The Coldest Winter Ever

It’s always difficult to select a favoritSS. Coldest Winter Evere book, especially when each book you read has impacted you in some way. Each time I read a book more often than not, I am able to identify with scenes, characters and situations. So, if I had to select a favorite book at this time, it would be one in which I felt I could connect with the character on a very personal level. It would be a book that I could not go to bed without reading. In which I actually stayed up till the wee hours of the night turning pages. A book that I was able to pass along to others, so that they too could relate, identify and perhaps apply a life lesson. Up to this very day the book that has been one I’ve handed off to plenty is, The Coldest Winter Ever by Sistah Souljah.

The story is about a young teen, Winter Santiago, daughter ofa key drug dealer of Brooklyn. Her father ruled Brooklyn and kept his family up to date with high fashion, fancy jewelry, and all top of the line items. Winter quickly became accustom to the life her father provided. She partied with her friends rather than attending class and simply just enjoyed the fast life. Sooner than later her father was soon caught by authorities and facesjail time causing Winter to basically lose it all. However, she doesn’t take this as a lessons learned, or as an opportunity to change her way of life. If anything, this gave her extra push and adrenaline to get back to Brooklyn and continue living the lifestyle her father had provided. Winter then finds herself struggling to find money to keep that lifestyle she once had all the while making the wrong choices.

The greatest strength of this read is that the book was written to make us, the reader, feel as though we personally know all of the characters in the book. There were many times that I found myself reading and perhaps identifying others as my version of Winter.

It was interesting to see how important we make clothes, hair, and jewelry. We so often forget that these are materialistic dust and there’s so much more to take from life than materialistic items. As individuals we like to say that materials have no true value to us but it’s funny to see once in a situation what our actions will be.

Photo was taken from: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/coldest-winter-ever-sister-souljah/1100364537?ean=9781416521693

 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson

An avid reader can only imagine the challenge I went through when deciding a favorite book, a challenge a readershould never be asked of to do. But after a couple of hours of flipping through pages, I chose “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson. At first glance, you see this wildly colored book cover and a titled bolder enough to reel you in. Turn it over and you will find a summary so alluring, you might end up buying the entire series (which I also strongly recommend). “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is set in Sweden where you first meet Mikael Blomkvist who’s reputation as a journalist has been stained from being convicted of publishing libelous material about financier Hans-Erik  Wennerstrom. Then a haunted older gentleman, Henrik Vanger, presents Blomkvist with a opportunity to save his reputation along with a catch. Vanger has been haunted by his niece, Harriet Vanger, who has been missing for 36 years. He’s haunted by these pressed flowers she used to make for him; they’re still being sent to him after all these years. The catch is that Blomkvist must find out what happened to Harriet and whether he succeeds or not, Henrik will provide Blomkvist with some ammunition ready to fire back at the financier. Determined, Blomkvist accepts, but after some struggle with the research, Blomkvist asks for the help of the woman who did her own research on him, Lisbeth Salander, an extremely troubled, extremely intelligent, and just a down right interesting character. Throughout the book, you the reader are thrown through a whirilwind of dark family secrets and situations you would never imagine a person could go through with their sanity still intact.

There wasn’t one particular thing I loved about the book. As I read the first book, something inside of me clicked and as I continued I know I felt so unbelievably amazed by what was going on in this 841 paperback book. I will say that once you get to know the character of Lisbeth Salander, you will fall I love with her. I have never loved a character so much in my life and I would gladly read them all over again.

Watership Down

Richard_Adams_WatershipDown

Watership Down Cover, 1st edition, 1972

With so many choices it is hard to distinguish one particular book as being the favorite of them all so, I started at the beginning of the author alphabet and for the ‘A’s chose Watership Down by Richard Adams.  On the surface it is a story of a warren of male rabbits who move on to seek females rabbits to keep their line alive, a pleasant, if sometimes harrowing story based in the animal kingdom.  But, the story is much more than that as it examines the social pressures applicable to all times and peoples in one sense or another.  The story is told in such an engaging way that the animals gain a believable human persona and you find yourself rooting for the hero and his followers and hoping for the villains demise.  It is in some ways reminiscent of the “David and Goliath” scenario where you breathlessly hope for the underdog to come out on top.

Watership Down is a timeless story that can appeal to many generations from young to old.  As I many times as I have read it over the years, I find myself fully engaged in the trials and quest of the characters during each reading.  Whether you are looking to be entertained, learned, both, or somewhere in-between, Watership Down will satisfy your desires.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

-Invisible Man Book Cover-

-Invisible Man Book Cover-

Once upon a time I was 20 years old, and taking an American Literature II elective at Nova Alexandria. At this point in my life, I was living with my parents and confused with life in general.  I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career but knew I had a repressed passion for writing that was slowly starting to come out. I also  thought myself off as odd for various reasons.  Externally because I have a visible birthmark on my right eye. and As a  college student I thought was atypical due to the fact I struggled academically in high-school and at the time listened to large amounts of rap music.

I used to observe the other students in this class and think that I was somewhat of an anomaly. Looking back Ive realized I was a bit naive.  In this class we read All the Kings Men and two other books that I don’t seem to remember very well.  The third book of the semester however was  Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.  I read this book ten years ago and consider it the best book I’ve ever read.

This book is very heavy in subject matter and can be hard to read. Ellison’s descriptions are at times poetic and at others gut wrenching to the point they are almost hard to believe their taking place.  This book is about a narrator who is living underground and feels invisible to the world. He is an African American male from the South living in 1930’s America and ends up in Harlem at one point. Though this book has very much to do with racism and black and white relations. It also is very much about a man searching for Identity and trying to find a place in this world. Not trying to give to much a way but the Narrator feels betrayed many times throughout the book and struggles with race and his own ideals.

This book stands out through it’s painful but beautifully written descriptions and symbolism found throughout out the book.  Identity is a universal theme and although not everyone suffers through intense racial prejudice, people do change and struggle to find who they are. This fact alone makes it a book everyone should read.

 

Double Dutch

My mother always wanted for her children to read because she saw it as fundamental but also a way to better ourselves and not become a statistic. So I would find myself going to the library at school but also our public library in our city. I have read a variety of books overtime and must say that I  do not have a favorite book. So deciding which book to deem my favorite is pretty hard so instead I decided on a book that was life changing.

Double Dutch by Sharon M. Draper tells the story of Delia who has progressed to the 8th grade without knowing how to read. Some main factors that contribute to her not knowing how to read is her being in public school where it is easier to slip through the cracks and also her parents going through an ugly divorce. Double DutchThen you have her friend Randy who is living on his own because his single father, who happens to be a trucker, who has not come home for a couple days and Randy starts to worry but is afraid to tell.

This story touches me because I understand how a child could be left behind especially in a public school setting. I am very fortunate to have a mother that made sure that I was learning everything I needed and to also have both parents in the home. This book has opened my eyes and makes me want to help. Maybe not by becoming a regular teacher but just being open to the ideal of finding a way to get through to the youth and being a resourceful person for anyone wanting to learn.

Gone With the Wind


For my fifteenth birthday, all I wanted was a copy of Gone with the Wind. And I knew I was

Vivian Leigh portrayed Scarlett in the 1939 film version.

Looking for something that can compare to GWTW.

going to get it too, because I was with my mother when she bought it. There was a big open space on the shelf that held the copy I admired. I am not entirely sure why I wanted it so badly, because when I opened it on my big day, I did not start reading immediately. Instead, I placed it in the center of my bedroom bookshelf that was especially designated for classics. I stood back and admired it. Not opening the front cover until Christmas three years later.

I am not entirely sure why I waited so long to read it. I knew it was going to be amazing, and I knew I would love it. Perhaps I was intimidated by the largeness of it, or maybe I was unknowingly acting like Scarlett, and just asking for the book just so I could have it. Knowing all who saw it would be impressed by it and its owner. That is definitely something Scarlett would do.

When I did begin to read it, I was immediately entranced by how real everything was. What ( Or should I say who?) was the most real however, surprised me. I did not expect Scarlett to be so real. I honestly expected to find  Vivian Leigh instead of Scarlett. I felt deeply connected to her. It was as if I was with her throughout her entire story, and that I was her closest confidant. It scared me how much I wanted to be her as well how much I didn’t.

Throughout the novel, Katie Scarlett O’Hara faces many challenges from many different aspects of the world. War, death, and poverty, as well as more superficial things like social climbing, are all things that are she faces with the determination that she and her family will get out alive and back to Tara, even if others get in her way. I admired her determination and the gumption she had to ensure survival.

The cover of Gone with the Wind

The cover of Gone with the Wind allows for readers to see Scarlett’s pre-war life.

 

Gone with the Wind for me, is a book I go to again and again for inspiration and wisdom. It haunts me and makes me count my blessings, as well as opens my eyes on what truly makes me happy and who I truly love.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I have always loved books, ever since early childhood, as I constantly found myself being immersed in the infinite and inspired world of literature. For this, I credit my mother, as she surrounded my childhood with wonderful books of all genres which captivated and ignited my imagination. Countless novels and writers have profoundly impacted my life, from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. The world of books, of endless possibilities, has allowed me to explore the Mississippi alongside Huck and Jim, reside in Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, and examine the eccentric mind of Holden Caulfield. I have lived these stories. I have identified with their characters–rejoicing in their triumphs and weeping with them in their agonies.

Book Cover–from novel’s Wikipedia page.

So, when I approach the deceivingly simple question of “What’s your favorite book? ” certainly, it is not so easy to select a single work. The answer relentlessly changes, evolves and repeats. I have a favorite book for every occasion, time of year, mood and emotion. However, today, I choose The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

I have read this novel a remarkable fourteen times and each time I fall in love with it more than the last. It’s an engaging, conversational, relatable, intimate and honest novel which offers a unique perspective that is both thought-provoking and inspiring. The novel follows the diary of a young, conflicted boy in an all-together hilarious, devastating and spirited tale of “growing up.” There are endless musical and pop-culture references, as well as riveting stories recounting the turbulence of finding and reinventing oneself in high school–all elements in which we can all identify with.

A famous quote from the novel.

A famous quote from the novel.

I can’t even begin to convey the many ways in which I profoundly relate to the novel’s characters and experiences–especially the main character Charlie. His journey and transformation is one that encourages the reader to cherish, invent and celebrate life’s moments which make us feel “infinite.”

Many of you may have heard of or seen the newly released film adaptation staring iconic leads such as Emma Watson. I was thrilled when I learned that a movie was being produced, but, mostly, I was apprehensive as to whether the portrayal would do the book justice. In the end, I was pleased with the outcome, and I certainly recommend it. However, this book is always better, of course! Give the book a try and I promise you you’ll find a little bit of yourself within!

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The DVD cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Seaward

Book cover of Seaward

Book cover of the 1st edition.

“What is your favorite book?” Every time I hear this question, my head starts to spin a little bit. How can I possibly choose one book? As Dr. Ficke said in her post on Alice in Wonderland, this is a difficult question if you love books.

The book that I’ve chosen for this post is called Seaward by Susan Cooper. In it, two young people named West and Cally are each transported from a disastrous moment in their lives to a wild and surreal world. They don’t speak the same language and come from different countries, but they must journey together through the strange world until they reach the sea.

If my two-sentence summary of the book makes it sound at all interesting, pick it up and try it. Part of the reason I love Susan Cooper is for her use of language. When I read one of her books, I am swallowed up by her words and the depth of her narrative. I first learned about Cooper from a friend, who lent me all five books of The Dark is Rising sequence. Within a few weeks, I had devoured The Boggart as well. Seaward is similar to these other titles in language and skill, but the journey contained within is beautiful and inspiring.

National Book Festival 2013 Poster

2013 poster for the National Book Festival

During my summer travels, I was lucky enough to catch an exhibit on magical books at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford. Obviously, work by the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling was on display, but I was thrilled to note that the exhibit included many of Cooper’s works (especially The Dark is Rising sequence).

Seaward is sitting in my dorm room this fall for a specific reason. In just a few weeks, Susan Cooper will be coming to Washington DC as a part of the National Book Festival. Since Seaward is my favorite book of hers, I hope to have her sign my copy that weekend. I am very excited to meet one of my favorite authors, so I thought that writing about her work for this blog post would be both interesting and timely.

Favorite Books

The DVD cover of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951).

The DVD cover of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951).

Greetings from the Professor! Over the next four months, this blog will become populated with posts by the students of EN 200 at Marymount University, as they share their thoughts and reflections on our class readings and assignments. You can read more about the class over on the About page. To start the semester, I’m asking the students to introduce themselves by writing about a favorite book. “What is your favorite book?” is always a tricky question. Often, the answer will depend on our mood, the time of day, the weather… any number of apparently unrelated factors. The best many of us can do is to pick one of our favorite books, or our favorite book at this time and place. That response might appear to be avoiding the question, but it also gets at the heart of one of the amazing things about literature. Every time we pick up a book, we have the potential to find a different experience. Favorite books are found and lost through the mysterious chemical reaction that happens between reader and text, and that changes every time we read.

A page from Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Lewis Carroll's first, hand-written and hand-illustrated, publication of the Alice story (image from Wikimedia Commons).

A page from Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, Lewis Carroll’s first, hand-written and hand-illustrated, publication of the Alice story (image from Wikimedia Commons).

The last time I responded to this “favorite book” prompt, I wrote about Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, but this time I’m going to choose a different book, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Alice is actually made up of two books: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there. I can’t pinpoint the moment I discovered the Alice books. It may have been through the 1951 Disney cartoon (I know my dad started singing me the “Unbirthday” song at an early age), or it may have been through an abridged storybook for children. I know I watched the 1985 TV miniseries and was thoroughly scared by the Jabberwocky at the end. It wasn’t until later that I read the books and discovered that none of the film versions really do them justice. The Alice books are full of seemingly-simple episodes that can lead you into a labyrinth of references, allusions, games, and uncertainty where any word, as Humpty Dumpty says “means just what I choose it to mean” and yet nothing is straightforward (161). Due to their combination of fantasy and philosophy, the Alice books have been fascinating both young people and adults since they were published. I chose to include Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass in this class because they are stories that reward you more and more the farther you dig into them. They’re also incredibly fun, and their characters and stories continue to resonate with readers (and viewers, and gamers) today, over 100 years after they first appeared.

Work Cited: Carroll, Lewis. Alice in Wonderland. Ed. Donald J. Gray. New York: Norton, 2013. Print.