Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Dark Divine

Despain, Bree. The Dark Divine. New York: Egmont, 2010. Web.

My Thoughts
This was my first attempt at reading an e-book. As I flicked to the next page, I felt unsure if I was actually getting the entire book (What exactly does a "page" mean on a phone screen?). I liked that I could read anywhere...I always had a book with me if I had my phone.

The story itself is very YA. A young girl falls in love with a "bad boy" only to learn that she holds a special power that will allow the bad boy to be hers.

There were times when I was reading that I felt the believability of the story was forced. Did Grace actually have these experiences in such a fast timeline? The fight scene between Jude and Daniel seemed contrived. It seems like I've read this story before..oh wait, I read Twilight. Girl falls in love with werewolf. (Do we really need more werewolf stories? Is there a huge following of girls who want to fall in love with a magical creature?). Love triangle between who she is supposed to love and who she does love.

I liked the spiritualness present in the book. It is a classic good versus evil story. The mom was a flat character and the father in the story was sometimes there, sometimes not. Perhaps that's the way teens view their parents.

I will probably finish this trilogy just to see what happens to the Divine Family. I will call this "research" to recommend (or not) these books to my students.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. New York: Dutton Books, 2012. Print.

My Thoughts
Everyone knows someone who has cancer, had cancer or died from cancer.

When I was growing up, I heard about the "C" word but it was always a nebulous "someone" who had it that I didn't know. Also, cancer = death. There was no hope, but I jumped rope and various other fund raising activities to raise money for research. Then cancer hit my family. My aunt was diagnosed my senior year of high school. My vocabulary expanded with medical technology.

Since then, I have had family, friends and former students taken by various cancers. They are not all the same!

Reading John Green's book made me realize that cancer fights to live and our attitude can really make a difference about how we choose to live. Will cancer be the story of our lives or merely a chapter? Is humor gone just because there are tumors present?

The protagonist of the story is Hazel Grace Lancaster. She has spent more time in hospitals than any teenager should. At thirteen, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She finds solace in a book entitled An Imperial Affliction. (I looked; it is not a real book). This book within a book becomes a major plot line, as Hazel writes to the author to find out about what happens to the characters in the book. I was afraid this was foreshadowing that Green would leave me with multiple questions. It would be appropriate because we don't know what happens after our "mark on the universe" is made.

When Hazel meets Augustus Waters he's in remission. As the story unfolds, they become a support to each other. They are sarcastic and honest and frightened and brave. They treat each other normally, in spite of the "bad days" and medical equipment. They can joke about things that only someone with a shared experience will understand. They choose to live in whatever time they have left.
[Side note: At one point Hazel recites William Carlos Williams' poem, "The Red Wheelbarrow" to Augustus. This is a poem I used in the classroom, so I thought it was funny that this, of all poems, was used in the book. It's a personal chuckle moment.]

These are dynamic characters. I became involved with them (twice crying while reading) and rooted for their remission.  I wanted them to live happily ever after, but that is not real life. Our "world is not a wish-granting factory" as Hazel often explains. Sometimes the happy ending doesn't come to us on earth.

This book captured me as a reader. I laughed, cried, thought about the "bigger picture" of our existence and questioned those platitudes I have heard myself say. I look forward to reading more books by John Green.

Oh, the title reference is on page 111.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Baseball Codes

Turbow, Jason, and Michael Duca. The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, & Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America's Pastime. New York: Pantheon, 2010. Print.

My Thoughts
As a baseball spectator, I didn't realize there were so many unwritten rules to "America's pastime" game.

There are 23 chapters in this book, each dealing with a different aspect of the Code baseball players are to adhere to (even if they don't know the rules).

I knew I'd like this book when the opening chapter begins with the infamous Nolan Ryan/Robin Ventura head lock. Ryan stories appear as examples several more times in the book, including the statement of how Ryan let batters know he didn't appreciate bunts (Turbow 99). Although I didn't know or remember every example described in this book of how the Code is broken or enforced, I did enjoy learning about the Code.

Last night, as I visited the Ballpark, I kept thinking about how easy it is for a runner on 2nd to steal signs or of the Kangaroo court (a clubhouse version of justice) that often raises money for charity. I looked at the game and the players a little differently.  I also thought about how the game has changed and often spectators don't root for teams, but support individual players. However, it felt last night that MY team was being encouraged all the way down the roster.

The book is researched and shows examples from all over the League (including a few reports of things happening in the minors). It was fun to remember the legacy, how the game changes and how some things in the game will always stay the same.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back

Hamilton, Josh, and Tim Keown. Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back. New York: Faith Words, 2008. Print.

My Thoughts
WOW! This was an awesome read! I didn't want to finish reading, and yet when I did finish, I felt this urge to write to Josh Hamilton and encourage him. Hamilton is very honest about his addictions to both tattoos and drugs. He doesn't blame anyone but himself for the downward spiral his life took after signing on the the "Big Leagues" in baseball. I was surprised to learn that Josh was a baseball phenom (the opening chapter talks about his skills from the early age of 6 when he played with 11 year old kids). I also didn't know that Hamilton could pitch, but he chose the outfield to ensure that he could play every day instead of being on a rotation.

I knew I liked Josh Hamilton the first time I saw him play. Reading this made me like him more. I feel like I have the "back story" of who this great baseball player really is. He is humble and his teammates respect him. I got goosebumps on my arms when I read the chapter where his Texas Rangers teammates (Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Hank Blalock) came to listen to his press conference--to hear his story. The team, to me, seems like a family and they play well together. However, I also know by reading this part of the story, they are more connected than just on the field. They really care for one another.

The book was published in 2008, and since then, Josh had a drinking relapse. The media crucified him and there were questions of whether or not the Rangers would keep him on the team. I can understand how it happened, but I don't know why the Rangers would even consider cutting him from the team. Contract negotiations are happening this year, and I hope the Rangers will keep Josh. Every day is a struggle and a triumph.

Another thing I kept thinking about while reading this was Shannon Stone. Last season (2011), Shannon and his son were at a game, and Hamilton tossed up a ball to them. Shannon fell over the rail trying to get the ball and ended up dying. [On a side note, Shannon's wife Jenny and I worked at Winn Dixie together many years ago]. As I read Beyond Belief, I thought about the Stone Family. I thought about Josh's faith and what he must think each time he goes outfield. I thought about how God has carried him through so many trials. Josh truly gives God the credit for his recovery. His mantra is James 4:7 "Humble yourself before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you."

I wish Josh the best!