She’s Baaack!

Once again I have been given licence (and a license) to educate children.  I love to make kids think. Sometimes my methods are a little unorthodox, but they are usually fun.

Today I was in a special needs classroom with 3 hearing impaired kids and their aid, Ms. Ash.  Cognitively there is nothing wrong with these kids, they’re just a little behind because they are having to relearn life with cochlear implants.  It takes them a little longer to process verbal input because their brain isn’t accustomed to hearing, but they are plenty bright.

So, Jay was out of the room for a while for speech.  When he returned, I was sitting in his desk beside two other students and we were working on a science project.  Jay walked up to me. “Uhm — uh –” he pointed at his desk.

“Yes?” I answered.  He needs to verbalize his thoughts, not just make sounds.

“Uhm.” he said, and pointed again.

“Oh!”  I smiled brightly and said, “Hi!  My name is Jay.  This is my desk and here is my name tag.”  I ran my hands over the desk top and pointed at the name tag.

Jay glanced over at Ms. Ash.  She shrugged. He turned back to me and said, “What?”

I repeated, “My name is Jay.  This is my desk and here is my name tag.” I tapped on the name tag then asked, “Who are you?”

Jay looked over at Ms. Ash again.  Again she just shrugged. Jay turned back to me, put his hands on his hips, and said, “Your name is not Jay.”

“Really?!”  I tried to sound very surprised. I leaned forward and studied the name tag. Feigning confusion, I looked at him.  “Are you sure that’s not my name?”

Jay frowned again, and then answered, “Noooo.” He looked uncertain for a moment, then took a deep breath and said. “But I am sure that my name is Jay; this is my desk; and that is my name tag.”

“Really?” I exclaimed.

Jay nodded emphatically.  I grinned at him, we all shared a laugh, and I got up and moved.

Fast forward to the end of the day (about six hours later):

As we were cleaning up to leave Ms. Ash announced, “Ms. Teacher will be out sick tomorrow, too, so Ms. A. will be coming back.”

Jay looked up from putting the blocks away, “Who is Ms. A.?”

Ms. Ash pointed at me.

Jay looked at me, raised his eyebrows and smirked, “Oh, you mean Ms. Jay?”

*   *   *

Yep.  I am going back tomorrow.  They pay me for this.

~names changed to protect the sassy. 

Honeyflower And Pansy, by Esmé James

honeyflowerHoneyflower And Pansy is the debut novel of Esmé James.  The story is billed as a teenage romance, but it is really so very much more. Despite the fact that the story’s author is only 18 years old, Honeyflower And Pansy is an emotional and satisfying read.  Perhaps some of the story problems come to a much more satisfying and tidy end then similar problems would in real life, but that is the nature of young adult fiction.

Amanda Daryl is an engaging and proactive character.  She is concerned with the welfare of her family, her friends, and her autistic little sister Sage. As such, Amanda takes steps to help each of them with their various predicaments.  She helps her friends plan a dance; she helps a drunk reclaim his life and his business; she helps her father raise her little sister Sage; she helps the community get a new school; and she helps the mysterious Tristan with a difficult good-bye.

Sage Daryl is presented very realistically in the story, the triumphs and challenges of being autistic shine with authenticity because Esmé James has an autistic sibling.  Clearly writing from her heart, James details the complex communication, fixation, and aversion/avoidance issues that face autistic children and their families, but she does so with a very deft touch, enlightening the reader without detracting from the main story.

Honeyflower And Pansy is a love story, but the primary focus of the story isn’t on Amanda and Tristan’s budding relationship, or on Amanda’s drive to secure a school for autistic children like Sage.  This is a love story about love, and how it can change a life, save a soul, and rebuild a community.

I rate this book a 4 on my 1 to 5 scale.  It looses one point only because from time to time Ms. James gets so caught up in “writing” that she forgets she is also storytelling.  Some of her lovely, lovely prose is actually too artistic, and interferes with comprehension.  I suspect several of her words were swept from a Thesaurus and used based on their formal definition rather than their colloquial meaning — or perhaps the occasional stiltedness is merely differing shades of connotation between Australian and American word usages.

Honeyflower And Pansy, by Esmé James is well worth the $2.99 Amazon purchase price.  I look forward to more offerings from this talented, young storyteller.

I was given a free copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review.

Queen, by Heather Gray

Queen, by Heather GrayQueenQueen, by Heather Gray   Today I read Queen (Regency Refuge Book 3).  It was the perfect way to spend a quiet Sunday — with murder’s, thieves, cut-throats, and traitors.  The twists and turns of this story — of the entire series, in fact — has kept me on the edge of my seat, and flipping pages as fast as I could read.

Each book in the series can stand alone, but together they form a rich, suspenseful tale of spies, counter spies, traitors, friendship, loyalty, and faith. Heather Gray paints vivid word pictures that bring her characters and story to life as they struggle with faith, loyalty, trust, forgiveness, and honor.

Gray does an excellent job of making each character’s faith walk an integral part of his or her character.  The stories never come off as preachy and their faith is never forced.  There are currently three books in the series, book one: His Saving Grace; book two: Jackal; and book three: Queen.  With each book the story grows more and more complicated, and more and more compelling. I don’t know what the title of book four will be, but I am sure it is coming — and I am wishing it were already here.  I’d love to spend another day reading a Heather Gray story.

Imagine That (Covington Falls Chronicles), by Kristin Wallace

Kristin Wallace is an exceptional writer.  I read “Imagine That (Covington Falls Chronicles) Book 3” in one afternoon — cover-to-cover — without stopping.  I carried my eReader into the bathroom with me, and I propped it up on the drier as I folded laundry.  I loved the story.  I was ready to give it a 5 star review right up until the last page.  I suppose I will probably give it a five star review anyway since Amazon won’t allow me to give it a half star less, but the ending left me feeling decidedly uneasy.  Things were brushed aside that should have been more closely examined.

 

Imagine That, Covington Falls Chronicles, by Kristin WallaceYou have probably read hundreds of stories, but even so, I bet you’ve yet to read the exact same story that an author wrote.  No, I am not talking about the demands of editors and copywriters who insist on changes for this, that, or any other reason.  Every reader — and writer — brings his or her own personal experiences and/or biases to a story.  Every single person on this planet acts and reacts to everyone and everything else through their own personal set of filters.  In every review I have read about Imagine That, the reviewer has said the book moved them to both tears and laughter.  My experience was the same.  The emotions portrayed in this book are wrenchingly real, both the good and the bad.

Imagine That alludes to memories of domestic violence.  Thankfully the reader is not subjected to the violence, but for those of us who have lived with domestic abuse (which can be physical and/or mental), a memory is all it takes to trigger real fear.   Logically, as a mentally healthy,  healed adult (and a writer) I can understand that after the main characters finally confessed their love for one another, Wallace wanted to tie the story up with  a neat bow and get to the “happily  ever after,” but I think this story’s happily-ever-after promise came at least one necessary conversation too soon.

Nate, our hero, definitely shows the potential to become an abuser.  He also voluntarily takes steps to deal with his anger issues before he ever comes close to harming anyone.  Those are very great signs of hope, but if Nate and Emily were real people the way this book ended would leave me with serious concerns for the future of their relationship.  Emily’s own childhood taught her to expect abuse.  Would she be able to recognize the gradual onset if Nate did slowly give in to his darker nature?   I have good reason to suspect she wouldn’t since when Nate does try to talk to her about his feelings, she tells him he isn’t his grandfather or his father, so they have nothing to worry about.  They DO have something to worry about.  Nate knew that, that’s why he sought counseling — and now he has fallen in love with an enabler. Bad, bad, bad news.

If you don’t have any of my baggage, go ahead and read the novel.  As I said, it is a wonderful page turner right up until that one little, tiny hiccup on the last page.

*I was given a free copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review.