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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Google Educator Certification---I did it!

Today, I accomplished one of my goals for the school year. 

It's not a "lofty" goal, but it was one that required some time commitment on my part. And, well, if you've noticed from my relative quiet this year, I don't have a lot of time to spare.

Today, I completed Google Educator Certification Level One. After 12 hours worth of training, and thinking about how to use GSuite tools in the classroom and school in general, I signed up for a test. I had to block 3 hours of time (inconceivable!), in case I needed the full amount of time to test. It's not a hard test, but you do have to spend some time thinking. It's part "lab practical," part knowledge application.

Do I recommend it? Yep, sure do. There's a second level, and some things beyond. I waited a whole 20 minutes after confirming that I passed the level one exam to start level 2's coursework. 

For more information, visit the Google for Education Training Center

Thursday, March 23, 2017

REVIEW: 2136: A Post-Apocalyptic Novel, by Matthew Thrush

Orphaned as a child and hidden from the world, 23-year-old Willow’s life is ordinary. Until a stranger comes into her life forcing her to recount past memories she thought she had suppressed and speaks of a destiny she cannot accept.

Fueled with regret and a looming fear of the unknown, Willow must make a choice. Save the world or save herself. There’s just one problem; she’s been infected.

As I read the abrupt ending of this book, I silently cursed Matthew Thrush. I know there's a second book, but ended hard. 

Thrush is a vivid story-teller. He paints not just a picture of the story but of his characters. Descriptions of horrific scenes are balanced perfectly between appropriately cringe-worthy and cinematic "too much." (His descriptions alone make me want to see this in the movie theater.) His characters are beautifully developed. Willow is intense, still a teenager, but clearly functioning in a world we really can't imagine. She's sharp, witty, and honest---just what teenagers in any society should be. The people she encounters are vivid, but not overpowering, she's definitely the star of the show.

From line one, you're involved in the story. It's an apocalypse story that is plausible and frighteningly so. It's good and evil, coming of age, and dystopia all rolled into one. 
It's been a long time since I kept myself up late to read one more chapter...but I did with 2136. 

And I'm kinda ticked I'm stuck waiting for the next book!

What do you think??

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

REVIEW: Darktown, by Thomas Mullen

Responding to orders from on high, the Atlanta Police Department is forced to hire its first black officers, including war veterans Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith. The newly minted policemen are met with deep hostility by their white peers; they aren’t allowed to arrest white suspects, drive squad cars, or set foot in the police headquarters.
When a black woman who was last seen in a car driven by a white man turns up dead, Boggs and Smith suspect white cops are behind it. Their investigation sets them up against a brutal cop, Dunlow, who has long run the neighborhood as his own, and his partner, Rakestraw, a young progressive who may or may not be willing to make allies across color lines. Among shady moonshiners, duplicitous madams, crooked lawmen, and the constant restrictions of Jim Crow, Boggs and Smith will risk their new jobs, and their lives, while navigating a dangerous world—a world on the cusp of great change.

Pre-civil rights Atlanta, Georgia. Black officers, policeman almost in name only, as far as the department is concerned. It really didn't matter what you "said" they were, they dealt with discrimination and hate just like any other non-white person.

Really an amazing book. Detailed, graphic, and real. Real in ways I wish I knew a little more about now, and wish no one had ever had to know about. The racism, especially within the police department, was hard to stomach. I don't like the derogatory language (the "n" word), but I accept that it's part of the culture and times the story is set in. There's a lot to think about in just considering this aspect of Darktown. A lot.

The crime drama story line is a vehicle for all of the cultural/societal/historical dealings in this story. The mystery is well-crafted, thought out, but not too exacting. I really didn't know for sure what the answers were until the police did. I can't frequently say that, since I usually have it sorted out and only continue reading the book to see how long it takes the characters to figure out the story.

Challenging read if only because it makes you think quite a bit about the time period. Definitely Adult for YA, in terms of school library collections. It will engross many different readers.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Atria Books through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

REVIEW: The Leaving, by Tara Altebrando

Eleven years ago, six kindergartners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.
Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max--the only one who hasn't come back. Which leaves Max's sister, Avery, wanting answers. She wants to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story. But as details of the disappearance begin to unfold, no one is prepared for the truth.

Could be one of those "ripped from the headlines" kind of stories. Where did 6 five-year-olds disappear to, literally from under the noses of parents and school officials--ON A SCHOOL BUS even. (Frankly, if this ever really did happen and I learned of it, I'd quit working and never let my child near a school bus. Ever.) 
I enjoyed the whole book, really had to tear myself away from it and deal with reality. The characters are really interesting and I feel like Altebrando did a great job with an interesting development challenge. I mean, seriously, how do you develop characters who have zero memories of the last 11 years, and only marginally more of their 5 years before that? In my mind, that's more than creating a character, that's creating a character who doesn't even know himself.
The story itself is wonderful. The switch in perspectives (2 of the returned and 1 family member of another of the kids) is really interesting. The clues they have and the questions that come up for each of them. I would've like to see more of the other returned teenagers, because I don't feel like some of the ultimate resolution was as "neat" as it appeared to be.
The only real "ehs" I have about this book is the timeline and resolution. Unless I missed some queues, time from "return" to "all questions answered" was 2 weeks-ish. Yeah, not realistic. I know there's a difficulty in dragging things out in YA, and the chance of losing readers because of it, but...too fast. This isn't CSI.
As for the resolution, timeline aside, it was too quick. There were some interesting twists (one I'd never seen coming, one that is hinted at a couple of times if you're observant), but it felt like a punch list was created for the ending and it had to be run through. That being said, not ALL questions are answered, but that just adds to the really good premise and character line--the kids STILL don't know what really happened in those 11 years, and have scant half-memories.
Would I add it to my library? Yes. And I'd use it for book club because I think it could stem some great discussion and encourage my writers.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Bloomsbury USA Children's through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

REVIEW: The Hidden Twin, by Adi Rule

For eighteen years a girl with no name, a Redwing, has been hidden away in a small attic room within a city of hissing pipes and curving temples perched on the side of the great volcano, Mol, while her sister, Jey-identical except for her eyes-has lived her life in public as an only child. Their father had hoped the hidden girl would one day grow up to be a normal human girl and not the wicked creature mythology has promised, so he secretly spared her life as an infant.
But when she switches places with her sister, striking up a flirtation with the son of the Empress while working in the royal gardens and gets attacks by two suspicious priests on her journey home, she is forced to call forth fire to protect herself, unleashing her previously dormant powers and letting her secret out. She soon catches the attention of a cult with a thousand year old grudge as well as a group of underground rebels, both seeking her for their own gain. But when her sister goes missing and the Redwing uncovers a great plot to awaken Mol and bring fiery destruction upon them all, she is forced to embrace her powers.

Certainly makes for an interesting story. Different kind of fantasy world, with its own lore and mythology, that apparently has some truth to it. I like the internal struggle the Redwing has going on, "am I good, or am I bad?" I loved that the the "hidden" twin is the one that is real and the sister with the life is so one dimensional (and not just because the story is told by the Redwing). It's rather telling about the society in general.

But, the world. Part of me felt like this was a story that took place in a world I should already be familiar with from a previous novel. Only, from what I can tell, this may be a one and done for this story line/world. It seemed to be taken for granted that the reader knew whys and whats for things that happened and existed in the world. And was this a world-world, or a part of a bigger picture world. I just don't know. Being a reader that is drawn to the world as much as the characters and stories themselves, this one lost me. 

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from St. Martin's Press/St. Martin's Griffin through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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