What I Will Be Reading #15

The other day, as I was looking for a good book for our next WWI American History Club meeting (never did find one, even if I did choose When Christmas Comes Again), I lamented the lack of good WWI books. I’ve read a lot about WWII, but very little about WWI. While I was hoping to get some suggestions for kids books about WWI, my friends instead filled my reading list with books for me to read about WWI. Here’s what I’ve added to my list because of that thread (titles only because there are so many):

Fall of Giants: Book One of the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett. Looks like if I like that one, I’ll have two more to read. I’ve read Follett and enjoyed him in the past, so I’m not worried about quality.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque has been on my radar for a while, but I’m putting officially on the list now.

Finally, a nonfiction book to close out the reading list: The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. It even won a Pulitzer (for nonfiction, but I still count it for my reading challenge).

Anything else I should add to my reading list?

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Thirteen Generations by James Bambury

Published: August 2012 in AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review that is still available to read at the website

Genre: Science fiction

Length: 4 pages

Setting: a researcher’s lab, any time in the future

Interest: It is included in the 2014 annual Campbellian Anthology that was available back in January.

Summary: A researcher is trying to teach an organism (probably a protozoa) to run a maze and respond to light with recognized movement. Each generation passes on its knowledge to the following generation so the maze is faster and speech is more recognizable. The organism’s life is shortened as well, until the 12th generation individual barely has time to eat before laying an egg and dying. The 13th generation seems to slow down a bit, though.

Final thoughts: Eh, nothing too exciting. An interesting biological principle – what information can get passed on from generation to generation? There is some evidence that experience can get passed on. The idea that your life is sped up as you are born with more starting knowledge is also interesting, but I was confused about the 13th generation. Did it regress? Was it slower again? It seemed to have less verbal ability. I needed just a bit more story, I guess, to be completely satisfied.

Reading challenges fulfilled: none since this was a short story

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Weekly Wrap-Up: Hindu Deities

We started a new topic with the start of the month. Every year, we cover the mythology of a different culture. In the three years that Mr. Curiosity has been homeschooled, we’ve done Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology. This year, we’re moving a little farther east and are studying Hindu deities. One of the reasons I chose Hindu mythology was because my mother-in-law brought us The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel after visiting India. We’re using this as our spine book because it provides one page descriptions of most of the big Hindu gods and goddesses, including some of the different incarnations. There’s not a lot of detail, and the pictures are definitely prettied up, but it’s a good place to start. As a bonus, there’s a phonetic spelling of each of the names, since they’re not said the way I assume.

There’s not a lot of books on the Hindu gods and goddesses in our local library system, but I was able to find a couple of options. Our first story we read was a picture book: Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Emily Haynes and Sanjay Patel. This was a retelling of story of Ganesha, with beautiful illustrations that really provide the color and style of Indian culture. It also provided the key elements of Ganesha’s story – the elephant head, his mighty steed (a mouse), and one of the great sacred Hindu texts.

For more stories about Ganesha and his interactions with many of the other Hindu deities, try The Broken Tusk as retold by Uma Krishnaswami. They are short stories, but again provide the flavor of the Hindu pantheon. Even Miss Adventure enjoyed reading the stories, even if there’s only a couple of black and white illustrations in the book.

If you’re interested in other weekly wrap-ups, check out Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers’ post.

Weekly-Wrap-Up

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Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Published: 1999

Genre: middle grade historical fiction

Length: 243 pages

Setting: Michigan during the Great Depression

Interest: This book was recommended somewhere as a good read-aloud book.

Summary: Bud is an orphan during the Depression. He runs away from an abusive foster home in Flint and heads to Grand Rapids to find Herman E. Calloway, who he believes is his father. Calloway is a big band player and Bud fits right in with his band. Turns out Calloway is his grandfather.

Final thoughts: This did turn out to be an enjoyable read-aloud. It certainly provided an interesting story on something that our family doesn’t experience – being poor and black. Bud had to make his way on his own, during the Depression and a black kid. You got sucked into his story of how to survive as a kid, longing for a family that loves him. He found it in Calloway’s band.

Awards won: Newbery Medal in 2000

Title comes from: It’s how Bud always introduced himself.

Reading challenges fulfilled: none since this was a review of a book read in a previous year

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When Christmas Comes Again by Beth Seidel Levine

Subtitle: The World War I Diary of Simone Spencer, New York City to the Western Front 1917 (Dear America Series)

Published: 2002

Genre: middle grade historical fiction

Length: 166 pages

Setting: NYC and France, 1917

Font: Centaur MT

Interest: I chose it as our second WWI book for American History Club. It’s part of the Dear America series, which are set up as a diary of a young person going through an important part of American history.

Summary: Simone has just graduated from high school. While she led a bit of a pampered life, being part of the upper class, she feels the need to contribute to the war effort. Volunteering at the YWCA doesn’t feel like enough. Nursing the wounded back to health isn’t her cup of tea. Finally, she’s able to work as a switchboard operator, translating between the French and American armies. As the fighting gets fiercer and more men are wounded, the “hello girls” are moved closer to the front. While she’s in France, Simone find her brother and falls in love with one of his friends.

Final thoughts: While the book sheds some light on an unknown aspect of WWI (the Hello Girls) where women were allowed to participate in the war effort, I wasn’t very impressed with the rest of the book. It seemed very thin on plot and details compared to many of the other books we’ve read for American History Club. The main character seemed quite shallow, with very little to say in her diary. I was definitely limited in appropriate books on WWI for the boys. There’s not a lot of middle-grade literature on WWI, and finding something the library system had two of was even harder.

Title comes from: When Simone’s brother joined the Army, they sent off with the sentiment that they’d see him “When Christmas came again.”

Reading challenges fulfilled: 77/100 in my 100 Book Challenge

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A Shiver of Light by Laurell K. Hamilton

Published: 2014

Genre: urban fantasy/romance

Length: 372 pages

Setting: Southern California, modern-day

Interest: It’s the ninth book in the Merry Gentry series. I’ve read the other eight, and I’ll put the reviews up eventually. If you’re interested in the series, start at the beginning – A Kiss of Shadows.

Summary: Merry has just learned she’s having triplets, not the expected twins, when the babies decide it’s time to be born. The two girls being showing signs of their power almost immediately. Merry does a paternity test on the children to learn who exactly the fathers are, but Taranis, King of the Seelie Court, tries to claim Merry as his Queen and the children as his. Merry resists his attempts at coerced seduction (many of which occur in her dreams). Faerie continues to manifest around her and Merry does the work of the Goddess with her soldiers. In the final scenes, Sholto is killed by Taranis’ assassin.

Final thoughts: As per usual, I couldn’t put the book down. Hamilton does such a great job of pulling you into the character and the relationships (of which there are many). There’s not as much sex in this book, since Merry just had babies, but there is some. I did love meeting the babies and trying to figure out who the fathers were based on different manifestations of their appearance and powers, and I’m curious as to how they’ll grow up.

That being said, I think I’m done with Hamilton as an author. I had hoped the problems I noticed in the last Anita Blake book I read were just indicative of that series, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems to me that Hamilton’s successes mean she isn’t edited as tightly as she used to be. She keeps repeating herself in descriptions (like every time she mentions the Red Caps, she describes their size.) And speaking of descriptions, she loves to describe the people in a scene. What they’re wearing, how it complements their eye color, what their irises look like (since the Sidhe have tri-colored irises, unique to each individual), what their skin color looks like, how everyone looks together, etc. Personally, I don’t care that much about description. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad in a novel, but it’s not something that enhances a story for me. The final annoyance is the fact that she crams in as much action in the last chapter of the book as occurred in the whole rest of the book.

Title comes from: Perhaps the fact that in two instances when Sholto traveled magically, he was first seen as a shiver of light.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 76/100 in my 100 Book Challenge

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Visions by Michio Kaku

Subtitle: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century

Published: 1998

Genre: science nonfiction

Length: 335 pages of text, 403 pages with notes and indices

Interest: I was wandering the library science shelves to see if I could find something interesting. I remembering hearing several interviews with Kaku recently (probably associated with the publication of The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind), with many of the hosts gushing over the thrill of talking to Kaku.  I thought this book was worth checking out. Sadly, I didn’t realize how old it was when I picked it up.

Summary: After talking with a number of scientists on his radio show and for other interviews, Kaku noticed a general consensus about elements of the future. The big fields that will drive innovation and revolution will be quantum mechanics, molecular biochemistry/DNA technology, and computers. The three will interact to drive major changes. Kaku provides predictions that are likely to occur by 2020, 2050, and 2100.

Final thoughts: I just couldn’t read the book. I didn’t realize the book was twenty years old when I picked it up, and we’re quite close to the first level of predictions. In the first two chapters, the predictions rang quite true, but were just off enough (usually just in terminology, not in idea) that it was annoying. The historical setting to the predictions was interesting, but I couldn’t read the predictions, even for the sense of “how close did he actually get?” Perhaps I’ll try one of his newer books instead.

Title comes from: He’s looking into the future to predict what the 21st century will look like.

Reading challenges fulfilled: none since I didn’t finish the book

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