Friday, August 30, 2013

Booknote: Vampirella Strike: Vol. 1

Tom Sniegoski, Vampirella Strikes. Mt. Laurel (NJ): Dynamite, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-60690-431-2. Link to publisher (since the WorldCat record at time of this post was a bit thin).

Though I was familiar with the Vampirella character, I had never read one of her comics until now. This was a nice treat. I enjoyed this one very much, and the illustration and artwork are very good, well suited to the character and tale. In our story, Vampirella is suddenly thrust into the world of angels and demons. There is an uneasy truce between both sides, and some members of both sides would be happy for war to break out again. When an angelic general goes missing, a group of angels drafts Vampirella to find him. Why her? You'll have to read the comic to find out. She gets some help from a fallen angel who is working is basically playing both sides as a double-agent. Thus things get complicated.

Overall, this was a good read with a nice mix of action and intrigue. Fans of the character will probably enjoy it. As a new reader, I liked it. If you like things like Hellblazer (a.k.a. Constantine). you might enjoy this as well. And if you like scantily-clad women in your comics, Vampirella is your gal. Don't be fooled; she is not just a pretty lady though. She is a force to be reckoned. For me, this was a good entry point into the comic. I will certainly look for more down the road. As an added bonus, the book included a very nice cover gallery.

I think this will make a good addition for public libraries. 

I'd go 4.5 out of 5 on this one.

The obligatory disclosure note to keep The Man happy: I read this as an e-book galley via NetGalley, provided in exchange for an honest review.

Signs that the economy is (still) bad, August 30, 2013

I have not done one of these in a while, but there have been items in the news showing us that the economy is (still) bad. So, I have scoured the web from one end to the other (also known as I looked over a few things coming in my feeds, and then added a thing or two) to give you this week's signs. Some may be amusing, but others not so much. Things are getting serious folks, or rather they are still serious but for some reason people are not taking them seriously as they  keep voting and enabling the folks making the mess in the first place.

  • Apparently sales of superhero action figures and toys are down. I honestly would have thought with the glut of superhero films out there, that this was not an issue. Apparently, it is. Hasbro is reporting some down movement in sales. However, they claim that as soon as the new Star Wars films come out (deity help us. I am keeping my expectations low on these if the prequels are any indication) and their license kicks in, things will be better. We'll see. Story via IO9.
  • And speaking of games, Christian video gaming is heading down the drain. I always knew there was such a thing, but I always saw it as a joke. Well, I guess the joke is pretty much over. Left Behind Games is barely operating (if you can call what they do now operating), and its CEO has declared bankruptcy.  Story via Pharyngula
  • In Gary, Indiana, you can buy a house for less than the cost of a cup of coffee (story via Addicting Info).  The city is a shell of the industrial giant it used to be. Corporations like Bethlehem Steel (now gone out of business. Disclosure: my father in law worked for them many years, managed to retire from there before they went belly up. And no, they do not live in Gary) and others have vanished. Like Detroit, residents have pretty much vanished too, so the local government, in a desperate plea to keep anyone is putting up local properties for very cheap sale (certain conditions do apply). In the end though, keep in mind, it means living in Gary, Indiana, which has been known to be murder capital of the U.S (this story via Chicago Tribune. The city no longer has that title, but it's not like its gotten better overall) among other things.
  • In more serious news, Pew Research finds that share of young adults living with their parents is going up. I don't think this is terribly surprising. Lousy job market. Low job availability after graduation. That assumes you can even afford to go to college given how cost of higher education has skyrocketed out of control. And if you somehow managed to get into college, and you had to take out loans to do it, you may be in debt up to your eyeballs meaning you can't even afford a place to live, again, assuming you managed to get a job in the tight job market. This is one vicious cycle that is not getting better any time soon. Then again, their parents and grandparents did not exactly do them any favors. Sure, they got the dream of education, so on, then pretty much went on to wreck the country and the economy for anyone who came behind them (and us, this would include me on the tail end, but at least I am lucky to be employed).
  • Keeping up with serious news, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are more families with an unemployed parent. According to the report, "the number of households with children under 18 who had at least one unemployed parent rose by 33 percent, from 2.4 million to 3.2 million, between 2005 and 2011. In some states, the rise was much sharper."
  • Then again, not everyone experiences a crappy economy. In Vegas, they are selling a $750 dollars cupcake. Yep, you read that right. Story via Incredible Things. Let them eat cake. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Booknote: G.I. Joe, Volume 1: Homefront

Fred Van Lente, G.I. Joe, Vol. 1: Homefront. San Diego (CA): IDW, 2013. ISBN: 9781613777053.

This is a new G.I. Joe. The team is no longer fully covert, thanks to a Wikileak of all things. To make matters worse, Cobra is now attacking on American soil. The team gets word that Cobra is planning an attack on a small American town and off they go. But things are not as simple as they seem, and the Joes may be headed to a trap. It seems the town is not only already in Cobra hands, but the townspeople are actually collaborating with the enemy. Now, the Joes have to rally, find out the truth, and defeat Cobra.

This was a pretty good and entertaining comic. Fans of this comic should be pleased. With G.I. Joe out in the open, Americans behave as typical Americans do: they either feel all warm and fuzzy about their heroes, or they whine that their soldiers are more trouble than they are worth. You cannot miss the social commentary here. The comic does offer plenty of action. The only detail I disliked was the addition of a new team member, codenamed Hashtag. She is a young, ogly-eyed journalist in love with all things that are social media. She goes on to "pull a Geraldo" in the battlefield. Thinking she is being helpful, she tweets and facebooks her team's position hoping other Joes will come to their aid. Guess who else uses social media and sees the messages as well. That amount of stupidity was just annoying, especially since the main reason she's embedded with G.I. Joe, besides the Army wanting to make good PR, is that she is a higher-up's daughter (I will leave it to readers to find out who she is related to). The author could have done without this comic relief character. That aside, this is a good comic overall.

If you have read and enjoyed G.I. Joe comics before, you'll probably like this one. For new readers, this is an adequate entry point, but I would suggest also seeking out other comics in the series. The art is good and consistent for the series.

Overall, I'd give this a 3.5. out of 5 stars.

The disclosure note to keep The Man happy is that I read this book via NetGalley, provided in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Booknote: The Flesh Cartel, Season 1: Damnation

Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau, The Flesh Cartel, Season 1: Damnation. Riptide Publishing, 2013. ISBN: 9781937551704. (link to publisher site). 

WARNING: This is an LGBT adult title, and it is a very explicit one dealing with themes of non-consent, explicit violence, and some forced incest. For some readers, this may be a trigger experience.

I don't often have to use a warning label, but it is necessary for this title. Let me begin with the basic book description, from the publisher: 

"The Flesh Cartel: an international, multi-billion-dollar black market that trades in lost souls. Or more specifically, their bodies.

Highly organized and frighteningly efficient, the Flesh Cartel could teach even the KGB a thing or two about breaking a human mind. Fortunately for their ultra-rich clients, they’re just as skilled at putting people back together again—as perfect pets, well-trained and eager to please.

No matter what your secret tastes or dark desires, the Flesh Cartel—for the right price, of course—will hand-design the plaything of your dreams."

That is the basic premise, but there is more. This is erotica for readers who like their kink very dark and very rough.  I can say right away that the violence and brutality in torture scenes is relentless, especially in the first episode, entitled Capture (this volume contains two episodes of this fiction serial). Having said that, the book does have some strengths, and if this is the kind of erotica you enjoy reading, you will likely appreciate it.

A strength of the book is in the writing. The prose is very well written, and the authors do know how to deploy good detail and description. The latter may or not be a plus. I say that because there may be moments when showing a bit less may be better. It is the same principle you might apply in a horror work (the decision of whether to show more or less in certain gruesome moments). In fact, we can view this book as a form of erotic horror. I have seen it described as a psychosexual thriller, and that label is pretty applicable. The Flesh Cartel may be very cultured and refined, but that is on the surface. Evil hides underneath as they provide the slaves for their clients' dark desires.

The story is framed by Nikolai, a potential buyer, who is considering his merchandise options. He gives us a small glimpse of the trade from the client's point of view. Nikolai is shopping on behalf of a client we do not know yet. The story overall is that of Doug and Mat, two brothers who are kidnapped by the cartel to be sex slaves. Doug is the handsome, smart one, the desirable one the cartel really wants. Mat is an MMA cage fighter, rough and dangerous to the cartel. Since a guy like Mat is more difficult to train and handle, he is less desirable. However, bad luck means Mat gets captured along with his brother. As their bodies and souls are broken, as they are worn down mentally and physically, the brothers struggle to stay together. The second serial in the set takes us then to the Auction where the brothers will be sold. You will have to read on in the series to find out their fates.

As I mentioned, the writing and prose are very good overall. The series, so far, is a pretty quick read as well, and like a good thriller, once you pick it up, you may find it hard to put down. There is much psychological play involved, so if you enjoy that aspect, this series has something for you as well. There is some character depth in the brothers, but you may find that other characters are only developed superficially. This may be part of the work, or it may be something that will develop over time in the series. For now, that is what I saw as a reader. I picked this up out of curiosity, and I have to say that, intense as it was to read, it is also very alluring. It sucks you in as a reader. It may also make you want to read more.

For now, I would rate it a 3.5 out 5. I am curious enough that I might read another installment, so stay tuned. 

Disclosure note: I received this volume as an electronic review copy via NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Booknote: Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach

Brian Azzarello,, Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach. New York: DC Comics, 2013. ISBN: 9781401238933.

Azzarello was certainly the author suited to write these two tales. Both tales deal with dark, gritty individuals. In addition, Bermejo's art catches the urban grit and weariness. His art also captures Rorschach's extreme, obsessive nature well.

We get two stories in this volume. The first is the Comedian's tale, covering his days as a soldier and spook mask for the U.S. government first in Vietnam and then back in the U.S. A man who was friends with the Kennedys, Comedian was the man sent when a dirty job needed to be done. I did find the alternate history elements in this story of interest. Rorschach's is the second tale. He is a man tormented by a rough childhood featuring an abusive father. He is also obsessed with punishing evil as he sees it no matter what. Remember his line from Watchmen about not compromising on this even in the face of Armageddon. We get an early tale here where he confronts a prostitution ring and its ruthless leader.

Overall, the tales add some background and layer to these characters. However, as in other volumes, much of the insights here may be things we already knew if we read Watchmen. Fans who feel a need to complete the circle will probably want to pick this one up. Libraries that already have Watchmen will want to pick this and the other volumes in the series for their readers.

I'd give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Note to appease The Man: I read this as an electronic galley provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Booknote: The Reader's Book of Days

Tom Nissley and Joanna Neborsky, The Reader's Book of Days: True Tales from the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013.

The title is pretty accurate in describing what the book is about. This is a nice calendar compendium of trivia and facts about writers and readers. It picks up vital dates as well as various curious facts about writers and literature. You also get scandals, hoaxes, romances, rivalries, and other curious facts, events, and anecdotes about writers. The book is arranged as a daily calendar. For a book lover like me, this is a nice and entertaining book. I think people who enjoy reading about books and the reading life will probably enjoy this one. I will add that this would be a good book for libraries to order. It works not just as I described, as a book for readers who like to read about reading. It also works as a good reference and trivia book. As a librarian, I could use this book to add a nice quote here and there on our social media, or I could use it for ideas for book and author displays. The book offers various possibilities. This is a book meant to be browsed, not so much read cover to cover.

Overall, I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note to keep The Man appeased: I was provided with an electronic e-galley of this book via Edelweiss

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Booknote: Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan

J. Michael Straczynski,, Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan. New York: DC Comics, 2013. ISBN: 9781401238940.

I was interested in this volume in part because J. Michael Straczynski was involved; I happen to like his work from Babylon 5, and I have read some of his other work in comics. So, with that said, let's see how this volume fares.

The Nite Owl story is one of passing the mantle as Hollis takes Daniel under his wing. In the tale, we get Daniel's childhood under an abusive father. Daniel tracks down Hollis and asks Hollis to let him be a sidekick. Dan, the technical whiz kid, goes on to improve Nite Owl and continue the work. Rorschach soon finds him, and they become uneasy partners given Rorschach's more violent and prejudiced tendencies. Overall, this fills in the back story for the Nite Owl character. I found it to be a pretty good tale, though it did feel a little rushed at the end.

The Dr. Manhattan tale read more like some philosophical physics treatise. About the only thing it adds to the Watchmen narrative is that it explains why Dr. Manhattan says he really cannot change time, the events are predetermined. Aside from that, most of what is in this story we already know if we read Watchmen. That seems to be a pattern for this series: most of what it offers is stuff we have seen already in the original work. Sure, there are one or two new angles of interest. For instance, I did enjoy the story of the Minutemen (link to that review), and I liked the tales of Ozymandias (link to that review) and Nite Owl well enough. But others have felt more like filler, and Dr. Manhattan's falls under the filler category. This volume also includes an origin tale for Moloch, a villain the Minutemen and later the Watchmen faced. I would say it was an alright tale, and it does lead right into events in the Watchmen film.

One good quality in this volume, as in the other volumes so far, is the art. DC seems to be choosing some good artists to bring the series to life.

I am giving this one 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Note to appease The Man: I read this as an electronic galley provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Booknote: Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair

Len Wein,, Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair. New York: DC Comics, 2013. ISBN: 9781401238957.

I enjoyed Ozymandias' story very much, but I did not care much for the Crimson Corsair tale. From an early age, Adrian Veidt was gifted. Inspired by Alexander the Great, he decides to conquer the world so he can save it from itself. He sees where Alexander and others have failed, and he strives not to make the same mistakes as he moves to implement his master plan. I was fascinated by Adrian Veidt's story in part because Alexander the Great is historical figure I find fascinating as well. Also, this tale shows how Adrian puts his plan in place, the plan we see come to fruition in Watchmen. In addition, the Comedian has a strong presence here (which he also had in the Minutemen/Silk Spectre volume). All in all, this is a good tale that takes us right to the beginning of events in Watchmen.

The Crimson Corsair's tale is a pirate tale. It is the tale of a young Scotsman in the British Navy who rebels against a tyrannical captain, attempts a mutiny, and fails. His ship is attacked by another ship, sunk, and he is the sole survivor. However, his fate is worse as he picked up by the legendary Flying Dutchman, led by the Crimson Corsair. The corsair then curses him, and the rest of the comic is the young man's quest to end the curse. This is a pirate/horror tale. It does somewhat the same function as the Tales of the Black Freighter did in Watchmen. A difference is that here, Crimson Corsair is a standalone comic, not interspersed into the main story. It is a decent tale, but I felt it was more of a distraction, like the publishers needed something to fill out the volume. With Watchmen, I had an idea of what Moore and Gibbons were trying to accomplish with the comic within a comic. Here, it just feels more like filler. I did like the art in the story and the concept of a hidden civilization in a Caribbean island.

As an additional feature, the volume features the story of Dollar Bill. Dollar Bill is a superhero bank spokesman who manages to join the Minutemen. They want him mostly for his popularity, that they hope will rub on them as well. It's a light story of the guy whose only claim to fame is dying by choking on his cape when it gets caught in a revolving door.

Overall, I liked  this volume though not as much as the previous one. If you ask me, 3.5 out of 5 stars. Libraries that have the original work will want to add these prequels to their collections Academic libraries with pop culture or recreational reading collections may want to add them as well, especially if they have Watchmen already.

Note to appease The Man: I read this book as an electronic galley provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Booknote: Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre

I read the four volumes of the Before Watchmen series. Over the next few days, I will review each one, but first let me give some of my initial impressions of the series as a whole. From what I read, it seems the authors and artists are trying to stay close to the original Watchmen graphic novel. The results do vary from volume from volume, some better than others. The stories overall lead into the original work. Much of the story is what readers already know from reading the work by Moore and Gibbons. However, these prequels do flesh out some elements of the characters, so I think fans of Watchmen may find them interesting or at least worth a look. Yet I think that fans may measure these against the original and find them wanting. In the end, the authors do have some big shoes to fill. Each volume features two major characters and story lines.

I began with the following volume:

Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner, Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre. New York: DC Comics, 2013. ISBN: 9781401238926.

The first story in this volume is that of the rise and fall of the masked adventurers known as the Minutemen. Hollis, who years later is writing an autobiography and tell-all book from his years as the first Nite Owl, frames the story. Hollis book is shaping to be an expose, and the Minutemen have a lot of dark secrets they would rather remain buried. The story runs back and forth from the 1960s, Hollis' present day, to the 1930s, the heyday of the Minutemen. The masks, as the heroes are often known, have their motives and reasons for joining the team. Yet it is their secrets and sins that will tear them apart. Some are perceived sins; others are truly dark transgressions.

The second story in this volume is Laurie's story. She is Sally Jupiter's daughter, and she carries the burden of having an embittered, dysfunctional mother In a rebellious moment, Laurie runs off to California, but she finds that she can't get away from her fate to become the second Silk Spectre when she sees injustice and people in need.

These are two stories that set up the original Watchmen, which is what the series is designed to do. Like the original, other materials such as pieces of poetry and other literature are mixed in to add a bit more detail. Of the two stories in this volume, the Minutemen story is the one that offers the most depth. Their secrets, virtues, and shortcomings are exposed, leading us to ask what makes a hero, a question present throughout the series.

For this volume, I would give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure note: I read this volume via NetGalley, provided in exchange for an honest review. Thus we appease The Man once more

Friday, August 09, 2013

Reading about the reading life, August 9, 2013

Once again, here we have a few stories about reading and the reading life. In these, I do try to do more than just a link post by adding some commentary and reflection here and there. Here then this week's selections:

  • At Rappler, Pia Ranada writes a profile, with photos, of Filipino bookstore Solidaridad. This is the kind of little independent bookstore I love to explore. It is owned by a prominent Filipino writer. According to the article, "a visit to Solidaridad Bookshop further proves that Filipiniana literature is a rich mine of unique perspectives, stories, observations, insights and nuggets of wisdom any Filipino reader would do well to explore"I think anyone in addition to Filipinos would do well to explore the store, and more broadly, their literature as well. 
  • As my four readers know, now and then I read a bit of erotica; I may even toss in some erotic romance. A librarian has to keep his readers' advisory cred (and yes, I do like erotica. I am not as big on the romance, but I do see the appeal points). At any rate, I have noticed that in erotic romance, billionaires (usually dominant types) and the women who love them are a big trope/formula in the genre. Cyndy Aleo, at RT Book Reviews, suggests that we need a new trend: nerdrotica. As she defines it, ". . . what I'm really looking for is hardcore nerdy smut. We're talking robots getting it on, freaky cosplayers, strip Magic the Gathering — you name it. And if the words 'Dungeon Master' mean your fantasy play parties involve a 20-sided die as well as a 20-tail flogger, I bet you've been looking for it, too. And it's okay to admit it. We're all geeks here." I will admit that is stuff I would definitely read. The article does include some reading suggestions.
  • A lot of people, including a lot of librarians, have been making a brouhaha over that bookless library in San Antonio, Texas (also known as an e-book station). This article out of The Atlantic Cities asks if such a library can be a revolution in access to the poor. Naturally, what a lot of my colleagues did not seem to think about, in their rush to applaud anything related to e-books, is that the poor, as in the real marginal economically disadvantaged people, may not exactly have much access to a smartphone or a tablet, the devices mostly used to check out those precious e-books. Not to mention that using e-books does require a different skill set than just opening up a print book. Let's not even consider that for libraries e-books are a more expensive proposition (was this really the most fiscally responsible thing to do?), and that e-books often do offer challenges to folks who may suffer various disabilities and impairments. Aside from a voice or two, I don't hear a lot of that coming out of our profession. However, at the end of the day, we do have to ask who exactly does this e-book library benefit? Do notice they put it out in the suburbs, where in essence, the wealthy people have been moving out of the city. Not saying they are not letting the poor huddled masses in (far as I know), but I am just saying. 
  • A bit older piece out of The Telegraph (UK) on second-hand bookstores and serendipity. Though it refers a bit more to antiquarian stores, it is still a fascinating read. Having the good fortune of having visited one or two such places here in the U.S., I can relate to the feeling of walking down aisles of old books and meeting the owner or employee with the prodigious memory.  A bit from the article: "Booksellers tell stories that they regard as tall when they are in the mouths of others of their trade: they are a jealous and envious lot. But they all say that libraries around the country are disembarrassing themselves of 17th- to 19th-century books because, rarely consulted, they are deemed to waste space that could more usefully be devoted to computer stations and multiple copies of Dan Brown, much in demand" Some librarians would say that's just fine. Oh well. On a serious note, librarians do not necessarily come out looking well in the piece. The article's author, Theodore Dalrymple, wrote the book The Pleasure of Thinking.   
  • Here is an interesting piece. Today, a lot of people worry that e-books are this great threat to books and publishing. Yet, in 1939, another threat loomed in the horizon for publishers: paperbacks. Via Mental Floss.  
  • Not so much about reading, but more about handwriting. However, since reading and writing often go hand in hand, I thought it would fit in nicely. Via Tiger Pens Blog, on "Handwriting vs. Technology: 6 Reasons Why Taking Notes by Hand Still Wins."  Though I keep two blogs (four if you count the scratch pad/commonplace one and my Tumblr), I still do the majority of my writing by hand in my personal journal.
Note to appease The Man: I read this as an electronic galley provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Booknote: Confessions of a Bad Teacher

John Owens, Confessions of a Bad Teacher: The Shocking Truth from the Front Lines of American Public Education. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks, 2013. ISBN: 9781402281006.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Memoir, Education reform.

I enjoyed this book very much, and I found myself nodding a lot as I read it. I am a former school teacher, and I can relate to a lot of what Owens went through. From the inane pre-semester new teacher training to tyrannical principals, I've experienced much of what he describes as well. I was also labeled as bad teacher for wanting to actually teach and having high expectations of my students. I was young back then, and I have learned a lot and grown as a teacher since then. So many memories and thoughts ran through my mind as I read it. This book spoke to me without the "wonder teacher" syndrome or excessive sentimentality that so many teacher memoirs have. Once I started it, I was not able to put it down.

Public school teachers should find something to relate to in this book. In some cases, it may hit very close to home, especially for good teachers who care and work hard for their students for this is not a book about a "bad" teacher. It is a book about a teacher caught in a very bad system. A lot of parents and community members have no idea what really goes on in public schools; they often fall for the brainwashing scam that school teachers are to blame for every poor school and for every child's ills in schools. That is simply not the case, and John Owens shows why in this book.

The book is organized into fourteen chapters where Owens takes us through his school year at Latinate Institute.Then, like a good teacher, he ends the book with a summary of lessons learned from the classroom experience.  He also adds some strong suggestions on what can be done. Additionally, the book includes footnotes here and there that serve to bolster his arguments or to illustrate his points. Plus, there are some segments selected by Owens where other teachers speak on their experiences. Given the culture of retaliation that exists in the education establishment, some of those teachers remain pseudonymous. Owens does note that names have been changed to protect others as needed.

In this book, not many people come out looking good, deservedly so. Ms. P, the principal, is in essence a tyrant more worried about the school as a pageant than in actually educating kids let alone giving teachers the resources and support they need. Owens' teacher colleagues vary: one or two were brave warriors trying to educate in impossible conditions; others were nothing more than dead weight protected by tenure and/or sycophants of Ms. P. That latter group are the truly bad teachers, the ones we should get rid but fail to do so. As for the students, we get a broad range of issues and experiences. They are challenged by issues such as poverty, living conditions, parents with various degrees of neglect and self-entitlement, lack of institutional support, and in the case of special education students, lack of legally mandated classroom assistance and support. To a large extent, it is no wonder there are so many discipline problems. However, in the ultimate insult, teachers are made powerless to deal with disciplinary problems in any efficient way. As for Ms. P, she pretty much washed her hands when it came to student discipline. She left it up to the teachers but then in essence ordered them not to discipline. The way Ms. P managed Latinate evokes Dilbert's pointy-haired boss. Yet Dilbert is a funny comic strip (even though for many workers it does hit close to home). The situation at Latinate Institute is a farce and a tragedy. It is a tragedy that happens in schools across the United States.

Parents do have to shoulder some blame here. Owens at times may go a bit easy on them due to their often bad conditions. But there are moments when parents simply have to take responsibility and discipline their kids, and they often simply flat out refuse to deal with their kids. That is neglect and irresponsible parenting, and it needs to be denounced as such.  Then again, between neglectful parents and lack of consequence for bad behavior in the school, is it any wonder the kids lie, cheat, and steal as well as act up? The adults, as Owens shows, have abdicated their responsibilities. It's easier for them to label all teachers as "bad" teachers than to actually look in the mirror, accept responsibility, and do what must be done. Now, there are some bad teachers out there, and they need to be removed from classrooms. But most teachers are decent, hardworking, knowledgeable and dedicated educators that get labeled with the "bad" teacher mark for no other reason than it is easier to do so. As for parents, it seems one or two are the good ones, the exception rather than the rule. That has to change.

I don't really care for teacher memoirs as they often turn into miracle worker narratives that don't really say anything other than "we done good." However, Owens' book truly exposes what goes on in classrooms across the United States, a view from the trenches. This is a book that parents and policy makers need to read, and then they need to start some long and hard conversations to fix the educational system over time. It can be done, but it won't happen overnight.  And while there are truly bad teachers out there, the majority of teachers are good, and they care for your children and wish to educate them well. But they need your support, and this means more than just platitudes, some kind words on some "Teacher Appreciation Day" or yet another mug. They need serious help support, and resources. It's time to change the narrative of blaming and labeling all teachers as bad teachers. Read this book, learn more, and take some action.

If you ask me, this one gets a 5 out of 5 stars.

Librarian note. Books with similar appeal that I have read:
  • Samuel G. Freedman, Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students, and Their High School. I read this when I was getting ready to do my student teaching. The book came to mind in reading Owens' work. If anything, I think things have gotten worse since Freedman's book was before NCLB, and NCLB basically launched the "test everything and teach to the test" mentality running rampant now at the expense of actual education. 
  • The works of Jonathan Kozol related to public schools such as Savage Inequalities.

Note to appease The Man: I read Owens' book as an electronic galley provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. The book is scheduled for release in August 2013.