Tuesday, April 30, 2013

blended family YA series.

After reading Winter’s Tide by Lisa Williams Kline, I was excited to share it with my students who are the same age as main characters Diana and Stephanie. I love having “book talks” with my kids, and really appreciate Zonderkids sending along this wonderful addition to my classroom library. This is Book 4 of the Sisters in all Seasons series, previous installments revolved around the other three seasons, very clever. It was a bit juvenile for my ninth graders, regardless of the character’s ages, but we all thought it was a good read regardless. Involving real issues like blended families and death.

A little background, Diana’s mom and Stephanie’s dad got married, blending the two families together. Winter’s Tide focuses on the importance of forgiveness. Diana and Stephanie are not only stepsisters, but opposites, and have always had a rocky relationship. Things get even rockier when everything goes wrong all at once. When Stephanie’s grandmother is hospitalized and Diana is suspended for fighting a bully, the holes in their patchy relationship threaten to grow wider. Oddly enough, it is the beaching of a pilot whale on the North Carolina coast that brings the two girls together and gives them a fresh awareness of their own weaknesses and empathy with each other.

Monday, April 29, 2013

shouldn’t we have an ark on standby?

100 years later, Geoff Williams has taken the event of The Great Flood to a whole new level in his nonfiction book titled Washed Away. Williams compiles the stories of those who survived, those who didn't and those who lost loved ones during the most widespread flood in American history. Millions were left homeless, their homes washed away. With over 700 deaths, it was such a devastating tragedy during that time.

I am embarrassingly uneducated when it comes to our country’s history. Really, it’s terrible. I am assuming someone must have mentioned The Great Flood to me in my twenty-seven years, but I have heard no other information than that, until I read William’s book, which was extremely informative, not to mention interesting. This flood of biblical proportions wiped out fourteen states. That’s pretty huge, and thanks to Williams, the people affected will not be forgotten.

Friday, April 26, 2013

did we just become best friends?

Sometimes you meet a character and you become best friends. Stephanie Plum and I have a relationship like that. It helps that she stars in over nineteen books and that she’s hilarious and likes to eat donuts. Janet Evanovich’s latest installment of the series titled Notorious Nineteen is just as good as the rest of the bunch, as impossible as that sounds.

This installment of the Stephanie Plum Series revolves around Geoffrey Cubbin, who is missing after embezzling millions from an assisted-living facility in Trenton. You can image how Grandma Mazur uses her old lady skills to help out on this case. I love that old broad. On the side Stephanie started body-guarding a pretty dangerous situation with Ranger, you know, for extra cash, and to smell him. Morelli is still in the picture and helps Stephanie and a silly midget solve the Cubbin disappearance case. Lula is on one of her many diets, Vinnie is still gross, Connie takes care of business, and things get pretty hilarious, as usual.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

new novel and warm weather, that sounds good, i’ll have that.

Tara Conkin’s The House Girl flawlessly switches between two time periods (pre-Civil War and 21st century) telling the stories of Josephine, a slave girl, Carolina (Lina), a New York City attorney, and Lina's father, Oscar, an artist.

Josephine decides she must run away from her owners, and sets out to get as far away as possible. Lina, who seems discontent with her own life has been given the chance to head the research for her firm, representing a victim of slavery in a reparations case.
The two are tied together as Lina begins working the case and searching for a living descendant of an American slave, she goes inside of her father's world of art and learns of the controversy surrounding the paintings of the 19th century artist Lu Ann Bell. Through her father, Lina learns that many art critics believe that the paintings were really the work of Josephine Bell, Lu Ann's house girl, Josephine.
Ms. Conklin’s debut novel turned into a “just one more page” read for this girl. Kick ass.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

the ultimate obama survival guide.

Welp, didn’t really think that getting a new president would require a survival guide, but according to author Wayne Allyn Root and many others, apparently it does.
In The Ultimate Obama Survival Guide: How to Survive, Thrive, and Prosper during the Obamageddon, Part One is compiled of sixteen short chapters that describe the author's views on the present economic mess we are in and how the big spending and big deficit policies of Bush and Obama helped create it and how Obama's policies are making this mess a long term reality.
Part Two includes sixteen more chapters on Root’s views of surviving the “Obama Zombie Economy”. He is deathly concerned with all the money printing and believes it will turn our currency into confetti at some point. Well don’t hold anything back, Root.
Wayne Root offers claim after claim about how the administration is changing the face of America, he also offers many fact based websites that offer stats that appear to back up his claims. Interestingly enough, Root paints a very convincing picture of a good state government (Texas) and pairing that with a not so good local government (Detroit), saying that we're going the way of Detroit, gross. But his arguments on this topic along with everything else are pretty right on, and terrifying. Obama’s America pretty much wipes out the middle class, upper middle class, and small businesses. HELLO?! THAT’S US.

***For a chance to win a FREE copy, follow this blog then email your name, address, and this book title to: jenileerose@yahoo.com!

Monday, April 22, 2013

poetry for every content.

I love the idea of reading and writing workshops. We don’t really have an equivalent to them at the school I work at, but I absolutely think that we should. I have seen these workshops in middle schools, but never at the high school level, which needs to change. Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli have created a mentor text which shows how to use poems in both reading and writing workshops and across content areas titled Poetry Mentor Texts: Making Reading and Writing Connections, K-8.

This text is a collection of lessons devoted to making reading and writing connections through poetry. The authors include a number of different styles of poetry in every chapter, along with a basic lesson using that poem laid out for you. Included are poems that help students reflect on their own lives and poems that inspire response.
Each poetry lesson includes a writing connection, for example: Why did the author choose the words they did? Each poetry lesson also includes a reading connection, for example: Understanding the structure of a poem to help reading comprehension. This helpful resource contains ideas on how to use guided practice, independent reading, and student reflection while using poetry as well. Poetry Mentor Texts is perfect for elementary school teachers.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

which downton abbey character are you?

Let me put it this way, my mother, grandmother, and I all read While We Were Watching Downton Abbey at the same time so that we could talk about it after we were finished, like a book club of sorts. Proving that this is a book for every age; 20’s, 50’s, 70’s and everyone in between. We are obsessed with the show Downton Abbey, and have been watching all 3 season’s on DVD over and over again, impatiently waiting for season 4 to begin and air in the US. I absolutely adored how author Wendy Wax incorporated scenes from the actual show throughout the novel. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me give you the 411 on our main characters.

Set in present day Atlanta, Wax tells the story of Brooke, Samantha, Claire, and Edward as an omniscient (or all knowing) narrator. Brooke is a recently divorced mother of two little girls who feels incredibly bad about herself due to her plastic surgeon ex-husband who has made her feel like shit throughout their entire marriage. Samantha is a very wealthy southern socialite who married her current husband, John after her parents died leaving her to raise her younger brother and sister. Claire is a writer/single mother who moved to the area after her daughter went off to college in hopes to write her third romantic historical fiction novel. These three are brought together by (British) Edward, their apartment building concierge who, in hopes to bring the building together as a community of sorts, began screening Downton Abbey with themed English snacks and drinks every Sunday night.

The novel is just plain enjoyable as we watch the characters evolve and become stronger as individuals due to the support they now receive in these new friendships.

Friday, April 19, 2013

being polish has never been so easy.

I am proud to be Polish, probably a little too proud. Although it's past Dyngus Day, and it would have been much cuter to have a themed review, I am going to give you a little taste of my heritage with Laura and Peter Zeranski's Polish Classic Desserts, anyway. I mean, everyday is Dyngus Day if you have a pussy willow on hand, am I right?

For those of you who do not have a grandparent who holds all of the coveted Polish dessert recipes on hand, this is the perfect authentic recipe book for you. All of my favorites are included: cheesecakes, sweet pierogi's, and my number one, the rhubarb crumble. This is like looking through my grandfather's hand written recipes, only more legible and with more torte options. The Polish are known for their need for a sweet ending, and the Zeranski's have compiled a fabulous collection of the many crowd pleasers. From tarts to Babka's, no classic sweet is left behind. Each recipe is easy to follow and 100% traditional. If you are looking for an already perfected Polish dessert recipe, look no further my friends.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

you cannot train away your kid's nature, you must embrace it.

I typically pride myself on NOT being a parent. I'm currently living a fabulous selfish life right now, and it pretty much rocks. I am a realist, and know that this will not last forever. Someday, I will pop out a little nugget and probably resent that child for the rest of my life. For the sake of this next review, let's pretend that I am excited about the whole parenting thing, ready and willing to learn everything I can to be the best one I can be. Like all of you, I'm sure.

Conor Gallagher came up with a very catchy title for his parent how-to guide, If Aristotle's Kid Had an iPod: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Parents. I did enjoy how he compared kid whispering to dog whispering right in chapter 1, that instantly made sense to me. But parents know best that sometimes you can use every trick in the book, and nothing works, which is what the rest of the chapters touch on. This is not your typical parenting book. Gallagher is very philosophical about the whole thing, letting Aristotle do a lot of the teaching since human nature is what he knew best. Gallagher includes both Biblical, scientific study, real life, and literature examples to make his points, which held my childless teacher interest.

What I really got from the book? It has an overwhelming amount of (good) information, which I clearly sped through to get this review out in a timely manner, so make sure you take your time reading through each chapter. Also, to really bring Aristotle's ideas to life, I am going to have to change my own thinking and behavior. And if I do follow this philosophy on parenting, I will have created this beautiful little creature with a happy life who will just be ruined by public school and society in general. That's just the pessimist in me, I would absolutely recommend this book to those of you thinking about becoming parents, or who have little babies. Your kids aren't ruined yet, you't got some time to read.

Monday, April 15, 2013

an excellent slice of WWII history.

Women's roles in wars throughout history has always been an interest of mine. I love reading about women who did their part, stepping up like a man to fight (in their own ways) for their countries. I'm inspired, and continue to be inspired by women who are fighting (literally) today. That being said, I absolutely loved Denise Kiernan's The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II.

In 1943, thousands of young women were recruited by the U.S. government to serve the top-secret Manhattan Project. Project organizers determined that the ideal workers would be young high school girls, especially those from rural backgrounds, because “they did what they were told” and “they weren’t overly curious.” Kiernan tells the never-before-told story of the Manhattan Project through the experiences of several of the women who lived and worked at Oak Ridge. She tells of how they were recruited, what they did at the reservation, and what happened to them afterwards. It wasn't until after Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the people at Oak Ridge learned they had been building the atomic bomb.

Holy crap this was a good book.

Friday, April 12, 2013

foxy and badger.

Gerald Seymour’s A Deniable Death is a must-read for lovers of thrillers. In this novel, British intelligence is trying to take out an Iranian genius in developing IEDs (a.k.a. improvised explosive devices) whose efforts have resulted in hundreds of casualties. A two-man team, Foxy and Badger, travel from the marshes of southern Iraq across the border into Iran to discover when the target will travel overseas with his wife so she can have surgery for a brain tumor. The team plants listening devices that they monitor while hidden in Ghillie suits in the swamp around his home. Our protagonists, Foxy and Badger are highly professional and experienced covert observation specialists, but when the information turns out to be elusive and the tension between the two watchers grows as each day in the marshes becomes longer, hotter, and more dangerous.

Seymour has created a truly excellent plot here, with an attention to detail that must have taken a huge amount of research. You just have to respect that.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

english teaching lovers only.

I have been a huge fan of Cris Tovani since I decided I wanted to become a teacher. I’ve read her numerous books on engaging students in reading and helping them respond to literature more effectively. Many of her strategies have been used during my first year of teaching. So you can imagine how ecstatic I was to receive her latest DVD Talk to Me which comes with a very helpful viewing guide on CD-ROM.

Tovani’s main focus in this DVD is to show how she uses conferring (or conferencing) mostly one-on-one with students, and monitors their progress while they read books of their choice. Tovani plans her lessons so that after her classes read a required text they spend three weeks working on “free choice” readings. She brings up the idea that these required novels teachers must get through every year typically focus around literary elements rather than the other important aspects of reading like fluency, stamina, comprehension and vocabulary. She made an interesting point. I focus primarily on literary elements in my 9th grade class because they will need to be able to remember them for the Regents exam in 11th grade. I don’t have much time to sit down with each student and track data like comprehension, fluency and stamina while reading.

When Tovani confers with students throughout a reading workshop she is able to track their progress by asking them questions, but mostly letting her students do the talking and telling her what they need. She takes the time to help students find choice texts that fit their needs, especially for lower level and higher level readers. Tovani also includes a letter writing workshop she completed with her 11th graders where they worked on figuring out how to write for their specific audience. She gave students models of letters to look deeper into what writers do and how they grab the reader’s attention.

Tovani’s goal is to ensure that her students are getting smarter every day. She is looking for students to construct personal meaning for themselves while they read. Look deeper into a text more naturally, relate to themselves to the characters, etc. She wants them to learn to write for themselves and read for themselves, not for her. Tovani makes her students more responsible for their learning, which is what we need to do at the secondary level. There is so much more that this DVD has to offer that I haven’t even touched on in this review. I highly recommend it for the English teacher looking to engage every student in reading and writing.

Monday, April 8, 2013

more like an encyclopedia.

Make room in your shelves for this next title people, because it's magnitude of information and size reaches Encyclopedia heights. A Light In The Darkness Vol. 1: Seven Messages to the Church by Rick Renner is a volume that speaks volumes (just being funny, don't mind me).

Light includes wonderful photography that helps make Biblical places come to life during your study. There is a focus on the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation, offering fascinating insights into the apostle John's vision on the island of Patmos. Renner also explores the people and cultures of the First Century Church, with an emphasis on the cities of Ephesus and Smyrna.

Remember, this is a Bible study book, so only those who are interested in a truly historical based study of the Bible will benefit from Renner's 552 pages of hard work. If this applies to you then you will be anxiously waiting for Renner's next volumes as the first only goes through Smyrna. There has yet to be a book in the Christian community that compares to the study and presentation of this matter.

***For a chance to win a FREE copy, follow this blog then email your name, address, and this book title to: jenileerose@yahoo.com!

Friday, April 5, 2013

another old school jodi picoult.

While on my vacation to Myrtle Beach last week (I returned Tuesday night to a snowy Western New York and I have to say, I am not pleased) I read Jodi Picoult's The Pact. I chose it because it was the only Jodi Picoult book that I hadn't read in a mass paperback because I am super cheap. I desperately needed a book to take me away while I laid in the sun for an ungodly amount of hours, and Picoult always has my back on that.

(when it got a little too cold, but I still couldn't pull myself away from the sun)

The Pact revolved around the Harte and the Gold families, who have been pretty much inseparable since Augusta (Gus) Harte barged into Melanie Gold's house the day she and her husband, Michael moved in next door. The two young women were pregnant at the very same time. Gus was as big as a house while Melanie had just started to show. And they just connected. Gus gave birth to Christopher, and Melanie gave birth to Emily a few months later which led to the children becoming inseparable as well. A kind of relationship that twins have, although Em and Chris were not actually blood related, which was good because they fell in love as teenagers. Something their parents had always wished for.

Everything was going according to plan, and it was a lovely plan until it completely unravelled with two late night phone calls. Seventeen-year old's Em and Chris had been injured, and as it turned out, they had a plan of their own. To commit suicide together. A suicide pact that turned every one's worlds upside down when Em completed her end of the deal and Chris was unable to make it that far. So here we are with one teenager dead and the other alive talking about a suicide pact that went amiss. The idea of two extremely intelligent and gifted seniors about to begin applying to colleges being involved in a suicide pact was unfathomable to everyone. This was when the idea that a Romeo and Juliet double suicide made a very convincing cover up, for murder.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

save money on scrapbooking software.

If you love to scrapbook, check out this new easy to use software.

(click on the graphic and it will take you to the website)

If you love to save money, use this $10 off code when you make your purchase:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

love this message.

Cake by Joyce Magnin is a delicious little novel about a twelve-year-old foster kid named Wilma Sue who seems destined to spend her life hopping from foster home to foster home. It is not as depressing as it sounds, really. Some have called Cake a touch of Mary Poppins with a dash of Anne of Green Gables, and I have to say, I agree.

When Wilma Sue moves in with sisters Ruth and Naomi, she tries desperately to fit in and make this her permanent home. Everyone knows that when you try too hard to perfect, you usually make a mess, and our Wilma Sue did just that. When she discovers that the cakes Ruth and Naomi bake for the needy are filled with more than just frosting, she attempts to make her own for a new friend, with disastrous results. Magnin shares very thoughtful messages on love, compassion and forgiveness, that every middle school kid should see.

***For a chance to win a FREE copy, follow this blog then email your name, address, and this book title to: jenileerose@yahoo.com!

Monday, April 1, 2013

a different type of memoir.

The only appropriate way to begin a book titled, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, is with a cocktail. I had just emptied my dresser drawer stash of Christmas booze so I had to pick up a brand new bottle of Three Olives Cherry vodka for the occasion. Darn.

Alexandra Fuller's latest memoir, which acts as a bit of an extension of her Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, retells the the story of her childhood in Africa. Cocktail doesn't focus as much on Fuller as it does her high-spirited mother, which was a nice twist from her first book. It is an educational and insightful documentation of her parents living and struggling in Kenya and Rhodesia during modern times. I enjoyed Fuller's lack of bias the most. She balanced affection for her parents while also showing the implications of their choices. There was no romanticizing the era of British control in Africa. Fuller describes the violence of late 20th-century Kenya and Zimbabwe in a way that felt fair and accurate.