Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Joy of Reading (and Teaching)

I participate in a program called Reading Pals where we tutor youngsters in reading. It's a Florida initiative funded by a couple who want to ensure that children are at their proper reading level by third grade, and volunteers give one hour a week working with a youngster identified as being at-risk.

The young lady who is my Reading Pal is a delightful child, and quite bright. Each session reminds me of how much I loved introducing my boys to books, and now I get to do it all over again. Yesterday we were reading about dogs and it was her turn to read the book to me. All was going swimmingly until we reached a  page on Guide Dogs.

"I can't read that," she said flatly, "that's a bad word."

I looked at the word in question and understood her dilemma.

"Try sounding it out. It's not what you think it is."

"Uh uh, I'm not reading that. It's a bad word and I'm not supposed to say it."

I really couldn't argue with her logic, not if I wanted to get through our hour session, so I said I'd read that sentence for her and explain the word, assistance.

The funny thing was, I can remember a similar situation from my youth when I was the same age she was, seven years old. There was an illustration in the book and I couldn't figure out what it was, so I asked my mother. She looked at it and said a word (I thought) that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap, and I told her it was a very bad word.

The word was knickers (American usage) and after some confusion she clarified it for me.  I can still see the old fashioned primer I learned from, which had illustrations of boys from the early 20th c. wearing short pants that buttoned at the knee.

When I heard about Reading Pals I knew it was the perfect volunteer opportunity for me. What's your favorite volunteer activity?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


They ate in silence, and after a few minutes Daphne said, “This
fish tastes wonderful, Doctor. In fact, I do not recall fish ever
tasting this good.”
“Now I will wax philosophical, Miss Farnham. Your hard work
today gave you an appetite, and that is the finest seasoning. This
fish is very fresh, and the onions helped give it extra flavor. I
imagine you eat fish in London covered in preparations from some
French chef who feels compelled to demonstrate his skill and
imagination with the saucepan. Sometimes, though, simple is

--Castaway Dreams

I'm pausing in the midst of my Thanksgiving feast preparations to reflect on what truly makes me thankful: Having shelter and running water and electricity, knowing my sons in NYC weren't battered by Hurricane Sandy, having my husband sitting across from me at the Thanksgiving table, being joined by new friends on the holiday and finishing the weekend with old friends.

As we enter the season of "Buy! Buy! Buy!" I will remember that at the end of the day, most of what I've got  is just stuff.  It's stuff I like, it's stuff that's pretty, and it's stuff I want, but it's not as important as health, family and security.

Here's hoping everyone celebrating the holiday today remembers why we're thankful, and carries that thought through the year ahead.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kids! Listen to your teachers! You do need this stuff later.

The WIP, [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby (though I think it'll end up titled The Pirate's Governess) is now at 66,000 words. Not far enough along, but it's getting there. Today I dashed off an email to the math teacher who assisted me with the notorious geometry scene in Castaway Dreams. It's been so long since I've dealt with eight-year-olds learning the basics of mathematics that I've forgotten in what order certain skills are taught. 

While I enjoy almost all the research I do for my novels, I must say that having my math skills refreshed has been an embarrassment and a positive experience. It's amazing what you forget when you don't use it, and having to re-examine the basics of arithmetic has done me a world of good.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review--Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

Captain Vorpatril's AllianceCaptain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading Ivan's story, even though I half expected the book to be titled, "Ivan, You Idiot!" That's a good illustration of why newcomers to Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books shouldn't come to this one cold--it's a reward for people who've watched Ivan's development since he first appeared in The Warrior's Apprentice.

Ivan's most definitely a beta hero, often being the straight man for his frenetic cousin Miles Naismith Vorkosigan. Here Ivan gets to be the hero of his own story, and because we're so often in his POV we understand him much better.

The love story between Ivan and Tej is also a beta story--two nice people who are surrounded by overachievers, and find what they want is a more restful relationship than Wuthering Heights style passion.

What kept me from giving it five stars is I enjoyed the first part of the book more than the second. A marriage of convenience trope can still work in the 23rd century, and it was vastly entertaining to see this unfold. The second part of the book with the adventure sequence wasn't as strong for me, but it did allow Ivan to shine.

Most of the usual suspects are here, though (thankfully) the Vorkosigan's are mostly offstage. It may be the last of the Vorkosigan novels, though I can imagine a next generation coming forward to have their own adventures.

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day

It was that simple. Men who two days earlier would have run each other through or blown each other to pieces, now were up on deck toasting each other’s countries with carefully rationed grog.
--Sea Change

When the wars are over, and the veterans return home, they want to pick up the pieces of their lives or begin new ones building on the training and experience they received from their time in the armed forces.

Today's the day I say thank you to my brothers, my father, and all the veterans I know who've served, past and present. I want to give a shout-out also to those who serve now, especially Jessica Scott, career US Army officer, chief hamster wrangler, and a damn fine romance author. If you're not reading her novels, you're missing out.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day

“I am not sure I should have to always do what you tell me to do, or not to do, Dr. Murray. I know you are a natural philosopher and learned, but in America they let men vote equally, the stupid ones as well as the clever. Not that I am stupid, I am just not as learned as you are. While we are here on this island, just the two of us, we should be voting as equals, don't you think?”
He looked at her in astonishment, setting down the gourd.
“I am amazed, Miss Farnham, that a properly brought-up Englishwoman would take the riff-raff in America as her model for appropriate behavior. No, this is not a situation calling for some anarchic form of democracy. Your vote is not equal to mine."

--Castaway Dreams

Don't listen to Alexander! If you're one of those riff-raffish Americans, exercise your rights and vote today! Your vote counts as much as a natural philosopher's or a fashionable lady's vote. Be a part of the democratic process--it's your right and your obligation.