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review 2017-05-25 17:47
Straight
Straight - Seth King

Perhaps the word “straight” doesn’t even mean anything at all, and we are being killed by the categories we force ourselves to live within. In fact, the only thing that scares me about the word “straight” is living my life in a straight line, too terrified to jump off the beaten path and explore something that might light me up inside.

 

So I started this knowing really nothing about this book or this author at all.  And while this starts out with a few awkward moments and exchanges, this grew on me with every page.  This was ultimately quite a beautiful journey into understanding what happens when you fall in love with someone of the same sex…fall in love with your soul mate…someone who in the end is just another human on this planet that you connect to with your whole heart. 

 

Because love does not exist between men and women. Love does not exist between blondes and brunettes. Love does not exist between Caucasian people and Asian people. Love exists between humans.

 

 

And Henry’s journey, while frustrating at times, seemed real to me.  From realizing his attraction, through the ABC’s of being gay and what is involved in having sex with another man, to understanding prejudices, and hatred based on who you love…this was incredibly thought provoking.

 

While I have no idea the journey the author himself has taken, this felt very much like the lifting of a weight that had been carried by him for years and years.  The depth at which this author explores sexuality, labels, the perception of others, religious beliefs and ultimately just the dropping of all preconceived notions of what a relationship means, it was all just incredibly touching. 

 

Overall this was just beautifully written.  The few uses of the word “kid” (cringes) faded in importance and while their ages seemed off to me, it really mattered less and less as the story developed.  I look forward to following this author and seeing what else he has to offer.

 

*Highly Recommended*

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review 2017-05-23 13:22
Need Help to Start a Story?
The Writing Prompts Workbook, Grades 9-10: Story Starters for Journals, Assignments and More - Bryan Cohen

This book is for Grades 9-10. I mentioned that I homeschool and that I will have a 9th grader next year. I went in search of something that would excite my kids into writing. It has a little bit of everything for writing prompts. As I am writing this, I have assigned one of the prompts and the 2 younger girls are making it happen. It should prove to be a very interesting day! 

 

If you have a child that you are homeschooling and need writing prompts (for those teenagers), this is such fun! 

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review 2017-05-17 00:00
The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities
The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities - Eric Hayot It has some useful advice on (academic) writing but it's the kind of book you could easily avoid while writing a book be it academic or otherwise. Hayot's writing seemed dry at times.
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review 2017-05-05 14:57
"The Situation and the Story," by Vivian Gornick
The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative - Vivian Gornick

Vivian Gornick's book on the art of essay writing was bound to get good marks from me, if only for its extensive drawing of examples from famous books and essays.

 

Criticism — as compared to reviews — is a singularly rewarding experience, especially in the hands of a good writer such as Gornick. It can open your eyes to a new way of seeing a piece you have already read or turn you on to writers you have never experienced. In the course of this book I was turned on to Seymour Krim, I reopened an essay by Joan Didion, and I've hunted down a PDF of Edward Hoagland's "The Courage of Turtles." 

 

The point is theoretically to help in the writing of essays, but I was delighted to discover that what drew me in was perhaps the point all along. Gornick does not reveal until the conclusion her suspicion of studying "craft" (as it were) and the idea that one can teach writing at all. It's not how to write but how to read, critically and with an eye toward story, that drives The Situation and the Story. Gornick is asking the reader to dig deeper, discover what it is about Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant" that makes it compelling.

 

"Who is speaking, what is being said and what is the relation between the two," is a repeated admonition as you read into a story. Orwell going out and shooting an elephant could be an act of bravado, it could be an act of cruelty, but  in the way he writes it is an exploration of colonialism. What it means to represent a ruling nation among a people who aren't keen to have you there, and especially when you're not too keen on the idea either. What does that position do to someone? This comes through in his voice, in the way he describes "the situation" as much as in the actions he takes. Asking these questions will make such readings more enjoyable and meaningful, but should also inform your own work.

 

The crux of this lies in a story about one of who students writing an essay about her grandfather — a man she has never met. The story isn't quite working until someone realizes that her learning about her grandfather is the situation, it provides a structure for the story, the actions on which the writer can hang meaning. The story, the meaning itself, is actually about the girl connecting with the grandmother. From there the essay starts to come together in a more satisfying way. 

 

I am not convinced with all of Gornick's stances, her belief in the inborn gift of writing skill is maybe just said wrong or maybe it is magical thinking. And the way her distaste for post-modernism is slipped in does not serve any end except to let you know she is not a fan. But if you are interested in personal writing, either to write or read, this is a good place to start.

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review 2017-05-02 05:31
Magical underside of city and genre
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

I've rediscovered urban fantasy. This is the urban fantasy I was wanting to read when I kept stumbling into that ossified  sub-genre full of vampires and weres. I love me some Hollows or Daniels like I love my fries and ice-cream, but every once in a while I want a different flavor, and it's been hard to find. Behold: Gaiman. I wonder if the man seats at his writing desk and thinks "Well, today I want to pick this genre. Now, how do I go about putting it on it's head/inside out/mashed-up with this other?"

So, urban fantasy about alienation, and tubes, filled with magic and action. Scary stuff of the adult bored with life variety. The unseen people that fell through the cracks... there is horror that feels close to home hinted in the concept. You may disregard it as cynical allegoric analysis. It comes to full fruition and in the open during the ordeal to sock you in the face: "this is what you were thinking was going on, even if you didn't want to admit it". The fantastic aspect makes it exiting and hopeful, and bittersweet.

Maybe not as happy, or a fluffy as I was going for, but it certainly was a change of speeds. I could not believe how much it was packing by the half-way point! Certainly a much needed contrast after Moby-Dick.

 

I loved it. It was a damned good book, and I want a hard-copy of my own.

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