Russell's Knob is a haven - a place where free people of any color have made a community. Dossie arrives there very young, having been sent along viaRussell's Knob is a haven - a place where free people of any color have made a community. Dossie arrives there very young, having been sent along via the underground railroad by her parents, who hoped she'd find freedom, and by Duncan Smoot who, by stealth, got Dossie away from the family who intercepted her and enslaved her. But is Dossie free? Too young to understand much about her situation and her surroundings, she sees Duncan as a savior, almost God. She is highly influenced by the words of her evangelical last conductor, who assured her that God had a plan for her. As a little girl in Smoot's house, Dossie learns to cook and care for animals, and is only too happy to do whatever Duncan asks of her. Life with him is, after all, much better than any place else she has lived thus far.
Clarke's writing is unusual and unsettling. At first, Duncan Smoot is the narrator, and we get a picture of him as a dedicated (if possibly addled) participant along the underground railroad. Then the writing shifts, and we are no longer inside any character's head. Clarke describes Russell's Knob, its history and its inhabitants, and details a place in which there is more kindness and equality than all the other places around. But then she writes with language so coarse and hard -- You know all is not how it seems and something awful must be coming. But what?
I am trying to decide, as I am reading this, whether or not I like it. There's an emotional superficiality that I'd like to get under.
In the end, I liked this book for what it was about and not for character development. The author just didn't let us get close to any of them. Still, Clarke highlights some really important stuff -- Life (and this story) has a constant undercurrent of danger and fear for folks at the bottom of the power structure. Even during happy times, those 'above' you can turn on you at any time, and the law will be on their side, not yours. It was true for free blacks and "amalgamators" in the civil war era, and it's true for so many today, including in the United States....more
Okay. If you like slasher horror movies with one monster after another, blood, pus, death and death and death and death, naps, no unifying world philoOkay. If you like slasher horror movies with one monster after another, blood, pus, death and death and death and death, naps, no unifying world philosophy and no resolution, you may enjoy this book. It is not for me....more
This book is spot-on with the daily hell some kids have to go through in high school. Kids who are different in any way, or not different at all, butThis book is spot-on with the daily hell some kids have to go through in high school. Kids who are different in any way, or not different at all, but simply the unlucky winners of that unofficial lottery, become to brunt of other kids' mysterious need to be mean. Well-meaning adults fail to see, or look the other way -- and the targeted kids begin to feel that the only thing they can do is take drastic action on their own.
In this book, Mia and Nasreen are lucky, because they find one another and become friends. Each gives each other a little strength.
I would read more books in this series. It absolutely delivers. A very quick and easy read without talking down to the reader or being preachy. There were places in the reading when I was in tears -- I could really feel for those kids and it brought back what those years can be like.
I recommend this book to adults who work with teens, kids who've experienced bullying, and kids who may have found themselves on the mean end of the interactions....more
While I was reading this, I enjoyed it very much. It's inventive: I love the device of the old yellow rotary phone that enables Georgie to reconnect wWhile I was reading this, I enjoyed it very much. It's inventive: I love the device of the old yellow rotary phone that enables Georgie to reconnect with her husband, Neal, 15 years in the past. (I thrilled to the tiny Doctor Who references, even to the "Let's Kill Hitler" episode.) What would you do if you could communicate with your younger self or with your partner in the past? How do you decide if you both might have been better off if you'd let your relationship die before it became entrenched? And, even if you're not quite happy, there are the kids - sacrificing the relationship means the kids would never exist. Could you live with that?
Cleverness and readability aside, there's the story. Now that I've stepped away from it for a day, it rankles me. Rowell never shows the reader what's so great about Neal anyway. He pouts, he resents his wife's drive and success, he never finds his rudder or life goal, and so he ruins the party. Yes, he's broody and artistic. How long can that stay entertaining? I didn't think that Georgie should end up with Seth, but I did wish she would end up with someone who didn't try to hide her light.
Of course, in real life, you can never know what holds a couple together. It just isn't always visible from outside. Yes, she worked too much and took her family for granted. I'm glad that part of her story's resolution is that she wants to prioritize them more. But, can you imagine, in 2014, a celebrated novel that focuses on a stay-at-home mom in glittery tv LA who petulantly leaves her husband on the cusp of his big break like this? It may not have been Rowell's intention, but this story punishes women with professional aspirations. Yuck....more
A devastating but very well told story. While reading, you will know something not quite right is going on, but you may not be able to tell exactly whA devastating but very well told story. While reading, you will know something not quite right is going on, but you may not be able to tell exactly what it is. It is a brief and compelling book, but resist the urge to rush. Read slowly. And when you're done, you may find yourself flipping back to re-read those tricky passages.
It's YA, but so sad. I loved it, but won't recommend it. Despite their wealth and privilege and ignorance and callousness, I loved Cadence and Gat and Johnny and Mirren. But I'm not sure that the kiddos in my life need to experience their grief or their story....more
If you are a fan, you will hear every song as Fearnley chronicles the writing, performing, and recording of each. Oh, lamentations -- all my Pogues alIf you are a fan, you will hear every song as Fearnley chronicles the writing, performing, and recording of each. Oh, lamentations -- all my Pogues albums are on cassette. Thank goodness for you tube, but it's not the same as listening to a whole album all the way through.
I love that they were from England and not Ireland (though some had Irish roots) and they were, at first, rejected by traditional Irish singers, and later embraced. Their punkish edge made all those songs more enjoyable for me.
I remember seeing the Pogues in NY some time in the late 1980s -- the whole crowd swayed together and belted out "Dirty Old Town," and the dancing was wild -- I lost a lens from my eyeglasses. It shot across the club floor, never to be found, even though we waited for the lights to come up and the clean-up crew to sweep. I was grateful for the color-coded subway lines. Just get me to the big purple orb that means the 7 line and I'll find a way to explain the missing glasses to Mom later.
The only part that stuck in my craw was Fearnley's scathing words for Cait. They were all drunkards, all badly behaved, most learned their instruments as they went along. Several of the bandmates missed gigs, were jerks, etc. But only Cait gets such ugly words, as if he's still mad at her after all these years. His treatment of her felt beneath the rest of the story.
After reading this, I wanted to re-live a little more -- Tried to buy the movie they made with Joe Strummer, "Straight to Hell." $65! I saw it in the theater and, though it was fun, there's no way to justify that expense. Sigh. I did order the Shane Macgowan documentary (If I Should Fall From Grace) for my library. What will it be like to look at those teeth for two hours?
It's great to read these rock & roll memoirs. If you're ever sorry you didn't choose the glamourous life, it's good to be reminded of the cramped tour buses, motel rooms shared with bandmates with odd and grotesque habits, and the near-constant drunkenness, filth, and sorrow of being on tour. Hi diddly dee, it's a nice clean librarian's life for me.
I think I would like to read this one on paper. The poet read for the audiobook. He has a very slow, unemotional style. I zoned out a few times, despiI think I would like to read this one on paper. The poet read for the audiobook. He has a very slow, unemotional style. I zoned out a few times, despite being really interested in the ideas....more
This book is over 10 years old so I am reading it more as Toor's memoir of her years working in elite college admissions than as any kind of advisoryThis book is over 10 years old so I am reading it more as Toor's memoir of her years working in elite college admissions than as any kind of advisory guide for the nervous parent.
I enjoy her style. (She's clearly kind of mad at the whole admissions world, though.) It's very telling that Toor, who got into her first choice college (Yale) leans towards the philosophy of not making such a god-awful big deal about attending the ivies. Though she was eager to attend Yale, and it almost certainly opened those doors of the Oxford U. Press and Duke to her, she is clear: "While I was there I never used the words "Yale" and "happy" in the same sentence." (p. 4) (In her YA novel, she directly attributes this sentiment to one of the main character's favorite teachers.) I didn't think I'd want to read a book about someone owning a pig with her ex-boyfriend, but the little taste of it we get here sounds fun. I'll be looking for it.
In the long run, how can our kids have happy lives? Is going to the best college a critical ingredient? If being a BWRK (bright well-rounded kid) is a drawback on your application (so ordinary!), isn't it a plus in life?
I teared up reading the excerpts she included from kids' personal essays. Here's what I learned: no one else is going to think your kid is special. But you know your kids are amazing! So, be sure to love them up and make them strong so they can face the world that may or may not take the time to get to know them.
Alice is focused. She knows what she wants, knows what her goals are, and knows how to get there. She makes straight As, loves to study, and intends tAlice is focused. She knows what she wants, knows what her goals are, and knows how to get there. She makes straight As, loves to study, and intends to go to Yale. Until she doesn't get in.
This book started out slowly, with a little too much chatty character description, and I began to wonder why I had thought I wanted to read it so much. And then - wow - Alice and her world become much more interesting. This book is about recovering from disappointment, experiencing grief, learning to be a real friend, and about taking a little time to think things through and re-group and re-direct. And it surprised me by making me cry in two places: once, when the college interviewer asks Alice who from history she would invite to dinner and I immediately thought of my two grandmothers, who I miss so so much. (And Gloria Steinem and Nelson Mandela.) The second time, at the end, which I won't give away.
Though the first quarter of the book is dull, the last 3/4s are excellent. I suspect this is the kind of book many moms will want their college-leaning daughters to read. (It feels a little directed at that parent audience, despite being YA and having BFF issues and first boyfriend fun.) I was one of those Alice kids, afraid to do an internship or take a semester abroad because, (other than not having the money), I just knew horrible things would happen to me if I never took that second semester of high school chemistry. Um. Yeah. We want our kids to have happy, fulfilling lives and be able to pay their bills. Who knows which paths they'll take to get there?...more
So, I don't know what to say about this one. Browning can write. He's invented an interesting character in Winston Crwth, a boy who, for unexplained rSo, I don't know what to say about this one. Browning can write. He's invented an interesting character in Winston Crwth, a boy who, for unexplained reasons, keeps choosing high schools poorly and is on his third in three years. He's also a Scrabble champ, and is the recipient of a hefty scholarship that's bestowed by what he comes to realize is a pretty much evil fracking outfit.
Over the course of the story, Winston's political consciousness is raised (a little). Scrabble is talked about but plays a pretty small role so, you'll disappointed if you seek a little nail-biting word tournament action. Science is talked about, but not developed. Poetry is discussed a whole bunch, but you don't get to read any. Politics and power are talked about but, just as things start to become a titch interesting, the book . . . ends. There I was, reading the last page on the back porch going 'What?'
This is a good idea and there are some interesting scenes and characters but, in the end, it does not deliver. ...more