Novel Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

I read this book through Net Galley (thank you!). I have not yet read Code Name Verity. But, of course, it is high on my list. I was very interested in this book as my husband is very into aviation and I’m always on the look-out for female pilot role models for my daughter. I also happen to be Jewish, so the Holocaust and the atrocities that happened during WWII are innately interesting to me. This book, then, was intriguing to me on both levels. I found Rose Justice to be a great role model for young girls everywhere. She was brave, noble, daring, and yet imperfect. I highly enjoyed the first part of the book wherein we learn about Rose as an American ATA, a transport pilot in England. It definitely gets much deeper when she is sent to Ravensbruck, the exact way in which she is sent I will leave unspoiled. At Ravensbruck, Rose gains friends that have had horrible things done to them in the name of medicine (called the Rabbits). Horrible isn’t even the word for it; there is no word- in any language. Speaking of which, as an English Language teacher, I loved all the talk about language and all of the poetry. I work in a K-12 building and I can just see the English department using this book to teach cross-curricularly with the history department. All of the poetry that abounds, both by Millay and original were inspiring and allowed me a an extra layer of reading to this novel. Teachers would enjoy using the poems as well. I thought the technique of writing in memoir was perfect. As the author states in the end, Rose could only write about what she knew and saw. As a reader, we know there was much more harm done there and across Europe by the Nazis, but by keeping this in the first person perspective, we feel what it was like to be Rose. All in all, this book was a favorite for the year for me, so far. It will haunt me for long while.



Book reviews for NetGalley

I found this amazing resource called NetGalley where they give you digital advanced copies of books to read if you promise to review them. So, review them I will.  I will be posting reviews here and cross-post them to Twitter and Goodreads. This is my chance to practice my review writing skills and force myself to play less Candy Crush and read more instead. I can already feel my neurons expanding. Look for reviews in the future for books, mainly YA, but also adult fiction.

Until we meet again…

New blog title

I finally figured out a new title for this blog.


It suits me much better. I want this blog to be about anything I choose to write about in education, but mostly about books, technology, and language. I think this title hits that ball out of the park! Yay for me. Now maybe I will write more often.

Book review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus

** spoiler alert ** First note after reading other reviews: Ignore the book jacket and just read the book for what it is!

I finished reading this book for book club and was so excited to talk about it with my friends when my daughter had to go to the emergency room and I never got to discuss. 😦 So, I am going to write my thoughts here, some of which may be spoilers. I will say that I absolutely loved this book. It’s not one I thought I would like as it’s not a YA trilogy or a contemporary romance with functional people, but it did have the magic, mysticism, and romance that I do usually enjoy. And now, on to the discussion part with spoilers.

The parts with the reveurs made me think of them like current day fanboys. I could picture them going to Comic-con in their black outfits and red scarves! of course they had no Internet, but What would reveurs be like if they did? The reveurs also made me think of those who followed the Grateful Dead or Phish. I loved every bit of the reveurs and found them just as fascinating as the illusionists.

There was a lot of symbolism in this book, of course the Tarot cards represented each of the characters, but that was rather blatant, but two themes recurred: scales/balance, and trees. The transmutation h
was foreshadowed- Widget’s story, Celia talking about Hector’s last trick and what he could have done. The tree is very symbolic- for Bailey (the oak), for Marco (the book), for Celia (the wishing tree). I loved all the tree references. The scales were important for Isobel as she became the balance, the Temperance, to make sure Marco and Celia were able to continue creating illusions. In the end, Marco and Celia were each other’s balance, a perfect matched set.
Color was obviously important, too. The circus is black and white, Alexander is grey, and when the circus folk are being themselves, there is vibrant color (like at the anniversary party).
All in all, this one will stay with me for awhile. I enjoyed it a lot, including all the narrative shifts and time shifts. 5 stars.

Gun Control Ideas (Pt. 2)- Finally

Back in December, I wrote a blog post about my thoughts on gun control. Since then, nothing has happened. A bill got stalled in congress- again. The NRA, of which my husband is a member, has such a hold on so many people in congress/senate it seems the country will never move further on this issue. I think it’s a shame that a lobby constantly blocks bills without adding anything positive to the discussion. Stop telling the country, “No.” Let’s think of solutions. What will work to stop these insane people/criminals from getting access to the plethora of guns in this country?

First, some questions-

1. How do we better enforce the rules already on the books?

2. How do we keep guns out of the hands of the criminals on the street?

3. How do we keep kids from getting access to guns and a.) shooting someone accidentally and/or b.) bringing them to schools and shooting them up?

Okay, now for some solutions-

1. As per this website:, congress has failed to properly fund NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) “NICS is the database checked during gun purchases to ensure individuals with criminal records & mental illness aren’t allowed to purchase guns.” The U.S. Justice Department also has to better prosecute people who falsify background check information. Finally, the government needs to get a handle on straw man purchases and illegal gun trafficking.

2. This question can basically use solutions from #1, but I think we also need to look at a societal issue. The problems we are having in inner-city public schools are the same base problems with guns. We need to address poverty, ensure more supports for healthcare, nutrition, mental health, emotional support, and of course- education. Education is an investment in our future. If we fund it properly, including the supports previously mentioned, then we can work on lowering the gun violence from our streets.

3. Again, the answer is education. Apparently, the NRA has an assembly program that educates children on staying away from guns. It is called the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program. Living in the Mid-Atlantic and not being a member of the NRA, I had never heard of this program. It’s a good start. We also need to educate gun owners better about locking their guns up and away from the children. Kids are very curious folk and do not understand the totality of death.

I’m sure I’m missing many solutions. I’m just tired of hearing the word, “No.” I hear it too much from my toddler; I don’t need to hear it from my government about some commonsense measures to try to keep us all safe. No more nos.


My thoughts on the Sandy Hook massacre: Part 1- gun control


I have been crying a lot these past couple of days, as most of our country has. I am the mother of two, beautiful, young children. My daughter is 4 years old and will be going to kindergarten next year. My son is 2 1/2. Imagining what the Sandy Hook parents of those precocious, wonderful 20 children are going through right now is tearing me up. I want to scream, cry, yell at the world for allowing this to happen. I want change. I want justice. I want those young lives to be able to live, laugh, love again. But they won’t. No amount of screaming, crying, or yelling is going to bring them back. What we do need to do is have a conversation, a difficult one.

My husband is the polar opposite of me in many ways. They say opposites attract, and this is certainly true for us. I am an English teacher. He is a math/science based engineer. I am Type B personality, he is Type A. I lean left, politically. He leans right. I am anti-gun. He is pro-gun. You might ask how we get along at all! Well, the great thing about our marriage is how we discuss and compromise. Just this morning we had a great conversation, which admittedly did get heated for about two minutes, about gun control. Hubby is finally ready to admit that perhaps we need to limit the amount of semi-automatic assault rifles sold in the country. However, he feels that if the gun owners give up their (future) guns, then with each conversation they will give and never take. He’s looking for real compromise. I want guns out of the hands of mentally ill people and I want guns whose only purpose is to kill people off the streets. However, I respect the constitution and the founding fathers, so I do not want a ban on all guns. With all that being said, here was our discussion this morning. Hubby, because he’s also of the mentality that guns in the right hands can save lives believes that law-abiding adults should carry a gun in a school in order to deter monsters like that of Friday from thinking they have an easy target for their madness. Hubby has two thoughts on that, either train personnel to carry guns (more than one in the building and as a many as necessary to keep it safe) or remove the gun-free zone and allow those who already have a carry permit to bring their guns into the school. I have two thoughts myself. A school would have to be incredibly careful not to allow those guns to get into the hands of the students and if schools did Hubby’s Option 1, A LOT of training would have to occur which would cost A LOT of money. A lot of money which we do not have now– at all.

So, IF I were to concede that Hubby has a point, which I don’t necessarily do, where would this magical money source come from. It was this point in the difficult conversation where I figured out a compromise.


The NRA has millions of dollars to spend on lobbying. What if they were to put their money where their mouths were and help keep our schools safe by providing the training, the guns and the resources to help?

Interesting idea, right?

At least it’s the start of a difficult conversation.

Part 2 coming soon: mental health stigmatization

Learning something new/Not learning something


Do you remember when you were in elementary, middle, or high school and the teacher or a book said something that made you think differently? The power of your brain working to make connections was an awesome feeling. Unfortunately, those days are much fewer and far between now that I am out of school. But, I do love those days when I sit down at my computer to do some data techie stuff (technical word) for my school and I learn something new on a piece of software I’ve been using for a while. It’s nice to feel like an expert in something, but it’s even nicer to add to your knowledge base when you thought there wasn’t much to add.

Case in point, just a few weeks ago, I was doing something on Excel and had to copy the first line of data to cells 1000+ further down.  I’ve done this a billion times before, but for some reason on this day, I decided to Google if there were a faster way. Of course there was (Edit, Fill Down), and I was somewhat aware of its presence, but could not figure out how to do it before. The solution was to copy the cell and then hover over it until I found a + sign. Double clicking the + sign copies the cell down to the last row. Brilliant! I think the reason I excel at Excel is because I am so lazy; I want to find the shortcuts for every functionality, which forces me to learn all the functionalities.

It happened again today, which made me want to write about learning new things. I was using Powerschool, which is something I feel extremely comfortable using. However, today, I wanted to select about 35 students from one grade who were not otherwise able to be grouped (i.e. not of same gender, ethnicity, nor all in the same class necessarily.) I decided to look up if there was a shortcut to selecting these students. There was, of course. Just in case you use Powerschool, I selected the grade level, then in Functions, I chose Select Students By Hand. I can’t believe that function was there all along and I never noticed it. It worked like a charm. I felt both stupid and genius at the same time!

Now of course, the opposite is true as well. I am trying to learn a new-to-me software called Pearson Inform. It is a data warehouse that works seamlessly with our SIS, Powerschool. Since I am the data person at our school, I am responsible for adding new assessments into the interface. And gosh darn it, I cannot for the life of me troubleshoot when I do something wrong in this interface. It is not intuitive. I HATE not knowing how to do something that I should be able to learn. All that being said, I did have two successful uploads today, which tells me I am beginning to get it. In the meantime, I need to go do something I am good at to get my confidence back. Reality TV, here I come!