Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Princess Academy Series

Whenever the heir to the throne comes of age, the priests divine what providence the next princess will come from. A Princess Academy is then set up to teach and prepare the noble girls to meet the prince at the Academy Princess Ball. After the ball, the prince will then decide what Princess Academy graduate will be the next princess. When the priests divine that Mount Eskel is where the next princess is from, many in the kingdom are outraged. Mount Eskel is not even a providence,  just a territory. It is a small town full of uneducated, and very poor people, without any nobles. When the people of Mount Eskel learn that their daughters will be taken away from them for one year, fear grips their hearts. They barely have enough to eat, how will they survive through the winter without so many workers in the quarry, their only source of income. Miri is scared to go to the academy too, she has never been away from her family before. However, once at that academy, Miri is taught to read and she discovers a love of books she never knew she had. She loves learning, and learning opens up secrets that she never knew, and may actually save her village in the end. 

I first fell in love with The Princess Academy over a decade ago. I am thrilled that the third and last book has finally been published, it has been a long time coming! If you know me at all you know I have an obsession with Shannon Hale and all of her novels, and these three books definitely did not disappoint. I devoured them and lost many, many hours of sleep over them. They are brilliantly written and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Go Set a Watchman

'How to Kill a Mockingbird', by Harper Lee, is one of my very, very favorite books, so when I heard that Lee's second book, 'Go Set a Watchman' was published, I was completely ecstatic and could not wait to get my hands on it! Well, I just finished it and I absolutely loved it! It definitely was not what I was expecting it to be, the ending completely threw me for a loop, but I devoured this book. Harper Lee is the Jane Austen of her time- she is able to handle social indecencies with humor and class. The book takes place when  Jean Louise (Scout) is 26 years old and returns home for the summer to visit Atticus. She is living in NYC, going to school, and every time she visits home more and more things change from how she remembered them as a child. She also begins to get an outsiders perspective on her little town, and comes to realize that it may not live up to her childlike fantasies. Scout is growing up, becoming an adult, and with that, she is gaining the ability to think and see things for herself.  My favorite parts of the book were the times when Lee flashed back to Scout and Jem's childhood, giving us even more of their shenanigans- it had me laughing out loud. I, of course, would highly recommend this book!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards is a heart-breaking story of one man's rash decision that changed multiple lives forever. When Norah goes into labor during a terrible storm, her husband, David is forced to deliver his own child. He is shocked to find that it is actually twins. The first baby is a boy and perfectly healthy, but the second baby is a girl and David knows instantly that she has Down Syndrome. Remembering how hard it was for his mother when his own sister with D.S. died at age 12, he quickly decides to put his baby girl in an institution, hoping to spare his family from suffering. He hands his daughter to the nurse and instructs her where to drop the baby off. When his wife wakes up, he lies and tells her that their second child died during childbirth. This pivotal moment defines and sculpts the rest of their lives.

This book broke my heart a little. It is beautifully written, dragging a little in the middle, but the story is both heart-wrenching and wonderful. I always knew that there were people in this world who thought less of people with Down Syndrome, but I had no idea how badly it really was in the 1960's. I know we still have a long way to go, but honestly, we have come really far. This book opened my eyes to a world I didn't know before. I really enjoyed this read and would highly recommend it.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Other Side of Quiet

Hallelujah for birthdays and Barnes and Noble gift cards! I was so excited to add to my collection this month and decided I would pull some books from my Goodreads "to read" list for books to purchase. It can be a gamble to buy books you have never read before at wholesale, but with a gift card I feel much safer in this decision, and so far so good.

The first book I read is called 'The Other Side of Quiet' by Tara C, Allred. Mrs. Childs is a ninth grade English teacher who teaches a special creative writing class to 10 students. One of the student's assignments is to write in a journal. Mrs. Childs promises to not read the children's journals, just look to see if the pages are filled in for their grade. However, she is forced to break her promise to her students when a high school senior is found dead, and the murder weapon is linked to Mrs. Child's creative writing class. The students feel betrayed that their journals will be read by the police as well as their beloved and trusted teacher. Mrs. Childs learns secrets about her students that she wishes she never knew, but the journals also help her to come to know and lover her students that much more.

I really enjoyed this novel. The author does an excellent job with character voice and I was eager to find out who the murderer was. It has a simple and sweet writing style which you come to expect from Mormon fiction. There are a few references to the LDS religion, but it is not over-powering and is used to add to the character of Mrs. Childs, and fortunately, does not distract from the plot line. I wouldn't classify this book as a thriller, as most murder-mystery books tend to be, but it was still very good and I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a light, fun mystery.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

EEEEEEEEK! Dreams DO come true! I was so excited to get my hands on this book and of course, I devoured it. Heading into it I was a little apprehensive... Do I even like reading plays? Will it be worthy to carry the Harry Potter name? My answer is YES! It is amazing and wonderful and so much more then I expected it to be! I was literally giddy with excitement reading this book because it surpassed all of my expectations!

So what is it about? Well, this is a script for a play. It takes place right where the last movie ends, on Platform 9 3/4 on Albus Sirius Potter's first day of school. When Albus sits by Scorpius Malfoy on the Hogwarts Express, an instant friendship strikes up. Rose, Albus's cousin, is apprehensive of Scorpius, fretting that the mysterious rumors of his origin might be true. To Albus's dismay, and Scorpius's delight, both boys are sorted into Slytherin. Albus fears what people will think of Harry Potter's Slytherin son, but worse, he is worried about what his father thinks of him. Harry and Albus always seem to butt heads and this may just drive the father and son apart for good. When Albus convinces Scorpius to right a wrong made by his father a long time ago, the results are astronomical and lead the two boys on quite the adventure!

I couldn't put this book down. It kept me up way too late at night, but was oh so worth the caffeinated coma I was in the next day. To quote Ron, it was "bloody brilliant!" Now if only I was rich and could jump on a plane to London to see the play... what are the chances it will come to Utah do you think?? Better yet, how about turning THIS into a movie eh?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Pleasing Hour

'The Pleasing Hour' by Lilly King, is the story of how Rosie travels to France to become an Au Pair after she gave birth to a son and immediately handed him to her barren sister who longed for children. She is a postpartum mother without her own child while raising someone elses. The mother of the family is cold and distant, treating Rosie rather rudely. Despite that, she learns to love her new family and begins to emotionally heal.

I am not going to lie to you- this was the most confusing book I have ever read. I am not exactly sure why I stuck with it and read it until the end. I guess I was hoping for a magical moment where the author tied everything in and gave me that "ah-hah!" moment, which never came. There are chapters from the view points of Rosie, Nicole (the French mother), Nicoles mother, and the three children that Rosie looks after. I never could figure out what the underlying theme was. Rosie gets pregnant on purpose her senior year of high school simply because her sister wants a child so badly. When it comes time to hand her son over though, she doesn't want to, and ends up hating her sister for holding him first. And in the end she has an affair with the dad of the family she lives with. Nice. Nicole's mother has an affair with a German soldier and then gets pregnant with Nicole... who is Nicole's father? It never says. Then Nicole's mother kills herself and that's what leads to events leading up to Nicole moving to Paris with her aunt. As for the three childre, we read a chapter on the oldest daughter the night she loses her virginity, the youngest son wants to be priest, and the middle daughter's chapter made no sense whatsoever and didn't add to the story line in the slightest. This book was all over the place and so full of the weirdest, most inappropriate situations that do not need to be put down in the written word. 

When I finished the last word in the last chapter of the book, the only thing I thought was, "How in the hell did this book ever get published?!" Don't read this book. Seriously. It sucks. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Me Before You

I just finished reading 'Me Before You' by JoJo Moyes. It is the story of a mid-twenties girl named Louisa Clark who has yet to find her place in this world. She doesn't have the luxury of ambition or dreams simply because her family can't afford them. When she gets a job as a caretaker to a very wealthy quadriplegic man, she is nervous that she is not qualified for the job, but desperately needs the money. Will is cranky, spiteful, and seems to be really irritated by Louisa. Eventually Louisa is bound and determined to win Will over and help him see that there is still good in the world and that it's a life worth living.

I wasn't expecting this book to be what it was. I thought maybe it was going to be a cute little love story, somewhat like Pride and Prejudice with a modern day feel to it. I was completely wrong. Do you ever end up loving a book because you also hate it? It's like when Dumblerdore died and I threw the book against the wall, but I actually loved it because it made me feel such deep emotions. This book was like that. It got me to feel very deep emotions. I have a love/hate relationship with it. It was hard to read at the end, and not just because I could barely see through my big fat ugly tears. Sometimes it is kind of nice to get out of my Mormon, conservative, little Utah world and see the viewpoints of others. Although I 100% disagreed with the choices of the main characters, it is one of those books that opened my small little mind to other religions, politics, and people. I think we need more of that in this world. We may not agree. We may not even understand. But we can respect other people's decisions and treat them kindly despite our differences. Don't let me tell you how to feel about this book though. Read it and find out for yourself.

And yes, I still want to see the movie.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Light Between Oceans

Heart-wrenching. It is the only way I can describe the latest book that I read. 'The Light Between Oceans' by M.L. Stedman is a heart wrenching story of Tom, who is a light house keeper on Janus Island. Janus Island is half a days journey off the coast of Australia with supply ships only coming in every few months. It is a very isolated and lonely place for Tom to bring his new bride Isabel. After two miscarriages and a still birth, Isabel believes that the baby who washes up in a boat is a gift from God. However, there is also a dead man in the boat, and it is Tom's duty as a government employee to report everything that goes on on the island. Isabel pleads with Tom to just give her a little time with the baby, to heal her broken heart. Eventually time goes on and then it is too late, they have fallen in love with baby Lucy, and just can't bare to give her up. Not even when they discover that her birth mother is still alive. Still waiting for news. And still in desperate mourning for her lost husband and little girl.  This is a tale of heart ache, choices, binding love, and forgiveness.

I would highly recommend this book. As a mother, it was very hard for me to take sides in this kind of situation. Hindsight is twenty-twenty. Mistakes were made and people are human with human emotions. Half way through the book I just could not figure out how it was all going to end, is a happy ending even possible? You'll just have to find out for yourself. As for me, I can't wait to see the movie. I am bringing a box of tissues.




Saturday, May 28, 2016

Big Stone Gap

Our book club book for the month was 'Big Stone Gap' by Adriana Trigiani. It is the story of Ave Maria, who considers herself the town spinster, never to marry. She is a pharmacist in the little town of Big Stone Gap, Virgina in the 1970's. Her mother had just died a month ago, and if grieving for her weren't enough, her mother has left a letter for her containing a family secret that she had never expected. Ave Maria struggles to juggle work, friends, relationships, and finding out the truth of her families past.

These are my thoughts on the book: It is a very simple, cute story with a small town feel to it. It was an enjoyable read. However, there are other books in this series, and I am not really compelled to read the rest of them. First of all, I like the note that it ended on. I feel closure with all of the characters, and I am not necessarily thirsty for more. Secondly, it is definitely not great literature. As I was reading this novel I could picture in my mind the author writing it at her computer, with a sticky note pasted to her monitor that read "Sex Sells!"I imagine that every so often she would look up, read the note, and then add some sexual reference that didn't really fit the context of her novel. Each one was like a thorn in a rosebush. These sexual plug-ins simply did not need to be there. I am not against sex in a novel per-say, but these were so wildly out of place I felt like the language of the book all of a sudden switched from English to Chinese. You are either writing an erotica novel or a cute romance, you can't have it both ways. My next issue with this book were the authors sporadic time frames. In one paragraph you were living in a moment in exact time and in the next paragraph you jumped ahead a few weeks and were covering time fast paced. There was not a clear break between the two types of paragraphs and I felt it baffling. The other problem with this kind of sporadic timeline writing, was that she left conversations between characters unfinished and moments unresolved. The last thing that irritated me about this novel was how overly dramatic the protagonist could be. One minute she is a completely normal person and the next you are reading her thoughts thinking it's time for a straight jacket. I suppose all of us have "crazy" thoughts every now and again, but this was a little too over the top for me.

I must mention that one thing I think the author did really, really well was write the language through her dialogue. As I was reading the words I was actually speaking them in a southern accent in my head. Each character had a  well developed language, and each was unique to it's character. I admired this quality very highly and was impressed very much with her talent.

I don't necessarily know that I would recommend this book, maybe just watch the movie and then decide for yourself. (Yes, there is a movie. I haven't watched it myself, but it looks pretty good, so who knows? It might be worth looking into.)


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

A while back I got into a book discussion with my cousin- one of my very favorite topics of course- and she told me that I absolutely HAD to read a book called 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children', by Ransom Riggs. It just so happened that I had a pile of unused gift cards to Barnes and Noble sitting in my window sill, so the first chance I got I went on a book buying spree and bought this highly recommended book. When I asked customer service where to find it, the lady didn't even need to look it up on the computer, she knew exactly where it was, which is always a good sign in my opinion. When the other workers heard the title of the book I was looking for, they all started exclaiming how wonderful it was and how much I was going to love it. The excitement began to set in and I couldn't wait to crack open this new found treasure. It did not disappoint.

After a family tragedy has left Jacob believing that he has gone crazy, his psychiatrist urges him to go to a remote island where his grandfather once lived, in hopes that it will help him gain some perspective and closure. On the island Jacob delves into his families history, trying to discover the truth about his grandfather for himself. His grandfather was a Jew during WWII, the only survivor in his family, when he fled the Nazi's. Are the Nazi's the "monsters" which haunted his beloved grandfather, or is there something more sinister lurking beneath the wild stories that his grandfather used to spin? Jacob travels to the orphanage where his grandfather lived as a war refugee, hoping to find something to give him some peace of mind, but what he ends up discovering, is nothing like he ever expected!

This book combines literature with photography in such an intriguing way. This story had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I completely devoured this novel and can not wait to read the next one. It is a thrilling, chilling, magical mystery! It is soon going to be released into a movie, and I can't quite decide if I am brave enough to see it or not haha. I don't normally like scary movies, but this one might be worth it! (I'll just have to bring along the hubby to hold my hand!)

If you like suspense, mystery, history, fantasy, romance-- this book pretty much has it all! It really is such a good read and literally  left my skin tingling!