Book Review: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (+ Banned Books Week)

John SteinbeckTitle: Of Mice and Men
Author: John Steinbeck
Series: Stand-alone
Publication Date: 1937
Genre: Fiction, Classics
My Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Goodreads | Amazon



Goodreads Summary

An unlikely pair, George and Lennie, two migrant workers in California during the Great Depression, grasp for their American Dream. They hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations, nor predict the consequences of Lennie’s unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.

My Thoughts

Two men, George and Lennie, are traveling through California looking for work as ranch hands. The relationship between the two men is not clear except for the fact that George has become a sort of caretaker for Lennie because the latter is not the brightest and gets himself into trouble frequently.  The two were forced to leave their last job due to an incident regarding Lennie’s behavior. They find work at a ranch in Soledad, California and meet several characters there: Candy, Crooks, Curley, and Curley’s flirtatious, new bride (what’s with all the C names?).

Curley immediately targets Lennie because of his extreme size, strength, and slowness, but George and Lennie stay positive because they have a plan. They want to own their own farm one day where they will “live off the fat of the land.” They don’t have enough money saved up yet but plan to spend as little of their wages as possible until they can afford to leave and chase the American Dream. Candy opts to share his wages in exchange for a chance to start over at their farm. Then on one fateful night after one deadly mistake, their plans are thrown off course.

I think that this story was ultimately a commentary on two things: chasing the elusive American Dream and the complexity of morality.

George and Lennie have a dream of owning their own farm one day but several of the other ranch hands mention how this is a dream that they have shared at one time or another but that it never came true. I think this is a commentary on how the American Dream is unreachable and how we are always searching for more — more money, more success, and more happiness — but that it rarely ever happens.

The other major aspect of this book is the complexity of morality. As humans, we adhere to a code of morals and a set of laws to keep us civilized and in line.  Steinbeck brings up an interesting — and obviously controversial — topic when he discusses euthanasia, or, mercy killing. Is this wrong? Should we be allowed to make this decision for another living thing? Does this make us more or less moral?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and encourage everyone to at least give it a try.

“A book is a loaded gun.” – Ray Bradbury

This week (September 24-30) is Banned Books Week and to celebrate our right to read, I decided to read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, one of the most frequently banned books of all time. Believe it or not, this was my first time reading it, and I loved it. It was such a quick read but was still so impactful.

A History of Book Banning

In 1791, the U.S. Congress adopted the First Amendment, which allows us the freedom of speech and of the press. However, in 1873, obscene literature (literature that contains offensive content and has no literary value) was stated to not be protected by the First Amendment, which theoretically means that it could be banned from the public. Books that are deemed “inappropriate” for one reason or another (usually due to profanity, racism, sexism, etc.) have been banned.

However, in 1982, a case against the Board of Education determined the fact that banned books could not be banned unless they were “pervasively vulgar,” and that banned books could not be removed from public libraries.

What is Banned Books Week?

The Banned Books Week Coalition was founded in 1982 by Judith Krug in order to bring awareness to the countless books that had been banned that year. It is supported by the American Library Association (ALA), and it celebrates our freedom to read whatever we’d like. People all over the country participate in Banned Books Week in order to create awareness of how wrong and unfair censorship is.

Read more here, here, here, and here.

Why Was Of Mice and Men Banned?

Of Mice and Men was published in 1937 and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 for its themes of harsh realism. However, since then, it has been banned many times. The first ban was in 1983 and the most recent ban was in 2016.  It’s been banned nine times just in the last fifteen years! There are many reasons why this book has been forbidden in the classroom, including racism, profanity, blasphemy, violence, sexism, negativity, the demonstration of nontraditional values, and the support of euthanasia.

I can see why this book has been repeatedly banned, mainly because of the language and the racial slurs; however, I don’t necessarily agree that it should be challenged as much as it has been. This book is an extremely realistic narrative of two men trying to make it in America during the Great Depression. Some say that this book is too negative, but I don’t think that’s a reason that it should be avoided. No, it doesn’t have a happy ending but that’s the way it was during that time period, which is something that I think people of all ages should know about.

In today’s society, we have become hypersensitive to racism and gender equality, which makes this book very shocking. However, that’s the way it was at the time and, right or wrong by today’s standards, the past can’t be changed and shouldn’t be ignored.

I want to know: have you heard of book banning? Do you agree that Of Mice and Men should have been banned and challenged as many times as it was?
Let me know in the comments!

Five Tips for Healthy Succulents

Five Tips for Healthy SucculentsI moved to Houston in January 2016, and I had to leave my cat behind with my mom. I grew up with animals and so I found myself very lonely without a furry companion. I decided that the way to solve my problem was to buy a plant. I had brought a Lucky Bamboo with me when I moved, and so I decided I would continue with that trend. Succulents were just beginning to gain the popularity that they have now, and I quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

By March, I’d moved back home and had all the room I could desire and quickly expanded my succulent garden. By August, I had more succulents than I could count, and I had learned a whole lot about what succulents like and what they don’t. Even though I don’t have all the space I once had (the porch at our apartment is minuscule), I do have an Aloe Vera and a Jade, and my knowledge is still being put to use. I’d like to share with you five of the most important tips from my experience in hopes that it will help you have healthier succies.

1. Container

While it’s super trendy right now to plant succulents in cute, unique planters like teacups or terrariums, that doesn’t mean that they’re always the best option for the succulent. The key is to make sure that your planter has a drainage hole. You can still use all sorts of fun and unique items to plant your succulents in, but you will just have to create a drainage hole first. I have planted succulents in everything from teacups and mugs to small bowls to coffee tins, but I always added drainage holes with my Dremel.

The reason that drainage holes are so important is that succulents hate sitting in water. They will die of root rot much more quickly than they will die of dehydration. So if their soil is too damp for too long, the poor plant is pretty much doomed. The drainage holes allow for the excess water to quickly escape the pot and get away from the roots.

2. Soil

Like I mentioned in my last tip, succulents don’t like wet soil. When looking to purchase soil for your succulents, make sure to choose a soil that’s labeled specifically for succulents and cacti. This is the brand that I’ve used most consistently and I’ve never had a problem with it. Succulent soil is made with a mixture that aerates much more easily and is less dense than other potting soil, which allows the roots to get more air. I also like to mix in equal parts Perlite into my soil for extra aeration, just to be safe.

3. Light

Succulents, just like any other plant, need sunlight to thrive. But some need more than others, and so it’s always a good idea to save the little tag that comes with your succulent so that you can research its species to see how much light it actually needs.

Just like people, too much direct sunlight isn’t good for succulents, regardless of if they need a little light or a lot. They can get sunburnt and, while a sunburnt leaf won’t kill the plant, it doesn’t heal like it does on our skin. Too much light and sunburn will eventually kill the succulent, so keep an eye on your succulents, especially in the summertime.

It’s a good idea to keep your succies in a spot (indoors or outdoors) where they can get full morning light and filtered afternoon light because morning light is much less harsh than afternoon light is.

4. Temperature & Climate

The answer to this can vary based on where you live. But the short answer to what temperature and climate succulents like is: hot and dry. But many of them can survive colder temperatures — some even as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. But others don’t like it any lower than 50 degrees. It’s a good idea to take your succulents inside in temperatures below freezing because they are primarily composed of water and freezing temperatures can be devastating to them. It would also be beneficial to look up your succulent’s species and what USDA Plant Hardiness Zone you live in because this will help you understand more precisely what temperature your succulents prefer. I live in Zone 8b, which means that my succulents can grow outside for a good portion of the year because we don’t have temperatures below freezing very often.

5. Water

Succulents seem to have a reputation as plants that are super hard to kill. But in my experience, I’ve found that they can be pretty finicky. Contrary to popular belief, they actually CAN die, and this can happen rather suddenly if you’re not careful.

Succulents are native to dry, desert areas where there are long periods of drought, followed by heavy rains. This means that succulents innately want that same watering pattern, even if you don’t live in the desert.

After much trial and error and lots of tragic succulent deaths, I’ve learned to only water my succulents when they look like they need it. Then, I completely soak the soil until the excess water drains out of the drainage hole.

Keep an eye on your succulents. If they are over-watered, the leaves will become yellow or white and squishy. If the roots have rotted, it becomes very difficult to save your succulent. If it’s under-watered, the leaves will begin to fall off and the plant will stop growing. Luckily, it’s quite easy to recover an under-watered succulent. After getting enough water, it’ll usually perk up after a day or two. So, a good rule of thumb is: if you’re unsure, don’t water.

More Info

For tons of information and tips on succulents, go check out Cassidy at Succulents and Sunshine! I learned a lot from her and I LOVE her book, which you can buy here.

Have any of you gotten into the succulent craze?! What are your favorite species?

Book Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

imagesTitle: The Couple Next Door
Author: Shari Lapena
Series: Stand-alone
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Genre: Fiction, Mysteries
My Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Goodreads Summary

You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

My Thoughts

This thriller is about a couple who leave their baby at home alone while they go to a dinner party next door (yeah, I know). They justify this by bringing the baby monitor with them, and they take turns going home to check on the baby every 30 minutes. When they finally go home at around 1 a.m., they discover that their baby is missing, and everyone quickly becomes a suspect.

This story is told with a present third-person narration, which is a unique perspective and was a bit awkward to read at times. This story changes perspectives frequently between Anne, Marco, the detective, and a few others. Each narrator is very unreliable, which helps to ramp up the tension.

This book was fairly short, fast-paced, and divided into short chapters — all aspects that I enjoy in a book. I liked how the action started in the first chapter, and the tension only built from there. I find it difficult to get into thrillers that take forever to ramp up, and I often won’t even finish them. That really wasn’t the case with this book.

Now let me pause here to tell you something about myself: I’m pretty dense when it comes to figuring out plots ahead of time. I’m nearly always surprised with reveals in books and movies. However with The Couple Next Door, even though I didn’t quite have it all figured out for a good while, I could see the reveal coming before the end.

The characters were not completely flat but weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been. Granted, a lot of times thrillers aren’t very character-driven, but I still felt like some of the characters’ motivations and dialogues were a bit unrealistic and stiff.

Overall, this was a twisty thriller with an ending that wasn’t completely predictable. It’s worth giving a shot if you’re in the mood for a quick read. While it’s not the best, it’s definitely not the worst.

Have you read this book? Did you find it predictable, or were you surprised at the end?