A Book Review on Jane Austen’s Birthday

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday!!! Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors.  Jane, Emily, Charlotte, and Louisa….they are the OGs of my bookshelves. My favorite Jane Austen novels are Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility in that order. Emma is the best in my opinion, Mr. Knightley definitely > Mr. Darcy. Here’s my review of “How to start a fire”!

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I just finished “How to start a fire” by Lisa Lutz last night. Usually, if I get through a book, it means I liked it….but this was another tough one for me. I started this book, had to table it, and then picked back up again. Not easy with a book that chronicles the lives of 3 college friends in that style that jumps around between events of different years. I had to really focus to keep what was going on from basically 1998 to 2013 in the book. I have read a few books now where the chapters jump back and forth between the past and present and it can be tough to follow.

Perhaps another reason why I struggled was I didn’t really relate to any of the main characters. The three girls, George, Kate, and Anna would probably not have been girls I would have befriended. I thought more than once in the book that the reason why they stayed friends was because they really didn’t make any new friends and only had each other. I suppose I appreciate George’s love for nature, and the way that camping calms & centers her. I love how Kate is kinda sheltered but has this inner strength and can be content with what she has at that moment, not always wanting more. Anna was probably the most dramatic, tumultuous character. You don’t really learn her or Kate full story until the last 100 pages or so. I have a few women in my life that remind me of Anna. One has made her way out of the woods, and one is still a little lost.

J. Courtney Sullivan wrote a book called “Commencement” that was again about a group of friends from college and how their lives intertwined afterwards. I might like Commencement better than How to start a fire. It has been so warm in Massachusetts. Yesterday, the pup and I went for a walk in the woods sans jacket! Looks like we might have a green Christmas up here!

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We all took Monday off from exercise after the hike on Sunday, so girlfriend was pretty amped up to run around yesterday. It was hard to get her to stay still for a picture hahaha. As usual, my book was from the library. Not sure what I will read next, but utilizing the library saves me a lot of money on books. Save the pennies my friends.

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Luckiest Girl Alive by J. Knoll: Glad I kept reading….

This week I finished reading Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. My feeling about the book now that I am done is positive, but it was a rough start. In the beginning, our main character, TifAni, is downright caustic…even a little vulgar. I found myself wondering if I was reading about a sociopath hiding in society behind a nice job, nice clothes, and a nice fiance. I forced myself to push on.

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Yep, another library book from a library in my area, free books. Love it.

As the book continues and you begin to learn about the secrets in her past that are alluded to throughout the beginning of the book, you start to learn why she is like that. Her personality starts to soften as you learn about the things that Ani went through at her private preppy high school, The Bradley School. By the end of the book, I was totally on Ani’s side and I started rooting for her to make the right decisions as the book comes to a close.

The writing itself was tough in some spots. The book goes back and forth between the past and the present, and sometimes, I had to use context to figure out where we were. The way that the author described sequential events was tough for me too…I guess I like more detail than she provided sort of taking you through an event from beginning to end and her writing was a little more choppy. Her description of an event was almost like snap shots as opposed a movie, not as continuous as I like.

Being a high school teacher & spending my days with adolescents, a lot of this book was familiar to me. The struggle for acceptance that doesn’t actually end after high school (we just don’t care as much) is very visible in my students. Even the way some of my students act like they don’t care about being accepted….they are actually gaining acceptance by others like them. Clothes, sneakers, backpacks, phones, earbuds, jewelry, lunch bags, hair style/color…..these are all badges they wear to present to their peers. They search for others that have the same badges. Sometimes they search for peers that have better badges, badges that they envy and want. High school is tough for many teens, thankfully it only lasts 4 years. From this book though, even though she was an extreme case that went through some traumatic things, our main character was still being plagued by things that happened in high school even in her late twenties.

Now, this is probably the 3rd book that I have read since the summer where the main female character had a dysfunctional relationship with an overbearing status-obsessed mother.

What’s up with that?

Can’t we write a fun, interesting, book with a female character that has a strong bond with her mother? Is that just not interesting? Is that not typical in the “preppy” world where many of the books I like are based? The Nanny Diaries that I read this past summer showed a nice relationship with parents with Nanny….but obviously Mr. & Mrs. X were not model parents. The Secret Life of Violet Grant, Everybody Rise, and now Luckiest Girl Alive all had weird family dynamics with the main characters. Elin Hildebrand’s books which I love in the summer usually have some good mother daughter relationships. I usually read one of her lovely Nantucket based books each summer, so perfect for the beach!

I hope that you all have great weekends ahead. After an awesome riding lesson last night, I am setting off into a horse filled weekend. I am working on my jumping skills and last night took a very forward, borderline impossible to stop, horse over cross rails. So fun. Happy Friday! TGIF!

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Thoughts on the novel, The Knockoff!

While I was sitting out in my campsite early Monday morning with beautiful Casco Bay (I’m obsessed, I know) in front of me, I finished “The Knockoff” by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza. I know I am a little late to the party, but this book is worth celebrating! The basis, without giving too much away, is a story of a magazine editor in chief, maybe a more kind, down to earth version of Anna Wintour, that comes back to work after beating breast cancer, to find that her fashion magazine is joining the digital age, and her Techb*tch former assistant is now at the helm. It’s a tale of the struggle between adapting to the new without losing what was good about the old. I absolutely devoured it.

Being a teacher, I see this daily. Older teachers who began their careers in the late 70s and 80s are forced everyday to confront and accept or hide from technology. Our lesson plans, professional development, licensure, schedules, evaluation tools, and all important memos are digital. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say, “What? I didn’t know about that? Oh, it was in an email?” Half the room rolls their eyes, hopefully inwardly, like what have you done all day if you haven’t read your emails, and half the room sympathizes thinking ummmm hello there are more important things to do than read emails, like teach?

The digital age has made teaching “stuff” easier to track and share, but just like Imogen, our editor in chief in “The Knockoff” feels like turning her magazine to just an app has made the content flat instead of rich, I also feel that digitalizing teaching can kill our creativity a bit. I try to find a balance between over organizing in my google forms, lesson plan templates, and online grading with those precious spontaneous teaching moments that you can’t plan for. Those moments make your teaching come alive and become meaningful for a student. With limited time and standardized testing, it is not always easy. I try to remember, our passion is really our craft and putting everything on the internet is just our new version of the craft fair. Its the way we reach our customers/stakeholders. Don’t work against the internet, work with it, and find those understanding coworkers or friends that are somewhere between eyeball rollers and complete sympathizers. You don’t need someone to patronize you or commiserate with, you need encouragement and patient instruction, we all do every once in a while.

My copy of “The Knockoff” was from my town library, it retails for upwards of $13. Buy your ebooks for when you need them, maybe traveling, use your library and save money when you can!!

c/o Mon