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Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Lightning Thief





The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson Book #1) by Rick Riordan

(Summary taken from the back of the book) "Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school...again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus's master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus's stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warms him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves."

This is a young adult book. It is a fun and easy read. I read it to my kids and they LOVED it! They are downstairs right now playing "Percy Jackson." It's great and I love it! I love stories that draw kids in and make them enjoy reading. I liked it myself, even. I liked how Riordan brings boring Greek mythology to life in this modern era. Mount Olympus right above New York City??? Awesome! There was suspense, mystery, action, betrayal, sword fighting, and monsters. What could be better???  I would definitely recommend this book. I wouldn't quite put it up with Harry Potter, but close. Like I said before, I love books that pull kids in, and this one does just that....plus it's fun for me too!

Rating: PG  (6 and up) My 4 year-old heard bits and pieces and wasn't too interested. She didn't understand a lot of it. It is a great read-aloud. There are some parts where I could tell they may have understood it better if they had seen the writing and so I did show them, but for the most part it was a great read-aloud. My 8 year-old could have read it by himself. He would have understood most of it. He would be able to read the words, but complete comprehension??? I don't know. There were gods' names that I didn't know how to pronounce. The mythology is a little over their heads. They had no idea what the River Styx was or the Underworld or even Mount Olympus. For that reason I was glad I read it to them. I think they would have understood most of it but things like those I mentioned above are important pieces to the story so if they don't know what they are then they won't grasp the whole meaning. There is some monster violence but no profanity. Great for kids.

Recommendation: Third Grade and Up. If your third grader is reading it alone, a lesson on mythology is a must! Also, help with pronunciation would also be helpful.

No Apology



No Apology: The Case for American Greatness by Mitt Romney

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "In No Apology, Mitt Romney asserts that American strength is essential--not just for our own well-being, but for the world's. Nations such as China and a resurgent Russia threaten to overtake us on many fronts, and violent Islamism continues its dangerous rise. Drawing on history for lessons on why great powers collapse, Romney shows how and why our national advantages have eroded. From the long-term decline of our manufacturing base, our laggard educational system that has left us without enough engineers, scientists, and other skilled professionals, our corrupted financial practices that have led to the current crisis, and the crushing impact of entitlements on our future obligations, America is over-leveraged, overtaxed, and in some respects, overconfident in the face of the challenges we must address."

This is the first book I have ever read that was written by a politician. And, full disclosure, I voted for Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential election, and my brother worked for his campaign. I really liked this book. It scared me a lot in some regards, but it was engaging and interesting. I nodded my head in agreement at some points and shook my head in others. The statistics he gives are staggering though. For example, "In the 1960's, when the War on Poverty was launched, 7 percent of American children were born out of wedlock. Today, almost 40 percent of our children are born to unwed mothers. As noted earlier, among African Americans, that figure is almost 70 percent..." Wow. I like a lot of his ideas to help make us stronger. Whether or not you agree with his politics, the statistics that he gives really make you think.

I would recommend this book. I think it's good for all of us to start engaging in honest, good discussions (not screaming matches) about what we believe. If we all work together and really listen to each other I bet we agree more than we think we do. There is not enough listening and understanding going on right now. I am glad I read this book because it helps me think of my life in broader terms. I'm not just a mom, wife, sister, daughter, etc., I am an American citizen and I am proud of our country. Okay, there you go...if you don't want to read his book I would recommend reading a book by a politician you agree with. If we get all these ideas together then we can come up with a solution that is good for all of us.


Rating: PG-13 (No language or violence, but the premise of some of it is too much for younger readers.)

Recommendation:  High School and up (It might be okay for a mature junior high student, it would be a parent's choice.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea



Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) "A fascinating and deeply personal look at the lives of six defectors from the repressive totalitarian regime of the Republic of North Korea...[Barbara Demick] draws out details of daily life that would not otherwise be known to Western eyes...As she reveals, 'ordinary' life in North Korea by the 1990's became a parade of horrors, where famine killed millions, manufacturing and trade virtually ceased, salaries went unpaid, medical care failed, and people became accustomed to stepping over dead bodies lying in the streets. Her terrifying depiction of North Korea from the night sky, where the entire area is blacked out from failure of the electrical grid, contrasts vividly with the propaganda on the ground below urging the country's worker-citizens to believe that they are the envy of the world...[Her] six characters reveal the emotional and cultural turmoil that finally caused each to make the dangerous choice to leave. As Demick weaves their stories together with the hidden history of the country's descent into chaos, she skillfully re-creates these captivating and moving personal journeys."

This book is heart-wrenching. It is eye-opening and heart-wrenching. I have always known about Kim Jong-il and his father and their totalitarian regimes, but I had NO idea the effect on the people there. I knew they had food shortages, but I had no idea how many people died because of lack of food. And NO electricity. The satellite picture she shows of the difference between North and South Korea is very telling. Learning about each of these individuals and their families made me so emotional and  very attached. I cried when she described how the children lived and died. I am very glad, yet not so glad, that I read this book. I like being informed about the world and its happenings so that makes me glad I read it. However, now that I know the plight of the North Korean people I almost feel obligated to help. How can you know this is happening and just continue to look the other way? On the other hand, what in the world would I be able to do about it? This question kept me up all last night. I was so emotional after I finished that I could not sleep, so I thought about this for a long time. I decided that there isn't much I can do besides maybe writing to my senators and congressmen, or maybe talking to a humanitarian aid program. What I can do, though, is to make sure this never happens here in the United States. I now feel more obligated to give more food to foodbanks and more help to homeless shelters. As a teacher I want to do more to help illiteracy. I would also like to become a bit more involved in politics to keep more of an eye on our government (no matter who is in charge). I hope I can do a little more of this because sometimes I get passionate and then two weeks later I forget. I don't want to forget.  My husband gets mad at me for always taking on more than I can handle, and I do worry about that because I am already involved with my kids' school, but I think if we all give just a little we can do a lot of good. Anyway, I got off track. I would definitely recommend reading this book. If nothing else it will give you such a sense of gratitude for whatever your situation may be, because even if you are poor in the U.S. that would make you wealthy in North Korea. I am very thankful to be here in this blessed country. Our government may not be perfect, but we have so much, and we can work to fix what we think is broken.

Rating: PG-13 (It is really hard to read. There is so much death, disease, and emotion. There is poverty and very blunt descriptions of the realities in North Korea.)

Recommendation: 18 and up. I think it would be great for an 18-year-old to read with his or her parents. It would be a good time to discuss our rights and privileges, and also to discuss how we can help those around us.