What I’m Reading Now: What Language is by John McWhorter

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Well Kate is almost finished with her homework assignment so I guess I better get going on mine.  Pretty excited to dive into my sister’s world.

Review: Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

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This is the first book for my pop culture homework assignment! And it was so good! Okay, but before I start gushing about how much I like the book, let me tell you about it.

 

The small town (population: 212) Cryer’s Cross is  in the grip of a tragedy. Tiffany Quinn, a sophomore in high school, has disappeared. They search for her but do not find her. The school year ends, the season turns and then the following Fall another student also goes missing. The town once again comes together to search for a missing student. What is going on and why was Nico, the second missing student, distant and forgetful in the days leading up to his disappearance? The story is told from the perspective of Kendall Fletcher, high school student and best friend of Nico. To add to the mystery, the school has two new students, Marlena and Jacian Obrian, who have moved to Cryer’s Cross with their parents to help their grandfather with his farm. The cops interrogated Jacian about Tiffany’s death. Is Jacian involved in the missing persons case or is he just a grumpy high schooler who is pissed that he had to move before his senior year to the middle of nowhere? (Also, maybe the townsfolk just a little bit racist?)

 

Okay, now to gush about this book. I love Kendall. She is amazing. Much of the plot is driven forward by Kendall’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. I liked that she was portrayed as a whole person and just as a disorder. I also liked that this wasn’t a story about OCD. I also loved Jacian and Marlena. They are amazing characters. Beth and I were discussing it, and Jacian is definitely book boyfriend material.

I enjoyed this book and if you like paranormal horror/mystery, you should try it.

Okay, now for a bit of a spoiler.

Continue reading

Pop Culture Assignment for Kate: Horror and Suspense

I had a hard time coming up with an assignment for Kate. My originally thought about assigning her first books in four different series but I had a trouble narrowing it down and  most of them are series that she would totally have read if she hadn’t been so busy the last couple of years working on PhD.  Which kinda defeats the purpose since the assignments are supposed to be of books that we normally wouldn’t read on our own.  So I decided on four different standalone horror and suspense novels.  All four of these books I enjoyed for different reasons.  I think it’s good to have a scare every now and then but also like how genre can comment on social issues without being in your face about it but also to an audience that normally wouldn’t seek out such material on their own.  So I’m excited to see how she like them.

cryers cross Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

I’m starting off Kate with Cryer’s Cross.  I would say is kinda of a ghost story.  Kendall loves her small town in Montana but she has dreams of going to school in New York. When tragedy strikes and her friends start to go missing, she teams up with the new boy to solve the mystery.  Race, mental disorders and small town secrets all come into play in this well written mystery.

coldestgirl The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Holly Black is a master story teller and this is in my opinion one of her best books.  She takes the vampire genre to a new level with this one.  I have to say it’s right up there with Sunshine by Robin McKinley.  Cities have been walled up to quarantine off vampires from the regular populations.  Tana wakes up the day after a party to find herself the only survivor of a vampire attack with the vampire and her ex-boyfriend both tied up.  She must make the decision to take them to a Coldtown.  Depression and the search for fame are also examined as they make their journey.

the waking dark The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman

They called it the Killing Day when regular citizens go on a killing spree out of nowhere in a small town in Kansas.  Five teenagers from different parts of town are thrown together as they try to survive the night and the mysterious virus goes through the town.  Social classes, privilege, abuse all play apart of the narrative as they figure out what’s going on and how they can escape it.

scowler Scowler by Daniel Kraus

I changed my final book.  I originally was going to have Kate read another Holly Black novel but it didn’t really fit the whole horror theme.  This one kinda gave me nightmares.  So good Luck, Kate.  Ry and his mother and sister are trying to save their Iowa farm when a meteorite hits nearby and their past comes back to haunt them.  Their abusive father is on the loose and Ry must rely on his old imaginary friends to helped him survive his father before.  Can they do it again?

I hope Kate and everyone who chooses to read along will enjoy their Summer of Horror and Suspense.

 

Pop Culture Homework Assignment for Beth: Language

This summer, I am sharing with Beth something that has been a passion and a profession for me: the study of language. At the end of the month, I will defend my dissertation. If it all goes well, I will have a PhD in linguistics. Language and its study have been a huge part of my life for a long time now, but the details of it haven’t really been something that I have shared with my family. I know that they know what I do, but I worry that they find the discussion of it way too boring. To be honest with you, coming up with this list felt a little self-indulgent and unfair. (So much so that I have a back up assignment, in case she protests and boycotts this one.) But, I love the work that I do and find it exciting, so I have decided to share a little bit of general linguistics with my sister (and anyone who wants to join the challenge!) this summer. The four books I have picked are half non-fiction and half fiction (huge hat-tip is Jessi Grieser on twitter for asking for book suggestions and Gretchen McCulloch for this blog post! It helped me pick the fiction on this list!).

  1. What Language Is: and What it isn’t and what it could be by John McWhorter

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John McWhorter has written a number of pop science on language and I’ve found them to be quite enjoyable. I haven’t read this one, but the reviews suggest that it will be a good introduction to what linguistics is, while also providing some fun trivia about language.

2. Left hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

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I couldn’t resist adding an Ursula K. Le Guin book to the list following our read along last February.  Le Guin uses language in interesting ways in this novel. I look forward to hearing Beth’s thoughts on the book, after having read McWhorter’s thoughts on language.

3. The Last Speakers by K. David Harrison

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Depending on how you count, there are between roughly 6,0007,000 languages in the world. For many of them, the possibility that they will still be spoken in one hundred years is slim. This book highlights that and brings attention to speakers of some vanishing languages.

4.  Embassytown by China Miéville

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Language is at the center of my final selection. Living figures of speech, a unique language humans must be modified to speak. Danger! Catastrophe! Hard choices! So fun. I can’t wait for her to read this.

In fact, I can’t wait to hear what Beth thinks about all of them!

Summer’s End: The Pop Culture Homework Assignment Roundup

Well, folks, It’s Labor Day and summer is over. This has been a really fun summer for us at StacksXLifeX. We challenged each other in June to do a Pop Culture Homework Assignment. We each assigned the other four books that were themed and we gave ourselves the summer to read them. (We, of course, could and did read other things, too!) My theme for Beth was travel. She read Wild by Cheryl Strayed. She then followed it up with Traveling Mercies, 13 Little Blue Envelopes (with the bonus extra credit: The Last Little Blue Envelope!) by Maureen Johnson, and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

Beth assigned me The books of Rainbow Rowell. I’ve been hearing about some of these books for awhile now (in particular, Eleanor and Park) so I was very happy to dive into them. I also read Attachments, Fangirl, and Landline. Plus, we got some bonus posts because, serendipitously, Rainbow Rowell spoke at our parents’ local library while I was visiting home, Eleanor and Park inspired a playlist and Fangirl inspired a dessert.

We enjoyed this challenge enormously. It has been so fun to read books outside of our normal fare and to discuss those books with each other and you. We hope that you have enjoyed the posts and this summer. School is back in session, the leaves will be changing soon and before we know it, everyone will be doing year-end reviews.

So, tell us in the comments: What were your favorite books this summer?

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

So, I can’t believe how incredibly lax I have been this past month about blogging. I finished this book awhile ago (before Beth finished A Walk in the Woods!). This was the hardest of the books that Beth assigned me to get through. (Which I think is funny. I read the easiest and then immediately started the hardest). But, it was nice to know that even if I was having trouble with it, at least I was reading a signed copy.

Georgie has always wanted to be a comedy writer and she has worked very hard over the years writing for various television shows. Now, she and her writing partner have a chance to pitch their own show. This is their dream. But, it’s Christmas and she was supposed to go to Omaha with the love of her life Neal and their two kids. He tells her not worry, they’ll go without her, she should stay and write her pitch. She stays. He leaves with the kids. A chain of events is then set off in which Georgie has to wonder about her future and her past. Did Neal leave her for good or just for Christmas? Trying to get in touch with Neal she discovers that she has a magic phone that can call Neal in the past. Well, at one particular time in the past where she was sure Neal had left her for good.

This one, my last one in my pop culture homework assignment, was so slow starting. At the beginning of the book (probably for the first fifty pages) I didn’t care about Neal or Georgie and so I wasn’t invested in their relationship. It didn’t matter to me if they stayed together or if they split. But, the further I got into the novel, the more I started really getting into the context. Georgie is thinking about her priorities and what she wants from her life. I can relate to that. In fact, this was probably hardest to read because Georgie and I are about the same age and I have also been thinking a lot about my priorities this summer. Georgie is coming to realize all of the things that she has taken for granted (that you can’t take for granted.) Neal is not my favorite paramour in literature; he’s brusque and standoffish. Without Georgie, I probably wouldn’t care about Neal (without Neal, I might care about Georgie). But, Neal and Georgie do seem to have something good in the flashbacks we are treated to as Georgie thinks about her relationship (and as Rowell provides us the context of the phone calls to the past.)

It is a neat concept: a magic phone that can call one place and time in the past. That’s pretty neat. At the Rainbow Rowell reading I went to earlier this summer someone asked about the magic phone and she said, “Who wouldn’t want a magic phone they could use to talk to a past love?” Me. I wouldn’t. But, if I had a magic phone and I could talk to my past self, man that would be sweet. Past Kate could have saved Present Kate a lot of trouble. This was my least favorite of the four Rowell books I read this summer but it was still pretty good.

And, with that, I am done with my Pop Culture Homework assignment!

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

This is the story of Cath, a first year college student who is super awkward, in love with characters in a teen series, and a writer of fan fiction. She moves into her dorm room with her new roommate (after her twin sister tells her she doesn’t want to room with her) and then proceeds to try and make it as far as she can without interacting with anyone. Her roommate, Reagan, and her roommate’s friend (boyfriend? friend? boyfriend?) Levi force her to interact with them. Levi forces the issue by snooping through Cath’s stuff and eating most of her supply of protein bars (forcing her to ask where the cafeteria is) and Reagan forces the issue by making Cath eat with her in the cafeteria. They slowly become friends. Cath and Levi realize that they have feelings for each other and the story spirals from there. Additionally, there are story arcs that involve both of Cath’s parents. Cath’s father has raised her and her sister from when they were very young and now her mother would like to have some involvement. Cath’s father also has bipolar disorder. Cath’s interactions with her parents were beautiful and at times heartbreaking.

I love Cath. I love her so much.

This book has beginning of school drama. It has tension between sisters (ugh, her sister drove me crazy!). There is romance. There is friendship. There is at least one douche canoe of a bro tryna take advantage of a young woman. There’s some really satisfying comeuppance for said douche canoe of a bro. There’s an awesome professor who gets it…but also doesn’t get it. And, there’s the fan fiction. Oh, the fan fiction. I finished this book in two days and I read it on my phone because I couldn’t get enough of it. I read it in every spare minute that I had. This was by far my favorite of the books that Beth assigned me this summer. I cannot wait for Carry On!, Cath’s fan fiction, to be published this Fall!

Review: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Featured imageI did it. I have completed my summer’s Pop Culture Homework Assignment and still have a couple more weeks before the kids go back to school. (Kids in NYC go back ridiculously late.) I’ve read four books.  Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott, 13 Blue Little Envelopes and Last Little Blue Envelope (extra credit) by Maureen Johnson and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.  I feel very good about all of this.  I’ve read three non-fiction books, which is three more than I read all of last year.  I read about two brave women and how they overcame their struggles and came out stronger.  I got a feel for what it’s like to hike and camp and it still has no appeal to me but I can see how it might appeal to others.  I also got to read a new book form an author I really like.  I would say it was a productive summer.

So A Walk in the Woods was enjoyable.  I can definitely see why Kate loves it so much.  Bill and his friend Stephen Katz are two people who probably shouldn’t be hiking but they did and they made it.  Ok, maybe Bill but definitely not Katz.  Bill moves to New Hampshire and finds out it’s right by the Appalachian Trail and decides, he’s going to hike it because why not.  Out of no where, his long lost friend Katz decides to do it with him. Like Cheryl in Wild, they have no idea of what they are getting themselves into.  Sure, they’ve done some hiking before but nothing like this.  Reading their misadventures was a delight.  From their struggles with their packs, the people they meet and their run-ins with animals that were real or imaginary was amusing.  The best part of the book is when they are together.  In the middle, Katz has to go back to Des Moines for a job and Bill continues on his own.  It’s not that I don’t like Bill, it’s I liked him more when he had Katz to play off.  If they were a comedic duo, Bill would be Desi to Katz’s Lucy.  The book read faster and I was more interested.  When it was just Bill, I felt like he spent more talking about history and other tangents and while interesting, it slowed the pace down.  Maybe he spent so much time talking about other things because he was by himself he obviously didn’t have any witty dialogue to include. The Appalachian Trail is older then the Pacific Crest Trail that Cheryl hiked and so it had a lot more places to stop.  Also, it’s surrounded by more towns and people, so Bill and Katz had more chances of interacting with people on and off the trail.  It was interesting to see how they were treated when they left the trail.  In some cases like Gods and others indifference.  All and all it was an enjoyable read.  I’m glad I read it.