Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett

I seldom actually get to read what I wish. Most of the time I read books from recommended YA lists or from books that teachers and/or students recommend. A few times I'll read a book that I've purchased for the library that looks intriguing or if I've seen an author discuss their book. So... one of my secret pleasures is "reading" an adult book. I've been hooked on Ken Follett's book since I read Pillars of the Earth many years ago. Historical fiction is my thing, and I don't know almost anyone who does it better than Ken Follett.

I actually "read with my ears" Ken Follett's new book, Edge of Eternity. (Considering it runs almost 37 hours, it was a great investment of my time.) It's the third in the Century Trilogy. This covered the period from 1961 to the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Follett continues the saga with the next generation of the characters that he introduced in his first and second books. The cast of characters is so broad there's a web page dedicated to it. Because the plot is so complicated and covers so much history, I'm not going to bore anyone with it. Suffice it to say, he covers everything from the Civil Rights Movement to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. His characters are involved in every aspect of the period and rub elbows with all of the movers and shakers of the day. He also spent a lot of time discussing the music scene in the 1960s.

Several things I notice about all Follett's books that I've read:

1. He likes women and there's always strong female characters in his books. That said, those women always have a downfall usually involving a man that they eventually overcome. In Edge of Eternity, he's got several strong female characters. For example, Maria Summers is an African American woman with a law degree from the University of Chicago. In a later part of the book, a character comments that her accomplishments would have been outstanding for a white man, but were amazing for an African American woman. She works in the State Department, but early in her career had an affair with JFK that nearly destroyed her. Another character,  teacher Rebecca Hoffmann Held, unknowingly marries an East German Stasi agent. When she discovers what he really is, she embarrassingly kicks him out of her home which causes him to have a long-running vendetta against her family in East Berlin. She and her future husband, Bernd, escape across the Berlin wall. Although Bernd is handicapped in a fall, they have a happy marriage. Later she becomes a high-ranking politician in the West German government.

2. He's a liberal. It isn't hard to see that Follett likes JFK, RFK. and Martin Luther King, Jr. in this book even with their faults. Using Greg Peshkov to foreshadow events, he evidently despises Nixon, Reagan, and Bush Sr. showing that despite all of the United States' best efforts, Communism destroyed itself. One of his characters, Cameron Dewar, rises high in Republican administrations, but is not a likable character. Follett doesn't even let Cameron marry a sympathetic wife.

3.  He seems to hate the church. While the church really doesn't play a big role in this volume, other than Jacky Jakes attending services, none of this cast of characters has any religious affiliation. Caroline(?), Walli's young love interest and mother of his daughter, later marries a minister who proves to be gay.

4. There's always a lot of sex in his books. I sometimes wonder how his characters have the time to do all of the great things they do. I'll leave it at that.

No, this isn't for middle schoolers. I wouldn't even recommend it for most high school students. However, I always anxiously await another book from Ken Follett.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Poison by Bridget Zinn

Master Potioner, Kyra, has visions that her best friend, Princess Ariana, is out to destroy the Kingdom of Mohr. Using her skill, she shoots a poisoned dart at the Princess, but she misses. Now everyone in the Kingdom is out to find and kill her.

Asking help to locate the missing Ariana, Kyra receives a magic pig which will help her find the princess. Along with way, she meets a farmer, Fred, who she cannot stop thinking of especially after they share a kiss.

All is not as it seems, however, with Princess Ariana. And with Kyra, too. That's where the fun comes in...

Here's a YouTube Book Trailer:



I really liked Poison. While there was a certain "Disneyesque" quality about the book (it was published by Hyperion), there was also enough edge to make it interesting. Several threads were left hanging which could have pointed to a sequel, but unfortunately, Bridget Zinn died before the publication of the book.

More New Books!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Smore

 I am currently working on the Guided Inquiry Project for seventh grade that Paige Ashley, Peggy Turlington, and I created at the CISSL Institute at Rutgers University last summer. Here's one of the centers that we will use next month. I created the poster on Smore.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

I decided to read The Impossible Knife of Memory because I heard it described as a cross between The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park. What was not to like there?  And then it was written by Laurie Halse Anderson. Again, what was not to like there? Even though this really ISN'T a middle school novel, I decided to give it a go. What did I find? The portrayal of Hayley Kincain's protection of her father reminded me more of Cath's protection of her father in Fangirl. The witty repartee between Finn and Hayley was like Augustus and Hazel Grace, and the romance between Hayley and Finn was much like Eleanor and Park.  What's not to like?

When I was with Finn, the world spun properly on its axis, and gravity worked. At home, the planet tilted so far on its side it was hard to tell which way was up. Dad felt it, too. He shuffled like an old man, as if the carpet under his feet was really a slick sheet of black ice.

Hayley Kincain and her truck-driving father had been on the road for five years. Her dad, Andy, decided they needed to settle down in his hometown so that Hayley could attend school. Hayley, on the other hand, feels that school is a bore and readily refuses to do her work, attend class, or participate in groups. When asked to write for the school newspaper, she meets Finn, and her world literally changes for the better. Finn's family is also having a difficult time dealing with his sister's drug addiction and her sapping the family's savings and income.

At home, Andy suffers from PTSD after having served in the Iraq war. He drinks, gets high, cannot keep a job, and becomes abusive. Hayley attempts to keep things together and becomes her father's caregiver. Because of this, she refuses to accept reality and "covers" for her dad.

Even her friend, Gracie, deals with issues. Her parents are going through a very messy separation, and she and her boyfriend have difficulties getting along.

In a word, Hayley's life with the exception of Finn is a mess. How to deal with boring school, a dad out of control, and a lack of support system?

While the situations in the story are hard to deal with, I really liked The Impossible Knife of Memory. Finn is the kind of boyfriend most girls would like to have. He's loyal, funny, and adores Hayley. Hayley deals with her life's situations as best as a teenager can. She's tough but vulnerable. While she does some things that absolutely drive me crazy, she's still likable. Andy's pain is palpable. In his coherent moments, it's obvious that he cares for Hayley; he just can't care for himself.

I would definitely recommend this to kids who enjoyed TFIOS, Eleanor and Park, or Fangirl. I think there's something here for everyone.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Books!

Here's an Animoto I created for the new books that arrived in the library today:


Friday, October 10, 2014

Texas Lone Star Reading List

This week I spent a lot of time working on an inquiry project for 7th (more about that in the future) and planning the meeting for the  Library ISAS Self-Study Committee. Neither are particularly glamorous, but it's part of the job.

This has also been Homecoming Week, the kids have dressed crazily each day, and their behavior often matches their outfits.

However, I did get to do some Lone Star Reading List "booktalks." I put booktalks in quotes because I really use Youtube book trailers. (Thanks to all of the publishers, librarians, and readers out there who produce them, because I don't really want to.)

I also gave the sixth graders the LAST bookmark that I ever plan to make. From now on, it's QR codes for me.

I have prepared a PhotoPeach spiral for the books because it's so easy and looks so cool. I plan to show it on our large screen downstairs in the future to remind the kids of the books. It was also really cool to hear several of the kids announce, "I've read that!" when particular titles showed up.

2014-2015 Lone Star Reading List on PhotoPeach

I've also spent time on Twitter this week. (See earlier blog post.) I'm finally seeing the power of Twitter as a PLN. I've picked up a lot of good ideas. I created a Instagram account for the library which I still need to learn to use.

Oh, yeah, I also reviewed the students in Heather Haas' seventh grade science classes in how to create citations in NoodleTools, read some book reviews, worked on my book order, paid some bills in the library, and read some professional articles.

So, while nothing majorly "exciting" has happened this week, I have been really busy.

Now for a L-O-N-G weekend and hopefully some fun reading!