Category Relax & Reading

Book Review: Mankind: The Story of All of Us

Do you totally geek out, like I do, when thinking about the incredible way humans have made it from the time of the hunter-gatherer, overcoming one obstacle after another? Do you love when a puzzle piece falls into place, or when a seemingly impossible set of connections make themselves apparent? Pamela D. Toler, Ph.D., in her book, Mankind: The Story of All of Us, sets out to dispel certain myths, shed insight into little known events, make connections between apparently unrelated developments and people throughout history, and she knocks it out of the park. This is most definitely not your grandfather’s history book. This isn’t some dusty tome abandoned on the shelf, just begging to give up some of its dry, date-riddled, tedious facts to anyone ill-fated enough to open its cover. But I digress…Mankind – like history itself – is storytelling on a grand scale. At once intriguing, inspiring, funny, appalling, and thoroughly engaging, this volume accomplishes what so many others have tried – but failed to do – with the subject of history: it answers the questions, “How does this relate to me? Why should I care about something that happened five thousand years ago?”. If you’ve ever uttered these phrases, then shame on you. (Just kidding.) If you’re looking for a piece of recommended non-fiction, maybe it’s time you had a peek at what history could mean for you.




The book is not always laid out in a linear timeline , but rather spans the globe, comparing and contrasting, showing milestones of human achievement. The good, the bad, triumphs and atrocities, the West, the East, and in between – all are revealed in the unbiased light of examination. The book closely parallels The History Channel’s program of the same title, and is full of short vignettes with amazing photography. The events of millennia past are portrayed by brilliant modern-day actors in stunning realism. Charts, maps, diagrams, explanations – the how and why – make it simple to read short sections of the book at a time and not lose your place.





As a teacher, historian, and writer, I couldn’t agree more with this excerpt from the book’s dust jacket: “Our story is all about connections – why some ideas take hold and spread around the world and how the lives of people in one part of the world are shaped by events in another.” Toler’s ability to show these connections, to captivate the attention and imagination of her readers, is a gift worth sharing.


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“A Song of Ice and Fire” Best-Selling Fantasy Series in 2013

George R.R. Martin’s riveting fantasy series has become immensely popular in recent years, buoyed by the acclaim garnered by HBO’s adaptation of his works in the hit television series, “Game of Thrones.” Though the most recent installment in the series, A Dance With Dragons, was released back in 2011, Martin’s series beat out the likes of Cassandra Clare’s, “The Mortal Instruments” series as well as J.K. Rowling’s ever-popular Harry Potter books to be declared the best-selling fantasy books of 2013, according to

The first book in the collection, A Game of Thrones, originally hit stores in 1996 and has commanded a loyal following since its initial publication. Since that first volume, each successive book has expanded in scope and depth to flesh out the world of Westeros and the intrigue taking pace within.

Originally following the paths of the Starks, a somber family hailing from the north of Martin’s fictional world, Martin has gradually introduced numerous points of view to the novels to enhance the scope of the world he has created. By the fifth book, readers are able to read from the perspectives of characters at opposite ends of the social and economic spectrums of Martin’s world, giving unparalleled reader access to the intricacies of his creative vision.

All this takes place in a vividly realized fantasy world, filled with zombie like “White Walkers,” dire wolves, and even dragons. While political intrigue rages from the frozen stronghold of Winterfell to the barren deserts of Dorne in the South, supernatural dangers in the form of White Walkers from the far north and dragons in the east threaten to tear the already disparate kingdoms into complete disarray.


Martin has created a thoroughly engaging world, one which keeps readers guessing as to which direction their favourite characters will take next, as unforeseen dangers are often right around the corner.

This, in addition to the recent spike in interest due to the popularity of HBO’s series, has led to unprecedented interest in “A Song in Ice and Fire” and is surely responsible for the books’ status as the best selling fantasy series of 2013.

The current books, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons are due to be followed by The Winds of Winter, the sixth volume set in Martin’s Westeros, which is yet to have a definite release date. Though fans hope for a speedy release, Martin’s track record of only five books released since 1996 does not bode well for those expecting The Winds of Winter to be released in 2014.








A Feast for Crows UK


dance with dragon


For now, fans can enjoy the twists and turns of George R.R. Martins first five books in the “Song of Ice and Fire” series and revel in the novels that have been the best selling fantasy books of 2013

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5 Habits of Strong Readers and Writers

Becoming a good reader and writer might seem out of reach for a great number of people, but in actuality, adopting some simple habits can get you on your way to stronger reading and writing skills. Nowadays, most children and teens are reading less, which is hindering their ability for reading comprehension while also affecting their ability to develop strong writing skills. Here are some easy-to-adopt habits that will help you become an ace at reading and writing:




Pick up a book

Reading is the foundation for strong writing skills, so in order to create relevant text, you’ll have to read often. Whether it’s the latest chapter book or an informative medical journal, reading often will expand your vocabulary and improve your ability to absorb information. If you don’t have a genuine love of reading, you can try easing yourself into this habit by trying to read the MOST popular books. It’s important to start with a book that’s easy-to-comprehend so you don’t get discouraged.








If your writing skills are currently lacking, the best way to strengthen them is by practicing. As the popular saying goes, practice makes perfect and if you don’t try, you’ll never reach your goals. You can try looking at the way the most successful writers phrase their words and try to emulate their style.


Nix bad habits

Cell phones, tablets and computers are all extremely convenient and help us accomplish tasks or communicate with friends or family members. However, most people tend to send texts with slang terms that can affect a person’s writing, spelling, reading and grammar skills. When sending text messages, it’s important to avoid shortening words or omitting commas and periods. Instead, try to write in a grammatically correct format. After a while, you’ll notice that your writing and grammar skills are stronger.


Say adios to distractions

The TV, your cell phone and the computer can make concentrating on a book nearly impossible. However, in order to improve your comprehension of a book, you really need to avoid these common distractions. When you decide to read, do it in a quiet place where you can give the book all your attention.


Use stronger words

If you want to improve your writing skills, you will have to strengthen your current vocabulary. Writing can become flat if you continue to use the same words over and over again, so try to mix it up when you write. There are several ways you can improve your current vocabulary. One way is to get a thesaurus and write synonyms of words you like to use a lot. Another way you can make your vocabulary more plentiful is by learning a new word each day. Having a strong vocabulary will also help improve your reading comprehension skills.


Highlight parts you don’t get

A simple way to improve your reading comprehension is by highlighting the parts or words you don’t understand in a book. That way, you’ll be able to reread that part of the book and get a better understanding. Writing down the words or phrases you don’t understand is also helpful.

Improving your reading and writing isn’t something that will happen overnight. In order to see results, you’ll have to work hard each and every day.

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