As a huge fan of Madeline L'Engle I was so excited to read Edges by Ms. Roy. While I certainly did not expect them to be the same writer, she is after...moreAs a huge fan of Madeline L'Engle I was so excited to read Edges by Ms. Roy. While I certainly did not expect them to be the same writer, she is after all her own person, I was hopeful that I would find another writer with a unique voice and the realistic optimism I always found in Ms. L'Engle's work from the time I was in 5th grade.
I was NOT disappointed. The voice that Ms. Roy employs in the novel is very unique but contains the mysticism and optimism that reminds me that all of life is not unbearable, while maintaining the realism necessary to speak to young adults. She does not write a happy happy book that smacks of saccharine sweetness. Instead, she writes an inspired and complex novel that intertwines two sets of lives on opposite ends of the country who, unbeknown to them, are inextricably linked. The main characters struggle with dark and realistic demons that threaten to rip apart not only their own lives, but the lives of those they love. Yet, throughout, Ms. Roy maintains an undercurrent of optimism that allows the reader and the characters to believe that there MIGHT be something better on the other side, if they can but find it.
As a high school English teacher, I spend my days trying to convince many of my teenagers the very same thing. I work with many youths who battle demons daily, either of their own creation or of the creation of the adults in their lives. These amazing kids deal daily with the choices of life and death. That might seem heavy to many people out there, but more of our young adults ages 12-21 struggle with life and death situations than most people realize, or care to contemplate. This is shown clearly through the narrative in Edges.
Ms. Roy has written a novel that will speak to those students I most worry about and, I can hope, give them hope for another day.
Bravo Ms. Roy! I look forward to your next work!(less)
Introduced characters that I had to know more about. One of the things I love about all of the "In Death" books is that Robb has created a plausible f...moreIntroduced characters that I had to know more about. One of the things I love about all of the "In Death" books is that Robb has created a plausible future that is believable even for those who hate the whole idea of books set in the future. This first book gets you hooked, the rest keep you hooked.(less)
This is probably my 30th time reading A Wrinkle in Time. This book has been touchstone, inspiration and savior for me countless times. I just finished...moreThis is probably my 30th time reading A Wrinkle in Time. This book has been touchstone, inspiration and savior for me countless times. I just finished and I feel as though I need to read it again. As I go through challenges in my life the messages in the novel remind me of what is important.
So what struck me this time as I read? "A willing suspension of disbelief". This quote from Dr. Murray, Meg and Charles Wallace's mother struck me more profoundly this time than ever before. Isn't this the crux of all things? She is a PhD and a biologist, but she relies on her willing suspension of disbelief to deal with the parts of life that she cannot explain. As she tries to relay to Meg on page 53 when she says to Meg "But I think that with our human limitations we're not always able to understand the explanations. But you see, Meg, just because we don't understand doesn't mean that the explanation doesn't exist."
I teach high school English in a very rural impoverished community that struggles with issues so much bigger than standardized test scores and government expectations. It would be easy to accept that my students are destined for failure and that nothing could change the lives they are about to lead, but I cannot believe that. I have to believe that the world out there holds something special for each and every one of them if they can just find the door to it. I also believe that it is my job to help them find that door. I have to practice a "willing suspension of disbelief" every day to keep my own hope alive and to foster theirs.
That brings me to the other idea that struck me so profoundly this time. The Black Thing and the "dark planet". In the last three years I have seen those two ideas more definitely than ever before in my life. I watch The Black Thing try to eat my children's souls, either through drugs and alcoholism, the abuse of either or both by the people around them, or the abuse and neglect of the children themselves. I rarely see anything positive or proactive being done to stop the damage, to prevent the damage, or to do anything once the damage is done. It makes me despair about the "dark planet" on which we seem to live and I must remember what Mrs. Who tells Meg on page 222 "The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are." As Mrs. Who tells Meg to try to understand this quote as she understood the Tesseract, as do I see this quote and it's truth in a flash that drives out the despair that I have and reminds me to have a "willing suspension of disbelief" and know that all things happen for a reason.
And so here I sit, having read this book for perhaps the 31st time in my life since it was read to me by Ms. Hutchinson in 5th grade, and I know that its profound message has not lost any of it's power and impact. If anything it has continued to grow. Thank the Lord for Madeline L'Engle and all that she wrote, and thank you for the power that spoke through her when she wrote this book. While I certainly know people who do not like or appreciate this book, it continues to be a touchstone, and inspiration and a savior for me as I move through the different phases of my life. It reminds me to be real and realistic and to know that I am but a small piece in a huge picture.(less)
Finished this last night. What a bizarre book. It was funny, poignant, and just plain weird by turns. I enjoyed it, I have several students at school...moreFinished this last night. What a bizarre book. It was funny, poignant, and just plain weird by turns. I enjoyed it, I have several students at school that I will recommend it too for various reason, but I am still left feeling a little, I don't even know, thrown off.
It ends, not unhappily, not even sadly, but completely not the way I expected. I don't want to say too much about any of it because it would take nothing to be a spoiler for this book. I will say that Libba Bray has captured the personalities of the people I work with for hours every day in her completely accurate portrayal of modern teenagers.
I will also say that her portrayal of school and teachers, while horrific and depressing from the standpoint of being a teacher, is also undeniably and sadly accurate. Not one person in Cameron's life, not a parent, a teacher, a friend, or his twin sister realize that his behavior is not only odd but out of character. The child has to collapse on the kitchen floor after having horrific hallucinations before anyone thinks to take him to doctor rather than a drug counselor and a therapist. How pathetic is it that we live in a world where this is NOT just a story-line in a book but what many of my students go through daily.
From the standpoint of a teenage reader, I can see how many would love it because it has a little something for all different types of groups. It is, however, weird, and there are several students that I have who are just too mainstream to like it. I will give it to one of them, though, because she will read almost anything and it will be good to see what she says about it.
Read going bovine, it will, if nothing else, make you think.(less)
Mistress of the Art of Death is a really good book. It definitely started out slow. It took several chapters to really get into the swing of the story...moreMistress of the Art of Death is a really good book. It definitely started out slow. It took several chapters to really get into the swing of the story, but once it got going, I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next. The fact that it is a historical fiction murder mystery just made it more alluring. And unlike many of these types of books, I did not figure out who did it prior to the ending, which I really enjoyed. There were enough clues throughout for me to have figured it out, but she kept the plot twisting enough for me to not know for sure until it was revealed. The history was accurately written and at the end, the author tells what parts specifically she fictionalized to fit with a modern audience, which I enjoyed as a history buff.
Even though this is definitely written for adults, I feel confident in recommending it to my high school English students who are advanced readers because, in addition to the great story line, it does not contain the other material from adult novels that make them questionable for a teenage audience. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.(less)
I believe that I enjoyed this book more than the last, perhaps because the characters were already established and so there was less background and mo...moreI believe that I enjoyed this book more than the last, perhaps because the characters were already established and so there was less background and more action. Even when they were locked away and snowed in at the abbey, it continued to be entertaining. While these books certainly would not qualify and high literature, they are fun examinations of history and they are, most definitely, historical fiction, which the author readily admits too.
I know some other reviewers of the book scoff at the apparent incongruities between the role of women historically and the creation of the main character, however, I find the characterization believable by the fact that women have historically found ways to freedom within the confines of law. History has shown, over and over, that women have found ways to both confound and circumnavigate the stifling laws that have held them back, so the character of Mistress Adelia is hardly without credence.
Excellent second book and while not wholly believable, certainly a fun romp through a very bloody and dangerous history.
Anyone who enjoys a good mystery or historical fiction (without the "romance") will like this book.(less)
Another excellent book about Adelia. Again a tale of murder and mystery and the heroine running afoul of bad people, putting her life in jeopardy for...moreAnother excellent book about Adelia. Again a tale of murder and mystery and the heroine running afoul of bad people, putting her life in jeopardy for truth and being rescued.
The book left off with a bit of a cliff hanger both in the way of how Rowley and Adelia plan on getting on with their futures and of course the ominous looker on who has evil in mind for the heroine. All in all, another great book.(less)
I love the "In Death" books. I think that Robb has done a great job of creating a realistic futuristic society in which both the technology and the so...moreI love the "In Death" books. I think that Robb has done a great job of creating a realistic futuristic society in which both the technology and the sociological changes are believable. I see things on the news regularly that make me think, "we might be headed in that direction". This particular book was not as well rounded as the earlier books. It wasn't that the main plot was not developed or that she misses things, because she doesn't. It was more that the sub-plot did not live up to the bar she has set previously. I felt that the story lines with Peabody and McNab and the other characters were there to support the main story rather than to be parallel stories, which has always been the case in the past until the last 2 or 3 books. I hate to say this, but maybe she is trying to write too much too fast? I hate waiting for them, but I want them to be full and complete and not feel like a knock-off, which I felt a little like this one was.
I still love them and recommend them to anyone who likes murder mysteries. Maybe she just needs to write fewer books with more oomph. After all, she is writing for two (Robb and Roberts).(less)
This book is a disturbing portrayal of two girl's decent into eating disorders. Written in the first person, Lia's trip through her eating disorder su...moreThis book is a disturbing portrayal of two girl's decent into eating disorders. Written in the first person, Lia's trip through her eating disorder sucks the reader into her life. Thankfully one of the crosses I have not had to bear is anorexia or bulemia, so I cannot speak specifically to the reality that is portrayed in regards to that, however, having suffered my entire life from depression, Ms. Anderson's portrayal of the dark voices that whisper in Lia's head and her drive to both cut and starve herself in order to eradicate the repressed pain and to find some control over a life that is out of her control is perfectly accurate.
In fact, it is almost too accurate. Someone who is in the throws of either depression or anorexia might want to avoid this book until they feel strong enough to view it as instructional because it certainly could trigger both conditions it is so accurate. The reader truly descends into Lia's world with her through the clever and extremely well-written internal as well as external dialogue.
This is definitely a book that I plan to recommend to both my students and adult friends.(less)
This is a fantastic book focusing on increasing reading ability in students through the use of, wait for it, reading! One would think this would be ob...moreThis is a fantastic book focusing on increasing reading ability in students through the use of, wait for it, reading! One would think this would be obvious, but in today's schools, it is not. As a high school English teacher, it is very rare for the idea of independent reading to be promoted. With all of the standards and expectations heaped on those of us who are in charge of teaching reading and writing, it is hard sometimes to see the forest for the trees, especially when students in 10th grade are often at the level one would expect from a 6th grader.
Now having said that, it is also hard from and English teacher standpoint to whole-heartedly agree with Donalyn Miller's ideas. She does, after all, teach 6th grade READING. English truly is a different class, however, with some creativity and some thinking outside of the box, I am going to attempt to provide my students with much more choice next year in terms of what required reading they should be doing and I also intend to increase the amount of independent reading I am asking of them as well.
Her ideas are absolutely 100% right on in terms of what will make students at 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade grow and I believe that if all teachers at those grade levels did what Miller shows in her book, my students would be ready to tackle the challenges of high school English and I would actually get to teach English class rather than a high level of reading. Bravo Ms. Miller. (less)