Book Review: Cinder

I don’t remember who recommended Cinder by Marissa Meyer to me. Someone who knew I was looking for Sci/Fi and Fantasy options for my creative writing class. It didn’t come in time for me to use it as an example for Sci/Fi. It’s rather complicated though, a retelling of a fairy tale with advanced technology.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads):

CINDER, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation.

Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth’s future.

 

My thoughts:

I felt no impetus to read. I don’t know any way to explain it other than that. It is well written and enjoyable. I liked it. But at no point was I invested. In fact I remained 20 pages from the end, in the middle of what was sure to be the climax, for a week and didn’t even care.  I reread World War Z instead.

I don’t know why either. The characters are well drawn. The plot is good; predictable but I find most books predictable. The style was fast paced. Everything that makes a good book was totally present and accounted for.

It just didn’t speak to me.

Book Review: Reprise – World War Z

Disclaimer: I’ve reviewed this book before, 3 years ago maybe, you can read that here if you like.

I’m teaching Creative Writing this year and I allowed my students to pick the genres we discuss and write in. It’s been a mixed bag. LOL.

One of their choices was Sci Fi scary. You know aliens attacking, etc. But you can only read so many of those examples before, yawn. So I wove in a few other things. A short where the main character is a sentient ship in outer space. The first chapter of The Martian by Andy Weir. And then I talked a little about World War Z because of its unusual style, a pastiche of a sociological study.

This made me want to read it again and see if it was really as great as I remembered. And damn if it wasn’t still amazing. I stayed up half the night reading, again.

It is a fascinating read.

Book Review: The Brave Learner

Another mom at coop was trying to get a group together to read The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart and discuss it. Why not?

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

Parents who are deeply invested in their children’s education can be hard on themselves and their kids. When exhausted parents are living the day-to-day grind, it can seem impossible to muster enough energy to make learning fun or interesting. How do parents nurture a love of learning amid childhood chaos, parental self-doubt, the flu, and state academic standards?

In this book, Julie Bogart distills decades of experience–homeschooling her five now grown children, developing curricula, and training homeschooling families around the world–to show parents how to make education an exciting, even enchanting, experience for their kids, whether they’re in elementary or high school.

Enchantment is about ease, not striving. Bogart shows parents how to make room for surprise, mystery, risk, and adventure in their family’s routine, so they can create an environment that naturally moves learning forward. If a child wants to pick up a new hobby or explore a subject area that the parent knows little about, it’s easy to simply say “no” to end the discussion and the parental discomfort, while dousing their child’s curious spark. Bogart gently invites parents to model brave learning for their kids so they, too, can approach life with curiosity, joy, and the courage to take learning risks.

 

My thoughts:

Yeah. This was a good read. Lots of magical pixie dust. Lots of one size fits all answers.

Lots of things I have already tried with my child and had them not work. Which according to Julie means I didn’t do it right. If I tried her methods and they didn’t have the results she described then my tone was wrong, or my facial expression, or the way I presented it was wrong, or secretly I wanted it to not work and my child picked up on that.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on one human. Seems it might be more kind to admit that not every solution works for every child. If you are setting yourself up as the know all and you have to insist the other person is wrong when your solution doesn’t work, then I have to wonder just how much you really know. And are you really invested in helping parents or shaming them?

Wow, I had no idea all that was in the back of my mind when I sat down to review this book. I started out thinking I liked the book in general but clearly her approach of “dictates from on high” really rubbed me the wrong way.

Which brings me to the conclusion I have now come to after 5 years of homeschooling MY child. Every child is different. In fact, they are different on different days of the week, seasons of the year, and times of their life. No packaged approach will ever fit. I think I might just be done reading how wonderfully someone else’s approach to home schooling their children went because in the end, they didn’t home school my child.

Book Review: Two Can Keep a Secret

I waited an eon for the latest from Karen McManus.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone has declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

My thoughts:

I have the stomach flu. Full on puking my guts up in a way I never did even with alcohol poisoning. And this book kept my attention from start to finish.

The characters are fun. The bevy of secrets delightful. The mysteries intense.

I didn’t know who done it. I knew the extra twist at the end, that one was obvious to me all the book. But I had no clue who done it. And no one was hiding information. There was no secret ooh she found, he found…and we aren’t telling so we can surprise you.  The author played it straight. Devious, but straight.

It’s as good as her first one. Maybe better, because it didn’t feel cribbed from Breakfast Club.

Book Review: A Death at the Yoga Cafe

I was being rushed out of the library by the kiddo as his arms were full of graphic novels and he wanted to go home, when I spied A Death at the Yoga Cafe by Michelle Kelly on an end cap for cozies. Yoga and murder? Right on.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Keeley Carpenter has found her center. After returning to Belfrey, the traditional English village she called home ten years ago, she’s opened her dream yoga café, which doubles as both a yoga studio and a delicious vegetarian café. Even better, Keeley is dating handsome Detective Ben Taylor, and things are beginning to look serious.

Too bad things never seem to run smoothly for long. Eager to get involved with the local community, Keeley sets up a booth at the annual Belfrey Arts Festival, along with her nemesis, fellow small business owner Raquel. Preparing herself to play nice, she’s shocked when Raquel’s boyfriend, Town Mayor Gerald, is found dead after a public spat. Despite Ben’s strict warnings to stay out of it, Keeley isn’t going to let an innocent woman take the blame for the murder—even if it is glamorous, spoiled Raquel.

Now Keeley must balance a precarious murder investigation with the demands of her growing business and now-strained relationship. But when the killer takes a personal interest in Keeley, can she find the culprit before she gets bent out of shape?

My thoughts:

The book was definitely missing that joie de vivre that English slang brings to Brit based books. Everyone talks like an American. LOL. Supposedly the author is English. I don’t know what to make of that.

I didn’t connect particularly with the main character. She was tepid tea.

And the detection was of the “suspect everyone until a surprise twist reveals who done it” style. I don’t thrill to that.

But the book was solidly okay.

Book Review: Death Over Easy

I’ve reviewed Maddie Day before. I still love her Country Store Mystery series. In the latest installment Robbie is up to her ears in murder suspects, some of whom are staying at her freshly opened B&B.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

June’s annual Brown County Bluegrass Festival at the Bill Monroe Music Park in neighboring Beanblossom is always a hit for Robbie’s country store and café, Pans ‘N Pancakes. This year, Robbie is even more excited, because she’s launching a new bed and breakfast above her shop. A few festival musicians will be among Robbie’s first guests, along with her father, Roberto, and his wife, Maria. But the celebration is cut short when a performer is found choked to death by a banjo string. Now all the banjo players are featured in a different kind of lineup. To clear their names, Robbie must pair up with an unexpected partner to pick at the clues and find the plucky killer before he can conduct an encore performance . . .

 

My thoughts:

I like Robbie. She is such a fun, yet capable woman. She doesn’t bumble all over place. She handles her shit, effectively.

And she takes responsibility when she screws up. Asking for help. Researching solutions. I might want to be friends with her. Maybe. People die around her a lot. LOL

She tries to stay out of crime but people tell her things. I can relate to that. People tell me things, too. Luckily I have managed to avoid any murders.

The entire series has been a solid cozy read. (this is book four maybe?)

Book Review: Lies My Teacher Told Me

The hubs and I had dropped the kiddo at his D&D game and snuck out(approved by the host) to get a little alone time. We hiked for a while, having all those conversations that build up between dates because you can’t get through three sentences at home without the kiddo interrupting…and then we went to the library. I’ll be honest all our dates end the evening at the library. The ability to search shelves without the kiddo tugging at your arm saying he wants to go now, his stack of books is heavy, etc…oh mama. Anyway, I came across a copy of Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen. I had heard really good things about it.

Basic Summary (Courtesy of Amazon):

Since its first publication in 1995, Lies My Teacher Told Me has become one of the most important—and successful—history books of our time. Having sold nearly two million copies, the book also won an American Book Award and the Oliver Cromwell Cox Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship and was heralded on the front page of the New York Times.

For this new edition, Loewen has added a new preface that shows how inadequate history courses in high school help produce adult Americans who think Donald Trump can solve their problems, and calls out academic historians for abandoning the concept of truth in a misguided effort to be “objective.”

What started out as a survey of the twelve leading American history textbooks has ended up being what the San Francisco Chronicle calls “an extremely convincing plea for truth in education.” In Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen brings history alive in all its complexity and ambiguity. Beginning with pre-Columbian history and ranging over characters and events as diverse as Reconstruction, Helen Keller, the first Thanksgiving, the My Lai massacre, 9/11, and the Iraq War, Loewen offers an eye-opening critique of existing textbooks, and a wonderful retelling of American history as it should—and could—be taught to American students.

My thoughts:

I expected more or less or something different anyway from this book. I guess I hoped for more discussion of the lies and what is really true. I like that kind of thing. While there is a good measure of that, it felt like more than half of every chapter was reviews of textbooks. Textbooks that were heinously boring when I didn’t actually read it in high school. And now I have to read excerpts of it while this guy explains why they’re boring and bad.

Maybe the problem is I already teach all the sides of every story in my history classes and encourage a healthy debate, so he was preaching to the choir?

It’s a good read if you don’t mind skimming a bit.