Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

Summer Reading . . . er . . . Listening . . .

Written By: Anachan - Jul• 03•17

Summer is a great time to read books! Summer is also a great time to listen to audiobooks!

This summer, so far, I have finished Reading Lolita in Tehran, The Ugly Stepsister, The Cry of the Halidon, Lady of Devices, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Shackled (short one by Michael Wisehart which I got as a free download), and a book whose title I’ve forgotten about a teenage dragon shapeshifter.

I am currently reading Hillbilly Elegy, Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry On, A Storm in Tormay, and Start With Why. (Yes, I read more than one book at a time. Doesn’t everyone?)

And I’ve been listening to audiobooks . . .

You will notice that the books I have listed above (and I may have forgotten a book or two in it) vary widely. I have a couple of memoirs, a leadership book, and a self-help book. I have one Steampunk YA novel, one fairy tale YA novel, one adventure/espionage story, two YA alternate Earth books (the dragon one and Miss Peregrine), and two “other world” books (Three and a half, if you consider that A Storm in Tormay is actually a trilogy in one and Shackled is a prequel novelette.) Very little of it would be considered “highbrow” literature. But that’s what summer is for, right? (On a side note, Smithsonian Magazine published an interesting piece about what books Americans take on vacation. You’ll notice that, by far, the books people take on vacation fall into the Fantasy/Sci-Fi category. Not going to discuss here all the observations my husband and I discussed about why the data might show this.)

My audiobooks this summer, however, have had something of a marathon flavor. You see, before the school year ended, I finally succumbed to temptation and decided to try out a book described as a “B-movie.” In other words, it was unabashedly pulp fiction, but people loved it: Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International (which is free on Kindle right now!)

The author had me with his opening paragraph: “On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening, I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window.”

What?????

(Note: People who know me will most likely have paused in a certain amount of shock at the use of the word “jackass.” No, I don’t use that kind of language, myself. Yes, this author includes some worse words, occasionally. I couldn’t recommend the series to my parents. But the story is so much fun I was willing to overlook the occasional profane word, which is very, very unusual for me.)

The book is the first in a series of five books, four of which I have devoured, one after another. (The last is downloading to the Audible app on my phone, as I type.) The first-person narrator for most of the books, Owen Zastava Pitt, has a down-to-earth style and gets easily sidetracked by the details of firearms and other weaponry. (Not too surprising, as the author used to own a firearms store.) The books are one rollicking adventure after another, with enough suspense to keep the reader guessing, but enough foreshadowing to allow the reader to make some connections along the way. The books don’t take themselves seriously at all, providing much fun and laughs for the reader, while monsters in a variety of forms are slashed and blown to oblivion.

The audiobook narrator, Oliver Wyman, provides impeccable characterization–complete with accents–for the many individuals (and monsters) portrayed in the series. I first encountered his talent while listening to a Brandon Sanderson audiobook entitled Legion, which led to my buying almost all of said author’s works, over time, sometimes in more than one format. (I have one book in Kindle, audio, and print!) The Monster Hunter stories, while fast-paced and enjoyable, are honestly enhanced by this narrator’s skill.

For those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the books also contain some Easter eggs. In the guise of the worldbuilding which happens in fantasy novels are hidden gems of LDS doctrine and philosophy. Non-members will just view them as a part of the book, but members may find themselves suddenly grinning, as my husband and I did, every time they recognize one.

The reason behind this is that Larry Correia is actually a member of the church. Interestingly enough, I had no idea about this, because he is not usually included in lists compiled by members of member authors. I suspect this is because his style is a bit rougher than is encouraged for consumption by members. (Those crass words I mentioned earlier.) Other LDS authors sometimes have characters who swear, but if they place them in “other worlds,” those swear words can sound completely different, thus making readers forget that, really, they would be considered crass on those worlds. The difference is that Larry Correia’s world is an alternate version of our own, so the swear words are familiar to us.

No, this series of stories will not, in all likelihood, make me smarter. (Unless I actually go and look up all those firearms and blades he mentions . . . I already know what a kukri is, so that’s a start.) But I’m having so much fun listening to them as I garden, cut grass, do dishes, or focus on other mind-numbing tasks that I just don’t care.

After all, it’s summer, and in between the educator conferences and the volunteer work and the writing of the essay to enter graduate school and the stuff I have to do for my kids, I like to have something which is just for the giggles.

Adventures in the Online Library

Written By: Anachan - May• 14•17

Not too terribly long ago, I picked up a library card from our local library.

“Now, Anachan,” you’re probably saying, “you’re telling me you teach English and encourage students to read, and you don’t even have a library card yourself? What kind of hypocrisy is this?” Well, honestly, when I say “local” library, I mean one which is about an hour away from my home. It is in the town where I work, but it is not usually open when I have the time to go there. In addition, I have access to the high school library when I want many books, so there really had been no need.

But when a good friend became the head librarian, I learned from her Facebook posts that the library not only had physical books, they also had access to an on-line lending library through the state of New Mexico.

Now that was interesting. Books I could read without having to make it to a physical location to check out or return? I decided to give it a try.

With library card in hand, I logged on and browsed the selections. I was surprised to find that George R. R. Martin was listed among the “New Mexican” authors listed on the front page–surprised, but not tremendously excited, as I really don’t have any interest in reading the Game of Thrones series, despite my tendency to gravitate toward fantasy. I recognized other New Mexican authors, such as Tony Hillerman, who writes decent enough police mysteries, set in the northern half of the state. My mind satisfied with “Gee, whiz” facts, I finally searched for the book I’d really come to find: Hillbilly Elegy, which had been recommended to me by a friend.

No such luck: There was a waiting list. I put my name on the waiting list, then browsed what was available now . . . and found Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Reading Lolita in Tehran is a memoir by Azar Nafisi, who had been American-educated, then returned to Iran to teach university courses. She witnessed and lived through the events of the cultural revolution in the late 1970s and had to deal with changes in dress, attitudes, and behavior forced upon her and upon other citizens by the new regime. The book covers many of her and her students’ experiences from the time of the cultural revolution, intertwined with the account of a clandestine class she organized in her own home for a few select young ladies. She discusses the themes of several English-language books they covered, comparing them to her and her students’ situation in their own country.

It is a well-written book, although it may be slow-moving for those who are not bibliophiles. As I have had only a bit of exposure to the events of the cultural revolution in Iran through Persepolis, an autobiographical work by Marjane Satrapi in the form of a graphic novel, the topic of Iranian women coping with the situation in which they found themselves already held some of my interest. In this, the book does not disappoint.

But what I did not expect was the desire I now have to seek out some of the novels mentioned by the author and become more familiar with them. While I have no particular desire to read Lolita (still), and while I’ve only recently reread The Great Gatsby, and so have no need to read it again, I have done searches on books by Henry James and quotations by Friedrich Nietzsche. I expect I will have added to that list by the time I finish the book.

My one disappointment is that I cannot discuss this book with my husband. He has an innate sense of hatred for injustice, particularly injustice that he cannot fix. And so, while he is usually willing to discuss almost any book or article or almost anything else I want to discuss, this is the one kind of topic which he will beg I not speak of with him. Having gone through Arabic language classes at the Defense Language Insitute back in the late 1980s, he insists that he already knows the terrible things which the Islamic regimes have done in the Middle East and he does not want to dwell on them.

While I wish I could speak of the events in the book to him, to admire a turn of phrase or to organize my thoughts, if nothing else, I do understand. There are things on which I cannot dwell and will avoid like the plague, things which do not disturb him. Some people think that married couples should do everything together, but I consider it one of the compromises of marriage that married couples should not insist on doing everything together. And so he doesn’t insist that I watch certain dramas which take the viewer deeply into the minds of evil killers, and I do not insist that he watch shows or read books about injustice. (Note to self: Maybe I ought to remove “To Kill a Mockingbird” off our Netflix list . . .)

Because it is May–every U.S. teacher’s most stressful time of year–I have only made it halfway through Reading Lolita in Tehran and will need to renew it when the loan expires. I’m looking forward to the further discoveries I will make as I progress through to the end.