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YA Book Review: Lastland

02-02-16

Lastland by A.R. Ivanovich
This final installment of The War of Princes cracked straight open full of action and kept you pretty much on the edge of your seat from that point on.  The tightly-woven tale of Katelyn Kestrel draws to a close with quite a bang.  Prince Raserion and Prince Varion have reached Haven despite all of Katelyn’s previous attempts to keep them out.  With her sidekicks, Rune and Dylan, Katelyn hurries back to Haven to try to stop it from being destroyed.

But Rune is still struggling with the shadows.  And Dylan is still struggling to be good.

It’s a perfect recipe for all hell to break loose, and it does–with vigor.  Ivanovich’s writing transports once again.  Lastland delivers just as well as its predecessors, if not better.  I wasn’t really surprised by the ending, but it was so beautifully wrought I freely admit to tearing up as I read the last page.  And the epilogue?  The story was so action-packed and fast-paced that I had completely forgotten the loose end addressed in it, but that made me smile all the more as I read the final words.

As ever with these books, if I tell you too much, I’m giving too much away.  Just believe that this is one of the finest fantasy series I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.  It has settled into place beside The Hunger Games, Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky, and Scott Westerfield’s Uglies on my heart shelf of YA Books I’ll Never Forget.  There is nothing like an invented world that makes you Believe.  And this one did.

Putting down the final book in The War of Princes was like saying goodbye to an old friend.  Or, well, more like ‘so long.’  I’ll be reading them again soon.

I hope you will, too.

Love wins,

KT

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4 (Great) Ways to Add Lit to Your Homeschool

Sometimes it seems impossible to achieve all the many things we want to accomplish in our children’s educations.  It’s a daunting process–ensuring you are teaching them the best way, the best topics, the best preparation for the real world.  One way you can’t go wrong is by making literature an important part of your homeschool.  As far as I’m concerned, any kind of literature, from the classics to the modern, the literary to the comedy.  Classics and literary books teach language and grammar, history and creativity.  Modern books can help your littles learn to navigate the complex world we live in (even funny books can do that).  Whatever they’re reading, just be sure they’re reading.  It may seem like one more task to heap on your already full plate, but here are 4 easy ways to fit it in every single day.

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1.  READ ALOUD TOGETHER

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, reading aloud together benefits your kids at all ages.  You can read aloud to them, which lets them relax and really put their imaginations to work.  You can have them read to you, which helps them learn to pronounce words correctly, sound out unfamiliar words, and get comfortable with some aspects of pubic speaking.  You can do both.  It’s completely up to you.  We read a chapter a day aloud together here at Lit Mama, and we kind of mix it up.  Some days the boys take turns reading alternating pages, some days I read to them, and some days all three of us alternate.  I don’t intend to take reading aloud out of our curriculum until they’ve graduated.  It is a time during our school day that is almost outside everything else.  We are transported to another world, have discussions that don’t feel like learning, and get to focus on being together.  Some days we read aloud in our classroom, some days we cuddle up on the couch for reading.  It’s probably our favorite time of the homeschool day.

2. ASSIGN PARTICULAR BOOKS FOR YOUR CHILDREN TO READ ON THEIR OWN

Another way I make sure they get plenty of reading in is to assign them extracurricular books each year.  They have a specified time in which to read them, then they have to give me a book report.  Then it’s on to the next book.  This has worked so well that they have both begun to read novels well beyond their ‘grade level’ (whatever that is) on their own.  On top of their assigned books and the book we are reading aloud in class.  Makes me one proud mama!

3. ASSIGN A SPECIFIC AMOUNT OF TIME FOR DAILY READING

You can end your school day with half an hour of required reading.  Or 15 minutes.  Or an hour.  You know your kids best, you know how long they’ll be able to sit still.  Always add five minutes to that number.  It teaches patience.  This will not only keep them reading, it might give you the time to finish the dishes.  Or check your email.  Or close your eyes and breathe.  The Littles are allowed to read their assigned books whenever they want, so long as they finish them within the allotted time.  You can bet your boots I had this idea on standby, though, in case they blew it off.

4. USE LIVING BOOKS IN YOUR CURRICULUM

Living books are simply books that teach in a more conversational way than texts.  They often come across more like stories than factual material, but they are, indeed, full of facts about the subject.  You can go over to Simply Charlotte Mason for a list of hundreds of living books separated by topic, or you can troll your own library for books that are both fictional and factual.  I hate to harp on Charles Dickens again (okay, no I don’t), but A Tale of Two Cities is a great resource for the French Revolution.  You might be surprised at how many novels are also teachers.  Watership Down is full of real information about rabbits.  The Wind in the Willows teaches about river wildlife.  Catching on?  Yeah, that’s the stuff.  That is definitely the good stuff.

MAKE SURE THEY ARE REALLY READING

There are several ways you can do this.  Have them keep a simple reading log.  Have them write book reports, like I do.  The Littles have to write them in essay form now, but I made up a book report form that they had to fill out in past years.  It’s available as a free download on my Freebies page (scroll to the bottom; I swear, it’s there!).  You could also use a blank notebooking template and have them notebook their books as they read.  Any of these suggestions will not only show you that they’re reading, but help them more fully comprehend what they’re reading about.

Here’s the thing.  You know I crush on literature more than anything else in the world.  That is because I fully believe that no matter how educated I am through schools, nothing I learned in college or anywhere else compares to what I’ve learned from being a lifelong reader.  Engender that in your littles, and you will have given them the greatest gift imaginable–the ability to think intelligently and speak with knowledge.

Now That is the stuff.

Love wins,

KT

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Teach Them to be Wordsmiths

As we meander through Asia this year, I have happened upon a book that is perfect for our purposes, quite by accident.  I knew this book existed, but it hadn’t occurred to me to include it in our studies.  Fortunately, the Fates were with me, and we have begun reading Memoirs of an English Governess at the Siamese Court by Anna Leonowens.  The book the King and I is based on.  Fabulous.  I got it for a couple bucks for Kindle, and since the Littles’ tablets are hooked to my Kindle account, we can all read along together.

King and I

When I came across it, I had no idea the luxe world of words I was getting us into.  But I am quite satisfied with the result.  See, Anna wrote her memoirs in the mid-19th century.  The century that gave us Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, and the Romantic poets.  A time when the only form of long-distance communication was letter writing and authors were True Wordsmiths.

Credit line (HTML Code): © Iurii Sokolov | Dreamstime.com Title: Old love letter Description: Love letter and antique quill on a black background Photo taken on: March 26th, 2010 ID: 13697480 Level: 3 Views : 389 Downloads: 5 Model released: NO Content filtered: NO Keywords (Report | Suggest) fashioned pen paper nostalgia copy old history handwriting love quill romance calligraphy letter manuscript antique mail reading retro writing memories

The definition of a wordsmith is a skilled user of words.  One of the reasons Charles Dickens is my Dead-Author Boyfriend is that he was, indeed, a skilled user of words.  Luxurious, meaningful, true words.  The kind that rarely get used in today’s mass market writing world.  The kind that a lot of kids today have replaced with acronyms and misspellings.  I love reading 19th century books because I am taken back to a time when words meant something, when they could be truly tasted and savored as they were read.  I want my Littles to have that same experience.

Anna Leonowens was a true wordsmith.  Take a look at this sample in which Leonowens is describing her first view as her ship leaves the ocean to enter the Meinam River:

On the other [bank], which at first I took for a floating shrine of white marble, is perhaps the most unique and graceful object of architecture in Siam; shining like a jewel on the broad bosom of the river, a temple all of purest white, its lofty spire, fantastic and gilded, flashing back the glory of the sun, and duplicated in shifting, quivering shadows on the limpid waters below.  Add to these the fitful ripple of the coquettish breeze, the burnished blazonry of the surrounding vegetation, the budding charms of spring joined to the the sensuous opulence of autumn, and you have a scene of lovely glamour it were but vain impertinence to describe.

Vain impertinence, indeed.  Have you ever read a description that took you Straight There any better than that?  This.  This is what I want my Littles to learn about Asia.  How it inspires such words.

The other thing I hope they learn from reading this book is how to use words to say what they really mean.  There’s nothing I hate worse than when I use a word that means what I’m saying and a listener acts like I’m the idiot for using it, when he is the one who doesn’t understand it.  Let’s keep it simple and say I use the word, ‘hulking.’  And someone says, “What the hell does that even mean?”  And I say, “You know, big and imposing.”  And they say (condescendingly), “Why didn’t you just say big?”  Well, because I didn’t mean big.  I meant hulking.  And how am I the idiot here?

Hmm.  Kind of got off on a rant of my own.

My point is, if you want to teach your homeschoolers about Really Using the Language, you can’t go wrong with introducing them to 19th century novels and autobiographies.  If you feel they aren’t quite ready for Leonowens, try Black Beauty or Alice in Wonderland.  (Alice, by the way, is also a great way to introduce them to way authors can invent words that become part of everyday language.)

I mean, is it nerdy to be a wordsmith?  Maybe.  Some of my friends certainly tell me it is.  But I would rather my Littles at least know how to be a wordsmith than grow up thinking BTW is a word.  Right?

We forget, in this visual world, that words have power.  It is up to us to give our littles the tools to be able to use them.  So read lots of 19th century books.  It will give your littles a hulking vocabulary.

Love wins,

KT

P.S.  I just found this great blog called Small World at Home that has an 11-part lesson plan on wordsmithery.  Check it out if you want to add writing lessons to cement what your littles are reading.  I didn’t go all the way through it, but Sarah offers some great ideas.

YA Book Review: Paperglass by A.R. Ivanovich

01-19-2016

Paperglass by A.R. Ivanovich

Paperglass is the second installment of The War of Princes series by Ivanovich.  Yeah, I reviewed the first one last week, but I am binge-reading this shit, so you’re going to hear all about it.  These books are incredible.  You know how sometimes you read the first book in the series and then the next one isn’t quite as good and it just gets worse from there?  These are so not those books.  They actually get better as you go, like The Hunger Games (books, not films-the reverse is true with the films) or the Uglies series by Scott Westerfield.  Paperglass is even faster-paced than Haven, and the danger was more palpable since I already knew the dangers of the Outside world.  Can I just say my heart pounded nearly the entire time I was reading because I was well aware the whole time of the tightrope Katelyn was walking?  How often do you get that from a book?!  Only when it is done extremely well, and Ivanovich has the stuff.

In this chapter of Katelyn’s story, Haven has been threatened and Katelyn has no choice but to venture back Outside in order to prevent a catastrophe.  Rune and Dylan are both back to make her life complicated, albeit in different ways.  I love Dylan’s character–the reader is never any more sure about him than Katelyn is.  He’s superbly imagined and written.  You couldn’t ask for a better herring.  Katelyn’s love life follows an obvious but important thread, too, and you have to cheer about it because it never gets trite.  Her mission to protect Haven is tangled by meeting the Margrave (a high power in the Outside army) and brushes with the Prince of Shadows.  Ivanovich’s world is believable, lush, and complex, and her characters are the same.  You can’t ask for more than that in a fantasy for any age.

Like last week, if I give you too much I’m giving away the story.  Buy these books.  They’re relatively cheap for your Kindle, and you will not regret it.  I’m in the middle of the third installment now, so I’ll let you know next week if the series continues to rock.  (Here’s a hint–Hell yeah, it does.)

Love wins,

KT

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