Month: December 2019

The Gifted School Book Review

Book cover of the Gifted SchoolThe Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger caught my eye. The inside jacket narrative piqued my interest. Finally, the author’s writing style kept me glued to the pages. I finished this 400 plus page book in one sitting.

Since the publishing date is 2019, there is a good chance the book was written prior to the college admission scandal that opened eyes in the United States to the fact admissions are anything but equal. While The Gifted School centers on admission into a public middle school, the same ploys to gain a spot for one’s offspring is evident in fiction as in reality.

Character Development

Holsinger does an excellent job of developing all the characters. The women are upper middle class and the plot really follows the entwined lives of their four families. A side development revolves around the family of a woman who cleans house for two of the families.

The four women have been close friends since a Mom and infant swim class. The children are about to enter middle school. A new public magnet school which will focus on gifted and talented children is about to open. Thus, the competition begins.

Elitism in America

In not so subtle ways, the author explores the concept of elitist education in America. While I did not see the big twist in the plot, I did accurately guess which of the children would gain admission to the school. Three of the seven won admission. In some ways I would have added a fourth. But realistically, having three make it in was against the odds.

Holsinger does use his characters to show how education can improve one’s status. He also paints an accurate picture (as illustrated by the college admissions scandal) of the lies and underhanded actions parents will go to in order to provide the edge often needed for success.

The Gifted School

In the case of the three students admitted to the school, all were well deserving. Of those not admitted, a case could be made for most of them as well. The testing and then portfolio process was not random in the book. However, in many Colorado Magnet and Charter schools the process is one of a lottery. But that would not make for an entertaining tale.

The key point of The Gifted School however is the many arguments that such a school triggers. I felt that the author shared the opposing viewpoints. Although as stated above, I felt I could read his bias.

The major twist in the story, I did not see coming. Brilliant plotting by the author results in an “aha” by the reader once a key relationship is revealed. But the other characters also reach a climax in their stories. With the exception of the character of one of the middle school kids, I felt very satisfied with the outcomes.

Furthermore, I feel the author has made key points about education and about friendships. Society in the United States is very competitive. Often, competition is a double-edged sword.

I highly recommend The Gifted School.

Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2019

 

Compiling the list for Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2019 is proving quite difficult. One reason is the number of books read. Over the past 12 months, a book read and reviewed each week was the goal. A few weeks I read more, but that was offset by a stray week here and there where nothing was reviewed. And one week where nothing was even read.

Furthermore, if I use the same format as Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2018 (Click here to read.) I need five fictional entries and five books in the non-fiction category. Herein lies the problem. I am short in the non-fiction category of books I care to recommend. But, the number of books for the fiction side is too numerous.

Statistical Favorites

Bloggers have many tools at their disposal to analyze the posts they publish. The backside of a website is quite complex, but also useful. Basic analytics include the number of times a post is accessed. The book with the greatest number of clicks is The Only Woman in the Room, a fictionalized account of the life of Hedy Lamarr. Heads You Win was a close second. I enjoyed both and both are on my list, but not at the top.

Debut Novels

I love discovering new authors. So each year I look for debut writings. Quite a few caught my attention in 2019. Allison Schrager’s An Economist Walks into a Brothel leads the way in the non-fiction category. The fictional counterpart listed in Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2019 is Disappearing Earth which is the debut work of Julia Phillips.

Other outstanding new voices include Lydia Fitzpatrick with Lights All Night Long, and Maura Roosevelt’s Baby of the Family. Each provide food for thought while entertaining the reader. I highly recommend both.

Almost There

I have six titles that were in contention to make Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2019. Each is worth the read. Look for them at your nearest library or book store. In no particular order: Last Woman Standing, Break Point, The Break Down, The Last Second, The Black Ascot and Only Killers and Thieves.

Since I am short on the non-fiction list, I offer one combined list. The designation follows the title. As with last year’s list, Econogal’s Top Ten Favorite Books of 2019 reviews can be accessed by clicking on the title.

 

Top Ten List

 

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips                                                       Fiction

Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick                                            Fiction

An Economist Walks Into a Brothel by Allison Schrager                    Non-Fiction

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center                                     Fiction

Heads You Win by Jeffrey Archer                                                             Fiction

Baby of the Family by Maura Roosevelt                                                  Fiction

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman                                                  Fiction

Don’t Stop Believin’ by Jonathan Cain                                                     Non-Fiction

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict                                 Fiction

Firefighting: The Financial Crisis And Its Lessons by Bernanke, Geithner and Paulson, Jr.    Non-Fiction

November 2019 Wrap-Up

November 2019 was a difficult month from an emotional standpoint. My Dad’s breast cancer diagnosis meant many trips to medical facilities as well as meetings with various providers. There is one more scan to run before treatment can begin.

The radiology oncologist assures us that radiation treatment will not slow him down much. The current plan is four weeks of treatment to the chest wall. My Dad has opted out of chemo at this point in time. As an octogenarian, he feels chemotherapy will be more harmful than helpful. I will support his decisions as well as any second thoughts he may have.

Normal Routine altered for November 2019

As a consequence of supporting my Dad through his surgery and scans, I was away from home the entire month of November. Thus, normal fall activities fell by the wayside. Instead, I was able to see more of the action on the foreclosure than I anticipated. I also enjoyed the warm Florida weather. Multiple days of snow were missed. But not the single-digit weather. It is too bad snow needs colder temperatures. I like the tranquil look of fresh fallen snow.

My reading efforts included a couple of longer books. They were great for the waiting rooms. But I plan to indulge in a couple of quick fun reads this week.

Christmas Stocking

Working on a Christmas stocking certainly helped to alleviate the stresses of November 2019. I hope the newest member of the family will cherish the stocking for years. This is the first attempt at making a felt stocking and I am quite pleased with the result.

The kit made the creation fairly simple. The most time consuming part was attaching the sequins and beads. I now understand why completed stockings are so expensive.

Applique Snowman and cardinals on felt stocking
Finished Felt Christmas Stocking

Conflicted Feelings

It is with a clash of feelings that I traveled back to the High Plains from Florida on the last day of November 2019. I have missed my home. My husband and my cat have missed me. But I feel conflicted about leaving my Dad on his own. The winter months can make travel difficult, so quick trips across the plains are sometimes delayed due to highway closures.

However, I am confident that my Dad is not only capable but in a great frame of mind to undergo the daily radiation treatments scheduled for the remainder of the year. He has support of family and friends in Central Florida. He enjoyed the Thanksgiving visit of his first great-grandchild and will have many visitors in the next six weeks.

We all face mortality. A belief in God helps one accept life’s path. The prayers and wishes from the readers of this blog have been greatly appreciated by my Dad and by me.