Your love is a symphony.

Friday, I headed down to Charleston for what was sure to be an epic adventure. I met up with my favorite Georgetown girl, Jessie, to see my two favorite bands, Civil Twilight and Switchfoot, play on the same stage at The Music Farm, this really awesome venue in downtown Charleston.

The fun began as I was driving down King Street, and I spotted Andrew McKellar walking down the sidewalk. Andrew is the guitarist for Civil Twilight and, therefore, awesome.

Jessie and I met up, parked in the visitors’ center parking garage and wandered around briefly. We then went back to the visitors’ center, and decided to kill a few minutes after realizing that if we moved our cars to the parking garage, we would only have to pay a flat fee of $2 for parking the rest of the evening. Just after 5 p.m., as we each drove into the parking garage, we spotted a man holding a camera standing on the sidewalk just inside the garage. Kneeling on the ground nearby was a shaggy-haired, blonde man writing with a black marker on pieces of cardboard.

The man with the camera was Andy Barron. The kneeling man was Jon Foreman.

I’m shocked Jessie and I managed to pull into the garage and find parking. I was literally jumping up and down seconds after I climbed out of my car. We rushed down to the lower level, where I high-fived Jon Foreman and Jessie chatted with Andy (friend of and photographer for Switchfoot) about his camera.

It was a beautiful moment and the show hadn’t even started yet. What followed was a delightfully simple few hours: walking up and down King Street, coffee at Starbucks, and a wonderful dinner at this tiny Italian restaurant where Jessie’s friend Luke is a waiter.

The show was magnificent, of course. Few members of the crowd knew anything about Civil Twilight, but by the time they started playing their cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop,” the crowd was totally hooked. I loved watching the reactions of people around me–I could see people texting and updating Facebook statuses about Civil Twilight, and when people began to recognize “Teardrop,” the excitement was palpable. I love this band. 🙂

And Switchfoot just keeps getting better. It was my 6th time seeing them live (and my 10th seeing Civil Twilight!). One of the best moments came when Jon introduced the song “Your Love is a Song,” which is my favorite song from their latest album Hello Hurricane. He said he’d never tried to explain the inspiration for the song onstage before that night. Sadly, the video isn’t the right file type to upload to WordPress, but if decide to upload it to YouTube, I’ll be sure to post it on here later.

This isn’t a great photo, but it’s the only one I got of the whole band. Also, while it’s great to be in the middle of a crowd, it’s less great when you’re only 5’2″ and can’t actually see more than the hairstyles in front of you.

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SLJ List of Top 100 Children’s Books

This week, I found School Library Journal’s blog that compiled a list of the top 100 children’s books, as suggested by teachers and students.

With as much children’s and young adult literature that I’ve read, I’m surprised to find I’ve only read 43 of the 100. That’s 57 I have left to read! Many of them are classic examples of children’s literature, but there are a few more contemporary ones mixed in (for example, most of the Harry Potters are on the list).

So…as if I need another reading goal, I’ve decided to try for reading at least 20 of these this summer.

[Side note: this will help in my other goal of reading 100 previously unread books this year. As of yesterday, when I finished by 50th previously unread book of the year, I’m halfway through! These 20 will get me closer.]

The 57 books I have to choose from:

5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg

8. The Secret Garden, Francis Hodgson Burnett (which I own and have started several times, though never completed. This should definitely be one of the 20.)

10. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster.

12. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien (my bookmark is about halfway through…I need to finish…also one of the 20)

16. Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh

17. Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli

18. Matilda, Roald Dahl

21. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Rick Riodan

23. Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder

26. Hatchet, Gary Paulsen

27. A Little Princess, Francis Hodgson Burnett

29. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (yeah, I know…also one of the 20)

30. The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper

31. Half Magic, Edward Eager

32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Robert C. O’Brien

37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred Taylor

39. When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead

40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

42. Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder

45. The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman

47. Bud, Not Buddy, Christopher Paul Curtis

48. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, Jeanne Birdsall

49. Frindle, Andrew Clements

51. The Saturdays, Elizabeth Enright

52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick

53. Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

55. The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson

58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken

59. Inkheart, Cornelia Funke

60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi

62. The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew), Caroline Keene

63. Gone-Away Lake, Elizabeth Enright

65. Ballet Shoes, Noah Streetfield

67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher, Bruce Coville

69. The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart

70. Betsy Tacy, Maud Hart Lovelace

72. My Father’s Dragon, Ruth Stiles Gannett

73. My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George

74. The Borrowers, Mary Norton

76. Out of the Dust, Karen Hesse

77. City of Ember, Jeane DuPrau

78. Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes

79. All-of-a-Kind Family, Sydney Taylor

80. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (I’ve heard mixed reviews on this, but I’m still eager to read it. This will probably be one of the 20 as well.)

81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin

82. The Book of  Three, Lloyd Alexander

83. The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner

84. Little White Horse, Elizabeth Goudge

85. On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder

88. The High King, Lloyd Alexander

92. Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine

93. Caddie Woodlawn, C. R. Brink

94. Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome

96. The Witches, Roald Dahl

97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamillo

98. Children of Green Knowe, L. M. Boston

99. The Indian in the Cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks

Some of these I don’t even recognize, and a lot of others I know as being older books. There aren’t as many recently published on here as I would like, and there are some that I’m shocked were left off (what about The Book Thief or The Devil’s Arithmetic?)

So…my goal is to read at least 20 of these by the end of the summer, though I suspect I could get through a lot more than that. Then, after I’ve read most of the books on this list, I’ll make my own list (of less than 100 probably) of books that I think should absolutely be read and why.

So, readers, now that you’ve made it through this lengthy list, where should I start? What books on this list of ones I haven’t encountered yet do I absolutely need to include in the 20 I’m going to read this summer?

Musings

1. Just moments ago, I finished a complete, though unedited, draft of the final project for my Caribbean women’s writing class. At 5,052 words and 16+ pages, it’s the longest paper I’ve written in three years (though still quite short when compared to my lit theory paper and honors project). At the beginning of the semester, I felt overwhelmed looking at the syllabus. A 15-20 page essay due on the same night as a 5-7 page theory paper (which is actually 8.5 right now)? Plus a ton of reading–both primary works and secondary, critical essay. Overwhelming doesn’t actually come close to what I felt thinking about getting all this work done while working full-time and teaching. But I’ve done it! The end is here. The semester ends tomorrow night, after an informal 10-15 minute presentation on my final project and turning my essays in. Then…an almost two-week break before summer school begins. Once I push through that, I’ll have about six weeks of a summer break. And it’s gonna be awesome.

2. I bought the Doctor Who soundtrack. The theme song is epic, in case you didn’t realize. Epic music (without lyrics) is perfect for paper writing.

3. Speaking of Doctor Who, I found an awesome pick-up line/knock-knock joke on a Facebook group this afternoon:

Knock, knock?
Who’s there?
Doctor.
Doctor Who?
That’s right, baby.

It’s so cheesy, but I giggled. And I keep giggling (at least internally) every time I think about it. If a guy ever said that to me, I’m pretty sure I’d at least go to dinner with him. Maybe marry him. 🙂

That is all. Happy Wednesday!

My Favorite Caribbean Books

As you probably know if you follow this blog or know me in real life, I’m finishing up my first semester of grad school at Gardner-Webb (and my fourth semester overall) in just a few days. I’ve just completed one of two final papers that are due on Thursday in my class on Caribbean women’s writing; this one is my theory of Caribbean writing. I really enjoyed writing the paper as it’s caused me to review most of the books I’ve read this semester. Early in the semester, I reviewed some of the ones I read, but I haven’t done that as of late, so I decided to just make a post of my favorite books from this semester.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

This was the only Caribbean book I’d ever read before taking this course. The first time I read it, I didn’t appreciate it very much, and I was mostly just frustrated that it seemed to be attacking Jane Eyre, one of my favorite books of all time. After studying it in a world lit class almost two years ago and again this semester, however, I actually really like the book. Jean Rhys wrote this book in thee 1960s, as a re-writing of Jane Eyre from Rochester’s wife Bertha’s perspective. In Rhys’ story, Bertha is really Antoinette, a white Creole living in the Dominican, who is married off to Rochester (who is actually unnamed in this story). This book is a quintessential postcolonial novel and one of the first novels out of the Caribbean to achieve wide critical acclaim. It’s a quick read (just a little over 100 pages) and a great introduction to Caribbean literature.

Prospero’s Daughter by Elizabeth Nunez

This book is one of the most recently published book we read in class–it’s only been out since 2006. This book is another retelling–this time of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I haven’t actually read this play, so some of the connections were lost on me; however, this book is spectacular even without prior literary knowledge. I had a hard time putting it down (though some parts are difficult to read), and I really enjoyed the read (probably because it’s one of the only books in the class that has a truly happy ending). The book is the story of Dr. Gardner (a.k.a. Prospero) who flees his native England to avoid scandal and takes over an estate on the island of Chacachacare off the coast of Trinidad. His daughter Virginia, who was three at the time they leave England, grows up on the island and becomes more Caribbean than English. She also falls in love with a Caribbean boy named Carlos, whom her father highly disapproves of. He attempts to separate them at all cost.

This book isn’t just a romance novel. It’s incredibly well-written, with beautiful descriptions of the land and insightful portrayals of the characters. Nunez is brilliant at showing versus telling, and the book serves as both a novel to be critically acclaimed and to enjoy. Furthermore, I fell in love with the island of Chacachacare (which actually exists) so much so that I added visiting the island to The List.

Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

This is the book I chose to read for my final project for my class. This is a collection of nine short stories and an epilogue. Danticat is Haitian, and all the stories either take place in Haiti or in the lives of Haitian immigrants to the United States. It’s honestly one of the most moving pieces of literature I’ve ever read, and the one on this list that I recommend most highly. For a full review, see this post.

Crossing the Mangrove by Maryse Conde

Yet another incredible book that I could hardly put down. This is the story of Francis Sancher, whose body is found in the marsh at the beginning of the novel. Through a series of vignettes told from sixteen different characters’ perspective, we as readers begin to understand the intricacies of life in the village of Riviere au Sel. Each character talks about his or her experiences with Francis (some of the women are in love with him, some of the men loathe him, others are indifferent but have some story to tell, etc.). We end up learning about the characters themselves in their reactions to Francis, and we also learn that Francis was an enigma, and we never could fully understand his story.

From the beginning, Conde’s narrative style reminded me so much of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, particularly his story “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World.” In both GGM’s story and Conde’s book, a dead man acts as a catalyst for change in a small Caribbean village. However, Conde’s story, because of its length, is a great example of characterization, and I’m frankly amazed at Conde’s ability to give voice to so many distinct people. It’s brilliant.

Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat

In this memoir, Danticat proves that she is just as adept at nonfiction as short stories. This book, published just three years ago, is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. Danticat tells the stories of her father and her uncle. As a child, Danticat’s parents immigrated to New York, leaving her and her younger brother in Haiti to be raised by her father’s brother Joseph. As a result, Danticat essentially has two fathers, which both her father and uncle recognize. As an adult, Danticat watches her father’s decline in health around the same time that her uncle flees Haiti, seeking asylum in the U.S. Because of a ton of political reasons that angered me as I read the book, her uncle is declined the asylum he seeks; he is also treated horribly in a detainment center. Danticat tells this story in a way that celebrates the lives of her two fathers while revealing the injustice of society in both Haiti and America. It’s truly an excellent read.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Note: there are spoilers in this summary; however, if you were to read the back of the book, you’d find out the info anyway, as I did.

Alvarez, like Danticat, is a Caribbean writer who has actually achieved a great deal of popularity in the United States. This book is another excellent work. Alvarez tells the story of the Mirabal sisters, who lived in the Dominican Republic under Generalissimo Trujillo’s dictatorship. She fictionalizes their story, imagining their childhood and the decisions they made to join the revolution against Trujillo. Two of the four sisters were imprisoned themselves, and their husbands, plus their sister Patrice’s husband, were also imprisoned. Trujillo intentionally moved the men to a prison farther away from the sister, knowing they would have to travel down a danger pass to visit their husbands. One night, just a few months before Trujillo is overthrown and killed, he has the Mirabal sisters ambushed and executed.

The Mirabal sisters–known as Las Mariposas, or “the butterflies”–are revolutionaries, but they’re also sisters, and Alvarez very aptly writes to reveal the numerous, sometimes contradictory, roles they play.

The hardest part about reading this book was knowing the ending, knowing that three of the sisters would die. Each sister has one chapter in each of the three sections of the book in which she tells her story, but the story begins and ends with Dede, the surviving Mirabal sister. From the beginning, the reader knows that three of the protagonists are going to die. It’s really difficult to get so attached to a character, knowing that she won’t make it to the end of the book. It’s even harder when you get attached to three characters. Nonetheless, this is an incredibly evocative story, and yet another one that I highly recommend.

April Books

Books I read in April (that I had not read before). I’m way ahead of schedule to meet my goal of 100 previously unread books this year. 🙂

31. Stuff Christians Like, Jonathan Acuff. It’s almost not fair to say this is a first-time read, as I’ve been following the blog for months and quite a few of the entries were re-reads. Still, it’s in book form.

32. Spike: After the Fall, Brian Lynch. The third and final volume of an arc that takes place between the series finale of the TV show Angel and the sequence of events from the Angel: After the Fall comic books.

33. In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez. A fictionalized account of the Mirabal sisters, who fought in the revolution against Trujillo in the Dominican. In Nov. 1960, three of the four women were visiting their husbands in jail when they were ambushed by Trujillo’s soldiers and killed. Alvarez imagines what their lives were like as the Mirabal sisters were growing up, and she paints a magnificent story of their lives together and the experiences that led them to fight in the underground revolution to overthrow the dictator.

34. Mallory’s Christmas Wish (Baby-Sitters Club #92), Ann M. Martin.

35. Camilla, Madeleine L’Engle. A young adult novel having nothing to do with the Austins or wrinkles in time. A coming-of-age story about Camilla, who realizes her parents’ marriage is in trouble, but who also meets her first love, who helps her realize that growing up isn’t such a bad thing.

36. A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaid. Part memoir/part scathing indictment of government corruption. This book is short, but packed full of discussion about Antigua, the very small Caribbean island where Kincaid grew up.

37. Brother, I’m Dying, Edwidge Danticat. This Haitian writer is quickly becoming one of my favorites. This is the second book I’ve read of hers; it’s a gut-wrenching account of her father and uncle’s deaths. The brothers died within a few months of each other, her father from a serious illness and her uncle from pancreatitis following cruel treatment in a detention facility after he sought temporary asylum in the U.S.

38. The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde. Oh, Wilde. He’s hilariously ironic and perspicaciously humorous. I’m saddened that it’s taken me this long to read Earnest; however, I’m delighted to be discussing it in Victorian literature and to see it performed at NGU this spring and the Warehouse this summer.

39. Backwater, Joan Bauer.

40. Something, Maybe, Elizabeth Scott. Finally, another writer of fluffy romance for young adults who’s as good as Sarah Dessen.

41. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson. The last work for the Victorian lit class I’m auditing. Kinda sad, but I’m glad we’re ending with such a good work of literature.

Welcome to the Nerd Herd

This week, I started a new hobby.

I now collect comic books.

I mean, I’ve been reading them for awhile. First, the graphic novels. My first one was actually Dave Gibbons’ The Originals in a British Novels class in college. Then Watchmen and V for Vendetta. And the Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 8 comics. And other Joss Whedon spin-offs.

Now, I own some. My collecting began the beginning of this week, when Dr. Washick delivered the 26 issues of various Doctor Who storylines. One of his friends was getting rid of much of his comic book collection, and I purchased those. I have since ordered another shipment from an online comic book distributor out of Texas. And…

Today was Free Comic Book Day. I visited Borderlands and Richard’s Comics and Collectables, and I have added to my collection. Also, Richard’s is AMAZING. They have a subscription service, so I’ll be able to save money and guarantee that I get the newest issues of the comics I want. And…I bought a Lego Angel doll from there. It’s seriously awesome.

When I was paying at Richard’s, the two guys working and I started talking about Buffy. And when I confessed that I had just begun collecting comic books this week, one of them (who was wearing a costume) said, “Welcome to the Nerd Herd.”

Indeed.