Friday, February 10, 2012

4 Book Reviews! - Christian fiction, apocalyptic fiction, educational trade, and sci-fi :-P

So obviously I find enjoyment in reading a number of genres. All 4 of these books were really good although some were better than others of course... If you want more information about these books or information on purchasing them, just click on the links to head over to Amazon :-)

This novel had a truly wonderful message that is important for any and every Christian to hear and to think about. The story involves a small church in a railroad town taking the pledge to only do things both in their personal lives and business lives once they think about what Jesus would do in their particular situations. One thing that the reader needs to be aware of from the get-go though is that this novel takes place in the late 1800s and the syntax/language as well as some of the cultural norms are extremely foreign to the modern reader. This is compounded by the fact that Charles Sheldon published this book back in the late 1800s as well!! Another caveat in the drive of this story is its hardcore attack of "the saloon" as it refers to any establishment that provides alcohol. Well, we all know what happened when Prohibition actually did occur about 2 decades later, rampant crime of all sorts to keep the continued production of alcohol under wraps. So, with hindsight, this aspect of the book just seemed a little ridiculous to me. Besides that though, the focus on getting one's hands dirty to help those who are less fortunate than you was truly powerful and it was heartbreaking to see the way so many of the upper class citizens saw the poor. I can only hope that our views on the less fortunate of today are FAR different from those held over a century ago. As long as the reader keeps in mind the downfalls of this novel, then it can be an eye-opening and enjoyable read :-)

Sleepers by Jacqueline Druga (Book #9 of 2012):

This book was absolutely amazing! Talk about a page-turner! Note: it is in the apocalyptic fiction genre for those who may not be fans, but even if you aren't, I'd still give it a try ;-) It also has a bit of a zombie-ish flair, but not in the usual manner and so is extremely fresh in that regard. I just loved this novel. I always love stories, whether they be TV-shows or books, that have a random assortment of people coming together as a tight-knit family. All of the main characters were so different, but all truly loved each other in the end. It's just really heartening to see how humans can pull together like this in terrible circumstances and how we don't have to be with blood relatives to feel like we're with family (reminds me of the 4th season of the O.C. lol). So the story begins with a sickness that hits every single child across the planet at the exact same moment and from there, things just get worse. This novel tells the story of the band of people mentioned above surviving in the worst of circumstances and coming to find that the truth is NOT AT ALL what they would have EVER imagined - talk about a plot twist!!! Just read it! - I REFUSE to give too much away ;-) I can't find evidence of a sequel, but I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for one!

To start out, I wanted to go ahead and say that this is a trade book for educators. If you have no interest in the theories of education then this might not be the most engaging book for you. Personally though, I found it absolutely fascinating!!! I agree with everything the authors were portraying as the best ways to educate students. You simply have to think about how people learn in their everyday lives to have it slap you in the face that traditional schooling methods are just flat out inconsistent with being a human! Not only does this book provide solid examples of constructivist methods, but it also provides a background that helps one understand the current trajectory of schools. I recommend this book to any future educator as well as any current educator who wants to experiment with the best ways to get students engaged and truly understanding the material being taught. Essentially, knowledge is something that we individually build in our minds as a complex framework with multiple interconnections based on our prior knowledge and how we simply view the world. Transmissionist techniques of teaching take none of this truth into account. The most striking idea that this book presented, at least for myself, was that the questions we think we are asking our students may not be the same questions that they actually hear. This is simply because they are children and we are adults and we cannot expect them to see the world through the same adult filter that we have, which is why using prior knowledge and the students' points of view is so incredibly important to getting them to truly connect with academic material.

This was simply an amazing sci-fi read with an exceptional plot line and plot twist! I loved the characters and the technology that they lived with on a daily basis. I found it fascinating to learn more and more about the intricate workings of the Venutian colony. So I guess I should explain. This story takes place on Venus where there is a space colony of the best and brightest who have been taught to solve the most difficult problems of mankind. I found this very similar to my current saturation with Constructivist teaching methods which in itself was super cool! In a sense, I did see the plot twist coming, but ultimately, it blew me away regardless. I found myself staying up until 3 o'clock this morning to find out what happened!! It's been a long time since I've stayed up that late. The only problem is that I WANT TO KNOW MORE!!! There has to be an upcoming sequel otherwise the reader is completely left at a loss as to what Arik's accomplishments and care for his friends and wife eventually led to. I am gripped and truly appreciate the imagination of this author. 5/5 stars for sure!!

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