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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I am Rembrandt's Daughter, by Lynn Cullen

With her mother dead of the plague, and her beloved brother newly married and moved away, Cornelia van Rijn finds herself without a friend or confidante—save her difficult father. Out of favor with Amsterdam’s elite, and considered brash and unreasonable by his patrons, Rembrandt van Rijn, once revered, is now teetering on the brink of madness. Cornelia alone must care for him, though she herself is haunted by secrets and scandal. Her only happiness comes in chance meetings with Carel, the son of a wealthy shipping magnate whose passion for art stirs Cornelia. And then there is Neel, her father’s last remaining pupil, whose steadfast devotion to Rembrandt both baffles and touches her. Based on historical fact, and filled with family dramas and a love triangle that would make Jane Austen proud, I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter is a powerful account of a young woman’s struggle to come of age within the shadow of one of the world’s most brilliant and complicated artists.

Well, yes, the history is good. I have a penchant for historical fiction set in this time period. And I do think the story line is historically feasible and accurate. It’s very telling, and does show how one can triumph, in a way, over adversity and that the future doesn’t have to be what others would make for you.

However, I felt like this book trudged. And trudged. Parts of it felt like a teen romance novel—where you find yourself thinking “oh, get to the point already!”

The New Policeman, by Kate Thompson

Who knows where the time goes? There never seems to be enough time in Kinvara, or anywhere else in Ireland for that matter. When J.J.'s mother says that what she really wants for her birthday is more time in her day, J.J. decides to find her some. But how can he find time for her, when he barely has enough time to keep up with school and his music? And where will he get time to find out if the shocking rumor is true-that his great-grandfather was a murderer?

It seems as though J.J.'s given himself an impossible task. But then a neighbor reveals a secret to him-there is a place where time stands still. J.J. realizes he's the only person who can make the journey, but to do so he'll have to vanish from his own life.

And when J.J. disappears from the village, enter the new policeman. . . .

Oh..I got so lost in this story, and not in the good way. I get it..there’s the “real” world (the modern world), and there’s the fairy world and somehow they two have crossed. It’s just all over the place otherwise. The flow I expect in a good story is completely lost on me. The premise is original and good—“where does time go?”—I just think the handling is poor.

Wildwood Dancing, by Julie Marillier

High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It's an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle's hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he's there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena's sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom--an impossible union it's up to Jena to stop.

When Cezar's grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can't imagine--tests of trust, strength, and true love.

It’s a wonderful “lose yourself in the story” story. Beautiful imagery, rich story line. Lots of light and dark imagery and mystery. I just felt like it wrapped up too neatly—and that’s knowing that, to an extent, fantasy should.

Right Behind You, by Gail Giles

When he was nine, Kip set another child on fire. Now, after years in a juvenile ward, he is ready for a fresh start. But the ghosts of his past soon demand justice, and he must reveal his painful secret. How can Kip tell anyone that he really is--or was--a murderer?

Ok..I love Giles’ books. And SOOO many of my kiddos fight for her books—to read over and over again. Having been a high school teacher, she obviously knows that to write to hook readers of every sort.

And I loved this book. I read it in a day, less really. Giles’ books are always good for the reluctant reader, they don’t take long to get through AND you don’t want to put them down. Her characters are real, her settings are REAL, the things going on inside the heads of even the characters who are secondary—but I gotta tell you, few of these characters were REALLY secondary.

The only thing that got me? There was hope at the end—freakin’ hope! What’s that about???

Ordinary Ghosts, by Eireann Corrigan

Emil's brother isn't dead. Just gone. It's his mom who's dead, and his dad who's checked out completely. Emil's alone. Not in a teary-eyed, starving-orphan way. Just alone. As in: nobody to talk to, nothing to do.

Then he finds the key. Not a metaphorical the solution to loneliness was within me all along! key. No, a real key. A key that opens every single door in the elite prep school that Emil's forced to attend. Suddenly, Emil doesn't mind so much the he's a nonentities are much harder to pin down.

Soon, he's sneaking into the school at night to explore -- and falling for a girl who sneaks in for reasons of her own. The keeper of the key is supposed to be legendary but Emil will settle for barely coherent. He's spent a whole of his life dealing with disappearances. Now he has to see what it takes to make things stay.

I wanted Emil to DO more. I realize that this wasn’t central to the story. That the bigger issue was figuring out who he was now that his life was flipped upside down. And discovering who the people in his life really were. Beautiful coming of age and age of discovery story (I don’t think those 2 concepts are the same). Emil’s just an average kid dealing with what is, sadly (because of what it says about our society), an average existence. That’s what makes him so attractive as a character—he’s not any more special than you or I, and he’s dealing with the terms life has given him, the best way he knows how when he’s got little to direct him.

Skin Hunger, by Kathleen Duey

Sadima lives in a world where magic has been banned, leaving poor villagers
prey to fakes and charlatans. A "magician" stole her family's few valuables and
left Sadima's mother to die on the day Sadima was born. But vestiges of magic
are hidden in old rhymes and hearth tales and in people like Sadima, who
conceals her silent communication with animals for fear of rejection and
ridicule. When rumors of her gift reach Somiss, a young nobleman obsessed with
restoring magic, he sends Franklin, his lifelong servant, to find her. Sadima's
joy at sharing her secret becomes love for the man she shares it with. But
Franklin's irrevocable bond to the brilliant and dangerous Somiss traps her,
too, and she faces a heartbreaking decision.

Centuries later magic has been restored, but it is available only to the
wealthy and is strictly controlled by wizards within a sequestered academy of
magic. Hahp, the expendable second son of a rich merchant, is forced into the
academy and finds himself paired with Gerrard, a peasant boy inexplicably
admitted with nine sons of privilege and wealth. Only one of the ten students
will graduate -- and the first academic requirement is survival.

Sadima's and Hahp's worlds are separated by generations, but their lives are
connected in surprising and powerful ways in this brilliant first book of
Kathleen Duey's dark, complex, and completely compelling trilogy.

I get caught up in stories like this. I love the magic, the struggle with good and evil, and how the darker side seems to be carrying the book. I spent a good portion of the book wondering how the two story lines were connected, and making the jumps between the two. It all ties together VERY well, however, it doesn’t stand alone in my mind (it’s the first of a trilogy). The storyline doesn’t progress far enough for me to feel like I’ve gotten into the story (it felt like I was still in the background part of it).

Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale

When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years for Saren’s refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment.

As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. But the arrival outside the tower of Saren’s two suitors—one welcome, and the other decidedly less so—brings both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows.

With Shannon Hale’s lyrical language, this forgotten but classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise.

Oh my, what a wonderful read. It IS adventure, drama, romance—and fantasy all rolled into one. What a beautiful way to show that strength is found in so many different places. I think the real “surprise” in the story is Lady Saren, and how through her actions, Dashti is made into a stronger person—because someone has to be. There’s the amazing twist at the end, that you aren’t expecting—so very different from the typical fairy tale ending that all the retellings of Grimms fairy tales tend to ascribe to. The arrangement is a really wonderful way to do this—the diary of a girl who probably isn’t supposed to be able to keep one let alone have one.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Library2Play--Number 13, AISDCL20 #13

Tagging and

Okay...first off, I've gotta rant. Maybe it's because I don't feel 100% today (frankly, 60% is asking a lot). I tried to register for several times earlier this week. My standard username/password combo would've work just fine. However, 3 consecutive letters in my real name are the mimiced in my password (no, my password has nothing to do with my name. It just happened that way.). I tried several different ways around it. Nothing. I now have a combo that is going to be hard to remember because I've never used it before--ugh. Yes, I know I can write it down in a safe place, but that piece of paper would never be found again, it would be so freakin' safe.

Okay, rant over.

Now..tagging. I do this on my blogs. I think I already have a Technorati account, though I'm not sure I did more than register and look around for a little bit. I do, in fact, see the point. I'm just not sure I need to use this (personally), if I'm using something else. Feels like a bit of redundancy, and I'm anti-redundancy (for the sheer sake of being redundant).

I'm open to suggestion though--something more than the "but not everyone uses that other one" reason, please.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Oo...a hack!

Hey, did you guys notice the NavBar is missing from the top of my page here? I learned a new trick!

The question came up after the AISD Classroom Learning 2.0 organizational meeting, specifically about removing that pesky navbar. I have it pulled from one of my personal blogs, purely for stylistic reasons. However, I don't use a Blogger layout on either of those blogs (again, for stylistic reasons. Not one of those templates they offer looks like me. And that would be the point, right? Find one that just says me.)

Anyway, pulling the navbar off of this blog is more about limiting the possibility of hitting inappropriate materials by clicking in my blog. My students do look at this--to see what it is that I'm reading and doing technology-wise.

If you'd like to do the same thing, check out this post at the blog "The Real Blogger Status."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Library2Play--Thing #12, AISDCL20 #12


I swear, you have to say that "roll-YO" Like, "that's how I roll, yo." (It's okay, you can roll your eyes now.)

Ok..I think this is pretty cool. Honestly--it's pre-fab coding. I just love how much easier it is. I've already added somethings to "my rollyo."

I did create a search roll to help me out. When I blog the books I'm reading, I like to put the publisher's blurb in my post so the summary is available to my dear readers. I can't always find them at one or the other book buying site, and having 4 windows or tabs open at a time is confusing. So..the "Book Blurbs" searchroll. I'm not going to post it here, because it really is just for me to keep from being confused. BUT..I did add a searchbox with some of the other searchrolls I particularly liked to this blog. Have fun!

AISDCL2.0--Week Two, Thing #4 (Registering your blog)

Okay, I have to admit, I've cheated on this. It's a little hard to register one's blog with oneself.

However, it is QUITE easy to post later when you've already got the blog, and the avatar. So. here it is.

A couple of people have already mentioned some confusion with getting their avatars over here to the Blogger template. On our wiki (AISDCL20), I put together a 2-page document with screen shots to help us out.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Library2Play--Thing #11, AISDCL20 #19


I've got a LibraryThing account under a different name, somewhere. It's one of those sites that I thought was a fabulous idea, and got started with, but then got side-tracked and forgot what I was doing.

Anyway, I think it's a cool idea. It's another way to feed the "if you liked x, then you might like y" concept. I found some groups that share my particular bend--YA books, and love that I can tag things both for myself and for others. Social networking for the reader--I love it!

I can see where this could be used in conjunction with a library's catalog, too--particularly for the "if you like..." bit. I've always thought that was something missing in catalogs--yes I can do a subject search, but who's to say that I'm going to enjoy vampire novels by Anne Rice after I've loved those by Stephenie Meyer? Those to me aren't even in the same league. (I do, by the way, like both those authors, but they most certainly are not together on the reading spectrum.)

Anyone played with GoodReads yet?

AISD's Web 2.0 Project

Today, we're kicking off something new in my district. After learning about the California School Library Association's Classroom Learning 2.0 project, we decided to get involved. (This is the same structure/format that Spring Branch's Library2Play 23 Things Project is based on.)

It's going to prove to be interesting. I'm acting as Project Manager for us, this time around. Not counting myself, we've got 40 people involved. Some are waaaaaay tech savvy (our Information Systems Manager--read "head tech guru"-- for one), while I think others may still be testing the waters with a lot of what's available.

I'm incredibly excited and can't wait to get to our meeting this afternoon and get it kicked off.

I'll post a link to our wiki for this project now, here and in my links section. Check out us!

AISD's CL2.0 Wiki

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