Monday, March 18, 2013

Wherein I am lazy. Three books.

I know. Enough of me already. I'm a little bugged too. But if I get too far behind I'll just stop and I don't want to stop, so... skim?

Farthing by Jo Walton-- 3.5 Dobbies

Every time I rank a book I think back on my Dobby status for the Storyteller. (You: are you still yammering about that book? let. it. go.) The writing was soooo good, but I only gave it a four. FOUR. Is Farthing in the same league as Storyteller? No. Definitely not. Every time I review another book on this blog I end up bumping up the Storyteller's ranking. Because it haunts me. And that really has to count for something. And LOOK here I am yapping about it again while I should be talking about Farthing. Wretched.

(In the event of full disclosure I'm having a very sad day and 6 days ago swore off sugar and Diet Coke like some kind of maniac. I'm not entirely sure the two are unrelated. But I'm crankier than usual. Which is saying something.)

(In the event of full disclosure the second, I am drinking a Diet Coke as we speak because it's that bad. Just one. I don't even have more in the house. And it's tepid, because somehow that makes me less of an oathbreaker? Let's move on.)

Farthing. Eh. It was okay. I kept reading it, which is more than I can say for The Thief. Of which I tried and got half way through, but just. didn't. care...

It's some kind of what-if historical fiction novel and comes across as a bit Sherlock Holmesy. Minus Robert Downey Jr. And therein lies (full disclosure the third, enlies is not a word. therin lies? yes. i just asked cousin google. we're all welcome.) the problem. Just meh. It's a period novel (WWII-ish) and one of the leads (a Jew) is framed. I don't know, I just think there's so much that could have been done with the storyline. The writing was okay, not gripping. And I really wasn't pulled one way or the other in terms of funny or sad. Just meh. I won't be reading it again, but am not angry that I spent time reading it in the first place.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson --- 4.5. Dobbies

This one, I loved. Not LOVED, but loved. I didn't sleep with it under my pillow is basically what that translates into. Therapy. I'm aware. I'll look into it.

It's got a kick butt heroine who defies all the norms for your typical "queen." She doesn't look like a queen, she doesn't act like a queen. Basically, she's awesome. The writing's not quite as thoughtful/smooth as Bitterblue, but still very very good. The plot moves along quickly and Queen Elisa and I will most definitely be exchanging Christmas cards. I. have. a. crush. on. her.

It's fantasy and it's got some fabo morals woven through the storyline. I LOVED the symbolism. At times a wee bit simplistic, but it's certainly one that when my littles are bigger will be shoved into their hot little hands. I'm all about strong female characters on a mission. (aren't we all really?) I'm off to order number two. And three.

Legend by Maire Lu --- 4.5 Dobbies

And speaking of kick butt heroines... another resounding YES. Face paced, great plot, intrigue, fantasy (i'm noticing a theme in my selections)... the writing isn't as lyrical as The Girl of Fire and Thorns but that might be on purpose (probably on purpose). It's a futuristic society where people are basically shipped into "careers" from the age of ten onward according to how well they performed on their trial. Things are not as they seem and I gasped, hand over heart more than once while reading this book. Marie Lu has no compunction showing the severity of consequences for those who do not hearken to the rules of the Republic.

It's great. I read it in a day and loved it. I loved that it's written from two different points of view and that it's fast paced and smart. I DID NOT like the "ending," if you can call it that.  No closure. I like my books to end. Even if there's another one or two or six coming down the pipeline. Lazybones. Others have managed, you can too. Will I be purchasing book number two? It's already done. Should be here tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Goodness. I LOVED THIS BOOK. If you haven't read the Graceling series, run don't walk to your nearest well, are there even bookstores anymore? That's a sad sad. To Amazon then, I'll wait. Bitterblue is the who knows what in the series of Graced friends. It's number three, but I'm not sure if it's the final. One thing I love about Kristin Cashore's books is that she finishes them. I know, NOVEL. But in the day and age of, everything must be a series, I find myself extremely bugged by books that don't end. Just hang. I just finished Marie Lu's "Legend," and it was fantastic, but it was as if she just got tired of writing and so she stopped. Makes for a longer second and third book? I don't know, but I don't like it. I think it's lazy and rude. (perhaps momma needs a few more real people friends?)

Anyway, back to Bitterblue and its awesome. The writing is witty and sharp, and the characters very likable. (or should i say "my friends"--which of course they're likable, they're my friends.) Graceling is just a punch in the gut YES. Fire? Meh. Did she have an editor for this book? Did they read it? I don't know. Meh. Bitterblue rivals Graceling.

If you are looking for great books for your younguns to read, would I recommend them? Well... It's different for everyone. I'd have no problem with my girls someday reading the first two, but might hold off a bit on Bitterblue. The end, oh the end. It's so... adult. And horrible.  (The end itself is not adult and horrible, but rather the unveiling of past events and the ultimate consequences for beloved friends characters, is very mature.) So I'd definitely preview the last one before letting the kids have a go. And honestly, it opens the door for some interesting albeit hard conversations about the evils and political mechanisms of the world. But, it's a matter of timing and personal discretion.

This was one of those books where I finished the book sad because I wanted to be able to read it again for the first time.

4.85 Dobbies

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ability Development from Age Zero-- Shinichi Suzuki-- 4.8 Dobbies

So my five year old's cello teacher gave me this book when we started lessons with her a month ago. I know. I am brave. And heroic. I believe that some kind of medal is in order... Anyway, to say that I was apprehensive to start this little fireball on an instrument would be an understatement. HUGE. She's kind of spacey and a bit of a klutz. I have nightmares that involve her and her cello in a variety of scenarios. None of them end well.

But we started her six year old sister on the violin and felt strongly that 'she of the many accidents' should play a different instrument. They already compare themselves to one another too much already. So, cello. Lily. Pray for us.

BUT, when we started Ms. Valerie gave me two books to read. One was, "Ability Development from Age Zero," and it has changed my life. It's changed my perspective as a teacher and more importantly as a parent. It's not very politically correct (not even one little bit) and you can tell it's kind of the random thoughts of a very old little Asian man (so sweet). But he's brilliant, and he's so insightful. Honestly, I'm a better person for having read this book. I don't think there's a day that goes by where I don't think of passages and strive to improve my behavior and approach to my children. Which quite frankly is saying something, because I avoid things that make me feel guilty. (i know. i'm fun.) And I'm also a pretty big proponent of raising your kids the best you know how and letting the chips fall where they may. With a bit of guidance. What I'm trying to say is that my kids aren't in swimming and dance and Chinese lessons and advanced math (HAH) and and and.... They're kids. This is the only time in their lives where they get to be kids and play. So our kids do, and they're great at it. I still subscribe to this method of child rearing (FOR ME) but Suzuki helps us be better at what we do. Moving on.

This really is a book designed for those who are starting littles on an instrument, but I think it can be applied to many situations.

Point the FIRST: In no way shape or form should one feel bad if they have olders who don't play instruments (OBVIOUSLY. Goodness I'm a fountain of wisdom.) and I could see how one might feel guilty about what one is NOT doing with the child folk while reading this--heavens, I was starting to feel bad about starting my littles so late at FIVE, which quite frankly is just NONSENSE. NON. SENSE. He's an opinionated little Asian man who LIVES to teach the littles the violin. I mean my heavens, the main methodology/books we use to teach starters is Suzuki. This is HIS LIFE. It's kind of awesome. And not for everyone. MOVING ON geez woman, so much prattle...

Point the SECOND: I wrote all over everywhere in this book and just realized Lily' teacher probably wants it back. FAIL.

Main Points:

Saying "My child has no talent" is actually the same as saying, "I did not educate my child to develop the sprout of his talent." Which I agree with, but sounds harsher than it really is. Many many parents don't want, or don't forsee their child loving a life with a musical instrument--plus it's a huge time suck, so if it's not for you, it's not for you. Period. No guilt. Next.

Children practice in spite of being scolded. Why don't you make happiness part of their incentive? This one just slapped me across the face. Seems obvious no? Probably for most individuals, for me? Not so much. YES, good heavens YES. I'm an idiot...

An unlimited amount of ability can develop when parent and child are having fun together. (Again, I has the stupid.) This also makes me look back on many of the starter students I've had in the past and cringe. Oh, if only I had a time machine...

Adults Must Self-Reflect-- Parents must constantly ask themselves whether they are good examples for their children. In other words, a parent should ask himself if he is noble or if he is striving to be noble.  This one also kicked my can. I find myself asking this question in my head 10 times a day now, even when my kids aren't present. Am I being noble? Sure that person in church is treating me like trash, but can I be noble anyway? Yes I can. It's HARD and I'm not happy about it, but I can at least try.

A truly civilized human being is thoughtful of others, pours his love on others, knows the joy of living, and enjoys working for the happiness of all. Biggest take away from the whole book, right here. GOLD STAR if you're already applying this to your lives. HUGE FREAKING STAR. I perhaps get a non-descript dot. I'm working towards star. It's a process.

Scolding children without changing oneself does not help the children. And sigh...

Reverence for children is reverence for life. I agree, but I've also taught the eight year olds' Sunday school class. Just the fact that I didn't end their lives... Moving on.

When you can delicately feel what is in the heart of another, then you will be able to understand Bach and Mozart. The ability to feel music means understanding the human heart. YES.

Practice not being angry instead of developing an ability for anger.

Personality is a talent.

If a child is brought up to have a beautiful heart and wonderful abilities, with love for others and the happiness of being loved, then the mission of a parent is ended. The way will open up for the child later. Parents do not need to worry whether or not their children will succeed. And that's pretty much the heart of the matter. It's more about raising beautiful loving children than brilliant prodigies. Some choose to do this with music, others with art, others with sports, others with education.... It all boils down to the same thing.

Of all the work that people do, there is nothing more noble, nothing more important, than  raising your own child to be a fine person. We all do it in our own way. We're not perfect, but we're trying to be good.

ACT WHEN YOU THINK. Basically, do it now. Don't procrastinate. Easier said than done when dealing with emotional little girls wielding bows and lots of personality.

It's a short and quick read, but really provides a lot of insight with teaching children (teaching them ANYTHING). He cuts right to the heart of the matter, and you can't help but chuckle at his "know everything" tone.

Big fan. Has helped me a lot with day to day dealings of my littles, and definitely with my students.

4.8 Dobbies