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1. Review: Not For Everyday Use. On-line Floricanto 7 X 5

Elizabeth Nunez. Not For Everyday Use. NY: Akashic Books, 2014. ISBN: 9781617752339 e-IBSN: 9781617752780

Michael Sedano

You won’t necessarily take a phone call one day, maybe you’ll be there. You won’t necessarily be 64 like that song, but you’ll be old when you get the news your mother is dead. Not For Everyday Use is Elizabeth Nunez’ memoir of the hours and days following her mother’s passing.


In the course of a few days, the family reunion, funeral and church rituals, sibling expectations, and the author’s own disconnectedness spark reflections upon memories that guide the daughter’s comprehension of the immensity of this change in her family.

While the theme of the matriarch’s death is universal, readers will appreciate the writer’s post-colonial, immigrant, and person-of-color themes that play strongly throughout the memoir. Nunez devotes elaborated discussion to class v. color arguments, fidelity, decolonized mindsets, the isolation and hardship of an immigrant single mother on her own, why her mother pushed her away.

Written with a novelist’s pen, the story flows from incidents and anecdotes juxtaposed in time. In one section, the reader learns that Nunez and Betty Shabazz work in the same academic department. Any sense of solidarity between the Trinidadian and the US Muslim quickly dissipates in another account, Nunez being told off by a U.S.-born black woman that the Trinidadian black woman should know her place. They were competing for a student leadership position. Another tale, in dialect, reflects an attitude that infects and strengthens the Nunez clan, what don bile, don spile. It's the attitude the old man displays looking upon the corpse of his wife of 65 years. He nods and says before walking away, "Well, that's that."

Mourning often gives way to old resentments and unfinished business. Nunez has some of this, perhaps, in her descriptions of her sisters and brothers. Her sister Karen really gets under her skin. Her father’s cheating and her mother’s pain at it are recurring jabs at the 90 year old demented man. The father’s Carnival dance at the funeral parlor comes as total surprise and author's restrained humor. You’re not supposed to laugh, are you?

Not For Everyday Use is the autobiography of Nunez’ novels Anna In-between and Boundaries. For practitioners of the craft of memoir writing, the author shares a writer’s insight on using one’s life and family to populate her fiction, and how a moment's recognition winds and unravels skeins of time recorded in the words.

Readers of those two excellent novels will appreciate the connections between the writer’s world and that of the novels. Prior reading won’t be required with Nunez calling attention to key parallels and differences between the novels and the author's life. The writer treads a storyteller's line that leads her familia to accuse the author of getting too honest about private matters. The writer’s defense, “I’m a writer.”

Reading Elizabeth Nunez’ two-novel life of Anna Sinclair, Anna In-Between and Boundaries, introduces readers to a flinty mother, a daughter wanting more affection, a divorced single mother immigrant black woman employed in New York publishing industry. That’s almost Nunez’ profile. She’s an English professor.

In the novels, Anna and Beatrice suffer one another’s needs but maintain an icy distance. Nunez' friends say she's too hard on the fictional mother. That’s also the mother-daughter relationship the author weaves together in Not For Everyday Use. It’s not a spoiler to say--look for it--Elizabeth and Una have a warm reconciliation when both manage to say, without choking on the emotion, “I love you.”

Readers and writers of US ethnic literatures will find Nunez’ voicing of immigrant sentiments familiar, eloquent, and distinctive. Coming from a newly de-colonized gente--she's first generation--the author’s voice and insight into exigencies in-common will prove vitalizing to readers and writers.

You can order Not For Everday Use through your local independent bookseller, or directly from the publisher, Akashic Books’ website here.



Seven by Five: On-line Floricanto for September 2
Gabriel Rosenstock, Francisco X. Alarcón, Jackie Lopez, Frank de Jesus Acosta, Mario Angel Escobar

The Moderators of the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB1070 Poetry of Resistance recommend five poets from two continents writing in three languages for today's La Bloga On-line Floricanto.


"An End to Borders" by Gabriel Rosenstock with his original poem in Gaelic, "Deireadh Le Teorainneacha"
"Frontera / Border" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"Slithering Our Way to Heaven" by Jackie Lopez
"Why I Write?" by Frank de Jesus Acosta
"Brown Chronicles" by Mario Angel Escobar



AN END TO BORDERS
by Gabriel Rosenstock

An end to borders
An end to flags
An end to barbed wire
An end to towering walls
An end to nations
End the base tinkle of currencies
End wars
Let the planet breathe freely
Without borders
Without flags
Without barbed wire
Without towering walls
Without nations
Without the base tinkle of currencies
Without wars
An end forever to borders

DEIREADH LE TEORAINNEACHA
by Gabriel Rosenstock

Deireadh le teorainneacha
Deireadh le bratacha
Deireadh le sreang dheilgneach
Deireadh le fallaí arda
Deireadh le náisiúin
Cuir deireadh le cling shuarach na n-airgeadraí
Deireadh le cogaí
Lig don phláinéad análú gan bhac
Gan teorainneacha
Gan bhratacha
Gan sreang dheilgneach
Gan fallaí arda
Gan náisiúin
Gan cling shuarach na n-airgeadraí
Gan chogaí
Deireadh go deo le teorainneacha



Gabriel Rosenstock. Poet, novelist, playwright, haikuist, essayist, author/translator of over 170 books, mostly in Irish (Gaelic). Taught haiku at the Schule für Dichtung (Poetry Academy), Vienna, and Hyderabad Literary Festival, India. Prolific translator of poems, plays, songs, he also writes for children, in prose and verse. Represented in Best European Fiction 2012 (Dalkey Archive Press) and Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (W. W. Norton & Co. 2013). Books Ireland, Summer 2012, says of his detective novel My Head is Missing: ‘This is a departure for Rosenstock but he is surefooted as he takes on the comic genre and writes a story full of engaging characters and a plot that keeps the reader turning the page.’
New and selected poems I OPEN MY POEM …(translated from the Irish) published in 2014 by PoetryWala, Mumbai, India and The Partisan and other stories published by Evertype, 2014.
Rosenstock’s Blog address:
roghaghabriel.blogspot.ie




Frontera/ Border
by Francisco X. Alarcón





Francisco X. Alarcón, award winning Chicano poet and educator, born in Los Angeles, in 1954, is the author of twelve volumes of poetry, including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002), and Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992), Sonetos a la locura y otras penas / Sonnets to Madness and Other Misfortunes (Creative Arts Book Company 2001), De amor oscuro / Of Dark Love (Moving Parts Press 1991, and 2001).
His latest books are Ce•Uno•One: Poems for the New Sun / Poemas para el Nuevo Sol (Swan Scythe Press 2010), and for children, Animal Poems of the Iguazú/Animalario del Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008) which was selected as a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association, and as an Américas Awards Commended Title by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs. His previous bilingual book titled Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para sonar juntos (Lee & Low Books 2005) was awarded the 2006 Jane Addams Honor Book Award.
He teaches at the University of California, Davis, where he directs the Spanish for Native Speakers Program. The issue of eco-poetics and xenophobia are a the core of three upcoming collections of poems, “Poetry of Resistance: A Multicultural Anthology in Response to SB 1070,” “Borderless Butterflies: Earth Haikus and Other Poems / Mariposas sin fronteras: Haikus terrenales y otros poemas.” He is the creator of the Facebook page POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070 where more than 3,000 poems by poets all over the world have been posted. This is the link to the Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/PoetryOfResistance




Slithering Our Way to Heaven
by Jackie Lopez

I see love, peace, and joy slithering like a snake in the grass up to our spines.
It enables us to see Heaven on Earth when there is plenty of Orisha-orientations.
We sink into Mother Earth for her comfort and strength in our enterprise for survival.
And, we will survive.
Every border,
every genocide,
every racist, sexist, classist sentiment is thrown out the window for our survival.
Every history book will speak the truth of our organization.
Every Thursday we shall have dinner with wonderful disorganization.
Now and then, we cross the border of discontent and organize an evolution.
We march in the streets.
We picket on the line.
And, we shall nail our edict on the cross.
There is hope in a word.
There is hope in a dance.
There is hope in a march and we go marching on.
We claim the universe complete.
We are anointed and know that the only way to survive is if we take a trip to the truth.
I am not agnostic and esoteric at the same time.
I am survival of the kindest.
I am survival of true love.
We sink or swim in misbehavior.
For our solution is found in the consultation of our souls.
And, where does it all start?
And, where did I come from?
It all started with a misbehavior one evening when I was anointing the masses.
We are organizing an evolution for the promotion of restitution.
We are aghast with philosophy, and we shall anoint whomever washes a dish.
And, the saints are marching in.
We wear mini-skirts and shorts.
We wear an Alaskan mask and we shoot the breeze with the namesayers.
We are closet scientists and we mistake enamorations for flirtations.
So, now I say, Let us rejoice for the world has opened up with dire pollution in order for us to be united as emancipators.
We shall cross the border.
We shall reach the sea.
We have been accosted at every turn with oppression.
And, it is getting thick like molasses.
So, I cling to hope and enamorations.
I cling so that I might see the universe for what it really is and what it does to us.
We are disjointed at the ends, and we are getting the Heaven out of Hell.
So, speak your truth.
I am listening.
Sing, for boyfriends offer patrimony to the lovely creationism that you bring.
And, I dive into the lies and remember that the only thing that can get through my pores is the truth.
We are shamans.
We promote the non-toxicity of the world.
We are crazy with love and emotional control.
We sing in the spirit of a saint.
And we embark on traffic control.
There is not such a thing as hope without despair.
It is now our golden opportunity to live on Earth and say, “We are hope.”
So, little is said about the misogynistic era of enlightenment.
However, I am one to say it.
This is the millennium of Heaven.
There is an ocean of forgiveness somewhere out there.
There is emancipatory proclamations out there as well.
And, we are ones to ride that wave.



Jackie Lopez is a poet and writer from San Diego. She was founding member of the Taco Shop Poets and has always pursued a study of history of which has influenced her writing. She has taught in San Diego City Schools and has been published in several literary journals. She has just finished her Magnum Opus titled “Telepathic Goodbye” described as a uniform poem of 25, 333 words. She is now looking for a publisher for this. You can catch her work on facebook under “Jackie Lopez Lopez” where she shares her work with a daily poem. She has a radio interview that will come out later this year. Her email: peacemarisolbeautiful@yahoo.com







Why I write?
by Frank de Jesus Acosta

I write to:

Give scope to my growing understanding of truth;
Impart my dreams and visions;
Honor the sacrifice of the ancestors;
Remember the stories, traditions, and history of my people;
Reflect the duality of pain;
Express gratitude for the miracle of creation;
Acknowledge the integrity of all cultures;
Celebrate the expression of my own;
Lament the anathema of hate, greed, egoism, and tyranny;
Witness to justice, compassion, respect, and non-violence;
Incite aspiration to human possibility;
Voice the inspiration of love;
Commune with the presence of God in others;
Leave footprints of my dance to the song of life...

Reflection by: Frank de Jesus Acosta


Frank de Jesus Acosta is principal of Acosta & Associates, a California-based consulting group that specializes in professional support services to public and private social change ventures in the areas of children, youth and family services, violence prevention, community development, and cultural fluency. In 2007, he authored, The History of Barrios Unidos, Cultura Es Cura, Healing Community Violence, published by Arte Publico Press, University of Houston. Acosta is a graduate of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His professional experience includes serving in executive leadership positions with The California Wellness Foundation, the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Downtown Immigrant Advocates (DIA), the Center for Community Change, and the UCLA Community Programs Office. He is presently focused on completing the writing and publishing a two book series for Arte Publico Press focused on best practices to improve the well-being of Latino young men and boys. Acosta most recently co-authored a published “Brown Paper” with Jerry Tello of the National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute (NLFFI) entitled, “Lifting Latinos Up by Their Rootstraps: Moving Beyond Trauma Through a Healing-Informed Framework for Latino Boys and Men.” Acosta provides writing and strategic professional support in research, planning, and development to foundations and community-focused institutions on select initiatives focused on advancing social justice, equity, and pluralism. He is also finalizing writing and editing a book of inter-cultural poetry and spiritual reflections.





BROWN CHRONICLES
by Mario Angel Escobar

If you ever want to walk
the corners of your streets,
Be ready to put your hands up
because the pigmentation of your skin,
Has already made you guilty.
Be ready to hold your last breath
because eyes with a sense of supremacy
will stalked you
following your foots steps.
Don’t hold anything in your hands
Open them like roses in the spring
accelerating their process
because if you don’t
the law will drop a white blanket
on a puddle of blood
covering a history
that has been deny
over and over again
but why cry
if the tears will continue to blossom
everyday
flooding with sadness
our sunsets.
Wherever you go
Sirens
Will stalked you
suffocated your path
with the scent of your
dead ones
If you ever want to walk
the corners of your streets,
Be ready to put your hands up
because a single phrase
I am not guilty!
I am not guilty!
I am not guilty!
Will not do
and in the vortex
of the hourglass sand
you will find
that the dream
still a dream
in the corners
of your street.

© Mario A. Escobar 2014


Mario A. Escobar (January 19, 1978-) is a US-Salvadoran writer and poet born in 1978. Although he considers himself first and foremost a poet, he is known as the founder and editor of Izote Press. Escobar has stated that his exposure to “poetic sounds” began during his childhood and that his foundation in poetry stemmed from what he witness during the Salvadoran Civil War. Escobar began his writing career by the age of 13 as a poet. He cites Roque Dalton, Tato Laviera and Jaime Sabines as some of his early poetic influences. Escobar’s work has been feature in UCLA’s publication Underground Undergrads which recognizes the poet as an activist for the undocumented Student Movement. In 2004, Escobar was placed under arrest and was scheduled to be deported. In 2006, Escobar won his case for political asylum making him one of the last Salvadorans to win a political case fourteen years after the Salvadoran Peace Accords were signed in 1992. Escobar is a faculty member in the Department of Foreign Languages at LA Mission College. Some of Escobar’s works include Al correr de la horas (Editorial Patria Perdida, 1999) Gritos Interiores (Cuzcatlan Press, 2005), La Nueva Tendencia (Cuzcatlan Press, 2005), Paciente 1980 (Orbis Press, 2012). His bilingual poetry appears in Theatre Under My Skin: Contemporary Salvadoran Poetry by Kalina Press.

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2. Review – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

After only reading Cloud Atlas I was already in awe of David Mitchell so I dove straight into his new novel at the first available opportunity. And once again was swept away by the storytelling, the language and the imagination. The book has been described as “his most Cloud Atlas-y novel since the global phenom Cloud Atlas” and I […]

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3. Gordon

22886898

Title: Gordon (A tale of a baby American bison)

Author/Illustrator: Martha Mans

Publisher/Year: WinterBird Press/2014

 

Children’s picture books are works of art. Gordon, written and illustrated by the incredibly talented Martha Mans, is proof. Hold it in your hands. Look at the front cover. Turn is over and look at the back cover. Open it up and flip through the pages. Let your eyes take in all the majestic beauty of life on a Colorado ranch.

Then start at the beginning and read about Gordon, a young American bison, and his animal friends. Follow along as he is rescued from a creek, meets new friends, and finally discovers what he is and where he belongs. Gordon is an endearing story based on true events and it really brings to life, especially through Martha Mans’ amazing watercolor paintings, a part of America that many people may not be familiar with.

I really like how this story introduces readers, young and old, to the animals and wildlife that can be found in the gorgeous state of Colorado, particularly the bison. Did you know that back in the 1800’s, bison were on the brink of extinction? But thanks to the efforts of many, bison are no longer in danger of disappearing, at least for now. And thanks to Martha Mans and Gordon, the majestic bison will not soon be forgotten.   


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4. Book Review-This Book is Gay by James Dawson

Title: This Book Is Gay
 Author:  James Dawson
Series:  N/A
Published:  4 September 2014 by Hot Key Books
Length: 271 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: James Dawson has written many things. 
Summary : Former PSHCE teacher and acclaimed YA author James Dawson gives an uncensored look at what it's like to grow up as LGBT. Including testimonials from people 'across the spectrum', this inclusive book explores everything anyone who ever dared to wonder wants to know - from sex to politics, how to pull, stereotypes, how to come-out and more. Spike Gerrell's hilarious illustrations combined with funny and factual text make this a must-have read.

Review: I don't normally review nonfiction, but this is a hugely anticipated book by a brilliant author and a topic I have an interest in. There’s so many things that make this book wonderful.
First, there’s the fact that this book exists, with a bright rainbow cover and direct information and not hiding.  I can only think of one other sex-ed book that addresses queer people as well as cishet people, and that's Scarleteen's book, which I read  once in a library but it later disappeared. The fact  there's a book that speaks directly to a group of people ignored by almost every school when it comes to sex-ed, is brilliant, and I hope this book finds its way into the hands of everyone who needs it.
Then here's the breadth of topics covered; labels and common definitions, biological theories, stereotypes, coming out, dating, sex, marriage, and children, as well as more serious, less happy topics, such as religious opposition, homophobia, transphobia, HIV/AIDS.
James gives clear advice that hopefully will be hopeful to people of all genders and sexualities about how to combat homo&transphobia, coming out,  and many other things.
I love the range of voices from the online survey, especially the longer studies, that talk about experiences such as living with HIV, transitioning, and having children via surrogate mothers. They give a snapshot into many different lives, and, after reading about things like this in fiction, it's fascinating to see real-life perspectives.
My favourite thing is James's voice tying it all together. I read the book straight after James did a reading from this book, and it's so easy to imagine him reading it aloud. There's a lot of laughs in appropriate places, highlights including "a very bad lady-let's...call her Maggie....some years later [there was] a slightly less evil man let's call him Tony",    "what I felt for Dean Cain (whose name I did not change for this book- I mean, I think it's time he knew of my love", and (in the first edition) bullet points 2 and 3 on page 45.
Now, this is going to sound really picky, but I did notice that it sometimes reinforces the gender binary (yes, I'm aware one of my contributions does too, and I apologise for younger, less informed me and cis-centric language) and uses ciscentric language when talking about sex (e.g. a label of a  woman being accompanied by a diagram of a female-bodied person, or the words "gay women get turned on by vaginas" (here not taking into account e.g. gay women with preop transwomen). I do get that it is impossible to cover the full range of identities in one book, and my noticing this is probably a result of me getting used to sites where gender and sex are strictly separated, and this book is wonderful in its existence, but still, a couple of word changes here and there could make this book absolutely perfect.


Overall:  Strength  5, tea to a book that needs to be everywhere.


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5. About politics, spec fiction, Zombie Baseball Beatdown


With Chicano and Latino speculative fiction* blossoming, I and others believe its authors can blaze our own trails to not follow the paths of mainstream Anglo authors. This might sound like a risky way of succeeding as a writer, but the rewards go beyond book sales and personal income. All across the planet, writers advocate and practice this.

Cherokee author Celu Amberstone says of Indigenous speculative fiction: “Our fiction is alive with new possibilities inspired by our cultural heritage, fiction that can offer new insights to our troubled world. As Indigenous peoples, we understand that the specters of colonialism and corporate greed still haunt Earth’s future. It is our responsibility to offer humanity a new vision of the universe.”

An Australian aborigine from the Palyku people, YA spec fiction author Ambelin Kwaymullinais another. In a speech earlier this year, she said, "We are, along with speculative fiction fans in the world, the people who know. We understand the great promise and the great flaws of humanity; we have seen both writ-large across magical kingdoms and alternate realities and far off planets. So the question for us is not what the future will hold, because we’ve already seen a thousand variations of it. The question for us is, how do we create the futures of our dreams and not our nightmares? Like other spec fiction writers before me, I believe humanity is now living in the times that will define what is to come for our species."

American author Paolo Bacigalupi expects even more for writers of any nationality: "The real purpose of novels of Sci-Fi, apocalypse, dystopia, etc. should not be escapist. A spec lit novel that doesn't tell about the present moment is no more meaningful than a romance or tea cozy mystery. If it doesn't, then why did it have to be Sci-Fi to begin with?"

I agree with all of the above. More in my alternate-world fantasy novel, The Closet of Discarded Dreams than in my short stories, issues of immigration and border "security," militarization of the police, gentrification of barrios, "Christian" intolerance have all played roles. As a Chicano in the U.S., when I write, the reality that we and others live pushes for inclusion. I can't imagine any other approach that would make my stories worth reading.

Here's an example of what I mean: French kids don't suffer weight problems, obesity, diabetes & hypertension like ours do. They get fresh and freshly prepared fruits, vegetables, fish and meat that are locally sourced; only filtered tap water for drinks. Three recess periods, a total of 90 min./day; and they walk or bike alone (if you can believe!) to school. No school on Wednesdays. All of this, U.S. kids are denied. It doesn't mean we're stupider than the French; we've simply allowed food corporations to victimize our kids. So what?

So how would a spec author include the junk food we're sold into a novel? How about the pink slime served in school cafeterias? Written into a YA zombie novel, with the two main, non-white characters, one the mexicano Miguel. Add racism and flash round-ups of undocumented workers. Sound like a stretch? Not so much, even after you realize that Paolo is not a Chicano writer.

In a podcast this month, here's what he said about learning the story and facts behind pink slime: "The politics makes you angry enough to write fiction--the company "ethics", and government "protection" [of our food]. The status quo doesn't see us being able to talk about the data surrounding us. I was a sci-fi reader growing up and spec genre held my interest. But lots of sci-fi books were dated and not relevant to kids. Zombiewas for my own joy, my own creativity, to feel passionate about. I knew that if I found something interesting, I could strive to make it interesting for my readers."

The publisher's synopsis of Zombie Baseball Beatdown: "In this inventive, fast-paced novel, award-winning author Bacigalupi takes on hard-hitting themes--from food safety to racism and immigration--and creates a zany, grand-slam adventure that will get kids thinking about where their food comes from.

"The zombie apocalypse begins on the day Rabi, Miguel, and Joe are practicing baseball near a local meatpacking plant and nearly get knocked out by a really big stink. Little do they know the plant's toxic cattle feed is turning cows into flesh-craving monsters! The boys decide to launch an investigation into the plant's dangerous practices, unknowingly discovering a greedy corporation's plot to look the other way as tainted meat is sold to thousands all over the country. With no grownups left they can trust, Rabi and his friends will have to grab their bats to protect themselves (and a few of their enemies) if they want to stay alive...and maybe even save the world."

The author didn't stop at publication. On the book's website, the political matters lace throughout the jokes, zaniness and funny, zombie madness. Here's a sample, and you might want to give the URL to your kids. (If you think this is violent, see the videogames kids play.)

How kids can prepare for a zombie outbreak in ten simple steps.
  • 70% of evil monsters come from nasty places like toxic waste dumps. 100% of documented zombie outbreaks originated from an infected food.
  • Protect Your Head. To a zombie, your brain tastes like the best food ever.
  • 9 out of 10 zombies say they prefer brains to any other food.
  • The brain size of kids who like reading is 1/10 larger than that of kids who don't.
  • On average zombies find bigger brains 33% more appetizing than small brains.
  • 92% were easily able to bite through a single layer of clothing, penetrating the skin.
  • 33% of zombies were unable to bite through 5 or more layers of clothing, and left to starve.

I recommend the book, even for some kids as young as twelve. Latino kids will sympathize with and enjoy Miguel, a main character. Politically, the book promotes investigation, exposing the facts gathered, organizing other kids, and the success of defending your beliefs about what's true, even when corporations and adults don't know or hide the truth.

Paolo is beginning to mull ideas for a sequel to Zombie. Not to critique, but  to suggest ways I think a sequel could improve over the first of the series, I note the lack of major girl characters. To all spec writers: the boys-only legacy of old sci-fi can and should be discarded. Research show boys will read books with girl protagonists and more, if they are intriguing and well written. And we need to help boys break down whatever impedes their working and living well with the opposite sex.

Secondly, I think the climactic battle (obvious from the title, but most of this is spoiler) has two huge real-world, emotional and action gaps that the author could have used to heighten conflict.

The hero organizes his friends in the final battle WAY too easily. Anybody who's had or worked with boys knows--organizing them is like herding olive-oil-slimed pigs in the middle of a muddy field, away from their trough of amphetamines. The protagonist Rabi should have had to more realistically overcome those problems. Yes, I know it was the climax, and maybe the author didn't want to give his hero too much to overcome. Still.

The second, emotional gap that the author missed out on was the trauma of who the boys had to beat, hurt and kill to escape the zombie breakout. Their friends, siblings, parents and adults they knew. According to my read, none of the boys had much trouble beating down their family and community. Obviously, in the real world, this would be major PTSD. (That coming in the sequel?) Adding bits of scenes about this conflict would have extended the big battle, which might be why the author excluded it. I won't say how he might have been able to do it; he's the author. As a reader, the gap left me unfulfilled, pick-pocketed.

Read the, buy it and give it as a present, order it for your room or library. If you're a Latino author, read it and see if you can say that we Latinos can't do the same or even better at bringing politics into our spec lit. For our gente to learn and read and enjoy.

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, a.k.a. Chicano fantasy author Rudy Ch. Garcia

* Speculative fiction - spec lit includes fantasy, magical realism, horror, alternate world and alternate history, fables and science fiction, at the least.

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6. The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Viking Childrens, 2014


There is no stronger bond than....what?  Daisy isn't sure about her life anymore.  She remembers her family and the memories they shared, the little brother that came into her life, the music, her parents' laughter.  Although those same memories exist today, it's a completely different dynamic, especially when the entire family's loyalties are put to the ultimate test.

Daisy has friends, and she has a boyfriend.  She's musically gifted (more like a prodigy) and has been asked to attend prestigious schools and academies.  Her grades are good and her parents allow her to go out, but it's all dictated by her little brother Steven, who is autistic.  While their mother takes care of him most of the time, she also needs time away.  Their father works long hours and comes home worn out, taking on the night time rituals, including the wrestling match that is more common than showers now. They all walk on eggshells, afraid to make any sudden moves, noises, or modifying a different routine that will spiral Steven into an outburst.  No longer a child, Steven has gotten stronger and while his autism was more controlled when he was little, it has now become dangerous.  When Daisy comes home one day, she sees what Steven's unintentional outbursts did to her mother. It wasn't an easy decision and one that wracked her parents longer than Daisy knew, but it's now come to a point where her mother doesn't feel strong enough to help Steven.  Something had to give, and Steven will be leaving soon. 

A part of Daisy wants to be happy.  She can have her freedom back.  This could mean sleepovers at her house, going out on dates without such stringent time limits, going to music camps, playing her trumpet in the house instead of the basement.  But Daisy is also struggling with the change.  How could her parents want to do this to their only son?  How could she have helped more to prevent this?  What could her parents do more of so Steven can stay home?  It's an emotional battle that only Daisy can fight, and it will be the most difficult one she's ever had to.  Can the family survive this huge change in their lives when Steven has been in their lives creating the familiar habits they are now accustomed to, or will they fall apart over this controversial decision that will make each one of them re-evaluate what their roles in life and family are?

Stasia Ward Kehoe writes a beautiful novel in verse about a topic that seems to only capture lurid headlines without looking at the entire situation a family goes through.  Daisy is the character in limbo throughout the story by trying to have as normal a teen life as possible while also holding the reins of responsibility of taking care of a teenage boy whose autism is creating an unsafe situation he isn't even aware of.  Kehoe writes about this emotional stage of life from all perspectives while being able to fluidly create a centrifugal force that isn't Steven, but is Daisy's life, before, during and after. This is a novel unlike any other and one that should be on YA shelves.  Recommended.

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7. Blog Tour Book Review- A Dark Inheritance by Chris D'Lacey

Title: A Dark Inheritance


 Author:  Chris D’Lacey
Series:   UNICORNE Files #1
Published:  7 August 2014 by Chicken House
Length:270 pages
Source: blog tour
Other info: Chris D’Lacey has also written the Last Dragon Chronicles.
Summary : When Michael Malone discovers his supernatural ability to alter reality, he is recruited by an organization dedicated to investigating strange and paranormal phenomena. He joins in hopes of finding his father, who mysteriously vanished three years earlier. Michael's first task is to solve the mystery of a dog he rescued from a precarious clifftop -- a mystery that leads him to a strange and sickly classmate and a young girl who was killed in a devastating accident. Stakes are high as Michael learns to harness his newfound ability and uncover the deadly truth about his father's disappearance.
A bold and thrilling tale of alternate realities, paranormal mystery, and extraordinary adventure.
Review:  Michael’s going to school via a non-normal route when he senses the thoughts of a suicidal dog, and somehow manages to stop her going over a cliff. This brings him to the attention of UNICORNE, who say they can tell him what happened to his father, who disappeared. They set him on the task of finding out what the dog was doing on the cliff, and this leads him to a mystery involving a classmate, a dead girl, and his newly discovered powers.
I’ve heard great things about Chris D’Lacey’s other work (which I have never read) so I was hoping this would be good. The blurbed concept isn’t particularly original, but I really liked the idea of cellular memory and the way it played out in the book.
There’s science-fiction elements, fantasy elements, and some thrillery elements too. It could have been a good mix, but in parts it goes so quickly that things don’t get explored as much as they could have been.
I like the characters, especially Josie, Michael’s ten year old sister, Chantelle, a UNICORNE agent, and Freya, Michael’s sick classmate.
The plot twists and turns, sometimes well, and sometimes in convenient places. I like the mix of more normal things that Michael has to deal with, in between the paranormal. I think the start of it was stronger than the way the setup played out though; it started with a strong hook, but then got a bit confusing. The main mystery did get played through well looking back on it, but with side elements being created due to Michael’s powers, it is harder to follow than it needed to be.
Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a genremixing thriller.
Blog tour!

26th August - Book Zone For Boys
8th August - Death, Books, and Tea
29th August - Fiction Fascination
1st September - Booktrust
2nd September - Teen Librarian
3rd September - Book Angel Booktopia


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8. Down Under Calling by Margot Finke Book Review and Penpal Activity

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I first became acquainted with Margo Finke via our Google + circles. There, we shared our love of kid lit, writing, and of course our love of Oregon. Margot, a native of Australia lives in Oregon which is also my home state. 

margot finke

If you only know one thing about Margot Finke let it be that she is a brilliant writer who grabs the readers attention from the first word.

Down Under Calling is a poignant story about Grandma Rose who lives in Australia and her grandson Andy Fraser who lives in Oregon. Reaching out over the miles through letters, Grandma Rose weaves heartfelt stories and memories which create a connection to her grandson so far way.

Down Under Calling by Margot Finke

As the letters go back and forth we learn of Grandma Rose’s attempts to save a joey (kangaroo), of Andy having to move to a small apartment because his father loses his job and of the many childhood memories that Grandma Rose has of Australia.

At the beginning of the story Andy’s mom has to force him to write a letter to his grandmother. But thanks to Grandma Rose’s very entertaining letters, Andy is soon converted into an ardent letter writer himself. Grand Rose inspired Andy to explore nature around him with his friend Kelly and to share his adventures with her. 

We greatly enjoyed the very humorous letters between Andy and his grandmother. It brought back memories I shared with my own grandma. Another element we greatly enjoyed in Down Under Calling is learning about Australia. Margot Finke through her character Grandma Rose shares many delightful details and the sheer beauty and diversity of Australia. The natural life, geography, and traditions are all wrapped up in this beautiful story.

We were sad to see this book end. It left us wanting to go to Australia but more importantly it had us looking for people to write letters to. This is a page turner of a read which is not to be missed. Margot also offers up great teacher resources and a “fun facts” for kids page based on all of her wonderful books.

 

 Something To Do

Let’s write some letters. You can choose a favorite relative and/or choose a pen pal who lives somewhere else on the planet. Here are a couple of safe kid pen pal sites.

Students of the World

 

Friendship By Mail

 

To know more about pen pals and how to make sure your children are safe, here’s a great blog post from Kid World Citizen. It has some amazing ideas and insights on how to keep your children safe while connecting with the world through mail.

 

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The post Down Under Calling by Margot Finke Book Review and Penpal Activity appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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9. Review: Journey to Aztlán Goes In Search of Its Audience

Review: Juan Blea. Journey to Aztlán. Parker CO: Outskirts Press, 2014.
ISBN: 9781478700371

Michael Sedano

With a title like Journey to Aztlán, no one reasonably expects the book to fulfill the title’s self-help promise and cultural mystery. Journey to Aztlán is not for nationalists looking for fantasy history, nor poets researching visions and philosophies of our separate Eden.


In this self-disclosing memoir, Juan Blea takes readers along on his journey to aware, self-sustaining sobriety, which he calls, Aztlán, or choosing life.

Journey to Aztlán accounts one man’s conquest of crippling depression and drug addiction. For Blea, expression is therapy, for certain readers likewise. For that audience, Journey to Aztlán offers a therapeutic, inspirational narrative of use in forming one's own narrative.

Structurally and stylistically, Journey to Aztlán is an easy, quick read. Blea begins in February 2000 in crisis, then flashes back to July 1977 and launches the story of the boy who lived to this moment. Each chapter moves the story forward, skipping months, or years, cataloging provocative, interesting incidents in Juan’s life, from how he abandons suicide that February to teaching, and writing books for people afflicted like Blea, in 2011.

Presented as a patient's autobiography, the novelist in Blea lets his creative juices flow in the description and selection of key events and people. Keeping the narrative interesting, selected chapters change voice from first person to third. The tactic shows off Blea’s considerable skills in the third person. More importantly, third person allows him to tell and explain matters succinctly that escape tidy first-person illustrations.

Cultural nationalists will hate the Aztlánish elements of the narrative. At a point in life when Blea thinks himself an expert on chicanidad, especially Aztlán, a wise Japanese scholar sets him straight in a nearly “you see, grasshopper?” scenario. Humbled, Blea vows to abandon his tolerance for “good enough.” He vows to hold higher expectations of his students, and himself. A focused pursuit ever on goal is another name for Aztlán.

The simplicity of the argument strikes Blea as noteworthy so he recreates a story involving a tough group counseling session that rejects his--the counselor's--magic formula to “choose life" which is how the therapist translates Aztlán for these clients.

It’s a familiar lesson couched in intercultural terms. Behavior, not commitment, defines value. Blea realizes he can’t go after Aztlán in a half-assed manner. He insists his clients can’t go after their goals half-assed and, like Blea, turn to the pen to write it down and work it out. In the book, Blea makes believers of them.

Creative nonfiction is fun to read up to that point the writer makes a message or moral. This is Journey to Aztlán’s narrative flaw, fortunately it's at the end and the reader makes accounts, doesn't leave too disappointed.

Blea doesn’t have a satisfying conclusion to the book. The story is ongoing so there's no ending there. But ending the book escapes Blea. The final paragraphs find him wandering around a message until he runs out of equivocations and stops.

What else could he do? Growing conscienticized to living with a concept that “Aztlán is within everyone” defies narrative's capacities and reader expectations. It's an insight best suited to poetry.

Contact the publisher’s website here for ordering details.

Marketing Your Work
Reviewed in La Bloga-Tuesday
Note: Self-published writers have equal opportunity to be considered for a review by La Bloga-Tuesday. La Bloga is a team of eleven writers, each of whom follows her or his own practice. This is Michael Sedano’s.


Among the pleasures of doing criticism are the regular letters from self-published literary workers wanting a review in La Bloga. It’s encouraging learning how many writers in Aztlán are being productive, finishing manuscripts in a broadening range of genres, looking for an audience.

It’s a unique privilege to read new voices, even if some don’t make much of an impression. It's good knowing we are out there. The gems, those are worth reading through handsful of pulp, and ill-edited work to find the gems and semi-precious treasures la cultura churns out.

For the most part, La Bloga-Tuesday reviews work from independent, university, commercial publishers by established or notable emerging authors. Owing to marketing power and prowess, their product is what I read mostly. Así es.

I report on books I enjoy, that have value for a readership. Some come to me off the library’s new book shelf, others recommended by readers, and accidents. I came across Juan Blea’s 2007 novel, Butterfly Warrior, serendipitously. I liked it enough to share in a La Bloga Review. I later ran into Juan at a National Latino Writers Conference and we chatted.

Juan sent me a press kit early this year, offering his new work after seven years. It was an ideal entrée to get Journey to Aztlán into the stack of to-be-reads and possible reviews.

For writers coming in cold, there are sure-fire ways to be left out. For example, I get inquiries similar in entirety to these:

“Dear La Bloga: Please send me a mailing address so I can send you a review copy of my novel. Signed,…”

“Dear La Bloga, I would like you to review my latest novel. It’s a 60s based unbelievable novel somewhere between Naked Lunch and Wuthering Heights. Signed…”

I look at hapless efforts like those, disappointed at the lack of respect shown the writer’s art. Like reading one’s work aloud, respecting the labor of creation demands an effective presentation of one’s work to a public.

Debut novelists seeking a review from any genre-appropriate reviewer need to make a credible and competitive presentation to earn consideration. The work of writing a book ends when the work of marketing the book begins. They are both sides of a one-sided coin.

Respecting one’s time energy emotion poured into finishing the manuscript demands spending more time labor emotion putting together a marketing campaign.

At minimum, bring the book to market with a press kit prepared with all the professionalism you and collaborators can muster. Your press kit doesn’t sell the book, it sells the would-be critic on ordering and reading the book.

The competition does it. Every successful book gets to market as the result of a marketing plan. Self-published authors are no different except they have a bigger hill to climb: no track record, no corporate money, no sales history. Y que?

Send a press kit like the pros do. There’s a fifty-fifty chance you get a reply. If you ask wrong, or not at all, it’s a hundred percent chance of No. When you ask again, take the second "No."

Just because you do everything right doesn’t mean it’s going to work. Think of the odds your novel faces from big-time competition and dozens of self-published authors with slick press kits. That’s why you have a competitive press kit!

There’s no limit on the number of winners. Give yourself that fifty-fifty chance of being one.


On a Personal Note

August 31, 1968 was one of those penetrating heat hot summer days in Los Angeles. The bride and groom kneeled for what seemed hours as the Monsignor droned on about marriage like a barbeque, the coals grow hotter, then cool, then the coals grow hotter.

That 23-year old groom turns 69 on his 46th anniversary next Sunday. I'm still having the time of my life.

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10. Review – When The Night Comes by Favel Parrett

Past The Shallows was an exceptional novel and Favel Parrett has out done herself with her new book. When The Night Comes is a story of growing up, both as a child and as an adult. It is about journeys into the great unknowns. And that anything in life is possible. The story alternates between two points of view; […]

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11. The Last Wild - an audiobook review

Torday, Piers. 2014. The Last Wild. Penguin Audio.  Narrated by Oliver Hembrough.

Like Eva Nine, in the WondLa series, Kester Jaynes finds that he can communicate with creatures of the wild - an ability that is particularly intriguing in a dystopian world where all animals are presumed dead - killed by the incurable red-eye virus.  Kester finds himself the leader of his own "wild," the ragtag remnants of the animal world.  Flora and fauna are pitted against commercial efficiency and industrialism in this first book of a planned trilogy.

The plot is occasionally predictable, but slow patches are often brightened by the humorous antics of The General (a likable but militaristic cockroach) and a befuddled white pigeon who speaks nonsense that is also somehow prophetic.

The author and narrator hail from the UK, so the reader or listener should be prepared for numerous British words that are uncommon here in the US (wellies, trainers, boot, windscreen, plaits, etc.).

My review of The Last Wild for Audiofile Magazine appears here.

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12. The Toothless Tooth Fairy

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Title: The Toothless Tooth Fairy

Author: Shanelle Hicks

Illustrator: Anca Delia Budeanu

Publisher/Year: Mirror Publishing/2014

 

Author Shanelle Hicks and illustrator Anca Delia Budeanu have created a dazzling fairy story, in their picture book The Toothless Tooth Fairy, that could easily rival any fairy book on the market today. Their book is filled with brilliant illustrations that depict seven lovely and ethnically diverse young tooth fairies who have come together to take part in the Miss Tooth Fairy Smile Contest. For fairies who place much importance on teeth, a smile contest certainly seems fitting.

One tooth fairy in particular, Bella, was known for her beauty and her kindness. All of the other fairies thought for sure that she would win. But one jealous fairy, Zelda, maliciously causes Bella to lose a tooth. With a missing tooth, Bella no longer feels beautiful, so she sets off to find a tooth. Her three attempts to borrow a child’s tooth fail and Bella returns to Cloud Nine defeated and depressed where she meets Zelda who brags about what she’s done and how she will win the contest. But instead of being angry or being upset that she won’t win the contest, Bella feels sad for Zelda and because she is a kind fairy, gives Zelda a hug. Her magical hug transforms Zelda’s heart and she becomes beautiful too, on the inside and the outside.

What I like best about The Toothless Tooth Fairy is the message that true beauty comes from a kind heart. The message is not preached, but rather it is woven into a sweet and entertaining story that kids (especially young girls) will enjoy.


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13. Book Review: Red Thread Sisters by Carol Antoinette Peacock

Book: Red Thread Sisters
Author: Carol Antoinette Peacock
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

At eleven years old, Wen has finally been adopted by an American family. She gets to leave the poor, crowded, noisy orphanage in China, but she'll also have to leave behind her best friend, Shu Ling. Even though they've always promised each other that the first to get adopted will find a family for the other, the separation is wrenching.

Family life in America isn't all that easy, either. Wen struggles with her English, with the differences between China and America, and with fears of being rejected by her new family like she was rejected by her old one. She wants to bond with her new family and make new friends, but every time she does it feels like a betrayal of her old life and Shu Ling. And just as she is starting to settle in and enjoy things like Halloween and Thanksgiving, she gets horrifying news: if Shu Ling is not adopted by mid-January, she'll age out of eligibility and never get adopted at all.

From halfway around the world, can Wen save her friend and find her a family in less than three months?

For everything she's been through, Wen has a quiet toughness that can work against her - as when she rejects her new family's overtures - or for her - as when she takes on the impossible task of getting one young teenager out of thousands adopted by somebody.

Though most kids reading this may never have seen China or known anything like the orphanages, they'll identify with Wen - scared, uncertain, out of place, but still willing to tackle the challenge in order to keep what she's been given.

When most people think of overseas adoption, they think of babies, brought home before they can walk or talk, or remember their old life. But the truth is there are many, many older children out there. This is the story of two of them, and of the unbreakable bonds of friendship that can stretch much farther than around the world.

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14. New Book Review!

My publisher, Immedium send this new book review of TreeHouse Heros and Forgotten Beast ^______^
"The magical artwork will draw readers in to this lusciously illustrated tale. The story focuses on possibly the last Zez, a magical creature from a far-east land, that is near extinction as forests have fallen, rivers dried up, and humans multiplied. Looking for a new unspoiled home she discovers the Treehouse Heroes—five children, each with different gifts (invisibility, shape changing, wind blowing, speed and strength) and their wise teacher. The Zez learns that General Moon, once a man but changed by his enchanted armor, has conquered all of the villages and driven out all of the Zez, leaving the towns in ruins. The Zez’s magic can help nature bloom again, but that’s only part of the solution. When the Zez is captured by General Moon’s men, the Treehouse Heroes track her to a tower in a rusted out town. Using their different powers, they rescue her and release the general from his armor causing him to disappear into smoke. The Zez, given back her freedom, continues her search leaving the village to do their part to resurrect their town. Children may enjoy this adventure and magical creature, but also get the point of personal responsibility for the environment."
- Puget Sound Council for Reviewing Children’s Literature

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15. Review – Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

This is an absolutely wonderful coming-of-age novel by a writer who cannot put a foot wrong. David Mitchell doesn’t just get inside the head of a thirteen year old boy but brings teenage adolescence to life like I have never read before. David Mitchell captures the innocence, the naivety, the pain and the joy so […]

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16. Book Review: A Certain October by Angela Johnson

Book: A Certain October
Author: Angela Johnson
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

When she's in a horrible accident that kills a friend and severely injures her seven-year-old brother, Scotty feels responsible - for Kris's death, for Keone's injuries. It's all her fault, but there's no way she can make up for it. In the face of her helplessness, Scotty starts to do things to help other peoples' lives, and that might be just enough to get her through this October alive.

It's always hard for me to characterize an Angela Johnson book. They don't seem to have beginnings or ends, you feel like you're dropped in the middle of someone's life and then get plucked out again. I feel more as if I should like them than I actually do. But the jumbled tangle of emotion and uncertainty is awfully close to living inside Scotty's head. It's a quick and often confusing read. I'd give it only to people who are fans of Johnson's other work.

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17. Alphabet Wildlife A To Z

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Title: Alphabet Wildlife A To Z

Author/Illustrator: Nata Romeo

Year: 2014

Nata Romeo’s stunning children’s concept book, Alphabet Wildlife A To Z, introduces young readers to the 26 letters of the alphabet accompanied by corresponding animals.

I’m truly impressed by Nata’s watercolor and pen and ink illustrations, which are visual feasts for the eye. Some are bursting with color while others are wholly black and white. Most are a mix of both color and black and white, but all of them are unique, lively, and beautiful to look at. My favorites include the bird on the “B is for Bird” page and the cat that sneaks its way in at the very end of the book. Nata’s choice to use the image of the lion for the front cover was a good one. It’s attention grabbing and gorgeous.

While Alphabet Wildlife A To Z will help children learn the alphabet, I believe the book will stimulate artistic creativity in children as well. Kids are going to want to draw their own animals surrounded by fun and dramatic backgrounds, just as Nata has done, and I think that’s awesome!


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18. Words with Wings - a review

Below is my review from the August, 2014, edition of School Library Journal.


GRIMES, Nikki. Words with Wings. 1 CD. 41 min. Recorded
Books. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490609676. Playaway, digital
download.

Gr 3–5— Gabriella is a dreamer, more like the father she visits than the mother she lives with every day. Since her parents separated, Gabby and her mother have moved, and she has enrolled in a new school. Always the class daydreamer, she's prepared for the teasing that she knows will come. Mention the word "butterfly," and her thoughts may soar out the classroom window on the imagined wings of a beautiful creature. Other words create thoughts that are more pensive. Sometimes it's easier to retreat into her imagination than to face her circumstances. Gabby's expectations for her new school are low, but her teacher and a quiet boy in the back of the room offer some hope in her new surroundings. With encouragement, perhaps a pen and paper can anchor the "words with wings" that set Gabby's mind adrift. Mutiyat Ade-Salu is perfectly cast for this story in verse, told in the first person in the present tense story. Her voice is youthful and likable, and as Gabriella's thoughts soar, plummet, and wander, so too does the voice of Ade-Salu. A perfect book for poets, dreamers, and reluctant readers.


Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

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19. Book Review: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Book: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
Author: Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

In the studio, Gabe runs his community radio show, "Beautiful Music for Ugly Children." He plays eclectic mixes and chats over the airwaves to night owls just like him. In the studio is the only place Gabe can truly be himself. Because to the outside world, Gabe is Liz, and Liz is female.

But Gabe has always known he's male, even if it's a scary thing to declare that to the world. As his radio show gains a cult following and he starts to dream of bigger and better (a career in radio, a life as himself, even--gulp!--a girlfriend), he needs the courage to stand tall against a world that doesn't know quite what to make of him.

One of the things I liked best about this book was the slowness of the process. Gabe comes out to his parents, to close friends, and then painfully, to the world, in baby steps like asking a radio station to change the name on his entry form from Liz to Gabe, and telling his new boss that though his W-2 says one name, it's really another. Each outing is its own different brand of scary.

There's a realistic variety of reactions to Gabe's secret. Some people are immediately accepting, like John, his musical mentor who's seen many, many things in a long career in radio and music. Paige, his best friend and sort-of crush, is also completely supportive, if sometimes a little clueless. On the other end of the spectrum are his parents and his brother, who are baffled and horrified. There's also Mara, a girl who's initially into Gabe until she realizes he's transgender, and then reacts with horror and vindictiveness, and of course, the almost-obligatory vicious transphobes, who harass Gabe through Facebook and eventually attack him and his friends.


There's not a lot of transgender books out there. I'm glad to add this one to the stack.

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20. The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

High school...it can a time filled with memory or horror.  These two books really hit home about teens navigating through the shark infested waters of high school trying to find a lifeboat to help them.  Alice and Leonard are clinging to hope, but don't think these two characters aren't tough as nails either.  They are fighters but in their own ways.  These novels have a dark slice of life outlook but  couple it with variations of redemption, and the novels become powerful...

It's Leonard's birthday, and no one knows it. So today, he has some presents he's giving away to everyone who's made an impact on his life. One is to Linda, his mother, who is never home and takes care of her life more than her son's. Another is for Walt, an elderly neighbor in love with cigarettes and Humphrey Bogart and quite possibly is Leonard's best friend.
He also has a present for the most brilliant violinist Leonard's ever heard, an Iranian student named Baback, who allows Leonard in when he practices. He plans on giving one to Lauren, the girl who stole his heart while handing out religious tracts near the subway.
Herr Silverman, Leonard's favorite teacher who stymies him with the reason why he dresses the way he does and is the one encourager in his life, will also get a present But it's Asher Beal, Leonard's once best friend, who will get the biggest and baddest present...he deserves it for how he treats Leonard every day at school. It's what's in those presents, both bad and good, reflecting why Leonard is making this his last day on earth.
Matthew Quick writes a powerful novel of the conflicting mind of
teenager with brilliance, bringing into light his main character's life through various literary devices, including verse, letters from a dystopian future, and footnotes giving insight into  Leonard's psyche which runs deeper than anyone could possibly imagine.  This is a MUST read!  Highly recommended for high school.  Hatchette, 2013 (on YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults; TAYSHAS list, 2014)


"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."  This can be farther than the truth for Alice, especially after a party she attends.  Elaine begins the story, telling everyone who will listen to her what she KNOWS Alice did in a bedroom that night.  And once the news gets out, it goes viral, sending Alice from someone everyone knew and liked to the pariah of high school.  Kelsie also tells her story about her move from Michigan and how she became best friends with Alice but is now conflicted between defending Alice's reputation or being part of the machine.  Josh is dealing with how he became a part of this ugly situation the night his best friend Brandon died.  He knows the truth, and it's eating him up from the inside out.  Then there's Kurt, who is highly intelligent but lacks social graces.  He sees Alice crying on the bleachers and slowly and tentatively reaches out to her, but with all that has happened, is he being true or wanting what others have talked about her doing? 
Jennifer Mathieu does two things in the novel creating a powerful story.  Not only does she weave four voices to paint a picture with different perspectives, but she also subtly inserts Alice into the entire story, showing her strengths and weaknesses and how this entire thing affects her life.  You can't get any closer to a real life scenario about high school and how ugly it can be than you can with this book which shows how words can make or break a teen.  Highly recommended for high school Roaring Brook Press, 2014

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21. Review – The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

My obsession with David Mitchell continues and is getting more intense. There are books you devour. There are books you savour and never want to end. And then there are David Mitchell books which are both. I went with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet because there was a reference and crossover with The Bone Clocks. It is […]

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22. Review – Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

This book needs to come with a warning that if you don’t have time to read it the rest of the day don’t start it! Lauren Beukes takes her writing and her dark imagination to another level following the utterly amazing The Shining Girls. Beukes has chosen Detroit for the setting of this novel, the perfect place […]

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23. Review – Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro

I’ve been on a bit of backlist bender lately and with one of my favourite books of 2014 being compared to this I thought I’d give it ago. This is one of the most haunting coming of age novels I have ever read. Set in England in an alternative late 1990s the story is narrated by Kathy […]

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24. Jumping Jack by Germano Zullo Book Review & Activity {Guest Post by Hannah Rials}

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Jack and his rider Roger Trotter are a star combo.
Jumping Jack
People come from all over the world to see this dynamic duo jump the course. But suddenly, Jack can no longer jump. He’s tripping all over the trail, wedging himself between rails, basically losing his tail. Roger doesn’t know what’s wrong with his partner. The doctor’s say his boo-boos aren’t causing him problems. The psychiatrist says he’s just a little tired–he just needs a week of relaxation. Now after a bit of R&R, it’s time for the biggest competition of the year. Roger and Jack think they’re ready…but are they? What will come of the dynamic duo? Will they reclaim their title and prestige? Or is Jumping Jack done jumping forever?
Jumping Jack is an adorable story with uniquely wonderful illustrations. I love the loyalty, friendship, and sense of confidence portrayed by Jack and Roger. Learning not to give up on your dreams no matter what is an important lesson for children to grasp, especially now. Keep this story in your back pocket when your child is down.
Activities:
1. Set up your own jump course. Grab anything you can think of to jump over–a stool, bench, really big pillow. But here’s a good idea: take it outside. Mom won’t appreciate leaping all over the house.
 *note-Games for Kids Under Five has a Foot work / coordination drills: Horse Show Jump Parcour Preschool Learning Activities!

2. Make your own race horse with an old pool noodle here with Mrs. King Rocks  
pool noodle ponies
3. CandiQuik has some some simply adorable Triple Crown Cookies!
triple crown horse cookies
Born in the hills of Louisiana and raised in the mountains of Tennessee, Hannah Rials is a eighteen year-old aspiring author and editor. She’s been writing short stories since she was a little girl, but for the past several years, she has been writing, editing, and reediting a novel of her own that she hopes to publish in the near future. Hannah has always loved reading and the world of books. With a librarian grandmother who can tell the most magical stories, how could she not fall in love with the written word. Her library collection and love for books grows every day. Visit Hannah’s blog or find her author page on Facebook.
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The post Jumping Jack by Germano Zullo Book Review & Activity {Guest Post by Hannah Rials} appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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25. Throwback Thursday: Ship of Souls

Ship of Souls by Zetta Elliott (2011, ARC) 
Amazon Publishing

Rating: 3.5/5

IQ "Kids on my block called 'reject'. Grown folks at church called me an 'old soul'. One girl at school told me I talked like a whiteboy. But when I ask Mom about it she just said, 'you are black. And nothing you say, or do, or pretend to be will ever change that fact. So just be yourself, Dmitri. Be who you are." pg. 3

Dmitri, known as D, is living with a foster family after his mother dies of breast cancer. D is used to having his foster mom all to himself, when she takes in Mercy, a crack-addicted baby he finds himself unable to cope. He is at a new school and while tutoring he becomes friend with Hakeem, a basketball star who needs extra math help and Nyla, a military brat both boys have crushes on. Sometimes after school D bird watches in Prospect Park and he discovers a mysterious bird, Nuru that can communicate with him. He enlists Hakeem and Nyla to help him help Nuru (who is injured) escape evil forces, the ghosts of soldiers that died during the Revolutionary War. They journey from Brooklyn to the African Burial Ground in Manhattan to assist Nuru in freeing the souls that reside there.

I wish some of the fantasy elements had been developed a bit further, such as Nuru's role, his dialogue also came across sounding a little ridiculous and heavy on the 'wise mentor' scale. The characters did come across as having a message. It is made very clear that Hakeem is Muslim and Nyla is 'different from the stereotype. I wish the individuality of the characters had come off in a more subtle way (for example when Hakeem describes how his older sister listed all Muslim basketball players to convince his dad to let him play. And then Hakim lists them all and weaves in tidbits about the hijab. It came across as stilted for middle school dialogue). But then again this book is intended for a younger audience who need it hammered in that it's dangerous to define people and put them in boxes. I also wish the book had been longer just by a few chapters, selfishly because I wanted more historical tidbits but also because I felt that the fantasy elements happened so fast as did the sudden strong friendship with Hakeem and Nyla. And the love triangle made me sad but that's not the author's fault! Although I would have been happy without it.

Yet again Zetta Elliott seamlessly blends together history and fantasy, Black American history that is often ignored in textbooks. Unlike the descriptions of the characters I found the historical tidbits woven in artfully. There are so many goodies in here about the importance of working with other people, that heroes need not go it alone. This is especially vital because the author makes it explicitly clear that D is unbearably lonely but he keeps himself isolated from other people because he doesn't want to be abandoned or disappointed or lose them in a tragic way as happened with his mother. The author does a great job of making you truly feel and understand D's loneliness and your heart aches for him. Also while I didn't think the friendship had enough time to really grow into the strong bonds that developed so quickly, it was a very genuine friendship (once you suspend your disbelief) in terms of doing anything and everything for your friends and believing the seemingly improbable. It is also clear that the author has a strong appreciation of nature and that makes the fantasy elements more interesting while also making it appear more realistic.

Ship of Souls is a great story that focuses on a portion and population of the American Revolution that is completely ignored by most history outlets. The fantasy world is well-thought out, I only wish the book had been longer to explain more about the world D and his friends get involved in as well as more time to believably develop their friendship. The characters are strong, but they were written with a heavy hand that tries hard to point out how they defy stereotypes.  I devoured the story not just because of the length but because it is so different from anything else out there and it's a lovely addition to the YA/MG fantasy world. I can't wait to see what the author does next and again I adored her first YA novel A Wish After Midnight. I recommend both books.

Disclosure: Received from the author, who I do consider a wonderful friend and mentor. Many thanks Zetta!

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