30 June 2010

The Golem's Eye

The Golem's Eye (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 2)One nice thing about reading trilogies a few years after they come out is that you can read all the books in a row and not have to wait for years to read them all (or for your turn to come up at the library).  It's particularly nice with this series because I'm really enjoying it, even this second book.  The Golem's Eye isn't just a placeholder in the series; it's not just getting us from the first book to the last one.  It's a good book on its own.

I think what I'm most enjoying about these books is that there's so much more than just the basic story. There's lots of mythology from various cultures, bits of history, and plenty of interesting social commentary. I especially like the twist of having the main characters working for the strong side. Usually you're following the underdog much more closely. And the Bartimaeus chapters are just fun whenever they come up.

25 June 2010

Elitist Ereaders

I read today about an author again accusing ereaders of being elitist (probably both the people reading and the device). I couldn't disagree more. There are a lot of things I like about ereaders, but one of things that excites me the most is their potential to get books into the hands of people who don't have access to them.

I've blogged before about how difficult it is to get books in Central Asia. There are libraries, but they aren't well-stocked and it's expensive to check books out from them. For example, in 2005 it cost 3 som to check a book out for one day. That was the same price as a bus ride. If I had to pay the equivalent of a bus ride in the US for each day I had a book checked out, it would make the library pretty much worthless to me, except to visit each afternoon to sit and read if I had time. Of course there are bookstores, but when most of your income is going toward food, books can't be a major priority, and again, the selection in every bookstore I saw was really limited.

I remember a well-off friend in Uzbekistan telling us that one of her friends got a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and the all took turns treading it. We always saw books into people's homes. Old books, yes, but I don't doubt that reading is important in Central Asia.

Cell phones would never have gotten as cheap as they have if people hadn't created a demand for them when they weren't so cheap. Now cell phones are common around the world. I don't think it's too much longer before basic ereaders start to get cheap enough that they are affordable to many people.

I'm looking forward to the day when people, even in less affluent countries, can stop in an internet cafe for a few minutes, download a few books, and read them on their ereader for less money than they could check those same books out of the library for a week. Even better, an NGO could set up kiosks where books could be transferred to ereaders, just like I can at my library.

So maybe ereaders aren't affordable right now to most people. But I think there is great potential for ereaders to change reading around the world just like cell phones can changed communication in every corner of the world.

The Amulet of Samarkand

The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1)No, I didn't read this because of the title, even though that's a fair guess.  I mostly read it because I happened to browse into it at the library and I've been meaning to read it for a long time.  I liked it, and I plan to continue with the series with the next two books sitting on hold for me at the library.  I did think it was a touch long-winded in places, but that also could have been that I read parts of it while scanning books and I was switching back and forth a lot.  But it's an interesting story with good characters and fun to read.

23 June 2010

Nothing to Envy

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North KoreaThis was an excellent book about North Korea.  The subtitle, Ordinary Lives in North Korea, is why it was so good.  Even though it's obviously about North Korea, it's really about 6 people of various ages and circumstances who lived, went to school, worked, married, and raised children in North Korea.  So often we get inundated with the craziness of the government that we forget the individual lives being lived in North Korea.  Highly recommended.

18 June 2010

More Homeschooling

I'm still trying to plan school for the next two years even though we don't know right now where we'll be living.  Of course this is just a minor irritation compared to what so many people are going through in Kyrgyzstan, but our plans have been completely thrown out the window this week.  We'll still be going to Central Asia, but probably not to Kyrgyzstan.

Anyway, here's the plan (mostly so it's stuck in one place rather than in various notebooks scattered around the house):

  • History- The Medieval and Early Modern World set. We used the related series on the ancient world this year and I was totally impressed.  The primary sources book is excellent and has lots of related reading suggestions, and each book has extensive reading suggestions.  There are also timelines throughout the books.  The reading level was a little high for my oldest son and I read parts of it out loud to him, but my middle son was fine.  The Early Modern part of the series looks to be more Eurocentric, but not overwhelmingly so.
  • Science- We'll be doing earth science and astronomy (the best year!) and chemistry.  If I can justify the weight, I'll take most of our How the ___ Works books.  I love them (here's a link to one).
  • Math- Singapore for each boy and Life of Fred.  LoF was a hit this year.  Unfortunately it's not available digitally.  We'll probably scan these books.
  • Spelling- We're trying Sequential Spelling right now with the oldest boy and he seems happy with it so far.  Middle boy doesn't really need spelling.  I like SS because it's on my ereader and it was cheap.
  • Writing- I think we'll back up a bit and do Writing with Ease 4 with both boys this year, with the Wordsmith books waiting for the next year.  Yay for digital WWE.
  • Reading- Whatever I can get as an ebook.  We'll check a lot of things out from the library, and I'm hoping Amazon will have more children's nonfiction available in the next few months, or at least in the next year.
  • Grammar- Probably continue with Growing with Grammar.  It's nothing amazing, but it's effective. Oldest son may not be a strong speller, but he's great with grammar. Unfortunately it's not digital.  I could be convinced to change to a grammar program that's available as a pdf.
  • Geography- We'll just continue with online quizzes.  Going to interesting places counts too, doesn't it?
  • Logic- Online logic games and we'll try Building Thinking Skills again.  I think middle son will like it better than oldest did.  And oldest might do better now he's a year older.
  • Latin- We did Lively Latin I this year and I liked it and I think we'll do LL2 before moving into Latin Prep.  I think waiting a year would be better for both boys, and they like the Roman history in LL.
  • Uzbek- We'll use the books we have, but since the entire family will be working on Uzbek, I'm hoping we won't need to spend too much time in the books. The two-year-old will probably learn fastest though, without even trying.

17 June 2010

A Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for LeibowitzI very much enjoyed this book.  It's very good post-apocalyptic fiction and worth reading.  Even if science fiction isn't your thing, this one should be.

15 June 2010

The UN believes the violence in Kyrgyzstan started with coordinated attacks.  The spokesman for the UN Human Rights Commissioner said
...So it might be wrong to cast it, at least in origin, as an inter-ethnic conflict. There seems to be other agendas driving it initially. But once it start to take off on ethnic lines, then of course you start to get a clear divide and tit-for-tat reactions which is what's so particularly dangerous...

13 June 2010

Homeschooling books

This is a very long and boring post about books for homeschooling history from 500-1850.   Click the title at your own risk because there are over 400 books listed here.  This is why I haven't finished any books for the last few days.  I'm hoping at least a few of these will be available on Kindle soon.


There's finally news coming in about what's happening in Osh and southern Kyrgyzstan.  There are lots of links on my sidebar.  Check Registan too. I'm far more shocked and saddened and disappointed by this than by anything that's happened in Bishkek. This is a big deal.

Since the main reason we're moving to Kyrgyzstan in a few months is to study Uzbek in Osh, we're paying close attention to this.  We'd always thought Uzbekistan wasn't an option, but we have to look into it now.  It's likely everything will settle down soon though.

10 June 2010


NIGHTThis is a good book about the Holocaust from the perspective of a teenage boy.

04 June 2010

Back to Kyrgyzstan

I know I keep saying and hoping for this since we got back from Kyrgyzstan last time, but I think we're going back in the fall.


PossessionI've thought of reading this for a long time and finally listened to it over the last week or two (it's not short). It's a good novel, one that keeps you reading but isn't fluff. It's also very well written. There's plenty more written elsewhere about this one, so go look there. I'm just here to say I liked it.

The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the DayThis book came up as an option for one of my book groups. It wasn't chosen, but since so many people talked about how much they loved the film, I rented it and watched it and loved it. It was an excellent movie. So I got the book and read it and liked it very much. As usual, the book was better, but the movie was very true to the book and I thought was just about perfect. It's not a very long book, and quick to read, and worth reading. Or at least watch it, if you haven't.