Friday, March 29, 2013

Eating Local

This fall, my family joined a "CSK," a Community Supported Kitchen. Once a week, we pick up a box with all the ingredients and recipes to make five dinners. All the food is local, fresh, and organic. We can order other items and meals through them as well, including extra bread, meat, and dairy.

Each week, we get one meat meal (some past examples include beef strogonoff, meat loaf, and sausages), one fish meal (some examples include fish sticks, smoked salmon chowder, and shrimp pumpkin curry), and three vegetarian meals (some from the last week or two include Moroccan stew (with garbanzo beans and squash), squash soup with cheddar apple sandwiches, and kale Gouda strata). Also, one of them is also a pasta dish. Often it is the meat or fish dish, but not always.

I am so glad that we did this. We now eat all fresh produce, so that means a lot of kale and chard, potatoes, and squash. At first, I was not sure about the kale and other veggies like that, but I have found that most things are good if they are cooked the right way. For example, kale is actually pretty good if it is sauteed in butter. :)

The best part of this is that I now eat all sorts of things that I didn't before. A lot of this is dependent  on what is available locally, so we don't get much chicken, because it is not easy to get here organically, but we get a lot of beef. I eat a lot of kale, Gouda cheese, beef, cabbage, Shitake mushrooms, parsnips and salmon, all of which are in season and here organically. 

I am so glad that we did this. :) I wish there were more options like this in other areas, and I hope this model becomes more popular. 

Homeschool Fridays: Q&A Post!

This is an old Q&A post that was published in October 2012 back over on my old blog, Living Homeschooled.

I asked around on Google+ and in some past posts for questions about being a teenage homeschooler, and here's what I got. I was surprise by the turn out! If I keep getting questions at this rate, I might have to make these a regular thing!

Lewis Miranda asked-

Here. Is it hard on you, being outside the influence of school groups?

The school as a place that brings people of similar ages to a single location, where they both learn and interact. in that environment, there is good and bad. there may also be some things you would be curious about or (want) / (would like) to explore/experience.

So, what is your think on this one? What is your feel? your handling? why?

Wow, interesting question!  I think this one is a lot like many socialization questions that every homeschooler has heard many times. As far as that aspect of it goes, no, it is not hard on me. Our homeschool group has many (probably close to 50) families, with kids of all ages (17-15 months). There are lots of activities that are all ages that I participate in, and also ones for just the high school group. So as far as that goes, no, it is not really hard on me.

As far as things that I might want to experience, I have not had much trouble with that either. With such a large group, we have done a lot of classes (one mom used to make stained glass as a career and now teaches it to the older kids who are interested, another used to be a high school art teacher, and teaches that). I can also take individual classes or sports at the local high school if I want to. The only things that some of us older girls wish we had were dances and other similar formal activities. We could go to the ones at the school, but we don't know any of the people there.

Emily L. wanted to know-
 Have you ever gone to public school? What are some of the major pros/cons between the two types of schooling?
 I went to kindergarten and first grade at the local elementary school. I actually liked it, though I was really advanced in reading and writing, and so was bored a lot of the time. As far as pros/cons go, I think they are different for every family. For me, the main pro of homeschooling is that I can go at my own pace. That means that I was able to do a 8th grade level English program in 5th grade, because I was ready for it. I also spent two years doing Algebra 1 because I was not ready to move on yet. The main con for me is that it can be a bit too easy to get pretty far behind in something by just procrastinating, even if it is not really a difficult subject.

Another pro of homeschooling is that the people are a lot nicer. :) I do things with school kids sometime, and they are a lot less accepting of people they don't know. With homeschooling, at least in our group, there is a lot less pressure to 'fit in.'

These are just my personal pros and cons. They vary from family to family.

 Robin, age 11 asks

What do you do if you get overwhelmed?
The best answer  I have to that question is take a break. :) I am assuming you are meaning when I am doing my school work.

That certainly happens to me.  Usually with things like Latin, or Algebra. If I am getting frustrated, or overwhelmed with a particular subject, I will either take a 20 minute break, and read a book, or eat a snack, or sometimes do some writing. Then I come back to it. Sometimes, I am overwhelmed because I am not sure how to to do the assignment. In those cases, I put it aside until I have a chance to talk to my mom about it.

Ginger, age 8 asks

How tricky is your schooling?

Well, that varies. :) Personally, my strongest subjects are English, History, and Logic, and I think those are all pretty easy. Biology and Latin are the ones I struggle with the most. I am in my 7th year of Latin, and I found it really does not get much easier. :)

I spend about 5-6 hours a day doing my school. Those 'trickier' subjects easily take up half of that time.

Nepeta asked-

 I would like to know more about the homeschool group and how that works.

Eight years ago, when we started homeschooling, my dad was reading a local homeschool Yahoo group, and saw a few families mention that they met every week at a park. At that time, we did not know any other homeschoolers, so my dad emailed the woman in charge of them, and told her we would be coming that week. Including us, there were maybe 6 families at that time.

For about three years, that was all our homeschool group was. It grew considerably, to about 10-15 families.  Then, one of the families expressed an interest in doing a soccer class. Enough families were also interested that we rented a local indoor soccer field and hired a college student to teach us soccer one morning a week. Four years later, Friday Soccer is now a much bigger deal, with three age groups, each including about 20 kids.

About that time, one mom, who used to be a high school art teacher, decided to offer a art class to me, my sister, and the kids of a few other families. She has done them regularly ever sense. Another mom sets up a few field trips to local businesses each month. For example, last week, we toured a local apple orchard.

Basically, our group is made up of 15-20 "core families" who set up most of these activities, most of whom have been around a long time. There are other families who come to some of the activities, but are not as active in the group. 

Thanks for all of your great questions! If you have more, ask them in the comments, and when I get enough, I will do another Q&A post!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Banned Books: Part Two

 This is the second post in a series I originally wrote for my other blog in September 2012. To go to the first post click here.

Here are the top 16-30 most commonly challenged books from 2000-2009, according to the ALA. The bold ones I have read. My comments below the title. The links lead to their pages. In the case of a series, it either goes to a box set, or the first book in the series.

16. Forever, by Judy Blume
I have not read it, though I certainly intend to sometime soon.

17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
This is a very interesting book. When I read it, about a year or two ago, I found it very sad. Unlike many books, I understand why this book would be banned. At the same time, this book kind of opened my eyes to another world, which I do not think is a bad thing.

19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

 20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
 I have not read this, but I think it is really sad that cute picture books make it on to these lists.

21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
One of my favorite books. Being narrated by a little girl brings a whole new perspective to the story that makes it very memorable.

22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
I haven't read this series, and don't intend to. Rather shallow, and just not my type of thing. If I get really bored, I might check out the first book though... :)

23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
This is the first dystopian sci-fi novel that I ever read. From that point on, it has one of my favorite genres. This is a really great book!

24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
I haven't read it, but it looks cute.

 25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
I hadn't heard of this book before, but the description looks interesting... 

26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
I was eight when I read this book, so I don't remember it all very well, but I know I loved it. It is is a very moving book, and I highly recommend it.

28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
A sad, but good book. I enjoyed it.

29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
I have not read this book yet, but I intend to soon.

30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
Also on my To-Read list.

Well, that's in for today. Come back tomorrow for books 31-45. 

I have read 12/30 of the banned books reviewed so far. How many have you read?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Camp NaNoWriMo 2012: Week -1

Each of the last two Novembers, I have participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is a program where the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Each year, I have succeeded in my goal of 50k words.

Now, this April, I am going to do Camp NaNoWriMo, which is kind of like off season novel writing. Because 50k is a lot of work, and I do not have as much time right now as I did in November, I am taking advantage of the custom word count goals, and setting my goal at 30,000 words. Having done 50k twice now, I know that 30k will be very achievable, but still takes some dedication and hard work.

This last November, my novel did not go very well, and I ended up switching up ideas part way through, which meant that I did not end up with a complete novel. I think part of my problem was that I planned out my plot a little too much. Now, I know planning works well for some people, but for me, when ever I plan too carefully, I get stuck at some point and end up stalled out there.

Because of that, I am going to try going the totally opposite direction this April. I am not going to plan anything at all. I have no idea who my characters are going to be, or what my story will be about. Also, with only 30k words, I can focus a lot more on the story as I write it, since I won't need to worry so much about just getting words written.

Since I only need to write 1000 words a day, it should not be too time consuming, but it will also help keep me in the writing mood. :) They also do Camp NaNoWriMo in July, and I hope to do it then as well, probably with a smaller word count then too. That will help me stop getting too rusty by the time NaNoWriMo comes around again.

Every Tuesday from now until May, I will write a quick post about how the writing is going. I will have all the normal posts as well during that time, though many of them will probably have been written ahead of time and just be published then to give me more writing time.

Is anyone else going Camp NaNoWriMo this April?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Writing in Books

Please remember that anything you read here is just my opinion, and not a fact by any means. This is just the way that I think of books from my own reading experience. Some of my opinions are also influenced by my own, limited, writing experience. Also, if you want more info about any book I mentioned, click on the title to go to it's Amazon page. They are not all linked yet, but I will try to get them all done with in a week or two.  

6/2/2013 Edit: The link in parenthesizes will lead you to the amazon page for the title that the link is. Sometimes I was able to find that book, or sometimes, if it was a series, it will be a box set or the first book. 

In a book review I wrote recently, I talked briefly about the different kinds of writing I notice while I am reading. I thought I would go into a little more detail about that now.

First of all, I am just referring to the style, not the mechanics. I am only talking about the impression I get while reading the book, not their vocabulary and sentence structure. Also, I see this as a scale, not a set of options. Let's start on the "bad" end of the scale, and move towards the "better" books. I put those words in quotations because I am not sure they are the best words to use, but they'll have to do.

Far at one end are things like the (The Baby-Sitters Club #1: Kristy's Great Idea: Classic Edition) Babysitter Club. I mention that series because I really liked it when I was about seven, but more recently, when I picked up one of them, my inner editor nearly had a nervous breakdown. The writing was even worse then the plot, which was pretty terrible.

Then, as you move down the line are things like (the The Twilight Saga Complete Collection) the Twilight series, or Eve and Adam. With both of those books, I enjoyed them well enough while I was reading them, but then afterwards, when I thought about them, I could not think of anything I liked about them. The plot was uninteresting, the characters were mediocre at best, and the writing was nothing to speak of. Not bad, but not good either.

Now we reach the middle. I am never quite sure what to think about those kinds of books. In some ways, they are almost the best kind of books, while in other ways they are just in the middle of the pack. In this section, we many books. Things like Origin, Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson are all in this category. Actually, I think most great kids books fall in this area. These books are the ones where the writing is good, but nothing spectacular, but the plot is good. What makes or breaks a book with this kind of writing is the story. With something like Harry Potter, the words begin to fall away, leaving the story behind. These are often the fastest reads, because the words won't bog you down. You are simply experiencing the story, not the words. Other books in this category don't have as great a story as Harry Potter, and tend to fade into the background, unless they are kids books. Kids love this kind of writing, because it takes no real work on their part.

Now we move into books were the writing is better then the story. It is my personal belief that many "classics" fall into this category. One example of this is Charles Dickens. I have only read a few of his books, but in each of them, the writing struck me more then the story did. This is not to say that the story is bad by any means. I am simply saying that the writing was more impactful the the plot. These books are often the ones that can be the most difficult reading, because it is easy to get stuck on the long words, or the great descriptions, and lost sight of the story, how ever great it might be. I have done this myself several times. I will get too bogged down by the very expressive writing of something like The Red Badge of Courage, and lose interest the story, and then get bored by the whole thing. I think these books are certainly worth reading, but I think that we put a little too much stock in them sometimes.

On the end of the scale are what I would call "great books." In this category are books which have a great story, and amazing writing. I think that these books are often overlooked in favor of the ones  I described above. One book that struck me as "great" when I first read it was East of Eden by John Steinbeck. In this book, the writing as the plot work hand in hand, and are on exactly the same level. Another book I would call "great" is Louis L'Amour's The Lonesome Gods. In both of those books, it is the mixture of the writing and the story that make it great. I think the best books are not always the ones that win the prizes, or are taught in the schools, but they are out there if you look hard enough. They might not always be the easiest reading, but they are always worth it.

So there you have it. My scale on the quality of books. Do you agree with me? Do you think I put those books in the right categories? Where do you think some of your favorite books fall? If you have any more examples of any of these categories, let me know in the comments, and I will happily add them to this post. 

*This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Homeschool Fridays: Stereotypes

Seriously. We aren't. This post will be a list of annoying stereotypes that most homeschoolers hate. Some of these stereotypes are true for many homeschoolers. They just aren't true about me, or my family. Well, I might add a few that do apply, just for fun. :D Can you think of any other stereotypes? Let me know and I'll do another one of these posts.

1. Homeschoolers are all super religious, wear denim jumpers, never cut their hair, or wear make up. We also have huge families.

Um, no. I know homeschoolers like this. I know that their are lots of homeschoolers who are like this. I am not. My friends are not. Actually, no one in our homeschool group is like this. Well, there have been a few people like this who have come to park day a few times, but I think maybe we scared them away. :)

I do know several large families (7-14 kids), but most of our group has 1-4 kids. There's just two of us kids in my house.

2. We are ultra hippie, with kids with crazy names, who don't approve of modern society or learning, and homeschool to get away from all the rules.

This is like the opposite of #1. Also, SO not us. I have known a few homeschoolers who are most certainly like this. We are NOT. As for crazy names, some popular names in our group are Henry (we have two!), Isabelle (2 or 3), and Sarah (at least two). Those all sound like normal names to me. :)

3. We never leave the house, or see other kids. We never watch TV, or listen to popular music, or read popular books.

This may just be the exact opposite of me. :) Some of my favorite TV shows include Lost (I am only in Season 2), Downton Abbey, Eureka, Earth 2, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Roswell. I listen to music constantly. I love popular music, though I generally go for a more indie-rock mix. :) As for books, well, I have had free reign at the library since I was seven. My parents have never censored what I read. I read a lot, and I love it. Of course, if you have read my blog at any length, you already know all of this.

As for never leaving the house, Here is a look at my week: Monday, clean books at library with two friends. Tuesday: Host American History class (includes about 17 kids). Wednesday: Park Day, which probably has close to 40 kids some weeks. Thursday is currently my day off, where we don't go anywhere and I catch up on school work, though soon I'll have a stained glass taught by a friend's mom. Friday, Isabelle has soccer, and I usually go hang out with a friend who also has siblings doing soccer, or I talk with some of the moms, though recently I have been staying home and doing school. Weekends are usually errands and activities all day long, including Irish Dance and Choir with some friends. Don't ever socialize? I don't think so.

That's all for now. I know these aren't many, but if you think of more, let me know, and I'll do another one of these posts. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Banned Books: Part One

This post is the first in a series that I published on my old blog back in September 2012. Over the next few weeks, I will be reposting them on here. It has been edited for relevancy.

I have always been intrigued by the idea of banned books. Personally, when ever I hear that a book is banned somewhere, that makes it something of interest. I am always curious why people ban books, and it also makes me sad. Books are meant to be read, not hidden away from interested people. Many of my favorite books are "banned books," and so I wanted to share some of them with you.

Here are the top 15 most commonly challenged books from 2000-2009, according to the ALA. The bold ones I have read. My comments below the title. The links lead to their pages. In the case of a series, it either goes to a box set, or the first book in the series.

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling

This series is wonderful. While the writing may not be the best ever, the story is really amazing. One of my favorites ever.

2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
I began reading this series at the age of eight. Last week I read the newest book. This series is most certainly in my top three.

3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

 4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
 I have not read this book, but it's page looks absolutely adorable. 

 5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
I read this book this summer, and really liked it. It is sad, but it feels very, very real. This book really made me stop and think, "What would I have done in that situation? Could I have done what I had to?"

 6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou

 7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz

 8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
This series is really a bit weird. I really don't want to know what's going on in Phillip Pullman's head. At the same time, I really did enjoy it.

 9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
I read the first book in this series a LONG time ago. I did not really enjoy it that much, though now I can not remember anything about it.

 10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
I have not read this book yet, though I mean to soon.

 11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
 Again, I have not read this book, but it looks really good, and I hope to read it soon.

12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
My mom got this from the library when I was about ten. It is... through.  You can probably guess what it's about. :)

13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey

14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
A really fun book. Great for the 10-13 age range. I am pretty sure it is banned because of the language, but I honestly did not think it was that bad.

15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

 So far, I have read 7/15. Not bad. :) How many have you read?

Do you have any additional thoughts about these books? If so, post them in the comments, and I will add them to this post. I would love to have some thoughts about each book by someone who has read it, if possible.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Origin - Jessica Khoury

This book review is of Origin, a teen sci-fi novel. For the most part, this is a positive review, although I do have a few things to point out that I was not a fan of. I am not planning on going over the plot here, but if you are interested in learning more, click on the title to go to the book's Amazon page.

I liked the plot for the most part, though the ending was a bit confusing in spots. Some plot points could have used a little more explanation, and I was a bit confused in a few spots. Also, a word on timing. About half way through the book, I had gotten the impression that maybe a month had passed since the beginning of the book, but then there was a comment about it only being a little over a week. Now, was I simply wrong about what point in time she was referring had only been a week ago? If not, this plot gets a lot weaker...

The characters were quite good in my opinion for the most part. In fact, I was rather surprised by how many great, unique characters there were. There were a few times near the end where a character did something that seemed out of character, but for the most part they were the best part of this book, with one exception. The love interest had pretty much no personality. He was flat and uninteresting. I did not like him at all, and it was impossible to see what the main character saw in him.

The writing, while nothing special, was engaging. It was a quick read, and the writing pushed it along nicely. It is the kind of writing that I just really did not notice. The words were hardly there, leaving the story in my hands. This is in contrast to someone like John Steinbeck or Terry Pratchett. I know, very different writers, but with both of them the writing is almost as much of a reason to read them as the story. They both have fantastic writing that is incredibly hard to explain if you have never read them. Far on the other hand is something like the Babysitter's Club, where the writing is even worse then the story. In fact, the writing is so terrible that every time I have tried to read one of them, the inner editor in me just about had a panic attack.

Anyway, the writing of this book was the kind that faded away and let the story take over. I find that books like this are often very enjoyable in the short term, but don't always have the staying power that great writers have. One exception to this is Harry Potter. I think they have that kind of writing, but they have such a fantastic story that it does stick around.

To sum it all up: It is a good book, and I recommend it to anyone who finds the plot summary interesting. You will probably like it.

Have you read this book? If so, please let me know what you thought in the comments, and I'll add your opinion to this post.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Odyssey - Homer

You probably remember that about a month ago, I posted my thoughts after reading the Iliad. Now, after reading the Odyssey, here are some more thoughts are opinions.

Again, the point of this post is not to help you decide whether or not to read the Odyssey. With a classic like that, you can come to that decision on your own. This post is simply a collection of my thoughts on the book, immediately after reading it.

I enjoyed the Odyssey far, far more then the Iliad. For one thing, it's a lot shorter. For another, the Iliad is a lot of detailed killing, while the Odyssey is more of his deception of his family, and the telling of his stories.

I must admit, preconceived expectations really do shape how we perceive books, and this one was the same. I expected it to just be his stories, the ones we all know, starting when he left Troy, and ending when he killed all the suitors in Ithaca, and to some extent, that was the case. However, what we think of as the Odyssey: the Cyclopes, the Sirens, Circes, ect, only took up about three of the twenty four chapters of the book. Most of it was Telemachus trying to find information about his father, or Odysseus telling his stories to foreign rulers in the last few months before he arrives home, and hiding out in his court, pretending to be a beggar.

In fact, I enjoyed the book more because of this novelty. I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into, but I was wrong. It was the same story, told in a new way. Actually, told in a very old way. :)

That's it. My thoughts on Homer are now collected. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Homeschool Fridays: Soccer

This one's another repeat. 

Our homeschool group has done soccer for four or five years now. We meet at the local sports center, where we have some practice time with a coach, and then play a game.

Homeschool soccer started out with just a few families, but now has dozens. We now have three age groups (4-8, 8-11, 12+), each of which has 45 minutes with the coach (30 for the little kids), and a 45 minute game (again, shorter for the youngest ones). For the game, many of the parents play, especially with the teens, and sometimes older siblings who were not interested in getting too serious will play with the middle group.

Homeschool soccer is a great opportunity for us to get out and get some exercise, and see each other.

I didn't get too much into the specifics here, but if you are interested in more information about how we set it up, leave me a comment, and I will write more in depth about it. My goal here was just to give a quick overview of how we have organized sports like this with in the homeschool group.

This is a REALLY short post. Sorry about that. If you have a topic you would like me to write about, let me know, and I will add it to my list, unless it is something answered very easily, in which case I will just add it to a Q&A post. Those are always fun. :) I am trying to come up with more ideas for Homeschool Friday posts, so please let me know what you are curious about!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Year of Secret Assignments - Jaclyn Moriarty

At the suggestion of a friend, I recently read The Year of Secret Assignments, and very much enjoyed it.

The whole book is written in a series of letters between three sets of penpals from rival schools. This seemed to me like an idea that could have been rather lame, but turned out quite well. The characters were quite believable, and all had very different writing styles. I think that writing styles that are too similar is probably the easiest mistake to make when writing a book of that type.

The story was a bit fantastical at times, but I don't think that worked against it in the end. For most books, I think expectations make a huge difference in how much you enjoy it, and this book is no exception. I, for example, expected this book to be fun, and not too serious. As it turned out, that was a good expectation to have, because that was what it was. However, if I had read it hoping for a serious book, or a very complex plot, I would probably have been disappointed.

I guess the point I was trying to make in that last paragraph was this: This book is great for what it is, which is a fun, light read.  The characters were good, the plot was fun, and the writing was better and more diverse that I would have expected.

This is the kind of book that I would take and blow through in an afternoon. It's writing is easy to read, and the plot and characters are compelling, but not too serious. It's also a bit of a girl book. For me, all of this translates in to something that I enjoyed, but I won't make any promises about you.

If, after reading all my comments, you think it seems like the kind of book you would like, then give it a try. I do not think that you will be disappointed. If you are looking for another Ender's Game, or Alex Rider, this is probably not the book for you.

As usual, if you feel a need to understand the plot now that you have heard it deconstructed, the title of the book up at the top of the post to go to it's Amazon page.

Have you read this book, or any other book I have reviewed? If so, please let me know what you thought in the comments. I would love to put some reader thoughts right in the original posts, to help give a second or third opinion for prospective readers. I don't care what kind of opinion you have. In fact, a dissenting opinion would be more valuable for the readers.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Just a warning, this post will contain plot spoilers. If you have not read this book, but intend to, you might want to skip this post for the time being. I am going to try to put a warning up at the top of the page about that, since many of my posts are at least relatively spoilery. If you would like to get more info about The Great Gatsby, click on the title to go to the Amazon page.

I started this book with out any real expectations. I have often found that that is the best way to start reading a book. If you do not expect anything, you are far less likely to be disappointed. It helped that I didn't really know anything about the book itself.  As I read, I had many different feelings about the book, its plot, and its characters.

As I began reading, I was struck by the writing style, which reminded me a lot of J.D. Salinger. I actually have only read one J.D. Salinger book, Frannie and Zooey, but the writing seems similar to me. Has anybody else read both of those books? What do you think? As the book went on, the writing style was one of the only things I truly liked about the book.

Now, we should get into the characters, starting with Nick, our narrator. Now, Nick is on of the characters in the novel that we know very little about. As a (quite inexperienced) writer, I must say that I have tried to have a first person narrator who was not the main character, and it failed miserably. It is HARD. I think the way the Nick tells the story is also very interesting. There is obviously a lot that goes on between chapters. In fact, most of the story, time wise, is not actually even ever mentioned. The story itself is just told in a few short bursts over the course of one summer in West Egg.

Now, Gatsby is the obvious character to talk about, but I am not even sure if he is worth spending very much time on. He has been, and will be, analyzed many times over. Still, here are my brief thoughts on him. Gatsby is a fascinating character whom I managed to both feel sorry for and be creeped out by the entire book. To a certain extent, I have to feel like the way things ended for him was the best in the end. I am not really sure that he could have ever been happy, with or without Daisy. At least this way, he got to die to save Daisy, which was, in some ways, what he always wanted to do.

Then, of course, there are the symbols. I can think of many of them off the top of my head, but they are, in my mind, rather over talked about. I did like the green light at the end of the dock, mostly because that is one symbol that I think most people can empathize with. We have all felt that way. If you really want to think more about the symbols, watch these videos, which are each about ten minutes long. In them, John Green (author, and Vlogbrother), talks Gatsby. They are really very good, and also funny. Part One, and Part Two.

Enough on the book. I can't wait for the movie to come out in May! Have you seen the previews yet? If not, here it is. What do you think? Are you excited or skeptical?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Homeschool Fridays: Our Homeschool Story

Some of you may also remember this one from my old blog, Living Homeschooled. It was first published there in October 2012.

Our journey through homeschooling began eight years ago. It was the summer after 1st grade, and my dad was trying to convince my mom that I should be homeschooled the next fall. My mom was, to say the least, skeptical. She didn't have time to homeschool. She worked full time, and she knew that my dad would have no real part in it. But, eventually, he convinced her to try just one year.

So, my mom started by doing some research. She found Susan Wise Bower, and decided to use her Classical Method. That first year of homeschooling was a very strange one. Isabelle, who was four years old at the time, was in preschool. I did my work (what little I had) and read the rest of the day. At night, I did History or Science with Mom. Those first few years, I did math with my dad.

By the next year, we had really started homeschooling properly. That first year was a bit of a disaster, but things got better. By third grade, we had begun homeschooling in the way we still do it now.  I won't go into depth about any one subject, as they will all be covered sometime over the next few months.

Our homeschool group was very important to our homeschooling success. We made many wonderful friends those first few years, and without them, I would be surprised if we would still be homeschooling today. They have helped us a lot over the years.

Today, homeschooling looks a lot different for us then it did that first year. Partly, that is from experience, and partly because we are older now. We are now homeschooling veterans. We have tried a lot of programs, and found the right ones for us. We have met people who are now life long friends.

I was not sure about homeschooling in the beginning, and there have been many times in the past eight years that I have had my doubts. But, really, I am so glad I am homeschooled. I think I am a much better person because of it.

Any questions about homeschooling, or anything else? Let me know in the comments, and I will do my best to answer your question

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Reached - Ally Condie (Matched series)

Reached is the final book in the futuristic teen trilogy that began with Matched, and continued with Crossed. I won't go into too much detail about the plot here, so if you have not read it, you might want to check out the Amazon description I linked to above.

While this sort of  a review of the last book, it is also a review of the series of a whole. 

When I first read Matched, I really enjoyed it. I was not really sure where it would go after that, but I had high hopes. Right after Crossed came out, I read it and was relatively disappointed. It was fine, but certainly not as good as the first book. It was, however, good enough that when Reached came out this fall, I put a hold on it at the library. I figured that the series still had hope.

I am glad I gave it a second chance. I really enjoyed the last book. I think on of the biggest problems with the second book is that it has very little that is important to the rest of the series. I almost feel like the series would have been better with just the first and last book, with maybe an epilogue and prologue to take the place of the second book.

All in all, I would recommend this book to anyone who liked the first two. If you are just considering starting, the series, I would recommend it with a warning.

The romance, while okay, is not really that believable. The characters are all right, but not as believable as they could be either. The plot, while not airtight, had some really good parts. While I liked the original idea, I feel like the series strayed from it, not really coming back until the last part of the third book. Each book is pretty different from the last. While the first book reminded me a lot of the Giver, the last book at more of a Mockingjay feel, with some added romance. If you want to hear my main complaint about this book, go all the way down to the bottom paragraph. I put it down there to make it easier to skip if you have not read the book, and you do not want the spoilers. I am going to put a warning up in my blog header about spoilers, but until I have done that, just be warned.

Now, I have a question for you, the reader. What do you think of my style of book review? For the most part they are just a semi-random collection of thoughts about the book that I try to get written down right after I read it. But, do you have any interest in reading these thoughts? Would you prefer more traditional book reviews? Let me know, and I will try to find a method that works for all of us.

Also, why, why, why did she have to miss her chance with the Pilot? There are so many great things she could have some with him, but didn't. What I really wanted was a scene where you find out who he really is. I was hoping for Matthew (Ky's cousin) the whole time. Even if it was not him, surely she could have made it something interesting. It could have even been mentioned in the last page or two. We did not need a lengthy explanation, just something to add a little for depth to the character.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pirate Cinema - Cory Doctorow

Over the last week or so, I have been slowly reading Cory Doctorow's newest teen novel, Pirate Cinema. It quickly became my favorite Cory Doctorow book that I have read.

My first experience with his books came about two years ago when I picked up "For The Win" at the library. It was a bit slow at times, and I actually don't think I got through the whole thing, but something about it so that I could not totally forget it, or it's author. It was nearly a year later that I picked up Little Brother, but when I did, I loved it. I would highly recommend either of those books. For more on them, click on the links, they will take you to their Amazon pages.

Pirate Cinema, like Cory Doctorow's other two teen books, is a book with a purpose. Just like Little Brother is warning about what our anti-terrorism policies could turn into if they are not kept in check, and For the Win is about what could happen if our world gets a little to virtual, Pirate Cinema is a warning of what could happen if copy write laws got out of hand.

I won't go over the whole plot here. If you are interested, check out the Amazon page (by clicking on the title at the top). Instead, I will just go over the things I like about it.

Mostly, I really just liked the story. It was very unique premise, and his terrific story telling style pulled it off very well. It is a bit on the rambling side at times, but the story line was still pretty great. I almost lost interest a few times near the beginning of the book because it took a while to get to the main story. It was worth the wait, though, so keep that in mind if you give it a try.

All in all, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys futuristic stories, high tech/hacker stories, and maybe even video editing. Of course, I don't really fall into any of those categories (except for the first one, although not even too much), and I still loved it, so you might still want to try it out.

I know this was a very short book review, but I promise that more will be coming soon! If you have any questions about this, or any book I have reviewed, please leave them in the comments.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Do I Like to Write?

This is another installment in my "Why Do I Write" series. This post really questions if me liking is any part of it.

Do I Like to Write? This morning, I wasn't so sure I did. I hadn't really written anything meaningful in months, and I was questioning why I even bothered. I decided it was time to go over my various writing projects, and think about why I did them, and if I liked it. This was what I came up with.

My first serious writing project began when I was seven years old. I decided that I wanted to publish a "newspaper" for my family and friends. I went around collecting money from people, and then I went to my mom for help. She, understandably  was a little hesitant at first. She realized that she would be doing most of the work, but she still agreed. I am so grateful to her for that. For two years, I wrote articles about school, and field trips, and holidays, and books, and everything else I could think of. When I was done, I gave them all to her, and she typed them up, printed them out, and once a month, we sent out the Classical Academy News. When I was about ten, I took over the typing. I emailed the articles to her, and she formatted them and printed them out. By that time, CAN was a very different thing than when we started out.

Did I like it? Not always. I often had unmet deadlines, stuck printers, and unpaid subscriptions. So, why did I keep doing it for nearly four years? I did it for that feeling that came when I held the printed newsletter in my hands each month. It was only four pages long, and I only had fifteen subscribers, but for me, it was amazing. One time, I wrote a review of a field trip to a small, local book binding company we went on. The mom who organized the field trips was one of the subscribers, and she emailed me after she read it. She liked it so much that she wanted to know if she could send it to the book binding company to read! The feeling I got right then is why I write.

Maybe that is not really an answer to the question, "Do I like to write?" So, I'll answer it with another question, "Does it really matter if I like writing while I am doing it? Or is the feeling of success afterwards enough?"

Fellow writers, what do you think? Do you like the act of writing? Do you think it matters? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Homeschool Fridays: Socilization

Socialization. If you are a homeschooler, then you know this word all too well. You know what it means, and you know exactly how it relates to you. If you are not part of a homeschooling family, you might not understand what I am talking about. I will try to explain.

As every homeschooler knows, "socialization" is a big issue. When you tell some one that you are homeschooled, socialization is the number one issue that they will bring up. You see, most of the world seems to be under the opinion that we homeschoolers never see people outside of our immediate family. Now, I have probably said this before, and I know I will say it again: Every homeschooling stereotype (and really, any stereotype) is true about some people. There are homeschoolers who never leave the house, who rarely see other people. They, however, are not the majority, at least in my area.

Again, some people are like that, but I am not, and neither are any of the homeschoolers I know. Just to show you how true this is, here is a quick look at my week. One thing that you may notice is that a lot of the things I do are with the same basic group of people. Some people call this a problem, but isn't it pretty much the same as a class in a school. You do most things with the other people your own age, or in your own crowd.

Sunday: Dance class in the morning with six other girls (one of whom is my sister). After lunch, our homeschool Choir group meets to practice. In the evening, I go with a few friends to a class to get our first aid certification renewed.

Monday: I go to the library to clean books in the children's section with two other girls. One of them is a homeschooled friend, and the other goes to the public high school.

Tuesday:  I have an American History class led by a homeschool dad. Many homeschool friends of ours are there.

Wednesday: We go to Park Day, a large gathering of about ten to twenty homeschool families (it varies by the week, location and weather are often a factor). In the evening we go to a talk by a professor from our local University on the topic of homeschooling. It was a bit funny, a bit annoying, and just not that well thought out in my opinion.

Thursday: Many moms of the group have a Mom's Night, leaving us kids with a few of the dads, which is fun for all.

Friday: My sister goes to homeschool soccer in the morning and then goes home with some friends. I hang out at home.

Saturday: We run some errands (grocery store, library, ect.) and then go to Starbucks, where I work on my current Latin translation.

So, you see, I see other people every single day. Many of them are the same people, but that is just like being in a school. Most families in our group have similar, if not busier, schedules most weeks. Socialization is not an issue around here. When people ask, I tell them that I do things out side the house every single day. They still look skeptical? I walk away. I know that they disapprove, and I don't care. Hopefully I can soon win them other with my fantastic social skills. :)

Fellow homeschoolers, how do you deal with the socialization question? Non-homeschoolers, do you think socialization is a big deal? Do you think that we do not get out enough? What are your main concerns with homeschooling? I am curious to know what you think.