Tag Archives For: top ten

30 Aug, 2016

Let’s Not Teach Just White Male Authors

/ posted in: Reading

It has been a long time since I was in high school but from what I remember the novels we studied in English class were all by white men.  The single exception to that was Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.  We would read some other women in our textbooks that were basically excerpts of longer works or poems.

What Would I Choose To Teach High School Students?

I’m not a teacher but I think the following books would be better than the ones I remember reading.

Classics of English Literature

I remember reading Shakespeare and Dickens.  I love Shakespeare but Dickens bores me to tears.  I’d keep the Shakespeare and add in:

FrankensteinFrankenstein by Mary Shelley

Full disclosure – I’ve never read Frankenstein so I don’t know if it is any good but it is foundational to a lot of novels coming later.



Pride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Austen is as much of a English classic novelist as Dickens. What was that? Boys won’t like reading about balls and engagements? Girls have been forced to read about Miss Havisham languishing away in a room because *gasp* a man didn’t want her. It’s time to give ol’ Great Expectations a rest.


Balance Out To Kill A Mockingbird

I love that book but now that we’ve read the story of southern racial relations from the point of view of a young white girl, let’s look at the other side.   I propose:

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

It isn’t exactly the same time period but the narrators are about the same age. Besides, it is in verse and you know English teachers love that.



Throw Out Moby Dick

I do hate that book.  I read every page of it but if I was teetering on the edge of not liking reading, that experience would have pushed me right over into book hatred.  Why do we make kids read these books that are so boring?  Let’s give them books that are interesting and yet still full of teachable moments.  Once we don’t have to analyse all the symbolism in Moby Dick anymore there is plenty of time.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This is the story of a Native American teenager who decides to go to school outside of the reservation. This makes him an outsider to the people at his all white school and his peers on the reservation.

Parent Complaining Points – This is one of the most protested books around. It talks about masturbation. Oh my gosh! I bet teenagers would have never heard about that if they hadn’t read this book.

A Time to DanceA Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

A teenage Indian dancer loses a leg in an accident. This is also written in verse and will teach kids about life in India.



Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is a book about abuse and neglect and bullying. There is a lot to talk about here.



The Shadow SpeakerThe Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor

This is a nice introduction to fantasy set in Africa.

Parent Complaining Points – Oh I’d be run out of town for this one. One of the supporting characters is a women with two husbands. Polyamory in a school book! How dare we? It isn’t suitable for children. Of course they learn about the patriarchs and all their wives in Sunday School but that’s so different.

This Side of HomeThis Side of Home by Renée Watson

Twins are dealing with growing up and growing apart as their neighborhood is gentrified beyond recognition.



I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the TalibanI Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

Let’s get some nonfiction in here too. Read this book about girls fighting to go to school so the kids feel bad every time they complain about having to do their schoolwork.


My classroom library for books not on the syllabus would have Daniel Jose Older and Alaya Dawn Johnson.  There’d be copies of Ms. Marvel of course.

What would you have in your dream high school English classroom?


02 Feb, 2016

My Favorite Historical Settings

/ posted in: Reading

What are my favorite historical settings for books?

Regency England

You know I’m a sucker for a good regency romance.  I love them from Jane Austen all the way until today.

Poland – not in World War II

I’ve been working on finding out more about my Polish roots.  I want to find historical fiction that doesn’t focus on World War II.  Poland has a rich history before then but it is hard to find books about it.

The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great (Catherine, #1)The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak

This book is about Russia but Catherine comes from Poland. This is the first book I read that talks about a vibrant Poland.



Winter JourneyWinter Journey by Diane Armstrong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is half World War II and half early 2000s but it is such an amazing book that I still recommend it. It is the story of a fictional investigation into war crimes committed in a Polish town. It is based on a true story.


I have these Polish historical fiction books on my TBR.

Push Not the RiverPush Not the River by James Conroyd Martin

A panoramic and epic novel in the grand romantic style, Push Not the River is the rich story of Poland in the late 1700s–a time of heartache and turmoil as the country’s once peaceful people are being torn apart by neighboring countries and divided loyalties.



The Journal of Countess Francoise KrasinskaThe Journal of Countess Francoise Krasinska by Klementyna Tanska Hoffmanowa

The coming of age diary of a young Polish Countess, Francoise Krasinska who in the space of three years travels from the shelter of her father’s court and becomes the secret consort of the Duke of Courland. In so doing she manages the transition from innocence to awareness in a time of political treachery.



France – turn of 20th century

I like reading stories about the artists of the time.

Luncheon of the Boating PartyLuncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland

“Instantly recognizable, Auguste Renoir’s masterpiece depicts a gathering of his real friends enjoying a summer Sunday on a café terrace along the Seine near Paris. A wealthy painter, an art collector, an Italian journalist, a war hero, a celebrated actress, and Renoir’s future wife, among others, share this moment of la vie moderne, a time when social constraints were loosening and Paris was healing after the Franco-Prussian War. Parisians were bursting with a desire for pleasure and a yearning to create something extraordinary out of life. Renoir shared these urges and took on this most challenging project at a time of personal crises in art and love, all the while facing issues of loyalty and the diverging styles that were tearing apart the Impressionist group.”


Pre-Columbian America

People of the River (North America's Forgotten Past, #4)People of the River by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear

“A gripping new saga of pre-historic America that takes us to the Mississippi Valley and the tribe known as the Mound builders. It is a time of troubles. In Cahokia, the corn crop is failing again and a warchief–and the warrior woman he may never possess–are disgusted by their Chief’s lust for tribute. Now even the gods have turned their faces, closing the underworld to the seers. If the gods have abandoned the people, there is no hope–unless it comes in the form of a young girl who is learning to Dream of Power.”

This couple have many books out about Native American life.  They are archeologists so their understanding d of the current research adds to the stories.


15 Sep, 2015

Ten Reviews I Keep Meaning to Write

/ posted in: Reading

I’ve been reading a lot lately but haven’t reviewed all the books because for some of them I didn’t have enough to say for a full post. Here are 10 books that I keep meaning to write mini-reviews about.


Deadly Election (Flavia Albia Mystery, #3)Deadly Election by Lindsey Davis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is part of Lindsey Davis’ series about a female private investigator in ancient Rome.  I love her books.  In this one Flavia is helping her friend and potential love interest dig up dirt on political candidates.  At the same time she is dealing with a problem at her family’s auction business.  A large chest that was consigned turned out to contain a body.

I enjoyed the book but it wasn’t my favorite of the series.  Definitely will keep reading them though.


Love Is the DrugLove Is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good girl high school student has a strange encounter with a man at a party hosted by a friend’s family to help students make contacts with adults who set up internships.  Later she is drugged and wakes up in the hospital not remembering what happened.  In the meantime a deadly virus is sweeping the country and Washington D.C. is locked down.  She travels between her prep school and her uncle’s house in a poor part of town trying to figure out why people seem to be targeting her family.

I’ve been raving about this author’s The Summer Prince all year.  This one didn’t thrill me as much.  It wasn’t bad.  It just wasn’t up to the other book.


You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Felicia Day was a home schooled violin prodigy and a math major in college so of course she decided to become an actress.  With parts few and far between she decided to write her own web series and that spawned an Internet empire.

I know her mostly from her traditional acting jobs on sci-fi/fantasy shows like Buffy, Eureka, and Supernatural.  I haven’t seen in web stuff.  She glosses over the TV roles or mentions them in passing.  I would have liked to hear more about that.  The story of making her own path is interesting though.


Paradise FieldsParadise Fields by Katie Fforde
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I like Katie Fforde but this one was a bit weird.  Maybe it is my raising coming out.  The main character has a daughter who is in her last year in school.  She keeps going to London for the weekend to stay with her boyfriend who the mother has never met and to go clubbing.  The mother doesn’t like it but what can she say?  Obviously she never met my mother who would have had a whole lot to say about that.  I just kept thinking, “It is called parenting, lady.  You don’t sneak around and spy and get embarrassed about it.  You put your foot down on behavior that is potentially self-destructive.”


The Wishing ThreadThe Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a magical realism book about a family who own a knitting shop where they knit blessings into garments for people. Now the shop is due to be torn down due to gentrification of their neighborhood immediately after the family matriarch dies. The next generation of sisters are trying to figure out how to manage their family legacy.

Loved the concept. Didn’t really like the story that much. Characters were too wishy washy for my liking.


The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Every year two children was taken from the village.  One goes to the School for Good and one goes to the School for Evil.  Sophie was born to go to the School for Good.  She’s blond and pretty and nice enough to lower her standards and befriend the outcast Agatha.  When Sophie and Agatha are taken, they are horrified to find that Sophie is assigned to Evil and Agatha is Good.

Again, I loved the idea but the story didn’t live up to the idea for me.


The Birth HouseThe Birth House by Ami McKay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dora Rare lives in an isolated village in early 20th century Nova Scotia.  She is learning from the local midwife.  When a doctor comes to the town and tries to persuade the women to pay to go to a hospital for child birth, the town needs to decide if modern medicine is always better.

For someone who hates babies, I really like books about midwives.  This is a great look at both medical history and women’s history in rural areas.


Royal Airs (Elemental Blessings, #2)Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second book of a series.  Josetta is a Princess but no longer close in line to the throne.  She is now working in the poor section of the city helping people despite what her family thinks.  She meets a con man who might be more than he seems.

I like this series.  I’m looking forward to reading the next one but I don’t want to finish the series too quickly.



The Forgotten GardenThe Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A child is found abandoned on a dock in Australia.  How did she get to Australia on a boat from England by herself.  Why isn’t anyone looking for her?  Years later her granddaughter takes up the search for the answer to the mystery.

I read this for the Travel the World in Books readathon.  It was supposed to be an Australian book but ended up being mostly in England telling the story that lead to the child getting on the boat.  I think I had read this before but forgot it — which is ironic.

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl GeeksThe Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a guidebook to geek culture.  I’m pretty steeped in it so I didn’t learn much but I did enjoy skimming through this.