Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sunday Synopsis

The City of Ember (Book of Ember, #1)The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After the barrage of dystopian novels that have been the rage for the last few years, this seemed like just another attempt to capitalize on the success of The Hunger Games and Divergent. Little did I know that it was published in 2003, many years before those books. Several of my students insisted that it was "so good!!!!" and encouraged me to read it, so I did. It's a fairly short, easy read.

The City of Ember is set in the future, what has been described as post-apocalyptic. The main characters are Doon and Lina who have been assigned their first jobs. The city was supposed to be a refuge, or perhaps an experiment, but the Builders never returned to Ember. Years and years have passed so that the people no longer remember any life before Ember, which is always dark and requires electricity. Things have run smoothly for who knows how long - until now. Stores of food and supplies are running low, the government is corrupt, and the electricity is beginning to fail. Doon and Lina must solve a mystery, initiated by Lina's grandmother, if they are to save the people of their city.

I liked that this book had a mysterious element with some suspense as it made me want to keep reading. There were some adventures along the way. And the ending is not really an ending, because, surprise, there is a sequel. I'm not sure if I care enough about the characters to invest my time in another book, though, as the book lacked character development. The friendship of Lina and Doon, their effort to solve a mystery that might save their community, and the snags that occur along the way are what kept me reading.

I would not put Ember on the same level as The Giver (which I read first although it was published two years later). Several parts reminded me of it. The Builders arranged things so the citizens would not have the memory of their previous lives. They have assigned jobs (at the tender age of 12) so that the city functions in an orderly manner. However, The Giver was deeper with more sophisticated conflicts and themes. Situations in Ember just seemed to be solved a little too easily for Lina and Doon. Oh, here are the items we need, what a coincidence.

For younger readers, this is a great starter dystopian book that does not get as violent as The Hunger Games or Divergent, nor does it require the same reading skill as The Giver, or even Matched. I would recommend this for grades 4-6. For adults, if you're needing a "bubble gum" book just to kill time, this should do the trick. And it's enjoyable.

Jeanne DuPrau beat all the others to the punch in the dystopian genre, and for that and her clever storyline, she deserves praise.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday Synopsis

Defending JacobDefending Jacob by William Landay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I purchased this book for $1.99 through one of my Book Bub daily email deals. It was definitely a bargain, and I wouldn’t have minded paying full price for it, but you never know what you’re going to get based on only a “blurb.” I was pleasantly surprised.

The blurb described Defending Jacob as a legal thriller, one of my favorite genres. The book is about Andy Barber, assistant district attorney, and his family. Andy is on the case when a 14 year old boy is murdered, but he must recuse himself when his sfon Jacob is accused murdering his classmate. The courtroom drama is expertly interwoven with family drama.

I admit that the story moved somewhat slowly in the beginning, and the chapters were rather long making it difficult to find a stopping place. But once I was about 100 pages in, I didn’t want to find a stopping point. The clues kept me interested and engaged. There were several plot twists that I didn’t see coming, and the ending surprised me.

This book reminded me of Jodi Piccoult’s House Rules, another book I thoroughly enjoyed. Both feature teenagers are accused of murdering a classmate. Both of the boys admit being at the scene at some point, and neither teen is asked point blank if he did it. The young man in House Rules is autistic. While the teenager accused in Defending Jacob is never labelled autistic in the book, many of his behaviors indicate that he is somewhere on the spectrum.

What a dilemma, to have your son prosecuted by your condescending former mentee, to be on the other side of the fence. Are Andy and his wife blind to their son’s guilt, or are they certain of their son’s innocence?

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Coffee Chat and a Little Random Anyway.

I usually link up with Stacy for some random thoughts, but she's got so much going on with her move, the holidays, etc., that she's taking a short bloggy break. However, I can't let Tuesday go by without some random nonsense. But first... Coffee Chat!

Our hostess says:
Update your challenge.  
Or in honour of American Thanksgiving, 
tell us what you're thankful for right now.

Since I didn't really set a challenge for myself, the current challenge I'm facing right now is healing from my surgery.  The pain medicine is the worst!  Once my nerve block wore off, I started using my medications.  I had to stop, though. Too many side effects!  Extreme itching (I should buy stock in Benadryl!), terrible heart burn (more stock in Tums), and a few other difficulties which are a little embarrassing to write here.  I requested a different medication, but I'm having trouble with that one, too.  And crazy muscle spasms!  The side effects of meds are as bad as the pain.
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I'm thankful that everything went well with the surgery.  I will see my doctor tomorrow to find out when physical therapy starts and when I might be able to return to work.

I tried telling the nurse not to put the IV on the inside of my arm, but she didn't listen and ended up sticking me twice anyway leaving huge, purple bruises.  I tried telling her my veins would collapse.  Someone else had to come in and do my IV.  Needless to say, my blood pressure shot up after that.
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And I'm thankful for the sedative they gave me before the nerve block.  If I hadn't been kind of loopy, there's no way I would have let them approach me to put that giant needle in my neck.  LOL

One of the most important things I'm thankful for, not just right now, but always, is my family.  I wish my dad were still with us, but I'm grateful for my husband, kids, mom, sister, and even my in-laws.  I love them.  How many people can say that?

I'm thankful for friends, entertainment, technology, and most of all, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
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I'm thankful for time off from work, not just to heal, but to enjoy the holidays.  One of the few perks of being a teacher is being off work when your kids are out of school.  With all of the changes in curriculum and instruction in my district right now, some days I just want to quit.  Bureaucracy has sucked the joy out of teaching, red tape, differing philosophies, disrespect from students and, in come cases, their parents, and lack of support from administration.

And now... I'm going to continue my Judge Judy marathon!  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Synopsis Sunday

The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #9)The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to this book read by Tim Curry of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame. No one could have read it better! He had the most realistic and humorous expressions and voices for the different characters. If I were reviewing that alone, I would give 4 or 5 stars. But based only on the book, I have to give it 3. I liked it, but it wasn't the very best book, although I do think it is a "just right" book for many of my sixth graders. Lemony Snicket's style, which here means the wording he chooses, becomes stale when overused. (Did you see what I did there?) It's a cute, though unrealistic story, which is what I expected, but this one lacked the youthful sense of adventure as the others.

As Amazon says, "Everybody loves a carnival, right?" The unfortunate event in this story is being part of the "freak" show at a carnival. Amazon rightly describes the characters as "colorful." The Baudelaire orphans are hardly better off and know little to nothing more than they did at the end of the previous book. Still, it is read-worthy if you're looking for a light, fun, sometimes funny read.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Surgery Prep

It's the big day!  Surgery day!  I have no idea what they're going to find once they get in there to look at my shoulder again.  A year and a half ago, they went in thinking there might be a small tear, but my bicep tendon had to be repaired and reattached.  They had to clean off a bone spur, clean up some arthritis tissue, and release an impingement.  Well, 18 months later, I'm still in pain.  Could be another impingement.  Could be a small tear.  Could just be another bone spur and scar tissue.  I'm hoping for the fewest issues so that recovery won't take as long.

I've been prepping for surgery all week.  Painting, crafting, making cards, cleaning house, Christmas shopping,  planning finals care packages for our 3 college students, and planning 7 days of lessons for school.  That's how I prep!

Have you ever had to use those disinfecting wipes the hospital gives you prior to surgery now?  They are called sage wipes.  They're supposed to be used "nose to toes" to help prevent surgical site infections.  What I don't understand is that if you use them the night before, how does that help? Shouldn't you use them at the hospital right before the surgery?  Besides, they're super sticky, and you have to air dry, and did I mention they're sticky?  Icky!  But I'm a good patient, and I did what I was supposed to do.

I think my surgeon has a pretty cushy schedule (jk!).  He doesn't start till 10.  I'm scheduled for 11:00 today.  I wonder what time I'll be home?  I'm sure all I'll want to do is sleep.  Well... gotta get going!  Wish me luck!


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