Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book #96 Another Installment in a Series

Watchers of Time (Inspector Ian Rutledge, #5)Watchers of Time by Charles Todd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Watchers of Time is the 5th book in the Inspector Rutledge series, and so far, it's the best one I've read.  Rutledge is called to investigate the death of a Catholic priest, ostensibly murdered during a house burglary. In fact, he uncovers a much more sinister plot.  Charles Todd evokes a realistic post WWI atmosphere superbly, and weaves the local environment into the web of the story.  Rutledge continues to wrestle with his demons, most notably Hamish, the voice in his head.  This series is dark and moody, but I've been hooked.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

What IS It About Book Series?

I am trying to figure out why I have been on such a book series jag the last couple of years.  It seems like they are making up the bulk of my reading.  Perhaps I've always enjoyed them, but I don't think I was as conscious of the fact that they were series. (For some reason the plural of series doesn't look right!)  I know that when I enjoy an author I want to read more of his or her books.  Perhaps there are more series nowadays?  I realize that many classic authors wrote books featuring the same lead character (Agatha Christie for example, with Hercule Poirot, or Miss Marple, or even Tommy and Tuppence) but I don't think I was aware of a sequence.  It didn't seem to matter in which order they were read as much as series do now.  Perhaps earlier series concentrated more on the plot of the moment rather than the character development subplots?  I'd have to do some serious re-reading to see if my hypothesis is correct!  I do think that as the stress in my life has increased, my desire to stay in my comfort zone for reading relaxation probably has increased.  It's helpful to know that characters will act in certain ways, and that plots will unfold in a predictable fashion.  (Although, there have been a couple of times where an author veers into startling new areas -Dana Stabenow's series comes to mind with Hunter's Moon, #9 in the Kate Shugak series).  At any rate, here are my comments on Lindsey Davis's Ode to a Banker,  #12  in her Marcus Didius Falco series!  And it's book #95 for me this year.  I sure don't do a lot of heavy reading!

Ode to a Banker (Marcus Didius Falco, #12)Ode to a Banker by Lindsey Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This 12th installment in the series examines the publishing and banking industries of Vespasian's Rome.  As usual, Lindsey Davis makes this period come alive.  Marcus Didius Falco is investigating the brutal murder of Chrysippus, the owner of a publishing house interested in Falco's satires.  Falco discovers Chrysippus also owns the Aurelian Bank which has been involved in some shady investment schemes.  Anacrites, the Chief Spy, and erstwhile partner, continues to be a thorn in Falco's flesh as he romances Falco sister, and provides investment advice to Falco's mother.  More family problems crop up when Didius Geminus, Falco's father, loses his grip on his business.  The involved plot kept me guessing and intrigued!

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Keeping My Head Above Water - Barely

Most days I feel like I'm drowning or trying to swim against a rip tide.  The amount of work this year is incredible. Changing grade levels has been draining.  It's not just the work of learning new curriculum and creating new-to-me units/lessons.  The change in classroom behavior from one grade to the next has been a real surprise (and CHALLENGE) for me.  The classroom management skills that I've used over the years, aren't working so in many ways, I feel a bit like I did when I first starting teaching many moons ago.  It reminds me a bit of when I did a long term substitute stint as a 2nd grade teacher.  I remember describing that experience as being the ringmaster of a nine ring circus where you had to change the acts every 10 minutes.  It's a bit like that only now the kids are a lot bigger!  Yesterday was tough.  I felt like I was playing the "Whack-a-Mole" game -- as fast as you cover one hole, another head pops up in another spot on the board!  The other challenge this year has been a change in schedule and working conditions.  My planning period is first thing in the morning, and then we teach straight through for 5 hours without a break.  We have some new reporting requirements too, this year, that take an enormous amount of time.  So aside from the increased workload of the grade level change, there is an additional hour or so of work required every week.  This weekend's agenda has book projects, essays, vocabulary packets, social studies quizzes, and assorted late work to grade for 38 students, plus the usual planning for the week ahead.  I'd like to catch up on some TV too.  My DVR is getting full!

I haven't done much knitting lately.  By the time I get home and have dinner, I sit down on the couch to watch some TV, pick up my needles, and promptly doze off.  I've been in bed by 9 pm most nights if not earlier.  I've managed to read a couple of books, but haven't had time to post reviews.   I'm looking forward to Nov. 2nd  --- no not the election, but the fact that it's a day off!  I'm hoping to spend the day with a friend shopping for shoes!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Slogging On

It was a calmer week than the last one.  I'm keeping my nose to the grindstone, hand to the plow,  feet on the path,  etc. etc.  I'm trying to do what several mentors have told me in the past: "Sometimes all you can do is close your door, and do what you do best -- teach."  Next week should also be somewhat low-key.  It's a four day week for us, and we have 3 days of state testing.  So while the testing is high-stakes, there's not much preparation to do, since for much of the day, it's proctoring the tests.  We have Friday off for the state teachers' conference, so that's why it's a 4 day week.  I do have a lot of work to do -- a major social studies  project is due Monday so I will have 40 of those to assess, and I need to decide what's next.

Our teachers association has a project to work on also.  Our contract did not pass last March.  It's been renegotiated, and the vote on that is coming up.  We need to work on getting out the positive vote on that.  We are working without a contract, and the new one needs to pass. The proposed contract freezes our current salaries for another year, and then in the second year, the only raises are "step" increases - the increases in salary that we have traditionally gotten for experiences.  It's highly probable that those increases will be eaten up entirely by our increased health insurance contributions, at least for most of the teachers.  Many teachers will go "backwards".  Nobody is thrilled with it, but we also don't want to be without a contract.  And most of us are happy that we have jobs with decent health insurance.  What makes me a little annoyed is that many people forget that many of the teachers in our district live in our district and are taxpayers too.  We are VERY conscious of how school costs impact our property taxes since we pay them too.  In our state, the local school budgets are almost entirely funded by local property taxes.  It's a pretty uneven distribution of burden across the state.  Our state does not have an income tax or a sales tax so property owners and business owners bear the brunt of paying for services.


Fifty Acres and a Poodle: A Story of Love, Livestock, and Finding Myself on a FarmFifty Acres and a Poodle: A Story of Love, Livestock, and Finding Myself on a Farm by Jeanne Marie Laskas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this saga of how a city-bred woman fulfilled her dream of moving to the country and living on a farm. Jeanne Marie Laskas, a columnist for the Washington Post, takes a humorous look at how she and her boyfriend Alex other bought a fifty acres of farmland in Pennsylvania, about an hour from Pittsburgh, based on the fact that it had a perfect view.   In a collection of beautifully breezily written essays she chronicles the purchase of the land, the gradual move from city to country, their wedding,  and their adaptation to country life.  Along the way her deep faith in God is also revealed as she shares her hopes and fears.  I especially loved how Marly, the poodle, becomes the symbol for how her world view changes. I'm looking forward to reading more of her story in the subsequent chronicles.

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My knitting has slowed to a standstill, as has my reading.  Most nights I'm in bed by 8:30 pm which has put a huge damper on both activities.

I did finally finish 2 books - #89 and #90 for the year:


One Virgin Too Many (Marcus Didius Falco, #11)One Virgin Too Many by Lindsey Davis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Marcus Didius Falco has finally been rewarded for his continually outstanding service to Vespasian.  He's been raised to equestrian status and had been named Procurator of the Sacred Poultry.  This has put him in a bit of quandary as his higher social standing precludes his work as a lowly informer.   Or does it?  In this installment, Falco is asked to assist in the sensitive case of the missing 6 year granddaughter of a retired priest. The missing girl is a potential Vestal Virgin and she must be found before the lottery for the appointment is held. And Helena's brother (the one who doesn't like Falco) needs his help when he stumbles across the corpse of another priest.  Lindsey Davis explores the world of Roman religion in this installment, and it's a fascinating world as usual.

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