Review: Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story by Jonathan LaPoma

Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story

Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story
Author: Jonathan LaPoma
Publisher: Laughing Fire Press
Published: September 14, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Young Adult, New Adult, Adult
My Rating:

three point five

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Synopsis new

Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story follows a group of recent college graduates who struggle with feelings of alienation and their addictions as they try to survive a year of teaching at two dysfunctional Miami public schools.

A poetic and insightful coming-of-age novel, Developing Minds is centered on 24-year-old Luke Entelechy, an aspiring writer who sees his creative output suffer when he begins teaching at one of Miami’s most challenging middle schools. As the year progresses, however, Luke begins to relate to the neglect and abuse his students suffer, and is faced with a “haunting” decision: continue to let his dark past destroy him, or rise above the struggle to realize his potential as an artist and a “real” human being.

Equal parts disturbing and humorous, Developing Minds offers a brutally honest look at the American public school system and the extreme measures many teachers take to cope with working in it.

my thoughts new

At first I really thought this book has something to do with ghosts and scary stuffs, but there weren’t any. The attached “ghost story” in the title is purely metaphor. Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story is actually a coming-of-age contemporary story that presents college graduate Luke Entelechy who came to Miami with his friend Billy to dive into the world of teaching. Despite his reluctance to the profession, and despite the fact that he originally wanted to be a writer, he accepted the challenge of education because that’s the only way to compensate his financial needs.

Applying for a teaching job in Miami was a tough one because Luke wasn’t able to land a job so easily and he even ended up being hired by an admin from an F-rated school. What’s even tougher was the fact that kids with all types of personalities were attending there.

This book basically depicts the reality of educational and school system, its strengths and its flaws and most of all, the struggle the educators are facing behind the black boards and classroom doors. Being a teacher is indeed a tough job, more so when you’re assigned to a school where there’s an unhealthy environment and where most kids don’t learn the art of respect. Through this book I was able to visualize the educational system in Miami and became aware that not all schools are really outstanding and perfect.

Racism, drugs, and sex are also few of the subjects matters that were being explored here and for that, I admired the author because these things scream reality.

Luke’s personal battle against his decisions were also significantly defined here. In my opinion, he did some good decisions but there were also bad ones, including the decision he made in the end. For me, it was a bit of a cowardly move because there wasn’t any resolve that I found. What happened to the kids he taught in Miami? Was he able to make a difference in their lives? That was what I’ve been longing to see but sad to say, it didn’t happen.

“School was claiming my absolute best. Every day was a struggle to stop the panic from taking over. Every day was a fight to stay at the head of that classroom without the kids realizing the utter terror I felt facing them day in and day out.”

As for the author’s writing, I loved it. Jonathan LaPoma has a spot-on writing style and he tags along humor with it. I was laughing my ass out at some point because Luke and Billy’s interactions were really witty and hilarious! If you are a teacher or someone that is related to education or even a student, I know you will very much appreciate the message behind the story of this book. I, myself, felt awed while reading this.

(A copy of this book was sent by the author and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Rating:

three point five

Buy this book at:

READ ALL MY REVIEWS HERE

xo pearl

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Review: The Woman in the Photograph by Dana Gynther

The Woman in the Photograph

The Woman in the Photograph
Author: Dana Gynther
Publisher: Gallery Books
Published: August 4, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Romance
My Rating:

3 stars new

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Synopsis new

Set in the romantic glow of 1920s Paris, a captivating novel of New York socialite and model Lee Miller, whose glamorous looks and joie de vivre caught the eye of Man Ray, one of the twentieth century’s defining photographers.

1929, Montparnasse. Model and woman about town Lee Miller moves to Paris determined to make herself known amidst the giddy circle of celebrated artists, authors, and photographers currently holding court in the city. She seeks out the charming, charismatic artist Man Ray to become his assistant but soon becomes much more than that: his model, his lover, his muse.

Coming into her own more fully every day, Lee models, begins working on her own projects, and even stars in a film, provoking the jealousy of the older and possessive Man Ray. Drinking and carousing is the order of the day, but while hobnobbing with the likes of Picasso and Charlie Chaplin, she also falls in love with the art of photography and finds that her own vision can no longer come second to her mentor’s.

The Woman in the Photograph is the richly drawn, tempestuous novel about a talented and fearless young woman caught up in one of the most fascinating times of the twentieth century.

my thoughts new

The Woman in the Photograph by Dana Gynther

Moving or motionless, in shadow or light, she was his subject.

This book is a breath of fresh air. It’s been a while since I’ve read a historical fiction so I’m glad I was able to delve into this book. The Woman in the Photograph takes place in the year 1929 in the beautiful city of Paris. We start the book with the heroine Lee Miller, a model and a fashion icon who became enthralled not only with posing for photographs but also with doing photography herself and diving more into visual arts. When she met renowned photographer Man Ray, her desire to learn more about photography was fueled, so she persuaded him to become her mentor and at the same time, his exclusive model or muse. As they spent more time together doing photography sessions they developed passion for each other and soon after, they became lovers. But that’s not the end of it because as soon as they learned about each other’s flaws, their relationship changed and obsession, jealousy, and deceptions became their biggest dilemma.

This book is actually written decently, but I can’t really say that I totally loved it. One big problem that I had in this book was the plot. The series of events was repetitive. Even if there were interesting things, I sometimes became wary because most of the scenes (kiss-and-make up) were turning into a cycle.

Another problem I had with this book was the main characters. Lee and Man aren’t exactly the most likable characters to read about. Lee is too ambitious and selfish. Worse, she’s also a cheater and a famewhore. And although I liked Man in the beginning, he eventually became a turn-off as I’ve read more about him. Why? Because he became a weak character who’s too obsessed with Lee, to the point that he easily forgave her even if he knew that she was cheating.

But well, despite the fact that I didn’t like the plot and the characters, I still think this book deserves to be read by everyone because as what I’ve said, it’s a historical fiction (a genre that everyone should also give attention to) and it somehow offered entertainment. The setting is wonderful and the emphasis on arts was neatly done. I’ve also learned a lot about the wonders of photography, films, and all those things. And oh, it’s nice to know how people basically lived during the 1920’s and 30’s in Paris– their lifestyle, culture, and whatnot. 🙂 So I still recommend this book!

(A free copy was given to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review)

Rating:

3 stars new

 

Buy this book at:

READ ALL MY REVIEWS HERE

xo pearl

 

Review: Einstein’s Beach House by Jacob M. Appel

Einstein's Beach House

Einstein’s Beach House
Author: Jacob M. Appel
Publisher: Pressgang
Publication: October 1, 2014
Genre: Short Stories, Fiction
My Rating:

description

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Synopsis new

A couple adopt a depressed hedgehog; a mother is seduced by the father of her daughter’s imaginary friend; a man kidnap’s his ex-wife’s pet turtle. In eight tragi-comic stories, Einstein’s Beach House: Storiesfeatures ordinary men and women rising to life’s extraordinary challenges.

my thoughts new

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Einstein’s Beach House surprised me! I didn’t know what to expect from this book and from this author but the overall impact it brought me was beyond my expectations. This book consists of 8 short stories, each with different themes but all in all, coming up with one thing — life experiences.

The writing style of Jacob M. Appel is so impressive. He has this unique plot and great, three-dimensional characterization and he laces everything with humor and emotional conflict that even if each story was short, I felt as if I was reading a regular-length book.

I made a brief review for each story because I was too overwhelmed with everything in this book and here they are:

1. Hue and Cry

This is the first short story of Einsten’s Beach House. It’s a dark and twisted story, with an underlying sensitive issue that centers a man who is a sex offender. How he was treated by the people around him totally describes harsh reality. I don’t know exactly what to feel about this but I can say that the author very well establishes a great reality-based story.

2. La tristesse des hérisson

This second short story held a very heavy topic which was handled perfectly with humor. It’s about a couple who adopted a hedgehog. Sounds a bit normal but the moment they took the hedgehog home, their relationship slowly went downhill because of some psychological issues that were focused on the hedgehog. If you read this book blindly, you will appreciate the hidden message the author was conveying. This short story is beautiful and gripping. It’s psychological and an eye-opener. We tend to blame other people for the fault which is entirely done by ourselves and act this defense mechanism which is so-calleddisplacement.

3. Strings

“It’s much better to not be okay when you ought to be fine, than to be perfectly content when you really should be falling to pieces.”

Well this third short story hits home. It’s about a 40 year-old woman who was approached by her ex-lover who’s a musician, for a favor. At first I didn’t get the message behind the story but when I reached the ending– wow! The story sent a deep, powerful message that hit straight to the core. It’s about defining the value of success and failure and how each person’s approach towards these things vary. It’s also more about moving on and forgiveness.

4. Limerence

The fourth short story of this book completely stole my heart. It’s heartbreaking. It’s a flashback story about a teenage boy and a girl whose friendship started right when they were in high school. Despite the girl’s imperfections and issues in life, the boy slowly developed feelings for her, which was unfortunately not returned due to the girl’s circumstances and misfortunes. I love how this short-length of a story felt longer than I’ve thought. There was so much emotional depth in this story. The melancholy tone also made me feel like I’m reading a Nicholas Sparks book. From the beginning up to the end, I was pleasantly moved because of the great characterization the author was able to distinguish and the emotions being poured that tugged at my heartstrings.

5. Einstein’s Beach House

Now this fifth story is more about the things that usually happen in the family household. It’s about a couple with two kids who live in a beachfront house which was perceived as Albert Einstein’sbeach house. As they later on made the house a source of their income through the tourists that usually visit because of their curiosity, they later on learned that in fact, the house was originally owned by Einstein’s niece. What made this short story brilliant was how the author emphasized the essence ofsentimental value for a particular thing and how a person values childhood and family relationships. The ending of this short story was so touching!

6. The Rod of Asclepius

By far, this sixth short story is my most favorite of all. I loved the dark theme in which a father and a daughter bonded through some twisted kind of activity. In this story, the father was introduced by the author in a very mysterious way. He pretended to be a doctor whenever he enters the hospital and when he’s inside a particular room, he injects random patients, basically killing them. But he always did it together with her daughter who was a seven year-old. As the girl grew up, the memory of what happened still lingered and even served as a traumatic experience to her. This is such a brilliant, dark story. It’s cringe-worthy and as usual, very well-written. It also gives a reader something to ponder in the end.

7. Sharing the Hostage

This short story is particularly funny! It’s about a divorced woman who wanted her tortoise, which was already in the hands of her ex-husband, back. The ex-couple didn’t have a child but the way they value the turtle, sharing a joint custody, as if it’s their own child, was so hilarious and strange. The woman and her lover planned to abduct the tortoise from her ex-husband but when they’ve already had it, they realized that maybe after all, they shouldn’t have took it because it won’t survive in their planned trip. All throughout the story, I was laughing because of its unrealistic but hilarious approach. In the end, I realized that the story itself shows the importance of giving value to a certain thing– no matter how small or big it is.

8. Paracosmos

The last short story of Einstein’s Beach House is charming. The story centers around a small family consisting a couple and a daughter. The daughter had an imaginary friend whom the couple thought was alarming. This short story is realistic in a way because having an imaginary friend is part of childhood. The message behind the story was also amazing. It emphasizes importance of family bonding and of course, the importance of fidelity.

As a whole, Einstein’s Beach House is a masterpiece and a real gem! I am so thankful to have been given a copy of this book from the author because it’s a book that I will forever treasure. The contents are all unique, amazing, and very well-written, in a can’t-put-it-down way. It’s a powerful anthology that explores every sensible and even psychological aspect of life. If you want a wholesome, thought-provoking reads, I highly recommend this anthology!

Rating:

description

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xo pearl