Thursday, February 16, 2017

8:120 History of US, Vol 4: The New Nation by Joy Hakim

Previous review written in 2012 when I read it with son #3

I have to admit I learned more in this book than previous ones like the fact that there were presidents between Jackson and Lincoln.  I mean, I knew that in a logical sense because Jackson was number 7 and Lincoln was sixteenth but still, they actually had names.  Of course, she only gave one chapter to all 8 of them since they didn't seem to do much of anything.  Otherwise, it was still better than the first book or two as it seemed to flow better and the presentation was easier to follow.  I still dislike the gazillion side notes and extra articles that get stuck in tho.  I find them distracting and I know that Jon tends to gloss over them.  Sometimes you can as they aren't that important and sometimes they are really important.  Ugh!

Son#4 is enjoying this far more than the last one did which definitely makes it more enjoyable for me as a teacher when we can discuss in depth and it's not fighting over getting him to read any of it.

Page count: 199p/1,971p ytd/276,446p lifetime

Monday, February 6, 2017

7:120 The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner

Started in the 1920s as Bell Labs, the official research and development arm of AT&T, this book delves into the people that made this lab so effective.  This is the group that developed the transistor and lasers, digital and cellular telecommunications.  There aren't many factors of today's society that has not been impacted by their inventions.  But who were these people and why were they so successful in innovation?  That is the question that this books really looks into.

I read this for book club and wanted to like it.  I'm always interested in how people come up with brilliant ideas but the way the information was presented was dull and boring.  There were pieces that were interesting but it never sucked me in and it felt like it couldn't decide between trying to focus on the people that made it happen or the technology that they developed and so varied between the two which kept it from working well.

Page count: 432p/1,772p ytd/276,247p lifetime

Saturday, February 4, 2017

6:120 The Time and Space of Uncle Albert by Russell Stannard

Gedanken has a science project due for school so she goes to her Uncle Albert for help.  He informs her of an experiment he has been working on and this new thing he has discovered, a thought bubble, where experiments can be conducted that can't be done on Earth.  She agrees to go into the thought bubble to chase a light beam and try to catch one.  She can't but they do learn a few things from her first attempt and several more attempts are made as they discover strange things with each experiment.  She is finally able to complete her project which earns her a good grade.

In reality, Uncle Albert is Albert Einstein and this book is exploring his Special Theory of Relativity in an easier to understand way.  I'm definitely a fan of the way it was presented and have gotten the other books in the series for my youngest although I look forward to reading them as well.  A nice, gentle introduction to relativity for the young or old.

Page count: 120p/1,340p ytd/176,815p lifetime

5:120 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

1936, Flint, Michigan.

Bud, not Buddy, has been at the Home (orphanage) for about 4 years, ever since his mother died.  He has never known his father but in his suitcase that contains all his belongings there are fliers for Herman E. Calloway & the Dusky Devastators of the Depression.  When he is sent to a new foster home where the abuse starts immediately, he runs away and comes to the conclusion that Herman E. Calloway must be his father so he will find him.  Bud ends up in a Hooverville at one point and then gets lucky when Lefty Lewis picks him up on his way to Flint.  Lefty knows Herman and gets Bud there in a much easier way than it would have been for him to walk.  Herman is not at all the person Bud was imagining but life has more unexpected surprises in store for the young man.

I read this as part of a literature unit with my 5th grader having never read it before.  I found the story engaging and touching and my son read ahead constantly.  While the story itself is not a true story, many of the scenes and people were based on people in the author's life and the stories he heard growing up and this helps give it a ring of truth.

Page count: 243p ytd/1,220p/276,695p lifetime

Monday, January 30, 2017

4:120 The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Margaret Lea has lived a simple life working in her father's bookstore and living in the books that are there. She has done some biographical work on people she has found interesting through her readings but nothing that has prepared her for the letter she receives from one of the most elusive writers, Vida Winter.  Ms. Winter has spent her life coming up with stories, not only those she sells as novels but also revolving around her past.  Now she wants to come clean and have the truth be out there and she wants Margaret to be her biographer.  The story she has to tell though is just as fantastical as any tale she could have made up but as Margaret gets drawn deeper and deeper into it, she finds that there are even more secrets than she could have possibly imagined.

I read this for book club as it's not something I generally would have picked up but OMG, I was sucked in almost immediately by the language and then the story itself pulled me in and made it almost impossible to put down.  The twists and turns of the plot were very well done and always there were clues about them but so subtle that you might not even realize it until just before it's being revealed to Margaret.  I think this is one that I will need to reread at some point just so that now knowing, I can see all the lead-ups more clearly and watch the genius of it unfold from a new perspective.

Page count: 406p/977p ytd/276,452p lifetime

Monday, January 16, 2017

3:120 History of US, Vol 3: From Colonies to Country by Joy Hakim

Previous review:

The 3rd book in the History of Us series. This one covered the Revolutionary War and forming of the Constitution. I liked this one better than previous as it seemed to jump around less and we delved more into the people and their influences and what they were trying to accomplish rather than jumping time periods constantly and not knowing when we were.

I definitely do like the flow of this one better as it's more sequential in the telling with some backstory of individuals as they are introduced.  And as always, I enjoy reading the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights knowing what magnificent documents they are.

Page count: 224p/571p ytd/276,046p lifetime

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2:120 One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Dina has received a message that her sister is in trouble and without hesitation she goes to help.  Now besides Caledonia, her only permanent guest, and her chef, she now has her sister and her daughter staying at the Inn and Arland, the vampire whose help she requested, is also staying there and Sean is now hanging around more and more.  Gertrude Hunt, Dina's Inn, is feeling better with more people there but now a guest has come that brings with him danger unlike anything Dina and Gertrude Hunt have ever had to deal with.  It is one of the Hiru, a repulsive smelling being covered in metal armor of some sort.  Their race has been hunted almost to extinction by the Draziri and now there are but a handful left but that handful has saved up enough to find the answer to why the Draziri have done this but they need the sanctuary of Dina and her Inn to do so.  This is quite the tall order, even bigger than the peace conference they hosted but if she can bring them all through it alive, she may get the answer to her biggest question as well: "What happened to her parents?"  It's an answer that is worth the price.

Page count: 257p/347p ytd/275,822p lifetime