Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: All Clear

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

By: Connie Willis
Publication Date: October 19, 2010

Note: This is second and final book of this duet. The first book was "Blackout." And I am 1st on the library's lending list to read "All Clear" - YEAH!

Description from
In Blackout, award-winning author Connie Willis returned to the time-traveling future of 2060—the setting for several of her most celebrated works—and sent three Oxford historians to World War II England: Michael Davies, intent on observing heroism during the Miracle of Dunkirk; Merope Ward, studying children evacuated from London; and Polly Churchill, posing as a shopgirl in the middle of the Blitz. But when the three become unexpectedly trapped in 1940, they struggle not only to find their way home but to survive as Hitler’s bombers attempt to pummel London into submission.

Now the situation has grown even more dire. Small discrepancies in the historical record seem to indicate that one or all of them have somehow affected the past, changing the outcome of the war. The belief that the past can be observed but never altered has always been a core belief of time-travel theory—but suddenly it seems that the theory is horribly, tragically wrong.

Meanwhile, in 2060 Oxford, the historians’ supervisor, Mr. Dunworthy, and seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who nurses a powerful crush on Polly, are engaged in a frantic and seemingly impossible struggle of their own—to find three missing needles in the haystack of history.

Told with compassion, humor, and an artistry both uplifting and devastating,
All Clear is more than just the triumphant culmination of the adventure that began with Blackout. It’s Connie Willis’s most humane, heartfelt novel yet—a clear-eyed celebration of faith, love, and the quiet, ordinary acts of heroism and sacrifice too often overlooked by history.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Sword

About two months ago I was reading a flier from my local Christian book store that had a blurb about "The Sword" in it.

"This novel poses the question, if a society had no knowledge of Christianity, and then a Bible were discovered, what would happen?"

The whole premise of this book really got me thinking...what would it be like to live in a culture where no one has read the Bible? Obviously there are "unreached" people groups in the world that have not read the Bible as it has not been taught or translated into their native tongue. But what if no one has knowledge of the powerful teachings and wisdom found within?

Book Description: From Crossway Books
Four hundred years after a deadly virus and nuclear war destroyed the modern world, a new and noble civilization emerges. In this kingdom, called Chiveis, snowcapped mountains provide protection, and fields and livestock provide food. The people live medieval-style lives, with almost no knowledge of the "ancient" world. Safe in their natural stronghold, the Chiveisi have everything they need, even their own religion. Christianity has been forgotten—until a young army scout comes across a strange book.

When I started reading "The Sword" by Bryan Litfin, I didn't realize that this would be a trilogy. (Alas...I guess I have two more books I'll be reading! I always do this to myself - case in point...Hunger Games, Blackout...)

Overall I found the novel to be an enjoyable read. The characters are fantastic and the kingdom and land described create for an epic setting. I found myself trying to determine where in the world the story is unfolding as there are small clues left throughout the book. The villain of the book is larger than life - she is truly one scary woman! I kept envisioning a Angelia Jolie-type actress every time I read a scene with the High Priestess of Astrebril in it.

The story has adventure, revenge, romance, grief, hope, evil, friendship, etc. Nearly everything you'd expect in an epic-like book. My only criticism is that it probably could have been about fifty pages shorter. There were a few scenes that slowed things down a bit, but nothing that would prevent me from recommending the book or reading the next installments.

One of the huge takeaways I have from reading "The Sword" is an admiration for the sheer amount of faith the two main characters - Ana and Teo - have to not back down and deny their faith in "Deu" (God as we know him in Judeo-Christian circles.) I found it inspiring that a future people could feel so drawn to an unknown God simply by the words found in Holy scripture. Really convicting for me to keep up with my daily reading in scripture.

To recap:

Worth reading: Yes

Worth buying my own copy: No (love your local library)

Recommend to friends: Yes, those who like fantasy/history

Stars: 4 out of 5

"The Sword" Web site:

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Book Whisperer

As some of you know, I have a 6-year-old daughter named Gretchen. Gretchen is in first grade and although I feel she is exceptionally bright (what mother doesn't?), she absolutely hates doing her reading and math homework. In particular, I'm surprised she hasn't taken to her reading homework as we find she has always loved having books read to her. I know she can read tough words - she surprises me every day with the words she sounds out and tells me she can read - but she has no interest in reading the 1 page story she has to read to me 3 times each night.

Out of desperation, I came across "The Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller at my local library. As I have read this book I felt like the clouds parted and the heavens started singing. This teacher - Donalyn Miller - gets it. As she describes how she gets her 6th graders to read 40 books a year, I am in awe of how on the mark she is about why people, like me, end up being life-long readers. The current system we have in American schools for standardized tests, comprehension assignments, etc. nearly extinguishes any passion children may have for reading.

Some of the key things Miller does in her classroom are:
1. Independent reading (upwards of 30 minutes a day) happens in her classroom every single day

2. Students are allowed to select the books they read to achieve their 40 book requirement - making sure they read adequate amounts of books from various genres

3. She rarely requires book reports or comprehension tests; she gauges whether a student is reading by talking with the students and offering recommendations for future reading

Seems too simply, right?

At the end of 2008 I got sucked into reading the Twilight series of books. And when I finally emerged from a 3 week reading binge I realized how much I missed reading. Since finishing college in 2001 I had unintentionally taken a hiatus from the voracious amounts of reading I did in high school and college. As much as I find the Twilight books annoying now, I do credit them with rekindling a love of reading and now a somewhat obsessive hobby to those who know and love me.

I think Donalyn Miller summed up my feelings how books help us to relate to each other as humans. We need to encourage students to become a lifelong readers because of this need to relate.

p. 173 of "The Book Whisperer"
This is how I show my students that I love them - by putting books in their hands, by noticing what they are about, and finding books that tell them, 'I know. I know. I know how it is. I know who you are, and even though we may never speak of it, read this book, and know that I understand you.' We speak in this language of books passing back and forth, books that say, 'You are a dreamer; read this.' 'You are hurting inside; read this.' 'Your need a good laugh; read this.'

I can't recommend this book highly enough to parents and educators who want to encourage children to love to read. My prayer is that I have a daughter who soon discovers this love for reading and grabs it and makes it her own.

To recap:

Worth reading: Definitely

Worth buying my own copy: If you're an educator, yes

Recommend to friends: Yes

Stars: 5 out of 5

PS - Donalyn Miller has a blog with that is worth checking out. Twitter handle:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


All year I have been patiently waiting for the third and final installment of The Hunger Games trilogy. I'm not a big book buyer so I had been waiting patiently for the Mockingjay to become available at my local library. I was 71 out of 125 last week when I last checked. Then a colleague came to my rescue and let me borrow her copy.

Book Description:
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12.

I read the story in five days. It started off really well, but then just dragged on and was so depressing to read at times. I know the depressing nature was Collin's intent as she was trying to get across the point that war is pointless - no one wins. But, it was so violent that it just got me down. AND...she didn't end up with the guy I wanted her to! {No spoilers, but I've talked to some people and you are either Team Peeta or Team Gale. Some people loved the ending so don't take my review as gospel that it's not a good ending. It's just not the one I would have liked!}

I have to say though that Collins paints a vivid and believable future reality. She is an incredibly creative writer who doesn't write the expected and for that she should be applauded. I was just rooting for the other guy, but it's alright that I don't always get my way. It will be interesting to see how this story is portrayed when they turn this into a movie.

To recap:

Worth reading? Yes...I mean who wouldn't want to know how this whole story ends

Worth buying my own copy? No

Recommend to friends? Only ones with a strong stomach and not overly sensitive

Stars: 3 out of 5