Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review: Thinking with Theory in Qualitative Research: Viewing Data Across Multiple Perspectives

Thinking with Theory in Qualitative Research: Viewing Data Across Multiple Perspectives Thinking with Theory in Qualitative Research: Viewing Data Across Multiple Perspectives by Alecia Youngblood Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I would highly recommend this book to those who are interested in data analysis through poststructural theory. I found it helpful and insightful, and it gives pragmatic examples as well as a more in-depth explanation of theory.

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Review: Good Video Games and Good Learning: Collected Essays on Video Games, Learning and Literacy

Good Video Games and Good Learning: Collected Essays on Video Games, Learning and Literacy Good Video Games and Good Learning: Collected Essays on Video Games, Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of the best scholarly books I've read in a long time and gave me helpful ideas that contributed to my dissertation research. I am very interested in the concept of affinity spaces and how this concept can be brought into my research as well as classroom settings. I still have work to do in this area, but this book helped me to explore the concept in more depth. The chapters were both interesting and accessible. I believe educators of all levels as well as scholars interested in Internet learning spaces would benefit from reading this book.

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Review: Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How They Can Change the World

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How They Can Change the World Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really, I would give this book three and a half stars if I could. I appreciate it more now and in retrospect than when I was reading it and discussing it with a colleague and friend. As I was reading it, I appreciated the ideas of it, and I had a greater appreciation of gaming culture, one of the only nerd cultures that I do not engage with much personally. However, the book seemed to go on too long and be redundant, and I wished the editor had encouraged more edits. As an educator, I was more interested in the psychological benefits of gaming than I was in how gaming can benefit the business world, so I focused more on those chapters. I want to continue to think about how students' interest in gaming can be brought into my middle school and college classrooms. As I played Super Mario Brothers with friends on a rainy Saturday this weekend, I thought about my reactions to the video game experience and how it related to the research of this book, which shows that her ideas were thought provoking for me. Overall, I found it a worthwhile read.

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Review: Spill Zone

Spill Zone Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this novel. I wouldn't say I LOVED it, like the Uglies and some of Westerfeld's other works, but I enjoyed the read. I thought the art work was brilliant, and there were a lot of subtle details that helped the narrative arc of the story. I thought the central idea of the story was interesting and timely, as it is important to consider the effects of environmental damage and corrupt leadership. I felt like I wanted to get to know the main character better, though, and overall, I thought the character development was a bit lacking. The end of the book definitely has hinted at a sequel, though, so I hope to get to know the characters better. I did enjoy the plot line overall, and the suspense of the story kept me reading. It was an intriguing blend of Dystopian fiction and horror, two of my favorite genres. Also, I loved the idea of photography as a form of narrative, an idea I want to continue to explore in my writing and scholarship.

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Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, this book was a solid critique of the "girl power" culture of the 90s, when I was growing up, and with the princess and girly girl expectations of women. I think some groups were left out of the conversation, and the book was definitely more focused on White middle class straight women. But some chapters and sections were insightful and worthy of study in secondary and post-secondary classrooms. Specifically, I appreciate Orenstein's insightful thoughts about why people are drawn to the Twilight series and the positive and negative attribute of this YA series that has received much attention. Also, I agree with her assessments as to why children need fantasy and play; I cited Bruno Bettelheim in one of my comprehensive exam essays so appreciated that part of the discussion. Overall, the book is a worthwhile read. In teaching it, I would cherry pick sections, but I'm glad I added it to my repertoire of feminist readings.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Review: Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to this book on my iPhone through an Amazon program, and it truly helped me understand the science of exercise. Through studies done on schoolchildren, Ratey makes a convincing argument for encouraging exercise and fitness programs not as a form of competition, but for improving the body, mind, and spirit. Students should be pushed to achieve their individual fitness goals more so than to compete against others, and if they do, they are more likely to exercise into adulthood. I had mixed experiences with gym classes as a kid growing up, so I appreciated this book. Truly, it proves that exercise is beneficial to the body and to the brain. For us walkers, runners, and exercisers out there, this book provides further encouragement not to live a sedentary lifestyle.

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Review: Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English Classroom

Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English Classroom Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English Classroom by Henry Jenkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book really was food for the soul, in addition to increasing my academic and pedagogical knowledge. I have developed a true passion for fan fiction as both a creative writer and as a scholar, so I really enjoyed reading about how to integrate fan fiction and popular culture into classroom settings, as related to the study of literature. I was less interested in the parts of the book specifically related to Moby Dick, but I understood why that context was there. The ideas the book suggests really can apply to any primary text, though. I enjoyed learning more about New Literacies and Henry Jenkins's work as related to the English Language Arts classroom. If you're interested in multimodality and fan fiction, I would definitely recommend this book.

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Review: Queer: A Graphic History

Queer: A Graphic History Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a bit dense, but it was an interesting read. It helped me to better understand queer and poststructural theories. I thought the creator did an effective job of balancing the visuals with the texts related to theory and history. I would recommend the book to people who are interested in nonfiction comics/graphic novels and in queer theory. We read it for the graphic novel book club at Avid Bookshop and had a great discussion about it, as some of the topics are very timely

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Review: The Intuitives

The Intuitives The Intuitives by Erin Michelle Sky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you have an advanced middle or high school student who loves fantasy/speculative fiction, adventure stories, and stories of friendship, I highly recommend that you give that kid this book! It is a page turner that is great for lovers of suspense and adventure. The characters are very well crafted, and the plot line reminds us of the importance of the imagination, intuition, the unconscious mind, and most of all friendship. Recommended.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Guarded

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Guarded Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Guarded by Andrew Chambliss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would give the art an A, the Buffy/Kennedy storyline a B, and the Billy the Vampire Slayer twist at the end an A. Sorry, but I've never been a fan of Kennedy, so I think that's part of why I wasn't as into this one. I was excited to see Wolfram and Hart make an appearance, though, and I'm glad Buffy is still in touch with her Slayer roots. Overall, it was fun; not one of my favorites of the Buffy comics, but fun. I look forward to the next ones.

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Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Guarded

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Guarded Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Guarded by Andrew Chambliss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars



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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: The Feminine Mystique

The Feminine Mystique The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am super happy that I read this book. I can understand why it has gotten some criticism, and a book of this nature written in the present day would have to better address intersectionality. There would need to be more attention paid to the issues of women of color, poor women, immigrant women, LGBT women, etc.

That said, as a feminist scholar, I'm glad I read this book. I think it was an important book for the time it was written, and it was brave enough to address the stigma against homosexuality, the faulty theories of sexuality by Sigmund Freud, and capitalism's role of keeping women in our place. There are times when I felt angry while reading the book, on behalf of the women who came before me. But it was a good anger that made me feel even more fired up to be a woman writer in a world that sometimes still discourages women in the arts and female academics.

It's because of books like this and women like Betty Friedan that the Women's March took place on January 21, 2017, and why we will not go backwards. Yes, we have a president who can talk about grabbing women by the pussy, who can mock and bully people including a disabled man, and who can make blatantly racist comments in public and still get away with it enough to be President of the United States of America, which is sad. As someone who was bullied and mistreated as a kid, it truly breaks my heart. But we're not going down without a fight, and we're not allowing him to pass illegal laws that are unfair to our immigrant brothers and sisters, and we're fighting against his attempts to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies. It's because of this surge of ultra-conservatism that haven't been around since I was a small child in the 80s that books like this need to be re-read and re-examined.

Thank you, Betty Friedan. If it weren't for women like you, I might have joined a sorority in college even though I didn't really want to, gotten married in my early twenties, and ended up in a job that didn't fulfill me. I doubt I would be a writer and an almost professor who has now written a full draft of my Ph.D., and who has written a middle grades fantasy novel that, while it will probably remain in a drawer forever, paved the way for me to write other books. There was a time when I as a woman wouldn't have been able to do these things, but now I can. More books need to come, and more voices need to be represented in the women's movement. But Betty Friedan's was a voice that started a chorus that will continue to sing. Especially now.

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Review: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 6: Civil War II

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 6: Civil War II Ms. Marvel, Vol. 6: Civil War II by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this one all in one sitting and loved it so much! It's been my favorite Ms. Marvel volume so far, which is great since I am working on a chapter revision about teaching this comic and the Serenity comics. This volume broke my heart, as it's about friendship, duty, consequences, and finding oneself in the midst of chaos and confusion. The storyline touches on so many relevant stories today: the dangers of profiling, the beauty of migration, the importance of immigrant narratives, the power of true friendship, and picking up the pieces when things literally crash and burn. The world didn't end, but it seemed like it was going to. Gee, I wonder why post-apocalyptic stories are big right now ;). Kamala is becoming an even stronger character, and this volume tells more of the back story of her family and of her complex friendship with Bruno. If you don't have it, head to the bookstore ASAP and pick it up! I promise you'll be so glad you did.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Review: The Beauty Myth

The Beauty Myth The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was interesting. It got a bit repetitive/redundant at times, and some of the ideas were ones I had read or heard before in my Women's Studies classes. But there were some discussion points that my colleague and I found interesting, as we read the book together for a feminist theory study group. In particular, I was interested in the idea of plastic versus cosmetic surgery, religion and sexuality, the diet industry as a mechanism of control, and why society is overly concerned with thinness for women. If women are hungry, we are not as likely to have the energy to be activists. That is something to consider when we live in political times that are at least on the border of extreme conservative, if not crossing that threshold. Being healthy is great, but being healthy and being small are not always one in the same. In fact, we as women should be going to the gym and walking now to stay strong and be up for the fight. A good and timely read for me!

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Review: Buffy: The High School Years - Freaks & Geeks

Buffy: The High School Years - Freaks & Geeks Buffy: The High School Years - Freaks & Geeks by Faith Erin Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book all in one setting and loved it! I think it's a great reboot of the Buffy series and comics. I love Faith Erin Hicks as well as this series, so I figured I would enjoy it. In this version, a band of nerdy vampires gets kicked out of the vampire cool kids' club and wants to prove themselves by killing Buffy. But will one of the vamps bite the hands that feed her? A great look at cliques, friendship, and what's really important in life. Plus, Buffy beating the bad guys is just what I need to watch and read right now. I recommend it!

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Review: Dryland

Dryland Dryland by Sara Jaffe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would give this 3.5 stars if I could. :) It took me a while to get into this one. Although I appreciate stream of consciousness/diary-like writing, I tend to prefer books that are dialogue intensive. I realize that's partly a personal preference, as a former theater and chorus nerd. I loved Julia as a character from the beginning, and the book has a beautiful, lyrical writing style. Plot wise, I didn't really know where the book was going at first. But I'm glad I kept reading it, and it'll be super fun to discuss at book club tomorrow, especially since we're going to talk about it in context to the YA literature genre. At the end of this novel, I felt like I had finished a puzzle, as all of the plot points came together into a very satisfying end. As a former distance track runner and summer swim team kid, I could relate to finding your stride, both as a distance athlete and as a teenager. Overall, this was a worthwhile read, and I'm glad I went on this journey with the author. It's probably not a book I would have picked to read myself, but the beauty of book club is that it encourages me to explore novels I might otherwise overlook. Plus, I enjoyed reading about the early 90s from a teenager's perspective, as I was in late elementary/early middle school during this time. I remember the AIDS epidemic and understood the seriousness of it, along with discussions of global warming, but this book helped me to develop a deeper understanding of the AIDS epidemic and how it affected people. I also enjoyed the depictions of the west coast and of Seattle, a city that I truly love.

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Friday, January 6, 2017

Review: The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book in one setting during an ice and snow storm in Georgia and just loved it. It's a middle grades book told from a shy, late bloomer 11/12 year old's perspective, so I could relate to it a lot. It has an apocalyptic feel to it, as it's the future, and the earth's rotation around the sun has been altered. The result is overly long days, gravity issues, and a faulty magnetic field. The world, it seems, is literally ending. In the meantime, Julia is facing the normal challenges of a middle school girl: first crush/love, tension between her parents, girl drama, and lonely lunches in the library. To me, the book is an extended metaphor for early adolescents: you feel that your body and your sense of time is out of sync with the rest of the world. The book is a great mixture of melancholy, brutal realism, imagination, and hope. It's the very book I needed to read after a rocky 2016, a year that started with me losing a past spiritual mentor, continued with me passing my PhD program comps despite getting very sick and later my prospectus, included a tumultuous election year and political climate, yet ended with me spending time with family and a perfect New Year's Even wedding. 2016 was not always great. It was a year that, for me, included grief, illness of me and others who I love, disappointment, and persevering against the odds. Yet it was a year in which I wrote and reflected much, in which I literally read 40 plus books, in which I attended four lovely weddings, in which I spoke at two CONS and four conferences, and in which I found out that I will soon be an Aunt. So it was not, indeed, the end of the world. This book reminded me that in rocky times, the beautiful moments become even more important, and they are worth fighting for.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Review: Worthy

Worthy Worthy by Donna Cooner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was enjoyable to read, and I was lucky enough to get a ARC of it. Linden, the main character, reminded me of a younger version of myself. She's witty, interesting, perceptive, shy at times, and independent. I love how she grows throughout the course of the novel. The storyline was predictable, and the pacing of Linden and Alex's relationship seemed rather fast, even for teenagers. However, I think the book made important points about internet culture, online apps, communication, and the dating world. The big social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) did not exist when I was in high school, so it was interesting for me to see how they affect teenagers and youth culture. Overall, I think the book is age appropriate and a worthwhile read for adolescents. The narrator's voice was particularly strong. I really want to read Skinny, a novel by the same author, as I've heard that is her best work so far in terms of teen literature.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Review: The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children

The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book for a two-day course I am taking this March about how to write children's literature (including middle grades and YA novels). I found it to be very helpful. It's definitely a "how to" book rather than a theory book on the topic, which is what I needed. I wrote a draft of a middle grades fantasy novel several years ago, and I wish I had read this book first. I think I would have done a much better job with the draft of my first attempt at a middle grades novel if I had read this advice first. It's a great book for people who are relatively new to writing in this genre. Also, the author recommends mentor texts as well as books that offer more advice on craft.

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