Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris



This is the cover art for the copy of Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris that I borrowed from my local library. Not the True Blood cover art, and not the other illustrations that I love so much. I don't like this version at all, I don't think it fits with the feel of the books.

Anyway, what about what's inside the cover?

From the back of the book:

"Sookie Stackhouse enjoys her life, mostly. She's a great cocktail waitress in a fun bar; she has a love life, albeit as complicated as ever, and most people have come to terms with her telepathy.

Problem is, Sookie wants a quiet life, but things just seem to happen to her and her friends.

Now her brother Jason's aout to turn into a were-panther for the first time. She could deal with that, but her normal sisterly concern turns to cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local were population..."

Yes, it's another action-packed instalment in the adventures of Sookie Stackhouse and friends! As usual, there is murder and mayhem, supernatural creatures, and Sookie's lovelife is never simple.

I've said it before, I'll say it again, I love Sookie's "voice" in these books. Here's a sample:

"Claudine smiled impishly. "I was spending the night with Sookie," she said, winking. In a second, we were the objects of fascinated scrutiny from every male within hearing..."

I enjoyed the fact that Harris slows down for a moment, in this book, to explain a little more about the ins and outs of the shape-shifter and were societies. And unlike some other reviewers, I don't mind the fact that Sookie is swamped with admirers at every turn! Sadly, Sookie doesn't get lucky in this instalment, though she does make a start with someone she has yet to "do the deed" with!

For me, these sort of books are what I call "comfort reading". When we're feeling a bit down, some of us break out the ice-cream, some run a hot bath, and some reach for a Sookie Stackhouse book. (And some do all three!)

Now I'm off to the library to pick up Definitely Dead!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks



From the back cover:

"People of the Book crosses continents and centuries to bring stories of hope amidst darkness, compassion amidst cruelty, all bound together by the discoveries made by a young Australian woman restoring an ancient Hebrew book."

Opening this book to read it, I smiled as I read the dedication:

For the librarians.

As I am studying librarianship at the moment, I thought, 'This is the book for me!'

People of the Book, by Geralding Brooks, has two interleaving stories. The first is the story of Hanna, a renowned book conservator, who is attempting to piece together the story of the Sarajevo Haggadah. These chapters follow her painstaking investigation into parchments and pigments, as well as the story of her family and her life.

As an Australian, it is nice to read books with Australian voices and settings. Sometimes, however, Australian authors seem very self-conscious of their international readers, and tend to throw around a lot of Aussie slang for the sake of it. I think Brooks fell into this trap. At times I was cringing as the 'ockerisms' were flying!

The second story takes the reader back in time, folowing the history of the Haggadah. Sarajevo during World War II, Vienna 1894, Venice 1609, Tarragona 1492 and Seville 1480.

I found the historical stories fascinating.

I would recommend this book to readers who like to learn a little something as they're reading. It's a work of fiction, but is inspired by the true story of a Hebrew book known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. Each step back in time uncovers more in the story of the relationship between Jews, Christians and Muslims through the ages.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Annotated bibliography and self assessment submitted. Could not stand looking at it any longer. Will now take a bath to try and feel human again.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Avoiding work with...more work.

Needing a break from my ETL504 assignment, I've started working on my second ETL501 assignment. Yes, I am a bit weird!
For ETL501 I have to create an electronic pathfinder - "a tool used by teacher librarians to create an annotated list of relevant, mediated resources for a specified group of students on a curriculum related topic". I also need to write a critical reflection of the process of creating the pathfinder. So prepare to hear a lot about how I'm going with my pathfinder!
What have I done so far? My first step was to choose a curriculum related topic. My background is as a mathematics teacher, so for my earlier assignment I evaluated mathematics websites related to graphing. For the record, I believe that maths teachers rely far to heavily on the old "chalk and talk" and the good old textbook. Far fewer people would say "I'm no good at maths" or "I hate maths" if we broadened the range of resources and teaching and learning activities for maths. But for this assignment I'd like to try working with a different subject area.
I've been looking at the Science syllabus for Stages 4 and 5 (Years 7 - 10). I'd like to try something related to either 4.9.3 the structure of the Earth, 4.9.4 the atmosphere, 4.9.5 the hydrosphere, or 4.9.6 the lithosphere. It sounds interesting to me, and I can see the potential for relating the content to current environmental issues. I did a quick search using the keyword "earth science" on the NSW State Library online catalogue, and there seem to be plenty of print resources with potential. I've also found Geology.com , which seems like a good place to start in terms of electronic resources. So I'm on my way!
Secondly, I had to decide on a platform to use to create my pathfinder. I've started something on pbworks, but don't get too excited. So far all it has is a heading. My pathfinder will be a wiki - perfect for a teacher librarian wanting to work collaboratively with teachers.
So that's as far as I've gotten so far, and if you know of any fabulous resources relating to earth sciences, then let me know!

Assignment Overload



For the past week or so, I have been focusing almost exclusively on my next uni assignment. I find honing my academic writing the most challenging thing about my M Ed. Our assignments all have very strict word limits, and we are given detailed marking sheets with sections like "responds to", "uses evidence", "demonstrates analysis" and "addresses learning objectives effectively". It is so difficult to adequately cover everything expected of us within the word limit! Not only that, we are constantly reminded to be critically evaluative in what we write.

I find myself rewriting and editing over and over, as I try to find the elusive combination of words that will demonstrate my grasp of the issues, critical reflection, and original thought!

I'm now at the point where I feel like I wouldn't have a clue whether what I have written for the current assignment is rubbish or genius! I'm too close. I may have to take a break and work on something else for a day or two then come back to it.

Despite my complaints, I do find the academic writing enjoyable and challenging. But the time between submission and receiving results can be a little stressful!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Share the Love



Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou Miss R! Hugs and kissed to you XOX

The lovely Miss R at Miss Remmer's Review has passed on this wonderful award to me, designed to reward and show gratitude to those that have awarded you in the past.

As usual, I'm not too good at sticking with the rules for awards, and I'm kinda doing my own thing here. I've decided to pass this award on to some blogs that I've only recently discovered.

1. Sara at Sara's Blatherings.

2. Nely at All About {n}.

3. Nina at J'adorehappyendings.

4. Paradox at Paradoxical.

5. Ulat Buku at Ulat Buku in the City.

6. Emma at Yes, I Have a Different Book Everytime You See Me.

Enjoy, everyone. Please check out the blogs above - they are worth visiting!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

School Library Websites

Topic 6 of ETL501 is concerned with the provision of information services to the school community through the school library website. There are many benefits to developing a school library website. In short:
  • A school library website provides access to the catalogue and online reference sources from anywhere within the school and from outside the school.
  • A website provides a venue for improved communication between the library and the school community.
  • A website provides an opportunity for easy access to a variety of learning tools including pathfinders and scaffolds.
  • A website can act as a virtual filing cabinet for teaching and learning materials and can be used to showcase student work.

Silvennoinen, A. (2005). Virtual St Mary's: A journey to cyberspace. Access 19(3), 19-22.

Silvennoinen says that the greatest benefit of having a school library website is that it is a library without walls or constraints, extending the use of the library to 24 hours a day every day of the year. She also notes the encouragement of computer and information literacy skills, and the appeal to the modern technology-oriented teenager. And the fact that the website is a great marketing tool for the library's services!

A WebQuest About School Library Websites by Joyce Valenza is a fabulous resource for evaluating school library websites, or to use when designing your own. It is extremely thorough, considering both content and design aspects of the website. I won't even try to summarise it here - you just have to go and see it for yourself!

Best practices in school library website design by David Walbert also provides some very good practical help for librarians venturing into website design. He recommends focusing on what your clients need, and how to best serve them, while keeping the actual website uncomplicated. According to Walbert, accessibility is number one, and every effort should be made to ensure maximum accessibility by using images sparingly, always providing alternate (text) content, and making sure that the font and font size are readable. He also recommends making sure that your website functions as expected, and that navigation is clearly labelled so that it is clear which links are internal and which are external to the library website. Keeping design and navigation consistent across all web pages also helps avoid confusion. Considering the intended audience of the website is also important. All in all, content is king, design should be clean and simple, and everything should be ORGANISED!

Walbert recommends using a blog for your school library website! The blog and hosting are free, the design is already done for you, and site navigation and contents are created automatically for you. You can post and edit content, and there are plenty of opportunities for customising and creating labels etc. Keeping a blog also helps you to learn some basic HTML, which you could use later to build your own website.

I must say, reading all this has caused me to think about my blog as a website, and to consider whether or not it is effectively doing what I want it to do.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Love generously



Live simply

Love generously

Care deeply

Speak kindly

Leave the rest to God...

(author unknown)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dead to the World



I have just finished reading Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris, the fourth book in the Southern Vampires series, and my fourth book for the Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

I have enjoyed all the books, but so far this one is my favourite! Warning - SPOILERS!

From the back of the book:

"...when she comes across a naked vampire on the way home from work, she doesn't just drive on by. He hasn't got a clue who he is, but Sookie has: Eric looks just as scary and sexy - and dead - as the day she met him. But now he has amnesia, he's sweet, vulnerable, and in need of Sookie's help - because whoever took his memory now wants his life..."

Now I was the first to applaud when Sookie took a vow of abstinence (from vampires) at the end of Club Dead. I cheered her on for deciding to put her own health and safety first for a change. But all along I knew neither she or I could last for long without a little vampire action in her life! Cue Eric, all scared and sweet and in need of a little TLC...

What I love about this book:

Good old Sookie - gotta love her! She's too responsible and helpful for her own good, always ending up in the thick of any trouble that's going around.

Shapeshifters and vampires working together...just like Twilight, but different!

URST. Now bear with me here. I am a strong believer in the concept that for any long-standing series to endure, there must be URST (un-resolved sexual tension) between two main characters. Right back to the days of Remington Steele (loved that show!), I have watched and enjoyed TV series in which I sooooo wanted the two main characters to get together. (Think Bones). The same thing applies in a book series. Now those of you who have read Dead to the World may be wondering where the "un-resolved" part fits in here. But that's the beauty of the amnesia device used in this book. Because if the sexual tension is resolved, but you can't remember it, then it doesn't count!

What wasn't so good about this book:

The cheesy sex scenes. I think Charlaine Harris writes these with her tongue firmly in her cheek, but they're still a bit cringe-inducing.

Dead to the World is thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended. I have the next book on reserve at the library!

Monday, September 14, 2009

From
Savage, W. (1989). Communication: Process and Problems. In C.Riches & C.Morgan (Eds.), Human resource management in education (pp. 103-119). Open University Press.

  • Communication is necessary to coordinate effort
  • the process of communication includes the message, the encoding and decoding process, and the means of communication
  • some communication is unintentional- especially personality and behaviour
  • much of what we communicate is evaluative
  • within an organisation communication must include upward as well as downward flow
  • the problem of ‘filtering’ can be solved by ensuring that ethics are adhered to and admission of mistakes is seen as a mark of professionalism
  • informed and involved people as less susceptible to rumours.

From

Mackay, H. (1998). Resolving conflict through listening. In The good listener: Better relationships through better communication (pp. 189-199). Sydney: Pan Macmillan.

  • conflict is not always bad
  • resolving conflict requires good communication skills and a commitment to ensure that the conflict is not allowed to damage relationships
  • both parties must want resolution and be prepared to compromise
  • active listening and restating the other’s point of view ensures that both sides are being heard, the sting will be taken out of the argument so that cooperative discussion can take place.

From

Cohen, S. (2002). The seven pillars of negotiational wisdom. In Negotiating skills for managers (pp. 171-187). New York: McGraw-Hill.

  • preparation is the foundation to negotiation
  • understand the value of your ongoing relationship with your negotiating partner
  • understand your own and the other party’s interests clearly
  • know your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) and keep an eye on it during the negotiation
  • think outside the box for creative solutions
  • treat everyone fairly
  • make sure both parties are committed to coming to an agreement
  • communicate with transparency which builds trust
  • listen carefully and demonstrate with your communication style that you respect the other party and are committed to a good result.

For the second part of my assignment, I have to evaluate how well I did during the group work at communicating and collaborating. The Mackay and Cohen articles relate mostly to confict, which I'm glad to say we just didn't have in our group. I wasn't required to use any negotiating or conflict resolution skills, at least not overtly. Conflict implies to me open disagreement, while negotiation makes me think of competing interests compromising to reach an agreement. Neither of those scenarios existed during my group work experience.

Even more on Information Services

Continuing on with ETL501 Topic 5, what are the key information services that teacher librarian's should prioritise? SLASA and Learning for the Future make some suggestions, from which I have chosen:
  1. Select resources to meet the information needs of the staff and students.
  2. Ensure the maximum use and access of resources.
  3. Make the library a multi-functional environment which is a focal point for learning.
  4. Instruct students in information tools and processes.

What are the information needs of the students and staff? One way of finding our more about the students is to profile the local community. Another issue is special needs. For example, some students need Learning Support ESL (English as a Second Language). These students may need resources for extra literacy support and/or opportunities to read in their first language. Their teachers may need resources to support teaching of these students.

As well as providing information services, teacher librarians must also provide information literacy support. Students need instant reminders at the point of need (in the library), to help them to find and use information effectively. The school library should display labels and signs that facilitate ease of information retrieval. Posters can remind students of key steps in information skills processes. The school intranet home page or library webpage should have reminders about internet search techniques and the evaluation of the reliability of internet sources. When students approach the librarian with a reference question, they could be given a handout with a few quick questions to answer to help them to focus on the exact information that they need.

The Massachusetts School Library Media Association provides Model School Rubrics, available at http://www.mslma.org/whoweare/rubric.pdf . The only problem with meeting the "Exemplary" standard for school libraries is having the staffing and finance to manage it! Having the school library open before and after school, having sufficient space and appropriate furniture, up to date technology, an excellent collection, and allowing students to use the library as often as needed all sounds great! But can the budget and staff manage it?

I've finally come to the end of Topic 5! Whew!



We all need a little fix to brighten our day now and then! Here's mine, courtesy of Ruth at Skerricks. A new trailer for New Moon. (By the time the movie comes out, we will have seen it all via trailers!)

AAAARRGH! I have copied the html from trailerspy, but all I have is a big black box! Head over to Skerricks to see the real thing. (Any help from clever html experts readily accepted.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More about Information Services

CMIS, part of the Western Australian Department of Education, provides set of guidelines and indicators for the evaluation of school library services at http://www.det.wa.edu.au/education/cmis/eval/library/domains/index.htm
These indicators cover "Learners and Learning", "Teachers and Teaching" and "Providing Access to Information". They include such guidelines as "School-wide programs address the skills of information literacy through resource-based inquiry learning", "Teachers are provided with reference and inquiry services to support the curriculum" and "The retrieval of information is facilitated by clear and and inviting labeling and signposting".
Firstly, I think it's great to have these indicators in black and white. It makes sense to have a document which clearly outlines the standards to which the library aspires, and it is wonderful to have something to point colleagues and leadership within the school to, in case they're not sure about the full extent of the library's services.
However, I can imagine some barriers that would prevent teacher librarians from undertaking an evaluation of their services using this document. School libraries are often under-staffed and under-financed. It may be difficult to spare the time and resources needed to evaluate comprehensively. But an even more difficult situation is when the teacher librarian finds her or himself in a school in which their role is undervalued or not supported. The school leadership may have a hard time accepting the validity of some of the indicators, and may not support any attempt by the teacher librarian to expand their services in line with these guidelines.
For example, "Time is allocated within the timetable for teachers to work cooperatively with the teacher librarian in the development of resource-based units of work". Some principals may find this hard to swallow, and may wonder how they are expected to find this time to allocate. They may therefore not be very open to hearing the results of an evaluation which point out this problem.
The next issue that ETL501 Topic 5 addresses is "the reference interview". It sounds very special, but basically just means the process by which the librarian gets as much information as possible about what help the client needs. What do they want to know? What depth of information do they need? Do they need instruction or guidance in information searching techniques? Even if the tools change (think digital reference desks), communication between the client and the librarian is essential to a successful outcome.
The concept of a school or public library is a wonderful thing. A freely available resource, with access to information and professional help for all! I think the communication between client and librarian has been successful when: the client feels happy that they have been heard, the librarian feels happy that they have "enough to go on", and the client ends up learning something (either about the question itself, or about searching for the answers).
Do school libraries have the budget and staff to provide satisfactory reference services to their clients? Suppose the school library decided to provide a digital reference service. Would it be feasible? Would students use it?
There's more to this topic, but I'm going to stop here for now. (This is a big topic!)

The Drags







Yesterday my husband and son went to the drag racing at Eastern Creek Raceway. They stayed all afternoon and night, seeing all sorts of vehicles including "top doorslammers", "top fuel" and "top alcohol". (Not sure what the "top" is all about!) As you can see from the photo above, Josh had a great time! He's been to motor racing before (yes - his father is a rev head!), but enjoyed the constant action of "the drags" more than the Bathurst 1000.
They were lucky enough to run into one of Josh's school mates, which helped alleviate any boredom between runs.
Alana didn't want to go (she thought it would be too loud), so she stayed at home with me while I worked on my ETL504 group assignment. Luckily she had a friend over to play (Singstar 80's on the playstation) while I participated in a marathon 3 hour skype conference call!
The good news is that the group assignment is nearly done! One more skype tonight should have us ready to submit.
In the meantime, the weather is glorious here today! Sunshine, a predicted top temperature of 30 degrees, and it's not humid. Hooray for spring!



Saturday, September 12, 2009

Accentuate the Positive.



Living Your Five (head over there if you haven't already) is about making the world a better place by choosing five things you are really passionate about and incorporating them into your daily life.
I have already written about my first "five" - Attitude of Gratitude. Last week I made sure that my attitude of gratitude was having an impact on the world by passing on my thanks and appreciation to some friends that had encouraged me. Check out that post here.
Now it's time for my second "five" - Accentuate the Positive.
For me, this is all about paying attention to the positive people, events and opportunities in my life.
I plan to surround myself with positive people. I plan to be a positive person, the type of person that gives the people around me a lift. Someone that builds people up, rather than tearing them down. Let's all stick together, positive people! Down with whinging and back-biting!
I plan on noticing when good things happen. I plan on fully enjoying every little thing in my life, each lovely cup of tea, the feel of sunshine on my face, watching my kids play together and the satisfaction of submitting a uni assignment.
I believe that by being a positive person, and paying attention to the positives in my life, I draw more positive people and experiences to me. I believe that by being a positive person, I will help to make the world a better place.
So, how about you? What are your "five"?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Some reflections on information services and group work assignments.

I have been working through Topic 5 of ETL501 Information Services to Staff and Students. There hasn't been much action on the forum yet, but I want to put my thoughts down 'on paper' before they fall out of my head!
In the introduction of the topic was a very depressing statement: "But TLs know that the demand for their services can never be met, particularly in a school where the TL is the only information professional available and this can lead to frustration." You think???
I'm not sure if I want to do a job that is impossible! A job where it is impossible to succeed, if you want to measure success as providing the service that you are employed to provide. I don't think my personality is very well suited to doing a job where I can never meet demand. I know in my heart that I would be in danger of working harder and harder thinking that somehow, if I just worked hard enough, I'd be able to do it.
The first question that I am asked to consider is to list three key factors which a teacher librarian needs to take into account before offering information services.
1. What does the school hope/expect to get from the library? What services will fit with the school's agenda?
2. What resources do you have to play with (including time, staff and money)?
3. Are there any special considerations in terms of the particular school context that need to be taken into account?
The next question is in regard to a particular service that the teacher librarian might provide - pathfinders. These are lists of resources for particular topics, a bit like annotated bibliographies. Valenza, at http://informationfluency.wikispaces.com/Ten+reasons+why+your+next+pathfinder+should+be+a+wiki
discusses why she thinks wikis are the way to go. I can sum up her argument for you: Because wikis can be edited. They are flexible ("splendidly organic") and can be collaborative ("Imagine all the people, building pathfinders together. You may say I'm a dreamer...").
Another service that the librarian might provide is "selective disseminated information" or "current awareness". This is the process by which the librarian keeps on top of all new literature and developments in education, and circulates relevant information to teachers. It's starting to be very clear why the teacher librarian is so frustrated - one teeny tiny part of their job involves staying abreast of all new literature and developments in education, for the benefit of their colleagues.
I'll save the rest of Topic 5 for another day...
So - how's my group work assignment going - I hear you wondering! Good. It's finally coming together, and not a moment too soon, as it's due on Monday! We have all, separately and collectively, worked hard and made good contributions. Now we just have to pull it all together to be ready for submission.
My group members have been easy to work with - no complaints there. I've started doing some reading on factors that make for successful teamwork and collaboration, in preparation for the second part of the assignment. (I know - as if it wasn't enough to produce a powerpoint presentation on a proposed professional article, we also have to write an annotated bibliography with at least eight references that heavily influenced our presentation, and rate our performance as a communicator, collaborator and team member using authentic criteria that we have written after considering the professional literature!) Something that keeps coming up is the fact that the task needs to be well designed, and there must be support and leadership shown by the instructor who has set the task. Interesting...
I don't think our task was well defined, and the goal posts seemed to keep moving day by day as new emails were sent out by the lecturers giving new requirements. Suddenly there were specific word limits and font sizes for slides, could we site six references or more?, did we have to say which journal we were writing for or not?, what exactly constitutes a professional reference?, and by the way - you have to submit a log of your collaboration efforts with the assignment. Totally exhausting! There doesn't seem to be a section in the assignment for evaluating the perfomance of the teaching staff though, what a pity!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

1. Tai chi for dummies

I went to my regular tai chi class today, and managed to drag along a friend to watch (I'm trying to convince her to join). I think it would be great for her because she has health issues and also tends to let stress get the better of her. Listen to me! I've been letting stress get the better of me this week, when I should have been practising my tai chi. Sometimes I'm a bit of a slow learner!
Tai chi reminds me to breathe deeply, to stand or sit comfortably with my weight balanced evenly, and to relax my shoulders. It reminds me of my connection to the universe, and the energy that is pulsing through everything. It reminds me to be mindful of what I am doing right now. When I get stressed, I tend to be "too busy" to practise. This is, of course, when I really need to practise most!
2. All about information services
Topic 5 of ETL501 is called "Information services to staff and students", one of the core activities of the teacher librarian. Some issues I will be grappling with include the key factors that the TL must consider before offering an information service, the use of pathfinders, how to evaluate the effectivenss of the information services that you provide, how to conduct a reference interview, likely problems if offering a digital reference service, the key areas of information services and their order of importance, particular or special needs, and providing students with help regarding information literacy skills.
Whew! I received a lovely compliment from my friend Kathryn the other day. She said I seemed to be "interrogating the topics with passion" and "engaging with the issues". Awesome! I have my reading material ready to get stuck into it.
3. TrueBlood vs the books
I have been participating in the Sookie Stackhouse reading challenge (go to Beth Fish Reads and click on the Sookie tab at the top of the page for more info). At the moment I'm about half way through book four, Dead to the World, which is just as much fun as the first three were!
What's not to love? A lovable heroine, more than enough choice in love interests, action, the supernatural... These books don't take themselves too seriously. They don't pretend to be anything more than a bit of fun!
The TrueBlood series, in contrast, seems darker and more serious. To me, it has a completely different tone. Some of this is because the series doesn't have the first person narrative like the books. We don't see everything from Sookie's quirky point of view. But some of it, I think, is because the TV producers thought they'd make more money from something seriously scary and seriously sexy, so moved away from the tongue-in-cheek style of author Charlaine Harris.
But what do I know? This is my opinion, I'd love to hear yours...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My daughter, Alana, came 2nd in the Year 6 Public Speaking final at her school. Hooray!
I call today's cute animal pic "Morning Yoga"! Which is what I should be doing, because I'm feeling stressed. Now I'll be the first to tell you that I have a very blessed life, full of love, friends, family and fun. But every once in a while I get busy, and tired, and run down, and then a few little things start to go wrong, then I start to worry...you get the picture.
I just had an email from a friend that I don't see very often, it was a nice surprise. It was nice to be able to email her back about what I am up to and get a worry off my chest. Thanks, Kath!
Now I'm just going to remember to breathe, and take the day one step at a time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Finally, a book review.



Some time ago, I received this book in a giveaway courtesy of the lovely Beth at Beth Fish Reads. Due to the demands of academic life, family life and work, I have only just finished reading it. So here, finally, is my review of The Castaways.

The Castaways, by Elin Hilderbrand, is about four couples, and the intricacies of their relationships. One of the couples is killed unexpectedly, and in suspicious circumstances. Through a combination of flashbacks and current action, we explore the dynamics of the friendships, and the chain of events leading to the fateful sailing trip.

I enjoyed this book, especially the vignettes of family life, and the descriptions of the Nantucket Island setting. Revelations build upon intrigue, leading toward an (unfortunately) not altogether satisfying ending.

My favourite character was Delilah, who manages to encapsulate earthiness and passion. She has a voluptuous figure and likes raunchy jokes, but still picks strawberries and makes jam with her children!

I'm not sure that I found the characters and their relationships entirely believable, but I enjoyed the way the novel was written from multiple points of view.

The Castaways is a good 'beach read'.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Happy Father's Day



Happy Father's Day to my wonderful husband, my father, my father-in-law, my brother and my brothers-in-law.

The good news is, I submitted my uni assignment this morning, so I was able to spend the day with my family instead of locked away chained to my computer! One lovely 'day off' before it's back to the grindstone for me (group assignment due 14th)!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Gratitude Revisited



I received this award some time ago from the beautiful Velvet at vvb32reads. I just want to let you know, Velvet, that I really appreciate receiving this award, and I haven't forgotten about it!

I'm not one to worry too much about rules when it comes to passing on awards, I'm just sending it on to four friends who have encouraged me with their comments in the past week or so. I'm big on encouragement. I know I need it, and I like to give it to others whenever I can. So if you are listed below, know that your encouragement was great, and I hope to be able to encourage you right back when you need it.

Without further ado...

  1. Witch Baby from Witch Baby's Journey. Please check out her fabulous blog if you haven't already. She has a little bit of this and a little bit of that - never boring and usually thought-provoking and enjoyable!
  2. Alex the Girl from Please Try Again. I love the way Alex writes!
  3. Glenda from A New Journey Begins... Glenda, like me, is studying to become a Teacher Librarian, and is struggling her way through the same assignments as I am. It's nice to have friends to share the ups and downs with.
  4. Sarbear from My Life Is An Effing Fairy Tale! Sarbear's blog has lots of bling, but underneath the glitz and glamour, she's a very kind-hearted soul and a great friend.

Please take the time to visit these blogs if they're not familiar to you. And let's all try to encourage one another when we can, and express our gratitude when we are encouraged!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Yippee!



This little lamb is jumping for joy because I've finished writing my first assignment for the semester. I've finished writing it, but I haven't submitted it yet because I still need to make sure I'm happy with it. I've gone a little left of centre with it, I'm either a genius or heading for a very disappointing mark, I'm not sure which.

The assignment required me to critically evaluate two sets of website evaluation criteria. The problem I had was that there was so much similarity between different sets of criteria. Unless I purposely chose a really hopeless set of criteria so that I had a lot of things to criticise, I found I was saying pretty much the same thing about both sets of criteria. Very boring. Now you may be thinking that there's nothing wrong with an academic paper being boring! But by boring, I mean repetitive, and not really allowing me to demonstrate much critical thinking.

So what did I do? I found an interesting article in my pile of academic reading that described a different approach to evaluating websites. Instead of using a checklist of criteria, this method evaluates the website by observing use of it in practice. So I wrote about one 'regular' set of criteria, and also this other approach.

So what will the marker think about this turn of events? Maybe something like, "Wow, this student is exceptional! She has gone 'above and beyond' when thinking about this subject!". Or maybe something like, "Oh dear, this student has let herself down by straying from the expectations." I'm voting for number one!

The second part of the assignment required me to actually undertake an evaluation of four websites, two using my first criteria and two using my second. So that part won't be quite what they're expecting either. Part of me is happy with what I've written, and happy to stand out from the crowd. The other part is thinking, 'Oh no, what have I done???".

I'll keep you posted....

Thursday, September 3, 2009

More News



Another day, another cute animal pic!

This post is coming to you from my new laptop. Hooray! I really must go back to my assignments, but I just thought I'd update you on latest developments...

Both my kids have started some orthodontic treatment. Alana is getting an 'active removable appliance' which is basically a plate that she will wear that is designed to expand her top jaw. Fun! (She did get to pick which colour she wanted - glittery pink - and choose a sticker for it - a love heart.) Josh is having a space holder fitted which will not be removable, it is designed to hold his teeth in place until a couple more permanent teeth come in. He didn't get to pick colours, his will just be 'metal like a robot' (!) according to the orthodontist. Both kids are perfectly happy at the moment, I wonder how long that will last?

OK, back to work for me...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My News

I'm a sucker for a cute animal pic! All together now, "Aaaaaaawwww!".

I've been working very hard on my assignments, and I actually feel like I'm making good progress and I'm pretty happy with what I've written. You'll be the first to know when I actually submit something!
I'm off to the orthodontist with Alana this afternoon - wish me luck! Why children's teeth can't just behave and come in straight, I'll never know!
Josh has decided that he'd like to try baseball as his summer sport this year. He's done athletics for the past few years and thinks he'd like to try something new. Good for him! I'll keep you posted...
I have bought a laptop on eBay!!! It should be set up and working tomorrow, I'll make sure to post a picture asap.
OK, must continue with my assignments...