Archimedes and the Door of Science

August 10, 2016 at 7:18 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

517SvkV79rL.jpgTitle: Archimedes and the Door of Science

Author: Jeanne Bendick

Publisher: Bethlehem Books

Genre: Children’s Biography

I love these Living History Library books and Jeanne Bendick has a wonderful way of introducing great people in history and what they did/discovered on a child’s level without truly “dumbing” anything down. These books should be a part of any child’s library, and for sure any homeschoolers’ library.  My kid’s eyes have been opened to so many ideas because of this book.  At age 5, she’s already been checking out levers and experimenting with density while playing in the bathtub, she showed me how her ball has a pattern of concentric circles on it and informed me that it was three dimensional… These aren’t things that would be in her vocabulary without me reading this book out loud to her this month.

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A Boy Called Dickens

January 21, 2015 at 12:56 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

* A Weekly Low Down on Kids Books *

P1000704Title: A Boy Called Dickens

Author: Deborah Hopkinson

Illustrator: John Hendrix

As a homeschool family, we’re suckers for the educational picture book.  Especially biographies.

A Boy Called Dickens tells the life of Charles Dickens.  Obviously there are some creative liberties taken with Dickens’ boyhood thoughts and how he might have come to write certain stories, but that happens with any piece of biographical fiction.

As an adult Dickens fan, you recognize characters peeking around corners and haunting the boy’s subconscious as he works at the factory, tells stories to his friend, helps get his family out of debtor’s prison, and finally returns to school.

When I finished read the book, kiddo said, “Let’s read it again.”

I was out of breath from my strained fake British accent.  I’m not an actress, but I like to make story time fun.  It takes more effort than I’d care to admit.  “No, I’m not reading it again right now.”

“Well, I think we should do the same thing with this one – let other kids read it!”

“You mean you recommend it?”

“Yes.” She gave it a literal thumbs up, with a tongue half sticking out the side of her mouth in thought.

Any biographical picture books you can find are great teaching tools, and you might as well fill them with as much information as you can while they’re sponges.  History is easiest to remember as a tale, Dickens world and era becomes one you can touch and taste.  Telling it from his boyhood makes it more relatable to a tiny one.  Whether you’re a homeschool mom, or just someone who reads to your kids when you can, this book is a great resource; it’s colorful, factual, and engrossing.

(If you’re a seasonal reader, this one is perfectly wintery.)

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How a Reader/ Texan/ Redneck Does 4th of July

July 5, 2014 at 8:06 pm (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

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No words needed.

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Random Post on Random House

October 7, 2013 at 5:36 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

jeffersonNormally I post on the quality of the topic of a book, not the quality of the book itself. Sometimes I mention these factors, but usually only a line or two within a rant about how impressed I am  with the content.

I’ve been reading Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham.  It was published by Random House in 2012.  And it’s beautiful.  Not the biography itself, it’s pretty good, don’t get me wrong – but the book – the book is beautiful.

I didn’t notice it right away. It took me holding it for hours to truly appreciate the matte finish of the dust jacket.  There is a lot of feeling missing from my fingertips from years of me abusing my own hands with activity; but during rare moments of my hand brushing against the jacket just so or turning the page and letting the weight fall in my left hand just right, I felt with pleasure the smooth grit of a not entirely slick dust jacket.  I love that feeling.

Jon-Meacham_bookThe binding is nothing special. I’d like to report that it is sewn AND glued just how I like it, but it’s just glued in sections.  But the classic photograph and illustration pages in the center found in almost all history books and biographies, they are lovely.  They aren’t the typical glossy finish ones that you find in most biographies.  They are not the twelve year old girls’ room poster quality.  Instead, they appear to be printed on acid free paper.  The ink quality is something to behold while the pages maintain a slightly matte appearance as well.  It’s pretty gorgeous.  It is the book I’ll use to show my daughter pictures of many of the men who laid the framework for our independence.  It’s where we will look to see a depiction of the surrender of Cornwallis.

I read a lot and I acquire a lot of books, but not everything I acquire are good quality copies.  I am notorious for reading coffee stained, marked up, dog eared paged crap that someone else was throwing in a recycle bin.  It does not phase me to peruse something that smells like my grandmother’s attic (or your grandmother’s attic, or my dog’s grandmother’s attic…).  So it was a little different and refreshing to read something so…. nice.  And it sounds silly to be saying this to such a large publishing house, but: Good Job, Random House.

We’ll be discussing the actual content of the book tonight at the Half Price Books Humble book club meeting at 7:30 pm. Come join us.

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Happy Fourth of July

July 5, 2013 at 7:05 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

fireworks

The Half Price Books Humble book club read John Adams by David McCullough this month.  We discussed it together Monday night, even though I had only read the first 400 pages.  The best thing about holidays, for me, though is their ability to mandate what gets read off the TBR pile next.  So this week, as I researched for book club, lounged with family, watched fireworks, and read to the kiddo… this is what freedom looked like:

John AdamsTitle: John Adams

Author: David McCullough

Genre: History

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length: 751 pages

1001 and one things to discuss about this book, and we mostly got caught up in the assessment of the character of John Adams.  Was he an ambitious man willing to run off from the family and farm at a moments notice to pursue more exciting ventures of fame? Or, was he a great man of virtue who was gifted with the sight of the big picture, willing to sacrifice personal happiness for the greater good of the establishment of our country?  Before reading the book, considering my skepticism regarding ALL politicians, I probably would have said the former.  But McCullough has me convinced it was the latter that held true.

Of course, I am biased, mostly by the sheer fact that Adams was a great reader.  Nothing romanticizes a person more to me than their love for a good book, for the art of research, and for a passion for knowledge and action.  Several times throughout the biography, Adams is quoted saying such excellent things as,

“I must judge for myself, but how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened by reading.”

Where others in the group found him willing to cast aside his wife and children for politics, I found him endearing.  He wrote to his wife avidly.  He and Abigail would often refer to each other as ‘dearest friend,’ and their relationship seemed to be what kept him grounded and successful.  In addition to that, it also seemed that any chance he had to take his children with him, he did.  Off sailing across the pond to Europe, the boys equipped with an educated father and a personal tutor, they got first hand experience seeing how nations make peace and build relationships.  Sure, Adams renounced his son Charles later in life and that relationship was never rebuilt before Charles’ death, but in my opinion Charles did not deserve anymore second chances.  Charles, the favorite as a child, turned out to be the bad seed in the bunch – possibly spoiled by being the favorite to so many – as he turned to alcoholism and abandoned his family.  It was John and Abigail who raised his children and looked after his wife, leaving their own son to his own devices as they tried to do right by all his mistakes.

John Adams was quite the fascinating man, one I have, until now, always overlooked in history.  Having shared a birthday with George Washington my whole life, he always got my ‘favorite’ vote as a child.  As an adult, the Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaoron Burr phenomena fascinated me – mostly driven by that infamous ‘Got Milk’ ad as well as Joseph Ellis’ riveting storytelling in Founding Brothers.  It wasn’t until reading McCullough’s version of Adams life that I really began to understand what a crucial role Adams played in the timing of the Declaration of Independence and all the aftermath of our fight for freedom.  And of course, timing is everything.

With all this important political talk, I found it necessary to re-read the Declaration.  With toddler in tow for nearly all my reading ventures, it’s important to find kid friendly things to read alongside all my own reading.  That’s where Sam Fink comes in handy…

Sam FinkTitle: The Declaration of Independence

Illustrated & Inscribed: Sam Fink

Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction

Length: 160 pages (but only takes about 15 minutes to read aloud)

I absolutely adore this copy of the Declaration of Independence.  As a homeschool mom, I love creating my own curriculum and finding unique ways to share information with my kid.  Kiddos everywhere, whether homeschooled or public schooled, should find this a fun way to absorb the meaning behind the declaration and be introduced to the ideas of why it was so important for it to be made and signed.

With large print, clear illustrations, and political cartoons to accompany nearly every sentence – if not sentence fragment – Fink helps walk a kid (and even some adults) through every nuance of our founding fathers’ meaning and intention.  If read often enough, you may find you have a kid who has memorized the declaration long before they are ever asked to do so for school purposes.  This is just a good old fashioned fun picture book that just so happens to also be an important document to our country’s history.  Sam Fink is pretty awesome and I am so glad he tackled this project.

In addition to all that,

George IIITitle: George III

Author: Christopher Hibbert

I’ve been plucking through a biography of King George III for awhile now.  It’s been loitering on my TBR pile and periodically I get the bug to read a chapter or two.

I am no where near finished reading this book, Hibbert is very detailed but also very dry as a biographer, but I find it a handy reference and do look forward to the times that I decide to sit down with it.

I like having large sweeping views of history as well as the tiny details.  Reading through John Adams and peeking here and there at George III this week, I was grateful to have already tackled Napoleon’s Wars recently. It helped me keep straight in my mind what was happening with the French while a few of the Adamses friends were busy getting beheaded. Another handy tool for both children and adults while reading through history is The Time Chart of History of the World. I don’t take a step into non-fiction without it.

TimeChart

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Eden’s Outcasts – A Review

March 10, 2013 at 9:18 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

January 2013 079Title: Eden’s Outcasts

Author: John Matteson

Genre: Biography/ History

Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company

Length: 497 pages

I knew I wanted to read this book the first time I saw it at Jill’s Books in The Woodlands a few years ago.  I have loved Louisa May Alcott all my life and in the last few years I’ve really started to enjoy the art of the biography.  My best friend bought it for me on the spot because she is one of those beautiful people who doesn’t think people should be denied their bookish desires.  It wasn’t until March (a novelization of the younger years of Marmee and Mr. March) was chosen for the HPB Humble Book Club that I actually committed to sitting down with it in an attempt to understand Brooks’ portrayal of the patriarch.

*Notes about A Family in Debt*

So my review of the biography begins with Bronson Alcott’s astonishing ability to over zealously botch everything he touches.  This trait of Bronson is made overwhelmingly clear around page 181.  By this time in the biography, his utopian commune Fruitlands has failed, he has lost all his manuscripts, the house the family is living in was purchased with his wife’s inheritance, and he has completely disappointed me.  At this point in his life Bronson refused to be employed and takes up an architectural endeavor on Emerson’s land, a building that would be nicknamed “Tumbledown Hall” and “The Ruin.”  For a man portrayed as one so taken with education, he tackled projects with a whole lot of zeal and not nearly enough research.  When he did research, others’ ideas were usually disregarded in order to implement his own innovative plans.  To me, most his plans pretty much always sucked.

On the other hand, Louisa, his daughter, was exceptionally prudent.  She had an intense crush on Ralph Waldo Emerson when she was young, which I find adorable, but never shared the love letters she wrote to him.  Instead, when the crush was over, she burned them, but continued to look up to Emerson as a teacher.  Emerson would be a part of Louisa May Alcott’s life from her birth until his death.

Bronson may have failed in many things during the first half of his life, but his efforts as a father are later a solid testament to home schooling.  Matteson shares on page 182 that

“During her teen years, Louisa received essentially no formal schooling outside the home.  However, reading Dickens with her family, poring over Goethe in Emerson’s library, and scrambling through the woods with Thoreau comprised a unique education in themselves.”

Bronson Alcott, I believe, had some serious issues.  Matteson has the grace to allow you to come to this conclusion on your own before he shares the fact that mental illness did indeed run in the family and that it is likely that both Bronson and Louisa May were manic depressive or bipolar, but that there is no way to know for sure.

Bronson’s worldview was both passionate and skewed.  He established his house at Hillside (a few years before the well-known Orchard House) as an underground railroad station and fought viciously for equal political rights for African Americans.  Then in contradiction to his own actions stated that blond hair, blue eyed people were closer to God and that black men should not be allowed to reproduce.  How these beliefs reside in one human being baffles me.  It reminds me of an observation Bill Bryson made in his book The Lost Continent, where when traveling the United States he identifies a curious contradiction in American culture and race relations.  In the north, Yankees are known for their belief in equality and pretend to make no distinction between black and white in personal treatment and political issues, yet they live very segregated lives and rarely share the same neighborhood.  However, in the deep south, there is a general assumption of hatred between the two groups, but they live side by side as neighbors.

Why such dichotomy?  I find it all rather ridiculous.  In Bronson’s case, he refused to use products made by slaves and destroyed his career on the principle that even black students had a place in his school.  Kudos! But then he thinks something so crass as an idea that black men should be denied their God given right to have children.  Absurd!

I find Bronson entirely too duplicitous.  He insisted on a family commune but almost left his family to a more philosophic way of life.  He was passionate about fatherhood, but made it very difficult for his children to feel worthy of his praise.  He desired a Utopia, but in every action tore what could have been to the ground.  His ease in living off hand outs from the labor of his friends while simultaneously declining anything done honestly through the labor of animals is confusing.  It is no wonder to me that the father figure in Little Women is both absent and idolized.  The fact that Bronson went to such great lengths to have a perfect transcendental family and then refused to accept work when it was offered because he had as “yet no clear call to any work beyond [him]self,” is irritating.  The Alcotts were flooded with debt and Bronson had the means to fix it, but was too busy living in his head.

The greatest contradiction of all is that in the second half of his life he would rectify my horrible opinion of him…

*Notes about An Authoress*

The thing I love most about biographies is the same thing I love about “bookish” books – they provide lists, a more diverse reading experience.  While reading Eden’s Outcasts, the biographer periodically offered reviews and insightful critiques to Alcott’s little known works.  So while reading her biography, I was also led to read specific stories out of A Whisper in the Dark, like Love and Self-Love.  It also led me to desire to seek out a piece called Hospital Sketches.

Matteson continues to offer literary criticism on many of Alcott’s publications and goes into a lengthy discussion of An Old Fashioned Girl.  It is during this portion of the biography that Bronson has redeemed himself as a father in my eyes.  At this point he was quietly living at Orchard House in between traveling and making his money.  His ideals were far less irritating later in life than when he had a poor young family to support, because at this point Louisa’s fame had made the entire Alcott family debt free.  This success and income is also what finally made Bronson a more supportive father who spent many of Louisa’s later years doting on her and praising her success.

This age old story of the parent-child relationship reminds me of a Bill Cosby sketch where he laments his parents as grandparents.

“I’ve never seen such a turn around in all my life […] That’s not the same woman I grew up with; you’re looking at an old person who’s trying to get into heaven now.” (watch the whole sketch here)

In the story An Old Fashioned Girl, Alcott actually praises her father by inferring that,

“Shaw’s offspring would need less reforming if he had given them more of his time and less of an allowance.”

Matteson continues to say,

“Louisa goes to far as to suggest that a well-provided childhood is a hindrance to happiness and achievement.”

This is a much different sentiment than that during the aftermath of Bronson’s failed Fruitlands.  Mostly proud father, but partly opportunist, Bronson wrote, “I am introduced as the father of Little Women, and I am riding in the chariot of glory wherever I go.”  Bronson may have begun to be capable of providing for his wife and family, but only because Louisa made it possible with her fame.

As Matteson picks apart Alcott’s life and novels, he states:

“As is more than once the case with Alcott, the fiction teasingly invites speculation that the surviving facts can neither confirm nor dispel.” – pg. 382

Of her own fame, Alcott said: “I asked for bread and got a stone, – in the shape of a pedestal.”

*What it all Means to Me…*

All in all Matteson’s biography of Louisa May Alcott and her father is the most well-written and thorough biography I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.  I hung on every word.

All the detailed family relationships, the well thought out literary critiques, and little factoids like the fact that Louisa was the first Concord woman to register to vote, made the whole book a joy to read.

Above all, I am pleased that Matteson has finally put into words a truth that has been part of my own beliefs since childhood when I first read most of Alcott’s work.  Without reading Matteson’s biography I may have never come to understand a piece of myself and where aspects of my own worldview were initially formed.  It seems that my ideas regarding feminism may be largely attributed to what Louisa imparted to me through her novels, as our views are nearly identical.

Louisa’s ideas call for

“each person, male and female to cultivate his or her talents without regard to sex, so that each may optimally serve the community.”

Matteson also says that

“Louisa remained true to the ideals of her mentor Emerson, who, as William James observed, believed that ‘no position is insignificant, if the life that fills it out be only genuine.’  Louisa was hostile to any limitation on women’s opportunities.  Nevertheless, she would have been mystified by any feminist credo that implicitly valued traditionally masculine pursuits above the conventionally feminine.” – pg. 419

Whether you want to be a doctor or stay home and bake pies, male or female – just do it well.

I could not agree more.

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Oh Heavenly Days

February 5, 2013 at 8:44 pm (Events, JARS, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

DSC02517My post today is supposed to be  an update of last night’s book club meeting at Half Price Books in Humble.  We discussed Geraldine Brooks’ March, Alcott’s Little Women, Bronson Alcott, Fruitlands, and more.  Gigi’s Cupcakes in The Woodlands donated a half dozen cupcakes (which are more like really rich mounds of awesomeness than your typical idea of a cupcake) and mid way through the discussion and a bit of double vanilla icing melting in my mouth, all my very southern self could  think was “Oh My Heavenly Days.”  The I-literally-feel-like-I-am-in-heaven version of that line, not the rolling of the eyes sarcastic version… you fellow southerners know the very huge difference.

The discussion was awesome. I am quite enjoying this little once a month activity. I love how prepared my gentleman patron comes, with several books and research in tow.  I love yacking aimlessly on end about our likes and dislikes and anything about the book that has moved us that much.  Add in free cupcakes from GiGi’s and I feel as though we have created a true little slice of heaven tucked away in the corner of Half Price Books.

As far as the discussion of March was concerned, one thing that was agreed upon was the difficulty in reconciling the characters Brook created with the characters we all know and love from Little Women.  How did such a hot-headed Marmee become such a controlled and beautifully calm version we read in Alcott’s original work? Things that Brooks clearly well researched don’t mesh with the feel we have for the same history growing up in the States. One thing that stuck out in our minds, as a group, is whether Marmee would have actually gone and stayed under the same roof with the character Grace.  What do you think? It’s not too late to join the discussion, leave your thoughts in a comment or come to the meeting next month.

We also agreed on a memorable quote that made an appearance quite early in the novel:

“For to know a man’s library is, in some measure, to know his mind. And this mind was noble in its reach, wide in its interests, discerning in its tastes.” – pg. 18-19

Of course a group of bibliophiles would enjoy that one, of course.

January 2013 078I am still reading Eden’s Outcasts, a book about Bronson Alcott and his daughter Louisa May.  I believe I expressed this opinion last night, so I shall re-hash it here, and will probably say it again when I provide an official review of the biography… Bronson Alcott was a weird dude.

Louisa May Alcott’s father was a true transcendentalist, and with that come some shocking beliefs to someone raised as I was.  To have your sole guide to life be your own conscious is rather difficult when your conscious moves you to establish a commune with other transcendentalists.   Fruitlands became a commune of many differing beliefs and activities that never seemed to find a happy balance.  You have one member running the place naked with another member refusing to farm, another with children, and others anti-children.  The only common belief system to educate and be separate from the world.  In Bronson Alcott’s attempt to create a heavenly utopia he created a hot mess, which upon seeing it I would exclaim in sarcasm now: Oh My Heavenly Days.

I am amazed that Louisa May Alcott came out mostly well adjusted. I am not, however, surprised that the story of Little Women in a happy little world to lose yourself.  Little Women functions as a biography of the best versions of her family brought to life in fiction, all the strange and unhappy parts discarded probably for the sake of sanity.

That brings me back to Geraldine Brooks’ March.  March is a much darker, sinister, true to life version of the tale of Little Women and Mr. and Mrs. March.  It is a grown ups history.  I think what is most difficult is reconciling the fictional tale of Little Women with the very real feeling war novel of March.  There are some details here and there that ring false, but for the most part it is graphically realistic of some pieces of the Civil War.  It captures the darker sides of human nature that Little Women does not address, things that coming from an abolitionist’s family Louisa might have been very familiar.

What do you think?

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If These Walls Had Ears

January 13, 2013 at 9:08 am (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

501 Holly

If These Walls Had EarsTitle: If These Walls Had Ears

Author: James Morgan

Publisher: Warner Books

Length: 275 pages

“A house is man’s attempt to stave off the anarchy of nature.  Ripping up that floor had allowed a disturbing glimpse into the house’s secret life.  It’s more comfortable not to know about such things.” – pg. 88

James Morgan may have been speaking about Billie Murphree’s floor rot from undercover water, but no words used in description of a house have ever hit me harder or rung so true.

Barely two years into owning our own home, my husband ripped up our living room carpet.  We had lofty ambitions of laying tile or hardwood floors.  We had tiled the living room of a town home once and it had turned out quite nicely for the low cost of $400.  Those were the days when we thought home repair and renovation fun.  Now, it’s just a necessity.  No sooner had the carpet been pulled up, we discovered what we un-lovingly refer to as The Grand Canyon in our foundation.

Upon further inspection, the enormous crack ran from one end of the house to the other, from the outer wall where my rose and herb garden touches our driveway, through the kitchen, under the bar, across the living room, down the hallway, into the bathroom, and right out the outer wall against the side yard where I hope to make a courtyard one day.

Our House When It SnowedWe were devastated.  We had bought our dream home, except for the master bathroom which will forever irritate and haunt my poor husband, only to find that it wasn’t a dream at all.  Our dream home was a wreck, a fixer upper, a money pitt – it kind of still is.

We had $15k worth of foundation repair done at a discounted price – the company is run by a saint – literally, he’s a Gideon, and I’m quite certain he felt sorry for us.  He even gave us plenty of time to pay him off and didn’t charge us interest.  No sooner had we paid our bill in full, we discovered the breakfast room was now sliding into our back yard and had to have more foundation repair.  Our back fence, our back door, my daughter’s window, nothing in this house is safe.  It’s fragile, it’s old, it’s exhausting.  We had to dig up our front yard and repair plumbing ourselves, we’ve had work done by professionals under both bathrooms.

Oh, and our insurance company is worthless, they paid for exactly nothing.

Yes, Mr. Morgan, a home is man’s attempt to stave off the anarchy of nature.  Nature riots in many ways: mud sliding our from under our apparently unstable foundation, a shake slithering up through the crack in our living room, the rain rotting our fence, the winds of Hurricane Ike displacing our other fence and blowing out a window pane in our back door.  Our sidewalk to our mail box sunk into our front yard, a storm took down our light post.  It never ends.  It’s never over.

Despite the issues, despite the debt, despite it possibly being the biggest mistake of our married lives, I’m in love with this house.  We’ve been through ups and downs, trials and errors, hell and we’re not quite back, but it’s my home.  Technically, it belongs to the bank, but we live under the illusion that it’s ours, and the illusion has a safe feeling to it, until the next time something breaks…

“In a house you never can tell where the next trouble will erupt.  A door knob will suddenly come off in your hand.  A heating duct in the belly of the house will lose a screw and pop out of its fitting.  Even if you think you know the trouble spots, you’ll be taken by surprise.  A piece of upstairs trim will swell up and warp, and the next thing you know, the rain will be leaking in downstairs and two walls away.” – pg. 109

DSC02347Still, for whatever reason, everyone loves old houses.  I remember when we were house hunting I specifically asked for a house in an older neighborhood surrounded by trees.  “Nothing newer than the ’80’s,” I told my realtor, “No cookie cutter neighborhoods.”  “Why, oh Why?!” I inevitably cursed later when we had to shave down parts of our interior doors so we could open and close them because the house had shifted yet again.  “Why?!” we yelled when a brick just came out of our stoop, just slipped right out from under our door and lay across the porch where a welcome mat should have been.  “Why?!” we screamed when a board from our deck in front of the garage door collapsed.

Because like Morgan says,

“Old houses look like home to us.  They appeal not to our practical side but to whatever romantic part of us traffics in hopes and dreams, or wallows in nostalgia.  They’re flirts, old houses.  They get painted up real pretty – the way this house was when I first saw it – and they show off a lot of front porch and invite you in for a little French dooring, and the next thing you know, they’ve snared another sucker.” – pg. 180

Morgan’s book is endearing, nostalgic, and beautiful.  It speaks to home owners, future home owners, and anyone who has ever fallen in love with a building of any kind.  If These Walls Had Ears really speaks to my heart.  There’s even an Andi that shows up briefly and takes part in 501 Holly’s biography.  It makes you hope that in another fifty or so years someone will write a sequel to this old house’s life story.

The only part I didn’t like, despite a very beautiful quote in it, was the epilogue which summed up the lives (or the divorces and deaths, rather) of all the people who once lived in 501 Holly.  It was depressing to say the least.

 

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Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson – A Review

December 17, 2011 at 11:22 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

Title: Einstein: His Life and Universe

Author: Walter Isaacson

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre: Non-fiction, Biography, Science

Length: 675 pgs.

Buy Now!

Albert Einstein was a prick.  Not the description you were expecting?  Me neither.  We always hear about how brilliant he was, how much he changed humanity and the world of science with his great theories.  We always see images of his goofy, yet charmingly wild smile and hair.  We don’t see him through the eyes of the family he abandoned.

Isaacson is thorough in his research and the language of his biography of Einstein is easy and accessible.  He sheds a lot of light on physics formulas that I had a hard time grasping in my high school science classes.  But he also sheds a lot of light on Einstein the not-so-family man.

Not only did he and his wife abandon their first child, a girl who history has nearly erased,

“[Hans Albert, Einstein’s son] had powerfully conflicted attitudes towards his father.  That was no surprise.  Einstein was intense and compelling and at times charismatic.  He was also aloof and distracted and had distanced himself, physically and emotionally, from the boy, who was guarded by a doting mother who felt humiliated.”

Einstein eventually divorced his wife, but not before maintaining an emotional affair with his cousin Elsa.  “Companionship without commitment suited him just fine,” Isaacson writes about how Einstein toyed with both women’s heartstrings by alternating his attentions between them.  In the end Einstein and Elsa did marry, but not before a questionable letter was written by Elsa’s daughter to a friend that mentioned Einstein’s true love interest was the twenty year old daughter, not the mother.

Isaacson’s presentation of Einstein is a great book for high school science and history students.  Anyone trying to understand the genius’s formulas should also understand the history surrounding their creation/discovery.  His life is also one to discuss with your teen touchy topics of worldview and the importance of values; world changing discovery vs. the importance of family, political and religious affiliations and observations.  Each family’s opinion of Einstein’s life will most likely be different, and its one that should be surveyed and critically analyzed.

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Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

February 25, 2011 at 9:02 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

A Review on the biography by Amanda Foreman319300

For starters, I am baffled by how many people mistake this book for a novel.  I have read so many reviews that say it was too historical, too dry for a novel, and that they didn’t get a chance to get into the characters because the story read like a research paper.  These people are ridiculous, because it’s a biography and because it was the most fascinating ‘research paper’ I’ve ever read.

I was amazed at how many people Georgiana managed to charm in her life.  When you read about all her flaws and mishaps, you expect the world to hate her.  I expect that I would have hated her.  She constantly gambled, lost all her money, and was continuously lying to everyone around her.  She seems silly and a bit hairbrained.  But when it comes down to it, everyone that knew her loved her.  She set trends, led a political party to greatness, and was a best friend to her children.  (Despite the few years she neglected them to go have another child from another man, even her children thought her to be the best mother in the world.)

Prior to this biography, I had no idea that she was a great ancestor to the infamous Princess Di.  I also found it refreshing to read a biography on royalty that was non-Tudor related.  I highly recommend the book, and the movie made after it starring Keira Knightley, although after reading the biography I find the movie a bit deceptive on the character of the Duke.

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