 I wrote a blog post about how I kept maxing out my library cards’ allotted holds on Libby and couldn’t wait for them to come in…

Well, they’re all coming in now.

WHEN I HAVE NO TIME TO READ.

Because finals and all. 

Fate’s End by Ilona Andrews and Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop and The Great Debate by Yuval Levin and The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary and Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore and Hard Times by Charles Dickens and Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton. 

All within the last 48 hours!

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The Young Clementina by D.E. Stevenson

I’ve recently been enjoying the works of D.E. Stevenson, a writer from around WW1. I have avoided posting reviews of her books because I think several will appear on my end-of-the-year favorite book list. But as The Young Clementina only garnered three stars from me, I thought I might share this (unsuccessful) venture into vintage fiction. 

Written in 1935, the story follows Charlotte Dean—a woman life seems to have forgotten. At 35, she lives a monotonous life in London with no friends. Her life takes a dramatic turn when her former fiancé suddenly appears and asks her to take care of his daughter while he travels in Africa. Now Charlotte must face her past to bring healing to the difficult and withdrawn child.

D.E. Stevenson is a master of human emotions. Her comedy of manners books (like the Miss Buncle trilogy) somehow make the whole world feel cozy and good. Alas, with The Young Clementina she goes more Brontë than Gaskell, and the end result whips from excruciatingly depressing to predictably trite.

The description I gave of the plot, while the crux of the story, really doesn’t kick in till halfway. First we get to relive Charlotte’s childhood, her experience with WW1, and the tragic break with her fiancé . And despite how depressed it made me, I still low-key loved it. I felt moody and depressed reading it, but I also felt like it summarized how WW1 changed people. I read into it a bigger analysis about dreams and hope and lost youth.

Turns out, I was too ambitious in my interpretation. I still held hope for an alternate love interest to pop up and change the path the story was heading towards. No luck. The story shoulders on with some rambling paragraphs that don’t hide the very obvious, sappy conclusion. Characters generally get their comeuppance. I think I still would have rated this book 4 stars because I did love the tragic nature of the beginning, but the ending killed it by undercutting much of the character motivation.

If you like melodrama that feels vaguely Gothic without being so, you might enjoy this one. But personally, I found it underwhelming.


If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxas

If You Can Keep It | Eric Metaxas

Several of my students recently participated in a writing competition where they answered a version of the prompt, “Should patriotism be taught as part of a liberal arts curriculum?” It came as no surprise to me when they all answered, “Yes, but….”

(Actually, I guess that did surprise me some. I expected at least one of them to say no.)

Anyway, patriotism has been on my mind recently and I picked up If You Can Keep It as an interesting foil to the essays. The students all struggled the most with defining patriotism. “Love of country, but not nationalism or jingoism” came up a lot. One person described healthy patriotism as falling between “hot dogs and baseball” on the positive end and “Civil War Reenactment” on the negative. Other students referenced reciting the pledge of allegiance or gathering around the flag.

They all definitely sensed that some love of country must be passed down, but that historically the United States has veered too far into the love and not far enough into self-criticism.

Although he takes an opposite view of America’s current way of teaching patriotism (too much criticism, not enough love), Eric Metaxas’s definition of patriotism surprisingly resembled my students’. I think I’d loosely define his interpretation as “love of country and the values she stands for, but not to the point of nationalism or jingoism.

The addition of “values” is where he manages to hit on something my students missed and so struggled with in their definitions of patriotism. How do you love your country and not become a nationalist? What do you focus on? Baseball and hot dogs might represent “America” to some, but at the end of the day, a love of baseball and hot dogs really means a love of a specific sport and a specific food, not a country. And even if you could somehow prove the three things infallibly interlinked, what do you do when someone claims to love America and yet prefers soccer and kimchi? Do you write off their patriotism because they do not share your preferences? It should also strike us as absurd because things might be inextricably American and still not the sole summary of our culture. Such a box presents too narrow a definition of patriotism.

Even the most stereotypical of red, white, and blue hot dog lovers recognize that many cultures fed the American melting pot. America is as much kimchi and tacos at hot dogs. Or to be more specific, America strives to tolerate kimchi, tacos, and hot dogs equally. You might love hot dogs and despise kimchi, or vice versa, but the fact that you can express your preference and then act on it, that is what it means to be American. Because by toleration I do not mean the false sense that you must accept my preference without question. I mean toleration as a virtue that allows people to vehemently disagree about their preferences and yet still live together.

This interpretation of patriotism also answers the opposite side of the spectrum: the one that praises multiculturalism so insistently that it ceases to truly praise anything. I mean the view that hot dogs and kimchi and tacos and really all food everywhere define America. And also, just about every other country. If patriotism means embracing all cultures, peoples, and food groups equally without any defining lines or common virtues, then what boundaries exist? Why should I love the United States when it is no different from any other country? Perhaps it is even worse than other countries, because it allowed white slave-owners to design its system of government. It permitted slavery. It only gave women the vote 100 years ago. Should the fact that I was born here really make that much of a difference? America did horrendous things; America perhaps did a few good things. In this it is no better or worse than any other country. I can feel the same emotions towards the place of my birth that I do towards China, or Chad, or Chile. And I can easily love those countries more because I do not live there and so do not have to deal with any of their flaws.

So, patriotism becomes more subjective. Love what your country does well, but hem it in on all sides with critique and complaints so that you never love your country too well. But by taking patriotism outside of its box altogether, any common interpretation of “love of country” becomes groundless and probably pointless. It is a matter of personal preference whether you love it or not. And if I don’t love it, who are you to say that I should?

But if the focus of patriotism shifts to the values that created this country, a slightly different pictures emerges. We can love America not for hot dogs but for toleration. Apple pie has nothing on freedom of religion. Free speech means I can criticize baseball as much as I desire and not fear the government telling me otherwise, even a government inextricably linked to the sport.

Of course, you might the problem simply shifts to defining values. What does liberty or equality or freedom even mean? But those debates take depth and discourse. They begin to push us outside of the gut reaction of “that’s different and I do not like it.” It also pushes the debate outside of “does America always do the right thing?” Because the answer of course is no, and we need to acknowledge that America frequently messes up. But that shouldn’t prevent us from still loving America as a place that strives for toleration or equality or freedom because though it often fails, it also often succeeds.

The consequence of this view, so Eric Metaxas presents, is not nationalism, but a love of virtue. We praise the virtues that define our country. We can praise those same virtues in another country. But we at least have a foundation for our praise and a commonality that goes beyond personal preference.

It is a much more nuanced and affirming view of patriotism than we typically hear. Eric Metaxas spends a great deal of the book looking at how to nurture patriotism. He praises patriotic statutes, heroic stories, and sacred ceremonies. And I think to an extent he rightly does so. “How do you pass patriotism along” is a vital question.

But it jumps to the “how” a little too fast for my taste. I really didn’t grasp his definition of “patriotism” till the end, and so any discussion of how fell flat for me while I remained stuck on the what.

The what needs more fleshing out. It is fine to point to Judeo-Christian values as a foundation, particularly since he aims this book at Christians. And I guess I can even see the merits of not “listing” the exact values that unite Americans (toleration, equality, rule of law, etc). A detailed list arguably falls outside the scope of this work. But I was still left hanging with a big question about what values specifically defined America.

At the end of the day, this is a popular text and not a political treatise. Nor is Metaxas strictly a political philosopher. This book really shines at its best when it falls squarely in the author’s wheelhouse: namely, biographies of various figures in the American Revolution. It becomes merely okay, but still interesting, when describing Metaxas’s own experience with patriotism. And finally, it becomes the least tangible when analyzing patriotism. But the view still stands surprisingly strong and made this a book I definitely recommend picking up.


Quarantine Book Club

My friend Hope and I decided to try and do a quarantine book club! We compared our currently reading and to-read shelves and came up with a few ideas. 

The thing is…I read too fast to make a very good book club person. She told me today she was thinking of giving up on the book we chose. I had to go to Goodreads to remember which book that was. Ah yes, What Remains of Me by Alison GaylinTwo stars, not very good. Lots of terrible characters. 

Thing is, that was six books ago for me. And possibly one of twelve books read since we decided to do a quarantine book club. (More or less. I don’t remember what day we officially started.) 

I’m not a slow enough reader to make a comfortable buddy reader. Or book club member. 

So we’ve come up with a new solution! I sent her a book I already read and loved. That way we can compare notes without the pressure of reading at the same time! If anyone wants to join us, we are starting with A Brazen Curiosity by Lynn Messina. 

I’m also in the middle of The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Feed by M.T. Anderson, The Two Mrs. Abbots by D.E. Stevenson, and Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles if any of those capture your fancy instead. Who knows for how long, though!