Tuesday, February 28, 2017

12:120 Anthem by Ayn Rand

My review from 2014:
High School English.  I have a hard time writing up a synopsis of this one.  My understanding is that it's a typical, if short, example of Ayn Rand's basic philosophy that working together and community is the greatest evil ever perpetrated by man and that the ego and self are all important.  It's simplistic in style, propagandist crap and I wish it wasn't in our curriculum but at the same time, I think it's good for kids to be exposed to other points of view and how to analyze them so unfortunately that means I'll be reading it at least two more times.  *sigh*

So yeah, my opinion hasn't changed.  This is written from an extreme angle as propaganda and not well written at that. Instead, we are now seeing what extreme individualism mixed with corporate greed is bringing us and I am not a fan.  I have said before and will continue that any kind of extremism is going to be bad and I stand by that opinion.  Society and civilization depends on balance between many different forces in order to function well for all.

Page count: 92p/2,746p ytd/277,221p lifetime

Monday, February 27, 2017

11:120 Nutshell: A Novel by Ian McEwan

A retelling of Hamlet but told in modern times with the unborn Hamlet as the narrator.  Trudy is late into her third term and her lover and husband's brother, Claude, has convinced her they must kill John, her husband, so they can sell the family house and live in luxury together after the baby is born and sent away.  The baby describes all he hears and imagines he sees and tastes as the plot unfolds since he is privy to all their plans although powerless to do anything from inside the womb.

No, just absolutely freaking no!  I tried to like this book, I really did but there could be no suspension of disbelief for me and as we got further into it the more I screamed and raged at it until the birth scene when I actively wanted to start throwing things, many things, all the things because it was so freaking ridiculous.  I will grant that the prose is beautiful and would have been amazing from another narrator but as an unborn baby it just simply did not work for me in any way.  Basic biology was completely against all of it and there was nothing to help me get past it.  Would I read this author again?  Maybe. It would really depend upon the subject and especially, the narrator.

Page count: 208p/2,654p ytd/277,129p lifetime

Saturday, February 25, 2017

10:120 Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Felix has been cast aside.  No, not just cast aside! His place in the theater that he has worked so hard for, put all his dreams into, has been stolen from him by the one he thought he was mentoring.  Now he is an out-of-work director/actor with no prospects with his life in shambles as this came on the heels of the death of his young daughter.  So he goes into seclusion coming out only when a unique opportunity to ply his trade, as a teacher of a drama class for a correctional facility where he might be able to enact revenge on those that have wronged him.  Several years pass and the time is finally upon him and what play would he have his group put on but The Tempest, the one he was working on when he was thrown out.  What play could be more perfect?!

This is almost a retelling of The Tempest while still using the original play itself as a focal point.  The weaving of the two tales is wonderfully done and there is enough explanation that you can see the similarities even if you aren't familiar with the original Shakespeare play (and I only had a passing knowledge of it) but it doesn't seem heavy-handed and doesn't bog the story itself down.  I really enjoyed it and am now interested in seeing what some of the other authors in this series have done with their stories.

Page count: 324p/2,446p ytd/276,921p lifetime

Friday, February 17, 2017

9:120 A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

More money than the Younger family has ever imagined is due to come any day due to the passing of their patriarch.  Now the decisions of how to use it to their best advantage are being fought about with Mama wanting to use it as a down payment on a real house in a suburb and some for her daughter's college as she dreams to be a doctor but her son wants to use it all on to go in with friends for a liquor store.  His dreams and his vision of himself are as low as can be but things are about to change for the family...

A timeless story of a middle class family who struggles to make ends meet let alone try to better their situation for their children.  It's easy to understand their hopes and dreams and frustrations.  What can not be understated is the fact that this is a black family in Chicago during extreme racial segregation and prejudice. The thought of Benethea, becoming a doctor seems like a pipe dream to Walter Lee, the son. He is a chauffer for a well-to-do white man while Ruth, his wife, cleans houses and works in kitchens.  This play focuses really on Walter's despair at this place in life but in the end there is a glimmer of hope that we all need to keep going and you have to hope that things will turn out well for this family.

Page count: 151p/2,122p ytd/276,597p lifetime

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