Friday, July 28, 2017

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (Oz, #4)Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lot of people don't seem to like this book because the title is misleading, but honestly, I only really liked the book when Dorothy and the Wizard WEREN'T in Oz. The surrounding world beneath the Earth, and the other strange territories were super inventive and fun, and I actually think this is the best book since the first one, since the two in-between seemed more like fan service rather than actual stories. I also think the Wizard is probably the most engaging an interesting character in this series, and I hope he's in more of the future books. I really liked this one.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: The Marvelous Land of Oz

The Marvelous Land of Oz (Oz, #2)The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For most of this book, the second in the lengthy Oz series, the characters are just traveling around and arguing with each other. It's like a fantasy road trip, which the first book was as well, but at least all those characters got along with each other. Whether you like this book or not really all depends on if you like the new characters. Personally, I thought the book picked up when the Scarecrow and Tin man showed up again. But even with them, the plot is quite slim. It picks up toward the end, and like noted by many, there's a cool surprise toward the climax, but otherwise, it's pretty middle of the yellow brick road (you like that?). Since I have the first 10 books, I hope the rest have a bit more meat to them.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: The Truth

The TruthThe Truth by Jeffry W. Johnston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a teacher of seventh graders, I have a lot of students who just flat out DON'T READ. In fact, just yesterday, I had a student-a bright student, no less-who told me they hate books. I said "hate is a very strong word," and she said, "But it's the truth, Mr. Knight." (And I swear. Pun not intended). Jeffry Johnson's book, also called The Truth, is definitely not boring, and I'll be giving copies out to some of my students next year who are adamant on their feelings that reading=boring. The Truth is immediately interesting and maintains that pacing all the way through. In fact, when it's nearly over, it's ratcheted up to a point that I was literally flipping ahead to see, wait, how is this going to end? It is surprisingly complex for a YA book, and the male characters are a lot more sensitive than you often see in this medium. A five star book, and enjoyable for adults as well teenagers. Give it a read.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Review: Gathering Blue

Gathering Blue (The Giver, #2)Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I can genuinely say that this is one of the worst books I've ever read in my entire life. A companion to The Giver, my butt. This is about as close to The Giver as Big Trouble in Little China is to Buckaroo Banzai, which is to say not at all except in maybe the author's mind. The whole story, you're wondering when is this book going to actually pick up? And by the time you reach page 200, you realize that it's not, and you feel cheated. And rightfully so! The Giver was so good, and this is a boring slog. It starts out with genuine conflict, but it gets resolved in about the first 20 pages, and the rest of the book meanders. This novel is a complete waste of time. I won't be reading the next two books. I'm done with this series.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: The Last Battle

The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia, #7)The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I never read the Narnia series as a kid, so I have no real nostalgia for it. But as an adult, I can say this-It's no Harry Potter. I can also say this-It's religious claptrap. This final book goes way overboard with the Christianity, going as far to say that other religions (mostly followed by "darkies") Are wrong, and Christianity (Though never named and followed by white people) is right. And to add insult to injury, as many of the reviewers on here have already stated, not everybody gets to go to the "true" Narnia, namely one of the earlier characters in the series who, while annoying, definitely didn't not deserve to get into Heaven, er, Narnia. As for the story itself, it has some interesting stuff early on about believing in false gods and Paganism, but it all falls apart in the last act or so, which goes on FAR too long. In the end, I'd say that The Horse and His Boy and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are the only two genuinely good books in the series, and the rest feel like a waste of time. I'm glad to be rid of Narnia.

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I'm a Teacher and I've Watched 13 Reasons Why. Here Are My Thoughts

(Image taken from: The Gospel Coalition Blog)

A lot of my students love the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, and it's understandable. There's a lot of drama, and it's one of those The Catcher in the Rye kind of moments that just SPEAKS to kids of a certain age. Like, it's so profound, man. Totally. Many of my students even go the length to say, "That's my show," when they talk about it. But after watching the 13 episodes of the first season, I've come to the conclusion that it's not the kind of program you say, "That's my show" to. It's not like The Walking Dead or other escapist programming that you can like for all its gory details, or its interesting characters. It's more a brutally honest show about cyberbullying, and how it could lead somebody to commit suicide. Let it be known, this show doesn't glorify death, which I know some teachers and parents are worried about. Instead, the actual suicide is very hard to watch, and what the victim in question has to go through (I won't spoil it here) plays out in such a horrific way that you're never really enjoying it. In fact, I actually dreaded watching every episode (Though I was certainly compelled) because I didn't want to see such horrible deeds being done to the girl in question.

That's not to say that it's not all very engrossing. In fact, it was difficult to watch the show in intervals since I greatly wanted to see how it all played out, since the story is told through the lens of a likable protagonist who himself is suffering. But none of it is actually enjoyable. If anything, it's probably the best cautionary tale I can think of for why young people shouldn't bully others at this very critical time in their lives. Sure, there's a lot of cursing and drug use and even sex. And would I want my own children watching it if they were old enough to understand it? Well, not without me present in the room, which I'm sure would taint the show greatly for them. But I definitely think it's the kind of show that every young person should watch. Do the adults and teachers seem aloof to the suffering of the girl who killed herself? Sure. It certainly doesn't paint a pleasant picture of parents or guardians. But I wouldn't say that it's inaccurate.

What the show (And probably the book, which I will read soon) gets right is that teen brains and adult brains are vastly different instruments. You don't feel like the parents in the show could have done more. The story is mostly insular to that of a few individuals, so you never feel like the adults don't already have enough on their plates. In fact, that's what makes the show seem so distant from being enjoyable as an adult, and why younger people might like the drama on the show. They don't see how helpless the adults truly are with their busy schedules and lives. In that way, I think the show is majorly successful in showing how all these cues might go unnoticed since what's important for an adult is not necessarily as important for a teenager, and vice versa, even though all adults were once teenagers.

For that reason, I think all teens should watch 13 Reasons Why, even despite the questionable (Really questionable toward the later episodes) material. I liken it to The Last Temptation the Christ. The Catholic church banned people from seeing the film or reading the book, but in truth, the book is probably the most spiritual thing I've ever read outside of the Bible itself. I think a lot of people didn't even read the book before they decided to ban it, and I think the same can be said of 13 Reasons Why. Adults are telling other adults that their children shouldn't watch it, when they actually should. The message is clear and one that teenagers can understand perfectly--Everybody hurts, and abuse occurs in high school, often from ones own peers. Look for the signs of depression and take action. Nobody wants to end up with a dead teenager because nobody was watching. That's a cross nobody should have to bear.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Review: The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia, #4)The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book sucks. It's little wonder that Lewis would spend the next two books going backward rather than forward before he reached his conclusion because you could really feel that he was running out of steam with this one. The characters are either annoying or bland (Though, there is a scarecrow-esque character who provides some welcome humor), and the journey seems even more unnecessary than the last few. Maybe I'm just reading these books in the series too closely together (separating each book with just one non-Narnia book), but the charm is wearing thin for me. Harry Potter this isn't.

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