Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Boys, by Dr. Meg Meeker: A Review

This book was on my list to read last year as a book that will improve a specific area of your life. I ran out of time and didn’t get to it. It was perfect then, that the 2018 Reading Challenge list includes a book you you meant to read in 2017.

As the mom of three boys, ages 8, 7 and 5, I am always looking for ways to better relate to my sons and improve my parenting skills. This book came to me recommended by my sister who is also raising three boys. It isn’t easy raising boys, though I can’t imagine girls being any easier. Just a different kind of difficult.

The title promises to reveal “7 secrets to raising healthy boys.” As such, I expected to find practical advice I could apply immediately to my parenting. In this respect, I found the book lacking. Instead, Dr. Meeker expounds on the physical and psychological needs of boys and the many pitfalls that exist in today’s culture.

Dr. Meeker makes many excellent points on the psychology of boys, much of which I agree with. She includes at least one anecdote from her own experience in each chapter that illustrates what she is trying to convey. She also includes the results of various studies that demonstrate the negative impacts today’s culture can and does have on boys. There is much to learn here, and her unique perspective as a physician lends a degree of authority to her words.

Overall, I appreciated what this book had to say. I would have liked a little more practical advice to go along with all the wisdom Dr. Meeker shared. Still, I would recommend this book to parents of boys. There are definitely some valuable insights to be found.

The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss: A Review

For #18 on my 2018 Reading Challenge, a bestseller, I chose to read The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss. This book was already on my Year of the Series list, and I’ve been anxious to read it for some time, ever since I finished reading The Name of the Wind last year.

This series – The Kingkiller Chronicles – is about Kvothe as he relates his life story to The Chronicler over a span of three days. The first book takes Kvothe from his early childhood years through his first year at the University when he is only fifteen.

Book two picks up where the first left off, continuing Kvothe’s adventures for about another year. It had been some time since I’d read the first book, but within the first few pages of the second, I was sucked right back into the story. The world Rothfuss has created is richly detailed and full of fascinating characters.

Still, for all that I loved this book, I felt as though the story got a little stuck in the middle. There is a sequence in the middle of the book that sort of drags on in sort of repetitive, circular fashion. If that’s what Rothfuss intended, then he did it well. But I found myself bored. Things happened during this time that were (or will be, I’m certain) important to events later on in the story, but I can’t help wonder if this part could have been shorter.

Overall, this is still a great book, and I do hope Rothfuss will finish the series soon!

Thoughts on The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay & James Madison

The Federalist is a collection of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison under the pseudonym of Publius. The essays were written over the course of several months from October 1787 through August 1788, as an argument in support of the newly proposed Constitution of the United States. It’s an interesting piece of American history that joined my 2017 Reading Challenge as #3, a nonfiction book.

I think this is an important document that more Americans should read and study. It speaks of a time when the fate of this country was not at all assured. So many things could have gone differently that would have dramatically changed the course of American history, probably even world history.

From a political science perspective, it’s fascinating. These men were building a government. They were preparing to subject themselves and the American people for generations to come, to a system of law and oversight that was new and untried. Their goals were simple, if their task was not – to preserve for the American people the freedoms that had brought them here in the first place.

Thirteen years after the Declaration of Independence and the war with Great Britain, the fledgling nation of the United States was on the edge of a precipice. The thirteen separate colonies that had come together to fight for independence now struggled to work together. The government established under the Articles of Confederation wasn’t strong enough to hold the semi-sovereign states together.

Reading these papers now from a perspective of more than two hundred years removed from the events surrounding the proposed Constitution, it’s difficult to imagine what it must have been like creating a brand new system of government. Not only that, but to witness the failings of the original system and be faced with the necessity of starting over.

As I read through The Federalist Papers, I was struck by one thing in particular that I hadn’t considered before when studying the early history of my nation. The Articles of Confederation had only been in place for eight years when a convention was assembled to revamp the national government of the United States. The discussion that ensued in the earliest papers – mostly by Hamilton, though also by Jay – demonstrated just how precarious the situation had become. If something significant wasn’t done, and done quickly, the United States was about to crumble into smaller confederacies, possibly as many as thirteen separate sovereign entities.

What this dissolution would have meant for America is difficult to say so many years after the fact. I’m convinced, however, that the shape of North America would be far different today if things had continued as they were and the Constitution had not been adopted.

This wasn’t an easy read, and it certainly warrants further study. It isn’t something to pick up and breeze through just for fun. I read this book to learn something. And I think that I did. Now, I want to go back and read some of the arguments in opposition to the Constitution.

Rank the Rainbow – 2017 Reading Challenge: Year of the Series

About this time last year I began pulling together a list of books to read in the upcoming new year. I chose seventeen books off my shelves that I’d been eager to read for a long time, all of which were part of a series. I arranged them in order by color and declared 2017 the Year of the Series.

Most of the books I read were the first book of a new series, a couple of them a continuation of a series I’d already started, and in one case a book I’d read before. I rediscovered some favorite authors, and found some new ones along the way. I’ve had a lot of fun this year.

I read some really fantastic books, and though it proved difficult, I put them in order of how I would choose to continue reading the different series if given the opportunity. And so, the seventeen books from my 2017 Rainbow List:

1. Red Rising, by Pierce Brown – I would continue reading this in a heartbeat! Oh, wait! I already did. There was no way I could stop reading these books once I started. They are just that good.

2. The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss – I don’t even need to finish reading this book to know it is right here at the top of my list. I was drawn right back into this world within the first ten pages!

3. The Aeronaut’s Windlass, by Jim Butcher – This was my first experience reading anything by Jim Butcher, and it won’t be my last. I loved this book, and I can hardly wait for the next book!

4. Shadowmarch, by Tad Williams – Tad Williams is one of my favorite authors, and this series has been on my shelves for way too long. I finally started reading it, and book two will be on my list as soon as I can fit it in.

5. Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson – This was a new series for me, and one I truly enjoyed. It could honestly be a toss up whether I read this one first or the next Tad Williams book (see #4).

6. Windwitch, by Susan Dennard – I am thoroughly enjoying this series, and am only waiting to read the next one because it isn’t released yet!

7. City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare – I did manage to read on to book two of this series before I resumed my previously arranged reading schedule. I’ve been eager to return to these books ever since.

8. Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas – I loved this book even more than I expected to. It combines all the elements of my favorites genres – fantasy, murder mystery and romance!

9. The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan – This book was so much fun. I will definitely read the rest of the series! Though I may have to wait for my son to finish with them first.

10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling – This was the one reread on my list for 2017. I’m really glad I picked it up again, as I couldn’t remember reading it. I loved this book, again, and can’t wait to continue.

11. The Maze Runner, by James Dashner – Though I may have been slightly disappointed in this book, I still want to read the rest of the series.

12. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman – Another fun read that wasn’t at all what I was expecting. This was a truly fun read.

13. Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin – I loved this book. The story is intense, and well-written. Brutal, to be sure, but never boring! Nevertheless, the series isn’t complete yet, so it’s easier to not rush into the next book.

14. The Selection, by Kierra Cass – This was a fun, light read that I truly enjoyed. Though I might not have continued reading it right away if the reading prompt hadn’t been to read a trilogy.

15. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson – I had a difficult time getting into this book, but once I finally did, I couldn’t stop.

16. I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore – I had been eager to read this book for quite some time. It wasn’t at all what I expected, but I did enjoy it. I’ll read the rest of the series eventually, but I’m in no hurry.

17. Prince Caspian, by C. S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia series are classic books that almost feel like compulsory reading. That’s sort of what reading these books has been like for me. I may have enjoyed them more if I wasn’t reading through them (very slowly!) with my children.

There, in a nutshell, is my Year of the Series. So many good books out there! If only there was more time for reading!

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas: A Review

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas joined my 2017 Reading Challenge list as a book by an author I’ve never read before. This prompt is about as wide open as it could get. There are any number of great authors I have never read. But this series of books, with their beautiful covers, recently came to my attention, and I decided I must read them.

This book tells the story of Celaena Sardothien, an eighteen year old assassin who has been offered a choice, compete to become the King’s Champion and a chance to earn her freedom, or remain a prisoner in a cruel work camp. So she goes to the palace as the champion sponsored by the Crown Prince Dorian.

The king, bent on conquering all of Erilea, has banned magic. He’s brought together disreputable men, and one woman, to compete against each other for the position of King’s Champion. Contestants are to be eliminated through a series of Tests, until only the final four remain. But along the way, they begin dying. The various champions are being brutally murdered one by one.

It becomes clear that strange and dark forces are at work, and there is more to Celaena than was first revealed. Will she survive long enough to compete in the final duel? Will she attempt to escape first? Or does she have more to keep her here than she ever thought possible?

While the young adult love triangle trope may be a little bit worn out, Maas does it very well. She combines just the right amount of friendship, innocence, distrust, longing and jealousy to make it work beautifully. This book brought together elements from some of my favorites genres – fantasy, murder mystery and romance.

Celaena engages in more simpering and primping than I would have thought for a notorious assassin, and at first, this really annoyed me. And despite the almost ridiculously young age at which the characters had achieved such accomplishments as they have in this book, they are interesting and compelling enough that I could let that go.

Overall, this was a very fun read. If you love YA books, I highly recommend it. I look forward to reading more by Sarah J. Maas.

Mistborn: The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson – A Review

Brandon Sanderson has officially moved to my favorite authors list. He first came to my attention when I finally took the time to read through the entire Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. The final three were completed by Sanderson following Jordan’s death. I was a little unsure about how that would go, a different author finishing a series I enjoyed so much. But Sanderson did a masterful job with what turned out to be the last three books of the Wheel of Time. After finishing those books, I immediately picked up some of Sanderson’s own books, among them, Mistborn: The Final Empire.

It wasn’t until this year, however, when this book joined my 2017 Reading Challenge list as #12 – a book with a one-word title – that I finally had the chance to read it.

The Final Empire is a world of mist and darkness. Ash falls constantly, and hope is in short supply. The immortal Lord Ruler reigns over everything with rigid control. The nobility treat the peasant (skaa) workers cruelly. And nothing has changed for a thousand years.

Until one man rises up to change all that. Kelsier, a survivor where no one has ever survived before, pulls together a thieving crew to plan the ultimate caper. A plan to scam the Lord Ruler himself. Along the way, he recruits Vin, a girl who grew up as a street urchin. The story that follows is brilliant, deeply moving, and just plain fun.

Brandon Sanderson is a master storyteller. His characters are magnificently well-rounded, interesting and flawed people. People I couldn’t help falling in love with. And if that weren’t enough to make a book worth reading, he sets these people into a fascinating world filled with adventure, intrigue and his own brand of magic I’ve never seen before.

If you’re even remotely a fan of fantasy, I highly recommend this book.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling: A Review

I first read the Harry Potter series several years ago. However, when I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I was surprised to find I couldn’t remember reading it at all. That’s probably because I have watched the movie several times since I last read this book, and while very well done, the details in the movie just aren’t the same as they are in the book.

Initially, I chose this book off my shelves to read this year as part of my “rainbow list” having recently watched the movies (again!) and deciding it was high time I reread the books. It then joined my 2017 Reading Challenge as #11, a previously banned, or controversial book. All of the Harry Potter books have been banned, or challenged at one time or another by schools around the world. Parents and teachers concerned that the stories glorify witchcraft and promote satanism. I’m not here to debate any of that. Odds are good, that no matter what I say about the Harry Potter books, I won’t be changing anyone’s mind on how they feel about them.

Let me just tell you then how this book made me feel reading it again for the first time.

I loved this book! It is tremendously fun, and makes me happy. I think that J. K. Rowling did a wonderful job telling a great story. I’ve also developed a whole new appreciation for the actors who portrayed the characters in the movies. They did an amazing job of capturing the essence of what Rowling created.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story (not sure how that’s possible!), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the opening book in a series of seven. It introduces the character of Harry Potter and the rather bizarre circumstances of his early childhood. We get to see Harry’s dreary life as an unwanted burden on his horrifyingly ordinary uncle and aunt who took him in after the death of his parents. Harry’s life is then transformed by a letter inviting him to join Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

What follows is a terrific romp through Harry’s first year at wizard school. Through friends, enemies, adventures, mishaps and no small amount of foolishness, Harry begins to learn who he really is and what his destiny might be.

What are your feelings on the Harry Potter books? Love them? Hate them? Let’s stir up a little controversy and have ourselves a good (and civil!) debate.