I love the Hooked on Phonics system. When I realized my daughter still wasn't learning to read over halfway through Kindergarten (because of the schooI love the Hooked on Phonics system. When I realized my daughter still wasn't learning to read over halfway through Kindergarten (because of the school's heavy sight-reading based approach), I got the Kindergarten level HOP and she was reading in less than two weeks. I've since used level K, 1st grade, and 2nd grade for my son, who needs a lot more routine phonics practice because of his dyslexia.
What I love about the program is that it teaches specific sounds and combinations and then uses only those in the readers/phonic books, so that when the kid gets to the book, he really doesn't struggle. It's a real confidence booster. Despite sticking to pre-taught sounds and words, the books are not badly written. They aren't great literature, but they are better than many leveled readers I've checked out at the library in the past. The system is also well paced so that you can complete an entire lesson or sometimes even two in a reasonable sitting, and it's designed so that the reading of books is broken up by the reading of stories which is broken up by the reading of words. There's a sense of steady progression and familiar routine that makes it appealing to my child.
I have never made use of the included DVDs. I don't really see the point. This is a system that requires one-on-one instruction by the parents, and the DVD just goes through sounds you could go through more quickly yourself.
The only downside is that these programs are highly priced for what you get – in this case, 2 reading workbooks, 8 short readers, and a writing workbook. However, because I have found the program to be so useful, I have been willing to buy it. I will likely get the next level as well. ...more
This simple yet elegant collection of poetry contains 26 poems that explore the central question, "Who is Christ?" The opening poem asks the reader, "This simple yet elegant collection of poetry contains 26 poems that explore the central question, "Who is Christ?" The opening poem asks the reader, "Who is this man / Whom outcasts love, / Fishermen follow, / Pharisees hate, / And demons obey?" The rest of the volume is spent answering that very question, as the reader receives glimpses of Jesus as "Carpenter's Son," "Dance Master," "Diadem," and "First Light," among others.
Stylistically, the poems are free verse, and although they do not employ a large number of literary devices or a great deal of rhythm, they communicate their messages with a stark and uncomplicated beauty. These poems are best digested at the rate of two or three a day, perhaps as an addition to devotional reading. Teresa's poetry has previously appeared in the pages of the old, printed Ancient Paths, as well as in Ancient Paths online, and we congratulate her on her latest publication. ...more
I can't believe I missed this one when I was in high school. My high school self would probably have given it four stars instead of three. Theme: "PeoI can't believe I missed this one when I was in high school. My high school self would probably have given it four stars instead of three. Theme: "People can use all the uncritical love they can get." True that. And what the Senator says of Trout I have sometimes thought to be true of Vonnegut: "I just wish you'd stop saying you're a socialist. You're not!"
I don't know how Vonnegut can manage to be so depressing and so entertaining at once, so simultaneously cynical and uplifting. ...more
The Son was a disappointing conclusion to The Giver series. It did have the benefit of letting the reader see what happened to Gabe from book 1 and KiThe Son was a disappointing conclusion to The Giver series. It did have the benefit of letting the reader see what happened to Gabe from book 1 and Kira from book 2, as well as developing some of the events of book 3, but as such there was also a lot of recapping, and so it was easy to become bogged down in summations. We begin in Jonas and Gabe's world, contemporary with The Giver. This was for me the most interesting part of the book (probably because it is the most intriguing of the worlds Lowry has created). We end in the Village of book 3, and we are introduced to a new world only in the "in-between." This world, however, is rather ordinary and lacks the intrigue of the other worlds Lowry has created. (It is extraordinary in one inexplicable way, however: this world is somehow, for no clear reason, entirely inescapable unless one spends pages and pages and pages training to scale a cliff and engage in a melodramatic battle with nature.) I just found the book as a whole to be slow plodding compared to her other novels. Trademaster makes a reappearance but remains an unrealistic and trope-like character, a mere symbolic and heavy handed embodiment of evil. The last shred of realism is drained out in this final book, and it was overall too fantastical and allegorical for my tastes. ...more
This book, the third in the Giver series, moved faster than Gathering Blue. It had a solid air of mystery for the first third, but then it began to goThis book, the third in the Giver series, moved faster than Gathering Blue. It had a solid air of mystery for the first third, but then it began to go downhill a bit with its heavy handed moralism. The anti- immigration control and anti-market messages (trade results in the corruption of the soul) were overdone. The ending was quite abrupt, with the major conflict being left undeveloped and fixed purely and instantly by magic. Some of the paragraphs in the last few pages were manipulative and sentimental, but I honestly don't mind the sentimental – the sacrificial close had its intended effect on me, and I was a bit moved. It was good to be able to see what happened to Jonas from the first book as well. (But what happened to Gabe? Did I miss that somehow? Is he in Messenger?) My objection to these novels is the lack of development of the plot points; on the other hand, they do tend to leave me wanting more, which is how one sells sequels......more
This book is essentially an autobiography of George Takei's life since the Internet. As such, it has quite a bit to say on issues relating to homosexuThis book is essentially an autobiography of George Takei's life since the Internet. As such, it has quite a bit to say on issues relating to homosexuality, which is not of much interest to me, but it was in general an entertaining book, with some amusing moments and the occasional insight. Admittedly, most of my smiles came from the Internet memes he included in the book, which I could find more easily by scrolling his Facebook page. The first half of the book assumes a little too much ignorance on the part of the reader with regard to Internet terminology and tropes, an ignorance that is not likely of anyone reading this book. The most interesting chapter for me was the most technical one, which discussed managing a Facebook page and how to maximize exposure. As someone who manages two Facebook pages myself (one for my literary magazine and one that is an author page), I found this section informative.
I am currently doing a free trial of Kindle Unlimited, which is why I got this book. If I had to pay more than $1.99 for it, however, I might have been peeved. It is poorly formatted for the old school Kindles, and some of the images were unreadable due to sizing issues. ...more
I found this book to be more predictable and less intriguing than The Giver. I don't know if that's because it was, or because I had already familiariI found this book to be more predictable and less intriguing than The Giver. I don't know if that's because it was, or because I had already familiarized myself with the author's style through the first book. At any rate, I found it a slower read, but still worthwhile overall. I'm not sure why it would be called (The Giver #2), seeing as it takes place in a seemingly different world and doesn't include any of the characters from the first novel. Gathering Blue is simply another dystopian tale, with a somewhat more heavy handed moral relating to not selling out in your art. Still, Lowry creates interesting worlds with their own politics and myths and does so with amazing succinctness. Her characters are less developed than her worlds, but still just relatable enough. I will likely give the third book in the series a try. ...more
I didn't realize Herman Wouk was still alive: not only still alive, but still writing, producing The Lawgiver at the age of ninety-seven. I devoured mI didn't realize Herman Wouk was still alive: not only still alive, but still writing, producing The Lawgiver at the age of ninety-seven. I devoured many of his books when I was in high school, so when I saw this one on the bargain rack, I had to snatch it up. The format was a little difficult for me to get used to; I've never been a fan of the epistlatory novel, and this combined letters, e-mails, texts, memos, faxes, and transcripts of Skype and in-person conferences. I suspended my disbelief with regard to format, as I believe virtually no one texts in paragraph upon paragraph, sends letters by fax, or writes e-mails with such flair. There is something a little self-indulgent about the book; it seemed Wouk was using it and the characters as a vehicle for communicating his own opinions about various things and perhaps even subtly praising himself from time to time. I had trouble keeping some of the secondary characters straight. Despite these flaws, I was able to immerse myself in the tale, which is, at its heart, a romance. I found the book to be a surprisingly quick read, and one that made me smile from time to time. I think it would be hard to appreciate this book without some basic familiarity with Wouk's other works and with Jewish culture. I was especially touched by his note in the epilogue regarding his late wife. ...more
I used to love Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in my teenage years, and I think I read eight or nine of his books back then. This was one I missed, so now, years lI used to love Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in my teenage years, and I think I read eight or nine of his books back then. This was one I missed, so now, years later, I gave it a read. I don't know if this is one of his lesser books, or if my tastes have changed, or if my personality has changed, but overall, I didn't much care for Galapagos. There were moments of wit, of course, but not as many as I remember from other books of his, and Vonnegut's trademark cynicism just weighed too heavily on me this time around. In Galapagos, the mind is the primary source of human suffering, and so devolution is evolution. The narrative style (the tale is told by a ghost and jerks back and forth in time) was also somewhat off-putting to me. There was food for thought here, and some good lines, but it's at the bottom of my list of Vonnegut books. ...more
I read this because my ten year old read it and liked it, although she told me the ending was a bit disappointing because it was - "What do you call iI read this because my ten year old read it and liked it, although she told me the ending was a bit disappointing because it was - "What do you call it? It starts with a c? Cli- cli...." I thought she was going for anti-climatic, but it may have been cliffhanger. Oddly, the ending is a little of both. The book starts off as a perfectly good dystopian novel but doesn't really deliver on its promise. It's sort of The Village meets 1984 meets Brave New World for younger readers. It was interesting, a quick read, and good enough that I may check out the other titles in the series. I think it had more depth than The Hunger Games, another young adult dystopian novel, and also more beauty, but I still wanted more out of it. ...more
The author had what should have been a fascinating story to tell; the only problem was that she didn't relate it in a fascinating way. There was muchThe author had what should have been a fascinating story to tell; the only problem was that she didn't relate it in a fascinating way. There was much more telling than showing, and the narrative seemed largely a recitation of events with no overarching theme. It read something like this: "I felt scared. They made me take off my shoes. My shoe size is nine and a half. Then I felt sad. Next…" I just never felt any real connection to anyone in the narrative. There's never any significant tension, drama, or personality development. ...more
On some level, this book seems to be a commentary on the modern practice of serial monogamy. People enter long-term relationships, become deeply interOn some level, this book seems to be a commentary on the modern practice of serial monogamy. People enter long-term relationships, become deeply intertwined, suffer division, and then are expected to move on rather quickly, perhaps even never again seeing the people who were once an integral part of their lives. Then people repeat this process again and again over a lifetime. It's amazing, this book seems to imply, that we aren't all somewhat insane as a consequence.
On another level, the book is a rejection of the romantic notion of love, of the idea that love is ever black and white or that anyone only has a single potential soul mate. Love has more to do with the right timing than the right person.
The author is not heavy handed in communicating all this. She tells a good story that kept me turning pages for the most part. She uses light humour that had me chuckling more than once. There were, however, some moments that seemed repetitive or non-essential to the plot, and I think the book could easily have been cut down by 30-40 pages. Initially, I found the switch in narration between first and third person to be very jarring, but after about 40 pages I was entirely accustomed to it. The characters were not quite likeable - I found Ellen slightly annoying - and yet they were oddly relatable and sympathetic in some ways. They were, at least, interesting, though I had trouble feeling much connection to Patrick until toward the very end.
I preferred the author's novel "What Alice Forgot," but this was a good enough read.
Ender's Game is a combination of social science fiction (with social-political commentary) and action novel. The battle scenes went on a bit too longEnder's Game is a combination of social science fiction (with social-political commentary) and action novel. The battle scenes went on a bit too long for me at times, and I found some of those passages slow-plodding, but the character development (of Ender, anyway; others were underdeveloped), philosophy, and hints of impending twists were enough to make me keep reading. I was for some reason expecting an additional twist on top of the ones that were delivered, and so I felt slightly disappointed by the end. At times (primarily toward the end) the philosophy lacked subtlety, but the book was good reading overall....more
This book didn't really appear to be living up to its title, so I jumped ship on it. My problem with it is that, by "outperform," it apparently meantThis book didn't really appear to be living up to its title, so I jumped ship on it. My problem with it is that, by "outperform," it apparently meant that some public schools did better on a single standardized math test than some private schools. The authors didn't compare reading scores, writing scores, science scores, college admission rates, graduation rates, or anything else. It also classified charter schools as private schools in its comparison, whereas charter schools are public schools. ...more