The Next George Wright Padgett Novel…

October 31, 2014 at 10:00 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I loved Spindown – almost as much as I love the author, George.  Recently, he asked me to read his latest novel that will be released to the public in November.  It’s amazing! But I’ve had to keep my blogger mouth a little quiet about it, until now…

Welcome to the Cruel Devices cover reveal:

Cruel DevicesCover

Be prepared to purchase November 30th, 2014.  It’s exciting work, and if you’re a Stephen King fan, this one is definitely for you!

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Pamphlet disguised as a “book”

October 28, 2014 at 1:56 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

pamphletTitle: Ultimate Money Management Guide for Kids (I have specifically NOT included the link here, because I am not promoting the purchase of this “book.”)

Author: Gregory O.

*TAKE NOTE* Length: 17 pages

It’s my fault, really.  I never noticed the page length section on the Amazon.com site.  I especially didn’t notice that ebooks state a page length equivalent in that section.  In fact, I’m so blind, I had to LOOK for it after someone told me it was there.  Somehow my eyes have always skipped over it.  Amazon places it there, clear as day.  I just never saw it.

I will never miss it again.  I will always look now.

Ultimate Money Management Guide for Kids is little more than a pamphlet, and is far from “ultimate” or a “guide.”  After all, it is only SEVENTEEN pages long.

It takes about ten to twenty minutes to read (depending on your reading rate – took me roughly 8 minutes total, a good 2 minutes of that was spent trying to figure out where the rest of the book was), and though there are five chapters, they are each short enough to be included in a brochure. The kind you see at seminars or conventions. Instead of being an ultimate guide, I’d consider it a solid introduction to themes you would like to teach.

There are few steps or how-to lists, mostly just conjecture and opinion. Good opinions, mind you, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable promoting this as a personal finance or parenting guide of any kind. Instead it’s a nice conversation starter.

Free ebooks of this title were being passed around several homeschool sites a few weeks back. I consider this an appropriate way to acquire this book. But the kindle format sells on Amazon for $2.99 and I can’t help but wonder how many people have been disappointed by the lack of substance and length for their money.  Not many because the reviews on Amazon are mostly positive.  This surprises me.

In addition to it’s lack of length, there were a few editing hiccups that I urge the author to review. As a writer, I understand all too well the frequency of errant typos (my own first edition has many of them), but in a document that could be considered little more than a lengthy blog post, I’m surprised the errors slipped through.  I’m sure typos appear in my blog as well.  There might be some in this very post because I rarely go through an edit – I’m not an editor.  But I’m also not charging you to read this, so I feel in that regard I have a right to be a little lazy about punctuation placement and grammar choices.  When I start charging $2.99 for you to read my blog, I promise to edit better.  Then again, I’d never do that.

Early in the introduction of the title, the author writes, “Empowering children with good financial education will ensure that they are better prepared for life and all matter finance. It is the responsibility of parents to teach their children about money.” Indeed.  But he spent little time explaining how one should do so.

Gregory O. has some great ideas and on many points I agree with him. The book as a whole would make a marvelous opening speech for a seminar on teaching parents to teach their children about money matters, but it doesn’t stand well alone. I wish O. would have developed the topic more before releasing it as a “book” for sale at $2.99. (I know, I keep repeating this information, but it just hasn’t stopped baffling me.  $2.99 for 17 pages! What?) Lower the price to 99 cents or keep it free and I have little to fuss about, because it serves as a positive starting point for parents to encourage economic intelligence in their children. It simply falls short of what else is being produced in the industry on the same topic.

I’ll take my 8 minutes back, please.

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Enchanted Ivy

October 22, 2014 at 3:26 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

EnchantedIvyCover_LoRes312hTitle:Enchanted Ivy

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Length: 310 pages

It was the matte finish that got me.  So many young adult fantasy novels have the glossy cover that screams: I’m complete brain candy and will rot your mind! READ ME!  But not Enchanted Ivy, maybe you can’t tell from the picture, but if your fingers touch the cover, you’ll know.

Ivy here is a play on words.  The main character, Lily Carter, is trying to get into Princeton (her back-up school is another Ivy League option: Harvard).  No biggie, right? She just has to pass a top secret admissions test provided by the Old Boys her grandfather went to college with and she’s in…

Insert Tolkien and Harry Potter style creatures of myth… shape shifters, a gate to a magic world, gargoyle professors, unicorns, dryads, and ivy (and trees and flowers) that obey commands, and you’ve got the fixings for a fantastical adventure that occurs in a day or two and can be read faster than that.

Cassandra Clare meets C.S. Lewis and Sarah Beth Durst brought us a fun filled fantasy with a few romantic moments or two to satisfy our girly hearts.

When I read these books, I’m mentally cataloging them… will I recommend this to kids at the store? Will I recommend this to my niece?  Will I recommend this to my daughter?  For Enchanted Ivy, yes on all fronts, as long as their school work is done.  The book is both exciting and innocent enough for tweens and teens, I enjoyed it, but I don’t feel like I wasted my time or killed brain cells in doing so.  The author, after all, is a Princeton gal herself.

As for a few cheesy soulmate lines, I both loathe them and am a sucker for them.  I met my husband when I was 14, all the first meetings and teenage hormones is sheer nostalgia for me.  Although Durst does a great job at keeping these on the very far back burner.

 

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The Mother of all Bryson Books

October 19, 2014 at 4:12 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

P1000485Title: The Mother Tongue

Author: Bill Bryson

Genre: Linguistics

Length: 245 pages

How many times am I going to spend entire reviews singing the praises of Bill Bryson, bowing down to his mage-like powers as a wordsmith?  Not often enough.

The Half Price Books Humble Book Club read Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman for our September discussion.  GREAT book, but I had already read it.  That being the case, I plucked another linguistics title by an author I adore: Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue.

As with any typical Bryson piece, the book was well researched, enjoyable to read, and all the information was cleverly shared.  Bryson is witty, almost snarky even – but far less snarky in this book than, let’s say, A Walk in the Woods. I take great delight in clever snark.  And yes, I just chose to use snarky as a noun…

Although by describing Bryson’s work as snarky makes him sound much more irritable than he truly is.  On the contrary, Bryson always seems a bit jovial to me.  Sarcastic wit written with a broad smile, and possibly rosy cheeks.

If you love languages, English, history, factoids, dictionaries, evolution of words, or all of the above – The Mother Tongue will keep you fascinated.  If you enjoy witticisms, sarcastic commentary, clever jokes, good conversations, intelligent thought, and possibly your college English professor – Bill Bryson is the guy you want telling you all there is to know about “English and How It Got That Way.”

He’ll talk about Latin and Gaelic, the French and German.  He will discuss Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the Oxford English Dictionary.  There’s a whole chapter dedicated to swearing and the origins of some of our favorite – and not so favorite – expletives.  He’ll recite palindromes and tell you all about London Times Crossword Puzzles (which I desperately would like to get my hands on)… Also, if you ever felt bad about your spelling, this book will give you a full history on how it’s not you, it’s English.

I turned the last page and as it always is on the last page of a Bryson book, I’m already scouring the shelves for another Bryson title.  Can the others live up to the awesomeness I just read? I’m not so sure.

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Books, books, books, more books, and oh! – some books.

October 15, 2014 at 1:50 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , )

I went back to work full time, temporarily, but I’m working 40 hours a week again.  I’m still freelance writing.  I’m still acting as a marketing consultant.  I’m still homeschooling my daughter.  I’m still working on my novels.

I’m also still reading.

I’m a busy sort of gal – I’ll never stop reading.

So on the docket this last week was Stolen by Kelley Armstrong, Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (gee, you’d think I was a romance reader, which is funny, I never thought I’d join that crowd), and Lies That Make You Pay (a title I reviewed for Money-fax.com).

To be fair, I was pleased that book two in the Otherworld series was far more action oriented than it’s first book Bitten.  The romance and sex scenes took a back burner to the story which made for a much better book.  Having read Stolen, however, I began to be a little irritated Alone from the Girl in the Box series.  Stolen was published first (June 2010) and Alone (December 2013) seems like a bit of a rip off of Kelley Armstrong’s work.  This may be a complete coincidence, but I’ll have to read more of each series to find out.

I’m still enjoying Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue and I just started reading Edward Rutherford’s Sarum.  I’ll be sure to post reviews when I’m finished, but sneak peek review for Bryson: he’s marvelous and I adore this book.  I’m taking my time and savoring every glorious word.

I’ve currently completed reading 75 books this year.  I know that not everyone reads that much.  I also know plenty of people who read a lot more than that.  So I nearly choked on a laugh when a lady told me today that she had read too many books to keep track, like 75 books too many.  Ever.  Not this year, not in the last two or three years, but ever.  If you’ve made it to your mid-forties and have only read 75 books ever, I want to know what school you went to and how this travesty happened.  To be honest, however, I think she has read quite a bit more than that, I think people who don’t work in bookstores don’t really have realistic views on book quantities and what that looks like.  75 sounds like a lot to people, until you look at 50,000 – 100,000 every day.

What have you been reading?

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Literacy and Education

October 4, 2014 at 4:31 pm (Education, In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , )

Every day I read.  And since having a child, every book I read is filtered through a mental checklist of sorts: Would this be useful to Kiddo?  How would I feel about her reading this? What age is this appropriate for? How can we apply tools, principles, morals, themes, etc. that we learn from reading this to our lives?

Does this mean she’s the center of my universe and I do it all for her?  No.  I read for myself.  It might not seem like it when I’m making lessons plans, blogging reviews with Amazon affiliate purchase links (every time YOU buy a book by clicking the link from my site, a portion of that money is used as much needed income – thank you), posting about bookstore events, etc.  But I do so much of it for me it verges on selfishness.  This is my vice, my hobby, my job, my world.  I am a book fiend and somehow I have made that work for me on as many fronts as possible.

But even with all that self-serving book binging going on, determining how my reading material could mold the mind of my child – whether directly or indirectly – is a constant subplot to my life story.

If I weren’t homeschooling, would I have been interested in titles like Why School? If I wasn’t teaching my daughter to read right now, would a book on literacy research been a desirable past time?

I laughed at myself several times this week.  By the time I’m done raising my daughter I could have a PhD in education, going by my thirst for educational theory.  However, it’s not even remotely close to what I desire to earn a PhD in.  Is every parent required to study this hard? No.  Is it necessary to do all this leg work to be a homeschool mom?  Absolutely not.  You are qualified to teach your child just by virtue of being their parent and longing to make a priority of their spiritual, educational, and physical growth, of viewing your parent-child relationship as something worthy of being tackled with excitement and care.  But for those naturally driven to research and reading, for those who have undeniably lofty ideas regarding the swoon of academia, for those who possibly have an unhealthy love for pens and paper, stacks and shelves, mahogany and oak, for those people it’s a little hard not to fall “victim” to the pull of differing philosophies regarding your life choice to teach your child yourself.  (God help me when it comes to instructing her on the laws of grammar as I’ve never quite mastered getting over run on sentences, they are my favorite grammatical mistake.  Those, and sentence fragments, I suppose.)

why schoolWhy School? is a diminutive sized hardback with a picture of an old one room schoolhouse on the front.  Behind the schoolhouse – identical to what I long to build on my future homestead, although much larger I’m sure – is a vast sky of blue inviting you to all the possibilities contemplation and the school of thought might have to offer you.  The book begins with a tale about a janitor who had suffered some brain damaged, but chose to work at a community college to be around “where it happens” and to have access to materials he could study and/or take home to his daughter.  It was a beautiful tale regarding academia and how it is viewed from different sets of eyes.  Most people see it as a mandatory road map in life, one they can’t get out of.  Some see it as a golden ticket to the land of opportunity.  Few actually see it for what it is meant to be: a place to learn.

The author, Mike Rose, talks about many things regarding school and college and life.  He discusses blue collar life vs. white collar life.  He addresses a few political issues, some I agree with and some I don’t.  But one thing is clear: he is passionate about learning.  He is passionate about education.  Rose’s goal is to make others aware of the importance of developing the mind and taking charge of what we put in it, whether it be tools and life skills or book facts.

“We live in a time of much talk about intelligence.  Yet we operate with a fairly restricted notion of what that term means, one identified with the verbal and quantitative measures of the schoolhouse and the IQ test.  As the culture of testing we live in helps define achievement and the goals of schooling, it also has an effect on the way we think about ability.” – pg. 73

I loved that part.  I loved how he addressed the parts of the brain used by those who work with their hands.  My husband works with his hands, he is a millwright.  More than anything, I want to balance my child’s developmental education with things both her parents are passionate about.  I want her to continue to love books, but I want to allow her to be passionate about building things (the girl is a master tower builder when it comes to legos and VHS tapes).  So much creative energy is dismissed when people look at their mechanic or a machinist.  People do not understand how even your diner waitress is the Queen of her domain, has mastered brain patterns you cannot fathom, and has an internal clock and rhythm you could not duplicate without years of practice and training.  I understood this example Rose provided well, having waited tables just long enough to say I learned to do it the best I ever could and could not do it forever.  (I was a good server, well-liked by most my customers, but I was no Wanda.)

lit resI read chapters of Rose’s book in between dives into Adolescent Literacy Research and Practice.  Where Rose is quaint and inspiring, though thoughtful and well-spoken, Adolescent Lit. is all academic essays, lengthy work cited pages, references to studies and schools of thought.  The book is written by public school educators for public school educators, but one would be remiss if they didn’t hear the constant hum of “Homeschooling is the answer” to nearly every issue they address.  The writers would laugh, I think, as there is an entire section dedicated to how people tend to read things and find support for their own arguments and core beliefs even where there may be none.

Timothy and Cynthia Shanahan were the contributors I enjoyed reading the most.  They talked in great detail about what literacy is truly about, what being able to write is for, and how important it is in the education process to not confuse its purpose.  Literacy and developing good writing habits are at the core of understanding any subject – not just literature – but math, science, and history as well.  Writing isn’t merely about communicating what you have learned, but a process of diving deeper into a subject and gleaning a more thorough understanding of it.  Not just about memorizing facts and regurgitating, but thinking about what those facts mean to you and how that may or may not affect your world view.  It is about engaging the brain and coming up with new thoughts about old concepts.  It is about developing theories from research.  It is about invention and progress.  It isn’t just about basic comprehension, it’s about eventual enlightenment on any given subject.

Several essayists in the book discuss the issue of the misconception that writing is only for the literature major and how there is only one way to read.  There is great detail on how the practices for reading a science text cannot be considered the same as those to read classic fiction.  So many do not address this, which is why we have children in our schools reading their chemistry and physics homework, plodding their way through formulas, but they haven’t internalized it.  They only barely understand, it’s passion-less math or vague theories… whereas teaching these same kids how to read their science text (and giving them more than just standard textbooks, but also journals produced by scientists and articles from the professional world) will bridge the gap between the information and the passion to do something with that information.  Not everyone is Einstein, but we are not raising independent thinkers with a drive to feed their brains.  We are raising frustrated honey bees who have been deprived of pollen, and by doing such a thing they become useless drones who produce nothing.

I say this screams “homeschool is the solution” to me because the essence of the discussion in the book is teach a child to read for each appropriate discipline and you give them the world.  You teach them how to teach themselves.  You teach them how to use their brains and be studious and good stewards of their minds.  Not for the sake of a grade, not for an award or blessing, but for the act of embracing the knowledge itself.  We are driven by standardized tests – and I get it, how else do you assess where a child is when you must maintain some semblance of order while still addressing the needs of 30 students at a time.  How else do you sort them out and provide the best education possible?  If you can, you teach them at home.  Smaller classrooms, a personal relationship, true observing of where that child is developmentally and how you can aid them on the path to true literacy.  In Texas a homeschool is considered a private school run out of the home.  If there was nothing I liked about Texas (and I love Texas, but if I didn’t), this fact alone would keep me here as long as possible.

There’s also a thing called Unschooling that I’m finding more and more I lean to (I am combining classical education and unschooling education styles in my “private school” that is the Klemm home).  Unschooling is child driven.  You pursue their interests with a passion when they have them.  You learn what you can while they are motivated to learn it.  Every moment is a possible classroom moment.  The other day we researched praying mantises after discovering one in the garden we were weeding.  Kiddo was so excited and immediately went to her bug book and found a picture of one, thrilled to see something in the book that she had just seen in real life.  Well that’s easy when they’re in pre-school, people like to say.  Yes, it is.  But it can continue to be that way as they get older.

“Reading classrooms at the secondary school level typically tend to minimize student choice (Guthrie & Davis, 2003).  However, giving students opportunities to ‘self-rule’ and ‘self-determine’ can make learning more personally meaningful and intrinsically motivating (Deci & Ryan, 1985, Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, 1991; Ryan & Powelson, 1991).” – pg. 286

What do you think?

 

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Voyager

October 1, 2014 at 4:23 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

P1000526Title: Voyager

Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Defies Genres, but most commonly found in Historical or Romance sections, sometimes Fantasy

Length: 1059 pages

Seriously, the first thing I exclaimed when I was done reading via illness induced three day marathon was “Holy Crap on a Cracker!”  Clearly I need to find new expletives.  That particular one was not worthy of the book it came on the heels of.

As always, Diana Gabaldon is fabulous and a wonderful storyteller.  Where I’ve usually plucked my way through her books, reading a little here and a little there as a fairy tale adventure before bed – this time I just plowed right through until I was done.

I picked up the third installment of Gabaldon’s book – a first edition mass market paperback from November 1994 that life threw in my lap somewhere along the way – after watching the new Starz series to date.  Putting Gabaldon’s story to film has been a long time coming, but it was worth the way.  I watched 6 episodes in a row, tucked neatly in my bed with a bag of jalapeno chips and lots of hot tea.  Don’t let me fool you, I’d been planning my all-day cave viewing for nearly two weeks, and it would have happened whether I’d been sick that day or not, but being sick definitely helped me get away with it.

See, I planned on writing a review for the show to accompany my other Diana Gabaldon related posts. But the show doesn’t really need one. They’ve done so well, in my opinion, and followed the story hook, line, and sinker. Although I find my fairly prude self fast forwarding through the sex scenes, I think the show is wonderful.

Especially awesome was seeing the author – Diana Gabaldon – pop up in The Gathering episode.  She has such a lovely and obvious face, I was so excited for her to be IN her own creation in that manner.

Naturally, when I ran out of episodes I sought out the next installment of the book – having started reading the series ages ago, but never finished. (I can’t finish it all at once, I have to savor it.)

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FRANK!

September 30, 2014 at 9:29 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , )

frankTitle: Frank

Author/Illustrator: Connah Brecon

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Available for Purchase: October 2014

“Frank was late.  Frank was always late,” Brecon’s book begins.

Frank! is full of dance parties, lizard king invasions, and a school teacher that won’t quit.  It’s a lot of fun and a great way to discuss timeliness, pocket watches, and working together with your kiddo.

We read this over the summer for kid’s story time at Half Price Books Humble and one of our favorite features of the story are the three pigeons who follow Frank the Bear everywhere.  We enjoying scoping them out and finding them napping against a tree trunk on one page and lurking on a fence board on another.

Cabin and FrankBrecon has other picture books, but this is his first to be published in the United States.  He lives in Australia, and we were pretty excited to get a chance to review his debut book.  Kiddo thought Frank! was pretty exciting and she can be seen “reading” the book here on the left (she’s not yet four in this picture).  The other kiddo at story time that day was looking through another title we received earlier that month.  We’re pleased with our first experience with Running Press Kids and look forward to more of their publications in the future.

 

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Things That Burn Me ‘Bout My Kindle

September 27, 2014 at 5:05 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

kindle

I love reading on my kindle.  I wasn’t sure that I would, but I do.  Somehow, once you get the darn thing to work, it goes a little faster. Since acquiring my own, I’ve already read 7 titles.  There’s a reason that statistically kindle users read more than non-kindle users.  There’s more access, they’re conveniently portable, and there’s lots of free stuff to download so it’s poor people friendly.  (Trips to the library use gas.)

But that’s IF you can stay connected to the wifi.  Clearly, I’m on my wifi now – typing this onto my online blog.  My kindle, however, can’t find the connection.  Can’t make the connection.  When I do have a connection I download everything I can as fast as I can because there’s no telling when it will disappear.  I CAN guarantee that it will disappear if I plug my device into my computer to manage documents or to charge it.  As soon as I unplug, I have to set it all back up again.

When I have a connection, it loves to download things I didn’t ask for.  Those pages at the end of books that invite you to read other stuff the author has written?  Yeah, avoid them like the plague unless you have plenty of money and really love the author.  You even blink at that page and it will download the book.  I called customer service and the very helpful people un-downloaded it for me and returned my money… for the book I had already read instead of the one I didn’t want.  I had to call back and say, “Nope, you got the wrong one.  I need that book, I should be charged for that book as I already read it… it’s the OTHER one I don’t want.”  Currently I don’t have either.  Despite their speediness in answering phones (no lengthy wait times for these awesome people), I am not looking forward to calling yet again.

You would think this is user error.  I thought so too.  Clearly, it’s me we’re talking about here.  Technology is not my strong point.  However, I can read directions.  I can navigate myself around websites, and I READ.  (Also, there are tons of online complaints about the same issues I’m having.) More and more I’m finding that technology is not my strong suit because there always seems to be something wrong with it.  Computers always get viruses.  Phones drop calls. The electronic features in your car leave you trapped inside after a car accident because the door won’t open and the paramedics have to pull you through a window (true story); the electronics features in your (different) car stop working and the window just FALLS down while you’re driving down the highway. Kindles forget how to find their wifi.  It’s not so much that I’m ANTI-tech… it’s that it is only worth it to me when the tech is actually making my life easier, not more difficult.  Yay! I read 7 books on my kindle.  They were great books! I enjoyed my time with them.  But were it not for my extensive physical library, I’d be out of reading material before bed tonight.

If YOU have a kindle, or are thinking about getting one, you might want to write this stuff down:
online:www.amazon.com/kindlesupport
e-mail:kindle-cs-support@amazon.com
phone: 1-866-321-8851 or 1-206-266-0927

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Fizz and Peppers Got a New Cover!

September 27, 2014 at 2:12 am (Fan Art) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Remember my obsession for Fizz and Peppers? Do you also recall my adoration for Bryan Collins?

You can imagine my squeals of joy when this happened:

Munkcoverthumb

This second is my favorite. Munk really POPS!
fizz newest cover

Just thought I’d share and send two of my favorite people to promote some online love.

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