Saturday, December 8, 2012

Amy's Favorite Children's Books

I have three books in my meager children's library that I especially love to read to my children, and they love to be read these stories.  Really, a list of children's books that deserve recognition would be infinite.  But there are three I wanted to spotlight.  Just because.

#1 - "Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed" by Mo Willems

This book was a gift to my daughter, Maren, by her preschool teacher at the beginning of the school year.  Maren loves the way I read this to her, because I manage some kind of nasally voice to represent Wilbur, the mole rat in question, and some valley girl voice for the groupie mole rats who insist on remaining naked.  But I love the message in the book.  We're all different, but we aren't meant to base our value of others soley on our differences.  It's just a funny little tongue-in-cheek story.  Read it!

#2 - "The Way Mothers Are" by Miriam Schlein

This book was given to me by my own mother.  Twice.  I think she'd forgotten that she had already given it to me, but our fist copy had been loved too much so I really appreciated when she gave me the new copy.  Which is also on its way to being loved too much.  This book makes the distinction about a mother's love, that it doesn't flow freely when our children behave and it doesn't discontinue when they drive us up the wall. It's simply touching, and I think every mommy (or daddy or caregiver) needs to share this with their children.  Read it!

#3 - "The Dumb Bunnies' Easter" by Dav Pilkey

This book was given to my family by my sister (wow, I'm just noticing the pattern that these books were all gifts.  What's the significance of that?!  This'll keep me up all night.)  My sister is a special person for so many reasons.  But I love her special sense of humor.  Many things in life that she likes she likes because they go against the grain.  She told me once she liked Sponge Bob because he was an ugly cartoon--too many cartoons were too cute for her taste, I guess.  I think that's why she gave me this book.  Like the sticker says on the front:  This book is TOO DUMB to win an award.  The book is funny, imaginative, backwards, and dumb for the sake of being dumb.  I've taught my kids that when we read this book is the only time we use the word 'dumb' to label a person.  Because these bunnies are genuinely clueless.  And the play-on-words are great for developing kids' understanding of language.  Read this one, too!

Okay, that's it.  I'm glad I've done this, because for months whenever I've read one of these gems I've thought about sharing with the public at large.  Maybe I can't give each of you a copy of these books as generous people have given them to me (don't I wish I were that affluent!).   But at least this way if you haven't already discovered these stories, now you can go out and learn to love them yourself.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Thought (or two) on Love and Logic

If anyone who reads this knew me personally, you'll know that I gripe about my third-born child, a strong-willed hellion named Maren, on a frequent basis.  At least, I feel it used to be on a frequent basis.  I think things have greatly improved at home.  A friend had recommended "Parenting with Love and Logic" dozens of times, but I thought nothing would help things at home.  I guess you'd say I was hopeless about the frustration and conflicts and head-to-head battles that ensued every day.  Then finally I thought, why NOT look into these books??  Even if I think the method won't work, at least I could say I tried.  And trying was very important to me.  My four-year-old and I were in a dangerous habit of fighting and arguing.  When mommies lose their tempers, they lose control and do/say things they regret.  I didn't want to continue this strained relationship, and I didn't want her growing up believing I loved her less than the others.  I was afraid if this pattern continued, horrible long-term repercussions would be inevitable.  So, genuinely, what would I have to lose by trying this parenting technique?


I got two books from the library, but I focused on the one for early childhood, from birth to age six.  I will tell you, there's a reason they call it Love and Logic Magic.  My relationship with Maren has already transformed from toxic to blossoming.  I'm still learning, but I feel we're in a much healthier place.  I feel the biggest indicator of success so far has been how I feel at the end of the day.  The past few weeks I've been much less tense at bedtime!  I used to be so worn out from Maren's antics that after they were all in bed I'd take a few hours to wind down and let go of the anger.  And now bedtime goes smoother, as well as the whole day.  And now since Mommy's less likely to blow-up at any given moment, I feel my other children are benefiting from these changes at home, as well.  Even though my other three kids need less disciplinary interaction than Maren, the tricks I'm using with her have had a great impact on them.  My oldest daughter had an over-nighter with her grandparents recently, and when she came home I explained some of the rules that had been put in place while she was gone.  I was using the same tricks on her as her little sister, just a little differently for the different circumstances.  She came out of her room crying and asking why I had changed.  That showed me again how noticeable the Love and Logic structure was.

I'm not going to call this a full-on review, because I gleaned information as necessary for my understanding and for survival.  But I recommend the method!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith

Um, this post was scheduled to go up ten days ago.  But, apparently, it did not.  Boo to you, Blogger.

This is a new author and new series for me--I hadn't heard of either before.  On a scale from 1 to 10, I'd give it a 6.5/7.  I enjoyed the story, but it wasn't a hard-to-put-down story.  However, when I did make time to read it, the chapters flew by quickly, and I liked that.  Precious Ramotswe opens a private detective agency in her village in Botswana.  She has a series of cases and investigations that allow the reader to glimpse into the African culture, which is relatively unfamiliar to me.  I'll confess, more than once during Smith's descriptions of the Kalahari, the opening theme song from "The Lion King" played in my head.

One thing I did like about Romatswe was her internal struggle about changes in culture.  She often reflects how things are best done in the traditional Botswana way.  She doesn't like the gradual Americanizing she sees creeping into her homeland.  However, she's a paradox to her own thinking.  More than once she encounters people who find it peculiar that a woman is taking on a traditionally male occupation.  When this happens she asks if they have ever heard of Agatha Christie.  For her to break this mold is acceptable in her eyes, but she frowns upon similar changes around her.  Maybe I'm reading way too into this, but Precious Ramotswe is a fat African woman who travels in a small white van as she conducts her investigations.  I remember in 7th grade English we watched "Star Wars" and my teacher, Mr. Schroeder, explained that the Storm Troopers' uniforms were white with black showing from beneath, symbolizing their dark motives beneath a cloak of righteous changes.  So, in my mind, some analytic part of my seventh-grade subconscious latched onto this fat African lady in a small white van imagery, in the way it reflects her wanting to hang onto the old traditional ways inside, but ways on the outside are adapting to western culture whether you want it or not.  Maybe that was a gross over-generalization of a culture to which I am grossly ignorant.  I'm not trying to say anything about African culture, just an insight into Romatswe's struggle with culture adjustments.

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Driven" by Larry H. Miller

Stop number three on the biography train!  Toot toot!  (I know that was a ridiculously cheesy into--but I won't apologize for it!).

I picked up "Driven" because, well, like most books, friends and family had talked about it and made me curious.  And because it was an autobiography, I couldn't help myself.  I did borrow it from a friend, but covered most of the book on audio CD.  Thank heavens for my iPod.  (Tangent:  My hubby bought that for me on Valentine's day when our second child was less than a week old.  He said he knew I would just love it.  Truthfully, I had never once thought an iPod was something I needed.  Even though it's an older model, it does exactly what I need it to do, and it is a wonderful little gadget.  It's even my favorite color--green.)

Larry H. Miller is an iconic figure for the state of Utah.  The funny thing is, I lived in Utah until I was 24 and I didn't realize how far-reaching his business and philanthropic dealings were.  That man, through his goodness of heart and talents, did so much for the state of Utah.  He didn't just own the Utah Jazz and dozens of car dealerships.  He had pet projects that benefited groups as well as individuals.  He really wanted to make the community better.  He wanted to do so much good with his life and money there wouldn't be any more good things to do.  He was an impressive man.

But, like all men, he had significant downfalls.  His biggest shortcoming was fatherhood.  He pretty much missed out on his children's upbringing because he confused being the breadwinner as fulfilling his role as father.  But I think after he realized the magnitude of his mistake, he tried his best to make it up to his adult children.  And his poor wife, Gale, taking care of five children and a busy husband.  But I'll have to say, having the kind of resources that were available to her probably made the near-single-parent mode she endured for so many years a bit easier to shoulder.  

I loved the audio book because the epilogue was written and read by Gale Miller.  It almost seemed her voice cracked with emotion several times, but who am I to say that's not what she normally sounds like.  

The book was published posthumously; Larry Miller died on February 20, 2009.  The book was published in 2010.  Doug Robinson, a Deseret News writer, was working on the book with Larry for the last seven months prior to his death.  

I really recommend this read.  Even if you don't know anything about Utah, or don't really care to learn anything about Utah.  I think Utah and Utahns are a misunderstood group of people, and I think this man's life could teach you a thing or two about that unique and special place.

Monday, October 22, 2012

"These is My Words," "Sarah's Quilt," and "The Star Garden" by Nancy E. Turner


"Wait a second!" I can hear you thinking.  Micaela just reviewed one of those books by that author!  Well, ladies and gentlemen, lovers of good books, that's because we read the same book!  She actually read it a while before me, but she only just wrote her review of it.  I read it this past month for my book club then hosted a discussion on it last night.  (I learned if I write reviews on book club books before I go to book club, some of my friends already know what I'm going to say, and then I feel ridiculously redundant.)

I did pick up this book because Micaela liked it so much.  I also enjoyed the story of Sarah Agnes Prine, who is in fact the great-grandmother of the author.  Although "These is My Words" is heavily fictionalized, Sarah Prine was a genuine pioneer in the Arizona Territories in the late 19th century.  The story is 20 years of Sarah's diary, from 1881-1901, beginning when she's 17 years old.  She recounts a myriad of characters and experiences from the pioneer trail and life in the territory, love and loss, hardship and victory.

As the diary begins, Sarah's thirst for knowledge is evident, even though her use of language is rough.  As the story develops and Sarah forges her own path, so does the language mature and become more polished.

"Sarah's Quilt" picks up a few months after "These is My Words" ends.  Although it's still written in a diary format with dated entries, it read less like the style of the first book and more like a first-person narrative novel.  Book 1 reads how someone would speak to a friend, a little choppy and very informal.  But that's what made it an endearing method of story-telling.  "Sarah's Quilt" and "The Star Garden" are still from Sarah's perspective, but they are far more technically correct as far as writing style goes; a bit of the familiarity is lost.

"Sarah's Quilt" is only about 6-8 months in duration, and it's as long as the 20 years covered in the first book.    It's detail-rich.  "The Star Garden" covers a period of 5 years following "Sarah's Quilt."  I like how the 2nd and 3rd books let the reader follow how Sarah and her family change and grow, especially  how children and different relatives have their own stories going on.

Although I liked all three books, "These is My Words" was my favorite, and I think "The Star Garden" was a tad indulgent of the author.  I mean indulgent the same way Simon Cowel used indulgent to describe the way some singers on American Idol sang because they liked the sound of their own voice.  Am I coming through loud and clear?

Turner has another book, "The Water and the Blood."  I will probably read it someday.  Once you find an author you enjoy, it's fun to explore all their works.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

Sarah Nickerson is used to multitasking as the VP for marketing of a high-profile consulting firm in Boston, MA and a mom to three young children. Her busy life comes to an abrupt halt when she has an accident and suffers severe brain damage. Her diagnosis: Left Neglect. The left side of her world becomes non-existent and she has to retrain her brain to remember the left.
The author has a neuroscience doctorate from Harvard and I feel like her experience(s) helped her be able to tell this fictional story accurately. It was hard to understand that somebody could just lose the left of their whole world. Not only is Sarah not aware of the left side of her body, there is not a left side of the room, plate, book, etc. She can't even understand the meaning of "turn left". I can't imagine not knowing that my left existed!
I couldn't help but laugh a little at the beginning when she is comparing herself to stay at home moms and that she was shocked to find out that a lot of women have degrees and choose not to work. I wonder if this is a bit of the author's own perspective on SAHMs. I'm one of those degreed women who choose to stay at home, so I didn't relate to this woman who worked 80+ hours a day and just barely made it home in time to read bedtime stories. ;) However, I enjoyed seeing her inner transformation as she was willing to slow down and re-evaluate what really matters in life.
The most interesting part of this book was that I have a friend who goes to church with me that was diagnosed with Left Neglect when she was 21. We were able to talk to her during our book club about what she experienced. She said the book was very accurate in describing what having Left Neglect feels like. It was neat to get a first-hand perspective on this neurological syndrome.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

It's been a long time since I've read a biography. I had several friends suggest that I read Unbroken. The book is about Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete, who was drafted in World War II. His plane was shot down over the Pacific and, after surviving 47 days on a raft at sea, he and the pilot were sent to POW camps in Japan. For almost 2 1/2 years, he survived countless acts of physical and mental abuse.

I was a little surprised at how well I liked this book. I think I've stayed away from biographies a lot mostly because I thought they would be full of tedious boring stuff. Haha. Boy was I wrong. I LOVE learning things about other people's lives and this was right up my alley. I devoured it! It disturbs me to think of the atrocities that one human being can inflict on another just because he thinks he can or should have the power to do so. What amazes me more, however, is the power and strength that the human mind, body and spirit are capable of. Things that you would think would be impossible to endure... It truly is amazing. I also loved that he was able to find God and forgiveness a few years after he came back. This book left me feeling very inspired and grateful for the examples we have in those who are able to forgive and let go.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"These is My Words:The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 Arizona Territories" by Nancy E. Turner

"These is My Words" is about a woman's experiences working and living in the Arizona Territories when the West was still wild. This is my second time reading this book. I loved it the first time and really wanted to share it with my current book club. I wanted to go back and read it to refresh my memory. It's funny the things you forget when you read something a second time around. :) I still loved it, but I forgot all of the parts where someone was raped or about to be or some love scenes. Oops. They weren't explicit at all, but the group that I am in is just a bit conservative about stuff so I was wondering how they would feel about some of it. It didn't bother them as much as I thought it would. :)

One of the girls in book club did say she didn't like the format because it's written like a journal. So, if you didn't catch it from the title, this is in diary format. In case diary/journal style writing isn't up your alley. :)  I like reading books written in this style. It makes it seem more personal; like you're getting to see everything- the good, the bad and the ugly. And even though Sarah's time was way before my own, I feel a connection with her when she describes her happiness, her dreams, her rebellious thoughts and even her grief.

There are parts in the book that will make you laugh and parts that will make you cry. I think the combination of the two make for a great book.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief" by Ryan Riordan

My library now offers an audiobook/ebook service called Overdrive.  The selection is still small-ish.  I mean, there are probably a few thousand titles available to check out, but whenever I enter a title of a specific book I'm interested in, it's usually not in the database.  However, I think they add new titles each month, and they do have a few titles I've been interested in.  When I found the Percy Jackson books on there, I was excited, because I have a lot of friends who have recommended those. It's really great to download a book on my computer, which remains there for 2 weeks (after that it's automatically checked in and disappears, but is easily re-checked out).  I can take my lap top anywhere, even if there's no WIFI, and read my book.  Yes, my computer is bigger than a book, but I still think it's stinking awesome.

I saw the Percy Jackson movie before I read the book.  When I told Micaela about the movie she said the book was way better.  I'll have to take her word for it, because as I read the book, very few details of the movie surfaced in my memory.

I love YA literature, but Percy Jackson is written for a younger audience than I'm accustomed to reading.  So it's simple.  But I still really like the story, and I like that I'm learning Greek mythology withing being bored to death.  I think in a couple of years my oldest daughter would love to read these.

I'm on to book two already, "Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters."  Liking it, folks, I'm liking it.  I don't know if I'll write a review for every single Percy Jackson book I read, unless I come across something that totally knocks me off my feet.  Or maybe I'll just say, "Hey, I finished another Percy Jackson book."  Because that's the main reason I started this blog, was to keep track of what I read.

Because I'm too lazy to update my sidebar today, we're finished with "Robinson Crusoe" and now reading "These Is My Words."  Which, coincidentally, is one of Micaela's favorite books.  It is also one of my new favorite books.  Micaela has started an entry on it, but hasn't finished and published yet.  And I don't know if I'll keep the Newbery books up on the sidebar, because I'm more interested in reading the biographies right now.  I borrowed "Driven" by Larry H. Miller from a book club friend.  When I finish "Words" (for the second time) I'll dive into "Driven."  But I'm still reading Percy Jackson.

Is it normal for someone to be reading 2 or 3 books at a time?

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Robinson Crusoe" by Daniel Defoe

Book club is tomorrow, so I didn't finish this book with much time to spare!  I would never have pulled it off if I hadn't listened to the CDs.  If I were reading a hard copy, it would have taken me a loooooong time.  I think I enjoyed it more as I listened to it than I would have if I read it. It's long, it's old, it's wordy.  But I liked the grandfatherly voice telling me the story.

I didn't know this was one of the oldest books printed in the English language, so that made it more interesting for me to read.  I mean, this book is nearly 300 years old!  There are not many books that old that people still read and know the general story line.  Another thing I didn't know what how religious this book was.  It accounts Crusoe's sins and conversion to Christianity, and the character elaborates in great detail his feelings on repentance and providence.  One negative to listening to this book than reading it was I missed out on noting all the quotes or passages that moved or inspired me.  There are two that I manage to remember:

"I have...often observed, how incongruous and irrational the common temper of mankind is, especially of youth, that reason which ought to guide them in such cases, [namely] that they are not ashamed to skin, and yet are ashamed to repent; not ashamed of the action which they ought justly to be esteemed fools, but are ashamed of the returning, which only can make them be esteemed wise men." 

"It is never too late to be wise."

There were parts of the book that rankled, but they couldn't be helped.  If you consider when the book was written compared to the modern era we live in, there are just simply going to be points that will be perceived as politically incorrect.  First, the treatment of animals.  I am NOT an animal activist.  I don't like cats and dogs.  My family maintains a small fish tank and my children understand that is the extent of pet ownership we'll ever reach in this home.  But when they kill the lion but refuse to eat the meat, or tease then shoot the bear, these were both senseless and unwarranted instances of animal abuse.  (I have to keep telling myself it's just a story and not take it too seriously.)  I was also frustrated that Friday talked about the bears on his homeland of Trinidad.  I'm not an island girl, but my instinct told me bears do not reside in the Caribbean.  I did several online searches about the wildlife in Trinidad and nowhere did I find bears listed as natural inhabitants of that island.  I also asked my husband, who lived in Jamaica for two years, if there were bears in the Caribbean and he was fairly certain there were not.  And after the instances of animal abuse and incorrect accounts of island wildlife, I didn't like that once Friday was rescued by Crusoe, Friday instantly submitted himself to a Master.  I didn't like Crusoe automatically presuming ownership of another man, which Europeans seemed so fond of doing to less-developed civilizations.  But, that's just a reflection of the era in which the book was written and the world Defoe knew.

All in all, I did enjoy the core of the book, which is Robinson understanding his dependence on God.  No one sat there and told him God saved him and providence supplied his safety and needs, but he learned it himself through his own survival and began to see God's instructing Robinson in His own manner and methods.

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Crossed" by Ally Condie

"Crossed" is the sequel to "Matched."  I had heard most readers didn't like it as much as the first.  I enjoyed it very much, however, not as much as the first.  There were some parts where the transition of certain ideas didn't flow smoothly and I had to skip back to re-listen to certain passages so I could catch up to what was going on in the story.

 There was one slightly bigger thing that bothered me. There are four groups addressed in the book:  the Society, the Rising, the Farmers, and the Enemy.  But the Enemy is only referenced to, it's never explored.  The characters take for granted the Enemy is who the Society and Farmers say it is, and there is not much information to go off of aside from the fact the Enemy exists and shoots at certain groups from time to time.  I'm just hoping the question of the Enemy is answered in "Reached" (released November 13, 2012).

I liked the introduction of a few new characters, and I hope some them carry on into the next book.  "Crossed" was written from the duel perspectives of Ky and Cassia, and part of me wonders if "Reached" will alternate between Ky, Cassia, and Xander.

I'm really looking forward to "Reached" and need to be sure my library has a purchase order in for it.  Two months isn't too long to wait!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley" by Sheri L. Dew

Book two in my series of biography reading.  For now, it just makes sense to keep going with the prophets of the LDS church, though I do want to branch out and read other biographies.  I got the CDs from my library, and when I went to load them onto iTunes I discovered I had the abridged version of the book.  Abridged!!!  I was upset, but I knew they library didn't have the full book on audio and I didn't want to wait another week to get it started by requesting it via inter-library loan, so I proceeded.  When I listened to Pres. Monson's biography, I loved all the little tidbits of history included in his story.  I was afraid of being disappointed by Pres. Hinckley's book with only the most significant events touched upon, but I wasn't.  Gordon B. Hinckley was my prophet, at least the prophet of my youth.  I remember the day President Hunter died; I was in 8th grade and it was announced over the loud speaker in my junior high (chalk one up to 'things that would only happen in Utah county').  I was sitting in my natural sciences class.  I remember the press conference a week later with Pres. Hinckley, Pres. Monson, and Pres. Faust.  Pres. Hinckley conducted the temple dedication session I attended when I was 16 at the Mt. Timpanogos Temple.  He was always the voice of comfort and guidance through my teen and young adult years.  I remember exactly where I was when news of his death reached me four years ago--I was about 5 months pregnant with my third child and I was reading in my bathtub.  I remember it was late in the evening when the phone began ringing.  Derek came into the bathroom to tell me President Hinckley had passed away.  I felt as if the air had been knocked out of me, and I mourned the loss of my leader.  I loved listening to the stories in Dew's book because I had many memories of the events described in the later years.  More than once, tears swelled in my eyes because the Spirit spoke to my heart in testimony that this man was the Lord's prophet on the earth during those many years, and the work he did in service to his God and the members of the church was truly great.  What Pres. Hinckley did with temples over the earth was truly a blessing to all members of the church.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I was born and raised in this beautiful gospel as has my ancestry for several generations.  I love the Gospel of Peace and our Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness for His children.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" by Barbara Ehrenreich

I was excited for this book club book, to move away from a novel and into an investigative-journalism piece.    I have no idea who the author is; apparently she's written a NYT's Best Seller or two and she writes for several big magazines, such as Time.

I'm not a politically minded person.  Nor do I understand economics well.  This book was published just after I finished high school, so I know at that time in my life I was only really aware of surviving my first semesters at college and sustaining my dating life.  I have a slightly better grasp of economic stability since being a mom and home-owner, but really for me all I need to know is how to make my husband's paychecks stretch over the span of the month.  But Ehrenreich got a better glimpse into American economics when she abandoned her affluent writer's lifestyle and chose to work minimum wage at three different jobs in three different cities, trying to survive and find housing for a month, trying to keep her head above water.  Her first stint was at a few restaurants and hotel service in Key West, Florida; then she joined The Merry Maids and volunteered at an Alzheimer's center in Portland, Maine; she wraps up her experiment in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, working at Walmart.

I am a stay-at-home mother with four children; my husband works two jobs.  We both have bachelor's degrees.  We have a mortgage.  Money always seems to be a playmate in a game of tag; sometimes we feel sufficient but often we feel like we're chasing our goals instead of realizing them.  But Barbara reveals a lifestyle that's entirely foreign to me.  I mean, sometimes we're short on money but I've never once doubted having food to eat and a home and changes of clothes and gasoline for our vehicles.  Even if my husband suddenly became unemployed tomorrow, I know we have family who would let us stay with them and share their own resources until we got back on track.  This book opened a new perspective to me, and it's disturbing to think there's so much more of this than I see in my cushy little middle-class suburb.  It's one of the problems America likes to ignore.

These are eye-opening anecdotes and should be read and considered, not ignored.  I wish the author would have dismissed the use of occasional obscene language and chosen more intelligent words, but in a way, her choice of low language reflects the lifestyles she depicts.  For the serious topic it's a quick read, and it's already changed the way I interact with service workers I encounter at the check-out when I buy groceries or ask a Walmart associate where I can find masking tape.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson" by Heidi Swinton

Through a series of events, I've decided it would be beneficial to me to start reading biographies and study biography.  I started with the biography of the 16th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson.  I started off reading the book, but I knew if I were to ever make it through I would need to get the audio CDs.  Plus, the book was heavy.  I mean, I've read several thick books in my life, but for some reason this one was very weighty, as if it reflected the life of the man in heaviness.  That sentence came out all wrong, but in my head it makes sense.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this story, and Heidi Swinton did a fabulous job writing the life of the man who has been in church service over 60 years of his life.  She's my new role model.  And the life of the man himself is of course, marvelous.  There's no way I can summarize on this blog the biography of the living prophet on the earth, except to say how it moved me.  I kept mentally kicking myself, asking, "Why didn't I read this sooner?  Are all the prophets' biographies this special?  I need more!"  

I have just started my venture into biographies, and this was a big life to start with, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  If you've ever heard a song that touched your heart, or a verse of scripture that seemed to make time stand still and you could see your life and surroundings clearly for that brief, frozen moment, then you'll understand how this book made me feel.  I felt privileged for the movement of the spirit as I heard the stories of work and faith of this amazing man.

Question for readers (don't be bashful, speak up):  What biographies would you recommend to me? 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Vow: The True Events that Inspired the Movie by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter With Dana Wilkerson

I loved this book! The faith that this couple had going through this ordeal is truly amazing. Kim and Krickitt had been married for only 2 months when they were in a horrible traffic accident going home for Thanksgiving. Krickitt sustained massive brain damage and wasn't expected to live for longer than a few hours. After she was able to speak, they realized that she had no memory of the events of the last year and a half- the time frame where she met, dated, got engaged and married to her husband!

Amy had seen the movie a few weeks ago and we compared the book to the movie. EVERYTHING was changed!! The city they lived in, the accident, they NEVER got a divorce (that's the whole point of the title-they kept their vow to each other and to God), the relationships that they had/have with their in-laws is very strong and I could go on. The book is mostly written from Kim's perspective. I kept waiting to hear from Krickitt to see how she felt after the accident. There are some of her journal entries added, but that's really all from her perspective. However, after finishing the book, I think hearing it mostly from Kim didn't detract from the message.

I just love reading about real stories of the amazing challenges and trials people face in life and how they overcome those trials through their faith in God and help from others. It was very refreshing to read a book that bore witness to the fact that God does exist and there are miracles happening everyday. I highly recommend reading the book.

"The House I Loved" by Tatiana Rosnay

FINALLY!! My first post!

I am a HUGE fan of historical fiction! I loved Tatiana Rosnay's "Sarah's Key" so when I saw this on the shelf, I grabbed it.

In the mid 1800s, Napoleon III odered large scale rennovations of Paris to make room for wider streets and a more modern city. His prefect, Baron Hausmann, has gone through the city and destroyed hundreds of houses, eradicating whole neighborhoods at a time, erasing the history of Paris. Rose Bazelet is determined to fight for her home- the only home her husband ever knew. The reader is told the story of the house through letters that Rose writes to her deceased husband, Armand and through scattered letters from people who have been a big part of her life- past and present. As Rose remembers, she is forced to come to terms with a secret that she has kept for 30 years.

I loved that the novel was written in letter form. It made the connections to the characters in the story more real and tender. I enjoyed seeing her love for her husband pour out in her letters. I don't feel like it was as well written as "Sarah's Key", though. It felt rushed, especially toward the end- like the plot hadn't been fully developed. The ending was a bit morbid, but I kind of like the macabre.

Good, fast read. It just wasn't as captivating as I was hoping.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Matched" by Ally Condie

There is so much great Young Adult literature out there.  Add Condie's "Matched" to the mix.  This was a referral by a friend and I'm glad I followed through with it.

The society seventeen-year-old Cassia Reyes lives in exists at some point in the future.  Technology has failed civilization as we know it and the people have had to reconstruct society.  In fact, it becomes known as the Society.  The story begins with Cassia's Matching Banquet, where 17-year-olds go with their parents to be told to whom they have been matched for future marriage based on genetic compatibility for the healthiest offspring.  Usually the face that shows up on the screen at the banquet at city hall displays a match that lives somewhere else in Society, and over a course of years the two youth fulfill their contract and get married and start their families.  Cassia discovers her match is Xander, a childhood friend.  She is considered very lucky.  Each matched participant receives a data card with information with their matched partner, and Cassia thinks it's funny to even look at the file on Xander because she already knows everything about him.  But when she examines the data card the following morning, she begins to wonder if Xander is her perfect match after all.

This book reminded me a bit of "The Hunger Games," "The Uglies," and "Fahrenheit 451" in the fact that these civilizations are established to 'protect' its citizens when in fact the citizens are manipulated into believing they are blessed to have the security they enjoy, when really everything they do is for the benefit of Society, and not the populace.  I'm excited a sequel, "Crossed," is out and that the third book "Reached" will be released in November.

Confession:  I didn't read "Matched," I listened to it.  It was a delightful production and I need to encourage my library to buy the audio for "Crossed" and "Reached."  Because life is becoming so full and busy these days it seems the best way I can enjoy most books is with my iPod growing out of my ears.

"The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde

"Dorian Gray" is a title my book club had tossed around from time to time when we needed to come up with more books for our to-do list.  Before reading it, my only familiarity with the book/character came from the movie "A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," and I don't really even remember much about the movie or what role Dorian played.  I had also never read Oscar Wilde before, so I was interested in it.

Dorian Gray is a up-and-coming bachelor in England.  He has recently befriended an up-and-coming painter, Basil, who finds inspiration in Dorian's delightful good looks.  Lord Henry Wotton is also a friend of Basil, but there is nothing good about him, except perhaps being good at confusing truth for lies.  Henry's influence is immediately toxic for Gray, who bemoans the portrait Basil made for him and curses the fact that the portrait shall always remain pure and untainted while he will go on in life and age and become unwholesome to look at in time.  If only the case were reversed; if only Dorian could maintain his youth and handsome looks while the portrait receives the brunt of aging.

And just that happens.  And that's the end of my disclosure.

At some point during our book club discussions the host usually asks, "Did you like it?"  The reactions to this one were largely negative.  It's a dark story, and no happy ending.  But I liked it for its symbolism.  And the book made me ask how much of Dorian Gray can I see in myself?  How much of Dorian Gray is in all of us?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"The Trumpeter of Krakow" by Eric P. Kelly

If you've read more than one of my entries on this blog you'll know I have a goal to read all the Newbery books in my lifetime.  You'll also know that I've struggled reading them.  Most of them don't hold my attention span well.  But that changed with the 1929 Newbery Medal winner, "The Trumpeter of Krakow."  Unlike most of the seven Newbery books I've read, I had actually heard of this title before and Micaela says it was her favorite book in late elementary school (if anyone wants to know my favorite book in late elementary school, it was "Wolf by the Ears" by Ann Rinnaldi).  And I don't blame Micaela for liking this book so much.  Taking place in the mid-1400s, the tale takes the reader back in time to the heart of the Renaissance in Poland's capitol.  A family honors a centuries-old oath to protect a much coveted crystal.  This mission drives them from their home when power-hungry Russian thugs burn their house and lands.  Seeking refuge in Krakow, the family are determined to hand the crystal over to the king for safe keeping.  And of course, that's easier said than done.  I won't tell you anymore because unlike that pigeon book I read, this is a book I think everyone should become familiar with.  No spoilers here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Kate Morton Novel!!!

On October 16, "The Secret Keeper" by Kate Morton will be released.  I'm just a little excited about this.  Click here for more info!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley

A mystery!  I don't often pick mysteries for my own reading so when we had a choice for the next book club pick I voted mystery.  I'm so glad I did!  I didn't read this one, I downloaded the audio onto my iPod.  The narrator had such a charming accent.  I loved listening to it.  In fact, I went to my library's website to see if they had any other books by Bradley because I enjoyed "Sweetness" so much, and I found out there's a sequel!  I'm on the waiting list for the CDs and I can't wait to listen to that charming narrator again.  Well, I hope it's the same narrator, at any rate.

I felt the book was a combination of recent books I've read, "Hedgehog" and books by Kate Morton.  "Hedgehog" because the story is told through the eyes of an intelligent 11-year-old girl (although this girl isn't bent on her own destruction).  Kate Morton's stories come in because the story takes place at a grand old English manor that had been in the family for centuries; and for the mystery component.  Flavia de Luce, a child chemist, takes it upon herself to resolve her father's name when he's accused of the murder of a college acquaintance who was found dead in the estate's cucumber patch.  She's very precocious and gets herself in and out of several scrapes while collecting evidence and solving who really killed the ginger-haired man.

It was an excellently spun story with unique characters.  That's a huge selling-point in any book I read; how real are the characters?  Maybe that's a reason I hated "Gay Neck" so much.  It was so bland because there was virtually no character development to add flavor to the story.

Go read "Sweetness."  I'm sure it's a book you won't regret getting to know better!

"Chords of Strength" by David Archuleta

Dollar store book!  As a member of the LDS church, I'm naturally curious about famous Latter-day Saints.  So I picked up this story about the Idol runner-up.  I like to pretend I'm a writer, so when I read books it's often for the style of the writing as much as for what is written.  I was really curious about how much the Church would be mentioned in the book, how 'preachy' it might be.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It's funny hearing stories from people younger than me (and Archuleta is a good ten years my junior) on overcoming their challenges because they almost make it sound like they've already finished their existence and they're reflecting on their struggle and how they overcame them.  Not to diminish the story at all, because I enjoyed it.  I am, however, thoroughly entertained when young people say, "This has been the dream of my life!" and I think kid, you're only 16!  You haven't had a life!

That being said, I did enjoy the story of hope, taking risks, and overcoming challenges.  I won't go into too much detail, but like I said earlier, I like to pretend I'm a writer and I have my own fantasies of writing professionally when I grow up (read, when my children are older and my life as a mother to infants and young children evolves into a period when I can dedicate a few hours every day to practice my craft).  The book is full of encouragement and I really felt I could fulfill any dream of my heart.

"Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon" by Dhan Gopal Mukerji (1928 Newbery Winner)

This Newbery book has been my greatest struggle.  I wanted to give up.  I really, really wanted to sack it and move on.  But I already quit "Tales from Silver Lands" and I felt giving up on another book would show weakness.  I refused to be defeated by this 200 page book.  But frankly, I hated it.  Almost every single page was a snooze fest.  Unless you're an avid bird fanatic or interested in early 20th century British India, you won't like this book.  I knew it was about a bird, obviously.  I was expecting something charming like "Ralph the Mouse" or "Stuart Little."  Wrongo bongo.  The only redeeming quality of this story were the war chapters where the bird goes to Europe to be used as a messenger pigeon in World War I.  Those were more interesting.  Then it went back to boring again.

There was an underlying theme of overcoming fear throughout the book, so I guess that might be another point for it.  However, at the end of the book one of the human characters and Gay Neck both have to overcome the horrible side-effects of the war they encountered in Europe (today known as post-traumatic stress disorder).  The author has them 'fix' their ailment by having them kill a wild buffalo that's been destroying several villages in India.  And voila, they're magically mended!

This bothered me.  PTSD is a real issue.  People who have fought in battle or experienced natural disasters or what-have-you often deal with this problem for life.  It's not a cold.  There's no remedy.  You can learn coping mechanisms, but nothing will cure you of it.  So the author 'fixing' the bird and the man by having them defeat the buffalo, and therefore all their fears and trauma, did not sit well with me.

Don't read this book.  It's a story about a pigeon.  That's all you need to know.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"I Just Want You to Know" by Kate Gosselin

I'll confess, when Jon and Kate Plus Eight was a new show in TLC, I loved it and watched religiously.   I'm not a Kate Gosselin fan by any means, but I did enjoy watching the kids.  The last time I was at the dollar store browsing the reject shelves I came across this one and picked it up.  I don't read too many biographical type books, maybe that's why it intrigued me.  It's a collection of stories on raising the twins and sextuplets, with personal letters from Kate to each of the kids sprinkled in between chapters.  It was a book that I kept mentally editing for clarity.

I know Kate gets a lot of flack in the media.  I don't watch DWTS but I heard she was often rude to her professional dancing partner.  Anyone who has watched her shows knows she has a short fuse and high expectations of everyone around her.  BUT, I really believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt.  It wasn't like she woke up one morning and decided to raise eight children 4 years old and under and get divorced while it was all on television.  No, she didn't make the best decisions.  And she's making the best with what she's got and with who she is.  Yes, I think those kids are going to be pretty confused adults.  But I wish people would stop attacking people in the public eye, because she's not trying to harm anyone, she just makes mistakes while doing her best.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"City of Lost Souls" by Cassandra Claire

I've mentioned this before, but the Mortal Instruments series is my dirty little secret.  It's not great literature (the editor in me kept re-writing passages in my head as I read the book).  But I'm certainly guaranteed to be entertained by the story.  I don't shout out the the world that I'm an MI fan, but when I meet a fellow book worm I always ask if they've read these books.  I'd compare it to some television shows on TV that are wildly popular but would make you blush if you watched an episode with your parents.  I think they're a tad too mature for YA, then again, I know there are much racier YA books than Mortal Instruments out there.

That being said, when I found out a couple months ago that the fifth book of the MI series would be released May 8, I rushed to and pre-ordered my book.  I couldn't help myself.  When it arrived on my doorstep on May 10, I began squeezing in some of the 500-plus pages.  I managed to stretch it out over eight days and none of my children went hungry in those eight days, which I call a win-win.  I only goal was to finish it by Monday because a friend is coming to visit and I told her I'd be done with it then so she could borrow it.

I really need to read all five books in succession, because often when reading the newest one there is a reference that leaves me in the dust. Some books provide some back story to previous volumes in the series but Claire does not provide those.  Which may be good, or else the books would be 600 pages or more.

I won't say the book was a must read, but I wasn't disappointed in it, either.  Claire has been very consistent with the MI series and that's good enough for me.  I like Twilight, but the vampires and werewolves in MI are in a completely different category.  There are also demons and warlocks and Shadowhunters and magic.  And a lot of blood.  My favorite word I've learned from the MI series is 'ichor'.

So, that's what Amy's been reading.  My upcoming book club book is "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley.  I put my Newbery "Gay-Neck" book on hold while I was preparing to host "The Good Earth."  I'm struggling with the Newbery books, which surprised me. But what was considered the best children's literature nearly 100 years ago just doesn't keep up with the stuff I read when I was growing up.  I think I need to start getting the Newbery's on CD so I can listen to them while I do stuff around the house, or else I'll never finish this goal.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck

I finished this a few weeks ago, and I'm surprised I forgot to write about this book because I loved it.  I had read it before in high school, I believe.  It had been several months since I had hosted book club so I volunteered and selected The Good Earth.

The story follows the life of Wang Lung, a poor Chinese farmer living near the Yangtze River.  The story begins at the nineteenth century draws to a close.  Wang Lung lives alone with his father and scrapes by the best he can working the land.  He loves the land.

In the first chapter Wang Lung is preparing to meet O-lan, the slave of wealthy land owners in the village, whom his father had paid for to be his son's bride.  She comes home with him and they work the land together. She bears children and they become more prosperous.  Then a drought comes and they are starving and destitute. They even kill Wang Lung's beloved ox for food.  On the brink of death Wang Lung decides to take his family south, where it is rumored that there is abundant food.  O-lan sells their furniture and they later buy tickets for the train that takes them to a new city.  O-lan and the three children survive day-to-day by begging off the wealthy passersby while Wang Lung pulls rickshaws.

At this time China is in the middle of a revolution, and the wealthy are forced to leave the city.  A house of a rich family is raided by the poverty-stricken and Wang Lung and O-lan obtain enough money to go home and begin farming.  Wang Lung is able to buy more land and becomes quite prosperous, hiring men to labor over his land for him.  Even when flood ruins all the neighboring farms, Wang Lung is prepared and able to feed his family and continue to gain riches.

A well-to-do man who cannot work the land for the floods becomes an idle man, and soon Wang Lung finds himself in the company of a woman named Lotus Blossom who works in a brothel.  He brings her home as his concubine.

With time Wang Lung becomes so wealthy he purchases all the land of the great, wealthy family from which his father purchased O-lan, and the house the family had vacated during bad times.  But he missed the land, and his sons prefer wealth to land.

This is one of my favorite stories.  The cultural differences force one to think beyond the realm of experience to discover the human similarities shared with Buck's characters.

For the book club meeting I prepared some orange chicken and white rice, red-dyed hard-boiled eggs and some fortune cookies from the store.  My brother-in-law served a Mandarin speaking LDS mission in California and I borrowed some knick-knacks to adorn the table.  I wish I had thought to bring my camera, because I impressed myself with the display.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"You'll Lose the Baby Weight: (And Other Lies about Pregnancy and Childbirth)" by Dawn Meehan

This was an impromptu read for me.  I was in Boise last week and had some time to kill before my book club, so I wandered into the neighborhood Dollar Tree to explore the book section.  I never know what I'll find there, but often what I find is surprising.  And even if the book is a dud, I only spent $1.06, so I won't beat myself up about it.  I picked up this book by Meehan and thought, why not.  I opened it up the next morning and couldn't put it down, and I ended up finishing it before bedtime.

I haven't laughed as hard as I did when reading this book in a long time.  In fact, every time I chuckled out loud (which was often) my children asked what was so funny.  And those of you with young kids at home know that they want to know EVERYTHING you're doing.  Why was it funny, Mom?  Tell us!  Tell us!  But the humor of pregnancy and childbirth would be lost on my 3 year old, so I tried to suppress my giggle fits.  I don't think I did a good job, because I still got "What's so funny, Mom?" several times each page.

Meehan takes on the topic of pregnancy and childbirth--and she should know a thing or two, or six!  As the mother of six kids she's an expert as far as I'm concerned with all things maternal.  This book will take the reader step-by-step in what to expect each month of pregnancy and the stages of labor and delivery.  It's not intended to dispense medical advice, and she often encourages her readers to ask their doctors if they have any health questions.  I have four children of my own and frequently throughout this book I could relate to the pains and discomforts Meehan shines a humorous light upon.  Being able to identify with an author like that is so exciting to me.  There wasn't anything in the book that was news to me as far as pregnancy goes, but this book was a witty, fast-paced, and refreshing read (especially after my Newbury books).

I think every mother should read this book, whether she's expecting her first child or has fifteen grandchildren.  And if you're single and don't want children, read this to intensify your resolve to never reproduce.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Smoky the Cowhorse" by Will James

"Smoky" was the 1927 winner of the Newbery Award.  So far the Newbery books have been focused around exotic, far-off places most people in the 1920's weren't likely to be familiar with.  So it was surprising and refreshing for me to read a story about the old west (although it wasn't the OLD old west; the story was contemporary to its publication).  

The story follows from Smoky being born to a wild mustang herd on the range clear through to his last years.  I enjoyed the beginning of his life, from birth to the relationship with his mother and other horses, to being branded and eventually broken into life of a cowhorse.  And I also liked the end, where he's stolen and follows other career paths for a time.  I was VERY happy with the ending--sometimes predicting the end of the book can be boring but with happy endings I'm glad to be right.  

But the middle, ugh, the middle.   Too many summers and winters and wolves and blizzards without much happening along the way. Also, the book is dominated by descriptive sections and very little dialogue (this wasn't a talking animal book).  I live for dialogue; it helps keep the reading at a jaunty pace and propels the story.  I almost gave up, but this morning I told myself I only had one-fourth of the book left, to quit being a ninny and FINISH it.  It wasn't a bad story, but it was far from an engaging page-turner.  But I'm happy to have finished it.  I picked up the next Newbery at the library today and I get my new book club book tonight, as well.  It's a happy time to be surrounded by so much great stuff to read!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Muriel Barbery

In a nutshell, "Hedgehog" is a French novel translated into English.  Because of this, sometimes the syntax of the language and themes seemed a bit unusual.  But once you get used to the candor of the book it's pleasant to follow.  There are two narrators:  Renee Michel who is a concierge in a large, ritzy apartment building (each floor is a unit of 4000 square feet...that TWICE the size of my HOUSE) and Paloma Josse, an impressively sharp and intelligent 12-year-old girl who lives in the building.  One thing to clarify:  in Paris, evidently, concierges are no better than low-class landlords who receive packages, take out the trash, and tend to building maintenance.  They surprisingly don't cross paths until late in the book when a third significant character is introduced.  And that's all I'll tell you of the plot.

What I personally adored about this book was the naive yet in-depth analytic paint-brush Palmoa used to depict humanity.  She understands so much but has seen so little, therefore her perceptions, while provoking, are short-sighted.  Renee, on the other hand, has spent her life hiding who she is, a reaction of fear caused by a tragic event from her youth.  Both the old woman and the young girl are viewing life through dirty spectacles. So much of Renee's narration struck deep chords in my soul.  I didn't feel like I had much in common with Renee as much as I felt she could describe parts of me that I could never put to words before.  

The only thing I didn't like was the fact that Blade Runner was one of Renee's favorite movies.  This is more funny than anything, since I only saw the movie a few months ago.  My husband and I both thought it really creepy and disorienting, and so I didn't understand at all when Renee said her life was like a Ridley Scott movie.  The reference was odd more than anything.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Shen of the Sea" by Arthur Bowie Chriman

"Shen of the Sea" was the 1926 recipient of the Newbery Medal.  I was afraid of this book because the 1925 Newbery winner, "Tales from Silver Lands" was a collection of short stories from South America, and it bored the socks off me.  I didn't complete it.  Imagine how thrilled I was to find the next Newbery book to be a collection of Chinese short stories for children.  But I enjoyed it immensely better--I mean, I finished it!  Woohoo!  I don't know if I could exactly pin-point the reason I enjoyed "Shen" when "Tales" was unbearable.  Simple things as the brevity of the short stories, a less florid yet quicker-paced telling.  And the stories were humorous and I think children would be able to grasp the irony of humanity in them.  I have absolutely no idea of any of these stories are genuine to Chinese culture, but the author supposedly spent a great deal of time studying Chinese and Indian cultures, I suspect if he did fabricate them it wasn't without a solid base of knowledge.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"The Whistling Season" by Ivan Doig

This is the book we'll discuss at next Tuesday's book group meeting.  I wasn't thrilled with when I first saw it.  Just a one-room school house on the cover and a postage-stamp sized picture of the author on the back, and old man with prominent cheekbones.  So, judging this book by the cover, I wasn't thrilled.  I let myself polish off a few other books before I got to it last week.  But once I got started, I had a hard time resisting.

Right off the bat I aligned the book with "Sara, Plain and Tall" and "Cold Sassy Tree" and "Growing Up." If you've read any of these books, alone or in combination, you might have an inkling what "The Whistling Season" is all about.  I thoroughly enjoyed Doig's writing style.  The words and imaged flowed as if I were reading my own memories, seeing my own home-movies.  I wouldn't call it a comical book but there were some genuine parts of humor. 

The story carried on pleasantly enough, but I knew some sort of scandal had to happen at the end.  I was starting to get nervous about 50 pages from the end and no scandal had surfaced.  But I was surprised and caught off guard at the nature of said scandal. 

I wish I could say more about the content of these books.  I do my best to write my feelings and impressions about what I read without spoiler warnings, just in the off-chance anyone else reads this.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

"The Distant Hours" by Kate Morton

If you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of this author.  I would love to meet her in person.  I just thought to google her and was ecstatic to find her site.  I can't wait to dive into it.

I loved this story!  Of her three novels I've read this one was by far the creepiest.  I don't usually get psyched out by a story (what I love about reading is you can make a story as frightening or as safe as you want it, it depends on your imagination and desire to be frightened) but this book creeped me out.  And I loved it.  The Mud Man and Juniper and the castle itself all came together and wove a fantastic mystery and a shocking ending that made my jaw drop.

What I adore about Morton's writing are the similarities of themes that are consistant in her books but each story is vivid and alive in its own account.  It's like the periodic table of elements.  There are a finite number of elements the universe is allowed to work within, but look at the countless ways you combine them to make different substances.  (I'm not a science person, so if there's a gaping flaw in this logic I apologize.)  Distanced mothers, absent mothers.  The old woman and the young woman.  Ghosts.  Mysterious, decrepit buildings.  All these elements repeat themselves in her stories but they play a unique role in each tale so that a completely different experience is born.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom

This book should be a must-read for students in high school or college.  Even if one doesn't hold to Christianity, the stark humanity expressed in the story speaks volumes.  But I'm getting ahead of myself....

If you're unfamiliar with the book, Corrie Ten Boom was a concentration camp survivor of WWII.  She and her family lived in Holland and hid Jews from the SS until they were discovered.  I had read it once before in high school, I believe, as it was a favorite book of my father.  I was excited to read it again for my book club. 

There were SO MANY 'ah-hah' moments in this story, so many times where the message of love being conveyed was tremendously moving.  If I had my own copy I would've marked it up for future reference.  But I didn't.  Also, when you're reading against a deadline and you have four small children sometimes you just have to read without the luxury of basking in received enlightenment. But I will share two moments that stood out for me in particular:

Corrie's sister Betsie said once that no matter how deep our misery is, His love is deeper.

When Corrie was on a speaking engagement after her release and she came face-to-face with one of her former guards.  He thanked her for her message of forgiveness, that even he, too, could be forgiven through the Savior's sacrifice.  Corrie froze.  She didn't know if she could practice the forgiveness she'd been preaching when it came to this man.  She prayed in her heart for forgiveness for him, and when she still felt none she asked the Savior to give her His forgiveness.  Then the thought came to her, that Jesus had already died for the guard's sins, was she going to ask for more?  She shook the guard's hand and electricity surged between the two.  And she forgave him.

So powerful, the impact this woman and her family had on so many.  It was speculated that her family helped save 800 Jews from the camps.  Such a blessed woman, such an incredible tale.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"The House at Riverton" by Kate Morton

I got my hands on another Kate Morton book.  I loved The Forgotten Garden so much, I've been meaning to read more of her books!  (I've already started on the third one, I couldn't resist.)  All I can say is I loved it.  I took more than one 2-hour bath reading it, because it was one of those books where you can't just read a few pages and go on to your next task.

Where TFG took place in three different time periods, House is told in two.  The theme of disconnected motherhood was present in both books, which makes me wonder what Morton's relationship with her own mother is like.  I think House is a combination of Downton Abbey (TV series) and The Great Gatsby.  I remember while reading often asking myself if the writers of Downton Abbey had read House, because there were many similarities in events and even some names, but I guess if you're writing a well-researched era piece there are bound to be similarities like that.  I am always impressed with Morton's list of resources she used to write her books.  It tells the reader how dedicated she is to telling the story right in doing so much reading and research. 

People have been asking me if Morton's 3 novels are a series and they are indeed not.  Just for clarification. 

So, in case you haven't noticed, I'm a big Morton fan and I think everyone should read her books!

Friday, February 3, 2012


When I started my Newbery goal I guessed I could have it done in one year.  That means I'd have to read almost two books every week.  Don't forget I'll be involved in book club and also some personal reads.  Oh, and don't forget to throw my 4 kids and husband into the equation.  So, I was pretty much insane when I said one year.  If I carve out one book each month, it'll take me 7 1/2 years to complete the whole list.  This is definitely a long-term goal.  (Read:  I'll be approximately 38 by the time I finish it.  Wowzers....)

Reading Updates

Newbery Update:   I've been working on "Tales from Silver Lands" by Charles Finger for the past few weeks.  It's a charming little book, but it struggles keeping my attention span because it is a collection of short stories from South America, cultural legends likened to Aesop's fables.  I don't mind the topic, rather the style that I'm bored of.  I finally decided if it's taken me a month to only get halfway through the book, plus I have zero desire to read the rest of the stories, then it's time to give up and move on.  If it was a beginning-middle-end type of story with a plot, I'm sure I'd be more determined to figure out what happened to the characters.  But, frankly, while the stories are imaginative and charming, I have no interest in reading any more of them.

The next Newbery book will be "Shen of the Sea" by Arthur Bowie Chrisman. 
Edit:  Oh crumbs, I just googled "Shen of the Sea" to get an idea of what it's about and it's a collection of short stories from China.  It said they're humorous, so maybe that'll be better for my waning attention span?  Good grief.

Book Club:  The book we will discuss in our February meeting will be "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom.  I have read this before, but it was sometime in high school, so I am eager to read it again.  I enjoy reading WWII/holocaust stories.  So, while I'm ditching my last Newbery book, I'll dive into this one (when I get my hands on the copy I'll borrow from a friend).

Personal Reading:  I made an Amazon order last month and needed to spend a few more dollars to get my free shipping, so I bought "The House at Riverton" by Kate Morton.  I loved her "The Forgotten Garden" so I'm excited for this one!  I'll tackle it after "The Hiding Place."

Monday, January 2, 2012

"The Dark Frigate" by Charles Hawes

A story about a young man's adventures among pirates. I'm just a few chapters into it.  I like the pace of the story, but I think the language is so antiquated it would be hard for children to understand, especially the Scottish dialect (while beautifully broken-down phonetically, I only can decifer half the words).  Anywho, my first impressions of the book are favorable, and it should be a brief read.

Update 1/11/12:  Finished two days ago.  I think the story would make a great screen-play in the hands of the right writers to be turned into a great action movie.  But the 18th-century language plus the ship jargon that was like Greek to me, the book was hard to persue in some points. Even when the plot was exciting, I didn't feel excited.  Sadly, the author died at a young age shortly after it's publication.  If he'd had the opportunity to write more I'm sure he would've created some wonderful stories.

Next Newbery book:  "Tales from Silver Lands" by Charles Finger.  I already have my copy, I just keep forgetting to get it out of the library bag.

"Clockwork Prince," Book 2 of The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Claire

The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series are my dirty little secret.  Shadowhunters, demons, vampires, werewolves; love-triangles and steamy passages.  If you like action, fantasy, and teenage romance drama then you must read Cassandra Claire.  The four books (so far) in The Mortal Instruments are City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass and City of Fallen AngelsClockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince are the first two books of The Internal Devices series.  Infernal Devices is actually a prequel series to Mortal Instuments; chronologically it happens 100-ish year earlier, but you must read Mortal Instruments first to understand the world of Shadowhunters living among humans and saving them demons.  It's not brilliant writing, often predictable, but worth it's weight in gold when it comes to entertainment value.  IMO.  I got this newest Claire book for Christmas and paced myself as much as possible to enjoy it longer (I made it last a whole week).  Then I went back and dog-eared my favorite sections so when I need a little Will-Tessa-Jem rush, I can find it quickly.