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At this time of year, working at a year-round school is so freaking awesome (not so much in June and July, when other schools start vacation and I’m still working in the heat). I get my vacation separated into months throughout the year, with two weeks added on to Christmas vacation, and a whole month for Spring Break, and then one month in August. Now, a reminder for those who don’t know…teachers are technically not paid for vacation…we get ten months of pay every year, and that pay is split up amongst the twelve months for some teachers. This is why many teachers take a second job during vacation–summer school, independent contract work, etc. But, not me!

Every time I get a month off, I set personal goals to accomplish. Most are simply things I wish I had more time for, and I always set one for something that I’ve always been too chicken to do–a big goal. Last year, in April, I set the goal of reading as many books as possible, and ended up reading 28 and gained 10 pounds in the process! In August of last year, my big goal was starting a blog, and here I am! January of this year was the beginning of boxing and Muay Thai classes, which I am still taking four times a week! So, what are my goals for this Spring Break?

    1. Read at least two books per week! I think I can easily manage this one (except for The Canterbury Tales…I think that will be read concurrently throughout the month!) I’ll just be reading during the day while the husband is at work. Depending upon the difficulty of the books, I should be able to manage more than two per week!
    2. Write at least five posts per week! Again, I think I should be able to easily manage this, if not more. With all of the reading I’ll be doing, I’ll have a lot of reviews to write and post. Plus, there’s some really good television happening in April (Mad Men and Game of Thrones), so I’ll never run out of things to talk about!
    3. Just Dance video game WiiDrop five pounds–cut calories, run, bike, etc. Ugh. Despite my major sweat sessions doing boxing and Muay Thai for four hours per week, I have actually gained about six or seven pounds since January! I’m told that this is muscle, but this is ridiculous. I have never weighed so much in my life! So, it’s time to get all Dr. Phil and get real…time to cut calories and take more walks or ride my bike. Maybe I’ll also “Just Dance” it off. I just want to see if I can!
    4. Deep-clean the house! When I say “deep-clean”, I mean normal stuff that I’ve been putting off–dusting and sweeping, clean the bathrooms, pick up the clothes in the bedroom, shred the huge pile of stupid, unsolicited credit card applications, etc. I’ve become a terrible housekeeper!
    5. Sansa Lemon Cakes Recipe Game of Thrones

      Sansa's Lemon Cakes! (Man, she drives me nuts)

      Cook at least one Game of Thrones- A Clash of Kings-themed meal! Ah yes! This is a fun one! Last year, when Game of Thrones premiered on HBO, I got together with friends to watch, and I cooked Honeyed Chicken with potatoes and onions (like they serve in King’s Landing) and Sansa’s favorite–Lemon Cakes. Then, for a later episode, I made a true Dornish meal with pita, hummus, olives, rice, and chicken (I think?). I get all of my recipes from The Inn at the Crossroads, and this year, I want to make another GOT-themed meal. Maybe something they’d serve in the kitchens of Harrenhal…

    6. Go for at least one hike! I better do this one–I need some nature in my life!
    7. Do something special for my one-year anniversary with my husband. We got married during my Spring Break last year–April 12 in Reno. We need to do something for this occasion, since we both accidentally missed our other anniversary–the anniversary of our first date, which we have celebrated every year for the last five years. What to do though? Maybe a camping trip or a night in a hotel or something. I have no idea.
    8. The Canterbury Tales by ChaucerRead The Canterbury Tales! This one is long and difficult! I will be reading TCT in it’s original format (using the footnotes a lot!), so I’m anticipating a very slow rate of reading. Since it’s broken up into each traveler’s tale, I’ll probably set my goal for two tales per day. That way, I should be able to complete the text by the end of April. It’s a moral imperative that I do so! I have been wanting to read this for the last 12 years!
    9. Write a short story that I don’t want to throw in the trash! This is the big goal! I haven’t written a short story since college–ten years ago, to be exact. I want to see if I can write one complete short story that doesn’t make me want to puke! To do this, I have to do the next task as well.

My Writing SpaceStart writing in my office. Last summer, I turned our spare bedroom into my own personal writing office. All of my writing books are in there, I have a huge desk covered in quotes from my favorite writing texts, pictures of my heroes staring down at me from the wall (two pictures of Stephen King, hard at work on his own writing, as well as my signed picture of Felicia Day, who is one of the hardest-working creators I know of –she’s my lady-hero!) It’s all set up and ready for me, but because I don’t have a working laptop, I haven’t been working in there. But, for Christmas, I got a keyboard to go with my IPad, so I could turn that into a laptop. I need to start making that office work for me! This will have to happen!

So those are my ten goals for Spring Break! If you had a month off from your responsibilities, how would you spend it?

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Spring is here, and I’ve already started my spring reading, but I’m pretty excited because Spring Break is right around the corner, and, being a teacher at a year-round school, I get the entire month of April off! That’s a whole lot of time for reading and blogging! Last year, I read 28 books during Spring Break. Woot! So, here are ten of the books that I’m most looking forward to reading in the spring.

Wizard and Glass by Stephen King; The Dark Tower

1. Re-reads of The Dark Tower series–Wizard and Glass, The Wolves of the Calla, and The Dark Tower graphic novel series

 The Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King; Dark Tower

I’m trying to read a book per month from this series, and these are the books slated to be read before June!

2. The Wind through the Keyhole by Stephen King

 Dark Tower 4.5

To be released in late April, I can’t wait to see what was going on with the Ka-Tet that was so important that King had to release an entirely new novel to fit between Wizard and Glass and The Wolves of the Calla. This ought to be good!

3. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and/or The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga

These are both very long books, and I can’t yet decide which one I want to read for my classic in April. The Canterbury Tales is a re-read, but it can be very difficult. The Forsyte Saga is long, but very engaging, something that might be more useful in the hot summer months. Not sure yet, but I know that I’ll enjoy both.

4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley or The Iliad by Homer

Again,The Iliad I can’t decide which one I want to read in May. The Iliad can be difficult, so it all depends upon how much brain power I have available in May. I’m not even sure that I want to read Brave New World, but it is certainly easier than The Iliad.

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

5. Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

Man, the Sookie books have been disappointing in the last two years, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the series. I always read the new book in May, and this year won’t be any different. I have to see what’s going on in Bon Temps.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I read Divergent in December, and liked it. I can’t turn my back on a series…I’ll see what happens next.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

7. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides or The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

One or both of these will be read in the spring. Don’t know yet which one it will be.

8. Re-reads of The Walking Dead graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman

I need to refresh my memory on this series, and then pick up where I left off with the comics! Last time I read, I was at a major cliffhanger! It’s been months since I left off.

9. Continued reading of Locke & Key graphic novel series by Joe Hill

I only read the first three volumes in February, and I loved them. I need to keep going before I forget, like I did with The Walking Dead!

The Portable Dorothy Parker

10. Continued reading of The Portable Dorothy Parker

I’ll probably be reading this all year, but that doesn’t mean I’m not always looking forward to the next short story, poem, or essay offered in this collection.


Reading Update!

What I Am Currently Reading:

The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Collected Stories and Poems of Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

The History of English Literature by Perry Keenlyside

The Portable Dorothy Parker

The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

What I Recently Read:

Mrs. Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw

Mrs. Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw (read review here)

and

I Want My MTV

 I Want My MTV by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum (read review here)

What I Am Reading Next:

The Waste Lands by Stephen King

and

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy


Locke and Key vol. 1 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Things are still a little off with me. I’m no longer in a funk, I’ve returned to the gym, and my house is finally clean, but I’m still not all there. Now, it seems, I have a bit of blogger’s block. I sit down at my computer to write a post, and nothing comes to me. What I do write feels like crap. Yesterday morning, I struggled with writing my review for Locke and Key. It’s still unfinished, and I’m not quite sure how I want to write it, as the review covers three books. I think I need to outline.

So, to deal with my writing constipation, I’ve returned to my most comfortable and favorite writing medium–good ol’ pen and paper. It does seem to help, as I’m not struggling with writing right now. I guess that I’ll keep at it until I feel like my old self again.

At least, through all of this offness, I have been reading. Maybe too many books. Perhaps my divided attention is affecting my blogging focus. But, I am reading. Here’s what I’ve finished reading, am still reading, and just started reading.

Mrs. Warren’s Profession– I finished this play by George Bernard Shaw last night, finally! I really enjoyed it, but, for some reason, was struggling with the drama format. Maybe, I’m out of practice. The themes were very interesting as the story dealt with prostitution in the Victorian era and gender inequalities. The play also featured one of my new favorite female characters–a young intellectual woman with a penchant for mathematics, working hard, and being independent. My kind of gal!

I Want My MTV– This one is taking a while because I’m always stopping my reading to watch the videos on YouTube. It’s a lot of fun, and while the commentary on various videos, musicians, VJs, and events from the ’80s is interesting, a lot of the context of this book is old news for me. I was a huge MTV fan growing up, so this is more like a walk down memory lane. I tend to skim the chapters on the MTV corporate execs though. I’m not interested in how much coke those guys snorted.

The Portable Dorothy ParkerThe Portable Dorothy Parker- This one I will be working through slowly. It is a collection of Parker’s short stories, poetry, and essays. Mainly, I read this one before bed, averaging a short story per day. I am loving her short stories! Actually, I am just loving Parker period–she just seems to be my literary soul mate. I really connect with her writing. She even provided the perfect quote for my title today, which sums up my issue with writing right now, as well as my issues with just about anything that I want to do, but can’t seem to do (I hate the gym, but I love having gone to the gym. I hate work, but I love having worked. I hate cleaning, but I love having cleaned the house. You get my drift…).

So far, I’ve read the following stories:

“The Lovely Leave”- Gah! I so related to this sad story of a woman who eagerly prepares for her husband, an officer away at war, to return home on leave. She has such high hopes for the 24 hours they get together, you just know that it won’t turn out well. Parker’s depiction of the woman’s insecurities and reactions to her husband’s life away from her are so relatable, I could easily put myself in her shoes, and I cringed often. This one really resonated with me.

Arrangement in Black and White by Dorothy Parker

Illustration by Seth

“Arrangement in Black and White”- Ugh. A very short piece following a ditzy moron of a woman at a party who is eager to meet an African American musician who is the guest of honor. She falls all over herself for being so forward-thinking by calling him “Mister” and enjoys the novelty of the moment. This story reminded me of people I knew in college- rich kids who would “slum it” in San Diego for the novelty.

The Sexes by Dorothy Parker

Illustration by Seth

“The Sexes”- A cute, short dialogue between a young woman punishing a young man suitor for paying attention to another woman at a party. Their conversation felt so true, and I know I’ve had this conversation before. Oh ladies–why are we so neurotic at times?

The History of English Literature by Perry Keenlyside and read by Derek Jacobi: I needed something to listen to in the car, so I went to the library and found this. It’s not too bad, kind of like having Derek Jacobi as your lecturer during a six-hour English Lit class. Snippets of literature are read, juxtaposed with the history behind it. I really liked listening to Chaucer read aloud- perhaps that’s how I’ll do The Canterbury Tales this year.

Also, today is Sunday, so tonight is television night! Why are all of my favorite shows on Sunday? I don’t know, but it’s good stuff.

Season Finale of Downton Abbey: What’s going to happen to Bates? Will Mary and Mathew get together? Wasn’t I asking these same questions before the finale of season 1?

Yes, and I’m so glad that the same high drama is still happening. I can’t wait to tune in, and this is why.

The Walking Dead: Finally, it seems that the living will be the bad guys on the show. Let’s face it- humans and human nature are way scarier than zombies.

Rick Grimes Graphic Novel Walking Dead

I wonder when and if Shane is going to bite the bullet. As long as he’s alive, it seems that Rick won’t get his somewhat anti-heroic status that he maintains in the graphic novels. I love the actor who plays Shane, but I want to see Rick screw up more and be more tormented by his conscience. One of the major and most important themes of the story is what this apocalyptic world forces good people to do, and Rick is at the center of this theme, and I just don’t see it happening so fully with Shane being alive. It seems that the show has split the graphic novel character of Rick in half, with his good side going to TV show Rick and his tough decision-making side going to Shane. I want Rick to shoot some humans, so that he can start really dealing with morality issues. I also want the survivor crew to move on and away from the farm. There’s a lot more going on in the outside world than simply zombies…they need to start interacting with it!

So, that’s what’s going on with me right now. This is a pretty long post, and it wasn’t too hard to write on paper. I think this long-hand drafting might work out. Now, back to the Locke and Key review…


When I signed up for the Readers in Peril (R.I.P.) challenge in September, I was bold. I signed up for all three tasks: Peril the First (At least 4 novels of the horror genre), Peril of the Short Story, and Peril on the Screen….and like Ellen Ripley, Ig Perrish, Dale Barbie, and Dean Winchester, I succeeded in the end!

  1. Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King
  2. Under the Dome by Stephen King
  3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  4. Horns by Joe Hill
  5. The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer by Jennifer Lynch
  6. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (not yet reviewed)

TOTAL PAGES READ:

  1.  “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates

  1. Troll 2
  2. Best Worst Movie (Documentary on Troll 2)
  3. Alien
  4. American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, and Supernatural
  5. A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King (not reviewed)

I did pretty good, considering almost all of the challenge was completed in October. Unfortunately, I now have a horror hangover and will have to wait a while before picking up another scary read. But, when I do, I will be sure to check out the R.I.P. review site for recommendations, as should you!

Awesome challenge–I will do it again next year!


REVIEW: “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates

Yesterday, I noticed I got a visitor to my blog who was searching for the answer to this question: “is “where are you going, where have you been,” by joyce carol oates, a fairy tales too?”. Typos aside, I can answer this question and more, as I read the short story last night. The following is my review of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates.

• “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been: Selected Early Stories by Joyce Carol Oates
• Paperback: 522 p
• Publisher: Ontario Review Press, 1994
• ISBN: 0865380783
• Genre: Classic American Literature; Short Story; Horror
• Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys well-written short stories, classic 1960’s American literature, social commentary, or even a bit of horror.
 
Quick Review: An unforgettable story that serves as a cautionary tale to young women about wolves in sheep’s clothing.
 

How I Got Here: I read this story for a class in college and have been haunted ever since. Now, over ten years later, I wanted to re-read it to see if it was still as creepy as I thought it was as a 20-year-old, naive woman. I chose this story to satisfy the Peril of the Short Story task of the R.I.P. challenge.

The Book: My synopsis:

Connie is a very pretty and very naive teenager in 1960’s America. She loves music, boys, and exploring her sex appeal. While at home with her family, she fulfills the persona of a good girl, but when she is away, she flirts and sneaks off with boys, enjoying her burgeoning sexuality. One night, she catches the eye of Arnold Friend, a strange young man with a messy mop of black hair and a flashy gold car. He says “I’m going to get you baby,” and by summer’s end, he goes to her house to make good on his promise. Yet, Arnold Friend isn’t like any other boy she has met before.

My Analysis and Critique: “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” certainly is a kind of modern fairy tale. Or, rather, it is a fairy tale without the “fairy” part. Many well-known fairy tales, in some way, tell of an innocent, virginal girl being pursued and/or attacked by an older man. In essence, “Little Red Riding Hood” is about a pubescent girl on the verge of womanhood (the red hood = menstruation) being attacked by a wolf (an older, hairy man) in the woods. These attacks in fairy tales are usually just allegorical for rape. In this way, the same tale is being told in Oates’ “Where Are You Going,”. Instead of a man characterized as a wolf, the girl is tricked by an older man in a young man’s body. As Connie, the female protagonist, looks closely at Arnold Friend, she realizes he is not a young man at all- he seems to be wearing a wig and makeup to disguise his older face. He comes to her house, demanding that she come out and go for a ride with him, which she resists behind a screen door (Three Little Pigs?). Whereas a fairy tale allegorizes this story with fantastic creatures and settings, Oates displays it in reality. Yet, it tells the same tale.

However, there are some otherworldly features to Oates’ short story. Arnold Friend disguises himself as a typical teen: “a boy with shaggy black hair, in a convertible jalopy painted gold.” Yet, as Connie looks closer, she realizes her aggressor is not what he seems– he rattles off typical teen sayings like he memorized them for a part:

“‘Don’t hem in on me, don’t hog, don’t crush, don’t bird dog, don’t trail me,’ he said in a rapid, meaningless voice, as if he were running through all the expressions he’d learned but was no longer sure which of them was in style…”

Then he gets really creepy, perhaps demonic. He seems to be wearing a tan-colored makeup on his face to hide his translucent skin which is visible on his neck, and at one point she notices his boots don’t fit right: “One of his boots was at a strange angle, as if his foot wasn’t in it. It pointed out to the left, bent at the ankle.” Perhaps, he has hooves? Then there is his name, which is screaming anagram: ARNOLD FRIEND = AN OLD FRIEND or AN OLD FIEND. Something surely isn’t right about this creepy guy who seems to know everything about Connie’s family, including what her family is doing at this very moment at a family picnic. Without a doubt, he is more than what he seems.

I highly recommend this story–it’s a classic, modern American short story, many times anthologized, and definitely delivers in creepiness. When I was 20, reading it for my Creative Writing class, I was afraid for Connie, and momentarily afraid for myself. Yet, just like Connie, I was naive and in love with being young. Today, I shudder at the risks I took as a young co-ed at San Diego State University–walking alone at night, leaving my dorm room unlocked, getting drunk and cornered in lascivious male neighbor’s apartment. Dumb I definitely was. Somehow, I came out of it unscathed and I was definitely lucky for that. I certainly didn’t earn it. It’s a scary world out there, and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” certainly reflects that.

Links:

  1. Full online text of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”: The Joyce Carol Oates Homepage at usfca.edu
  2. An excellent review from Coffee and a Book Chick, which includes further discussion on academic essays written on the story and a 1980’s movie based on the story.