Review: For the King

For the King
For the King by Catherine Delors

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Short Version: Started off a little slow, but the suspense kept building as the book went on, and the numerous plot twists ultimately made the book worth a read.

Longer Version: For the King started off a little slow, but the setting – Napoleonic France – was so interesting, I wanted to keep reading anyway – and I ended up being glad that I did.

This book is, basically, a mystery. The main character, Roch Miquel, is a young police inspector who has to race against the clock to figure out who is behind an assassination plot on Napoleon…because Miquel’s father is a suspect, and might be shipped overseas to do hard labor if his name isn’t cleared. I don’t read mysteries too often, but the stakes were just so high, I was invested in Miquel’s search for the would-be assassins, because I completely believed his motivation and desperation.

Not only are the stakes high in this book, but there are twists and turns galore, which made things that much more suspenseful. Normally I’m pretty good at picking up on twists, but I didn’t see a single one of them coming in For the King. And these twists seemed completely natural, too, not just plot twists for the sake of plot twists. I actually might have to reread this book so that I can try to pick up on some of the clues.

If you like high stakes, suspense, and mysteries, all in a historical setting rich with detail, I think this is your book.

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So…I finished my draft.

So…this happened:

(I think it should get bigger if you click on it. If it doesn’t, though, this is the last page of SHARDS OF MEMORY. Hooray!)

This is me right now:

…and then I remembered that now I get to revise the thing:

…but I’m going to go ignore that for the moment. Because right now, I mostly just feel like watching The Daily Show, or maybe taking a nap, which would probably be a terrible idea because I’m getting up at 5:30 tomorrow morning.

Currently Listening To: Ke$ha – “Take It Off”
Currently Reading: Splendor by Anna Godbersen

In which I politely rage.

The Wall Street Journal published this article about how books written for teenagers are too dark and are going to lead them all into depravity.

I think this is ridiculous (and not in a good way). Yes, there are dark YA books out there. But these books aren’t dark for the sake of being dark. These books tackle serious issues in ways that are accessible to teenagers. Teenagers need these books, because often this is the only way they can deal with these issues because the adults who should be there for them are too busy burying their heads in the sand, pretending that teens are completely ignorant about the world around them. (Newsflash: they’re not. They’re way smarter than they get credit for.)

You know why the sorts of books this author complains about exist? Because they exist in our society. If things like rape, abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, etc. didn’t exist in our society – if teenagers didn’t have to deal with them – there would be no reason to have to write these books.

I might someday be a language arts teacher. I think about the things I had to read in school – how many of these things can students really relate to? I mean, yes. There is something to be said for having them read the classics and broaden their horizons and whatever (and I love them, don’t get me wrong), but at the end of the day, is a story about twenty-somethings trying to find rich husbands, or an exploration of the depravities of Victorian society, or a crazy king with conniving daughters, or anything part of the literary canon of dead white guys, really going to grab their attention? Or is it going to be books like Looking for Alaska, or Speak, or The Hunger Games – books that are real, books they can relate to, books about kids who could just as easily be them? If I can get away with it, I would definitely pull these books in. I don’t think forcing kids to read books they don’t want to read, anyway, is very effective; it just kills any love of reading they might have had. Kids need these books, because it might be the only thing that will get them to read.

Personally, the characters in these books were the only friends I had whenever I was the “new kid.” I’m really glad these books exist. If it wasn’t for them, there are so many lunchtimes I probably would have spent sitting alone. And when I did make friends, often it was these books we bonded over – Tamora Pierce and Meg Cabot both come to mind.

So, if people are going to continue to insist on attacking and belittling these books, I’m going to continue to politely rage at these people.

Encouraging our children to read.

Last night I went to the second Harry Potter Club meeting of the year. The meeting revolved around “Harry Potter and You” – or, how Harry Potter has affected our lives.

A lot of people talked about how their families would all sit and read the books aloud together. Or, alternatively, how family members would fight over copies of the books. Others talked about how they never liked to read…and then they read Harry Potter. My little brother is one of those. He really does like to read, but it’s really hard to find things that will keep his attention long enough for him to finish. (Harry Potter, Pendragon, Percy Jackson, and the Inheritance books are the ones he reads over and over again. Does anyone know of anything else out there in that vein?)

I had a similar experience when I was in first or second grade. It was clear from the time we were split up into reading groups in first grade that my reading level was very advanced compared to the rest of my classmates. I read the Boxcar Children books initially, but soon ran out of those. What was there for me to read next? My mom thought I might like the Little House books. So she brought home Little House on the Prairie for me to read. I finished it in two days. I still have my copies of every single book in the series at my mom’s house (despite her attempts to convince me to part with them, which will never happen), and that now beat-up and yellowed copy my mom gave me 15 years ago is in my room up here.

Given how important I think it is for children and adolescents to read, and how hard it can be sometimes to convince them to do this, I don’t like to trash books as “bad”. Do I disagree with how Stephenie Meyer chooses to portray Bella’s relationships with Jacob and Edward in the Twilight saga? Yes. Yes, I do, because I think it sends a negative message to teenage girls, and I’m very glad my sister has enough common sense to realize how creepy Edward is, and that dating a guy like that in real life is probably a Bad Idea. But if it gets teenagers reading, then I’m going to support that. Because at least they’re reading.

What were the books that got everyone else reading?

&hearts Steph

Re-igniting Multicultural Education

On Monday night I saw Sonia Nieto and Patricia Bode, authors of Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education (which I need to read) speak on campus. (They were actually also on a panel last night that I wanted to go to, but alas, I had far too much work due today.) They outlined a framework for promoting quality education for all students, discussing the sociopolitical issues associated with our schools (how school policies and procedures benefit some students over others), the sociocultural knowledge and understandings (who our students actually are and what experiences they bring to their education), and our personal values and commitments (looking at our own values and biases, and then doing something about it).

I especially liked the point that Nieto and Bode made that education is always political. You look at who dictates the curriculum, the methods, procedures, and so on in public education in the U.S. – um, politicians. Politicians do. (Um, NCLB, anyone?) I also appreciated that they included many differences besides just race and ethnicity in their definition of multiculturalism – such as gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status – because I do think that these groups can be treated as inequitably as other minority groups.

A lot of the things discussed in this presentation really hit on one of the main reasons I want to be a teacher. I look at all of the injustices in our society, and I think about how, as a teacher, I would have an opportunity to help change some of these, even if it’s just by making my students think a little. Granted, being white and middle class, I can’t relate to the experiences that a lot of my students will bring. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to change things.

Monday night was very thought-provoking. It was definitely worth my time.