Tuesday, July 5, 2011

May and June Reading Books

As usual, I'm a bit late reporting in the books I've read for the months of May and June. I've been really trying to focus on non-fiction. Surprisingly, it's been quite an easy transition as I have a long list of subjects in which I want to learn more! Feel free to comment on any of these books.


1. A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (Paul Miller): 4.0/5 stars
2. The Successful Home Business Guide (Wil Limkemann): 3.2/5 stars
3. Soul Cravings: An Exploration of the Human Spirit (Erwin McManus): 3.6/5 stars
4. The Teachable Moment: Seizing the Instants When Children Learn (Rebeccca Branstetter) 4.1/5 stars
5. The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother (James McBride): 3.9/5
6. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (Barbara Demick): 4.1/5
7. Saving Gracie: How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills (Carol Bradley): 3.7/5

8. Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Todd Burpo): 2.9/5 stars
This father's accout of his almost 4 year old son's near death encounter is a quick and easy read. While many may not believe in the after-life or the presence of heaven, Colton's brief time in heaven seems very real to him. The Burpo family is a God-believing family and Colton's matter-of-fact explanations of what he saw in heaven are not Sunday School facts embellished to sound believable. Quite a story but the story-telling (or writing) is a bit weak.

9. The Homeschooling Option: How to Decide When It's Right for Your Family (Lisa Rivero): 3.7/5 stars
The title and subject matter perhaps gives an fairly accurate indication of the possibilities our family are considering with regards to 'Shroom's and Lolli's eduation. This was a good and fairly succint book on weighing the advantages (and some disadvantages) of homeschooling. There are many books out there (and I've borrowed a few from the library) on the topic of homeschooling and the wealth and volume of information presented in these books are simply overwhelming. Rivero does a great job selecting key issues for families to consider. I would recommend this book for any family considering homeschooling.

10. The Homeschooling Book of Answers: the 101 most important questions answered by homeschooling's most respected voices (Linda Dobson): 3.3/5 stars
I read this book from cover to cover (I know, I'm a geek like that - perhaps this was intended to be a refernce book but I treated it like a trashy romance novel by carrying it around the house as I did chores here and there) and it did address some very pertinent questions running around in my mind. What I didn't really like about this book was that it made no qualms about bad-mouthing public school education. The asnwers to these 101 questions were provided by various people who have been deeply involved in promoting homeschooling. It's no doubt that they favor homeschooling over public (and even private) education but some of the responses where just so obviously biased.

11. A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling (John Taylor Gatto): 3.1/5 stars
This book, which is a collection of essays and speeches Gatto (former NY city school teacher with 30+ years of teaching experience and numerous Teacher of the Year awards) had compiled, had rave reviews. One reviewer said that "after reading this book, you will never view public education the same again." I thoroughly enjoyed the first third of the book and boy did it open my eyes to what is going on in public schools here in America. The remaining two-third of the book sort of peetered out and kind of ended on a wimper for me. It's true though, the more I read about the topic of homeschooling, I can't NOT homeschool now, it seems.

12. What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (Malcolm Gladwell): 2.4/5 stars
Perhaps it wasn't fair to expect nothing short of 5 stars for Gladwell's latest book but I was sorely disappointed with his collection of more memorable The New Yorker articles. The book felt slapped-together random even though it was divided into three chunks. There were sections and chapters that were riviting and what I have come to expect from Gladwell's books. Perhaps I have simply come to expect nothing but great and this book fell a bit short of that.


1. Always the Baker, Never the Bride (Sandra Bricker): 2.8/5 stars
2. The Help (Kathryn Stockett): 4.9/5 stars

3. The Memory Keeper's Daughter (Kim Edwards): 3.4/5 stars
This is the heart-wrenching story of how a young baby born with Downs Syndrome is sent away to live in a special home. While this may not seem all that extraordinary for a story that begins in the 60's, what makes this story remarkable is the fact that the father (a doctor who is forced to deliver his wife's twins) hides his Downs Syndrome daughter from his wife and instead informs her that the girl died at birth. Years go by and the family is still affected by the repercussions of this lie. This was an intriguing story but the writing itself wasn't consistent. I enjoyed the first third of the book but then it seemed to lose its hold on me.

4. Cold Fire (Dean Koontz): 3.9/5 stars
It was Mr. Koontz's Velocity book on CD kept me awake and alert (and driving white-knuckled) during my cross-country drive as my family relocated from MA to CA. Sure enough, Cold Fire had me nervously glancing over my shoulder as I read the book. I even had to read in the same room where Air Boss was hanging out -- I was close to getting freaked out. It was hard to put this book down but part of it may be due to the fact that I have been reading so much non-fiction, this brain candy was a good break from the cerebal volumes I've been consuming.

Books Read Aloud to the Kids

1. The Lightening Thief (Rick Riordan): 4.8/5 stars
2. The Sea of Monsters (Rick Riordan): 4.7/5 stars
3. The Titan's Curse (Rick Riordan): 4.3/5 stars
4. The Battle of the Labyrinth (Rick Riordan): 4.0/5 stars
5. The Last Olympian (Rick Riordan): 4.2/5 stars

6. The Lost Hero (Rick Riordan): 4.5/5 stars
This is the first (and so far, only) book of The Heroes of Olympus series. While familiar names and faces from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series were a part of this story, this book was primarily about a new cast of characters. The kids and I loved this book but Lolli still prefers Percy Jackson over Jason Grace. We'll have to wait for The Son of Poseidon to come out this fall to see if she'll warm up to Jason.

7. The Maze of Bones (Rick Riordan): 3.9/5 stars
Okay - I'm looking over this seventh book the kids and I have read aloud this year and I realize I need to introduce more authors. I'm a little heavy on Mr. Riordan's tomes. Anyway, this is the first of ten books in The 39 Clues series. I like how it incorporates so much history and culture into the story. This first book focuses on Benjamin Franklin and a good half of the book takes place in France. While I pre-read the book, the kids and I listed to this book on CD as we shuttled 'Shroom to and from his summer school classes. We've already begun the second book (One False Note) in The 39 Clues series!

1 comment:

Canada said...

The Color of Water is a remarkable and an inspirational book. It is a tribute of a black man to his white mother. This novel emphasizes the importance of an education and the strength of spirit. It illustrates the greatness of a mother's love, determination,and hope for her children's future.It is amazing how a woman could withstand so much hardship in her life and still go on to raise twelve successful children. This book gives a profound illustration of racism at its worst. Ruth's statement that 'God is the color of water', shows her attitude toward race and religion. The Color of Water has many valuable lessons. One of these lessons is the significance of a person's faith in God. The other important lesson of this book is the impact of a good education.