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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-25 05:03
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit - Jaye Robin Brown

Word of Caution: If you hate the Big Misunderstanding trope, then avoid this book, because the entire thing hinges on it. Not only is it a "big misunderstanding" but it's perpetuated by one character consistently lying to everyone, and not even for a very good reason. Well, she thinks it's a good reason. Me? Not so much.

 

This is the second F/F book in a row with a punk lesbian. I guess this is a common enough thing to already be a recognizable trope? Aren't there country-loving lesbians? Or jazz-loving lesbians? Or hip-hop loving lesbians? WHERE ARE MY HIP-HOP LESBIANS?

 

But seriously, this book is both complicated and simple. It's told in a simple, rather straightforward way that rarely delves into the depths that this book could easy delve into given the subject matter, mainly how do LGBTQ+ individuals who need faith in their lives deal with the hurtful messages that too many churches STILL put out there because they're stuck in medieval times. I was looking forward to that aspect of it, because too often the one sole religious person in M/M books often acts like he or she could be an offshoot of the Westboro Church family tree. I know many people of faith, some who are close-minded in that way, but others who really embrace Jesus's teachings about acceptance and loving each other without judgment. So let's look at both sides of the spectrum and everything else in between here, right?! Except it never really happens. *sigh*

 

Jo's dad, who runs his own evangelical radio show, accepted his daughter without hesitation when she came out to him. And now that he's remarried and his new MIL has a stick up her butt about EVERYTHING, and because they've moved to a more conservative, smaller town, he asks Jo to lay low. That is, go back in the closet. And she agrees. So she can get her own radio show that she unironically calls "Keep It Real." I say unironically because she's completely unaware of the irony of the title while she's lying about herself to everyone around her. 

 

Except one boy she meets and befriends. She tells him immediately. Which pretty much pulls the rug out from under her every other time she tries to explain to herself why she can't tell the truth to her girlfriend she's so super in love with. Oh, no! Can't do that! And it leads to one ridiculous, cliched "twist" after another until I just wanted to smack her Cher-style.

 

 

Oh, Cher. Where are you when we need you most?

 

I do like the various different characters. There's a weird subplot with Dana. It was nice to see how Joanna and Elizabeth eventually work out their issues. When Joanna does finally stand up for herself, that's pretty great too but comes a bit too late in the story, so that everything after that is rushed. Joanna overall is a passive character and except for that one moment of backbone, she never really stops being passive. Barnum was great, as were George and Gemma. The pastor of the other church, the not-friendly-to-gays one, has this weird quasi-transformation, maybe? It doesn't really go anywhere. 

 

So I guess there's a hopeful message in here. And I guess this is eventually about being true to yourself, even when that self isn't who you originally thought it was. But for each thing I found to like, there was another thing that annoyed me in equal measure.

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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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text 2017-03-06 21:11
193 of 432 (45%)
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien - J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien,Humphrey Carpenter

It is actually shameful how long it's taken me to read only this much of Tolkien's letters. In my defense, my last semester of school was crazy, and I have about a million sticky notes in this because I used so much of it for my essay. I stopped having time to read it when I started writing my thesis, and then when I graduated, I was just like, "I NEED A BREAK FROM READING," and haven't touched just about anything since...

 

For those who don't know (I'm assuming most of you), I wrote my senior thesis on The Lord of the Rings because I'm a nerd. Usually, the English department of my school wouldn't allow a thesis on something that hasn't really broken into the classical literature mold (dumb scholars have a hard time accepting fantasy as great literature, even now), but my teachers also knew me well enough to see that I was passionate about Tolkien in a way that I could craft a unique, critical thesis of his work and make it academic.

 

(I did awesome, by the way, ya'll can read it if you want.)

 

ANYWAY, The Letters of JRR Tolkien was my greatest asset to writing this paper, and the more I read from Tolkien about crafting The Lord of the Rings, the more I love it and him and everything he accomplished. I truly believe Tolkien is a genius for this work, and my heart breaks a little bit every time I meet someone who hasn't read (or even seen) The Lord of the Rings because you're seriously missing out on one of the greatest stories in English literature.

 

I'm currently in the middle of a letter to Peter Hastings, who criticized Tolkien for playing God too much in his work by allowing things that God (as Catholics believe) does not do in reality. I think the whole world could do with a lesson from Tolkien about not allowing ridiculous accusations from people to bother him. This response of his is incredibly long, and he addresses everything so perfectly, but in the end, he never sent it because "it seemed to be taking myself too importantly."

 

Also, I found out what happened to the Ent-wives, which I literally never knew. Apparently they were all either killed or enslaved by Sauron, and the remaining Ent-wives moved West, only to be taken captive by the people in those lands. They eventually fell asleep as prisoners and never woke up (just like the Ents that Treebeard says have forgotten what they truly are). So in case you need some morbidity in your life, every fruit tree you see is just an enslaved Ent-wife...

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review 2017-02-28 21:37
Watch out for the Bulldozer!
Ladies of Letters - Lou Wakefield,Carole Hayman,Prunella Scales,Patricia Routledge,BBC Worldwide Limited

This is very, very funny, especially the part with the bulldozer. Lovely.

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review 2017-02-28 11:51
A touching reminder of the people behind the history books and a well-deserved memorial
Surviving the Death Railway: A POW's Memoir and Letters from Home - Barry Custance Baker,Hilary Custance Green

Thanks to Hilary Custance Green (who edited part of her family history and that of many others) and to Katie Eaton from Pen & Sword Books Limited  (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk) for sending me a paperback copy of this book that I freely choose to review.

As a reader, when it comes to stories about the war, I’ve always been more interested in the individuals (both in the front and back home) than in the way the battles were fought. I had heard, read, and mostly watched TV programmes and movies about Japanese war camps (I won’t forget Tenko in a hurry).  Probably lots of people have. This book provides the personal experience of a family whose lives were affected and transformed by the war. We get to know Barton (Barry) Custance Baker, born in Malaya, before the war; we later learn of his marriage to Phyllis and then we follow him all the way back to Malaya and read on as he becomes father and prisoner of war. We also read (thanks to the correspondence of the period, some that reached its destination and some that didn’t) about Phyllis’s life, the thoughts of those left back home and the way they tried to hang on to hope.

The book combines letters from Barry to Phyllis about his life in the East, most of the time not sure if any of them would make it to his wife, letters from Phyllis to Barry, trying to keep up his spirits with news about their son, Robin, and his family, and the diary Barry wrote, containing more details about his time abroad, although always trying to emphasise the positive and understate the difficulties. The combination of these narratives creates a complex and complementary testimony of the varied experiences of the war for those on both sides of the conflict, such as the difficulty of being away and separated from those you love for years, missing the early years of a son you hardly know and worrying that you might no longer know your partner when you go back (or when they come back), and contrasting the often mistaken ideas and thoughts about what the other party might be enduring.

Barry’s parents thought he would be bored as a PoW, never imagining he would be building a railway line, the Thailand-Burma railway, appropriately called Death Railway, as it cost so many lives (not only British). That he, as an officer, might be engaged in heavy labouring work, starved and ill did not enter their imagination.

Barry also had little concept of life back home and did not have news of his parents’ move to San Francisco to help with radio transmissions in Malayan or later, of the death of his younger brother, John. He imagines there might be some restrictions and even danger, but not how unsettling the lack of news was.

Barry’s efforts trying to ensure he kept track of his men and that he did all he could to keep them safe were echoed by those made by Phyllis, who tried her hardest to create a network of information to share any news between the relatives and friends of the men in her husband’s unit, sending encouraging letters, and even creating a dossier with as much data as possible about all the men, to facilitate the task of the War Office in identifying and reporting their fate.

The book is extraordinary too because it clearly shows the tireless efforts they all made to try and keep in touch at a time when communication with each other wasn’t only a click away, and when sometimes years might pass without any news of the other person (and in the best case scenario the news might be years old by the time they get it). Forget about 140 characters on Twitter. The rules of their communication kept changing and at some point they could only send 25 words to their loved one, and that included the date. And the best they could hope for was a prewritten card with only a few words added by hand.

If physically the experiences are very different (although not full of gross details, we get a clear sense of the trials and suffering the men had to endure), mentally, the toll of the lack of information, of the separation and the impotence is clear on both sides. And those letters of mothers, girlfriends, uncles, asking for information about their loved ones, sharing the good and bad news, but always trying to encourage the other person, no matter what their lot has been, are impossible to forget. Even the replies to Phyllis request for particulars about the men convey so much more than what is written. It is amazing how a few words to describe somebody can be so full of feeling and be so touching, and how much they say about unspoken emotions.

 

As readers, we can but share in the feelings, and are touched by the hopes, anxieties, and stress of the situation. We are given an extraordinary insight into the lives of people whom we might have known, and who could have been our neighbours, friends, or family. We read about their joy at the impending reunion and their wish to get to know each other (and the worry that they might no longer recognise or like the persons they have become). Barry and Phyllis become our ersatz family and we’re happy to learn they had more children and lived happy and fulfilling lives. I was particularly moved by a moment towards the end of Barry’s life when he’s ill in hospital and for a moment believes he’s back at the camp. When his daughter (Hilary) explains to him what has happened since and he realises he’s ill and dying but has lived a full life he says ‘I’ll settle for that’. I hope we all can say that when our time comes.

Hilary Custance Green, the editor of the book, and Barry and Phyllis’s daughter has found the way of letting the letters and the diary tell the story, with very little explanation or unnecessary interference, other than minimal clarifications or explanations when needed. The material is powerful enough in its own right. She has done a great job and the book is a great memorial not only to her parents but also to all the men and women who went through the experience. At the end of the book, there is a call to anybody who might have information about families of members of the Men of 27 Line Section to get in touch with the editor. Don’t forget to pass the message on if you know anybody connected to the men or with contacts who might have more information.

In summary, this is a fantastic book for those interested in World War II, both from the point of view of war action and of the home front, those interested in stories about PoW, tales of human bravery, valour, endurance and the heroism of extraordinary ‘ordinary’ people. Don’t miss this book and don’t forget to pass it on to anybody who might have known a member of the unit.

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