Sunday, January 30, 2011

Beautiful - Cindy Martinusen-Coloma

“Beautiful” is both the title of the book and the story held within its pages.

Ellie Summerfield has it all – looks, grades, status, the guy. However, she feels like something is wrong. In her? – With her? – Around her? She’s not really sure. Something is just off.

In a moment, her world changes. Ellie is launched on a journey to find her true purpose and the real meaning of beauty.

I really enjoyed this book. The characters were real people with real issues and real insecurities. Bits of the story are predictable just based on the back cover. However, that doesn’t make it any less satisfying to read.

There is some smoking and drug use in the book. However, it is presented negatively and without any glamour or endorsement. That would be my only somewhat caution, though.

Pick Up Your Socks - Elizabeth Crary

This book is subtitled “…and other skills growing children need! A Practical Guide to Raising Responsible Children.” In it, Ms. Crary tackles such topics as responsibility versus obedience, basic responsibility skills (memory, motivation), chores, school responsibility, and independent living skills.

I read this book with mixed thoughts/feelings. A lot of it seemed to go too far towards negotiating and rewarding your children for every little thing they do. However, I was able to pull out a few nuggets. I think when introducing a new skill or chore, a reward chart of some kind (where they color a square for each success and once X spaces are filled, they receive a reward). Also, I’m going to talk to the husband person about possible setting up a contract for A. and her homework. That continues to be a struggle…and has been off and on since second grade when her mom told her she didn’t really care about her schoolwork. I’m not sure that a contract will work to motivate her (it didn’t help with her special Challenge program she was removed from for not challenging). But we are quickly running out of ideas, and we haven’t tried this one yet.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

One Season of Sunshine - Julia London

Jane Aaron was adopted as an infant. Now she is thirty and has spent a few years teaching second grade in Houston and is experiencing writer’s block regarding her master’s thesis. Her boyfriend has just proposed, and she realizes that despite how together her life seems and how much she loves her family, she has a longing to know where she comes from.

To this end, Jane takes a leave of absence from her job and heads to Cedar Springs…the only place she knows to begin her search for her birth family. While in Cedar Springs, Jane takes a job as a nanny for a widower with two children. That seems to progress while she continues to hit roadblocks in her search.

The book was a nice, light read. The story was intriguing, and I enjoyed the characters.

I had two qualms. The first is that there were a few sensual moments. Not really over the top, but more than I’m comfortable with. After reading the book, I read online that Julia London is known for her seriously romance novels. So I would imagine this one was very much toned down for her.

Also, there were a few loose ends. Mainly, did Jane ever finish her thesis?

Win or Lose by How You Choose! - Judge Judy Sheindlin

This is a great book to discuss with your children morals, values, and how choices affect your lives.

Each two-page spread presents a question with four choices to choose from.

Again, I wouldn’t have children read it alone. My plan is to go through it, a page a day, with my girls over summer break.

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

Whew! Was this a huge book to tackle. It was our book club book for December and January. Even with two months to read it, I didn’t get it finished until a few days after our book club meeting.

I went into it knowing only two things [SPOILER ALERT]:

• Anna has an affair

• Anna commits suicide by throwing herself under a train

While I enjoyed the book overall, I was surprised by how long it took to be introduced to Anna and how many other story lines there were other than hers. Having read the entire book, I absolutely understand Tolstoy’s purpose in the side stories and to show the contrast.

I was well prepared to dislike Anna for her depravity. However, Tolstoy paints her in such a way that I really begin to feel pity for her.

The book led to a lot of good discussions. It was probably one of our liveliest meetings yet.

My only disappointment is in myself. I feel like there was SO MUCH to the book that I missed out on some of it and the experience due to trying to read it by a deadline.