Now-You-See-It-Davidson-Cathy-Davidson’s book is about a mismatch of our education system and what people need in order to succeed in today’s world.  She argues that the 4th great Information Technology Revolution requires us to change our educational institutions as well as our workplaces.  One example she tackles is the use of multi-choice questions on tests, do they really make sense anymore, given the ease with which so much information is available at our finger-tips on the internet.

Our schools and educational system were designed for the last century, reflecting the values and needs of the Industrial Age in which they were created not for a world in which technology has reshaped the way we think and learn.  Therefore the emphasis on standardized tests of reading, writing, and arithmetic is a sentimental reaction a longing for the past.

She points to a magnet school in Durham NC, that is on the failing list, everyone is trying really hard, but with 30% of the students being non-native English speakers those standardized tests may flunk a school out of existence.

She makes the point that we ought to see people as differently abled, instead of disabled.  For example, there’s this company SonyaLista who trains certain people to check for computer-code mistakes, “Normals” are bad at this task, however, people with Autism-Spectrum, make superb checkers of computer-code mistakes.

One problem I had with her book is that she stretched her evidence to make her points.  For example, she points to the fact that computer games can help seniors with visual-spatial field perception.  While this is true, the very best thing you can do to help brain functioning at any age, bnow you see itut particularly at older ages, is to perform physical exercise.  She fails to mention this fact.

19. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Joyce, Mystery · Tags:

Hidden by Helen Frost, 147 pages, read by Joyce, on 01/31/2013

 When fourteen-year-olds Wren and Darra meet at a Michigan summer camp, both are overwhelmed by memories from six years earlier when Darra’s father stole a car, unaware that Wren was hiding in the back.
19. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

The Crimson Crown (Seven Realms #4) by Cinda Williams Chima, 598 pages, read by Angie, on 02/17/2013

Raisa is finally queen of the Fells, but her queendom is in disarray. The Wizards and Clans are at each others throats with Wizards kidnapping clan children and Wizards being murdered in the streets. The military hierarchy is opposed to changes Raisa is insisting on and the country is threatened with war from the south. Raisa’s life is still in danger and she is being pressured to marry. Han has become the High Wizard and tries to consolidate his power in a very hostile environment.

This series has always been about Raisa and Han, descendants of the great couple Hanalea and Alger who destroyed the world. It is about bringing the truth to light and true love. This finally definitely delivers. The final book is packed with action and revelations. We discover more about Hanalea and Alger and what happened to them, we learn about the lost Wizards Armory, we discover just out power-hungry the Bayers are, traitors are revealed. I find Raisa and Han to be truly intriguing characters, they are nuanced and well fleshed out. I love the journey they have taken through this series and its ultimate outcome. I also really enjoy Micah Bayer. He is one of those bad guys that isn’t truly bad, but just a product of his family. He isn’t necessarily good but he does truly care for Raisa and wants to help the kingdom. I also really enjoyed Dancer’s story. He has been a side character throughout the series but his arc in this book was wonderful and powerful. This is a great series that never really falls flat. I would highly recommend it.

19. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms #3) by Cinda Williams Chima, 517 pages, read by Angie, on 02/16/2013

The saga of Raisa and Han continues in this third book of the series. Raisa has been kidnapped by Micah Bayer from Oden’s Ford but managed to escape him. She is on her own trying to make her way back home. The Captain of the Queens Guard finds her and is taking her home when they are ambushed and everyone except Raisa killed. Han who has been searching for Raisa (or Rebecca as he knows her) since she was kidnapped finds and saves her discovering her real identity in the process. Han feels betrayed by Raisa’s duplicity, but agrees to help her secure the throne. Queen Marianna has died, either by her own hand or murdered, and Raisa must fight to become queen instead of her younger sister. Together Raisa and Han and Amon, now Captain of the Queens Guard, must stand up against the Wizard Council, the Clans and all those who want to kill Raisa.

This book really shows the progression of Raisa’s character. She has grown from a spoiled princess into a queen. She trusts few people and has many enemies, but she knows what needs to be done. Amon and Raisa come to an understanding in this book and their friendship resumes, which is nice. I hated to see them on the outs. Han and Raisa’s relationship goes through some tough times. Raisa is practical and knows she will have to marry for the good of the Fells. During all of this you have assassination attempts, political intrigue, magic and family revelations. It is a great setup for the final book.

19. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, 180 pages, read by Angie, on 02/19/2013

Georges (the S is silent) has had to leave is home and move into an apartment. His dad was laid off and his mom is working double shifts as a nurse. He meets new neighbors home-schooled kids Safer and Candy and joins their spy club. Their mission is to figure out if mysterious Mr. X is really a serial killer. Meanwhile Georges is being bullied at school. His best friend has moved on to the popular kids and the bullies are picking on Georges. Georges has to learn to stand up for himself.

This is a good book to recommend to boy readers. It has a little adventure, a little mystery and a lot of humor. Georges is your typical geeky kid just trying to survive middle school. His relationship with his parents is strained since his dad lost his job; he only communicates with his mom through scrabble notes. I enjoyed the side story of the science of taste. I thought it was really interesting how that played out. I also liked how Georges finally learned to stand up for himself to Safer and the bullies at school.

19. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Dystopia, Fiction, Teen Books

Insurgent (Divergent #2) by Veronica Roth , 525 pages, read by Angie, on 02/16/2013

Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off. Tris and Tobias and the gang have survived the Erudite takeover and are on the run with a few Dauntless defectors and Abnegation survivors. They seek help from the other factions, the truth-telling Candor and the peace-loving Amity, but soon realize they are on their own. They team up with the Factionless, all those who have left their factions and been marginalized by society. Together they must stop the Erudite from taking over completely. Along the way new alliances are formed, friends are betrayed, enemies are revealed and friendships are tested. Tris and Tobias and the rest must discover the secrets Erudite are willing to kill for and save what is left of their people.

There is a lot going on in this book and yet it seems like not a lot is accomplished. I do still enjoy this world Roth has created and am interested to see how the story plays out. This book suffers a bit from the sophomore slump; it is definitely the middle of the story setting up the big finale. In this book Tris is damaged by the events of the last book and what she had to do to survive. She is haunted by the shooting of her friend Will and can barely pick up a gun. This tests her relationship with Tobias and her friends. The Erudite are just as evil as always and their role is one of the more unsatisfying. It is never really adequately explained why they want to hide the information Abnegation was going to reveal or why they are so determined to exterminate the divergent. The big twist at the end is interesting and should make for an exciting final book.

19. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson, 182 pages, read by Angie, on 02/18/2013

Laurel has lost her mom and grandma to a hurricane. She has moved north with her dad and brother. At first things start out great. She makes a new best friend and joins the cheerleading squad. She also starts dating the co-captain of the basketball team, T-Boom. Everything seems perfect until T-Boom introduces her to moon (or meth). Laurel is soon hooked on the moon and doing anything to get her next fix. She is living on the streets and begging for money. Her dad tries to help her but rehab just doesn’t stick. She loses everything before she can start rebuilding her life.

This is a moving story about addiction. Laurel is like so many teens who just want to feel good, to party, to leave their pain behind. Her fall is fast and brutal, but not permanent. Because this is a story about recovery as well as addiction; about hope and despair. Laurel is saved by her family and a graffiti artist who paints those who have died because of moon. Laurel is a writer and keeps writing her story even when she has hit bottom. This story is a touching one and an excellent read.

19. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocalyptic, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, 374 pages, read by Angie, on 02/18/2013

In the future the earth is plagued with Aether storms that destroy people and crops. The survivors have divided into two groups. Those that live in pods and spend most of their time in psuedo-reality Realms and those who live outside in tribes surviving however they can. Aria lives in Reverie, one of the pods, with her mother Lumina. Lumina leaves Reverie and Aria doesn’t hear from her for over a week. This leads her to a dangerous plan that ultimately gets her kicked out of the pods. She has never been outside and doesn’t know how to survive. Peregrine, Perry, is an outsider, a savage to Aria. He teams up with Aria in order to save his nephew who has been kidnapped by the pod people or moles. Together they must learn to trust each other and survive the outside world. Along the way they discover things about each other and their world.

While Under the Never Sky doesn’t really break any new ground in the dystopian/post-apocalyptic/sci-fi genre it is an entertaining read. Aria and Perry are both very interesting characters set in their ways and forced to realize that things are exactly how they thought they were. I enjoyed their journey, both the physical and the mental one. I’m glad that Rossi didn’t go for the immediate romance angle. Aria is understandably frightened of Perry and her situation at the beginning, but they grudgingly learn to trust each other and their romance progresses naturally. I was also intrigued by the outsiders enhanced senses. They seem like some kind of natural genetic mutation caused by the Aether storms. I like the fact that these mutants have status and power in the outsider societies. I guess my complaints about the book are the lack of explanation for how the world came to be like it is, what exactly the Aether is and what caused it, how the world became divided and how the pod-people live most of their lives in the Realms but still move around their physical environment. These things might be explained in future books in the series. Even though I had a lot of questions it didn’t take away my enjoyment of this story. It was entertaining and intriguing.

15. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Novel, Teen Books · Tags:

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, 96 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/12/2013

This brief graphic novel packs a serious punch. It’s the true story of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, an 11-year-old from the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago and the incident that shocked a nation. Yummy was a member of the Black Disciples gang and apparently decided to “prove” himself by shooting at rival gang members near his home. He instead shot a 14-year-old girl named Shavon. Yummy ran and was pursued by police for days before he was gunned down by his own gang members who were getting wary of the limelight.
The story is told by a young boy named Roger, who is roughly Yummy’s age. Roger’s brother is in the Black Disciples, so Roger knows a bit about Yummy’s transition from troubled kid to preteen thug. Roger reads the news and talks to his neighbors in order to better understand Yummy’s story. Is Yummy a victim of his circumstances? Is he a sociopath? Could anyone have stopped the chain of events that led to the deaths of both Yummy and Shavon?

15. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense · Tags:

Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby, 255 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/11/2013

Sarah didn’t really want to go on the weekend field trip to the Everglades, but her parents genuinely believe that she’ll get something out of it, so she goes anyway. Taunted by the other girls on the trip and ignored by the boys, Sarah attempts to keep to herself. She meets the boy whose parents own the camp, Andy, and agrees to go on an airboat ride with him. She pretends to be sick to avoid the next day’s outing and then takes off with Andy. The ride is awesome, even if there are tons of mosquitoes and the saw grass keeps cutting Sarah’s exposed flesh. The pair take a break at an old hunting cabin, but when they get ready to depart, they discover that their boat has now sunk. They are completely stranded and well over 10 miles from their camp. Worse, no one knows where they’ve gone. Their only option is to begin an epic trek across the everglades in the hopes of making it to the levee before nature takes its toll. Sarah and Andy brave alligators, water moccasins, wild boars and all kinds of nasty insects. Sarah starts out a bit on the whiny side, though we understand her reluctance and fear. She does grow considerably as a character throughout the course of her ordeal. This was a nice survival tale, made all the better by being completely plausible. The descriptions of the Everglades are spot-on and give the reader a real sense of place. A nice choice for the Truman Award list.

15. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Velvet by Mary Hooper, 336 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/07/2013

Velvet is an orphan who is working in a laundry in London. The year is 1899 and times are tough for young women with no one to support them. Velvet figures this is about as good as it’s going to get, especially since she has secrets to hide. She has a small room that she rents and mostly gets enough to eat. When she has a fainting spell, she is eventually promoted to doing laundry for the more wealthy clients. Velvet acquires the regular duties of laundering the clothes of Madame Savoya, a prominent psychic. As the new year begins, so too does a new life for Velvet. Madame takes Velvet in as her personal assistant and introduces Velvet to the world of spiritualism. Velvet joyfully embraces her new position. As time goes by, however, Velvet starts to question the ethics driving the Spiritualist community.
Spiritualism was big business in the late Victorian/early Edwardian era. The descriptions of seances throughout the book are representative of how these mediums worked. Author’s notes at the end of the book are quite enlightening.

15. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Mystery, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones, 345 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/03/2013

Blink has been living on the streets long enough to know that he can get a great breakfast by hanging around fancy hotels in the morning when people leave their room service remains outside the door for housekeeping. It’s not a bad method of eating and Blink is hungry. Just as he’s about to tuck into some leftovers, he hears a commotion coming from a nearby hotel room. Blink hides across the hall and watches to see what will happen. As it turns out, he isn’t sure what he’s witnessing, so perplexed is he by the demeanor of the men coming out of the room. One of the men tosses his key over his shoulder on the way out and Blink uses it to let himself into the hotel room, which strongly resembles a crime scene with no body. Blink finds a wallet stuffed with cash and a Blackberry left behind. Between these two items, Blink figures out that a very wealthy man is involved but that things are not adding up somehow. When he decides to answer the ringing Blackberry to let the man’s daughter know that her father is unharmed, he discovers that everyone believes this man to have been kidnapped. Blink knows that’s not the case and feels the need to pursue it further.
Caution has been living with her drug dealer boyfriend after running away from home. She considers this abusive relationship to be her penance for an undisclosed incident. She understands that her situation will likely kill her, but she hardly cares. When she discovers that she’s been cheated on, she steals some money from the guy and hits the road, looking over her shoulder the whole time.
Blink and Caution meet at the train station where Blink is preparing to go visit the daughter of the missing businessman. Caution cons Blink and steals his money, but feels so guilty that she returns it and joins Blink on his investigation. Together, the two of them slowly learn what it means to trust somebody and to have someone “have your back”.
The kidnapping plot gets a bit confusing, but the real focus here is on the characters. The narrative style is unique and trades off between Blink and Caution, who are both not only believable, but charming in their own ways. Readers will be rooting for the two as the action picks up and will be rewarded by an ending that doesn’t insult their intelligence.

15. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Teen Books

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough, 464 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/01/2013

When Mimi and Cora’s mother fails to return, their traveling salesman of a father sends his daughters off to live in the English countryside with their mother’s Aunt Ida. Mimi and Cora are met considerable resistance from Aunt Ida, who has no intention of keeping the girls with her in her ancient, run-down manor. The girls have no idea that Ida might have extremely good reasons for not wanting them there, but they try to abide by all of Ida’s rules (which include never opening windows and staying far, far away from the crumbling several-hundred-year-old church down the road). Cora can’t stand living there and young Mimi isn’t much happier. Things brighten up a bit when the sisters meet Roger and Pete, a pair of brothers that live in the old town of Bryers Guerdon. Finally, there are children their age to play with. Unfortunately, since boys will be boys, the very first place the children go to play is the forbidden church. One visit is enough to make Cora and Mimi uneasy, even if they aren’t sure why. After a couple more visits, the kids all see things that don’t add up until they begin to learn the story of Long Lankin. Is the legend of Long Lankin real? The villagers won’t talk about it, but they won’t let their children near the church either. What is the connection between Lankin and the church? What does Ida know that she isn’t telling her wards? Secrets are revealed as the story reaches its chilling apex. This is not gory horror, but atmospheric and psychological. Readers won’t be able to get this one out of their heads easily.

15. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Janet, NonFiction · Tags:

Stories from the Heart - Missouri's African American Heritage by Gladys Caines Coggswell, 161 pages, read by Janet, on 02/11/2013

Stories from the HeartThis is a compilation of interviews with people who were once U.S. slaves and now live a free life (at the time the book was written).  The stories are written in the dialect of the speaker.  They speak of the ghosts and haunts they heard about and how scared they felt, how they were treated by their masters, and how they were treated by other black folks.  The Ku Klux Klan were also very frightening to many.  Most were not educated at all as their white owners were against them getting “big ideas”, however, after freedom, many learned the basics so they could read and write.  They tell of poor clothes and being barefooted all year round.  Many were whipped by their owners and others.  They usually had to doctor themselves – using turpentine or sugar for stomachache, goose grass twigs, black root for constipation, scraped turnip bound to a frost bitten foot, and many other home-made cures.  Pensions for older folks were very small, if anything.  Many had to live with younger family members.

One told an old riddle:  “I rode over the bridge and yet I walked.”  (“Yet I” was a dog.)

15. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags: ,

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis, 320 pages, read by Angie, on 02/14/2013

Deza Malone is the Might Miss Malone. She is the youngest Malone. Her father and mother and big brother Jimmie make up the rest of the family. Deza is smart and precocious and very verbose. She loves her dictionary and thesaurus as if they were her best friends. She gets all As in school and is the top of her class. But things are going so well for the Malones. Papa has lost his job and is then hurt in a boating accident. Jimmie has stopped growing and Deza’s teeth are rotting in her mouth. Papa decides he has to go find work elsewhere and heads to Flint, Michigan. The rest of the family stays behind until they are evicted from their house. Then it is time for them to hit the road too. They end up in a shantytown in Flint looking for a home and work.

This is a great historical story for kids. It very accurately portrays life during the Great Depression. I like that the reader is introduced to shanty towns and train hopping, speakeasys and racism all through the wonderful narrative of this story. Deza is an interesting character. She is super confident in herself at the beginning of the book but throughout all the trials and tribulations she learns who she really is and who her family is.

15. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, 313 pages, read by Angie, on 02/13/2013

This is the story of Liesl, Po and Will. Liesl is a young girl who has been locked in the attic by her stepmother. She wasn’t even allowed to see her father before he died. Po is a ghost from the other side who is drawn to Liesl and her drawings. Will is an alchemist’s apprentice and an orphan. He watches Liesl as she sits in her attic. Liesl, Po and Will’s paths cross due to a misunderstanding and a mixup. Suddenly they find themselves on the run as evil adults try to track them down.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a nice almost fairy tale. I love the adventure Liesl and Po and Will take; they are on a quest with a destiny to fulfill. Most of the time I think adults in these books are very one-dimensional and this book is no different, but for some reason it didn’t bother me here. Maybe it was the fairy tale quality of the story. Whatever it was I kind of liked that most of the adults were evil and bad. It is so much more enjoyable when they get whats coming to them.

15. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery, Short Stories

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales by Chris Van Allsburg, 195 pages, read by Angie, on 02/13/2013

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is an interesting, different book. Supposedly, Harris Burdick left a collection of illustrations with captions and promised stories to go along with them. He disappeared forever with his stories. Several of the best writers for children and teens took up the challenge of writing stories to fit the illustrations. This book contains stories by Chris Van Allsburg, MT Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Stephen King and more. As I was reading this I kept thinking of the old Twilight Zone episodes. Each of these stories is a little off, a tad bit strange or downright weird just like The Twilight Zone

15. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction · Tags: , ,

Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States by Patricia C. McKissack, 144 pages, read by Angie, on 02/13/2013

Days of Jubilee tells the story of the end of slavery in the United States. McKissack uses slave narratives throughout to illustrate the events of the times. She takes us through the beginnings of slavery to the emancipation of the slaves after the Civil War. There is a lot of historical detail in this book; McKissack really did her research. This is a thoughtful, well researched book that anyone can enjoy.

14. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Eric, Fiction, Horror · Tags: ,

Devil's Wake by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, 278 pages, read by Eric, on 02/14/2013

The sheer bulk of zombies and similar human horrors in films, books, and television makes it increasingly difficult to bring something new to the genre. In Devil’s Wake, the husband-wife writing team of Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due don’t attempt to do so. In their scenario, the undead are of the infected variety, which pass the infection on through bites.  A ragtag group of young adults must avoid being bitten as they travel from the state of Washington to Devil’s Wake, a reportedly “freak free” island off the coast of Southern California.

For the most part, the characters’ back stories are given perfunctory glances. A majority of them are delinquent teens from a work camp. At times, their dialog seems out of place for their age, and the cultural references too dated. This, combined with the familiarity of the plot, failed to spark my interest much until they were on the road, and interacting with other survivors. Unfortunately, the novel abruptly ends after this point, not because it’s a natural break in the story, but so there can be a series of books. I’m not sure I’ll go along for the ride.

14. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

Sula by Toni Morrison, 174 pages, read by Tammy, on 02/10/2013

This is a wonderfully written tale of not only the life of Sula but also the lives of many of her neighbors in her hometown, Medallion, Ohio. The story brings up differences in how the blacks living in “The Bottoms” live and the white folks in town live; and not just about their jobs, or status, but in how they approach life and conflict and difficulties. It’s a fast read with real to life characters. Unfortunately for me, I chose this book, because a friend was named after the main character so I wanted to see what in the character inspired her mother to name her daughter, Sula. Going into the book with this viewpoint was a mistake. The character of Sula is a strong, independent soul from childhood on but as she grows older she becomes disconnected with other people and becomes mean. She does not enjoy being mean or causing others pain she just doesn’t seem to care one way or the other. I think I would have enjoyed this book more had I approached it like any other title.