Tuesday, August 30, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books on my School Shelf

Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish, this week is a Back to School special. I've chosen to list some of the books I have in my classroom, hoping to entice students to read. I should mention, however, that I teach high school physics, so the books I have on hand are primarily nonfiction and of the physics variety. I've read all the books listed and would recommend each of these to any reader. They are all readable, and interesting. I have (many) more books in my room, some of which are a little drier, but I left off a number of really good books! These are the books I pass out if someone has finished a test early, or if there is school-wide reading time.

Zap! Nikola Tesla Takes Charge by Monica Kulling, Illustrated by Bill Slavin
High school kids don't mind reading books for little kids. This is my newest acquisition and obsession as Tesla is one very interesting dude!

Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman
At one point, I used to read this book aloud to my grade twelve classes. That's another thing high school kids don't mind. This is an imagining of Einstein's dreams as he comes up with this theory of relativity. Each chapter is a version of how time could be, so becomes rather philosophical (What is time?) Stretches their brains.

E = mc2 by David Sodanis
This is an phenomenal biography of each component of the famous equation. Very readable and interesting, you will learn lots and like it

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Col Chris Hadfield
I don't own this one, but when I get my hands on it, I'll add it to my room. We still see lots of Col Hadfield in little videos I show. This is an inspiring memoir of an amazing man!

How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming by Mike Brown
Brown found the planet that started the demotion process of Pluto. Perfect for amateur astronomers !

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
You can't go wrong with Mary Roach who is not afraid to tackle any question about her subject, usually with plenty of humour. There is a section in here on inertia and the churning of internal organs that can go on with rapid sudden stops that I read to my class. (Until one girl nearly got sick from the graphic description!)

The Martian by Andy Weir
Another book that I don't own because I borrowed from the library, but I would love to have it in my classroom library. So much good science in this one.

Science Verse by John Scieszka
Another kids book that is easy to read and funny. As a cross-curricular book, famous poems are re-written from a science point of view.

The Quirks & Quarks Guide to Space by Jim Lebans
I read and reviewed this book back in 2008 and it is a good book to pass out to students as each of the 42 questions and answers are relatively short, so it's the kind of book you can pick up and read anywhere.

Dava Sobel books of any kind: Planets (I have 2 copies of this one), Longitude, A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos. Also, not pictured, but in my library, is Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love.

I think I've read all of Sobel's books at least once. I've loved them all.  Who ever does her cover designs deserves top marks. They are beautiful in real life.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

BOOKS: Eleanor's Heartburn in the Kingdom

I just went through a spell of really, really good reads. The kind that have you flitting about for the next read because, how will it compare with what you just finished? Three in a row.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I had the print copy, but ended up listening non-stop to the audiobook version. Non-stop.

My first Rowell! Set in the 80s, two misfits find love after sitting together on the bus. Park is half-Korean, and comes from a loving and supportive home. Things aren't perfect but his parents are trying. Eleanor has a horrific home life, with an evil step-father, and no money. Eleanor broke my heart, trying to fit in and get by, and then she meets Park. After dissing Romeo and Juliet as a stupid lovestory, (yay!) the story then proceeds to show the depth that teenage love can reach.

(What goes on in the mind of those controlling asshat men? I almost wanted to read the story from her step-father's point of view, because what thought process happens to make men so controlling and unreasonable? I probably don't really want to read that story, but it did occur to me. He was such a stereotypical character, but they are all over the place in real life.)

Also, this story was a good reminder as a teacher that what you see in class can tell you nothing about students' home life.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron, read by Meryl Streep

Still in the 80s, but now it was written in 1983, not a look back. First up, Ephron is hilarious! She's written some iconic movies -When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Silkwood, Julie & Julia. I also read her book of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck and loved it.

This is a semi-autobiographical account of her divorce from reporter Carl Bernstein and she manages to take a horrible situation - seven months pregnant and discovering her husband is having an affair, with Thelma Rice of all people! and find the humour. Part of my enjoyment was the narration by Meryl Streep, who played the main character in the movie of the same name. Streep was perfection and the story was short, but hilarious.

The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty, 480 pages

I listened to the first part of this trilogy,  A Corner of White, last summer. I searched out the print copy and still really enjoyed this weird blend of fantasy, alternate worlds and science.

How to review the second book, without giving away some of the surprise twists from the end of the first book? I found this little snippit at Librarything:

"This story is unusual, gorgeously written, whimsical and witty. A tale of growing up, friendship and dealing with absent fathers. Peppered with fascinating facts about history of science and the science of colours. The heart of the story is in the characters and their relationships. I thought it was lovely and was enjoying it enormously.

AND THEN! And then, unexpectedly, the pieces suddenly start falling together! This was incredibly exciting and satisfying and unexpected."

Oh, the science. James Clerk Maxwell, the duality of electricity and magnetism, wave-particle behaviour of light, Faraday and Newton. There isn't so much science that would be confusing or overwhelming, but just enough if you are into that sort of thing. Which I am!

A Tangle of Gold is the final book, and the end of the second book has left me on the cliff, and looking forward the the ending. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

BOOKS: YA Sync 2016: I'll Give You a Fat Sun on the Jellicoe Road in the Last Jungle

I've been listening to all these contemporary young adult fiction this summer. Listening isn't my best method for taking in information and some of these books are starting to blend together on me. I'm writing some short synopsis to keep them straight.

Fat Angie by e.E Charlton-Trujillo 

Fat Angie has a perfect sister who enlisted in the army to fight in Afghanistan and is missing. Her adopted brother and her mother are pissed at Fat Angie (always called Fat Angie throughout the book) because she tried to kill herself at a school assembly and has brought shame on their family. New girl KC arrives from California and becomes friends with Fat Angie. Takes Angie quite a while to realize that KC is gay and interested. Angie decides to try out for the basketball team, following in her sister's footsteps.
Mother is possibly the worst, cruellest mother in YA fiction. Angie is dealing with lots of guilt, shame, and abuse. Doesn't even notice that Angie has lost weight/got in shape for basketball; won't go to her first basketball game. Pretty good examples of how not to deal with mental illness throughout this book, including her pyschologist. Angie needs to talk to the shrink from Every Last Word (see below).

 I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson

Twins, Noah and Jude. Noah tells the story when they are 13; Jude when they are 16. Noah at 13 is sensitive, artsy, dreaming of getting into Art School; and in love with the boy down the road. Jude is living wilder at 13, partying, dating an older boy. Their parents (scientist sporty father, art teacher mother)
At sixteen, Noah and Jude are not speaking, their mother has died in a car accident, Jude is in art school and wanting to learn how to scult in rock to help rid her of her mother's ghost.
The back and forth moves the story along, as we try to figure out what happened to lead to the estrangement of Jude and Noah. Some nice tie ups by the end; crazy level betrayals on the part of a couple of thirteen year olds.

On the Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta

Australia. Boarding School. Taylor Markham was left at the school. Friends with an off site adviser who becomes missing. Boarding school has leaders, meets with Cadets and negotiates over territories. There are students kidnapped by the cadets and negotiations. Very little schooling going on. There is another story being told by Hannah, (confusing in the beginning who all the people are and when the past story is being told) that appears to be fiction but is probably based on true.

"This book jumps from what happened 18 years ago between a group of five friends and what is happening now between the Townies, the Jellicoe school kids and The Cadets. The leaders of the three groups bond as they help Taylor, the leader of the Jellicoe school find out about her past and her connection to the the five friends." review summary from LT

Takes time to allow the story to develop and characters to become identified, but at halfway, things start to become clear and plots start to come together. Would be worth a reread, on paper instead of audio.

 Every Last Word - Tamara Ireland Stone

Swimmer with OCD who starts to grow apart from her high school friends. Spends a lot of time hiding her OCD, like how she must stop her car with the odometer on a 3. Most of her obsessions have to do with 3. A new girl shows her one day to a secret hideout in the school where students share their poetry. The leader of Poets' Corner, AJ, doesn't like Sam because it turns out she was cruel to him when they were younger. Lots of bullying, and  mental illness and its effects. Romance between Sam and AJ, and reasonable parents and psychiatrist. Forgiveness and acceptance.

Every Last Word
These walls heard
me when no
one else could.

They gave my
words a home,
kept them safe.

Cheered, cried, listened
Changed my life
for the better.

It wasn’t enough.
But they heard
every last word.

Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew Smith

Such a weird book. Austin Szerba has a girlfriend, Shan, and is in love, or at least curious about his best friend, Robby, who is gay. Also, everything makes Austin Szerba horny. Austin is very interested in history and is recording life as it happens just as it becomes history. Lots of weird and gross and unbelievable in a fun and campy way.

"Austin and Robby are witnesses to the beginning of the end of the world as they know it. Their bullies accidentally release a science experiment from their Iowa town's shady past, and soon 6-foot tall bugs begin taking over." 

This is the second book by Smith that was offered in YA Sync and both were quirky with unique writing styles. (100 Sideways Miles)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten Books Set in the Maritimes (not including PEI)

This week's topic for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is books you'd recommend with a particular setting, your choice. I thought about beach books, but since I feel any book is a beach book if you read it on the beach, my choices seemed limitless! I've decided to focus on the Maritimes, but not include my PEI. So, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick based books. (Newfoundland is not considered part of the Maritimes; the four together are called the Atlantic provinces.)

I only picked books I have read and that I liked, a lot.

NEW BRUNSWICK: (poor NB, not so many books as the rest of the Atlantic Provinces, but these are really good)

The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor by Sally Armstrong
Almost not fiction, Armstrong wrote this biography of her great-grandmother but because she built a narrative around the facts and legends, it is fiction. American pioneers have been written about over and over, but life in the backwoods of New Brunswick was very tough. This is a really well done, exciting historical book, and Charlotte Taylor was an amazing woman.

Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards
One of my favourite books, this would be a great book club book, with lots of discussion about the main character and the decisions he made. After an incident in his youth, he vows to always turn the other cheek. Is he a coward for never standing up for himself? 

A Neighbourly War by Robert L Dallison
Vol 7 of New Brunswick Military Heritage Series

It's not that this book is anything tremendous, but it represents the local history books that are written and published by local presses. I read mostly all fiction, but history books contain so much information and it is wonderful that the books get written. It made me want to look up more of the NB Military Heritage books at my library. There is one about the American Revolution, and one about War brides that look good.

NOVA SCOTIA: (So many books set in NS, it probably thinks this post is about it)

The Lost Salt Gift of Blood by Alistair MacLeod
Short stories that are just. so. good at capturing that Maritime flavour. Plus, this will lead you to other books by MacLeod, like No Great Mischief, or his son Alexander's books.

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson
Sneaky of me, getting Anne in here by way of Nova Scotia, but that is how she ended up on PEI, just like me! Wilson was given permission to write this prequel to Anne of Green Gables, and this is not a happy, cheerful book. In fact, my sobbing at the end was because I knew Anne was headed to Marilla and Matthew, and was so happy for her, knowing what was coming, after the terrible beginning she had. Wilson does an admirable job building on the clues Maud wrote.

The Birth House by Ami McKay
Here's a very well known book set on the south shore of Nova Scotia, about a mid-wife. I read this early years of blogging and I know I liked it, good historical fiction, but I really can't remember much. Weird names? 

The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre
Before I read this book I only knew MacIntyre as an investigative reporter for CBC. He won the Giller prize with this well done book about abuse withing the church, within Cape Breton. Great characterization and setting. I've always meant to read another MacIntyre book.

Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan
Every December 6th, the people of NS send a giant Christmas tree to Boston in remembrance and thanks for their help during the Halifax explosion of 1917. This is a great easy read that will have you on the edge of your seat and then send you out looking for some more information about the worst man-made explosion, only eclipsed by atomic bombs. This is an oldie but a goodie.

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Probably the best known of all these books, Fall On Your Knees was an Oprah pick early on in O's book club phenomenom. Again, I know I liked it, but not loved it back in the day. 

On South Mountain by David Cruise and Alison Griffiths
This non-fiction book is set in the Annapolis Valley and investigates how the Golers happened. The Golers were a mountain clan, very poor, and isolated and insular with generations of abuse and incest. It wasn't until the 1980s that the abuse came to light. I remember seeing and hearing about the Golers on TV when in high school, and 'the Golers' was a common insult for people my age to throw around. Not after reading the book. There was nothing funny about this story; it is horrifying and reprehensible and embarrassing that the clans were allowed to continue, because you see, people knew. Doctors, police, and officials all knew and just excused it as 'mountain folk'. 

This book is probably a little obscure, but Lauren B Davis has written a fictional book, Our Daily Bread, based on the Goler family that may be easier to find. Not easy reading by any means, but until we know our past...

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books You'd Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed You A Fully Loaded Gift Card

This week's topic for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is books you'd buy right this second if someone handed you a fully loaded gift card! Who wouldn't love that? Some are books I plan to read, some are books that aren't really available easily.

1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (I just about bought this one today!)

2. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Still really want to read this re-telling of Pride and Prejudice

3. Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown People by John Banville
I heard about this book and it sounded so cool, even though it is not available through Indigo right now. Different authors were asked to write a portrait based on paintings in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Kind of like The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys, which I loved

4. Montalbano's First Cases by Andrea Camilleri

5. Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
a book I can't get at my library from 2015 Bailey's Prize

6. Girl at War by Sara Novic
Also can't get at my library from 2016 Bailey's Prize

7. Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature's Most Memorable Meals by Dinah Fried
"Fictitious Dishes serves up a delectable assortment of photographic interpretations of culinary moments from contemporary and classic literature"

8. The Invention of Everything Else by Samatha Hunt
A story of history, fiction, and science and has Nicolas Tesla as a character. If you don't know much about Tesla, you should watch this short video by Hank Green about him. Priceless - I love showing my physics classes this biography.

9. Cowboy and Octopus by John Scieskza
This was a book we loved from the library when the children were young and I had put it on my wishlist at Indigo (and never updated). I'd never really buy it, but it would be fun to still have around.

10. Audiobooks! audiobooks! audiobooks! 
I only read audio books that I can get through my library (or my sister's) or through YA Sync so there are lots of times I look for a book but can't find it, unless I were to buy it. I can't pick one in particular, so instead I'll take a credit for a book or two at audible.com.