Since We Can’t All Just Get Boxes of Books | A Very Merry Bookish Christmas

It’s the Very Merry Bookish Christmastime Again (and all other holidays celebrated at this point in the year).  If you want to get something special, for a nerd word on your list, check out the following items, categorized in random ways. Happy Shopping, word birds.

For the Classy Book Lover:

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  1. Book Lover’s Chocolate @ Bridge Brands Chocolate, $19.99. BUY IT HERE.
  2. Penguin Drop Caps @ Penguin, Price Varies. BUY THEM HERE.
  3. Reader’s Table @ Brookstone, SALE $59.99. BUY IT HERE.
  4. Vintage Book of the Month Club @ Etsy: The Lonely Book Junkie, $170. BUY IT HERE.
  5. Library Embosser @ Horchow, $26.00. BUY IT HERE.
  6. Enchanted Library Candle @ Etsy: Form & Flux, $15.00. BUY IT HERE.
  7. Personalized Library Sign @ Etsy: Sweet Peony Press, $24.00. BUY IT HERE.
  8. Anything in the Cynthia Rowley for Staples Collection, Price Varies. BUY IT HERE.
  9. Grammar Teacups @ Etsy: Venue Decor, $32.00. BUY IT HERE.

For the Traveler Book Lover:

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  1. Shakespearian Insult Bandages @ Mcphee, $5.95. BUY IT HERE.
  2. Steampunk Flask @ Entertainment Earth, $29.99. BUY IT HERE.
  3. Book on Book @ Buddy Tools. BUY IT HERE.
  4. Book Lover Matches @ Etsy: DippyLuLu, $22.00. BUY IT HERE.
  5. Book Tent @ Field Candy, $295.00 (LB). BUY IT HERE.
  6. Book Wrapped Pencils @ Etsy: Bouncing Ball Creation, $10.00. BUY THEM HERE.
  7. Assorted Library Card Set @ Paper Goods, $8.00. BUY IT HERE.
  8. Book Map Original Open Edition @ Dorothy, (LB)25.00. BUY IT HERE.
  9. Book Decals for Stairs @ Etsy: VIP Decals, $12.00. BUY THEM HERE.

For the Techie Book Lover:

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  1. Periodic Table of World Literature @ Amazon, Out of Stock. BUY IT HERE.
  2. PosterText Poster @ Postertext, $29.95. BUY IT HERE.
  3. Book Lamp @ Lililite, (LB)$129. BUY IT HERE.
  4. Book Shaped Light @ Studio Mei Boom, (LB) 89.00 BUY IT HERE.
  5. Bookbook For Macbook Air @ Twelve South, $79.00. BUY IT HERE.
  6. Old Book Messenger Bag @ Thinkgeek, SALE $34.99. BUY IT HERE.
  7. La Sardinia Camera @ Thinkgeek, $199.99. BUY IT HERE.
  8. Captain America Steering Wheel Cover @ Etsy: Joy Ride Covers, $12.50 BUY IT HERE.
  9. Gear Bookends Personalized @ Etsy: Graphic Space Wood, $55.00. BUY IT HERE.

Gifts I Would Buy My Geeky Boyfriend:

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  1. Edgar Allen Poe Socks @ Out of Print Clothing, $10. BUY THEM HERE.
  2. Olde Book Pillow @ Think Geek, $24.99. BUY IT HERE.
  3. Hogwarts Lounge Pants @ Think Geek, $24.99. BUY THEM HERE.
  4. Game of Thrones Banners @ Think Geek, $19.99. BUY THEM HERE.
  5. Doctor Who Bookends @ Think Geek, $79.99. BUY THEM HERE.
  6. Hobbit Map of Middle Earth @ Think Geek, $39.99. BUY IT HERE.
  7. Ministry of Magic Toilet Decal @ Etsy: Word Factory Design, $5.95+. BUY IT HERE.
  8. Nightmare Before Christmas Vinyl Wall Clock @ Etsy: High5Design, $50.00 BUY IT HERE.
  9. Pulp Fiction Movie Poster @ Etsy: Encore Design Studios, $9.95+. BUY IT HERE.

For The Whatever Type of Bookish I Am:

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  1. Fold Over Clutch of Ancient Jerusalem @ Etsy: Efratul, $26.00. BUY IT HERE.
  2. The Book Was Better Tee @ Etsy: Yoma Wear, $15.00. BUY IT HERE.
  3. Felt Book Corner @ Etsy: Inspirational Gecko, $8.94. BUY IT HERE.
  4. Poetry Tights @ Etsy: Coline Design, $24.90+. BUY THEM HERE.
  5. Library Due Date Scarf @ Etsy: Cyberoptix, $44.00. BUY IT HERE.
  6. Alice in Wonderland Wall Decal @ Etsy: Mirshkastudio, $7.00+ BUY IT HERE.
  7. Stacked Book Necklace @ Etsy: My Mini Munchie, $18.00 BUY IT HERE.
  8. Custom Made Wooden Book Rack @ Etsy: Agustav, $110.00. BUY IT HERE.
  9. Women’s Cat Sweater @ Etsy: Xenotees, $39.99. BUY IT HERE.

Two Words: Brain Implosion

Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade House by David Mitchell

“Can’t Stop. Won’t Stop.” Young Gunz had it right as the musical equivalent of Slade House, David Mitchell’s new novel.  What’s better than watching a horror flick? Experiencing one through storytelling.  This book is a near perfect October read.  It’s a bit chilling.  It has orisons and realms and psychic telepathy and twins.  Twins is obviously the creepiest part.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

THE BEST PART OF THE WHOLE THING THOUGH is that characters are reincarnated from The Bone Clocks (and other novels by Mitchell).  In fact, Slade House is set in the same world as The Bone Clocks, well, technically, that’s our world, but with the same sci-fi elements added in.  The second best part is Slade House is the first in a five part series about these worlds and as it ends on a sort of body-pilfering cliff hanger I can only sit very impatiently for the next one.  If you have never read David Mitchell, or you have and you adore his sick sense of reality mashed with the other reality (a bit of Matrix if you well) then you will really appreciate Slade House as another element of the saga.  If you’re not yet convinced, here is the rest of this review.

American Horror Story Hotel

American Horror Story Hotel

Slade House is a tricky little venom-filled tale of multiple Law & Order episodes except there’s only one cop and he meets a sort of untimely demise.  The reader has to travel through each outsider’s experience with Slade House and the little, black iron door in order to figure out how the disguise is working.  Through each chapter the reader experiences the guest’s relationship with Slade House and a few clues to answer the mystery.  The problem is (and it’s a terrifyingly good problem) that the reader never can tell what’s real and what’s the facade of Slade House.  In every character interaction I was second guessing whether or not the other character was real, or if they were a figment of the house.  In this way, the book is the easiest read in the world because at some point, you just want to know.  I imagine it’s a bit like American Horror Story Hotel where everyone can be a victim, but you’re not sure which is next – you know, minus the whole first twenty minutes of devastation that made me have to turn it off.  I’m basing this whole comparison on reading a summary of the show because I didn’t have the umph to actually watch it.

David Mitchell aka The Great and Powerful Oz

David Mitchell aka The Great and Powerful Oz

There are other fantastical science fiction things that David Mitchell wouldn’t leave the reader without.  He describes the silver star dust globe that our souls become outside of our bodies.  The way souls can strand into new shapes like a baked good, a cloud, or a whisper.  He describes horror without having all the blood and guts.  Like the first Paranormal Activity (when the series was still good) when it’s about human to human relationships and less about the rot in your stomach.  David Mitchell makes you focus on the relationships between the characters while he’s wheeling and dealing the riddle behind the screen.  He is the Wizard of Oz of odd fiction.  Typically, as you know, I read literary fiction, but every Halloween I like to delve into something with a little surprise and a little dead-stiffness.  This was just the story.

Nathan's mother's fantabulous hair.

Nathan’s mother’s fantabulous hair.

With characters like the young Nathan who might at some point become a mad scientist with his deftness in understanding the world, his mother who is nagged by his constant wonder, and just wants to escape the poverty they’ve nestled into in England.  The cop, Gordon, who is surprised by his own flirtation, who has come to investigate Slade Alley for his captain and wants to be the protector of women’s hearts and their front gates.  Sally who needs a heart warmer, and those Grayer twins who are ruthless, but somehow Norah G. is still quite likable.  I’m interested to see what becomes of them in the next installment even though technically they are the villains.

A terrifying Little Golden Book

A terrifying Little Golden Book

It doesn’t help Mitchell’s cause that the book looks like a Little Golden Book, or the adult version.  It’s such a quaint little package of a Mitchell book that the reader buys it thinking it will be both made of gold, but maddeningly simple.  What they don’t tell you in the blurb is that you’ll be explaining the brain implosion to your significant other for an hour and a half after you finish the book.  It’s a haunted house story where there doesn’t need to be a chainsaw or any “jump outs.”  The house is a manifestation of the reader’s imagination.

Goosebumps Cover

Goosebumps Cover

I was engrossed in this tiny novel (tiny by Mitchell standards).  I finished the last half of it in one sitting because I absolutely had to know what was going on.  A story of suspense, spirit, and soul, it’s just spooky enough to not keep you up before bed, but past the edge of Goose Bumps.  Let’s be honest though, any book with a dark alley (one lamp post) at its core will make any reader squirm in their seat.   Can you tell by my references that my experience with horror/mystery/science fiction stopped suddenly at the age of eight?

Keep in mind, this is coming from a girl who could never really explain the science behind science fiction.  I loved all the tidbits of time travel; Lacuna, Orison, Pyroblast, and telepathy between the characters.  I loved that Slade House was a vision and a veil all at once to different characters. I love David Mitchell’s pacing because he can always keep me pushing. I loved this little yellow rod of a book and I think if you need a little terror in you life, and not in the form of breaking news, it’s arrived just suddenly from Mitchell’s fictional universe’s time table.

I am fine with being a weed if I’ve broken cement to grow.

I’ve been quiet for a while.  Turns out, a case of homesickness isn’t just for kids at camp.  I moved in early July and have been yearning for cotton fields, and Friday Night Lights since I left.  I also went from living completely alone in the coziness of a country town to getting a new dog, Tuck Finn, and moving three bedrooms smaller with my boyfriend.  It’s a tight squeeze with my main squeeze.

I’ve cried probably every day.

I’ve prayed probably every hour.

And in my living room there’s a quote from Abraham Lincoln sewn into a patchwork frame that says “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”  Whatever you believe in, believe in it fully is what I’ve learned these past few weeks.  I’ve lost myself in work.  My Mom asked me if “maybe, you should see someone,” and my friends have heard tears through the phone instead of giggles for about a week.

But today, I made a movement to change all that.  There is power in positive thinking.  I have become a walking – talking – bubblegum-chewing – self-help book.  I’ve decided I will no longer be sad.  I will embrace my new community and the new oldness of it.  I’m in my actual hometown again, but I feel homesick for the place I called home for the last three years.

Homesickness is a strange creature.  I imagine it how I imagine morning sickness.  It’s been named all wrong, it hits suddenly with the force of a locomotive, and it asks for no forgiveness.  One second I can be laughing at a joke and the next second I’m in tears, wilted on the floor of my apartment.  It’s not that I’m depressed, it’s that I feel completely out of place in my setting.  I’m a character meant for the South when I’ve been moved to the rain forest.  I’m also not a city girl.  I escape in big porches. I like to be surrounded by fields.  I want land. Expanse. Space to think and leave crumbs. Roaming space.  I only feel comfortable mind-roaming when I’m in a distance. Here, I can hear the creak of the stairs, the stomp of their work shoes on the wood outside the apartment door. I don’t own this place.  I am not this place.

Isn’t that strange that your “home”town can change?

And when people ask, do you tell them where you “grew up” or do you tell them where you grew up? I became an adult in LBG. I was a woman of strength.  Big girl panties ON THE REGULAR. Moving back to my hometown, I’ve had to find that woman again, and I’m on a new journey to track her down. It’s a bit of a scavenger hunt, but I’m picking berries along the way.

Today was beautiful. Both weather and company. This is about growing while thriving. Sometimes it’s hard to do both at the same time.  Now I believe flowers really do have an  expedition.

Bug Fest:

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Sparkcon:

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Technicolor Wonder

Reading Between the World and Me aloud with Fro-Cat and Beej.

Reading Between the World and Me aloud with Fro-Cat and Beej.

I recently just moved back to my hometown, which to be honest has been a bit of a culture shock.  The traffic, the racial breakdown, and the amount of just pure food has been pretty overwhelming after living three years in a small town where I regularly drove for miles through corn fields in the summer and cotton fields in the Fall.  Last week, I literally did my writing hour in a coffee shop where there was not one black person.  I realize a person in the “majority” race probably wouldn’t normally find this alarming, but it was bothersome for me.  I’m used to a town that was full of cultural diversity with a high population of Native Americans, African Americans, and Anglo-Saxon Americans.  Truly, I  was really uncomfortable, enough to note it to my best friend. This is especially taxing because I’m currently reading Ta-Nehesi Coates new book Between the World and Me which makes me even more aware of racial boundaries and my need to start more discussions.

That being said, I’m definitely a small-town girl at heart, so I’m just going to have to make this new city, a bit more local.

To do this, I’ve enlisted the help of my #adventure partner, my boyfriend, BJ. We like to explore anywhere we go and now I’m going to newly explore my home(city)town.  Sunday night we went to a local drive-in theater.  We had been looking for drive-ins since January.  This was an experience.  First, we were three hours early because I thought the ticket booth opening time was the time of the first movie.  Even better, we got to explore the tiny town of Kittrell, NC, very close to Henderson, NC.

We found a hidden Confederate Soldier Cemetery.  During the Civil War, a hospital was placed there due to the city’s closeness to the railroad.  With all the recent news about the confederate flag and the moving and honest speech by Representative Jenny Horne, this little cemetery was a sort of quiet oasis on the side of a dirt road.  It was hidden behind broken-homes and nudged next to a railroad.  Some of the grave stumps were just beaten rocks, or stone slabs without any data.  Then, there were three marble stones for unknown soldiers, and a few family plots like the Blackwells.  Near the cemetery is the Saint James Episcopal Church (c. 1860), which helped with wounded soldiers and gave Christian burials to those that died in the Kittrell (hospital) Hotel.

We, of course, took too many photos on the railroad tracks. (And no disembodied spirits there).

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Then, we were right on time to see Minions and Jurassic Park on the big screen.  Two features for only seven dollars and a radio station that shares the sound with your car.  Next time, we’ll probably pack pillows and comforters for the truck bed, but we were rookies this time.  Also, I’m pretty embarrassing. You can see it all over BJ’s face.

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And obviously, because if you go to an old school drive-in, you need old school (as in childhood) eats and drinks, so we stopped at a gas station for a glass jar YooHoo. 230 calories a glass, I didn’t get a box of candy. I wasn’t trying to take the drive-in tummy ache too far. (I did eat Mozzerella Sticks from the concession stand though because, hello, you have to).

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Not only did we get TWO features, but before the first movie, they played a Mickey Mouse technicolor.  It was a perfect night with a stale breeze and windows down.  I laughed at minions in thongs and tipped the truck seat back.  Only 45 minutes from Raleigh, this is a true find.  I highly recommend finding a drive-in near you even if your car is far too lived-in (Sorry, Mom).

 

I don’t know how to talk about Charleston, so I come to this discussion with a list of books, and an open-heart.

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” George Washington Carver

Superbowl prompted students to discuss race relations. Link when you click picture.

Superbowl prompted students to discuss race relations. Link when you click picture.

In some ways, we all share the same history. Histories are interwoven.  No one person lives a solitary history, yet one person can claim a history as their own.  Historians have called it a quilt, a melting pot, a cycle, a river, a tree, a labyrinth, a pathway.  I’m not sure any of these have done it justice.  I almost want to call my idea of history a garden.  I believe this because in order for a garden to grow, it must grow together in the square patch it has been built.  However, one drought, one “bad apple,” one certain pesticide, one rodent, can ruin that small, homely-built wealth that’s trying to be cultivated.  And plants grow towards both light and voices.  They lean with the life that surrounds them.  If they’re given love, they’re watered, maybe even they listen to some soft classical; they thrive.

My own history is both wicked and profound.

At least two of my great-great-greats were confederate soldiers out of Georgia.  Few people could read in their homes. One may have owned slaves.

Slave House @ Boone Hall Plantation (Photo by Me)

Slave House @ Boone Hall Plantation (Photo by Me)

While I can’t understand this history from just looking at documents, I do understand that this part of history is a part of my garden of history.  My future existence depended on the people in that frame.  I do not know them, I can only see army medical records and dig at Louisiana State University for love letters, I do not know if they fought to keep slavery alive, if they believed in the hoopla of the Southern way, if they followed a religiously democratic majority, if their brothers were fighting and they took up arms, if the choice was their own. I can’t even speculate.

What I can say is that I will never be silent about this part of my history.

In a recent survey out of NY Mag, Sean McElwee makes the claim that millennials may be just as intolerant as the older generations, but because they believe that racism no longer exists (to an extent of noticeability) in America, that they have no need to discuss race and race relations.  In fact, Gene Demby, backed up this point on NPR this weekend by stating a few of the following statistics:

  • [In a discussion about millennials thinking a color blind world would be a better one] “most of those respondents said they also grew up in homes where they didn’t talk about race at all.”
  • “A big study from the Public Religion Research Institute from last year showed that three-quarters of white people had entirely white friend circles”
  • “…Because they’re not interacting nearly as much as we would like to think that people are these days.”
Slave House @ Boone Hall Plantation (Photo By Me)

Slave House @ Boone Hall Plantation (Photo By Me)

I use the they because while I’m a millennial by definition, I believe something entirely different than these surveys show.  I believe race should always be a discussion.  I know that I will never understand or know the struggle of raising a young black man.  I know that I will never be able to undo the fact that until the 1950s, African American people were not allowed to own houses, and were practically shunned from the business world.  When my best friend, who is mixed (and was called an Oreo by his white friends, and a boy who “acted white” by his black friends in high school) watched a Katy Perry video he nonchalantly said, “she’s so cute with her insistence on promoting black culture,” but then when Nicki Minaj does a similar pop anthem, with just as much ass as Katy Perry displays boob (weapons) it is hated by the critic community, and by white parents who would gladly buy Katy’s pop-pink album off the Target shelf.

If you asked Taylor Swift (who I adore) who invented twerking (as she – most purposefully I believe – placed an African American woman at the head of the twerking line as she crawls beneath their legs in “Shake it Off”) would she claim Miley Cyrus as the winner or acknowledge that New Orleans is the first place that the word was heard.

There are so few television shows about African American families that Deadline wrote an article claiming that the “Ethnic casting trend has hit its peak in 2015” which I’m not sure is doing good by acknowledging the racial gap on television, while simultaneously using the word “ethnic” in a sentence which makes “ethnic” sound “non-american,” or “other.” The Daily Beast had to criticize Empire for showing blacks as criminals.  Pink is the New Blog wrote a whole blog on whether or not white audiences would watch Black*ish calling into question the idea that a white girl who may watch every single other Housewives of, will refuse to watch Atlanta because the show features only black castmates.

Let me tell you what though, NeNe Leaks can rule the world.

Confederate Flag outside of SC State House @ ABC News

Confederate Flag outside of SC State House @ ABC News

Diane Rehm discussed racism, the confederate flag, and gun violence in America, on one of her shows this past week and it was one of the most educational radio hours that I’ve heard in a long time (in general).  In the talks, it was determined that racism was not dead.  One man called in claiming the confederate flag was a deeply rooted part of his heritage as a Southerner.  However, this flag was used not once, but twice as a weapon of propaganda against African Americans.  The first time, as a symbol of the confederacy during the Civil War, which if the South would have won, the entire existence of the United States would have failed to be a union and who knows where we would be as a developed country.  Propoganda number two as a weapon against the Civil Rights Movement, popping up precisely after the horrifying deaths of the four Birmingham girls.  Finally, finally, after not one single Republican candidate was able to openly state that they believe the confederate flag should be removed from the South Carolina capitol, the Senate in SC has called for removing the flag.  They have a freaking confederate museum in Charleston anyway, just put the flag there.

But now, to me, this flag is a symbol of keeping a certain people down.  It’s a hateful reminder of a past that no one is trying to erase, but people are trying to overcome, to do better, to be understanding, to acknowledge the importance and the struggle of African Americans in American culture, but not further this struggle by flying a cloth of propaganda.

Woo, got a little political there, sorry.

What I’m trying to say with all these links, and facts, and things that probably only two people will get through, is that racism has not ended.  We can all, always do better.  I taught for the last three years in a predominately African-American school and I will continue to do this at my new school.  I can say honestly that I have loved my students regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, or views on the world.  They are growing, learning, and understanding.  I can honestly say that if a large black man is walking on my side of the road that I will not cross in fear, or in generalization, but I will wave and smile.

Does this mean that I don’t joke with my best friend Seth about black people time, or that he didn’t text me yesterday and tell me that USC is “100 years of white people money?” No, it doesn’t mean that.  I have work to do and I’m willing to acknowledge it, but I think it starts with a conversation.

Slave Mart Museum in Charleston (Photo by Me)

Slave Mart Museum in Charleston (Photo by Me)

I think about what happened in Charleston, and I can’t deny that I felt that the city was racist just on principal.  There’s a three-story Forever 21 on the curb of a street where cobblestones were laid by forced labor only one-hundred and fifty years ago.  The lack of respect that this city has for its rich history and heritage kind of made me sick, but what makes me sicker is that a twenty-one year old boy was convinced of white power from a computer screen.  What makes me the sickest is that he considered not killing those people because of their very kindness, a kindness that all races try to instill in their children and hope that it sticks, the way kindness is a honeysuckle stem.

In order to start the conversation (like those nine other paragraphs I just wrote weren’t heated starters), here are a few books in different categories that I believe really reach across racial gaps and made me look inside myself to see the ways that I needed to learn.

Adult Fiction:

  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

    Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

    Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison: If anything, just read the first chapter.  The phlegm disgust in your throat afterwards should teach you something.

  • Native Son – Richard Wright: I just think this has to be on the list. Period.
  • A Raisin in the Sun – Lorraine Hansberry: I never really understand the housing situation that faced African Americans across the US, but specifically Chicago in this play, until I read this book.  It has so many race relations, gender, relations, and just a group of characters that are working on discovering where they fit in a culture that is constantly trying to shove them into a hole.  Even within the family, there are relations that show how this discovery varies between genders, and varies between African-American cultural identity.
  • There Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston: In our school library, Zora Neale Hurstons biography was labeled “Ethnic Section” and wasn’t removed from this category until she was being given away in the front of the library.  I grabbed her up and kept the sticker because I think it’s important to see how ideas are changing and broadening.  Please just read this book if only because it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and Zora Neale Hurston was a character of a human being who died in utter poverty with an unmarked grave until her work was rediscovered later after her death.
  • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

    Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

    Toni Morrison in general.  Read everything the woman ever wrote.  When you’re finished, read Sula again.

  • Virgin Soul – Judy Juanita: This book is newer than most books on this list.  It tells the story of a woman in the 1960s Black Panther Movement.  She’s forced to the fringe of the movement due to her gender, but it’s a worthy read just for her interior struggle. It’s a good pairing with Malcolm X speeches.
  • Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck: I think the most important storyline in this book is between Lennie and Crooks, because Lennie is mentally-impaired and he shows nothing but adoration towards Crooks, yet the other members of the Steinbeck tribe looked on Crooks as an other, all those, you know, mentally-average people.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee: Because how can you discuss race without discussing this book.
  • Salvage the Bones – Jesmyn Ward: The most tension I’ve ever felt in a book.  The storms coming, the air is thick and ornery.
  • Othello: Every book list needs a Shakespeare.
  • White Teeth – Zadie Smith: Hated this book, love what it stands for, love Zadie Smith.

YA Lit:

  • Bluford Series - Paul Langan

    Bluford Series – Paul Langan

    Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson: It’s poetry that’s real, and current, and just won a Newberry Medal.

  • Chains (Series) – Laurie Halse Anderson: It tells a story of slavery in a beautiful way.  Laurie Halse Anderson is the Taylor Swift of YA.  She can do no wrong in my eyes.
  • The Bluford Series – Paul Langan: My students would hate it if I made this list without this series on it.  They straight stole them off my bookshelf and devoured them.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith: It’s one of my Mom’s favorites.

Nonfiction:

  • Black Boy – Richard Wright: This book literally hurt my heart.  It was so hard to read.  I would pick it up and read three pages and have to put it down. It took me WEEKS to read. Its importance in the discussion is outweighed by none.
  • A Lesson Before Dying - Ernest J. Gaines

    A Lesson Before Dying – Ernest J. Gaines

    A Lesson Before Dying – Ernest J. Gaines: I think this is nonfiction, but I’m not one hundred percent now that I think about it.  Ernest Gaines could sell you a car that doesn’t even work.  His writing is beautiful and meaningful and everything.

  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander: Truth is sometimes hard to read, but it’s even harder when it’s not in the past and you’re living it.

Poetry:

  • The Essentials of Etheridge Knight

    The Essentials of Etheridge Knight

    The Essentials of Etheridge Knight– Etheridge Knight: Because he can tell you how he’s “feeling fucked up.”

  • Blood Dazzler – Patricia Smith: Because even if she just watched the news from her comfortable home to write this collection, the feeling is a damn hurricane in your soul.
  • Head Off and Split – Nikki Finney: It has nursery rhymes that you can’t even speak anymore after reading the poems.
  • Langston Hughes – Whether you’re young or your old.  He matters.
  • Lucille Clifton – Because she has the first hips that I ever wanted.
  • Copper Canyon - Countee Cullen

    Copper Sun – Countee Cullen

    Countee Cullen – This was the first poet that I ever used that had the n-word (and we say ninja in my classroom because I can’t handle much else) written on the page.

  • Claude McKay – His name might be the most used name in textbooks for American Lit (that or Whitman, and what does that tell you).
  • Natasha Tretheway – Poet Laureate 2012.

While I wish this battle was over, and I wish that each race in America, each race listed on the census and each person that has to bubble-in “other” and write their race out, was equal, I can’t actually say that and believe it. We have a world of work to do, and lucky for us, we have a lifetime, and the ability to teach the next generation.  There is always power in knowledge, power in forgiveness, and power in discussion.  Anyone who comes to my table with an open-mind, I will greet them likewise and we will begin both bare, and plain-spoken.

I Volunteer as Dampling.

Some little girls want to be veterinarians, some want to ride their bikes down the highest neighborhood slope faster than the boys, some imagine themselves as princesses in far off castles that they’ve only seen in pop-out books, most often, I wanted to be a mermaid.

And I still do.

And sometimes I even believe in them. I said this like it’s a secret, it’s definitely not.  It’s a well-known fact among my friends that I believe in mermaids, their pale tranquil skin against the cave black of deep sea.  I never really imagined them with webbed hands and feet, but now that I’ve inserted that into my mermaid fantasy – like one inserts a face into their end of the aisle husband fantasy – I feel that this must be true.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

And thus, The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan.  All fantasy and fire, The Gracekeepers has been one of the most inventive, meaningful and smooth books that I’ve read this year.  I felt a bit enlightened. I felt a bit sick, in the Margaret Atwood way.  And I felt a bit better about how animals might be treated in the circus.

But this isn’t a normal circus, no, the Excalibur, the setting for most of the novel, is a circus made of soft shell boats (I imagine to look a bit like clams with pearls – glamours – inside) and a girl with a bear.  The girl with the bear, North, is one of the main characters in the book as the reader follows her hidden pregnancy through a map of the sea.  North is a dampling meaning that she’s lived her life on the water, she was born on the water, and is expected to stay in her class of water-dwellers.  The earth has (probably due to climate change, Senator Jim Inhofe) become mostly water – melted polar ice caps and such – and now the land is sacred, and rich.  Although, Kirsty Logan never explains the background of the world becoming this way, I like the ease of which this doesn’t bother me at all as a reader, and I can see our world collapsing into this “stay in your place” mentality.  I mean, history is one big cycle, right?

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Trees are not meant to be harmed.

Water filth are not much allowed to go past the dunes.

Half-breeds are buried alive at the tree (think Pocahontas without the grandmother’s face).

Damplings even have their own burial sites in the middle of the ocean, close to the equator which is where Callanish comes in (names are perfectly created in this novel).  Callanish is a landlocker that has left-off her family’s land due to an “incident” and has become a gracekeeper.  She is mostly alone with her thoughts and the birds that are forced to die as symbols for the dead, anchored to leftovers in the middle of a misted ocean.

Callanish was my second favorite character because she was so dynamic and so many people in one woman. She had a one night stand with a man who wouldn’t leave, she mails feathers, she wears debutante gloves on every occasion outside of her dock, and she is unafraid to wear lingerie on a revival boat.  Of course the character with the most lost would be the most badass.

Callanish performs Restings, the burial rites of dumplings, at the equator.  At first, I thought her life of isolation was something she just accepted without cost, but as the book progresses, the reader learns that Callanish is serving time for something that she believes her single mother will just not forgive.  Instead, Callanish uses her charm to survive a journey back to her roots in order to determine what can be forgiven and what, forgotten.

North and her bear, I imagine.  I didn't quite imagine North would have a 1920s bob, but I can work with it.

North and her bear, I imagine. I didn’t quite imagine North would have a 1920s bob, but I can work with it.

There are other characters, my favorite being the ring leader, Red Gold, because he is one of the most giving characters in current dystopian literature.  He is practically ready to sell his soul to the idea that he can rescue all damsels in distress.  He’s loud and boisterous on stage, but quiet and contemplative behind the mouth of the sails.  I find his relationship with North to be a pivotal turn in the father/daughter relationships of literature (he is not her real father, but his care towards her is one that beckons him the title).  North, meanwhile, has worked for him for most of her life as the bear-girl, and is unafraid to little-spoon with the bear at her backside every night in the soft given sheets of her clam nest.  She is protective of him as her secret-keeper, and waltzes with him on stage every evening.

This book is one of fantasy, which could easily fit into the vein of young adult or adult fiction.  I loathed Night Circus, but I imagine readers who fancied that book for more than just the cliche relationship, might like The Gracekeepers for its lack of cliche relationships.  Gracekeepers also establishes the relationship between two women as the most powerful a woman can have, which as a 3-5 pm everyday after school Sex & The City viewer, I believe this is truth.

Book Map, every reader loves a book with a map.

Book Map, every reader loves a book with a map.

I found that this book pushed the reader along its own current without stopping for the reader’s needs, but leaving a pinch of anxiety throughout.  I forever worried that the bear would be killed by the tragic, skinny-bitch wife of Red Gold.  And even on the ending of the book, I wanted to go for round two.  I do hope that this will turn into a series based on reader demands, or commenting too much on Kirsty Logan’s instagram page (yes, she has one, find it and request a sequel).

I did feel a bit towards the end that this was two stories that weren’t going to gel together, and I feel like it went on a little too long, I could have dealt without the revival boat.  I do have an inkling though that Logan used the revival boat with purpose (its giant Mary – mother of Jesus – sail crested on the side of the boat was enough to keep me interested because of course in dystopia, there are still religious fanatics).  I think she might be gearing up to use the revival boats more in the next book, at least … there better be a next book.

This is a great summer beach read, for a landlocker, or a dampling that finds herself most secure when she’s diving head first into the salt of an ocean wave.

 

39% Horror, and 18% Forced Coincidence | I never said I was a math teacher.

WARNING: spoilers and non-sequential conversation.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

It was a teacher workday today, so instead of cleaning out my desk drawers and taking down posters with inspiring thoughts “Some days you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the poop,” I spent the day finishing The Kite Runner.  225 pages in last night I was tweeting that I’m not sure I can teach this book because I found out the major hunch of Baba and Hassan and Amir.  And then I was PISSED at Baba.  I understood the two halves of himself coming together, but in the beginning I hated him for being a parent annoyed with the fact that his child is not a mini-him, then I grew to love him and his slight hobble asking for the sweet hand of a hook-nosed girl for his son, and then, I loathed him a little more than the beginning due to the secret he took to the grave.

Apparently, The Kite Runner is a graphic novel as well.

Around 300 pages in, I had to walk down to Hawke’s room and ask her if I should keep reading and if Assef “gets his.”  I’m putting a few almost spoilers in this review because I’m assuming that I’m the last person to actually read this book.  It spent 101 weeks on the NY Times Bestseller List, so someone out there had to read it and then recommend it to all of their friends. I seriously wasn’t sure in those climactic moments that Amir could take the nazi (never deserves capitalization, I don’t care if it’s a “proper” noun) that is Assef.  What a dick.  The last time someone was stoned at a sporting event for me was reading “The Lottery” in my classroom and letting my students throw paper balls at the kid who won.  (We weren’t killing trees, they had to write all their work on those papers and then de-ball them in order to turn them in.  Sometimes fun is worth the crinkle of paper from a pocket binder).  In other words, no one has ever been stoned at a sporting event…in my conscious….ever.

I felt so dang American when I read this book.  I was beyond out of my element.  I wanted to simultaneously look away in horror, fly a non-paper-cutting-kite, hug a small child, serve tea, and reanalyze France’s decision on banning burqas.  It was 70% tragedy, 100% humanity, 39% horror, and 18% forced coincidence.  I never said I was a math teacher, which is precisely why I finally read this book.  I had already heard about the first horror of the book and knew just from that-that I wouldn’t be interested in a book like this.  Who wants to read a book where their favorite character will be abused before the hundred-page mark?  It’s like getting sick at breakfast and not being able to eat for the rest of the day due to your disturbing and wretched food poisoning.  BUT, tenth grade at my school teaches The Kite Runner, so I had to trial run it.

Movie Image @ Crash Landen

Taliban @ Wikipedia Commons

As soon as I finished, I knew my students would love this book if they could get through the density of it.  My freshman really appreciated Night, I’m not sure anyone can claim they enjoyed that one, and in Of Mice and Men, I had three girls cry and a choir of tense pressure build up by the end.  Kids who claimed to hate reading told their friends “even I liked that book.” They were both wins for the academics of high school forced-reading and for humanity as a whole as my students learned what empathy truly means through the best superpower, reading. If we covered World War II in 9th grade, maybe covering the Soviet War in Afghanistan, the introduction to Americans of Taliban, and the lead-in to America’s role in a war with Afghanistan might be something golden to teach in 10th grade, especially to students who weren’t even walking when September 11th happened.

Slingshot @ Pixabay (Creative Commons)

To own our history, we must understand the history of those around us.  I’m not sure one person can ever analyze, or study all the histories of the world (obviously), but I am sure that students can understand history that directly relates to their lives and the times in which they have lived.  I am SO looking forward to teaching my students this book.  Although it was kitschy at times; the slingshot, the kite, the brotherhood, the unveiling of Assef and unbearding of Amir, it was still such an amazing book.  I found myself getting nervous in the stadium with the characters, hearing the woman in the already dug grave screaming, seeing the old man ask for coins with his one spoiled eye, carving my name in the pomegranate tree along with Hassan and Amir.

I almost cried at the death of Baba especially when Amir said, “And for the first time in his life, Baba was alone.”  I never want anyone in death to feel lonely even though they’re not bodily with their relatives. BAH.  I fell in love when Amir met Soraya because she was such an honest female character. She’s one of the best-written minor female characters that I’ve read in a long time.  Khaled Hosseini made her so likable in so few paragraphs.  I’ll admit, her husband, it took time for me to like him, but what I like about that is that I only liked him at the time he also finally liked himself completely.  It wasn’t until he had fully forgiven himself that I fully forgave him as well.  Tone and mood came together, my feelings and his matched from that naked bathtub scene to the very end.

Old Television @ D.F. Shapinsky (Creative Commons)

Just, what a great book.  What a great book for the education it makes you research, for the simple fact that sometimes it’s important to feel like an “other,” like you know nothing about the world and pitfalls of the people in that world that live nothing like you (they didn’t even have television, just imagine America in that telescope). There are few books that are both enjoyable and drive their reader to keep reading books on the same topic.  I want to learn more about literature of the Middle East and I want to start right now.  I want to load up my cart and suck the life out of this history so that I can teach as many aspects as I please next year.  This is a book that you will read through the dead heat of night this summer if you haven’t yet picked it up.

I do wonder if I will ever get at the true feelings of what it is to be an Afghani if I can’t read Farsi.  This is one of those times that that the translation can never be as good as the book in the actual language.  I will always be reading from the point of view of the “other” if I can’t learn different languages.  What a disappointing epiphany brought out my an honorable work of literature.

Catster_LetsTalk1_28

Any recommendations for literature from or about the Middle East? What did you think about The Kite Runner and other books by Khaled Hosseini (that I need to read)? If there are any teachers out there, how do you teach this book? What is your favorite lesson?  SHARE AWAY!

 

This Book is About As Riveting As Watching a Moss Colony Grow.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Not only is this book heavy handed with botany that at times seems relatively interesting if you believe in spending your life peering through the eye tackle of a microscope, but it is about as boring as watching the growth of a moss colony.  And if there’s one thing I know, it’s moss. My family seems only to be able to grow the fertile little kiwi hairs instead of grass. Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, for taking all of my beliefs away that you could actually write fiction as beautiful as a story about yourself.  I stand on the side that you are a one hit wonder with the likes of Vanilla Ice, Harper Lee (who thankfully decided to quit her trial run of writing a book equal to or better than To Kill a Mockingbird), the cast of Seinfeld (New Adventures of Old Christine….seriously), I would love to say the Buffalo Bills, but they have yet to win a Superbowl even though they played in four consecutive, and that band that no one remembers who sang “Tainted Love.”  Someone, anyone…wikipedia that for me.

Moss @ Mountainmoss.com

I’m too tired after making it off the Tahitian island where my last bit of ending anticipation was driven in by sixty more pages of Roger the Dog and conversations indebted to long pauses of useless explanation.  If you think that was the longest, most boring and confusing sentence you’ve ever read, then that might be a reason to pick up Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel (NY Times Bestselling novel) The Signature of All Things.  At first, I was giving her the benefit of the doubt.  I found myself connecting with the main character Alma, really the only character that the story follows whole-heartedly, because she was her father’s favorite.  I have an ornament that says so, so it must be true.  She also had the curse of being so smart and so dull-looking which caused her story to be a long and arduous one of no travels until she was well into retirement and therefore spending most of her life in a closet masturbating, or a carriage house studying choice examples of botany.   Yes, you’re delicate senses read that right.  Here is a woman who spends her life yearning to earn her own “Krull the Warrior King,” hoping to use her own mating weapon to save the world of some endearing, sexy, botanist, only to be left with her own intellectual stimulus as a vibrator. (Sorry for being explicit.  My mom is going to die).  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against plants, but I struggle to comprehend why it was necessary for me to read 513 pages of plant descriptions in order to get to the final page of this book.

AN AWESOME DRAWING BY KELLYCREATES ON TUMBLR: pink Alstroemeria

I can’t even remember what happened in the beginning.  I’ve been reading this solidly for almost two weeks because every time I would begin reading it, I would wake up in the darkness of my living room having had a fine nap filled with dreams of actual book-worthy excitement.   I know I should be applauding this story of a woman searching for enlightenment when the only thing women were allowed to be searching for was sheets, and their seventh child, but I can’t get over how much I lacked interest in this story.  It was fine historical fiction, but I was led on by interviews with Gilbert.  She said she researched endlessly the life and travels of Captain Cook, but he was in and gone in three pages flat.  I love Gilbert’s TED talks on inspiration and creativity.  I loved Eat, Pray, Love although the movie (much like this recent novel) was a journey I shouldn’t have ever taken.  However, this fictional reinvention of an intellectually driven woman wasn’t quite like reading a thesis from the biology department, but if you removed a few of the lyrical language moments, it could have been.

Sick drawing by Nicoma Nix Turner (Click the picture for a link to the site)

I was fond of a few characters, Prudence, for example and surely Retta, who is truly the only lively thing on the page.  Speaking of Retta, the only truly enjoyable character, is glared down by whiteness to live out her life as a woman “criminally insane” and put away by her husband.  I know this happened in reality.  I also know that Retta had a bit of flair, but did Gilbert have to lock away my favorite character in the whole book just because she had some personality that was later stomped on by white walls and straight jackets.  These are things to think about when you write characters.

Orchid Drawing by The Lotus Tile @ Tumblr

JK Rowling just broke every Potter’s heart when she said that Ron and Hermoine should have never been an item and Hermoine was always meant for Harry, but you can’t take something like that back when you’re writing a book.  It’s like killing off the only redeemable character.  Why rid this novel of its only funky character just to make her husband single again for when Alma discovers the truth about her sister Prudence.  That’s not fair to poor Retta who just wanted to live inside a dress with poofy sleeves and hug everyone. Henry, Alma’s father,  was sly and booming, a true father of a house and his wife was disastrously cunning and dry, but I didn’t want to hang out with any of these people.

Tahiti Image from Blog about Cooke

I think it’s fair to say that this book had moments of brilliance, but it can be summed up in a brief sentence: a woman filled with sexual frustration, sets out to discover herself in identifying and studying mosses, but is taken down by a man of divine promises (See: “A Good Man is Hard to Find”) and finds refuge once again in the idea that everything must have a comprehensive answer that she will discover mostly in the world of botany.  The true problem with this novel lies in my unflinching lack of care for these characters, this time period as told by these characters, and my disappointment of the editor who did not encourage Gilbert to shorten parts that weren’t necessary. However, thank you so much Penguin for letting me get my hands on this one so that I could use the word “vibrator” in a blog.

Let’s Get Organized, Organized! Binders Edition

***UPDATE 4.0:  GUYS, my students were fully-funded in less than 24 hours.  How do you say thank you for that kind of generosity.  Most of my students don’t get out of this county….ever, but with your help (coming mostly from the Northern states) maybe students will see that the big world out there isn’t as scary as they first thought.  There are still kind, wonderful people out there who are willing to give money to people they may never see just for the bright, happy smiles it will put on their faces.  My students next semester and the next semester and until these binders completely wear-out are going to be forever changed by your donation.  You just made a child happy, you should be beyond proud of that.  That’s the greatest thank you I can give, the thank you that my students will feel loved. 

PS. Erin, you rock.  Thank you for continuing to give even when the project was funded.  I’m amazed by the kindness.

***Update 3.0: The girls have come out full force folks.  Kate (and her husband Adam), Amy, Katie, Margaret, you’re angels, seriously.  I am thankful for each of you so very much.  We only have $41 left to reach this goal for every child who walks through my classroom to have a binder.  Everyone who has thought about my students, donated, or sent up a quick prayer for my county,  you have lit my world aflame with how quick, how generous, and how kind the world still is.  This is why we carry our cups half full.  Thank you.

***Update 2.0: Thanks to two more wonderful people, we only need $178 more! Thank you, thank you.  My students and I are so blessed. 

***Update: Thanks to two beautiful ladies, we only need $253 more! 

If you watch The Colbert Report or the Oprah Winfrey network, then you’ve probably heard about Donor’s Choose.  Donor’s Choose is a place for educators to get funding for projects within their classroom.

This week my project was posted for my small town classroom.  I’m looking for $375 in donations to buy every single one of my students a binder. I would love to be sitting here asking you for a musical instrument, some sort of poetry wheel-of-fortune game, or more technology for my classroom like a class set of kindles, but right now my students need the basics.  I will use your donations to fund every student a binder and if I get my project funded, I will also be buying (personally) every single one of my students a notebook, pencils and a pack of notecards.

Screen shot 2013-07-15 at 11.14.22 AM

Bks r lke rly lng txt msgs

It’s no secret that I teach in a high poverty area. According to City-Data, 43% of the people living in my small town are below the poverty line.  You can see that devastation when the state is 21% below the poverty line which is still really high.  My small town had a very large factory and industrial scene a few years ago, but unfortunately most of that shut down and moved overseas.  I am looking to help my students and their families in any small way that we can. It’s that “EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS” mentality.  These binders are going to make it that much easier on the parents when it comes to school supply shopping and I also plan to recycle them year-to-year to keep giving to more students.

My project will appear on Donor’s Choose for 4 months, but for THIS WEEK ONLY Donor’s Choose will match any donations (to the dollar) that people make as long as they type in the checkout code of INSPIRE when they donate.  This is me begging you to donate to my classroom.  I can promise in return that you will help teach the next generation the organization and responsibility skills that they so desperately need.  You will get them off their cellphones and into their books.  You will teach my students in particular that people out there believe in them.  There is a link to the right if you click the donor’s choose icon in my sidebars to my page.

HELP!

I’m not sure if I’ve shared this story on the blog, but I once had a fellow teacher tell me that “we weren’t teaching the future of America.”  My students may not all be on grade-level for reading, they may come to me vastly behind the nation, and they may not be confident in their abilities to make it to college on anything other than a sport’s scholarship, but by the end of the year, with your support and mine, we can make them believe in the power of education.  This is me begging you to please help in purchasing just one binder for a student at the price of $4.

If you donate, you will receive:

  • A letter from my students (probably more like a rap from my students.  I’ll do an Edgar Allen Poe thing with them).
  • You will be able to see their happy faces with their bright, shiny, new binders.
  • You will be supporting the education of small-town America who aren’t often heard.
  • You will get a big “thank you” banner above my classroom door so that my students can look up and see the people that are thinking about them.
  • I will personally write an organization rap and post it on this blog (if I still can, I may not have video anymore), but if not, I will send you my rapping skill via the interwebs.
Who my students are.

Who my students are.

Here is the link to visit my project and read more about my students and my evil plan for this binders.

What More Could You Want in a Book Review Than Bacon and Ranting?

BACON!

One thing you may not know about me is my love of bacon.  In my early morning drowsy, I actually googled “the history of bacon,” just to see how far back I could live in the past and still eat bacon.  It seems there were many words for bacon like “backa” in Old Teutonic, which obviously refers to the back if we’re studying roots.

Lately, I’ve been really conscious of how far back I can go in time and still have my favorite things.

Let’s make a list, shall we?

  1. Indoor Lighting | I’m going to be safe and go late 1880’s here.
  2. Jeans | 1873 if you’re a man, it’s hard to say if you’re a woman.  And the 1873 stat means that you’re definitely wearing really starched overalls.
  3. Cupcakes | 1796 when the first mention of a cupcake was in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons.  She wrote, “a cake to be baked in small cups.”  It says nothing of whether icing was a factor.
  4. Books | 4,500 years before Gutenburg invented the printing press, books were written by hand.
  5. Libraries | Estimated at 2600 B.C., so I could really time jump for this one, but it would involve reading clay tablets in my free time.  And who’s to say I would even be allowed into the fortress where they were kept.  I’d have to wish queenliness on myself before traveling, and pack all my 20th century jewelry to look wealthy.
  6. Headbands | Possibly 475 B.C., formally known as head wreaths.
  7. Cats as Pets | We’re going with 12,000 years ago according to The Smithsonian.

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgeway

I’ve been thinking heavily about this after reading Bee Ridgeway’s The River of No Return this past week.  In this story people jump forward and backward in time, but are unable to change anything drastically for the future.  For instance, a lot of us would say “Let’s kill Hitler,” if we went back in time, but that wasn’t allowed according to time travel rules.  So, the benefits of time travel for women would be significantly less than the benefits for men.  I definitely wouldn’t want to go back to a time when women were lower class citizens who were never even able to own their own property.  I do not intend to be a “little wife” in any of my lifetimes.  (I suppose you don’t get to choose though).

@ The Penguin Blog: My Fantasy Britain

Bee Ridgeway uses the main character’s sister’s Claire and Bella to show us the inconsistencies of women during this time.  Claire is finally able to have control over her manor when her brother is found dead in Spain after the war.  It isn’t until his return through Guild operations that she loses all the control that she had.  Her brother, Nicholas Falcott, travels through time with a group known as the Guild.  You’ll have to read the book in order to see all the Guild’s tragedies and cheering throughout.  They are enemies with a group known as the Ofan.  The Ofan includes a pretty young thing who’s duties are to be seduced by a certain lover and share all her Ofan secrets for the good of the Guild.  It’s a complicated story of hate through generations.

Time Travel

The pretty young thing is a courtesan, but is shown living in her own house, doing as she pleases and wearing what she pleases.  It’s as if through sex, she has gained freedom.   Ridgeway obviously doesn’t delve into the mighty of this idea, but I found it interesting the places women took for wee bits of control.  Claire, Nicholas Falcott’s eldest sister, works with displaced soldiers in order to earn her own governance and Bella is freedom-obsessed, but definitely going to be married off.  Finally, we reach Julia Percy, the most fabulous character in the whole book.  It’s as if she’s a modern girl trapped in the body of an Earl’s daughter.  She is thought-provoking, occasionally chilly, monstrously witty and uses her feminine wiles to prove that women do, in fact, rule the world.  Thank you, thank you.  You can stop applauding now.

I liked this story because it conquered hard subjects without making them hard.  We’re all jaded by something by the time we’ve reached teenagehood, maybe sooner if we’re unlucky, but this story really put the story into history.  While she touched on the unfairness throughout history, Ridgeway wrote a powerful storyline that was sometimes slow, but almost always kept you reading.  The book was long, I think I could go through and chop away at some of the bits a reader wouldn’t need, but in the end I wasn’t upset that there were parts where I wanted to put the book down and make tea.  It’s the story of time travel, what it takes to be in two places at once, once you know what the future holds for the world and you as an individual.  Nick Falcott is the typical favorite male character who is changed by romance, even though all of us girls know that men cannot be changed and this is their epic downfall.

Courtesan @ Royal Splendour (Blogspot)

I loved the love in the story, the historical timeline, and the general plot.  I think this is a great summer read for people who liked The Time Traveler’s Wife, but want a little more plot and a little less romance.  The romance in The River of No Return is tainted by the times.  You can’t be too romantic when you’re expected to meet your future husband at a ball and always wear gloves until you’re married.  Plus, what is romance when you’re a spinster by the age of 25.  I’d be living alone in someone’s attic during the main century of this book, but at least I’d have bacon.

One last bone I have to pick.  I like to read other reviews before and after I write my own just to see what other readers are saying about the books I’ve finished.  I like to see what we thought in common and what I may have missed while reading.  When doing so, I came across this lovely little diddy. To be fair before I begin, I really enjoyed reading this review.  I have to give the reviewer credit because she said “I can’t really judge this book on character development or plot, since I only read the kindle sample which, though much longer than typical, admittedly can’t showcase an author’s strength in these areas.”  However, then she went into a diatribe against the language of the book “simplistic sentences larded with descriptions of flashing eyes, flaring nostrils, and dastardly cousins.”  I agree that the book has simplistic sentences, however, it’s also meant to be a “fun read” one of those books that’s not marketed as chick-lit, but we all know is dying to be turned into something pink by its next distribution date.

Goodreads

This all aside, YOU CANNOT REVIEW A BOOK BY READING THE KINDLE SAMPLE.  You absolutely cannot do that.  That is unfair to every author ever published.  As reviewers, I know we are criticized for all the ways in which blogs (and probably Goodreads) have ruined the job for “real critics.”  There have definitely been times when through writing a blog, I’ve convinced readers not to read a certain book.  Other bloggers have also convinced me not to read a book.  In fact, in bookstores, I will sometimes sign into Goodreads on my phone and read member reviews in order to choose one book or another.  This is not the problem.  The problem is that someone read a sample of a book and felt like they could write a review that inevitably turned people off from reading the book.

Must Finish Book!

Comments below the review state things like, “Taking this off my list! Thanks!”  I feel, as a reader, that I can absolutely not condone someone reading a sample of a book and writing a review which turns other possible readers off.  I’m also the type to ALWAYS finish a book even if it takes me months.  Seriously, I’ve been reading Swamplandia since November.  I will write a review after I finish Swamplandia, but I will also have read, if not the whole book, a vast majority of it.  You can not write a review of a sample of a book.  That’s like eating a bite of multilayered cheesecake and only getting the strawberry part and saying it’s a disgusting thing to put in your mouth, how dare someone eat this.  OR, walking into a movie in the middle of the movie, watching ten minutes, and walking out, and then writing a review of the movie.  It can’t be done.  You haven’t invested the quality of time in the book that it deserves (whether you liked it or not) for you to “review” it.

That’s my mini-rant for the day.  Does anyone else have things they detest seeing on Goodreads.  I know Amanda said on twitter that she hates when people use too many exclamation points.  I would have to agree with her.  Unless you’re sending me an email that sounds mean, you should be reserved with the exclamation points.  In fact, we should have an exclamation point law, only one per writing sample.  Where’s the grammar girl when you need her?