Monday, March 28, 2016

a hero you can relate to.

A middle grade spy novel? YES. A huge win for the popular Jackson Pearce. The Doublecross: And Other Skills I Learned as a Superspy features chubby twelve-year-old Hale Jordon who was born into a secret spy society, and is now being trained to follow in his parent's footsteps. Problem is, Hale is a bit out of shape which is keeping him from passing his physical exam. He may not be svelte, but the kid is smart, and size definitely does not matter when he sets out to save his parents AND THE WORLD.

Friday, March 25, 2016

math and relationships.

I don't know a lot about love. And I know even less about math. So I assumed The Mathematics of Love: Patterns, Proofs, and the Search for the Ultimate Equation would be an interesting read for me, and I was right. Author Hannah Fry found a major similarity between love and math. and that similarity is patterns. Love being full of patterns, and math being the study of patterns. This is more a book about human behavior than a boring book about patterns. So if you aren't an intellectual per say, that's okay. The Mathematics of Love was very readable, fun, and may help you find your "perfect" equation.

And now I'll be able to show my high school kids how they can use math in real life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

comics for girls.

Teachers, publishers, parents, are putting in a lot of effort to create these amazing graphic novels and young adult series for middle grade boys to get them into reading. Hello? What about the girls? I loved to read the second I was properly taught how, but what about the girls I deal with everyday who hate reading, find it boring, have a hard time finding a book they relate to, etc.?

Enter Dana Simpson's Phoebe and Her Unicorn series. Yes, I am aware that a girl and her unicorn aren't exactly relatable. But the whole premise of the third installment, Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure, which came out last month, is how to make friends at summer camp. And any middle grade girl can relate to that. The series is funny, up to date on what is cool, with a touch of the imagination we want our young girls to keep for as long as possible.

Monday, March 21, 2016

emotional hoarder.

When things get bad, and I'm talking really bad, so it doesn't happen often. But when it does, my first instinct is to shut down. I am better about it since I got married and legit have to share my life with someone. But I still struggle. Sometimes I just don't want to deal. I would rather play dead.

Clearing Emotional Clutter by Donald Altman is packed with valuable advice for those of you who are emotional. You're up. You're down. You have a hard time letting yourself just be. Yes, the idea of someone asking me to "cultivate a beautiful garden of thought" made me kind of want to punch them in the face. No offense, Donald. But people like me (and maybe you) need people like Donald Altman to remind us to stop allowing our emotions distract us from our real lives.

I am not clinically depressed. Or regular depressed. But I was still able to recognize some of my own emotional clutter. I took some time to do some mental spring cleaning, and it has been pretty liberating.

Friday, March 18, 2016

creepy, creepy glen.

Well, you really can't trust anyone. Just a lesson I learned reading Fiona Barton's debut novel The Widow which had four very different narrators, and I'm over here like, who do I trust?

Jean Taylor's husband was accused of abducting a child but never convicted. Jean stood by her man despite a lot of negative press. Now that he's dead, Jean must decide if she wants to tell her story. Told mostly through the eyes of Jean, but also by the police officer in charge, the mother of the victim, and the journalist who showed up at her doorstep to get the untold story, Barton creates a very interesting and eerie story that should not be compared to recently popular thrillers.

Did you ever watch the TV show Motive? It shows the audience who committed the murder right at the beginning, and then through the entire episode you piece together the motive, and it's always surprising. That's a good example of the format of this novel.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

imaginative and irish.

Since it's St. Patrick's Day tomorrow, I thought an Irish novel heavy on the Gaelic dialect would be ideal to review.

Adrian McKinty has done a wonderful job setting apart his Detective Sean Duffy series by taking readers back in time (to the 1980's) and to a foreign (to most of us Americans) land, Northern Ireland. I am only curious as to why it took the fifth book for me to hear about it. But oh well, Rain Dogs is freestanding, and I plan to catch up on the rest later.

Detective Sean Duffy is funny, he's dark, he's got great taste in whiskey, he always checks his car for bombs before getting in. He's really enjoyable to read about. And in the fifth installment of everyone's new favorite series a journalist is found dead in the courtyard of Carrickfergus Castle, and although it appears to be suicide, Duffy's gut tells him to take another look. To solve the case, Duffy travels to Belfast, London during the height of "The Troubles" and an ice road of Helsinki. The descriptions are great. The storyline is clever. It's not super past paced, but there are still twists and turns. It's not as gruesome as I imagined, what with the times. All in all, a win from me.

Monday, March 14, 2016

crime fiction.

The last few novels I've read have been good, but not exactly action packed. I knew I could count on Michael Sears and his Jason Stafford series to give me exactly what I was looking for, a wild ride. And Saving Jason absolutely did. It can stand alone, but I recommend getting to know all of the characters in the three previous installments before diving into this one. A little background, Jason Stafford is former brilliant Wall Street trader, who did some jail time, and is now working as a financial investigator and reports to Virgil Becker of the Becker Financial Group.

Saving Jason has a dramatic opening when Jason finds himself in a shoot out, and it only gets more exciting from there when he is targeted by the mob and his autistic son (also named Jason, called "The Kid) is kidnapped. His son has to keep to a strict schedule, making his disappearance Jason's worst nightmare, which is saying a lot.

Friday, March 11, 2016

technology, education, and reading.

As an English teacher who substitute teaches during the year, and teaching summer school during the summer, Lit Up by David Denby was exactly what I need to gear up for another summer with the neighborhood slackers. And I can say they are slackers because none of them have documented learning disabilities. They are just plain lazy and unmotivated. And being the reading lover that I am, I want all of my students to find the pleasure in it that I do. Which is exactly what Denby's book is about.

Set in very different tenth grade English classrooms, Danby explores these questions. How, in a social media obsessed world, do we establish in-class reading for pleasure? Are we reading the right books to allow students to connect emotionally to the text? Are we in need of better educators? Danby and his subjects (well reading is the subject, but you get what I mean) answer these questions and more as he finds the twenty-four books that can turn any nonreader into a reader. And I cannot wait to utilize his advice in summer school.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

i love you, but you give me acid reflux.

Y'all already know about my obsession with the Stephanie Plum Series by Janet Evanovich. I can even spell Evanovich without looking it up. It's honestly my favorite series since The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which says a lot because I really loved those books.

In the twenty-second installment titled Tricky Twenty-Two, Stephanie's most confusing FTA is a fraternity brother (nicknamed Gobbles) who allegedly attacked his dean and then disappeared after he was bailed out by Vinnie. People have seen him, but no one will talk. Things get curiouser and curiouser after Stephanie and her sidekick Lula go through the interviews. Some strange things are happening (and their are even stranger people) on the Kiltman College campus, and Gobbles doesn't seem to have anything to do with them. Things get even more confusing for Stephanie when Morelli breaks up with her. She starts questioning who she is, if she should become a baker, and if she should give herself over to Ranger.

Another amazing storyline by Evanovich if you ask me. Which you kind of did by reading this blog. Lula is funnier than she's ever been and Mama Plum even takes a break from her ironing to get in on the action.

Monday, March 7, 2016

not your average fifties housewife.

In honor of National Women's Day tomorrow and March being Women's History Month, I am pleased to review journalist, Rachel Cooke's Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties because it's the perfect fit and a great read for those interested in history, that era, and British women who break the mold.

All ten women celebrated in this book are trailblazers who left the home and values of that time period to become whomever they wanted to be, opening up possibilities to the women who came after them wanting to do the same. Sheila Van Damm became a racecar driver during a time when it was more deadly than ever. Rose Heilbron was Britian's first high court judge and extremely well respected. Joan Werner Laurie was a magazine editor and a lesbian. She edited women's interest stories that no one would typically speak about.

Her Brilliant Career is a collection of ten mini-biographies that will leave you in awe.

Friday, March 4, 2016

what is an artist?

Sarah Thornton scoured five out of the seven continents to handpick a group of artists for her most recent book titled 33 Artists in 3 Acts published back in September. Thornton defines what it is to be a contemporary artist from performance art and photographer, to painting and sculpting, and takes readers inside the personal lives of the artists she plucked for this collection.

33 Artists in 3 Acts is divided into, you guessed it, three acts: Politics, Kinship, and Craft and features different artists in each section. Covered in the sections are artist's ethics, relationships with peers and muses, and skills. Very interesting read for those of you into the art scene, and may be dull for those who are not.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

tales of war.

I'm a sucker for a novel with a good title. Sebastian Faulks' Where My Heart Used to Beat is exactly what I'm talking about. How could anyone walk by a title like that and not pick it up? Seriously, an impossible feat.

Like many English boys, Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Hendricks grew up fatherless after World War I, and fighting himself in World War II left him broken. Until an older gentleman, Dr. Pereira, who fought with Robert's father in the first world war, sent him a letter. Now it's 1980, and Robert travels to the coast of France to visit (ironically) the only person who ever managed to get him to open up about his past, taking readers back in time to all of his losses, including the woman who betrayed him. Sebastian Faulks fans will not be disappointed by this beautifully written novel.