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*Retired* 2008 Lists > GaijinMama's 2008 Books

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Gaijinmama | 14 comments I'm finally getting around to posting my list of books!
#1 Rhapsody, by Elizabeth Haydon

I've been addicted to the fantasy genre since before I could read chapter books by myself. Rhapsody is the sort book that still keeps my attention even though I've passed my 40th birthday, enough that I am now on my fourth re-read.
I don't want to spoil the story for you, but the elements that hold my interest, in no particular order, are:
a butt-kicking female protagonist, weird creatures with a nasty, sarcastic sense of humor that would give Hugh Laurie's Dr. House a run for his money, time travel, magic, and a gorgeous, mysterious man who happens to be part dragon. Most importantly, however, is the fact that Haydon is a writer who can actually write! I'm an English teacher by training, and have a very low tolerance for lousy writing.
One warning. Haydon doesn't focus on the horrific, but she doesn't shy away from the dark side. I am not especially squeamish (I read vampire stories and murder mysteries
when I'm not reading fantasy or sci-fi), but Rhapsody and every other book in the series has at least one passage that I found hard to handle. Again, horror isn't a major part of the story, but when Haydon does gross-and-scary, she **REALLY** does gross and scary. She doesn't emphasize or glory in it, but she does describe torture and abuse in a direct, graphic way that still
gives me a few days of nightmares even though I've read this series several times. For this reason, I would be reluctant to recommend this series to a child younger than 15 or 16.
I love this series enough to be re-reading it for the fourth time. I promise, this book, and the other 5 books of the series, will not disappoint.


#2 Prophecy by Elizabeth Haydon

So far this is my favorite of the Symphony of Ages series, , for two main reasons. Firstly, not to mince words......our heroine Rhapsody finally Gets Some (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean ?). Like every other aspect of her writing, Haydon gives us....ahem.... Good Parts that are really really good. In fact, go ahead and dog-ear pages 478 and 506 right now! Rhapsody had her sweet, romantic teenage encounter in the first book, but now she is a grown-up and...well, as I've said before, this series is for grown-ups. A warning....there are a couple of truly horrific, violent scenes too. I wouldn't recommend this series for anyone under age 15 or 16.

Aside from the Red Hot Whoopee-Making, which we've been anticipating for 1200 pages, I like this book best of the series because we finally get to meet and spend some quality time with Elynsynos the Dragon. Elynsynos is one
of my favorite fictional dragons ever. She is big, golden, dangerous but surprisingly gentle with those she loves. She tells us about the history of her land in a multi-toned voice that really shows us the author's musical background. Rhapsody returns something that belongs to Elynsynos and offers her friendship. The dragon is pleased. Rhapsody has made an important ally here. She interests Elynsynos...no mean feat to a nearly-immortal dragon whose hoard contains the most beautiful treasures in the world. However, as Elynsynos says, "You are wise to be afraid....You are perfect treasure, Pretty. There is music in you, and fire, and time. Any dragon would covet you for its own." (p. 117)

Haydon fills in enough background information that this book could be read on its own, but the story really does begin with Rhapsody, the first volume. I strongly suggest that you read Rhapsody first....and pick up a copy of Destiny, the third book, while you're at it. You will definitely want to find out what comes next!

#3 Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling
(Cambridge MA: Perseus Publishing, 2003)

The late John Holt had some truly mind-blowing ideas. Rather than discuss how we can fix a troubled educational system, he had no doubt that our kids would do better if we don't school them at all. He begins by asserting that "Children are by nature and from birth very curious about the world around them. and very energetic, resourceful and competent in explaining it, finding out about it, and mastering it." (p.xxv) We can trust kids to learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it. No tests. No assignments. No grades. No goals beyond what the learner sets for herself. Holt calls compulsory education as it is now practiced in the U.S. "not a good idea gone bad, but a crazy idea from the start." (p.285) Since we are all individuals, with different needs, learning styles, and backgrounds, it is impossible that any one teaching philosophy or method will fit everyone.

To quote Paul Simon's classic song, "Kodachrome": "When I think of all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can even think at all...." I found myself nodding my head , remember my own experience at school, both as a teacher and as a student. As a trained teacher, and as a parent, I was inspired, laughing and sometimes almost crying as Holt presented example after example of the ways children are damaged by compulsory schooling, and the amazing things they can achieve when given the freedom to guide their own learning. Many of my students tended to be anxious, reluctant to make mistakes, and highly expectant that, as their instructor, I would feed them information and tell them exactly what was expected of them at every moment. At the other extreme, each class had at least a few who were apathetic, simply there to get the credit for my class and do the absolute minimum required of them. In short, what a colossal waste of time! For the most part, when I started leaning more toward student-directed learning, both they and I got more out of our time together.

As for my own children, I have found that, so far in their lives, they do things when they are ready and not a moment before. This applies to everything from using the potty to writing the alphabet. The most fascinating times have been when I sat back and let them explore. To my kids, everything is "educational". When I try to force them in a direction I want them to go, they resist.

I'm still processing how Holt's ideas will affect my teaching career or my parenting. I do no plan to pull my son out of school (unless he becomes unhappy there). I do plan to make an effort to trust my kids to know their own needs. I will concentrate more on enjoying them, watching them learn and grow, rather than stressing about whether they're keeping up with some "expert's" idea of what they should be doing.






message 2: by Gaijinmama (new)

Gaijinmama | 14 comments #4: How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

This is a classic little kid gross-out story. Any child around my son's age (he's 8) would probably enjoy it.
Yeah, the premise is pretty icky...a boy makes a bet with some friends that he can eat a worm every day for 15 days. They decide to use big night crawlers. Ugh. More than the Eeeeeeew factor though, a few things caught my notice.
Honestly....did people ever really eat hamburgers with mashed potatoes and peas for dinner? I mean...hamburgers with cole slaw or potato salad, sure.
Corn on the cob would work too.
But mashed potatoes and peas?
Next...the parents in general seem pretty cool but...
"Billy is finishing his lunch. You can wait on the porch." The same scenario happened several times, as though it was normal behavior. What's up with the sudden authoritarianism?
...is Billy just not allowed to play or talk with his friends because it's still mealtime? or is the kitchen considered private, family space so the kids aren't invited in? Geez, Mom...at least offer the kids a Coke or something,
and let them sit down with your son while they wait!

I read this myself when I was maybe 9 or 10.
It made a good bedtime read aloud too.



#5 Destiny by Elizabeth Haydon

This is the third book in the Symphony of Ages series. You most likely do not want to read this one unless you read Rhapsody and Prophecy first.
This was my third re-read of this book. I liked it even better than before. The sarcastic banter among the three main characters is hilarious. And the dragons are wicked awesome, as we used to say in Massachusetts.
One sounds like Alan Rickman in my head.
One is dead sexy and gets to fool around with our heroine. And one...whom I personally enjoyed the most...gets
royally pissed off and throws a truly breathtaking tantrum.
Loads of fun.

One comment I got earlier when I reviewed the first book
in this series was that Rhapsody, the main protagonist, is
too perfect to be believable. I disagree. She Has Issues. And
in this book, she really lets those issues show. I still
love her but I wanted to shake her till her teeth rattled.
She is stubborn as all-get-out and she just does not
listen sometimes!
But we'll forgive her. What with losing , finding, losing
and finding the love of her life, fighting demons, saving
the world and all, she has a lot on her mind.




message 3: by Gaijinmama (new)

Gaijinmama | 14 comments #6 The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood
by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

Any mother who says she never experiences burnout, depression, stress or frustration is
either in a major state of denial or is a heck of a lot more saintly than I.
I love my kids more than anything, wouldn't trade them for the world, and think I'm doing a pretty good job raising them but we all have rough periods and we mothers have a hard time facing and finding support for our negative emotions, "Enjoy" isn't the exact word, but I laughed, cried, and read some parts of this book twice.
I had a major catharsis (a.k.a. giggle fit ) when the author pointed out that one reason homemakers get burned-out and frustrated is that so much of the work that fills up our day leaves no lasting result whatsoever. A clean, empty sink is just going to be filled with
dirty dishes again, sometimes with breathtaking speed in my house. And be honest...no one is
going to thank you or give you any positive feedback for scrubbing the toilet or changing a diaper. It just has to get done, and whether or not we also work outside the home, women are still the ones who end up doing most of it.

Another teaser...the author talks about what a very real problem it is for mothers of
young kids to get enough sleep, and she makes the observation that sleep deprivation is actually used as a form of torture in some parts of the world!
I spewed my coffee when I read that one!

This book should be required reading for all mothers and those who seek to understand them. Sadly it's out of print but do try to track it down if you can.


message 4: by Gaijinmama (new)

Gaijinmama | 14 comments #7 Five Seasons of Angel: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite Vampire
edited by Glenn Yeffeth

What can I say? Intelligent discussion and analysis of a really cool TV show?
Right up my alley. I am an intelligent, educated person who reads books but is also unrepentantly addicted to TV.
I couldn't put this down. I'm pleased that several of the essays even talk about why the writer didn't like the show. It's not just gushing...really though-provoking and balanced. Please check out the other offerings in the
Smart Pop Series at
http://www.smartpopbooks.com
If Angel wasn't your thing, they also have books on House, Lost, Firefly, Gilmore Girls and many others.



message 5: by Gaijinmama (last edited Mar 30, 2008 03:37PM) (new)

Gaijinmama | 14 comments #8 A Bait of Dreams by Jo Clayton

A freed slave , a dancer and a juggler set out to destroy the source of a horrible addiction that has destroyed the life of many on their world. This is a good, quick read with just enough humor and darkness to keep it balanced.
The cover says it's a fantasy but it has spaceships and aliens in it.
I'd call it science fiction and I'd give it a good solid 4 out of 5.
I sadly admit this book sat on my shelf for 17 years!!
Not only is it out of print, but the author passed away 10 years ago.
Here's a tribute to her, with a comprehensive list of all her works.
http://www.dm.net/~mjkramer/

Clayton was a gifted author and I strongly urge all who enjoy speculative fiction with strong female characters to track down this and others of her books.
They deserve to be read.



message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Gaijinmama:
I tried reading Rhapsody a while ago and couldn't get into it but judging from your review it seems I didn't give it a chance. We're always looking for a good fantasy series so I think I'll dig out our copy from the box in the garage and will try again.

And Japan has giant flying cockroaches? Really? Holy crapola, as if them owning Florida isn't bad enough ;-)


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