Tuesday, April 8, 2014

March 2014 Book Reports

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley is a classic tale, one I read long ago but thought I'd review before asking First Son to read it. I'll probably offer it as a choice for summer reading or independent reading in fifth grade. (playaway from the library) 

Anomaly and  Luminary by Krista McGee falls into the unexpected genre of Christian dystopian fiction. It's written for teens and was interesting enough for me to keep reading. I think it's a good choice for younger teens or those who are interested in thinking about what a remnant of the Church might look like after a planet-wide catastrophe (natural or otherwise). If you're an adult interested in something like that, you can't do better than A Canticle for Leibowitz. The third book of the trilogy comes out this summer and I'll read it because it's nearly impossible for me to not know what happens in a series. (first book purchased for Kindle when it was one of the daily deals, the sequel purchased for the Kindle)

The Thieves of Ostia and The Secrets of Vesuvius by Caroline Lawrence are the first and second of the Roman Mysteries. I found these recommended on the Mater Amabilis site. Though the idea of this diverse group of young people become close friends in the year 79 is a bit far-fetched (a rich Roman girl, a slave, a Jewish-Christian, and a homeless boy whose tongue had been cut out), the daily life otherwise seems to be well described. The mysteries are enjoyable, but contain elements appropriate for more mature readers like beheaded dogs, murder, and accusations of infidelity. I wouldn't read it aloud to my family, but I think First Son would find them enjoyable (I did) and intend to provide the series as an option for summer reading the year after fifth grade. (I received the first four volumes in the series from members of PaperBackSwap.com)

Unplanned by Abby Johnson (parish library copy)

The Gecko and Sticky: Villain's Lair by Wendelin Van Draanen is the first book in a series. It's a funny easy read that might be great for boys reluctant to read chapter books, but it's not high literature. I was a little disappointed in the main character's relationship with his little sister. Kids need all the examples and encouragement possible for kind and loving attitudes towards siblings (especially boys for younger ones), but the author emphasized Dave's goodness and his loving parents overall. This series isn't going on the list of books I present to my children, but it would be fine for some relaxing personal reading. (library copy)

The Dead of Night by John Marsden is the second book of the Tomorrow series for young adults, in which a completely improbably invasion is made on Australia. The second book is better than the first, but quite graphic both in violence and romantic activities. I'm reviewing this series for another website so plan to read them all, but I don't think it's the kind of series that's worth reading as an adult unless you want to read along with your mature teenager. (library copy)

Victory on the Walls: A Story of Nehemiah by Frieda Clark Hyman is a fabulous book published by Bethlehem Books and recommended by RC History for Connecting with History volume 1 (grammar level and above, not at affiliate link). I read it in preparation for the coming year, anticipating assigning it to First Son as independent reading, but later opted to only cover the first seven units of volume 1 next year. So First Son will read it in sixth grade instead of fifth grade. Set in the time of Nehemiah, it's a story of courage and faith, and a young man who matures in the course of the book. (purchased from Bethlehem Books)

Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson is also published by Bethlehem Books and recommended by RC History for Connecting with History volume 1. First Son will read this book next year in fourth grade. Like Victory on the Walls, it's recommended for grammar level and above, and I think it's even more important to follow the recommendation. There are great battles, destruction of Uriah's home and the murder of his mother and sister, and human sacrifice. I wouldn't read it aloud to my young girls, but it's a wonderful book showing life in Israel during the time of Judith in a way I had never understood myself before reading it. Highly recommended. (purchased from Bethlehem Books)

Unwind, UnWholly, and UnSouled by Neal Shusterman are the first three books in the Unwind Dystology, a world in which abortion is illegal but teenagers can be "unwound," a procedure in which they are dismantled bit by bit and their body used as transplants for diseases and cosmetic procedures. If you can get past the completely unrealistic premise that such a practice would be accepted on a broad scale, the questions raised regarding abortion, faith, the value of a person, what it means to be human, the commercialization of medical procedures, and so much more, are fascinating. It's a perfect series to read along with your teenagers. Though it's quite violent, I like it better than almost any dystopian fiction I've read in a long time. One of these days I might get around to writing a more complete post on the reasons why. The Catholic faith is not depicted as I think it would really be in such a situation, but I don't think it's insurmountable. Sadly, I have to wait for the next book to come out in October. (library copies) 

Books in Progress (and date started)

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