Review: Howdunit Forensics: A Guide for Writers by D.P. Lyle

When you are writing a murder mystery, eventually somebody is going to have to die, but unless you have a real-life back ground in forensics and an infallible memory, you are going to need some help making your murder feel authentic and believable. Enter the “Howdunit” series from Writer’s Digest Books. This set of (at last count 13) books is designed to help a writer plan, execute, and – sometimes – prosecute the crimes his characters commit. Continue reading

Review: The Prom Book: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need by Lauren Metz

prom bookLauren Metz began her professional career on staff at Seventeen Magazine, and it shows in her work.

While the author aims to write a book that makes the ultimate prom seem within the reach of any of her readers, she begins Chapter One by, revealing that, the week before she started her job at Seventeen Magazine, she attended three proms in one week. Nothing intimidating there – no – not at all. Gentle readers – do NOT try to gauge your own popularity by comparing your schedule to that of the book’s author. Attending one prom – with a date, a group, or stag is infinitely preferable than a week spent juggling 3 dresses, a garden full of flowers, and a series of dates whose names you might slip-up and confuse at an awkward moment!

Metz does offer much valuable advice that bears mention.

Prom planning goes beyond planning your date, dress and flowers. The author advocates picking up odd jobs to help with the budget. Prom can be ab expensive ordeal, and Metz suggests offering to split the cost with your parents (At one point, she suggests cleaning out the family garage and selling your parents’ stuff on Ebay. Let me add my own advice – check with your parents before you accidentally sell one of their prized possessions.) Metz wisely advises teens not to abandon any money making ventures after prom, reminding teens that college costs are right around the corner!

I cannot whole-heartedly buy into the book’s subtitle (after all, I was once a teen girl – I know it requires scores of books, magazines, websites, text messages, and good, old fashioned phone calls to multiple friends to ready ones self for an formal dance, let alone prom) I do think Metz’ missive is a great place to start – IF you are a dress wearing member of the party. Apparently, if you are male, or dressing in a tux or something traditionally labeled as, “masculine,” you are out of luck. Metz’s book is aimed at only the most feminine of girly-girls

Review: Literature for Every Learner- Laurie Westphal

literature for every lernerWhile I am not an expert on educational methods, as a librarian, I have had the opportunity to assist middle school students with assignments related to the literature included in their class curriculum.  The students were often required to use complex technologies in accordance with requirements dictated by the local or state school system.  While the finished products were overwhelmingly attractive, they mask the reality that students too often do not have a working comprehension of the literature. In the past, I have likened this trend to spreading decorative icing over a hollow cake.

Laurie E. Westphal’s Literature for Every Learner (Grades 6-8): Differentiating Instruction with Menus for Poetry, Short Stories, and Novels, tackles this problem by presenting multiple projects for each piece of literature that require various levels of critical thinking and a thorough understanding of the readings. The projects described in the book address not only various learning methods, such as visual, auditory, through a technique known as differentiated learning.  Differentiation provides a structure for successful teaching of students at different learning levels with multiple paths to master content and process information.  The system provides a method for instructors to develop teaching materials and employ assessment tools that allow all students in their classroom to achieve, regardless of differences in ability.

I was very impressed by Wesphal’s proposed learning methods, as well as by the organization of the book, itself. “Literature for Every Learner,” contains reproducible “menus,” each based on the levels of Bloom’s revised taxonomy, from which students can select the projects that most appeal to them and align with what they perceive to be their learning strengths. Additionally, the design of the menus ensures that students must mix and match multiple activities, including projects that will stretch their skills.

pub. Prufrock Press (2014), Paperback, 192 pages

Review: “Torn Shapes of Desire” by Mary Anne Mohanraj


torn shapes of desireTorn Shapes of Desire was originally published in paperback by Intangible Assets Manufacturing (March 31, 1997). That first edition was produced in protest of restrictive censorship laws that were being considered at the time, among which was The Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). The CDA was the first notable attempt by the United States Congress to regulate pornographic material on the Internet. In 1997, in the landmark cyberlaw case of Reno v. ACLU, the United States Supreme Court struck the anti-indecency provisions of the Act.

Mary Anne Mohanraj was born in Sri Lanka and came to the United States as a toddler. Her classical, traditional parents did their best to raise their eldest daughter for the life they expected for her–the educated wife of a man she might meet only a couple of times before accepting him in an arranged marriage, but Mohanraj wanted a different life. While a student at the University of Chicago, a chance run-in on the early Internet with and rec.arts.erotica changed her destiny.

She found herself shocked, not by the graphic nature of the newsgroups but rather by the poor quality of the writing she found there!

Mohanraj believed she could write better erotica than she was reading. Upon receiving the praise and encouragement she had not experienced posting her non-erotic fiction on rec.arts.prose, she quickly built up a collection of short pieces of erotica.

In the Introduction to Torn Shapes of Desire, Mohanraj relates, “I write these stories as part of my own attempt to change the world. I write stories with strong consenting women, to remind people that strong women are sexy and that consent is crucial. I write stories with characters of various sexual orientations and genders, to spread a little awareness. I write stories dealing with taboo subjects. Mainly, I try to write stories with real people — people who love and hate and fear and sometimes have sex for all the wrong reasons; people who have lives and hopes and dreams beyond the immediate sex act. I’m trying to shape a healthier world…”

Torn Shapes of Desire contains forty of Mary Anne Mohanraj’s best Internet Erotica short stories and poems.

Other authors: Dale L. Larson (Photographer), Tracy Lee