Two quick reads

A New York Christmas (Christmas Stories, #12)A New York Christmas by Anne Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A change in setting and a slightly later date, early 20th-century New York City, than the usual “Pitt” novels, Anne Perry gives us a relatively new character, Jemima Pitt. The now grown daughter of Thomas and Charlotte, is an appealing and smart heroine, ripe for an adventure of her own.
She is accompanying a younger girl as her companion to the girl’s high society wedding. Both the families are wealthy and part of a business partnership. Delphinia (Phinnie) is marrying into one of the most powerful families in New York. In this story of betrayal, greed and power, Jemima finds herself enlisted in the search for Phinnie’s estranged and disgraced mother, Maria, in order to stop her from gate-crashing the wedding ceremony.
Unfortunately, the search results in Jemima finding much more than she bargained for and she subsequently has only a few short days to prove herself innocent of a cold-blooded murder. In this strange place, with only her wits and determination, some Christmas hope and the assistance of a young police officer, she races against time to establish her innocence, find the real culprit and prove what he has done.
Although the identity of the murderer is rather obvious to the reader, the motives and context keep the story interesting and moving along nicely. As always the story is well-paced and the background details provide a powerful sense of atmosphere and life in early 20th-century New York.

Three Detective AnecdotesThree Detective Anecdotes by Charles Dickens
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The stories are: The Pair of Gloves, The Artful Touch, The Sofa.
Inspector Wield relates the first two tales of interesting cases he was involved in. In The Pair of Gloves, the pair are possibly an important clue to the identity of a murderer.  In The Artful Touch, Wield expresses his admiration for Sergeant Witchem’s quick-thinking and actions during a theft, that lead to a successful conclusion for the police.  Finally, in The Sofa, Sergeant Dornton shares his case about someone is stealing from medical students.
I picked this book because I was intrigued to see how Dickens would have written these short stories. I enjoyed the first two stories better than the last. They were interesting to read and the conclusions not obvious. I was not so taken by the last story. It did not hold my interest the same way as the earlier two and the ending was less satisfying.
This edition also contains a biography “Charles Dickens” written by English writer Gilbert K. Chesterton in 1906. This is interesting and whilst not adding to the stories , offers some interesting insights into Dickens and his writing.

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Useful links

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Summer Reading: a few reviews

Summer holidays allows me time to relax and read. I have a few reading challenges from my GoodReads groups that I can get ahead on before I have to go back to work. A few of the books I have enjoyed reading are as follows:

Pick Your Poison (Ruby Redfort, #5)

Pick Your Poison by Lauren Child
This is another intriguing instalment to the light-hearted spy novels that make up the Ruby Redfort series. It can be read as a stand-alone as although, references previous stories, it fills in the gaps for the reader. (This may make these books less suspenseful if a reader wants to go back to read them for the first time.) The story this time picks up seven months after ruby has joined Spectrum. There are all the scrapes and capers you expect from Ruby. She remains rebellious and although has some risky run-ins with numerous villains, she is starting to consider the risks before she jumps in. Ruby remains troubled by the idea that there might be a mole in Spectrum and this storyline is developed further. Hitch has only a small part in this story and there is a lot more of best friend Clancy, who is becoming more resourceful.
There are again codes to crack and an explanation about them at the end of the book, this time they involve tesseracts and four-dimensional shapes being  coverted into 2D drawings.
The fifth Ruby Redfort book will not disappoint fans with plenty of mystery, suspense and humour and is a great novel for young readers.

The Spy of VeniceThe Spy of Venice by Benet Brandreth 

Fun to read. Is this really what Shakespeare was doing in his “lost years”?

The novel is a speculation about what Shakespeare might have done in the years where there is no historical record about him. It also seeks to explain why he knows so much about Italy.
The historical context is interesting. It is set in the time when protestant, Elizabethan England needed allies as she was up against a powerful Catholic Spain and the Pope.
William Shakespeare has to leave his home in Stratford and ends up with a troupe of itinerant actors in London. From here, he and the others in the troupe are mixed up with spies and intrigue, as they become part of a group who are sent to Venice. The city at this time was autonomous from Rome, centred on trade and very powerful in its own right. Elizabeth’s England needed all the support it could get from other protestant centres but negotiations were always delicate and Will and his fellow actors stumble about before they finally start to realise the stakes and actions that the powerful entities will take to make sure they achieve the best deal for themselves.

VoidVoid by David Staniforth
This is a mystery thriller that has an added layer with the psychological tension of the main protagonist (Tom) waking up in a freeing car with complete loss of memory. A journal, left in the car with him, slowly reveals some of his backstory to him and it explains that he, himself, wrote it. It pans out that, for one week each January, this exact same thing happens to him. The journal also reveals that the first twenty years of his life are a mystery. The journey that Tom takes to uncover who he is, what he has done and where he belongs forms the story. There is a fear of the unknown, combined with vague hints about some possible wrong-doing, that keeps the reader interested until the end.

Winter reading

Home these last few days and weather is bitter outside. Decided to sit inside and read some books I have had on my bookshelves for a while now.

The first is by an Australian YA author, Tristan Bancks. I often read his blog posts and pass on many of his tips and advice to my students.
The FallThe Fall by Tristan Bancks

This is a nicely plotted crime thriller for middle-years readers, with shades of Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Sam Garner, staying at his Dad’s 5th floor apartment whilst recovering from leg surgery, is hampered in his movements because he is on crutches. He has not left the flat since arriving almost a week before. In the middle of the night he is awoken by an argument in the apartment above. Hobbling to the window to hear better, he is further shaken when a body falls past the window onto the ground below. He goes to find his crime-reported dad only to find he is alone. Going back to the window he sees another man below bending over the body. Was it the killer and did he spot Sam? Although very frightened he goes to investigate a little further only to find the body has disappeared.
Sam begins to wonder if what he saw was real until someone breaks in to his Dad’s apartment.
The reader is drawn into the story and is pulled along with Sam as he tries to make sense of what he has seen and what he suspects might be happening. Sam is a realistic character. He has anger issues he has been dealing with and idolises his father, who until now has been absent from his life, and wants to follow in his fathers crime-reporting footstep. He’s no superhero on the surface, instead is scared most of the time but what he endures proves that he has strengths he didn’t know he had. All the characters, including his mum and dad, are believable and you can sympathise with all of them.
Tristan Bancks has created strong characters, recognisable settings and a suspenseful plot that should keep the readers totally engaged to the end.

The second is a biography written as a graphic novel about a long-time favourite Agatha Christie.
Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha ChristieAgatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie by Anne Martinetti

This was fun read. A long-time fan, I read all her books when I was a teenager and occasionally go back to them for some light entertainment and relaxation. It is written as graphic novel which offers a very insightful glimpse into Agatha Christie’s life, ranging from her childhood to her death and covers her mysterious disappearance to Harrogate. It was also an interesting device – using imaginary conversations she had with her most famous characters, Poirot, Miss Marple and Tommy and Tuppence Beresford.
Last year I read The Mystery of the Blue Train, and visited her home Greenway in Devon as well. This slim biography is another nice acknowledgement of the amazing writer and woman known as Agatha Christie.

Useful links 06/09/2017 (p.m.)

  • Goodreads | Tristan Bancks’s Blog – Vision Boarding for Writers – June 08, 2017 05:57

  • Python – teachwithict  A collection of free Python lessons Lessons include: Shakespearean Insult Generator, Magic 8 ball, Sorting hat, Mad Libs, Chat bot and Coding Golf

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Useful links

  • Fantastic, Fast Formative Assessment Tools | Edutopia Good formative assessment removes the embarrassment of public hand raising and gives teachers feedback that impacts how they’re teaching at that moment. Instant feedback. This post explains how we can do this in a way that suits our classes best. Tools are listed and discussed. Direct links to them are provided.

  • 15+ Ways of Teaching Every Student to Code (Even Without a Computer) | Edutopia  “Every student in every school at every level should be taught how to code. They need this skill not because they’ll all go into it as a career but because it impacts on every career in the 21st-century world. Any country recognizing that will benefit in the long term.” There is an annotated list of resources that can be used to teach programming to every student at any age.

  • Stop telling people to love libraries – Library AF – Medium  4 ways to flip advocacy on its head. it’s about doing not talking.

  • Computational Thinking Across the Curriculum | Edutopia “Bringing computational thinking into your classroom is simple, and can only help your students achieve the learning objectives you’ve already identified. Think about these skills and attitudes when planning lessons, and use this language throughout the year. Introduce some ambiguity in your projects, link lessons to real-world examples and evidence, and dream big—over time, your students may surprise you with the connections they make and their confidence in diving into new challenges.” Links to classroom lessons as well.

  • The Ultimate EdTech Chart for Teachers and Educators ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning  This list features a number of key websites and online resources arranged into different learning area categories. Not all areas are covered. The purpose is to provide teachers with a repository of EdTech websites that can potentially help them with the teaching their classes.

  • Why Effective Practice Is Just As Important As the Hours of Practice | MindShift | KQED News “Researchers believe that practice helps build up the protective layer of myelin, the fatty substance that protects axons in the brain. Axons move electrical signals from the brain to our muscles and when they are better protected by thick myelin they move more efficiently, creating an “information superhighway” between the brain and muscles.”

  • Python – teachwithict A collection of free Python lessons Lessons include: Shakespearean Insult Generator, Magic 8 ball, Sorting hat, Mad Libs, Chat bot and Coding Golf.

  • Learning Blog: 5 Subject-Specific Ideas For Using Google Forms  Google Forms is a useful tool to collect student responses.You can add images quickly and easily. There are 5 options discussed here.

  • Learning Blog: 10 Tools For Student Voice Welcome! – Computational Thinking Curriculum at Excel Some of the lessons and projects undertaken at the Excel Public Charter School.

  • Finding Age Appropriate Books for Gifted Readers Some ideas about where to find age-appropriate reading materials for gifted children.

  • 8 Good Android Science Apps for Elementary Students ~ Educational Technology and Mobile Learning  This is a list of useful tools if you are using Android devices with students in class. It is a collection of science apps curated specifically for elementary students. When using these apps, young learners will get to explore and learn about different science topics in fun, engaging and challenging ways.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Useful links

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.