Monthly Archives: April 2009

No Teachers Left Behind

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No Teachers Left Behind
Author: HBF Teacher
Publisher: 2nd Avenue Publishing
Rating:

Reviewed by: Cheryl Malandrinos

 

If you want to take a scary and sometimes funny–if it weren’t so real–trip through the day-to-day life of middle school teachers, then pick up a copy of No Teachers Left Behind by Hopeful But Frustrated Teacher (HBF Teacher).

Join Sixth Grade teachers Sandra Wyatt and Marcus Watts, Seventh Grade teachers Sonya Harte and Gail Jenkins, Eighth Grade teacher Angela Williams, and the other teachers, administrators and support staff at fictional Vilyon Middle School for a glimpse into the daily life of teachers in America’s public school system.

Frustrated, by overpaid administrators whose decisions lack common sense and place the “needs” of students ahead of everything else–including necessary discipline and safety issues, the teaching staff at Vilyon Middle School can’t even seem to get support from the support staff. The head custodian expects them to make sure unruly and unmanageable students don’t destroy the bathrooms; while unsupportive parents point to teachers as the problem behind their children’s lack of academic success.

Told through a series of scene excerpts, poems, and email exchanges, No Teachers Left Behind portrays some of the challenges facing American public schools today; and it leaves the reader wondering if these types of things occur in every school district in America.

My opinions on this book are mixed because I approach it both as a parent and as someone who volunteers in local public schools. I’ve watched while budget cuts have left teachers counting the number of photocopies they make each day, while perfectly useable equipment is replaced with newer models. I’ve heard the cries of large class sizes, but have heard stories of teachers not wanting parents in their classrooms.

The administrators are out of touch with reality in this book, and the majority of students and all the parents are portrayed in an unflattering light. Most of the students are more interested in making drug deals, getting their teachers suspended, and getting it on, than performing well academically; and the parents fault the teachers, not themselves, for any problems that arise.

The author’s passion for this subject is evident. While I didn’t think I would care for the format at first, I found it very easy to follow the various email communications and scenes to their shocking and tragic conclusion. The language is a bit crude in places, but mostly appropriate when used. The one thing I didn’t quite understand was the cover art; but I thought the rolling prairie might be symbolic of the less complicated days of educating children in one-room classrooms, before government legislation and mandatory testing dictated how educators taught their students.

No Teachers Left Behind is one of those books that will leave you thinking about the state of things long after you’ve turned the last page.

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Filed under contemporary fiction, Fiction, realistic fiction

On My Own Now

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On My Own Now:  Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women who Want to Remain Pure, Debt-free and Regret-free
Author: Donna Lee Schillinger
Publisher: The Quilldriver

Rating: 
Reviewed by:  Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Are you concerned over what decisions your daughter might make once she’s out on her own?

Are you a young woman searching for guidance now that you no longer live with your parents?

Are you a pastor seeking to guide young single women in your church?

Do you know a young woman living on her own or soon to be living on her own who would benefit from some Godly guidance?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you’ll want to pick up a copy of On My Own Now: Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women who Want to Remain Pure, Debt-free and Regret-free by Donna Lee Schillinger.

In this interesting and thought-provoking exploration of the book of Proverbs, Schillinger takes young women along a journey that will help them to make better, safer, and more sound decisions.

The author takes a unique approach to the book of Proverbs by reversing the gender in many of the proverbs from “he” to “she” and Schillinger includes a modern day translation of Proverbs 31:10-29 about the traits of a good woman at the back of the book.

Exploring such topics as how Proverbs applies today, staying pure until marriage, dealing with anger and jealousy, developing good habits, tithing, using passion to make a positive impact, and the importance of not making rash decisions, Schillinger shows how the book of Proverbs can guide young women to be the women they want to be and stay that way.

On My Own Now can easily be used as a daily devotional, each section concluding with a thought for the reader to hold on to, such as “What I can’t have honestly, I simply won’t have.”

Its hip cover and conversational style will attract young women, and Schillinger is careful to get her point across without being overly preachy. There are also word bubbles throughout the book that capture important portions of the text to focus the reader.

I have to admit that the overuse of the exclamation point made it lose its effectiveness for me; but in the hands of a younger woman, that may not be the case. I also found a portion of text where I stopped to ponder the impression a young woman would be left with when reading that passage.

It is found on pages 179 through 181. The chapters in this section deal with friendship, and these particular pages cover depression and finding help when you need it. Schillinger talks about chemical imbalances possibly being a cause of depression and how modern medicine can help if we aren’t too proud to ask. She first suggests creating good eating, sleeping, and exercising habits, and then if that doesn’t make the reader feel better after 21 days she should start taking multivitamins, St. John’s wort, and other supplements recommended by a pharmacist. She then goes on to say that if this works, “don’t stop taking them…vitamins are something our body needs every day for the rest of our lives.”

While the author does make a point to mention that St. John’s wort may interact poorly with some medication and to talk to a healthcare provider if the reader is on any prescription medication, it seems it would be safer and prudent to suggest the reader talk to her healthcare provider or a registered dietician about adding supplements to her diet prior to taking anything.

On My Own Now, is an excellent resource for young women on how to use proverbs to guide their lives. I am going to talk to our pastor about purchasing copies of this book for female high school graduates from our church.

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Filed under Christian nonfiction, Non-Fiction, Self-Help, Teen Non-Fiction, Women's Issues

The Losing Game

the-losing-game-coverThe Losing Game: Why You Can’t Beat Wall Street
Author: T. E. Scott with Stephen Edds
Publisher: Hidden Truth Publishing

Rating:  + half
Reviewed by:  Gary Mack

This is a conspiracy book about Wall Street. Like one of your father’s rants, this book is goes on and on about the minus/sum game of Wall Street investing. Scott asserts early that Wall Street is nothing but a massive scam created merely to pull the hard earned money from the pockets of the common man. With constant references to Vegas, Scott wants you to conclude that Wall Street is nothing but high society’s version of casino gambling.

 

I can honestly say that by eighth grade, I knew that Wall Street was a place where people with disposable income went to purchase stock in corporations they hoped increased in value. I assumed, like any investment, those involved knew they were taking a risk and for some time after their initial capital investment, they would be in arrears.

 

As an adult, once I began investing, I was certainly under no illusion that I was going to automatically reap huge windfalls simply for my stock purchases. Like when I borrowed money to start my corporation, it was years later before my loan was paid off and I began to profit from my idea and hard work.

 

What Mr. Scott forgets is that Wall Street is a nebulous institution. There is no Mafia family running the enterprise, as he would lead you to believe. As in any stage where competition takes place, there are those who play the game at a higher level. To assert that Wall Street was conceived by a group or master race, who like puppeteers, pull the strings that easily rip off on a daily basis the hard earned money of working class people is nonsensical.

On a positive front, for the sake of the newbie investor, Mr. Scott explains how hedging works, details facts about derivatives, and gives a rudimentary assessment of the actual tracking methodology of the Dow Jones Index. The chapters on the meat and guts of how Wall Street works are the unhidden strengths of the book.

 

Had his book been slanted more toward simply helping out the uncertain investor, I believe Mr. Scott would have had a winner. Instead, The Losing Game comes across too much like your typical conspiracy tale, whereby, a lot of scandalous events or sightings occur right in front of your eyes, yet you, or anyone else but the author, never sees it happening. The constant repetition of the author’s theme unnerves the reader and trips your concentration from focusing on the important subject matter at hand. And that’s a shame. For it’s there that Mr. Scott has a lot of good advice to give to the investing public. 

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Filed under Business, Current Events, Non-Fiction, personal finance

Faith and Honor

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Faith and Honor
Author: Robin Maderich
Publisher: Blue Shutter Books

Rating: 
Reviewed by:  Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Forbidden love during the battle for independence is what historical fiction fans will find in Faith and Honor, Book 1 of the Honor Trilogy by Robin Maderich.

On the ride home to Boston, beautiful, red-headed widow Faith Ashley is assisted by a strong and elegant man in a dusty tricorne hat. Little does this dedicated patriot know, Mr. Irons is an officer in the British Army.

By rights they should be enemies; but their hearts are drawn to each other. As the battle for independence looms on the horizon, Faith and Fletcher Irons struggle to make sense of their feelings while still holding fast to their beliefs. What does loving the enemy cost? And can their love survive the rebellion?

Author Robin Maderich brings Colonial Boston alive for readers in this moving, romantic story of forbidden love. Maderich’s attention to detail, knowledge of the era, and her ability to develop complex and fascinating characters, are woven together to create a poignant tale of a man and woman who stand on opposite sides of a conflict.

This eloquently written story that captures the fashion, the language, and tense situation of Colonial Boston is sure to be a hit with historical fiction fans.

Faith is a strong, determined patriot, and Fletcher, believing that the British must squash the rebellion, continues to perform his duty despite his feelings for Faith. He is certainly an honorable hero. Other memorable characters are Ezra Briggs, a lawyer and loyalist who has known Faith for many years, and British Lieutenant Brian Upton, a fellow officer and good friend of Fletcher’s. John Colton, Faith’s father who lives in Longmeadow, will certainly leave an impression on readers, as will Elizabeth, Faith’s servant and fellow patriot.

This reader was totally captivated by Faith and Honor. The mingling of fictional characters with historical figures and events is so well done that I wanted immediately to dive back into the book as soon as I finished.

Faith and Honor by Robin Maderich is one book you won’t want to miss!

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