Archive for ‘Book Bites’

August 4th, 2011

Looking for another summer read?

by Venomous Kate

John Donnelly's Gold by Brian J. NoggleLong-time Venomites know Brian J. Noggle through his witty, often obscure, comments in the Snake Pit. Many of you probably read his Musings, too. But have you read his book?

Brian was kind enough to hook me up with a copy of his self-published novel, John Donnelly’s Gold. After it arrived it took me a couple of weeks to get over my sheer jealousy that someone I know had actually finished writing a novel since my manuscripts bore the hell out of me long before completion. Once I cracked Brian’s book open, I realized that self-publishing just might be the solution to overcoming writer’s block.

What I mean is this: Brian is no Lee Child, but anyone who’s familiar with Brian and his blog won’t find that surprising. Brian is, well, a bit geeky. And a bit techy. And a bit detail oriented. Come to think of it, he’s a lot like Robert Davies, web developer, one of the four main characters in this high-tech caper. So, while there was much in his book to appeal to a hardcore computer user, I found myself overwhelmed with some of the technical mumbo-jumbo at first.

Then I started getting into the story.

Take one somewhat anal-retentive web developer (Robert Davies), an uptight and repressed would-be novelist (Michele — one L — Isbert), a semi-mysoginistic slacker (Kevin Horton) and a bored, only slightly reformed hacker (Daryl Simon), who’ve all been fired from their IT jobs just as their benefits were going to vest. The firing decision was, of course, made by the company CEO… a man so showy he’d personally bought a bar of gold to display live on the company’s website as a sign of its affluence.

Doesn’t seem fair, does it? And that’s precisely what these four thought as they set out to right the wrongs done to them. From there, well, let me just say that in addition to being a pretty darned good writer, Brian did a brilliant job of making sure readers didn’t see the story’s turns and twists coming.

Is it perfect? No, and that’s why I pointed out it’s a self-published book. Brian has written a fun tale that combines plenty of adventure with a lot (sometimes too much) exposition about the technical steps involved in hacking a website with a live feed. Think: Ocean’s Eleven but replace Brad and George and all of their pals with four geeks, and you’ve got the idea.

Is it worth reading? You bet! Especially if you’ve ever been screwed over by a boss and wondered how, and if, you could get even.

 

July 3rd, 2011

Kids Don’t Have To Think Reading’s A Chore

by Venomous Kate

To say that my son is a reluctant reader is putting it mildly. I’m not sure when the problem started; he used to adore reading books together, and being read to. Of course, he used to also get away with staying up late by begging me to read his favorite books “Just one more time, Mommy”. Then I’d see him dragging the next morning and realized he needed sleep more than he needed to hear Goodnight, Moon for the umpteenth time.

I guess his dislike of reading really emerged around the time we transitioned from homeschooling to public school in third grade. At that point we were introduced to the Accelerated Reader (AR) program which confused both of us greatly. See, the name makes it sound like kids are challenged to read books on the higher end of their skill level purely for extra credit. In practice, it’s a task they’re assigned over and above homework, with participation in fun classroom activities dependent upon their performance. And how is that performance assessed? By a test, as if kids these days aren’t being tested enough.

So my son, when presented with his quarterly AR goals, balks at them. Most books that capture his interest are a mere 2 or 3 points, while his goal was consistently closer to 20. For those doing the math, that’s one and a half books per week, assuming he scored 100% on the test for each, on top of his homework. Last year, that homework took nearly two hours a night. Needless to say, when faced with the chance to get outside and play once homework was done, or to sit and read for the 30 recommended minutes each evening, he chose playtime. Can’t say I blame him.

One thing I wish? That his teachers knew about the Reading Rainbow video series with its 153 episodes on a variety of themes designed to intrigue kids and point them to books that will capture their interest. Perhaps with some guidance like that, along with the activities and curricula ideas, we wouldn’t have floundered around looking for books that would appeal to him. As it was, we didn’t find any last year, so my son never did make his AR goal.

Oddly enough, that doesn’t seem to be a problem this summer. See, I picked up the Lemony Snicket series at a garage sale not long ago. If you’ve ever read one of those books, you’ll know that the back cover warns kids to go pick a different book — any different book — because this one’s probably going to spook the heck out of them. Reverse psychology? Of course. But it’s brilliant, I tell you. My kid’s finished the entire series in the month that school’s been out, and today he announced he’s starting back over at Book One so he can experience them all again.

Now, if only he’ll hurry up with it so I can start reading them, too!