Sunday, July 27, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in Russia, A Child’s Introduction to Culture Around the World by Carole P. Roman

Next stop Russia! If you have read Carole P. Roman’s earlier series of If You Were Me and Lived in…” books you would by this time feel as though you are on a round the world tour.  All of the books in this series answer the type of questions of most interest to children.  They also teach children that no matter now far apart you live, no matter how different in looks, children and their families have more in common than they have differences with other children around the world.

I enjoy reading the books to my granddaughter, and I learn from them too. The stories about local historic buildings, foods, and holidays, and other interesting facts about local culture make these books informative and fun. In this book, I enjoyed learning about the special Russian hat, the shapka ushanka, and that my little nesting dolls are called Matryoshka dolls. 

I highly recommend all of the books in this series for parents, grandparents, schools, and pr
eschools. I would even recommend them for Sunday Schools in churches with an interest in missions to begin to cultivate an interest in other cultures.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

The first couple of chapters were a little difficult for me to get interested in because of the detailed explanations and math equations by the main character Mark Watney. Once past that, the story fell into place as it brought in the rest of the characters. Astronaut Mark Watney was left for dead on the surface of Mars – only he wasn’t dead, and a frantic attempt at a rescue effort was quickly put together. Most of the book is written diary style with Mark entering his actions, duties, and thoughts as log entries. The story is a very detailed description of the successes and failures of each step as they attempt to communicate with Mark and launch a rescue attempt. I really enjoyed The Martian and thought it was an interesting story. However, I thought that the character of Mark was a bit too flippant of his situation and too much of a jokester. I never really felt any desperation or real fear as he faced an almost certain death. The other characters in the book were not developed as much as I like, but this is a first novel. The story was good enough that I could overlook the drawbacks and just enjoy the read. I will also give it a light language warning to those who don’t appreciate the F-bombs and other various indelicacies.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

A Conversation with SpaceGeek and Science Fanatic
Andy Weir
author of THE MARTIAN
(Crown Publishers, On Sale: February 11, 2014)
Q) So it seems you’re a bit of a science geek. You list space travel, orbital dynamics,
relativistic physics, astronomy, and the history of manned spaceflight among your interests.
How did you incorporate these passions into your debut novel THE MARTIAN?

A) Those interests allowed me to come up with the story in the first place. I love reading up on
current space research. At some point I came up with the idea of an astronaut stranded on Mars.
The more I worked on it, the more I realized I had accidentally spent my life researching for this
story. Early on, I decided that I would be as scientifically accurate as possible. To a nerd like me,
working out all the math and physics for Mark’s problems and solutions was fun.

Q) In one sentence, tell us what your novel is all about.
A) It’s the story of an astronaut trying to survive after being accidentally left behind on Mars.

Q) Explain how the science in THE MARTIAN is true to life.
A) The basic structure of the Mars program in the book is very similar to a plan called “Mars
Direct” (though I made changes here and there). It’s the most likely way that we will have our
first Mars mission in real life. All the facts about Mars are accurate, as well as the physics of
space travel the story presents. I even calculated the various orbital paths involved in the story,
which required me to write my own software to track constant-thrust trajectories.

Q) What inspired you to write THE MARTIAN?
A) I was thinking about how best to do a manned Mars mission (because that’s the sort of dork I
am). As the plan got more detailed, I started imagining what it would be like for the astronauts.
Naturally, when designing a mission, you think up disaster scenarios and how likely the crew
would be to survive. That’s when I started to realize this had real story potential.

Q) Are you an advocate for a manned mission to Mars? Are you hopeful we’ll actually
make it out there sometime soon?
A) Of course I’m a huge fan of space travel, manned and unmanned. I would love to see people
land on Mars in my lifetime. However, do I think it will actually happen? I’m not sure. Unlike
the 1960s, we’re not in a race with anyone to get there, so it’s not a priority. Also, computer and
robotics technologies are leaps and bounds better than they were during the days of Apollo. So
logically, you have to ask why we would risk human lives rather than just make better robots.
Still, it would be awesome, and maybe that’s reason enough.

Q) Do you have anything in common with your wise-cracking hero Mark Watney?
A) I’m the same level of smart-ass as he is. It was a really easy book to write; I just had him say
what I would say. However, he’s smarter than I am and considerably more brave. I guess he’s
who I wish I were.

Q) In THE MARTIAN, Watney has access to his crewmates digital entertainment on Mars,
including TV episodes of Three’s Company, a variety of Beatles songs, and digital books
including The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Any reason you chose to work those specific
examples into the novel?
A) It’s a selection of things I loved when I was growing up.

Q) You’re stranded on Mars and you can only take one book with you. What is it?
A) It’s always hard to pick one “favorite book.” Growing up, I loved early Heinlein books most
of all. So if I had to pick one, I’d go with Tunnel in the Sky. I do love a good survival story.

Q) How long do you think you’d last if you were left in Mark Watney’s position?
A) Not long at all. I don’t know how to grow crops, nor how to jury-rig the solutions he came up
with. It’s a lot easier to write about an ordeal than it is to experience it.

Q) You have the chance to meet any astronaut living or dead: Who is it and why?
A) John Young. He is the quintessential astronaut. Competent, fearless, highly intelligent, and seemingly immune to stress. When Apollo 16 launched, his heart rate never got higher than 70.
Most astronauts spike to at least 120 during launches.

Q) Watney seems to be able to maneuver his way around some pretty major problems with
a little duct tape and ingenuity! So he’s a bit like MacGyver in that way. Did you watch the
show as a kid? Any favorite episodes?
A) Indeed I did! I loved that show. My favorite episode was the one where engineering students
had a barricade contest.

Q) Star Wars or Star Trek?
A) Doctor Who.

Q) Your idea of the perfect day . . .
A) Sleep in. Meet Buzz Aldrin for brunch. Head over to Jet Propulsion Lab and watch them
control the Curiosity Mars rover. Dinner with the writing staff of Doctor Who.

Q) How did you feel when your original, self-published version of THE MARTIAN became
a phenomenon online? Were you expecting the overwhelmingly positive reception the book
A) I had no idea it was going to do so well. The story had been available for free on my website
for months and I assumed anyone who wanted to read it had already read it. A few readers had
requested I post a Kindle version because it’s easier to download that way. So I went ahead and
did it, setting the price to the minimum Amazon would allow. As it sold more and more copies I
just watched in awe.

Q) Film rights to THE MARTIAN were sold to writer-producer Simon Kinberg (Mr. &
Mrs. Smith, Sherlock Holmes, X-Men: First Class). What was your first reaction? Who
should play the part of Mark Watney?

A) Of course I’m thrilled to have a movie in the works. The movie deal and print publishing deal
came within a week of each other, so I was a little shell-shocked. In fact, it was such a sudden
launch into the big leagues that I literally had a difficult time believing it. I actually worried it
could all be an elaborate scam. So I guess that was my first reaction: “Is this really happening!?”
As for who could play Watney, I think some good candidates would be Aaron Paul and Chris

Q) What’s next for you?
A) I have a few irons in the fire. There’s a long-running sc i-fi story I’ve been poking at here and
there for a while. Though based on the response from The Martian, I might go with a different
story idea I have in mind: a “science-crime” novel. Lots of problem-solving as technically savvy
criminals match wits with an equally savvy FBI agent trying to track them down.

Monday, July 14, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in…Portugal – an Introduction to Learning About Other Cultures by Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived in…Portugal – an Introduction to Learning About Other Cultures by Carole P. Roman is another in this educational series for children Pre-K to age eight.  This series teaches children about their peers around the world.  It answers questions that children would ask. What do you play with? What do you like to eat? What do you call your parents? Where would you go for fun? What kind of holidays do you celebrate?

The illustrations are bright and colorful and portray the story well.  There is a two-page pronunciation guide in the back of the book for words and phrases.  

What fun this would be for preschools or early grades for learning about the world! I can see it being used in a classroom setting with children dressing up, learning about a specific country, and then giving a presentation to the class using the words learned in the book.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Hanging Tree by Michael Philip Cash

The Hanging Tree is an interesting novella that involves a bitter curse, an old tree, a black cat, ghosts, and the lives of two teenagers.  The story goes back and forth in time so that you not only understand the teens, but also the spirits that meet them at the tree.    

I enjoyed the story very much especially exploring the relationship with the teen girl, Arielle, and her parents as she gains independence and has to make important decisions.  The bitterness and hatred that has carried over generations takes this story to fascinating places.   I thought that The Hanging Tree came full circle and ended with a satisfying conclusion.

This is a quick and fun read and would also be a great starter book if you haven’t read any of the other Michael Philip Cash book.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Crew Goes Coconuts A Captain No Beard Story by Carole P. Roman

The pirate gang is back in Volume 6 of the Captain No Beard stories.  Polly, Fribbit, Cayla, Hallie, Linus, Mongo, and of course, Capt. No Beard are all here. This time we also meet Matie the goat.

The story is about teasing, hurt feelings, and with the guidance of Captain No Beard they learn more about each other and why teasing can be hurtful. Once again, this is a fun, interesting, and entertaining book that children will love, and with an important message.  The illustrations are colorful and fun.  The text is well-spaced for easy reading.

I am not good at estimating the age groups that would be interesting in these books, but my 3 year old granddaughter loves them and I know young readers will also enjoy them.
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