Monday, February 25, 2013

"Reached" by Ally Condie

I know that I had said I would be posting my review on "Women with Attention Deficit Disorder", but I feel like it's a little too close to home right now and I wanted to wait a little longer to post. I'm sure you're all extremely disappointed. :) In the meantime, though, I finished "Reached", the third book in a trilogy written by Ally Condie.

It had a Giver/Hunger Games feel to it, which is a bit fascinating to me because these types of books make me wonder what it would be like to have every aspect of my life controlled by a higher power. And these types of books try to answer the age old question of whether or not being allowed to have the freedom to choose for one's self is in the best interest of a group of people. Or if it would be better for someone to decide for everyone else what jobs they would have, how many children they would have, what they could/couldn't eat, etc. This book also resonated with my own personal religious beliefs. It makes me grateful that I do get to choose. That we all do.

I also loved the symbolism that Condie uses throughout the three books. I love how the jacket covers symbolize what Cassia, the main character, is going through AND the pills that the Society has them carry. I love how she progressively adds voices to the other two main characters in the second and third books. I loved the names of the parts in the third book and how they all relate to each other. Her writing style flows smoothly and she ties everything in so well. I definitely recommend reading this series!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"The Miraculous Journey of Edward Toulane" by Kate DiCamillo

Another gift book!  This was given to my family by my mother-in-law for Easter 2012.  She's the kind of person who gives you something out of the goodness of her heart, but you know she's going to follow up eventually and ask how you liked the gift.  So I decided it was in my best interest to finally read it.  I tried reading it to my two oldest kids; Isaac was wholly disinterested, but Alayna was game.  It was a perfect bedtime story book because the chapters were short.

DiCamillo is an established author (Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, etc.).  Alayna and I enjoyed this story, as well.  Edward is a ceramic rabbit whose journeys and travels teach him about love, loss, and being vulnerable to love again.  The biggest messages I took away from the story were we will love all types of people we might not expect to love, and that love will often be lost due to circumstances out of our control, and love will return even if we have to wait a long time.  But no matter what, it is always worth it to love.  It is the greatest gift, the reason for living.  The characters were simple and varied and charming.  You'll love some and hate others; some might make you cry.  It's a simple story with profound meaning.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

"On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft" by Stephen King

I didn't know this book existed until one of my Facebook friends posted a quote from it.

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things about all others:  read a lot and write a lot.  There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut."

This grabbed my attention.  I had never read Stephen King before; I just knew him as the guy who wrote scary stories which were often turned into scary movies (which I don't   watch--I'm nightmare-prone).  But a successful writer writing about writing?  I couldn't resist.

I got around to getting a copy from the library and devoured the book.  I love his voice.  I thought it started out with some colorful language, and that amused me.  I don't mind the occasional expletive--I think it peppers up a story.  But, King pushed my limit--at times the language surpassed colorful to simply gaudy (ironically, he addresses this very issue in one of his chapters).  But the voice he uses during his life narrative and wisdom-sharing really excited me.  It's a book I simply must own my own copy of to reference and reread again.  But when I have my own copy, I'll read it with a Sharpie in hand.  Yes, I'm sure this sounds prudish.  I believe that in life, as well as in writing, if you can't find a more polite word to use you lack a certain creativity.

BUT, all that aside, this was an excellent read.  He doesn't just dispense good advice, he does it beautifully.  You can tell what kind of human being he is.  He's honest, and he adores his wife.

Click here for more great quotes from Mr. King's book.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Tear Up This Book" by Keri Smith, from the American Girl Library

My daughter, Alayna, had all the money she got from her November birthday and Christmas burning holes in her pockets, so during Christmas break we did some serious girl shopping, just her and me.  It was awesome.  At Target she found this book, "Tear Up This Book."  She was immediately drawn to it by its title and description: "The sticker, stencil, stationery, games, games, crafts, doodle, and journal book for girls!"  Wow, that pretty much summarizes everything Alayna likes to do in her free time.  She has simply loved the activities in it from day one.  Even this afternoon I helped her work on a mobile she wants to surprise her little sister with to hang over her bed.  So, if there's a young 'tween in your life, she'll probably really dig this find.

Monday, February 11, 2013

"Heaven Is Here" by Stephanie Nielson

Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy
Mormon mom and blogger, Stephanie Nielson, and her husband Christian were involved in a plane crash in 2008 leaving Stephanie's body 90% burned. This is her story about her experiences and how she was able to overcome this trial in her life. She is the author of the blog nieniedialogues.
This book had an unusual effect on me. I had mixed feelings throughout the whole book. In the beginning, she gives a little of her background story- little snippets of growing up, meeting Christian, beginning their family, etc. and I cringed and rolled my eyes at most of it. Seriously. It reminded me of my journal when I was 16 and it made me want to gag. Everything was so perfect and lovely. Her wording was so childish to me. I know- that's mean, but seriously, it took me awhile to get through the first part of the book. And I've been Mormon my whole life. It makes me wonder what people not of our faith think when they read this part. Or maybe I'm just really cynical... I don't think I usually am. Haha. Although, it did make me laugh when she mentioned how when she and her husband moved to New Jersey it was such a shock to her how standoffish people were. Mostly because I couldn't imagine living in one place for my whole life and actually knowing my neighbors as well as she did growing up. The whole first part made me think it was a little dramatized because she was remembering all the happy times. And although I was not a fan of her style of writing, it was her story to tell and if she felt that life was always perfect for her, then I guess it was and I'm happy for her.

I really started to enjoy the book (I know! It surprised me too! :)  ) after the plane crash. It was like she was a different author. Her words felt more real- there wasn't as much pretense to her emotions. And although I never have gone through, nor is it highly likely that I will go through what she did, I felt much more connected to her story. There are still bits here and there that I couldn't empathize with, but I found myself crying with and for her several times.

I am amazed at how strong the human spirit is. I am amazed at all this woman was capable of overcoming. I couldn't help but to keep turning to the pictures of her before the accident. She was GORGEOUS!! I couldn't help but feel a little sadness and sympathy for Stephanie losing her beauty- for not wanting to see herself for a long time afterwards. And although I didn't really care for her rendition of her "perfect" life at the beginning of the book, I think that attitude she had was what saved her from giving up.

After reading the book, I started looking in on her blog and read a few posts from before the crash and a lot since. In some ways her life still seems picture perfect. A little too perfect... But maybe that's OK. Maybe it's OK for someone to have a good life and to be happy. Maybe we can all learn from her example and make our lives perfect for ourselves. Life IS what you make of it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Wings of Arian" by Devri Walls

"Wings of Arian" is Devri Walls' break-through novel.  She's a local Kuna author, so I was eager to get my hands on her book. It's exciting for me to see someone guide their writing dream to fruition.

The Kingdom of Meros is a special place to live, for there is no evil.  The citizens haven't witnessed lies, cheating, murder, theft, or any kind of deception in a thousand years.  But that is going to change, because the dark forces that were defeated a millennium ago are stirring.  There is one who can save the kingdom in a final battle: the Solus.  The Solus and a Protector must be found and trained to defeat Dralazar, a dark magical being who wants dominion over all.  This is story is good versus evil in magical, mythical proportions.  

This story is imaginative, delightful, and adventurous.  If you've ever dreamed of making yourself invisible, flying on a Pegasus, battling a dragon, or transfiguring yourself into an entirely different entity, you should enjoy this other-world adventure.

The second book in the Solus Trilogy, "Wings of Tavea," is also available on ebook and paperback.  Review to come soon!