Ask the home-ed heads : What are you reading at the moment?

Please note that the links on this page lead to Goodreads, not a retail site. We will not receive any financial reward if you click through, just some joy at having stirred your curiosity.

I love a good book recommendation and am always keen to hear what other people are reading. Let’s hope that’s the same for you because today I would like to share what we are currently reading. This could be a long one as no one in this family seems able to read just one book at a time!

mumlovesearlgrey –

Not that far into this yet, but enjoying it so far. I’m a big fan of maps and all things geographical, so am fascinated to learn more about how the physical has shaped the political.

Lovely short chapters brimming with wisdom on all things home-ed, beautiful! I just love her blog too.

Interesting, enjoyable and refreshing – explores how children that are home educated learn to read.

Aside from my slight unease at the word ‘teach’ in the title, I’ve found this to be an enchanting, yet unusual, introduction to Shakespeare’s work. The book identifies and explains key speeches within a number of plays and offers useful pointers on how to memorise them, intriguing stuff.

 

Plumblepie  –

We love reading these ‘Fact Cat’ books together and are working our way through all the series. We have enjoyed many of the science and history ones so far and are particularly looking forward to the habitats, animals and geography ones next.

I picked this one out at random, from the many Mr. Men books beside her pillow. She is happily working her way through this series too. She loves having them read to her by anyone and everyone in the family, but especially Dad – it’s a bit of a tradition – he read them to her big sisters and brother, and now it’s her turn.

Yet another one that is part of a series we are working our way through. The subtitle reads ‘A magical journey through five Monet masterpieces’. Lovely.

 

Pteroturtle –

A beautiful book we are reading together, whenever we can, snuggled up on the sofa, often with the plumblepie too.

Number 13 in the series. Pteroturtle loves this bear.

An audiobook – the entire series are on a permanent loop in this boy’s room, such joy!

 

artybaker –

Reading this one for a group read and a read-a-thon on Goodreads, along with sophofbread. I hear them chatting about this lots round the house at the moment.

One of her favourite books, she is currently annotating a copy and enjoying it one more time.

She’s a real Bate fan.

A classic Chinese science-fiction apparently, in audiobook format.

 

sophofbread –

Reading along with a group on Goodreads and artybaker too. This is a re-read and she tells me that she is enjoying it even more than the first time.

Studying this one for a course.

In audiobook format. I love this book and am looking forward to hearing her views on it.

We are buddy reading this one, a re-read for me and first time for sophofbread. The story of an extraordinary life told by the man himself – inspiring!

Another buddy read with me. Some interesting parts describing local wildlife and geology, some tedious parts and some shockingly outrageous parts so far!

 

Thanks for reading. Wishing you a wonderful week where you have lots of time to enjoy a good book. We would love to know what you’re reading at the moment, let us know in the comments below.

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Top Eleven Books I Read in 2015!

Hellooooo! It’s artybaker here – sorry I haven’t posted on this blog in a while. I’ve been pretty stuck on ideas and everything I could think of just felt pointless, so I really wasn’t motivated to write on here. However, recently me and my fellow Home-ed Heads have been bouncing ideas off eachother and it’s really inspired me. My new resolution is to do at least one post a month on this blog in 2016. I know this isn’t much, but I want virtually zero pressure because my posts are probably just going to be little fun stuff that I think up randomly, and I don’t want it to become a chore or anything like that.

Anyway, onto today’s post – last year I read 95 books, and it was an amazing reading year for me. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favourites of the year in a blog post, so that’s what I’m here today to do! I do want to do more book-related posts in future so hopefully this list will give you an idea of what kind of books I like and what I’ve been reading recently. Disclaimer: I know ‘Top Eleven Books of 2015’ doesn’t roll of the tongue as well as ‘Top Ten’ but I couldn’t narrow it down! I read too many awesome books this year! Also, these are unranked and in no particular order. I will be putting links to the books on Goodreads below in case you want more info on them. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

~ Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis ~

There’s a couple of Middle Grade/Tween books on here so let’s get this one out of the way first. Even though I’m now 15 and technically out of the age range for this type of book, it remains my favourite genre just for the fun and the friendship involved. You can also find a lot of family aspects in this genre which I really enjoy. Kat, Incorrigible is an excellent example of all three of these things.

This book follows twelve-year-old Kat as she discovers her mother’s hidden legacy as a magical guardian and determines to use the magic herself to save her family’s honour in strict Regency society. Kat is literally my perfect protagonist for this type of book and I LOVED the relationship she had with her sisters. They were just as developed characters as Kat was and they acted like real sisters, which, having two sisters myself, was so enjoyable. I don’t usually like books set in the Regency period and I’m not a huge magic fan either but both were brought to life in a very entertaining and captivating way in this book, so I was definitely on board. This is the first book in a trilogy and I can’t wait to see what the next two have to offer!

Goodreads |

~ Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck ~

This next one is a classic I read for an English Literature GSCE I’m taking in June. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I ended up loving it to pieces and have since read it again and enjoyed it even more. It follows two friends – George and Lennie – who are looking for work as ranch hands during the Great Depression. George is logical and serious, but Lennie is big, curious and forgetful – a combination that has a tendency of getting him into trouble. The book begins with George and Lennie arriving at a new ranch they’re going to work at, then follows the friendships and feuds that they encounter there. It’s a tale of loneliness and unrequited dreams, but also of prevailing friendship. I found this book heart-touching, and Steinbeck’s views on racism, sexism and what those prejudices do to a person were truly fascinating.

| Goodreads |

~ Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray ~

This book is the second in a YA Sci-fi trilogy about jumping through different ‘dimensions’, which are basically parallel universes. I also read the first book this year, which I loved too, but this was my personal favourite. That book is called A Thousand Pieces of You, and I believe the series is called the Firebird Trilogy. There was a lot of hype surrounding the first book when it came out and I must say I wasn’t really interested, but a friend on Goodreads recommended it to me and I was looking for a new audiobook, so I decided to give it a go.

I’m really glad I gave this series a chance because in lots of ways it’s restored my faith in the Young Adult genre, which does often repeat some annoying tropes. One such trope is the love triangle, which this series does have, but the two guys involved are very realistic and likeable, and I trust in the girl, our main character, to make the right choice and not be an idiot about it. 😀 Family is a big part of this series, which I love, and they’re also a home-educating family, so extra points for that. It’s not the typical innocent-introvert home-educated main character you sometimes get in YA either – they’re a close family, the parents are responsible and the kids are smart. Tavia Gilbert’s narration of the audiobooks is one of my favourites I’ve come across and although I found her overly-posh interpretations of English accents a little annoying, her flawless Russian ones made up for it and she brings so much emotion into her narration which I love. Oh, and the science is EPIC. I could sing this book’s praises all day but I think we should move on.

| Goodreads |

~ The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney ~

This is again a sequel – the ninth in a series, in fact! The Diary of Wimpy Kid series is a hugely popular series of kid’s books about Greg Heffley, a self-described wimp, and his adventures through school and life with his crazy family. This book follows Greg and his family on a holiday they won’t forget. I’ve always enjoyed this series and although I can’t really remember much of the previous books, I think this is my favourite. Just the picture on the cover is really nostalgic for me about holidays with my own family. I’ll admit as the book goes on, it gets very unrealistic and frankly ridiculous, but it was all the more hilarious because of it. I read this book in one go, which is extremely rare for me, and was laughing the whole time.

| Goodreads |

~ King Lear by William Shakespeare ~

A bit (OK, a lot) of a change of tone here. I always thought I would hate Shakepeare but a little more than a year ago I stumbled upon his works and decided to give it a try. Since then I’ve become a massive Shakespeare nerd and have read seventeen of his plays. This was one of the nine I read in 2015 and it is now my favourite of his tragedies. If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, it’s basically about an ageing King who decides to split his lands and his fortune between his three daughters before he dies. The eldest two seize upon the opportunity and start showering him with praise and telling him how infinite their love for him is. The youngest however, Cordelia, tells him she loves him just as much as a daughter should love her father and isn’t going to lie about it just for the sake of money and power. This enrages her father and shocks her sisters, and begins a story of betrayal, madness and quests for power.

I thought the story was very interesting in this play, the language was exquisite and I was fascinated by all the themes Shakespeare brought into it. I loved following Lear’s journey through the play and Cordelia’s good-hearted strength as well as her sisters’ ruthless cruelty made them great characters to read about. A very worthwhile read.

| Goodreads |

~ Ready Player One by Ernest Cline ~

This one has been very, very popular in the book community over the past few years. I heard it was a great book and it was all about videogames and anything and everything nerdy, and was basically like sign me up! This book takes place in 2045, where the planet is pretty much a wreck, but the virtual world is thriving, all thanks to one virtual reality program named the Oasis, which offers salvation to almost everyone from their frankly messed up situation. However, after the creator of the Oasis dies, he leaves behind a trail of Easter Eggs within the game which, if found and completed, mean that you have control over this billion-dollar virtual reality. Our protagonist, Wade Watts, is one of the million trying to complete the Easter Egg Hunt and gain ownership of the Oasis, before the power-hungry big companies get there first.

This was another one I listened to on audiobook (narrated by Wil Wheaton, who did a stellar job of it), and I was in love from the beginning. I’ll admit it’s not the most perfect book ever, but I just rolled with the entire thing and had a blast because of it. As well as all the videogame elements, there’s a lot of references to ’80s pop culture, so if you’re into that I definitely think you’d enjoy this book. I knew next to nothing about the 1980s beforehand but it was all super interesting anyway and this is a book I continuously think about.

| Goodreads |

~ Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen ~

I read quite a bit of non-fiction, but this is the only one that made it to this list for last year. It’s the true story of 14-year-old Maya, who finds a old book on popularity and self-confidence in her attic and decides to apply it’s advice to her modern school situation for a whole year and see if it makes her ‘popular’. Being around Maya’s age when I read this, I found her extremely relatable and admirable. She relates the results of her social experiment in a mature and entertaining way so that you really feel like you’re on the journey with her. She was extremely brave and determined to do what she did and it was a joy to read about. I will say that I found the chapters on the more social parts of the experiment a lot more enjoyable than the beauty ones, but those definitely still held a place in the book so it was all good. This was another audiobook, this time narrated by Amber Faith and Lee Adams, and I loved how much both narrators seemed to understand the tone of the book and the people they were representing (Faith narrates Maya’s parts and Adams reads the extracts from the popularity guide Maya uses).

| Goodreads |

~ William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher ~

This one’s a bit different. This is the sixth in Ian Doescher’s retellings of the Star Wars movies in Shakespeare’s language. That’s really all I need to say to describe it, and as a Shakespeare and a Star Wars nerd, I think it’s needless to say I looove this series. I’ve only read the retellings of the three originals so far, and as Return of the Jedi is my favourite movie of those three, this was my favourite book. It’s hilarious reading these timeless characters speak in ‘thou’s and ‘doth’s, and the author often adds in little inside jokes about Star Wars or plays on famous quotes from Shakespeare. What I loved particularly about this book was the interpretation of Leia (it really made me appreciate how brilliantly strong a female character she is) and Darth Vader (his character development in this book… beyond compare).

| Goodreads |

~ More Than This by Patrick Ness ~

Moving on, this is another YA standalone that’s got a lot of buzz over the years. All I needed to hear was that it’s supposed to blow your mind, and I was in. I’m also really into books about ghosts and the afterlife and all that stuff so that’s another reason I wanted to read this. It follows a teenage boy named Seth who, at the very beginning of the novel, dies. Then he wakes up in a strange, deserted, eerie version of his old home. The rest of the book follows his journey into discovering what happened to him, how he’s here and what this place is.

I went into this book wanting to have my mind blown, and it so was. I will say that the first 200 pages or so (it’s a long book) could be quite slow and uneventful, but looking back I think it added to the effect of the book and was realistic considering that Seth was alone and confused and meant to be dead. The second half was utter perfection and I absolutely loved the side characters of Regine and Tommy. I am still haunted by this book, but in a good way, and am definitely going to pick up more Patrick Ness in the future.

| Goodreads |

~ Spooktacular by Sienna Mercer ~

This is a bit of a weird choice since it’s the seventeenth in a series, but I couldn’t not include it! This, along with the Harry Potter series, is my favourite book series of all time and was what got me into reading in the first place. The series is called My Sister the Vampire, the first book being Switched. It’s a Middle Grade series centering around vampires, but it reads like a Contemporary or a Chick-Lit book, and is a bunch of fun. The main characters are two twins, Olivia and Ivy, and in the first book, perky cheerleader Olivia moves to a new town and on the first day of school, meets gloomy goth Ivy, who is, by the way, a vampire! The two soon become friends and discover they are long-lost twins. The rest of the books follow their adventures into discovering their biological family, protecting the vampire secret and just living their crazy lives.

This book, Spooktacular, introduces ghosts into the series, though I won’t say more than that to avoid spoilers for the previous books. The last couple of books before this have been my least favourite in the series, and after over a year without news of a new book we were left wondering if that was the end of the series. However, Sienna Mercer made a fierce comeback with this book, which I think brought the series back to it’s roots (not that it actually ever strayed that far) with cute family moments and paranormal fun thrown into the mix. There was also an EPIC cliffhanger at the end and I am literally dying of excitement for the next book to come out.

| Goodreads |

~ The Ladies’ Paradise by Emile Zola ~

This last book I’m going to talk about is another classic. Mumlovesearlgrey and I like the BBC TV show, The Paradise, which was based on this book. When we started watching it halfway through the second series, it was full of romance so it was more of a guilty pleasure for me than quality television, so I wasn’t sure how much I would like this book. Since then, though, we’ve been watching the show from the start and it is more than just affairs and kissing and there is quite a lot about the shop and how they run it and stuff which is interesting. The same is true of this book. It follows Denise, who comes to Paris to stay with her Uncle and gets a job at ‘The Ladies’ Paradise’ which is one of the first department stores in the world.

The biggest thing I got out of this book was the incredible intrigue on capitalism and the whole big shops vs. local shops debate, right where it all began. Denise was a fantastic main character and I loved her cousin Geniveve and her storyline, which was left out of the TV show unfortunately. The writing was great too and I really liked how the romance was done. I’m very interested to check out more Emile Zola in future.

| Goodreads |

So that’s my whole list! Like I said before, 2015 was a great year in reading for me and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings in books! Hope you enjoyed this post – see you next time! 🙂

Poetry Teatime

Hello all!

Today I wanted to share with you our experiences of ‘Poetry Teatime’. Recently we have really been enjoying poetry, mainly classic poetry (ie. old poems) where sometimes the meanings aren’t quite plain to see.

mumlovesearlgrey got the idea for our Poetry Teatime from this post over at bravewriter.com, although now reading this post myself our Poetry Teatime isn’t much like how it is described over at Brave Writer! For one thing the post from Brave Writer says “There is no need to analyze the poem. This is a delight-driven practice. Enjoy the poem. Laugh at its humor, enjoy its rhythm, listen to the rhyme. You might comment on it, but that’s not required.” However we’ve found that discussing the poem increases our enjoyment of it. It really depends on the people taking part in your PT.

So how do we enjoy our Poetry Teatime (PT)?

On a rotation based system artybaker, mumlovesearlygrey and I (Dad has been at work for all of our previous PTs, hopefully he’ll be able to join us soon! pteroturtle does join us but doesn’t want to pick a poem himself) take it in turns to host. The host chooses a poem which means something to them, then prints out enough copies for us all to have one. Grab your pen and Poetry Teatime begins!

From here on out how the rest of the session goes really depends on who’s hosting and what they had in mind. First week I was hosting and I choose Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’. During that session we were simply discussing what we thought the poem was about, what some of the specific lines referred to, talking about the symbolism of the raven and marking of any points of interest (which turned out to be most of the poem). For the second week, artybaker hosted and she picked William Shakespeare’s ‘When My Love Swears/Simple Truth Suppressed’. She spiced it up a little bit by bringing two versions of this poem. One was published about 10 years before the other by someone who had stolen in from Shakespeare, the second was a Shakespeare approved version. Scholars like to compare the two to see how Shakespeare’s writing style changed over the course of the decade. We had discussions comparing the two versions and what the poem/s were about.

Our PTs are focused on sharing and enjoying poems. Sometimes it takes a little bit of discussion/analysis before you can fully appreciate a poem. Poetry isn’t for everyone but I urge you to give it a try.

 

‘A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens’ Book Review

A Tale of Two Cities is a stunningly beautiful read. Having only read Great Expectations years ago (so long ago I can’t remember it) I didn’t have any idea what to expect from Dickens. The edition I have is second-hand from the bookshop and I love the size, smell, text and look of it so I really wanted to like what was inside…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”

The book starts off with this classic quote. By the end of the first page I was already spell-bound.

‘Is it not boring because it’s old?’
No! Someone asked me this and they couldn’t have been more wrong. A Tale of Two Cities had me gasping from beginning to end (particularly the last few chapters). As more and more of the story is revealed you see things beginning to come together and connect. So. Damn. Clever.

‘Isn’t Dickens hard to read?’
Again something someone asked me. Initially, yes I had some trouble with understanding what was going on which is why I bought the Cliffs Notes: Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Once you get into the story however I found that I was only reading the Cliff Notes for the extra little nuggets of gold (like the times when it compares certain conversations to something that happened earlier in the book – things that you might not recognise). This book requires concentration to read, yes, but I think most books do. If you’re having trouble understanding it then do what I did. I read the Cliff Notes referring to the chapter I was about to read and then I read the chapter, then Cliff Notes, then chapter etc. Towards the end when I didn’t want the story spoiled before I had read it I switched around so I’d read the chapter and then the Cliff Notes referring to it.

This book was so enjoyable. I would recommend it to 15-150 year olds. Don’t be put off by the label ‘classic’. Just enjoy this book for what it is; a magnificent work of art that deserves to be read no matter what the year whether it’s 1859, 2014 or 3206.

 

See my other book reviews here.

The French Revolution

So sorry for not doing a post in AAGESSS! This holiday has been so crazy, constant visitors with only a few days rest bite during which we’ve had to do some mad cleaning and washing. Any thought of any blog posts have been lost in the whirlwind of holidays. Annnyways…

Recently I started reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens which is set before and during the French Revolution. While reading I relised I don’t really know much about the French Revolution. So project alert! To start me off I decided to do a little Who, What, Where thing (like I did for the hiroshima bomb). Here it is, hope you can read it:

the french revolution

Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed!

sophofbread

Goodreads Reading Challenge

“And tell them all about the books you’ve read. Better still, buy some more books and read them. That’s an order. You can never read too many books. ”

Hello everyone,

That quote was from a book I have just finished reading – The Akhenaten Adventure (Children of the Lamp #1) by P.B. Kerr. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it. The last post on this blog was artybaker’s Books, Books, Books post and as we all love books here at home-ed heads I thought it would flow nicely into a post about Goodreads, specifically a post about the Goodreads reading challenge.

The Goodreads reading challenge is a very satisfying way to challenge yourself to read a number of books in a year (the great thing about it is that you pick how many you read). This is my second year and last year I decided to read 50 books and I read 60! This year I am challenging myself to read 50 again because I have narrowed down what I’m allowing myself to count as a book. Last year I read ‘I’m not Santa’ to plumblepie which is a 10 page picture book and I counted that (oops!). artybaker has challenged herself to read 36 (which is 3 a month) and mumlovesearlgrey has challenged herself to read 15 books. At the time of writing I have read 9 of 50 which means I’m 6 books ahead of schedule.

The most satisfying thing about the challenge, I think, is how it looks. On your goodreads homepage (when logged in) you see this snippet

goodread ss 2

and when you click on view challenge and then view books you can see the covers of all the books you have read so far. You can decide whether to count a book on your challenge by setting the date read, if you leave that blank then it won’t count towards your goal. Capture

There are lots of other things to do on Goodreads such as:

  • Taking/creating quizzes on all your favourite books
  • Read/write reviews on all sorts of books from fiction to non-fiction, ‘I’m not Santa’ to ‘The Complete Works of Shakespeare’.
  • Join online book groups
  • Discuss books you have read/want to read
  • Find great quotes
  • Make/read lists (e.g. Books people should read at least once, Good Cook Books)
  • Get book recommendations

To get you started I have tried to come up with some great books from some different genres.

Children – Switched (My Sister the Vampire #1) by Sienna Mercer (If you have read and enjoyed this series or Sienna Mercer’s other series, My Brother the Werewolf, then you may like to join artybaker and me at our book club on goodreads – My Sibling the Mythical Being)
Young Adults – The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride #1) by James Patterson
Dystopian – Gone (Gone #1) by Micheal Grant
Cookery – Step by Step Baking by Caroline Bretherton
History – The Story of Britain by Patrick Dillon and P.J. Lynch
Science Fiction – Spy in Space (Scott Saunders #1) by Patrick Moore
Ebooks – James Potter and the Hall of Elders’ Crossing (James Potter #1) by G. Norman Lippert
Sports – Up Pohnpei by Paul Watson
Hope you enjoyed reading this post and it will inspire you to read some more books this year. Thanks for reading,
sophofbread

Books, Books, Books!

Hey everyone, this is artybaker. I’ve had a lot of trouble coming up with a post for this week (well, last week: I didn’t manage one last Monday) . But then I came up with this. It came to me because I’ve been reading LOADS this year so far and I’ve sort of realized how much I love books! So in this post I’m going to do a bit of an article on books past and present, and hopefully teach you a thing or two about them…

What is a book?

Here is the Oxford Dictionary definition for bookn. a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers.

The History of Books

Writing with words was first recordedly invented about 5000 years ago, in around 3100 BC by the Sumerians, who lived in Sumer which is located in modern-day Southern Iraq. At first people recorded events and wrote tales on carved clay tablets. However, this can hardly be regarded as the first book, as there were no pages.

The Egyptians made papyrus roll from a plant native only to the Nile Valley. In 500 BC it began to override the clay method, although some people still used clay tablets for the next 500 years. Today’s form of paper was invented in China in about 105 AD and was first made with bark and hemp. This method spread to Japan around 610 AD, then to the Arab World. From there, it was introduced into Europe via Spain, but paper was not actually made in Europe until 1276 (in Italy) and not in England until 1495.

Today’s form of book – with turn-able pages and a protective cover – is called a codex (pl. codices) and was invented by the Romans evolving from wooden tablets. The first description of the codex book was written by Roman poet Martial in the 1st century; he described it’s convenient use. Within 200 years of it’s invention, the codex book was being used all over the world and the age of wooden and clay tablets was long gone. Some associate the popularity of this form of book with the Bible being printed in this way.

Today’s books

The codex book has to be one of the most successful inventions of all time, because it is still enormously popular 1900 years after it’s invention. Here are some facts about books:

  • In 2010 it was estimated that there were almost 130 million books in the world.
  • The average person reads around 5 books a year, but it is very hard to judge because lots of people read no books at all, and some read hundreds in one year.
  • The average novel contains 80,000 – 120,000 words.
  • The average novel contains around 600,000 letters.
  • The best selling book of all time is the Bible, but excluding that, it is A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
  • The longest book of all time is Artamene ou le Grande Cyrus by Georges and Madeline de Sculdery. It has approximately 2,100,000 words and 13,095 pages.

Here are some quotes about books:

  • “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” – George Elliot
  • “A room without books is like a body without soul” – Cicero
  • “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx
  • “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges
  • “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them” – Lemony Snicket
  • “Books are a uniquely portable magic” – Stephen King

Our form of book has not changed for 1900 years. But the invention of the electronic book (commonly known as an eBook or e-book) in 1971 changed all that. Is this the start of the end of the codex book???

Thanks for reading! I should be back with a baking post next Monday.