Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mary Poppins

Author: P.L. Travers
Pages: 209
Rating: G
Summary: A blast of wind, a house-rattling bang, and Mary Poppins arrives at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane. Quicker than she can close her umbrella, she takes charge of the Banks children - Jane, Michael, and the twins - and changes their lives forever.
Unlike other nannies, Mary Poppins makes the most ordinary events extraordinary. She slides up banisters, pulls all manner of wonders out of her empty carpetbag, and banishes fear or sadness with a no-nonsense "Spit-spot." Who else can lead the children on one magical adventure after another and still gently tuck them in at the end of the day? No one other than the beloved nanny Mary Poppins.

My Thoughts: I decided to read this book after watching the movie "Saving Mr. Banks" which is a phenomenal film, by the way. I had no idea that Mary Poppins was a book, so of course, I had to read it. I didn't love it. Honestly, there's not much of  a plot. Each chapter is a separate fanciful story about something Mary Poppins does with the children. And then at the end of the book, she leaves. Young children would probably really like it, but I was bored. I like my books to have substance. Also, Mary Poppins is kind of mean, as are most of the other adults the children encounter. Their parents are barely mentioned at all, and Bert is a character in only one chapter. They certainly took a lot of liberties with the movie. I found myself wondering what in the world Mrs. Banks was doing all day since the family has a housemaid, butler, cook, and nanny.

As I said, young children would probably be delighted with the silly little stories and adventures the children go on, but I was just bored. It took me weeks to read this book, and it's not even very long.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Series: The Lunar Chronicles

Author: Marissa Meyer
Book One: Cinder

Pages: 387
Rating: PG
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

My Thoughts: I was totally hooked on this book. I was a little wary at first, just because there have been SO MANY retellings of the various fairy tales that I wasn't sure how this would compare. However, the author manages to connect the stories only vaguely. What Cinder has in common with Cinderella is the fact that she is an orphan being raised by someone who is not her mother and who treats her like a servant, she has no father figure, and two stepsisters, she falls in love with a prince, and she goes to a ball, where she dances with said prince. Everything else in the story is completely different. First of all, the story is set WAY in the future. Not exactly sure when since they have a new year counting system. It's after World War 4. People have colonized the moon and gained mystical powers from living there that are quite dangerous to those living on earth. Unfortunately, Queen Levana, from the moon, wants to take over Earth. Emperor Kai is trying his best not to let that happen, but in order to do that, he must find Princess Selene, the rightful ruler of the moon people, who most believe burned in a fire as a baby. 

When Cinder is volunteered for vaccine testing for the plague that kills her sister, she discovers that she has a rare immunity. This fact reveals other secrets about her past, which Cinder doesn't know. She remembers nothing before the surgery that made her a cyborg at age 11. Cinder's story doesn't end with happily ever after. At least, not yet. At the end of this book, Cinder is in a life-threatening situation, and nowhere near romantic happiness. Her story continues in the next book in the series, Scarlet. I am very excited to see where all this goes.  

Book 2: Scarlet
Pages: 452
Rating: PG-13
Cinder is back and trying to break out of prison—even though she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive if she does—in this second installment from Marissa Meyer.
Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother, or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana.
My Thoughts: Scarlet was definitely more violent and intense than Cinder, and also more complicated because you are switching back and forth between Scarlet's story and Cinder's story. I really liked how the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood was worked into the story in an interesting way. Scarlet lives with her grandmother, who is kidnapped by what seems to be a pack of wolf. One member of the pack offers to help Scarlet find her grandmother. What remains to be seen is whether this wolf is trustworthy or not. (The answer IS in the book, but I'm not going to tell you.) 

I was definitely intrigued by this story as well. I thought the writing was very good and it was incredibly imaginative. I liked that Scarlet gets to sort of have a happily ever after by the end of this book, even though we are still waiting for Cinder to find her happy ending. I assume that won't happen for a while. Also, my one annoyance with this was how Twilight-esque Scarlet and Wolf's relationship was.   


Book 3: Cress
Pages: 550
Rating: PG-13

In this third book in Marissa Meyer's bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth.
Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl trapped on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s being forced to work for Queen Levana, and she’s just received orders to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is splintered. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price than she’d ever expected. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai, especially the cyborg mechanic. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

My Thoughts: This series still has me hooked. I absolutely love how the author works in the essential elements from the original fairy tales. However, it's never something you expect. I was completely surprised at every turn, but then when I thought about it, I realized each surprise was not really a surprise at all. Nearly every major plot twist connects back to the original stories. I love how Meyers still manages to surprise me even when she's telling an extremely well-known story. 

I feel like I can't say too much more without giving plot points away and I don't want to do that. This book was so far the longest, but I really enjoyed it. I will say that the books are getting more violent every time, and there is some torture in this book. I like that the romance is kept to a minimum, and about the only thing anyone ever does is kiss, so it's very clean. And there's no language to speak of. That's always a plus. 

Book Four: Winter

Pages: 823
Rating: PG-13

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.
Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won't approve of her feelings for her childhood friend--the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn't as weak as Levana believes her to be and she's been undermining her stepmother's wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that's been raging for far too long.
 My Thoughts:
Loved the conclusion to this series! I read it so quickly! I'm still not the bigest fan of the relationship between Scarlet and Wolf (it's a little Twilight-esque) but everything else was great. The ending was good and not totally predictable and I really enjoyed how everything worked out. This was such a good series and I can see them turning it into movies soon! (That would be cool). This  book was violent because it's when the revolution finally happens, but I didn't feel like it was as graphic in the descriptions as some of the other books. That's all I can say. I can't ruin it!  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy

Author: Emily Bazelon
Pages: 319
Rating: PG-13 only because she talks about suicide some and also some of the narrative from middle and high school students includes foul language.

Summary: Being a teenager has never been easy, but in recent years, with the rise of the Internet and social media, it has become exponentially more challenging. Bullying, once thought of as the province of queen bees and goons, has taken on new, complex, and insidious forms, as parents and educators know all too well.

No writer is better poised to explore this territory than Emily Bazelon, who has established herself as a leading voice on the social and legal aspects of teenage drama. In Sticks and Stones,she brings readers on a deeply researched, clear-eyed journey into the ever-shifting landscape of teenage meanness and its sometimes devastating consequences. The result is an indispensable book that takes us from school cafeterias to courtrooms to the offices of Facebook, the website where so much teenage life, good and bad, now unfolds.

Along the way, Bazelon defines what bullying is and, just as important, what it is not. She explores when intervention is essential and when kids should be given the freedom to fend for themselves. She also dispels persistent myths: that girls bully more than boys, that online and in-person bullying are entirely distinct, that bullying is a common cause of suicide, and that harsh criminal penalties are an effective deterrent. Above all, she believes that to deal with the problem, we must first understand it.

Blending keen journalistic and narrative skills, Bazelon explores different facets of bullying through the stories of three young people who found themselves caught in the thick of it. Thirteen-year-old Monique endured months of harassment and exclusion before her mother finally pulled her out of school. Jacob was threatened and physically attacked over his sexuality in eighth grade—and then sued to protect himself and change the culture of his school. Flannery was one of six teens who faced criminal charges after a fellow student’s suicide was blamed on bullying and made international headlines. With grace and authority, Bazelon chronicles how these kids’ predicaments escalated, to no one’s benefit, into community-wide wars. Cutting through the noise, misinformation, and sensationalism, she takes us into schools that have succeeded in reducing bullying and examines their successful strategies. The result is a groundbreaking book that will help parents, educators, and teens themselves better understand what kids are going through today and what can be done to help them through it.

My Thoughts:
I feel like the summary up there did its job well. I thought the book was really informative and interesting, particulary the first two parts where Bazelon chronicles the bullying experiences of Monique, Jacob, and Flannery. Bullying is indeed much more complicated than we sometimes think it is. Often, kids don't even realize that what they are doing IS bullying, as was the case with Monique's tormentors. They called it "drama." Other times, the bullying becomes a problem because the victim has depression or other problems that make the effects of bullying worse. Their tormentors don't realize how weak their victim is, and therefore, push them over the edge without meaning to. It becomes a problem when the "bullies" see their victim as an equal and so they don't consider what they are doing to be bullying. However, the victim may not see the relationship the same way.

Bazelon warns us of blaming every teen suicide on bullying. Often, even though bullying was involved, there were many other factors contributing to the suicide, and it is not fair to blame it solely on bullies. I just thought the entire exploration was really fascinating, and helped me to look at bullying in a new way. There are also solutions and study results listed in the back of the book. I was pleased to see that the school I work at implements one of the most highly recommended bully-prevention programs. I still think we could stand to improve a little, but what school is perfect?

I don't really recall ever being bullied or bullying anyone myself, or even being aware that bullying was happening at my school when I was a kid, but maybe I'm just a head-in-the-clouds type of person and it all just flew right over my head. I remember certain kids that I may have made fun of once or twice, or being made fun of once or twice myself, but never to an extent that it could be called bullying. The online world definitely extends the reach of bullies today, which makes it all the more important for parents to monitor their child's online activities. It's also important to be aware of what is and is not considered bullying, although the book makes clear that if it's mean, an adult should do something about it, whether its bullying or not. We should not allow bad treatment of others to escalate into bullying.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with teenagers, or who is in the teaching profession. It was very enlightening, especially since I don't have a lot of experience with bullying personally.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Triology: Mistborn

Books in Trilogy: Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages
Author: Brandon Sanderson

Pages - Mistborn: 643
The Well of Ascension: 763
The Hero of Ages: 724

Rating: Very high on the PG-13 scale. The books are pretty violent, and some of the scenes are rather gory and disturbing.

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.
Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.
But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

The Well of Ascension: Evil has been defeated. The war has just begun.

They did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a healthy new society in the ashes of an empire.

They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.

The Hero of Ages: Who is the Hero of Ages?

To end the Final Empire and restore freedom, Vin killed the Lord Ruler. But as a result, the Deepness---the lethal form of the ubiquitous mists---is back, along with increasingly heavy ashfalls and ever more powerful earthquakes. Humanity appears to be doomed.

Having escaped death at the climax of The Well of Ascension only by becoming a Mistborn himself, Emperor Elend Venture hopes to find clues left behind by the Lord Ruler that will allow him to save the world. Vin is consumed with guilt at having been tricked into releasing the mystic force known as Ruin from the Well. Ruin wants to end the world, and its near omniscience and ability to warp reality make stopping it seem impossible. She can’t even discuss it with Elend lest Ruin learn their plans!

The conclusion of the Mistborn trilogy fulfills all the promise of the first two books. Revelations abound, connections rooted in early chapters of the series click into place, and surprises, as satisfying as they are stunning, blossom like fireworks to dazzle and delight. It all leads up to a finale unmatched for originality and audacity that will leave readers rubbing their eyes in wonder, as if awaking from an amazing dream.

My Thoughts: Other than the fact that these books are monstrously long and it took me almost two months to read all three, completely consuming all my free time until I could finally just be done with them....I really enjoyed them. =) Sanderson is a very good writer. I have to admit, at the beginning of the first book I couldn't imagine why he needed such long books to tell the story. But by the time I got to the third one, I just had to keep reading to find out what happens, and was actually disappointed when it all came to an end. That's the mark of a good writer right there. Writing enormous books that still leave you wanting more.

Sanderson is a master storyteller. He weaves in little clues and hints and foreshadowings that you don't even realize are important until they come up again entire books later. Every time I thought I figured things out, I was totally wrong, although there were a few times I came to the correct conclusions long before the characters did. There's also the element of newness, because Sanderson thinks up stories that are like nothing you've ever read before, and by the end, it seems like the most logical kind of storyline ever.

In these books, Mistborn are those who have the power to "burn" metals. When they ingest certain metals, they gain certain powers, like extra strength, heightened senses, etc. It's a pretty elaborate invention. Sanderson also seems to enjoy making up elaborate religions that he weaves through his books, and these are no exception. There is one character, Sazed, who has dedicated his entire life to seeking out the world's religions and recording them, since they were mostly all wiped out by the Lord Ruler, who basically set himself up to be a god. I enjoyed the commentary on the importance of religions, and why they exist. In fact, toward the end, Sazed has gone through all of his religions trying to find any one that is true, and he finds that there are intense flaws in each of them. He is completely disappointed because he wanted so badly to find one that he could belive. Finally, he realizes that while not one of the remaining religions had been entirely true, they all had elements of important truths in them, and when you put all of those truths together, you get something worth believing in.

Again, my biggest complaint about these is the amount of time it took me to read them, but I don't regret reading them. They were definitely entertaining and good. And, I will give one thing away. Even though each page you turn seems to bring a fresh disaster and everything starts looking really hopeless, the ending was really good and very satisfying.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Author: Cynthia Lord
Pages: 200
Rating: G

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She's spent years trying to teach David the rules from "a peach is not a funny-looking apple" to "keep your pants on in public"---in order to head off David's embarrassing behaviors.
But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she's always wished for, it's her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?

My Thoughts: This is a great book for the elementary level to help kids learn about and understand kids who may be different from them because of an illness or disability. Catherine loves her brother and she understands that he's not like other kids, but she struggles with the face that David demands more attention from her parents. She also really struggles with the way other kids treat David. She doesn't like it when he is made fun of or treated like he is stupid. At the same time, she wishes she could fit in with other kids and not have them pity her because of her brother. The book is not very long, and it's not very complicated plot wise, which really makes it a perfect book for elementary school kids.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

Authour: Jennifer Senior
Pages: 265
Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior now asks: what are the effects of children on their parents?

In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior tries to tackle this question, isolating and analyzing the many ways in which children reshape their parents' lives, whether it's their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self. She argues that changes in the last half century have radically altered the roles of today's mothers and fathers, making their mandates at once more complex and far less clear.

Recruiting from a wide variety of sources—in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology—she dissects both the timeless strains of parenting and the ones that are brand new, and then brings her research to life in the homes of ordinary parents around the country. The result is an unforgettable series of family portraits, starting with parents of young children and progressing to parents of teens. Through lively and accessible storytelling, Senior follows these mothers and fathers as they wrestle with some of parenthood's deepest vexations—and luxuriate in some of its finest rewards.

Meticulously researched yet imbued with emotional intelligence, All Joy and No Fun makes us reconsider some of our culture's most basic beliefs about parenthood, all while illuminating the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to our lives. By focusing on parenthood, rather than parenting, the book is original and essential reading for mothers and fathers of today—and tomorrow.

My Thoughts:  I thought this book was fascinating, but that may be just because I am really interested in the ways our behavior is shaped and changed based on our home environment. I thought it was a  really neat viewpoint to take - how do children effect their parents? There isn't exactly any parenting advice in this book, more just information. And information always helps me to understand actions. There's more of an explanation of why parents are often frustrated with their teenagers and what this can mean for parental relationships as well as other relationships in the family.

Senior also explores the development of the modern childhood. Childhood as we know it is relatively new on the scene. It didn't start to emerge until the 1940's. Up until then, children were primarily workers and people had them out of  a sense of duty, but also to add more helping hands to the family. Now that we are able to control when we have children and how many we have, they have become more of a coveted commodity when they finally do arrive. Combine that with child labor laws, and children really don't have much of a purpose besides learning about the world around them. Parents are having to adjust their parenting techniques to an ever changing world, as technology evolves faster than we can keep up with it. Reading this book and seeing how the different families struggled with how to raise their children made me grateful for the gospel and how it gives us a framework for how families should be run and what moral values to teach our children. That's never going to go out of style.

If parenting and child development are your thing, I would definitely recommend this book to you. I thought it was just fascinating to read.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

Author: John Green
Pages: 313
Rating: PG - there is one sex scene, but it's very non-descriptive.
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

My Thoughts: I thought this book was good, but I ended up wondering what exactly caused it to immediately become wildly popular and made into a movie barely two years after it was published. It was a good book, don't get me wrong, but I've read LOTS of books about kids with cancer, and I didn't feel like this one was leaps and bounds better.

The one thing I did like was that both kids had cancer, and it was just kind of a "dealing with illness" type of book. You really get sucked into their world, and start to understand what it might be like to be in that kind of situation. There were a lot of funny lines and good quotes, and the characters were very likable. Augustus is pretty hilarious, and the type of kid you wish you could have had as a best friend.

I don't know, maybe I"m just not in the right period of life to have fallen completely in love with this book. Maybe it helps if you're a teenager when you read it. It has been growing on me though. I do recommend it to anyone who hasn't yet read it (if there's anyone left...). And maybe I'll like it better when I see the movie. I don't know, I just felt like it was a book for teens and I just couldn't fully resonate with it. But I still liked it. I read it really fast, so that means it was good!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Infinite Atonement

Author: Tad R. Callister
Pages: 335
Rating: I'm not giving this a rating, per se, because it's just not that kind of book. But, I will say, this is a book for young adults to adults, just because the subject matter would go way over the heads of anyone too young. It might be ok for a very mature teenager.

Summary:The Infinite Atonement is rapidly becoming a classic, as it offers what may be the most comprehensive treatment of the Atonement in our day. With clarity, testimony, and understanding, Tad R. Callister teaches us rich and wonderful truths about this “doctrine of doctrines,” and elevates our spirits as we contemplate the perfect love of Him who gave us all that we might receive all.

My Thoughts: I thought this book was phenomenal. If you have ever wished you had a deeper appreciation for the Atonement, go out and get this book right away. Elder Callister just breaks it down, starting with why exactly the Atonement is so important, and what the purpose of it is. That was really enlightening, because I think we all know on a basic level why we have the Atonement (without it, we would not be able to return to God's presence) but to know that exact same thing on a deeper level is really what this book helped me to do. Then, we go into the nature of the Atonement: what happened, how it happened, what the results were. It's amazing. Again, if you feel you need to have more appreciation for the Savior, read this book. My thoughts during the Sacrament the Sunday after I read the chapters detailing everything that happened in Gethsemane were much more sober and focused on the Savior. There were numerous quotes from General Authorities, scriptures, etc that just brought everything to the surface, trying to describe as accurately as possible all the transpired there in the garden. It's humbling, really. I definitely recommend this book. I think I will probably read it again and again. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Persian Pickle Club

Author: Sandra Dallas
Pages: 196
Rating: PG-13 (1 F-bomb, some other mild swearing, one character is almost raped)

It is the 1930s, and hard times have hit Harveyville, Kansas, where the crops are burning up, and there's not a job to be found. For Queenie Bean, a young farm wife, a highlight of each week is the gathering of the Persian Pickle Club, a group of local ladies dedicated to improving their minds, exchanging gossip, and putting their quilting skills to good use. When a new member of the club stirs up a dark secret, the women must band together to support and protect one another. In her magical, memorable novel, Sandra Dallas explores the ties that unite women through good times and bad.

My Thoughts: I have to say, I was about halfway through this book and thinking, "Ok...what is this going to end up being about?" It's seems like just a nice story about a bunch of farmwives who like to quilt and who support each other during hard times. But then it suddenly turns into a murder mystery, and it all gets pretty interesting. I liked the book because the characters seemed very real. The way the members of the Persian Pickle Club take care of each other reminds me of Relief Society. So that part really connected well with me. I also enjoyed that it was nice and short, but it was surprising. I had no idea what was going on until the end. Like I said, it seems like a book about a bunch of nice, tame little farmwives, but you find out...that's definitely not who these ladies are all the time. It was good for a quick, but surprising read. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Author: Julianne Donaldson
Pages: 279
Rating: G

Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured and rejected three marriage proposals.
Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain sooner rather than later and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?

My Thoughts:  Along with Edenbrooke, this book has been all the rage in the LDS community, mainly because it's a clean romance novel. I'm personally not super impressed. Yes, it is a clean romance novel, and it's entertaining enough, but I felt like there wasn't really enough meat to the story, and I also knew exactly who Kate was in love with and would end up with in the end when I was barely 2 chapters in. It was a bit of a surprise how she actually got there, and of course, very romantic, but overall, I don't particularly enjoy knowing the ending before I even get very far. Regardless, it is a good read, nice and short, and plenty sappy.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Host

Author: Stephanie Meyer
Pages: 619
Rating: PG - There wasn't anything inappropriate or overly violent in it.

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away.

Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy that takes over the minds of human hosts while leaving their bodies intact. But Wanderer, the invading "soul" who occupies Melanie's body, finds its former tenant refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

As Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of Jared, a human who lives in hiding, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she's never met. Soon Wanderer and Melanie-reluctant allies-set off to search for the man they both love.

My Thoughts: I know I'm super behind since this book was a big deal when it came out forever ago, but now I've joined the crowd. Loved it! It was a very clever story and I like how Wanda (Wanderer) is initially seen as an enemy but by the end of the book you feel a lot of compassion for her and you even care about her. You get to see Wanda's side of things and you understand her alien race. I love that Wanda herself even begins to care about the humans and feels that her race has not done the right thing in occupying Earth. It's a great book, I just wish it wasn't quite so long. I got very absorbed in reading it and it was hard to stop.

Here's a bit better of a synopsis. The souls have come to occupy the planet of Earth. Souls cannot exist outside of some sort of host body, and Earth is not the only planet they have colonized. However, it is the first planet that has the issue of resisting hosts. Melanie is such a host. She does not go away when Wanda takes over her body, and soon she convinces Wanda to go in search of the people she loves. Wanda is not received well at first, but eventually she convinces the colony of hiding humans that she is not a danger to them and has no desire to give them up as hosts to other souls. However, she eventually gets caught between Melanie's boyfriend, Jared, who still loves the girl he knows is inside the body somewhere, and Ian, a boy who falls in love with Wanda herself.

My brother said the movie is terrible. I don't know, I haven't seen it, but I did watch the trailer and it looks like it's considerably more violent than the book, which is not really that violent at all. Since the humans are trying to avoid soul-possessed bodies at all cost, there are no real fight scenes in the book, and if there are, it's mostly between humans who are upset with each other over something. The souls do not like to resort to violence, as they are a peaceful race, so it seems that the fighting that happens in the movie is not very reflective of how it actually happens in the book. Anyway, if the length of this book doesn't scare you, and you like science fiction with a little love mixed in, I would say give it a read.

Oh, and don't be thrown off by the fact that the book is written by Stephanie Meyer. I'd say The Host is WAY better than Twilight, and isn't nearly so ridiculously lovey-dovey. There is love in The Host, but the love "square" between Melanie, Jared, Wanda, and Ian makes things difficult, and honestly there is too much else going on to dwell on the relationship aspect much.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Edith's Story

Author: Edith Velmans
Pages: 239
Rating: PG - Edith never goes to any of the camps and doesn't have to witness many horrors
In 1940, while the Germans occupied Holland, fourteen-year-old Edith van Hessen was filling her diary with the intimate, carefree details of a typical teenager's life — thoughts about boys, school, her family, her friends, her future. By 1942, as Edith was contemplating her first kiss, the Germans had begun to escalate their war against the Jews. Soon this bright, fun-loving girl was grappling with one of the most unfathomable events in human history. Edith's family — assimilated Dutch Jews — were caught in the cross fire of the Holocaust, and Edith began a bitter struggle to survive.

In this extraordinary work, Edith Velmans weaves together revealing entries from her diaries with reminiscences and letters smuggled between family members during the occupation. Edith's Story stands as a profoundly important addition to the literature of the Holocaust, documenting one girl's grief, loss, courage, and ultimate triumph over devastating tyranny and despair. For as Edith is hidden in plain sight by a Christian family, we witness how a young woman must deny, bargain with, and finally face the horrors of war — and how, confronting evil as a child, Edith survives to become an extraordinary woman.

My Thoughts: Edith Van Hessen has been called "The Anne Frank who lived." I felt like this was a very fitting description for her because, like Anne Frank, Edith kept a diary for a large part of the war, and she was also extremely optimistic. There's a quote from Anne Frank's diary where she says something about how she strives to see the good in everything and everyone, and that's very much how Edith was. She did her best to keep a sunny outlook and cheerful disposition, trying to find the best in every situation, no matter how difficult her life became.

I personally loved this book because it was so different from the other Holocaust survival stories I've read. Edith and her familiy had managed to secure visas to America before the Nazis occupied Holland, but they didn't leave because they were unable to get a visa for their grandmother and they couldn't bear to leave her. Edith had two older brothers, and it was decided that the oldest would go. Edith is hidden with a friend's family, in plain sight. She is explained to the neighbors as a family friend who came to visit just for the summer, but then her parents were both in the hospital, so they couldn't bear to send her home. No one suspects a thing, and Edith survives without any difficulties. However, she goes through the guilt and the horror of surviving and living just fine when her family members are having to deal with unkown horrors. She has no idea what is happening to them, and will not find out about it until after the war is over.

I really just enjoyed this book a lot. It was amazing to see how Edith refused to succumb to hoplessness and despair even when everything around her was crumbling. She kept her head up and rarely asked "why me?" It was inspirational.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Odds Are, You're Going to Be Exalted

Author: Alonzo L Gaskill (assistant director of Church history and doctrine at BYU)
Pages: 109
Rating: G
Summary: Many Latter-day Saints worry whether they are capable of reaching the celestial kingdom. Are these anxieties born of a sense of unworthiness or is it just that we just don't think we can "do it all"? Author Alonzo Gaskill believes that such pessimism results from misunderstanding God's great plan of happiness and what it is the Lord actually requires of us.
In this hope-filled book, Brother Gaskill reminds us of God's declaration: "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). He explores the teachings of the scriptures and modern prophets, which testify of God's unfailing love and mercy and of His power and desire to bless His children.
This book is a joyful affirmation of each individual's potential and ability, through the atonement of Christ, to achieve all that God has in mind for us. When our Father in Heaven introduced the great plan of happiness in the premortal world, it's objective was that we might not only be saved from death and sin but also ultimately exalted.

My Thoughts: This is a wonderful book for everyone to read! Sometimes we can get discouraged and feel like the task of making it to the Celestial kingdom is too much. When we ask ourselves if we're going to make it, we feel like maybe we won't. We are trying, but maybe it's not enough. This book uses scriptures and words from modern prophets to give us a good deal of encouragement! We do not need to feel afraid that God will only save a very small portion of his children, or those who have been THE MOST faithful in their lives. Why would a loving God consign the majority of his children to misery? His plan was created so that actually the MAJORITY of his children would return back to him.

The book contains some wonderful explanations on the concept of grace (something I think most Mormons don't fully understand) and the power of the Atonement to overcome all. I love the quote, "We must recognize that grace and works are not opposties, but rather two ends of the same stick; two facets of the same eternal plan; two necessary parts of the same redemptive act - the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Another great quote I loved, "All too often we assume that only a small, select few will return to the Father's presence, there to dwell with Him for time and for all eternity. Yes, only the select will have the honor and privilege of so doing. But who is it that the Father has selected for this great blessing? Our answer - all  of His children!"

The book also points out that while it may seem that there are very few good people on this earth today, we have to think about all those who have already lived. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we believe that those who do not hear or understand the word of God in this life will have the chance to accept it in the next, and thereby still attain their exaltation. We also believe that all children who die before the age of 8 are automatically saved in the kingdom of God. If you look at all of human history, the book states, more than half of the human family has died before reaching the age of 8. HALF! All of them have made it back to God's presence. Then, if you take into account all the mentally handicapped people who have lived on this earth - they also are automatically heirs of exaltation. Just those numbers alone account for billions of people who will be there in the Celestial Kingdom.

If you ever need a pick-me-up, a reassurance that you are doing ok, that you CAN and WILL make it, pick up this little book.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

While We're Far Apart

Author: Lynn Austin
Pages: 408
Rating: PG (nothing is really graphic or too detailed for younger kids, but it is about war, so....)

In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades each aspect of their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother. Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie's wife is dead, Penny feels she has been given a second chance and offers to care for his children in the hope that he will finally notice her and marry her after the war. And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war torn Hungary. But during the long, endless wait for victory overseas, life on the home front will go from bad to worse. Yet these characters will find themselves growing and changing in ways they never expected and ultimately discovering truths about God's love. . .even when He is silent.

My Thoughts: I really enjoy Lynn Austin's novels. A lot of times Christian novels have that one character who is so annoyingly perfect in their faith that they seem completely unrealistic. And they're constantly reciting phrases like, "Just trust in the Lord, honey, and it will all be fine." Austin's characters are a lot more believable to me, and they also often are struggling with their faith.

But, let me start at the beginning. This book is NOT a love story. Although Penny thinks she is in love with Eddie, she's really not, and the story is more about the children and Mr. Mendel dealing with the difficulties and uncertainties of war than it is about anything else. Mr. Mendel is a Jewish man who has been struggling with his faith. His wife died in a car crash a year ago, and his son is trapped in Europe during the most dangerous time possible. Mr. Mendel doesn't understand why God has allowed such terrible things to happen to him. Soon, Esther and Peter, the children who live upstairs from him, become his friends, and they begin to help each other with their sorrows and problems. I love that the author chose to weave together Mendel's Jewish faith with the childrens' Christian faith. Mr. Mendel tells the children the stories of Esther and Joseph from the Old Testament, helping them to understand that God is working in the background even when it seems he is not there. I loved that Austin brought out the commonalities in the two religions and created a bond between her characters with it.

I happen to love World War II era novels, and this one was another great one. Each character is presented with such clarity and they each have their own obstacle to overcome. Penny, for instance, grew up in a household that was so strict and overprotective, that she has very low self-confidence. Her mother always told her that she was not smart or capable, and is furious with her for deciding to take on the care of Eddie Shaffer's two children. She thinks Penny will not be able to do it. Penny is a great character who gets the opportunity to discover so many things about herself and about life in general once she sets herself free from the prejudices and fears of her parents.

I highly recommend this book. It's just really good, and as is typical of Lynn Austin, the religiousness of the book never feels forced. It just belongs there as naturally as anything. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak
Pages: 550
Rating: PG
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

My Thoughts: First of all, whether you've seen the movie or not, GO READ THIS BOOK! I have not seen the movie, but I already know I don't have to see it to know the book is absolutely worth reading. This is one of those books that while the story itself is moving and captivating, you read the book for the way it is written. Zusak is a master of figurative language, and he spins sentences so beautiful you have to read them twice just to make sure you are absorbing the full meaning of it.

"The words were on their way, and when they arrived, Leisel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain."
"Two giant words were struggled with, carried on her shoulder, and dropped as a bungling pair at Ilsa Hermann's feet. They fell off sideways as the girl veered with them and could no longer sustain their weight. Together, they sat on the floor, large and loud and clumsy."
"The reply floated from his mouth, then molded itself like a stain to the ceiling. Such was his feeling of shame."
"The guilt was already there. It was moist. The seed was already bursting into a dark-leafed flower."
"Her nerves licked her palms."
"The wind showered through her hair. Her feet swam with the pedals."
"A graze struck a match on the side of her face, where she'd met the ground. Her pulse flipped it over, frying it on both sides."

See what I mean? You just can't get that from a movie. It's incredible. As for the actual story - I really enjoyed reading about World War Two from the perspective of a young, relatively safe German girl, whose family ends up hiding a Jew. She and her best friend end up really hating Hitler, because their lives are miserable. They are poor, hungry, and their fathers are forced into service because they don't always agree with everything the Nazis say. Leisel is a foster child, who watched her brother die on the train on the way to her foster parents' house in another part of Germany. When she arrives, she does not know how to read, but her foster father Hans painstakingly teaches her until she is obsessed with books and reading. She lives an extremely difficult life, but in the process she learns kindness, love, and selflessness. She never buys in to the German propaganda that Jews are the enemy. After all, the Jew they are hiding in the basement has become one of her closest friends.

Another favorite thing about this book is that Death is the narrator. It's a different perspective that's for sure. He is not vindictive or gleeful. He is simply an observer, and he sometimes is quite sorrowful at all he is required to observe. He says that war is not his friend. It is more like a boss that keeps demanding that you work even harder than you ever have before, and is never pleased with your performance. Also, Death doesn't believe in suspense. He pretty much tells you the ending multiple times before it happens. The ending isn't important, it's the journey to get there that he wants to tell.

This is one of the best books I've ever read. Don't just watch the movie. You MUST read this book. It's incredible.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Charlie St. Cloud

Author: Ben Sherwood (Alternate title: The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud)
Pages: 269
Rating: PG-13 (There is a sex scene, and although it only lasts about 2 pages, it is more on the graphic side than the vague side. Just to warn you. However, it was not extremely graphic or crude)

In a snug New England fishing village, Charlie St. Cloud tends the lawns and monuments of an ancient cemetery where his younger brother, Sam, is buried. After surviving the car accident that claimed his brother's life, Charlie is graced with an extraordinary gift: He can see, talk to, and even play catch with Sam's spirit. Into this magical world comes Tess Carroll, a captivating woman training for a solo sailing trip around the globe. Fate steers her boat into a treacherous storm that propels her into Charlie's life. Their beautiful and uncommon connection leads to a race against time and a choice between death and life, between the past and the future, between holding on and letting go — and the discovery that miracles can happen if we simply open our hearts.

My Thoughts: I loved this book. I read it in only a few days! Sherwood writes his love story in a way that sweeps you right off your feet, and isn't even the slightest bit cheesy, but this is not just a love story, it's also a story about dealing with death, and letting go of loved ones when they pass on.

Charlie St. Cloud feels responsible for the death of his younger brother, because he was driving the car when they were hit by the drunk driver. He feels that he could have avoided the crash. Both boys actually die, and they make a promise to each other that they will never leave each other, that they will always be there for the other. Charlie, however, is shocked back to life by paramedics, who are unable to save Sam. Soon after Sam's funeral, Charlie discovers that he can still see and talk to Sam, but only on the grounds of the cemetery. So begins the nightly ritual: Charlie meets Sam in a secluded area of the cemetery just at sunset, and they spend their evenings together. If Charlie misses one night, he is sure Sam will be gone. Charlie gives up nearly everything to spend his evenings with Sam. He refuses to move away, and he rarely dates at all. He becomes the groundskeeper at the cemetery and finds that he is beginning to see the spirits of others who have died, but they usually only hang around for a few days before moving on to whatever is next. Sam, however, always stays.

Charlie has never let anything or anyone come before his promise to always be there for Sam, until Tess comes along. Tess seems to be everything Charlie has ever wanted, and she even meets Sam! Unfortunately, Tess has a major problem in her life, and Charlie ends up having to make a choice between his love for Tess, and his commitment to Sam.

I think my favorite part of this book was the interactions that Charlie has with all the other spirits of the deceased as he watches their funerals with them. Often, they mourn along with the loved ones they have left behind. I like the idea that our friends and family who die are feeling the pain of departure along with us, even though they know they have moved on to a better place.

Like I said, this was a great book. I have not yet seen the movie, but I plan on it. Even if you have seen the movie, read the book anyway, because almost always, the book is better, or at least just has more depth than you could possibly cram into two hours of screen time. You won't regret it.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Forgotten Fire

Author: Adam Bagdasarian
Pages: 272
Rating: PG-13 (this is similar to a holocaust novel...it's really intense and a lot of bad stuff happens.)

In 1915 Vahan Kenderian is living a life of privilege as the youngest son of a wealthy Armenian family in Turkey. This secure world is shattered when some family members are whisked away while others are murdered before his eyes.

Vahan loses his home and family, and is forced to live a life he would never have dreamed of in order to survive. Somehow Vahan’s incredible strength and spirit help him endure, even knowing that each day could be his last.

My Thoughts: Wow. This book is written as a fiction novel, but nearly everything that happens in it really did happen to someone, and the main character, Vahan, is the author's great-uncle. So don't think you're just reading a made-up story. It's largely a non-fiction book. Twenty years prior to the Jewish Holocaust that everyone knows about, was the Armenian genocide in Turkey. I had never ever heard of this, and after doing a little more research, I learned why. Turkey spent years denying that this genocide ever happened, and the US, in order to maintain a good relationship with Turkey, pretty much agreed not to make it public. Look up "1915 Armenian Genocide" on Google and you will learn tons. It was fascinating.

Basically, Armenians were Christians, and they lived in an Islamic country, Turkey. And in 1915, some new Turks took over the government and decided that Armenians were a threat to the country and must all be exterminated. So began a calculated genocide. It's estimated that half of the Armenian population in Turkey was murdered during this period. It was customary to shoot the oldest Armenian boys right in front of their families.

Vahan comes from a wealthy Armenian family, but within a matter of days, his father, two oldest brothers, and and older sister are all dead, and the rest of his family is on a death march. Vahan and another older brother manage to escape, but they eventually are separated, and Vahan has to survive based on only his own wit and strength. That he manages it is a miracle in and of itself. He meets some kind individuals who protect him, for seemingly no true reason.

I would recommend this book just as an education. Like I said, everyone knows about the Jewish Holocaust, but I had never heard of the Armenian one. Apparently, Hitler actually used the Armenian genocide as justification for what he was about to do to the Jews. At the beginning of the book there is a quote from Hitler, "Who does now remember the Armenians?" He figured that since no one really remembered what happened to the Armenian people, no one would remember the Jews either once he got rid of them. And that's why it's important to learn about the bad things that happened in our histories, so that they won't be repeated.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America

Author: Glenn Beck (in case you couldn't tell since his name is twice as big as the title....it annoys me when authors do that)
Pages: 256
Rating: PG-13 (the title tells you why. Massacres)

Thomas Edison was a bad guy— and bad guys usually lose in the end.

World War II radio host “Tokyo Rose” was branded as a traitor by the U.S. government and served time in prison. In reality, she was a hero to many.

Twenty U.S. soldiers received medals of honor at the Battle of Wounded Knee—yet this wasn’t a battle at all; it was a massacre.

Paul Revere’s midnight ride was nothing compared to the ride made by a guy named Jack whom you’ve probably never heard of.

History is about so much more than memorizing facts. It is, as more than half of the word suggests, about the story. And, told in the right way, it is the greatest one ever written: Good and evil, triumph and tragedy, despicable acts of barbarism and courageous acts of heroism.

The things you’ve never learned about our past will shock you. The reason why gun control is so important to government elites can be found in a story about Athens that no one dares teach. Not the city in ancient Greece, but the one in 1946 Tennessee. The power of an individual who trusts his gut can be found in the story of the man who stopped the twentieth hijacker from being part of 9/11. And a lesson on what happens when an all-powerful president is in need of positive headlines is revealed in a story about eight saboteurs who invaded America during World War II.

Miracles and Massacres is history as you’ve never heard it told. It’s incredible events that you never knew existed. And it’s stories so important and relevant to today that you won’t have to ask, Why didn’t they teach me this? You will instantly know. If the truth shall set you free, then your freedom begins on page one of this book. By the end, your understanding of the lies and half-truths you’ve been taught may change, but your perception of who we are as Americans and where our country is headed definitely will.

My Thoughts: I thought this book was fascinating. If you like history at all, you'll enjoy this collection of stories as well. They are written as stories, not a collection of facts, and if you really care, at the end of the book, Beck lists which parts of the stories were fabricated for the sake of creating a coherent story line, and which parts are solid fact. I appreciated this, and thought it was pretty interesting.  

My husband didn't like the fact that each story is told from varying viewpoints, and it switches back and forth. I didn't mind it, but just wanted to put that out there.

Personally I learned quite a bit about history from this book, and how the US is certainly not perfect. That being said, I don't think Beck was trying to turn our country into some secretive bad guy, I just think he wanted to expose stories that the government tried to hide or at least gloss over for a while. There are also several stories about bravery and heroism that you just may not have heard of.

My personal favorite story was "Saboteurs: In a Time of War, the Laws are Silent." During World War II, Germany decided to send 8 "spies" over to America to bomb some key factories and bridges and hopefully make things more difficult for the US. The Nazis chose these "spies" based on the fact that they had previously spent time in the United States and would easily blend in to the environment. Unfortunately, they didn't think to check the loyalties of these men, who had no intention of following through with their mission. After a Nazi sub dropped the men off a few miles off the US coastline in the middle of the night, one of the men went straight to the FBI and told them everything, including that he and his comrades had no hard feelings towards the US and that they would like to help the US win the war. However, the United States felt that its citizens needed the morale boost from hearing that 8 would-be saboteurs were captured and kept from their mission. The men were arrested and put in prison, and ultimately, 6 were executed, including one man who was actually a US citizen. The other two were sentenced to 30 years in prison, but only served about 6 of those years. The war ended and a new president freed them and sent them back to Germany.

To me, the ultimate lesson I gained from this book is that you can't always trust every news story or press release you hear. People in power are very good at twisting the truth and convincing unsuspecting listeners that an entirely different truth exists. In at least two of the stories, the American people were convinced that the government was doing the right thing, blissfully unaware of the truth.

But you may get a different message. Like I said, not all the stories are about mistakes. I would give this one a read. It's very interesting, and a pretty easy read too, since the stories are told in a novelistic fashion.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Author:  Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Pages: 274
Rating: PG (It's a post-World War II novel, and some of the wartime descriptions are a little too graphic for it to be rated G)

Summary:  January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

My Thoughts: This book was recommended to me by both my sister and a former roommate, so I knew I had to eventually pick it up. I really enjoyed it! Sometimes I get annoyed with books written entirely in letter format, as this one was, but it really worked for this novel. The worst part is that there are no "chapters" so there's nowhere good to stop! I pretty much binge-read this book. I am already a sucker for novels and books about World War II, so of course, I was automatically interested.

This is a different novel than you have probably ever read about the War. It's all about this eccentric group of friends from a little island off the coast of England, who had to deal with the German Occupation of their Island in the best way they could. They were completely cut off from any news or contact with anyone from mainland England for the entire 4 years the Germans occupied their island. They had very little food, and eventually, the Germans didn't have any either; they were resorting to killing and eating stray dogs and cats. The only thing that kept these island friends sane during this Occupation was their Literary society. They did not have many books (most of the books on the island ended up being burned for fuel after all the wood and other methods of fuel ran out) and some members of the society read the same book over and over again. However, they were able to spend a few hours every few weeks discussing these books and ideas, and forgetting about the war.

I loved this book a lot because it was a simple and easy read, but you really got a feel for these people, who, although fictional, could just as well have been real. It's been so long since we have suffered from such a terrible war that my generation doesn't know what it is like, and we take all of our blessings for granted. For example, just to have good flour and sugar to bake a cake was an unheard-of luxury for most during the dark years of the war. The "Potato Peel Pie" part of the name of the society came because the society wanted to serve refreshments at their meetings. Having no sugar or other such necessities for sweets, a member of the club made up a pie made of mashed potatoes sweetened with strained beets with potato peels for crust.

Another aspect of this book I liked was that the members of the society were able to separate the collective character of the German Army from that of the individual officers. In fact, they made good friends with one officer, who was very friendly, and not at all supportive or pleased with what his country was doing during this war. They also related the small acts of kindness some German soldiers would discreetly and quietly carry out: "accidentally" pushing a few potatoes off the back of a cart for the starving children following behind, delivering desperately needed medicine to a woman with a sick child in the village, helping a man in a churchyard dig a grave.

This one I definitely recommend. I gave it the PG rating because some of the descriptions of wartime activities and the way the Germans treated their prisoners can be intense. Not terribly bad though, and it's not something they dwell on a lot in the book. Happy reading!