Constance Weaver is known for her work and research on grammar and grammar instruction. The Grammar Plan Book is part review of basic grammar concepts...moreConstance Weaver is known for her work and research on grammar and grammar instruction. The Grammar Plan Book is part review of basic grammar concepts, part "How To" book of teaching strategy, and part teacher aid in the grammar plan section from which the book takes its name.
Teachers and students both might find her simple, effective explanations and models of traditional grammar concepts useful. Preservice teachers and seasoned veterans looking for guidance on how and when to teacher grammar may find her plan a good resource in the classroom.
The main defect of the book perhaps is the lack of strategies on how to teacher most of these concepts. She treats the teaching of modifiers well enough but barely glosses over other difficult concepts that studets struggle with. However, this is not a traditional grammar book, and she makes no claims that it is. In fact, she mostly bemoans the state of most grammar books and especially most grammar instruction. Her overarcing philosophy is that the teacher must respond to student need and tailor his or her instruction to the individual classroom. Therefore, some readers looking for a smoking gun or secret method for teaching any and all grammar concepts to each and every classroom may be disappointed. (less)
Jim Burke's Effective Instruction is short and to the point, drawing on research and personal experience as a teacher on what works in the class room...moreJim Burke's Effective Instruction is short and to the point, drawing on research and personal experience as a teacher on what works in the class room to motivate students. His advice is practical and easy to follow. What is impressive to me is that Burke is an English teacher yet wrote this book for any secondary education teacher. Most of the strategies and situations he talks about can be effective in any content area. If you are an education student or already a teacher, some of what he talks about might be familiar, as he draws on current, "hot" theories and ideas about education and student motivation, but for a teacher, new or veteran, looking for additional strategies to bring to the classroom, you should check this out. (less)
Teaching English by Design is a good book about designing units from back to front with the end results, i.e. the instructional goals for the students...moreTeaching English by Design is a good book about designing units from back to front with the end results, i.e. the instructional goals for the students in mind. In this book, Smagorinsky advocates taking this type of planning even farther, extending it through the semesters and the whole school year, advocating the use of overarcing themes and concepts that will guide the curriculum. He strongly advocates a constructivist learning approach, one in which learning is social and collaborative. The learning approach is an ideology that not every teacher will find palatable or perhaps even practical for their classroom and yet Smagorinsky uses research and personal experience to back up his arguments and his tactics of teaching units by design is a valuable strategy. The types of strategies Smagorinsky advocates are largely in use and taught in my teacher education program so his ideas were familiar and comfortable to me. This is a good book for preservice teachers or teachers looking for new strategies to bring to their classrooms.(less)
If you are anything like me, and for your sake, I hope you're not, you often regard the fabled "bestseller" rack with a mix of curiosity and disdain....moreIf you are anything like me, and for your sake, I hope you're not, you often regard the fabled "bestseller" rack with a mix of curiosity and disdain. The avid bookreader in you always stops whenever you see a rack of books, whether it is in your supermarket or in the window of a used book store and wonders what treasures may be contained therein. The other part of you, that part of you that distrusts hype and trend and mass marketing in general would rather have nothing to do with most of those titles. I wouldn't call myself a book snob at all, for I'm not. I've always had a problem with eating, wearing, buying, or reading anything simply because lots of other people do it. Perhaps it's some half-baked attempt at independence. Once in a while, however, if I am forecd to acknowledge that hype is well-deserved and that the masses got it right. This is especially true with Stieg Larsson's excellent Millennium trilogy.
The real life back story of an author who died after delivering the manuscripts for three books that went on to be phenomenal bestsellers is compelling, but not as compelling as the books themselves. Much of their appeal lies in their uniqueness. They take place in Sweden; they are part mystery, part political thriller, part drama; they have two of the most unlikely heroes - Mikael Blomkvist - the older, out of shape but charming and ethical reporter out to expose corruption and crime and Lisbeth Salander, perhaps one of the most unique, atypical anti-heroines in the history of literature.
The story of how these two meet and the mystery they help solve, Lisbeth's search for answers and vengeance, and the deep political ramifications at the highest levels of Swedish government form the basis for the books, but no more so than the deeply flawed, realistic human relationships the characters share with each other.
Larsson's death is tragic because he never got to see his work become an international sensation but also because he showed incredible talent in creating page turning plots combined with complex, flawed protagonists and vile, frighteningly real villains. His bad guys are neither cliched nor cartoonish. His heroes are vulnerable and occasionally do things we wouldn't expect or even want our hereos to do.
There's a little something here for every one. There is mystery. There is intrigue. There is realistic sex and violence. There are complex plots and characterizations. And there is an intriguing look into the Swedish people, Swedish history, and Swedish society, so different and yet so similar to our own.
The story of Larsson's untimely death may have been carefully spun to help sell extra books, but you don't come away from reading them saying, "well, that wasn't worth it at all." They are good books by a good author dead before his time. (less)
World War Z is at once brilliant and terrifying, zombie horror on a geo-political scale and yet retaining enough humanity through its personal stories...moreWorld War Z is at once brilliant and terrifying, zombie horror on a geo-political scale and yet retaining enough humanity through its personal stories of survival to bring it close to home. Told through the individual stories of survivors from across the globe and from various stations in (their former) life, it traces mankind's war with zombies form its early beginnings to its climactic conclusion. While fragmented and short, often leaving the reader wanting more, collectively, these stories frame a relatively complete narrative of "World War Z" from various perspectives. My main criticism of the book, and it is a small and insignificant one, is that some of these stories are so rich, the characters so interesting, their accounts so compelling, they deserve their own complete story or zombie movie themselves. Some readers may not like all the politics and military elements, yet they make the story real that it would be just another man vs. zombie story without them. The battles with the zombies are realistic and scary and will stick with you after reading. Though this is more than a horror or action story.Though a cliche, it is a story about the triumph of the human spirit. It is also a story about the failure of government, military institutions,and social order itself failing in the face of an insurmountable threat. That is the ultimate appeal and underpining theme of many dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories: the power and potential of the individual over social and institutional constructs that only crumble when challenged by a threat not in the rule book. A great read for fans of horror and the powerful way it can mirror reality right back to us. (less)
Fans of boxing should know who Teddy Atlas is. Even if you don't recognize his face or know much about his career, you should know his voice. His thic...moreFans of boxing should know who Teddy Atlas is. Even if you don't recognize his face or know much about his career, you should know his voice. His thick New York-accent can be heard during "Friday Night Fights" and other ESPN boxing telecasts. At once both thuggish and wise, Teddy comes off as a boxing Yoda from the Bronx, a man who has an uncanny ability to look not only at a fighter's technique but into his heart, diagnosing whatever hang ups he might have that are obstacles to victory.
His bio reads much the way he talks. It's simple, at times crude, but direct and to the point, something that has made Teddy a sought after commodity in the boxing world. He chronicles a rough and tumble youth that likely would have led to prison or death were it not for discovering boxing; he provides insight into personal mentor and great boxing trainer Cus D'mato and a tumultous young fighter named Mike Tyson; and he provides insight into other boxing characters and luminaries that fans and non-fans alike should find interesting, entertaining, and surprising.
The ending comes quick, sequing directly from his training of former heavyweight champ Michael Moore to the present, working with his foundation and co-hosting Friday Night Fights. I thought there were missing details here that might have been illuminating, namely why he left training for a more peripheral role in boxing. While he addresses this, it is only briefly and I would have liked a little more.
Other than that, a quick read and an enjoyable one, especially for boxing and sports fans. (less)
Slaughterhouse Five is probably Vonnegut's most famous book, and rightly so. It is as brilliant as it is crazy - a poignant anti-war book while at the...moreSlaughterhouse Five is probably Vonnegut's most famous book, and rightly so. It is as brilliant as it is crazy - a poignant anti-war book while at the same time a mad cap Science Fiction farce. Vonnegut's writing is characteristicaly simple yet evocative. He accomplishes in a few words what it takes other writers pages to do. Readers of other Vonnegut books will appreciate the continuty between "Five" and some of his other books, recognizing characters such as Kilgore Trout from "Breakfast of Champions" and Howard Campbell Jr. from "Mother Night". I enjoyed it, anyway. And there's another familiar character who appears in this book - Vonnegut himself, AS himself. As a fellow writer, it's interesting to me how Vonnegut injects himself into many of his novels, not as the main character hidden behind a semi-fictional identity, but as a peripheral observer. He gives us subtle reminders here and there throughtout the book that he's there in the crowd, but he never takes over the action. The messages of the book are as relavent today as they were when they were written. I am glad ot have discovered Vonnegut's work at my age, just as so many out there shoult. (less)
"Farewell Summer" is Bradbury's long-awaited sequel to his classic "Dandelion Wine". Though it had been some fifty-five years since Bradbury penned th...more"Farewell Summer" is Bradbury's long-awaited sequel to his classic "Dandelion Wine". Though it had been some fifty-five years since Bradbury penned the first book, he picks up "Summer" a year removed from the previous story, expertly recapturing his character's voices while at the same time making them sound and act, well, a year older.
In this book Douglas Spaulding and his friends decide to wage war on the older citizens of Green Town as a form of rebellion against their own aging. This is depicted in vintage Bradbury style - his characteristic nostalgia practically oozes off the page. His dialogue and his characters may come across as dated, and that's fine since, if the story takes place only a year after the previous one, they're still in the early part of the twentieth century in a fictionalized version of Bradbury's own childhood. The book lacks much of the charm that "Wine" posessed, yet I was impressed that Bradbury, at his age, could come back down and revisit characters he created a half a century ago and still write them convincingly as children. Bradbury makes writing look easy, but while his prose is simple, he evokes complex emotions and images and as with "Wine", there are life lessons in here - some of which will be scoffed at by the more cynical of us, especially in this day and age as nostalgic, unrealistic or so sickeningly sweet as to want to make a hard-nosed book snob shut the cover in disgust. But they're there none the less, good for young people or those of us, like Bradbury, who refuse to grow all the way up. (less)
"Carrion Comfort" is a Dan Simmons classic and one I only just recently got around to reading. And while it is very long, I am glad I did. The book is...more"Carrion Comfort" is a Dan Simmons classic and one I only just recently got around to reading. And while it is very long, I am glad I did. The book is truly epic in scope, spanning not only many years but many countries across the globe in a story that is part adventure, part horror, and all drama.
It concerns people with the "Ability", the power to use others with their minds, usually for neferious and horrible purposes. The main protagonist is one Dr. Saul Laski, a concentration camp survivor who during the war was so "Used" by one these monsters - Willie Borden, the Oberst who Dr. Laski spends a lifetime searching for. There are so many characters and so many situations that it's difficult to summarize the entire plot of such a novel here, especially without having to explain away a great many things. It can most easily be summed up that Dr. Laski and a few other unlikely heroes come together in extrordinary circumstances, putting them head to head with an extremely powerful club of important men, all of whom have the Ability. They each have their own reasons for coming together, all interconnected in some way or the other, and naturally it leads to a showdown between Dr. Laski and the Oberst.
Simmons writes breathtaking action and spine-tingling horror like a Hollywood screenwriter - I have noticed this in other books. Some of the numerous action sequences play out before your eyes as if you're watching them on the big screen. An early scene in the book, the one concerning Dr. Laski and the Oberst's initial meeting is so shocking, so horrible and yet so devilishly well-written that you can't stop reading.
One of my qualms with the novel would be its length. Not that I am opposed to big books mind you, it's just that so many things happen along the way, there are so many action sequences and so many characters that I thought that the story would have been better served as a series if not at least a couple of books. It would also make a great HBO TV series today if Simmons was on board. I would loved to have learned more about the Oberst's life and some of the other men with the "Ability" as well. While never slow exactly, it is very long and you find yourself wondering, geez, are they ever going to meet up with the bad guys?
Of course they do and it's well worth it when they get there.
Secondly, while Simmons writes it all down plausibly enough, there are times that his heroes are perhaps a little too unlikely, especially in the sight of such insurmountable odds as they're facing against the men of the Island Club. You find yourself thinking there's no way these two can be any threat to such rich and (supernaturally and otherwise) powerful men.
Other than that, it's a great read. At times a real page turner. Simmons doesn't shy away from killing off characters or doing stuff to shock you or gross you out. He's a masterful writer, and like other writer's of his stature today, were he living in another era, he would have been considered more like a Jules Verne or a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle rather than just a modern Sci-Fi/fantasy author, as I'm sure many consider him now. If you're a fan of his books and you haven't read this one, you must. (less)
I really enjoyed this book until Vonnegut made himself such an important character in it - I got enough of good ol' Stephen King doing that with the D...moreI really enjoyed this book until Vonnegut made himself such an important character in it - I got enough of good ol' Stephen King doing that with the Dark Tower series. But that aside, at times funny if not hilarious, poignant, and always a scathing peek into American life, Breakfast of Champions is definitely worth a (quick!) read.(less)