Friday, August 26, 2016

The Non-Traditional Student

So that's what I am now, a "non-traditional student," also known as the "returning student," "adult student," "life-long learner," or other euphemisms that we all know are code for "old". Some, like my husband, took a while to grow up and didn't get around to finishing college until later, some took time off to raise a family, some are getting an advanced degree to further their careers, and some of us are starting a second career.

I'm somewhat of a combination, I suppose. I have two degrees already, and worked in a previous career for a few years, then took a number of years off to have a family, during which time I volunteered and had a small home business. When the kids were older, I got a part-time job in the library and fell in love with it. So now I'm starting an MLIS program to get my degree so I can hopefully become a professional librarian.

What's it like being back in school after 25 years? Well, it's no picnic. First of all, there are constant reminders of how much older I am than many of my classmates. Some of them are barely older than my daughter, many don't really remember what life was like pre-internet. While on the other hand, the last time I wrote a research paper (my master's thesis) was in 1991, and all research was done in the library the hard way, using printed abstracts and indices to find articles in printed and bound professional journals. I did use a computer, but only for word processing, all of my charts, graphs, tables, and figures were done by hand using stick-on graphics tape, numbers and letters, then photographed and printed. I did all the photography myself, developing my own negative and prints, and making my own slides for my defense presentation (I actually think it's kinda cool I got to do all that).

So I feel like at least initially, having to re-learn how to do that kind of research using digital resources and materials will put me at a slight disadvantage; working in children's services doesn't really require any more in-depth reference than Google 99% of the time. Also I have not done any scholarly writing since my thesis, either, so I'm quite out of practice with using a more stuffy, scholarly writing style and remembering to cite everything properly.

Physically it's different this time around as well. My poor old eyes are having a hard time with the increased amount of computer time, and trying to read the teeny-tiny print in our rather dry and dull reading assignments, and I certainly can't pull all-nighters anymore, unless I don't have to work the next day. Even when I have free time in the evenings, I find I am too tired to stay focused on reading or put a reasonably coherent thought together to write anything. School is definitely going to be a little more challenging and require much more careful time-management than the first time around!

I am not typically a vain person, but I have to confess when I went to my orientation and looked around, realizing I was probably the oldest person there (other than some of the professors), it really bothered me and made me doubt myself. Is it too late? Am I just wasting my time and money getting a library degree? Will it ever actually pay off, with all these much younger people competing with me for jobs? After all, we all know how crappy the job market is in general, but it's even worse once you're over 40. 

Oh well, at least one good thing about being in an online class is that I don't have to see people face-to-face and be confronted almost daily with their young shiny faces and reminded that I am old enough to be their mother. Online I can forget, and pretend we are all the same age. 

Until another "mature" student makes a movie reference to "Field of Dreams" and I'm the only one who gets it, that is.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Perfect Liars by Kimberly Reid

Perfect Liars by Kimberly Reid. May 15, 2016. Tu Books. 384 pages. Ages 12 & up.

Andrea Faraday seems to have it all. She is successful and seemingly well-liked by teachers and students at her exclusive private school, she lives in a mansion filled with fine art in a posh neighborhood, and is the daughter of successful, high-society parents.

But all is not as it seems. Drea's family is not nearly as good and perfect as the rest of the world perceives them to be, and this deception eats at Drea and causes her to act out, though her brother Damon is luckily able to keep her out of trouble. One day her parents leave on an art-buying trip in Europe, and don't return, with the occasional brief, cryptic text as their only contact. 

Drea begins to fear that her parents are in trouble and that it is somehow connected to a major theft the year before, and two juvenile delinquents that keep crossing her path. Drea begins to connect the dots, and finds herself developing some unexpected allies who help her with her plan to set things right.

My Thoughts 
This story starts out well, drawing the reader in as the surprising truth is revealed about the Faraday family, then the intrigue begins to deepen. The story moves along fairly well at first, then starts to seem a little slow. It's like most of the book is an introduction, building up to a story that never fully develops, and then all of a sudden all the action takes place and it's over, yet much is unresolved. I found that aspect very unsatisfying as a reader.

This would have been a great book if it had moved along a little faster in the middle, then built a little more detail and suspense into the ending. The ending wasn't even a real ending, as much was left unresolved, which leads me to believe the story is going to continue in a series, but I could not confirm this. If you don't like rushed endings without real resolution, I would not recommend this book, at least for now. Once the whole series has been published (assuming it is going to be a series) so that the whole story can be read from start to finish in it's entirety, it might be a worthwhile read.

There were things about the story I did like, the developing romance between Drea and Xavier, as well as how Drea and Jason began to trust each other and start building a friendship. It would be interesting to she if she and Gigi would ever really become friends if the story does continue in another book. I would possibly suggest this to a tween or teen interested in mystery and intrigue or crime drama, with the caveat that the ending is a little weak and unsatisfying. One big plus for this book is that it does have multi-cultural characters, though they aren't always portrayed in the most positive light.

Other Books By This Author
Kimberly Reid is also the author of the YA series The Langdon Prep Mysteries, and is currently working on the YA thriller Pretty Boy Must Die. Ms. Reid is the daughter of a cop, who was always intrigued by her mother's cases, and often writes about juvenile
delinquent characters who then use their criminal skills for good.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Raymie Nightingale

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. April 12, 2016. Candlewick Press. 272 pages. Ages 10-13.

Raymie Clarke's father has just abandoned her and her mother to run off with a dental hygienist. But, Raymie has a plan to get him back. She decides that she must enter and win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire pageant. Surely if her father sees her picture in the paper as Little Miss Central Florida Tire he will be so proud of her that he will come home.

But to win, she needs a talent, which brings her to Miss Ida Nee's house for baton twirling lessons where she meets two other girls, Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski. The three girls couldn't be more different! Louisiana is very girly, a bit spacey, and prone to fainting. Beverly is tough as nails, has a bad attitude, and is surprisingly skilled at baton twirling. Raymie is a bit shy and serious, but determined, and has a unique skill that comes in handy in the end.

Each of the girls has a very different reason for being in the competition, but despite their differences the three become friends through a series of misadventures and rescues, eventually revealing their secrets to the others.

My Thoughts 
When I first read the blurb on the jacket, my first thought was 'Oh, great, another "Little Miss Sunshine", but it turned out to be a very different story after all. Although it seemingly starts out about family with Raymie's decision to enter the contest being spurred by her father's running off with another woman, it is really about friendship and finding your inner strength.

The story is fairly fast-paced with alternately bittersweet and humorous moments as each of the girls gradually reveals the darker truths of their lives as they bond during their series of misadventures. I liked how they gradually became friends, growing to appreciate their differences and realizing that they complemented each other perfectly, despite their first impressions. I also appreciated how in the end, two of the girls realized that their agendas were not realistic and that the third girl had a very real need to win the contest.

I would recommend this book to fans of the author's previous books, though they are all quite different, and for any younger middle-grade readers who enjoy books about unlikely friendships and adventures, or who might be looking for something that has to do with divorce and/or parental abandonment. Fans of the Fancy Nancy and Ivy + Bean chapter books would be likely to enjoy this one as well.

Other Books By This Author
Kate DiCamillo has written several other well-known and award-winning middle grade books, such as Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tales of Despareux, and Flora And Ulysses, as well as the beginning chapter series Bink & Gollie and Mercy Watson, and more.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Today NOT At The Desk....but, On A Plane!

Today would normally be my day to work the children's desk in the afternoon. Since school started yesterday, it probably would be very quiet for the first couple of hours, then maybe a few families trickle in after school.

But instead, I am on my way to the beginning of a new endeavor that is a bit of a risk financially, but I hope it will pay off in the long run. No, I haven't left my job; I am going back to school to get my MLIS! Though the program is online, there is an in-person orientation, and that is where I'm off to today. 

And the bonus? To get there (Valdosta, GA), I have to fly into Jacksonville, so I figured it would be a shame to be so close and not go to the beach, so after the orientation I am staying an extra two days at a beachfront hotel in Jacksonville before flying back to give myself a much needed mini-vacation!

I'm looking forward to starting on my MLIS, but I'm a little nervous, too. I was always a good student and I've already got one master's degree, but I'm not particularly excited about the online experience. I've never taken an online class, and I just think I'd get so much more out of an in-classroom experience and being able to talk to classmates and professors in person; I'm particularly concerned about doing group projects online. How does that even work?? But, online programs are about all there is in the field anymore, with a few exceptions, so I'll just have to adapt.

I'm also a bit concerned about whether it will pay off in the long run. Let's face it, graduate tuition isn't cheap and the job market stinks! I go into it knowing that there is a very good chance I may not live long enough to get a librarian position (this is my second career and I'm a bit older than the typical MLIS student), but I'm hoping it will at least get me something full-time, like a programming specialist in youth services or outreach. I definitely want to stay in public libraries and work mostly in youth services.

Now that I'll have more on my plate, I probably won't be able to post as often, but I hope to keep both my blogs going. I'll just have to see how it goes...

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorn. July 31, 2016. Arthur A. Levine Books (special rehearsal edition). 320 pages. Ages 8 & up.

Nineteen years after the defeat of Voldemort, Harry Potter is enjoying a rather mundane life as a husband and father of three, and working at the Ministry of Magic, where his old friend Hermione is now the Minister. 

However, his middle child, Albus, is having a much harder time dealing with the legacy of being Harry Potter's son than his older son James ever did. After Albus starts Hogwarts, he feels even more than he can never live up to the expectations put on him. He begins to become sullen and withdrawn, and angry at his father. To further set himself apart from his father, he chooses Slytherin House, and to his father's dismay, he becomes best friends with Draco Malfoy's son, Scorpius. 

Deep in his angst, a very mis-guided Albus decides he will right a perceived wrong of his father's in order to make a name for himself and convinces Scorpius to join him. After his first attempt not only doesn't work, but has unintended consequences, he insists on making a second attempt, which has catastrophic consequences that threaten all those he cares about, and his very existence! All the while, his father senses a dark presence, and begins to feel a familiar pain in his scar. Has the Dark One returned?

My Thoughts
So, after previously saying she was done with the Harry Potter world, J. K. Rowling has in fact returned to milk her cash cow, perhaps because of a less than stellar response to her adult fiction? But this time it comes in the form of a play written with the assistance of a theatrical writer and director, resulting in a book that is a script, rather than a novel [some bookstores/libraries may have it with the other Harry Potter books, others may have it shelved with other plays]. This format results in a book that is a littler harder to read, and probably a little less appealing for some, particularly kids.

The plot moves along at a very brisk pace, whizzing through Albus' first two years at Hogwarts in just a couple of very quick scenes before slowing down for the main action during his third year. Some parts of the plot are somewhat predictable, but there are some surprises, and overall, I enjoyed it, despite some of the story weaknesses. Perhaps not as much as any of the original 7 novels, but it wasn't bad, and I think most Harry Potter fans would be satisfied with the ending. As cynical as I am about Rowling's motivation for writing it, I must confess I had always secretly hoped there would be some kind of follow-up that would resolve Harry and Draco's conflict in a similar fashion and I was very happy with the ending.

This "special rehearsal edition" was released to coincide with Harry Potter's fictional birthday, which just happens to be J. K. Rowling's actual birthday, and just following the theatrical preview performance. Another edition, the "Definitive Collector's Edition" will be released in 2017 in order to squeeze a few more profits out of it, er, I mean incorporate all the revisions that occurred after the script's initial publication. I would have preferred a novelization of the script for easier reading and broader appeal, and I'm sure others would as well. Dare I predict we will likely see this script released in novel form in 2018 to further capitalize on the story?? Perhaps coinciding with a film adaptation??

I would recommend this to fans of the original Harry Potter books. While it may not be quite as good as the novels, I don't think many people really expect it to be, so some may even be pleasantly surprised. It might be possible to enjoy the story without having read the original series, but I think one really needs to know all the history preceding it, especially the relationships between Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the rivalry between Harry and Draco, and the Battle for Hogwarts to fully appreciate it.