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Silent Footsteps–admirer or stalker?

Silent Footsteps

by Jo Bannister

Silent FootstepsHazel Best, a personable young constable with aspirations to be a detective, finds herself the focus of an admirer turned stalker. The investigation heats up when the stalker enter her home and later her friend Ash is bludgeoned. Saturday, a young man Hazel befriended, suddenly reappears in Norbold, having gotten his life together. There are two murders that are possibly related to Hazel’s stalker, but no one knows how the events could all be tied together. As tension mounts, Hazel’s friends and even a local businessman with a dark background gather around to support and protect her. It is a race against time as Hazel and her friends try to identify the mysterious attacker.

A fun part of this book is Patience, Ash’s very likable lurcher. Ash is gradually overcoming the town view of him as mentally unstable. At one time he earned the nickname “Rambles With Dogs,” but has since tried to rein in his public dialogues with Patience. Ironically, he does, in fact, talk to his dog, and Patience replies but only Ash can hear her.

Silent Footsteps is a police procedural that will keep you turning pages as the police investigate the various threads to try to make sense of them. The characters are interesting and continue to develop in this latest mystery. I figured out the murderer before Hazel, her friends, or the police did, but that is understandable considering the timing of the revelation of various facts. This discovery in no way mitigated my enjoyment as I still had to anticipate a resolution—and it was quite surprising.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #6 in the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best Mystery Series. I have only read one other mystery in this series. This book works quite well as a standalone, although I must admit it makes me want to read the first books in the series to get more understanding of the characters. That does not take away from the mystery at all, however.

Publication:   May 1, 2019—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

“You’re far too honest to be any good at it,” said Ash. “Spies have to be able to lie convincingly. You lie as convincingly as my eight-year-old when the biscuit barrel is empty and there are crumbs on his T-shirt.”

With the best will in the world, Ash in a blonde wig was never going to be mistaken for a twenty-eight-year-old policewoman. There wasn’t enough rope in Norbold to suspend disbelief that far.

“…the sheep people are constantly trying to keep their stock from committing suicide. Dropping dead from no appreciable cause is the average sheep’s highest goal in life.”

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McNamara’s Folly: the Use of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War

by Hamilton Gregory

This is a fascinating presentation by Hamilton Gregory (author, public speaker, educator, and journalist) at a college book signing for a book he wrote about using low-IQ soldiers in war. He draws on his own experiences in the Vietnam War as well as extensive research. His goal is to give a voice to those who were not able to speak up for themselves and to their families whose warnings were not heeded. In the prologue he says:

“While I was in the Army (1967-1970), I got to know some of McNamara’s substandard soldiers, and I vowed that someday I would tell their stories and give the historical background. This book is the fulfillment of that vow.”

Rating: 5/5

Category: Military History

Notes: Hamilton Gregory is my brother. I am aware that current protocol for reviewers is that they should not review the works of relatives. I, however, do no advertising and I make no money from this blog. I am retired, and this blog is my personal space for reflection on education and on books. I feel strongly that this is an excellent book and tells a tale that needs to be shared. I do highly recommend that you read it. You don’t have to be interested in military history; you just have to care about people. For official reviews and recommendations, I suggest you visit Amazon.com where people who are experienced experts in the field and are more qualified than I am have posted reviews. From my non-military viewpoint, I am amazed at the way the author intertwines data with the stories he gathered to make a compelling argument that our country should never let this happen again.

mcnamaras-follyPublication:  Infinity Publishing–June 2015

Memorable Lines:  “Freddie’s death hit me hard.  I remembered how he was always sighing–an indication of the tremendous anxiety he experienced in Special Training.  I remembered how he lacked the mental quickness to qualify with the M-14 rifle. I felt enormous anger, which I still feel decades later.  He never should have been drafted.  He never should have been ‘administratively passed’ at Special Training.  He never should have been sent into combat.”

 

The Bringer of Books and Smiles

Featured Image -- 931Part teacher, part book lover, part entertainer–a true friend to homeless children!

Kindness Blog

For the last eight years, Colbert Nembhard has been bringing books (and smiles) to homeless children in The Bronx, New York.

Mr Nembhard, a librarian who’s been the manager of the Morrisania branch of the New York Public Library for 25 years, has been on a mission to making literacy a constant in their wandering and ever changing lives.

The New York Times reports:

“It’s a pleasure to come in here,” Mr. Nembhard began on that Wednesday, never removing his jacket during a presentation that was just short of a Mr. Rogers routine.

He began to sing, “Good morning to you,” and followed with “Wheels on the Bus.” The children joined in with a chorus of “round and round, round and round.”

Toddlers, fidgeting in their chairs or in their mothers’ arms, suddenly became fixated. They could not wait to flip open “Dear Zoo,” by Rod Campbell, a lift-a-flap book…

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Holding Up the Universe–Teenage/YA Review

Holding Up the Universe

by Jennifer Niven

holding-up-the-universeI read a review of the Teenage/Young Adult novel Holding Up the Universe on another blog, BongBongBooks. I was intrigued and decided to read it myself.  It is the story of Jack Masselin, a teenager who has prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces–even those of family members. The other main character, Libby Strout, is a girl who gains so much weight in the process of grieving after her mother’s death  that she has to be removed from her home by a crane.  Lest these two young people seem like examples of extreme difficulties beyond the realm of possibility, readers should know that prosopagnosia is an actual disorder and that there is a reality TV show entitled My 600 Pound Life.  The author did her homework and this novel has authenticity as we see how these two and their families struggle with the many issues that result from their conditions.

A major theme of this book comes from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: “Atticus, he was real nice…”  “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”  There are two ways of not seeing people that this book explores: prosopagnosia (face blindness) and being unwilling to look past a person’s obvious exterior features such as weight, skin color, or disabilities to see who the person really is, what they are like on the inside.

I really liked this book for the plot development and the characters. I empathized with both characters as they tried to deal not only with their personal problems but also with relationship issues in their own families, with each other, and with peers.  As you might expect, bullying and discrimination are major issues for the overweight Libby. It is not an uncommon theme in YA literature as, unfortunately, bullying others for individual physical differences occurs often in our society. I had to really step outside my framework to think what it must be like to walk into a room and not be able to recognize anyone. NOT ANYONE!  Not my family, not my friends, not the people I saw two minutes ago. The author does a good job of helping the reader understand what face blindness must be like as it is lived out.

There is a lot of what I consider to be inappropriate language on the milder end of the continuum in this book. It was frequent enough that I did a little research on what kind of language is generally acceptable in Teenage/YA literature.  I found many blog posts dealing with this question, ranging from none to anything goes and everything in between. I understand that many teenagers today use different word choices than when I was a teenager.  I also know that in current films that kind of language and worse is commonplace.  I include this paragraph as a warning to those who might be offended by some of the words used casually by the characters in Holding Up the Universe.  The language did not enhance the story for me, nor did it ruin it.  I do recommend this book with this one qualification.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Penguin Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Nice Girls Endure–being different

Nice Girls Endure

by Chris Struyk-Bonn

nice-girls-endureChelsea’s memories of being whispered about, teased, taunted, and treated as “different” go back to third grade and the torment never let up.  We meet Chelsea in high school. Her weight problems have not changed and the negative ways people, especially other teenagers, treat her have only intensified.  She has no friends and has developed a fake exterior to help her survive.  After all, “nice girls endure.”

Chris Struyk-Bonn chose a first person narration of Chelsea’s story, Nice Girls Endure. It seems only appropriate that Chelsea should get to tell her own story, and the effect is very personal. We get to hear of the nightmare of being bullied because of being overweight and how it affects every aspect of her life.  This is a Young Adult book, but is so well-written that even as an adult I strongly empathize with Chelsea and was anxious to see her work through her problems.

The chapters are short and the pace is fast.  The characters are well-developed and provide Chelsea with opportunities to see various ways others deal with weight issues and bullying. In the end she makes her own decisions about her life and future.  Meanwhile the reader feels almost a part of the story. I was ready to take out a few unkind souls myself. My favorite character is one of Chelsea’s classmates, Melody. She knows how to be herself and knows how to be a friend.

This book is not just about being overweight.  It is about being different. It is not just about being bullied, it is also about bullying. I hope that anyone who reads Nice Girls Endure will come away with a greater awareness of and sensitivity to those who are different. Everyone has positive attributes and deserves an opportunity to let their talents shine.  There are many negative ways to deal with peers who are labeled “different,”  from outright physical and emotional attacks to more subtle teasing, smirking, and exclusion, to totally ignoring the person.  In this story, even teachers were guilty of the less overt responses, but their actions or ignoring the actions of others hurt just as much.

This was a quick book to read, but I recommend it for Young Adult and Adult readers. You will probably come away with more thoughtful and understanding attitudes towards those who don’t easily fit into society’s boxes.

Note: The book contains a sprinkling of mild swearing and an occurrence of sexual aggression and is therefore inappropriate for younger readers.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Capstone Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Teenage Kindness–what a great idea

This may not be a typical education post, but ask any teacher how anxiety and isolation affect student learning.

SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. (CNN) – A California teen is sharing her high-tech way to handle lunch-room anxiety. Natalie Hampton, 16, struggled to make friends back in middle school. The hardest part of the day? Lunch time. “I ate along pretty much every day for the two years that I was there. And I have personally…

via California teen launches app to help others make friends at lunch — KRQE News 13

I am That Teacher Too (Letter 1)

In writing these letters to former students, I want to provide a glimpse of my classroom and inspiration for yours.

Colored-PencilsDear Former Students,

What do I hope you remember about me?

I hope you remember smiles and hugs. I worked hard to make our room a safe and happy place.  Even if I was having a bad day or you were having a bad day.  I hope you know that I always loved you.  I hope it showed in what I said and did.  Each one of you was (and is) special to me. You have a personality and gifts that make you unique.  I tried to help you find that best part of yourself.

All those beautiful new school supplies…

I also tried to help you get along with others and learn to share.  We pooled all of our school supplies.  That was initially hard for some of you. You had never had 24 perfect crayons all of your own. As a teacher I had learned that shared supplies last longer. I didn’t want anyone to feel left out.  We avoided arguments over possession and cleaning up. Most importantly, it is hard to share so we worked on that first. When you are grown up, there is plenty of time to possess all by yourself.  But I hope you will always remember to share.

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