Friday, May 29, 2009

What's On My Nightstand - May

With school ending this month I was too busy with testing, grading papers, final exams and getting year averages done to do too much reading. I do however have BIG plans for the summer.

I finished...
The Reincarnationist by M. J. Rose
This is not my ususal topic, but I enjoyed it. It was a great beginning of summer read.

My Sister's Keeper by Jody Picoult
I am not a Picoult fan. The only book I had read prior to this one was 19 Minutes. It was not a favorite. I can't say I liked this one any better. As a mom, I have a hard time putting one child over another, even medically. Then, the ending was just too "perfect". I keep saying I won't read another Picoult book, maybe this time I will remember how mad they make me.

The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry
I LOVE Steve Berry. When I had less sense and more money, I waited in line at Barnes and Noble to get each new book the day it came out. I love how he entertwines history with modern day treasure hunting and all the mysteries thrown in. This one was one of my favorites.

I am reading...
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
Why Geography Matters by Harm de Blij
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

To be read...
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
The Diplomat's Wife by Pam Jenoff
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Book Whisperer

By Donalyn Miller

I originally got this book to use with my own children, ages 10 and 5. I expected it to be about ways to encourage your children to read more and to help picking books to match their interests. Instead it was a book written by a middle school reading teacher about how she encourages reading in her own classroom. Reading her book transported me back to my days as a middle school reading teacher and the challenges I faced getting my students to read.

I loved this book. There is so much practical, usable advice that can be used in the classroom as well as at home. Her basic premise it that to learn to love reading, children need to read often and read what they choose to read. What obvious, but so often overlooked advice!

I found the book useful both as a parent and as a teacher. My decision to let my children read the books of their own choosing and not what I though they should read was validated. I also received an eye opener about required books in my class. While I use several books in reading groups in my classes, I have decided, based on Mrs. Miller’s experience and advice, to allow students to choose from a variety of novels and create their own groups the next time I do a novel study. My goal being to let the students have ownership over their novel and hopefully enjoy the novel and achieve the standards I have set for the project as well as help develop a love of reading in the future.

Rating - A

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009

Shadow of the Wind

by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A dear student gave me this book last year upon her graduation from high school. She claimed it was her favorite book ever and I would love it. It sat on my shelf for a year and the Spring Reading Thing gave me the inspiration to read it.

Dear Allison, you were right, it is an amazing book. Beautifully written with rich, well developed characters, a plot that twists and turns and a setting in post WWII Barcelona makes this a wonderful novel.

I am not sure how to write a review that won’t reveal one of the many surprising plot twists, so I will just leave you with the teaser from the back of the book and my recommendation that this book should not be missed.

“Daniel finds a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon, Daniel’s seeming innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets.”

Rating - A

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Beyond the White House

By Jimmy Carter

I almost stopped reading this one. I had high hopes for it since I am an admirer of all the good the Carters have done since they left the White House. Also, as an Atlantan, having seen President Carter on several occasions, I wanted to know more about him. The beginning of the book seemed to me as a “tooting our horn” type of memoir. The tone of the writing seemed to say, “just look how great we are.” This did not fit with my image of President Carter at all. I was so disappointed. But, I had paid for the hardback copy of this book, so I persevered, hoping for better and I was rewarded.

I found the section on Waging Peace very interesting. The way the Carter Center is structured and how they work without an official government sanction for their actions in some countries is fascinating. I felt many times, that the administrations (both Democrat and Republican) used President Carter and the Carter Center to do the work they could not do and to be able to deny blame when something went wrong. I was put off by the slight Republican bashing (which I expected) of how certain world situations were handled.

The section on Democracy and the Carter Center’s role in election observation around the world was probably my favorite. We take our democratic process and the seamless transition of power so for granted. The lengths the Center will go to just to ensure a fair election and the danger the Carters and the employees of the Carter Center will go to in order to protect democracy is an example of the strength of their character and dedication to the democratic process.

The sections on fighting disease and Habitat for Humanity were excellent as well. The impact the eradication of the guinea worm and the fights against elephantiasis and malaria in African countries have had a profound effect on the standard of health in many countries. As a human geographer, I was thrilled to see how the Carters worked with the local tribal chiefs, respected their beliefs and tried to incorporate the health changes in the to philosophies and everyday life of the local people.

I am so glad I persevered with this book. The work the Carters have done since leaving the White House has been world changing. They focus on little known issues, that receive very little government support or funding and make a HUGE impact on populations that often don’t have a voice.

Rating - B

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Spring Reading Thing Update

I am a little late with this, but still wanted to add my progress. On April 30th the Spring Reading Thing Challenge was 1/3 of the way complete. I managed to find quite a bit of reading time during the month. I finished 8 of the 11 books on my list and one that was not. Considering the fact that I only read 4 books from January 1 - March 19th this is huge for me. I am however painfully behind on writing my reviews for the challenge, something I hope to recify over the next few days. Missing from the picture above is Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian. It is our book club pick for this month and I loaned it to one of the girls to read before we meet.