Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Synopsis

They Never Came BackThey Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a reading teacher, I need to immerse myself in more young adult reading than I currently do. My students often ask me for book recommendations, and I have my list of "old faithfuls," but I want to expand it. Since I liked the series about Janie that began with The Face on the Milk Carton, also by Cooney, I decided to give another one of her books a try.

This one was much like The Face on the Milk Carton. It centers around a ten-year-old girl named Murielle (not Muriel - Muri ELLE). Her parents are embezzlers who are about to be caught. They make plans to successfully leave the country, but Murielle is not with them because her aunt, the mother's sister, refused to be part of their escape and would not take Murielle to the airport.

The book is also about 15 year old Cathy Ferris. Cathy is a foster child who is a very hard-working student. She takes a summer class, Latin, in the next town over since her own school doesn't offer it. One day at lunch, a student named Tommy runs up to her asking her where she has been. He believes she is his missing cousin. It also happens that she is taking classes with the daughter of the office manager who took the fall when Murielle's parents left the country.

I don't want to give away anything that happens as there is quite a bit more to it.  The novel is written from the perspectives of both girls and is told through some flashbacks as well. More than just a mystery, it is a book about family and forgiveness. It's a very easy read, and I believe my students will enjoy it. Despite the similarities to the Janie series, it's worth reading.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday Thirteen

July 29 is International Tiger Day!  Who knew?  But tigers are beautiful and majestic!  Here are some fun facts about tigers.

1.  Tigers are the largest felines in the world.  (I always thought it was a lion, but I was wrong.)
2.  Tigers can be up to 11 feet long and weigh up to 660 pounds.
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3.  The ratio of white tigers to orange tigers is 1 in a thousand.
4.  Tigers hunt alone and at night.
5.  A tiger can run up to 40 miles per hour.
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6.  They also swim well.
7.  Ligers are real!  It's a cross between a lion and a tiger.
8.  More tigers exist as pets than are in the wild.
Isn't it cute????  Image Credit
9.  The tiger's scientific name is panthera tirgris.
10. Tigers are the largest meat-eating animals on Earth.
11. Tigers that live in humid areas are usually smaller than those that live in cold climates.
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12. A group of tigers is called either an Ambush or a Streak (not a Pride, like lions).
13. Tigers mark their territory by scratching or peeing on things, kind of like domesticated cats and dogs.

You can find more fun facts here and here.
Link up with Thursday Thirteen and play along!

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Random Tuesday

I'm linking up with Stacy. I missed last week!  Having the summer off has affected my knowing what day it is.  Oh, well.

So... I was taking a nap the other day, and I was lying on my stomach with my arms and legs a certain way, and I realized... I look just like the outline at a murder scene!  See for yourself!
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I can't seem to get my sleep pattern right since I don't have to work right now.  By the way, teachers don't get paid for the summer.  I get paid a daily rate for 187 school days, and my district allows me to spread it out over 24 checks, but I don't get paid for the days I don't work.

I've been spending some time thinking about what I want to do differently in my classroom this year, and stocking up on the few things I can't afford.  Someone on Facebook the other day told everyone that teachers get a $150 budget every year to buy things.  I was thinking, "In what universe?"  I can request basic supplies, but the decorations, the activities, the daily supplies... that isn't provided by the district.

However, I will not stoop to what the teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma did to get donations!  She actually stood on the corner with a sign as you can see here.  I don't think she was there for more than about ten minutes, but she said she got positive responses.  I think it was kind of a joke between her and her husband, but you can read the article.
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I wish I had big plans for a vacation this summer, but sadly, with a few college-aged kids in the family, there is no extra money for that.  My time will come, though.  My daughter studied abroad in Europe for a whole semester, and now my son is in Australia for a summer class.  My husband said to ask him if he'd seen a kangaroo yet, and he said, "No, but I've seen it on the menu in restaurants."  Hmmmm.  I don't think I could eat that.
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All I can think of is the 2003 movie Kangaroo Jack!
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Have a great week!

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Synopsis

The King's Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels #7; The Cousins' War #6)The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. What an awesome novel! This would have taken me a lot longer to read at almost 500 pages, but it was so good it was difficult to put it down. Philippa Gregory is a master at historical fiction, and regardless of who the hero or heroine is, she makes you fall in love with the character.

Gregory herself calls it a "dark story." And in many ways it is. But it is also the story of a courageous, cultured, crafty, and careful heroine, Margaret Pole.

The book opens in 1499 while Henry VII is still on the throne. Margaret Pole, a Plantagenet by birth, granddaughter of the KingMaker Richard Neville, must live in fear of her name. Her father was the brother of Kings Edward IV and Richard III. Henry Tudor seized the crown upon killing Richard III in battle. To prevent her claim to the throne, she is married off to a Tudor supporter. Her brother Edward, however, had the clearest path to the throne, but they couldn't get rid of him by marrying him off. He was taken prisoner in the Tower and eventually beheaded for no crime except his name.

Margaret was a lady at the court and governess of Henry VII and Elizabeth's children, Arthur and Harry (who became Henry VIII). Later, she was lady of Ludlow Castle when Prince Arthur married Katherine of Aragon and became the Prince and Princess of Wales. Upon Arthur's death, she remained friends with Katherine who later married Harry. Margaret was the governess for their daughter Princess Mary (future queen). Confused yet?

Although the family lines are confusing, Gregory describes things in such a way as it makes perfect sense. The reader comes to know and love Margaret Pole and to root for her through all of her ups and downs. The reader comes to know her children as well, which was also quite interesting. At one point, she must give up one of her sons and send him to a monastery because she cannot support him. This son, Reginald, becomes a scholar, a Cardinal, and the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury.

The life of Lady Pole, Countess of Salisbury, is fascinating. Gregory will have you on the edge of your seat wanting to find out what happens next. There are more twist and turns than a soap opera and more deaths and plot twists than a thriller. The only thing that bothered me was that the main character frequently said, "It's early days yet." That is my only complaint. And while the key word in this genre is fiction, the reader learns some history during the ride. I highly recommend this book!

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Random Tuesday

I'm linking up with Stacy.  Come join us!

Have you ever woken up and realized you're late?  Of course, you have.  You know that adrenaline rush?  Of course, you do.  Well, not only did that happen to me, but I had the added pleasure of waking to the damn smoke detector!  Double adrenaline rush!  I took care of it though...
That smoke alarm has got nothing on me!  WIN!

Have you seen the video of the little girl who got snatched into the water in Richmond B. C. Canada?  You can't make this stuff up!  Scary!  I think the sea lion wanted food.  Thank goodness no one was hurt.  And kudos to the guy who saved her.  Click on the link to see the video.
Video Link

So, what shows are you watching this summer?  I'm catching up on Criminal Minds.  Some people say it got too creepy for them, and it seemed like it was headed in that direction, but I think they've gotten back to "normally creepy" things.  Season 12 goes on without Morgan (such a shame) and for most of it without Hotch, but Prentiss is back for a while, and the new guy, Luke Alvez, isn't bad.

My husband and I are also watching The Office at the request of all of our grown children.  We're at the end of season 2, and we don't see what all the fuss is about yet.  It's just "OK."  For those that have seen it, does it get better?  I like Steve Carrell, but I don't like the character he plays in this, and he's just not funny.  Maybe it gets better in season 3?  Season 4?

Before I go, here's a glimpse of my current situation and a pun for you.
What did the grape say when it was crushed?
Nothing.  It just let out a little wine.
Get it?


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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Random Tuesday Thoughts

I'm linking up with Stacy although my post is not totally random today.

My husband and I made a trip to our state's capital this past weekend to see his daughter and her boyfriend who live there.
They are both vegans, so we ate at some "interesting" places.  One of them was Casa de la Luz (translated - The House of Light).  It is also the home to a school for integral studies, although I'm not sure exactly what that means.  I do know that they are into holistic healing, nutrition, and meditation which we got to witness first hand.  Now, the unusual thing about this restaurant is not that it is wholly vegan, organic, and gluten free, it is that it's a fixed price menu in which you pick up your own silverware and napkin, serve yourself the soup and salad (honor system) then someone brings your entree.  When you're finished, you take your plates to a window, scrape the food into a compost bin, and leave your napkin in a separate bin.  Surprisingly, it was quite tasty.

Another thing we did while there was take a hike along Barton Creek.  It was rocky with a lot of uneven surfaces, and it was so hot out.  We hiked four miles, two miles each way, with our midpoint destination being Taco Deli.  I can't believe I did the whole four miles plus a lot of walking that evening.  I am not a hiker!

We also drove around the city.  We've been there many times, so we were just soaking up some of the local color.  And one of the most popular things to do in Austin is to see the bats.

Yes, you read that right.  Bats! Mexico free-tailed bats. The largest urban bat colony in North America (about 1.5 million bats) makes their home under the Congress Avenue bridge, and at dusk, from March to November, they all fly out to feed.  Don't worry.  They're herbivores.  They eat 20-30 thousand pounds of insects each night.  We've seen them before, but it was fun to go and watch them again.

Our last stop before coming home was a place was called Biscuits and Groovy.  Just doing out part to

And because this is the fourth of July, I will leave you this photo of my patriotic kitty!

Happy Independence Day, fellow Americans!

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Sunday, July 02, 2017

Sunday Synopsis

The Black BookThe Black Book by James Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Patterson has a new co-author, David Ellis, and I like him so far. There's only one thing he did that annoyed me. Hyperbole in the guise of similes. Examples: Chapter 14, "It was colder than a landlord's heart out there..." Chapter 34, "It was colder than a mother-in-law's glare out here." Chapter 42, "It was colder than a witch's nipple in a brass bra." See how irritating that is? Otherwise, I really liked it.

Billy Harney and his twin sister Patti were destined to follow in the footsteps of their father, Chicago's Chief of Detectives, and become cops. Billy gets drawn in to a raid on a brothel that services high profile Chicagoans including the Mayor himself. Later, Patti is called to the scene of a murder involving her twin brother Billy. His partner is dead. The assistant state's attorney is dead, and Billy is left for dead.

They also find out there is corruption in the police force, and someone has been taking kickbacks to keep from blowing the whistle on the brothel, a protection scheme. Now that it has been raided, everyone wants to find the elusive black book that contains not only the high profile clientele but the name of the cop who's running the protection scheme.

Several people are murdered, and the blame is pinned on Billy, and since he was shot, too, he has lost pieces of his memory. Will he be the fall guy, or will the truth come out? And if the truth comes out, who will be cornered?

This was an exciting ride! There are twists and turns along the way. Things aren't always as they seem. That's the kind of book I like.

Kirkus Reviews says this, "... the mystery is authentic, the lead-up genuinely suspenseful, and the leading characters and situations more memorable than Patterson’s managed in quite a while."

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