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review 2017-03-15 01:51
Perfect Class Book
Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks - Kate Klise,M. Sarah Klise

This book is filled with all kinds of opportunities for teaching! There are science facts, letter writing, and letters about places from all over the world! This book has too much information to share it all! Using this book as a class reading will open up the possibilities for the teacher to teach about:

- Letter writing and writing in general

- Geography/History

- Different vocabulary words

- All types of word play

- Many different resources for text (newspaper, postcard, letter, telegram, etc)

- Creativity and design (the students could design their own crazy water fountain)

 

Reading Level: 

- Guided Reading= S

- Lexile = 830L

- Grades 4-5

- Chapter Book (138 Pages)

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review 2017-03-11 20:24
Black Wave, Michelle Tea
Black Wave - Michelle Tea

The more I read (and watch movies and TV), the more I value encountering something unlike anything else I ever have before. Black Wave, by Michelle Tea, immersed me in a world new to me in several ways.

 

Though there are occasionally individual queer characters in the books I read, I haven't read much queer lit where a larger community is represented, especially queer women. Black Wave is set in San Francisco in the 90s at the start, an alternative past where gentrification has strangled most of the culture(s) from the city. In addition, the world appears to be ending due to advanced climate change: it's dangerous to be out in the sun even incidentally, the ocean is a trash wave, many animals are extinct, and invasive species have overtaken the dying native flora. In other words, the environment's death mirrors a cultural and, as is soon apparent, a personal one.

 

The protagonist, Michelle (like the author), is in her later twenties, and is the kind of addict who tells herself she's not because she doesn't shoot heroin but snorts it and is able to keep her job at a bookstore. She falls in love (or becomes infatuated) easily and hooks up with many of the women who come into her orbit, despite being in a "steady" relationship with a partner more stable than she is. At one point the point of view shifts from Michelle's to her girlfriend's, who thinks she's a sociopath.

 

That feels pretty accurate, but one of the amazing things about Black Wave is that despite Michelle's objectively unlikable character, I still felt very much invested in her. In part this is due to the humor and energy of the writing. For example:

 

Michelle seemed more like some sort of compulsively rutting land mammal, a chimera of dog in heat and black widow, a sex fiend that kills its mate. Or else she was merely a sociopath. She was like the android from Blade Runner who didn’t know it was bad to torture a tortoise. She had flipped [her girlfriend] Andy onto her belly in the Armageddon sun and left her there, fins flapping.

 

I may also personally respond to Michelle because she's a writer, one who's even published and had a sort of local fame. Around the midpoint of the book when she moves to L.A., the narrative is deconstructed as she attempts to write a new book. It becomes clear that not everything we've read so far is as it happened. Another aspect I liked is that somehow this sudden shift doesn't feel like a trick as can happen in many modernist and post-modernist writing and metafiction. How and why I don't know, but after some minor readjustment on my part as a reader, I was still invested.

 

I've often noted what a structure fanatic I am, and the last major selling point of Black Wave is the way it beautifully spins out in the last third.

 

Tangents were Michelle’s favorite part of writing, each one a declaration of agency: I know I was going over there but now I’m going over here, don’t be so uptight about it, just come along. A tangent was a fuckup, a teenage runaway. It was a road trip with a full tank of gas. You can’t get lost if you don’t have anywhere to be. This was writing for Michelle: rule free, glorious, sprawling.

 

As the world ends, people begin dreaming vividly and lucidly about others who exist in the real world, all over the world. They're dreams of connection and love where identity is fluid, and some begin living in them, like Michelle's bosses at the bookstore who hand over the business to her. So the world ends, but somehow Michelle's in a good place, and so was I.

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review 2017-03-09 06:04
Ten years later and neither one of them grew up? Boo.
The Education of Caroline - Jane Harvey-Berrick

I'm happy for the reunion. And happy ending.

But...Caro and Sebastian both acted childish.

Ten years apart didn't help them grow.

Carolina is the same insecure person (jealous and mean spirited considering any woman interested in Sebastian as a bitch, or wants to smack them, etc)

Sebastian is demanding, possessive, jealous and sometimes OTT. He acted like the same jealous 17 year old when other men deemed to look at Carolina.

And they acted like teenagers when together.

And yet I couldn't stop reading.

Even after rolling my eyes.

I even read the 2 extra epilogues.

The writing isn't world moving but I guess a good thing I'd say is that both main characters were consistent in characterization.

Carolina was a doormat when step away from the romantic haze. She gave in, rolled over for anything Sebastian came up with.

Still.

Sebastian loved her. Carolina loves him. Never doubted it but the time apart didn't seem to help them grow...much.

3.5 stars

(I'll most likely cave and read the companion piece too.)

Despite my gripes.

I can't seem to be able to let this couple go.

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review 2017-03-06 15:48
A footnote to Descartes’s biography finds her voice
The Words in My Hand - Guinevere Glasfurd,Two Roads

Thanks to Net Galley and to John Murray Press Two Roads for offering me a free ARC of this novel that I voluntarily review.

This novel, that could be classed as historical fiction, tells the (at least in part imagined) story of Helena Jans, a Dutch maid who was serving at a house where René Descartes stayed in Amsterdam, and who bore him a daughter. In the author’s note, at the end of the book, Glasfurd explains in detail the true facts known about Helena (she existed and indeed bore Descartes a girl, Francine, and she got married later and had a boy), shares her sources and her intention when writing the book.

The story, narrated in the first person from Helena’s point of view, is beautifully written. We get a clear sense of the historical period, of Holland at the time, especially what it would be like for a young girl of a poor family, who is sent to the capital as she needs to make a living for herself. She is presented as a curious girl, who’s taken an interest in reading and writing, practically teaching herself to do it, and how she ends up as a maid at a bookseller’s home. She’s fascinated by paper (a very expensive and luxurious commodity at the time), ink, by books and maps. She’s only ever traced the outline of the letters on her own hand (therefore the title: The Words in My Hand) but eventually, after experimenting on making her own ink using beetroot, she does learn to write using a quill and proper ink. She also teaches another servant girl how to write, broadening her horizons and giving her a better chance in life.

Coming into contact with Descartes, the Monsieur (as she calls him all through the book, because there is always a certain distance between them), revolutionises her world, not only because of the relationship with him (she’s very young at the time, and he’s many years her senior, so one wonders what that would be considered nowadays) but because of the way he examines and sees the world. The author uses their conversations and Helena’s curiosity, as ways to expose some of Descartes ideas, exemplifying them in lyrical and at the same time understandable ways. Swallows, eels’ hearts, the refraction of light, a flame, snowflakes, anything and everything catches Descartes attention and he feels the need to study it and explain it.

Helena is a complex character. She’s presented as a young woman living through difficult circumstances who tries to live her own life and make her way, rather than just depend on the generosity of a man she doesn’t fully understand (and who perhaps didn’t understand himself that well, either). But she’s not a modern heroine, doing things that would have been impossible during that historical period. Whilst she is shown as curious, skilled, and determined, she is hindered by gender and class (publishing books, even something as simple as an illustrated alphabet for children is not possible for a woman), and also by her personal feelings. She suffers for her mistakes and she lives a limited existence at times, being subject to insult and abuse (as she would have likely been given her circumstances). Despite all that, Glasfurd presents Helen as an artist, a woman who can describe, draw and appreciate things around her, who wants to ensure her daughter gets an education, and who loves Descartes (however difficult that might be at times).

I’ve read a few books recently that try to recover female figures that might have been the great women behind great men but have been ignored or obscured by official history. In some cases, the authors seem to be at pains to paint a negative picture of the man in question. This is not the case here. We only see Descartes through Helena’s eyes (also through some overheard comments and conversations he has with others and through some of his letters) and at times his actions are difficult to understand, but within his constraints he is portrayed as a man of contradictions but with a good heart, who cared for those around him but was, perhaps, more interested in his studies and science than in everyday matters and the life of those closest to him. He is weary of the consequences and risks of publicly exposing his relationship with Helena and his daughter but does not abandon them either. He is a man who struggles and cannot easily fit in the society of his time.

A beautifully observed and written book, about the love of science, writing, nature, and the human side of a historical figure that remains fascinating to this day. This fictionalisation provides a good introduction to some of Descartes ideas and is a great way of remembering another woman whose place in history has only been a footnote until now. A great read especially recommended to those who love historical fiction and who are intrigued by Descartes and XVII century Holland.

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review 2017-03-06 06:31
Stereotypes in insta-love. Ho hum.
Permanent Ink - Jaime Samms
A Hearts On Fire Review

TWO HEARTS--The re-release of Permanent Ink by Jaime Samms is a short story that features a very quick pairing between white college basketball player Eric and black tatted/pierced ex-con Dwayne. Eric's best friend is Dwayne's cousin, Angel, meaning they knew of each other but never formally hung out. Eric judges Dwayne based on his outward appearance, assuming the worst. Though Dwayne doesn't help Eric's preconception in the beginning of the short when he brags about his ass pain from a hookup the night before. The two start on the wrong foot and it quickly turns around into a HEA.

Race is an important factor in this short. And unfortunately, so are a few stereotypes.

This is a re-release, I haven't read the original version but I'm going to take a stab that not much changed. Though the time period could be implied as modern day, it read more like any reference to the time period was vaguely mentioned. An example, Dwayne is supposed to look like a "thug" with cornrows and beads because he came from the hood and had to wear the "thug" exterior to protect himself on the "inside".

*sigh*

I just can't buy the characterization as justification for writing Dwayne this way. I'm unsure if the story is supposed to be based in the UK or America, so it could help me reference the characters. Maybe that's how the "thugs" dress and act in a different part of the world? *shrug*

I think I see what the author was going for, opposites attract insta-love romance but the beginning was rough. I didn't like Eric. He was privileged and didn't really come away as a better person in the end. Dwayne read more like 2-D character who had past rape added to his life to give depth?

Past rape was given as the reason for the "armor" of tattoos and 'tough persona....why have him brag about sleeping around if he has a sexual hang up (about bottoming). There were contradicting factors - hooking up with random men to never having sex since jail.

Didn't make the impact it tried to go for.

My second biggest gripe (after poor characterization) is if this was reedited, why not make it read more current? Angel tried to give something about race relations when he tried to give a teaching moment with Eric. But it kinda fell off to the wayside. Story is too short to try and encompass crime, rape PTSD. Not a fan of the way it was written or presented.

The one sex scene was a bust because the main characters read awkward and acted awkward to me. Example, it'd be a kiss then stall then kiss then pause...not smooth writing. Along with the vagueness in the writing.

I've read this author in the past. Samms's books have a tendency to be full of angst. I don't think the topics added to make the story...interesting (for lack of a better word) was needed.

How could the story have been better? More length, show how the two connected rather than insta-love over time. There were very tiny bits of that that just didn't go anywhere.

Didn't like Eric by the end - he still read like a privileged rich kid. I doubt he grew or will grow from his relationship with Dwayne. Dwayne could do so much better.

Not recommended.
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