This was a fun easy and quick read. I love reading about books and bookstores and in this case a quirky bookseller. AJ runs a small independent bookstThis was a fun easy and quick read. I love reading about books and bookstores and in this case a quirky bookseller. AJ runs a small independent bookstore on an island in New England. He's unusual and particular in his tastes and he is set in his stubborn ways. Since his wife died, he's also very depressed. When Amelia from Knightly press comes for her first bi-annual visit to his store to pitch her companies new books, she is rude to her and they don't hit it off. And yet, some part of them connects in their unique love of books. When a baby is found left inside AJ's store with a note that say's "This is Maya, she is smart and likes to read and will do well here," AJ somehow takes it in stride. He becomes a dad and raises Maya well. I think my favorite part of the book was reading about Maya as a precocious 3 year old, advanced in words and reading beyond her years, and indeed spending all her time in a bookstore IS the perfect place for her. I was jealous and wish my son could have had that sort of engagement and self-containment in a bookstore. Anyway, this is sort of a bitter sweet feel good story with it's many ups and downs about a small town with big personalities that you grow to love quickly. Books like this one about bookstores are awesome!...more
Awesome. I read these backwards - I read the Devlin Diary first and then went back to the Rossetti Letter. It was great! A dual timeline historical fiAwesome. I read these backwards - I read the Devlin Diary first and then went back to the Rossetti Letter. It was great! A dual timeline historical fiction novel that follows a historian who is working on her disertation about the Spanish Conspiracy and the actual unfolding of the conspiracy in the 1600s in Venice. I really enjoy these researching history stories that are spent pouring over archives in libraries. In this case, Claire is in a rough spot in her life. She's trying to finish her thesis, but is sorta stuck. She's dropped out of her social life and is in limbo. A friend encourages her to travel to Venice for a convention where someone is going to be doing a lecture series about the very topic Claire is studying. This is important to her work, but also a threat to her as well. The only way that Claire is able to make the trip is as a guardian to a teenage girl (who's family will pay their way). It all works out in the end, Claire and Gwen become friends. Both women have life changing realizations and adventures. Claire finds some new information in her research into the courtesan Alessandra Rossetti and comes up with a completely new theory about not only her part in the conspiracy, but to the entire political situation. A fantastic book, story and read. Loved it.
I love Michelle Tea. I can't remember exactly when and where I first encountered her writing - probably Valencia, which I loved. I have read everythinI love Michelle Tea. I can't remember exactly when and where I first encountered her writing - probably Valencia, which I loved. I have read everything she's written since that I have come across. This memoir is mostly about her life since sobriety and her forays into getting her life in order. Which on one hand could sound not that interesting, but because Tea is a great writer, and because she has lived a fairly wild life, she has great stories and insight to share.
I have a lot in common with Michelle. We are the same age and therefore have similar memories of 80s pop culture and the diy punk world that grew out of that for us misfits. We haven't exactly run in the same circles, but we have much in common in a sub cultural way none the less, and I think for me, that made reading this even better.
I enjoyed her writing about her working class upbringing and it gave me insight to the perceptions of college and scarcity issues. It was hard to read about how much she wanted to go to college, but having never known anyone who went to college, she literally didn't know how to do it. The idea that the $50 application fees would be the deal breaker is sad. But on the flip side, Michelle was wild and outgoing as well as bookish. She was a writer and she got hooked into the world of zines and diy publishing and she published some books, and then did some readings and book tours and built her own career. She is a success story, and an inspiration.
But she also tells a very real story of the difficulties she had a long the way and the mental gymnastics she has struggled with to justify the idea of buying a piece furniture, or anything new for herself, rather than picking up discards from street corners.
She also writes very honestly about her alcoholism, from the perspective of a recovered addict. And this is also very enlightening. Drugs, alcohol and sex have played a huge part in Michelle's life, and she has lived to tell the wild stories, both good and bad. She writes about her life in vivid detail and shares her intimate secrets, she makes light of some gnarly things but is also honest. Brutally honest. In Valencia, she wrote about the party life in SF. In The Chelsea Whistle she wrote about her youth growing up outside of Boston. Both of these parts of her life are very much a part of what makes Michelle Tea who she is, and those parts of her life are woven into this memoir and put into context.
I really enjoyed reading a whole chapter devoted to the idea of fashion and how much she loves fashion and being fashionable, and how difficult it has been to translate her punk rock ethics to the idea of buying things for herself. Much like spending an extra couple hundred dollar to live in her own apartment, without 20 something roommates and maggots in the fridge.
On one hand, it is so much more fun to read about the wild party life, but... BUT when someone is able to honestly embrace the changes in their life and admit to themselves "I have a problem with alcohol, I have issues with money, I'm not very good at taking care of myself, and I just want to be in a good loving relationship and be healthy" and then writes about the ways in which they make changes in their life to embrace this sort of change. When they are a talented great writer, with just enough honestly and self-deprecating humor, well the then the read is just as good.
She grapples with contradictions and expectations as well, which is not something everyone can be so honest about. It makes this so much more real.
Michelle Tea is sorta like a feminist lesbian Aaron Cometbus and I love them both dearly. My underground punk rock, feminist, diy, arts and zine culture world is full of wonderful people and Michelle Tea is one of them. I really really loved this memoir. It really hit home with me, a lot. It is not a self-help manual and doesn't read that way. It is a very inspiring collection of essays about a girl who has lived an interesting and wild life, and has lived to tell the stories of how she survived, found happiness, and she is just super freaking rad.
Highly recommended. Can I give it 10 stars?!...more
I had a mixed feeling with this book. I enjoyed it, it held my attention. But at the same time it also felt slow and uneventful and dragged out at timI had a mixed feeling with this book. I enjoyed it, it held my attention. But at the same time it also felt slow and uneventful and dragged out at times. Even though, it also wasn't. It takes place in a convent in the 1570s in Venice. A new novice is entered into the convent against her will and an older nun who is the resident "healer/nurse/doctor/herbalist" can relate, having felt that way 16 years prior. So we follow these two main characters as the young girl Serafina who has an amazing voice that the choir nuns are eager to have join them, but who resists everything while plotting her means of escape. Meanwhile, Zuana the healer tries to teach her, and at times she seems a ready pupil, but convent life is at odds with those who are more pious and those who are more free spirited. Historically speaking, there is some interesting knowledge to be gained about women of this time and their place in convents (many daughters were "bred for convent life" - which I think is another way of saying, "a second daughter? - well she'll go to the convent". I enjoyed the medicinal study as well. But I found the nuns constant talking about Him and He just a bit too much. I mean, sure I'm reading a book about a convent, but I still wanted to get past some of the biblical stuff (which was just in the conversations) and onto more of the politics of the time, which was introduced but not the focus at all. Which is why, I enjoyed this, I sorta liked it, I had hoped to like it more (The Red Tent was amazing!), but in the end this was more of a 50% feeling for me....more
I thought for sure I'd read the Rossetti Letter, and jumped right into this follow up. But my reading record doesn't show that I read it and I certainI thought for sure I'd read the Rossetti Letter, and jumped right into this follow up. But my reading record doesn't show that I read it and I certainly didn't realize that this was "Claire Donovan #2" - in other words a continuation of a central character following a new story.
I love these books that span a historical mystery from past to present with someone in the present doing research and solving a mystery from the past. In the Devlin Diary, Claire has just come to Cambridge as a temporary lecturer. She needs to start doing research and when she happens upon a diary from the 1670s in code, she is intrigued. But after mentioning her find to a fellow colleague, things go awry, her idea is stolen and the colleague ends up dead. Meanwhile, in the 1600s Hannah Devlin is a doctor brought to the court of King Charles to treat his mistress for the clap. As a doctor she was trained well by her father, but as a woman, she is not given the same regard. As key players in the Kings court are found murdered with mysterious symbols carved into their chest, Hannah becomes wrapped up in a plot of politics between France and England surrounding the death of the king's sister. As the story progresses, the mystery of the past weaves with the research of the present as both sets are trying to solve the murders. I was riveted to the last page.
Now I have to go back and read (or re-read) the Rossetti Letter....more
This was fun. It's about Nicola Tesla, but it's part historial fiction and part fantastical fiction but it works. Tesla is an often under-credited invThis was fun. It's about Nicola Tesla, but it's part historial fiction and part fantastical fiction but it works. Tesla is an often under-credited inventor, who invented wireless communication and alternating current electricity. So why is it that Marconi and Edison are who we know for these inventions? Essentially because Tesla was inventing, but not patenting. He was concerned with the ideas and sharing them, but missed out on capitalism. My dad really liked Tesla. I wish I could have a conversation with my dad now about Tesla. Reading this book made me understand why my dad liked Tesla - because my dad had a lot of Tesla in him. My dad was a bit of a genius mad scientist, but he was one who could make just about anything but was not likely one to seek out the fame and fortune and credit for doing so. He taught me well. Anyway, my dad is wrapped up in my reading of this book (which I must add was his book). This is a fictional story about Tesla and his later years living in the New Yorker hotel, remembering his inventions and his past as he tells stories to a friend who is writing them down. We also alternate between Tesla's story and that of a maid in his hotel, who is a young curious girl (with a shared love of pigeons) and a father who is currently hoping his friends time machine will take him back to the past so he can she his beloved wife who died in childbirth. All of the characters stories are a little bit off. Exactly what is real, what is imagined, what is hoped for and what transpires can be easily filtered into a good story. Take of it what you will. I learned a bit about Tesla, enough to want to read more. I also had a good time with the idea of the time machine and the claims that Tesla must be from the future and that perhaps they can take him back. A bit of whimsy and fun with a creative science field of the turn of the last century. It's based on enough reality that the twists and bends were not too much for my linear brain to handle. Yep, I enjoyed this. ...more