Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Princess Academy - Shannon Hale

What a sweet book.  As you know if you follow this blog, I love to mix it up a bit with the stuff I read.  This one was a little detour to youth fiction.  I enjoyed it!  The characters were endearing, the storyline interesting and the touch of fantasy involved was "just enough."  As with most youth fiction, this was very easy to read.  I sped through it.

I really love to read books about displaced girls who find themselves either outcasts or bullied by others and have to truly stand up for themselves.  Think Anne of Green Gables, The Little Princess and the like.  This one had, like I said, a touch of fantasy (quarry-speech) that made it different and fun.  Miri has a strength of character that I admire and hope to find in my own daughter as she gets older.  Endearing, sweet and lovable, but not flawless.

Shannon Hale weaves a wonderfully appropriate story for tween girls.  Miri and Peder and all the Princess Academy candidates won my heart.  However, I had a super tender spot for Miri's father, Laren.  Perhaps it's because I'm an adult instead of a spry teenager, I related to his sorrow and his relationship with his daughter.  The book doesn't focus on Laren, but you get glimpses of his personality by the way he reacts to his daughter, how Miri thinks of her father and when he interacts with his other daughter, Marda, and the fellow townspeople.  He has a lot of sorrow and weight on his shoulders, and loves his daughters so very much.

This book would make a really lovely movie.  At the rate most books are turning into movies these days, I won't be surprised if this gets to the big screen shortly.  I don't think that it's in the works or anything, but it's such a huge trend.  Kinda bugs me.  No original ideas out there?!?  (Sorry - I know this isn't a movie blog.)  Some books DO make great movies, though.  I think this would.

(4 stars)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pope Joan - Donna Woolfolk Cross

I'd heard about this book years ago and made a mental note to read it....someday.

Well, someday came when a neighbor loaned it to me for my vacation.  I wasn't sure if I wanted a "deep" read or a "no-brainer," so I took it along just in case I chose "deep."  I'm really glad I did, too!  I immediately was engrossed in Joan's life and was intrigued by her plight.

Legendary Pope Joan was a woman who posed as a man in the Middle Ages in order to gain the education and equality that men in that time automatically aquired.  Intellegent, strong and brave, Joan goes from abused child to Pope in a time when women were treated as inferior to men, enslaved as wives and daughters without the hope of education and knowledge.  Brutality and unfairness bombard her at every turn, yet she fights the fight in order to gain what she knows she deserves.

I wouldn't say I LOVED this book, but I couldn't put it down.  I read it every chance I got because I just had to know what would happen to Joan next.  I have no idea if this legend has any truth to it, but regardless of if Pope Joan was a woman that did indeed exist in the Middle Ages, she is a woman who we can all learn quite a bit from.  Perserverance, dedication and strength of character just pour out of this woman, as if she could truly handle the next horrible action against her.  Most of us would have crumbled from the beginning, let alone stand 'til the end.

The hardest part for me, personally, was any interaction Joan had with her father.  Bottom line:  He scared the crap outta me.  Supposedly a "religious" man, he was evil, vile and abusive to anyone he came in contact with....unless they were his superiors.  I cringed when the author brought him up.  I hated what he would do to his wife, his the name of his religion.  Grrrrrrr.  He made me so mad.  I know, however, that that was how the author, Donna Woolfork Cross, wanted us to feel.  It made Joan's destination that much more desirable.  Get safe.  Get respected.  Get glorified!  Ha! So there, DAD!

Historical fiction has always intrigued me, and this book was no exception.  The idea of it potentially happening, I suppose, brought that much more enjoyment out of the book.  I honestly doubt it's true, but who cares.  It was a fascinating read. If you're into historical fiction, touched with romance, then you'll like this book. 

(4 stars)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Heaven Is For Real - Todd Burpo

Dear Jesus,

Help me never to forget that you are always here, always real and always loving me.


This book had a profound effect on my prayer life.  I can't say that it changed me forever, because that wouldn't be accurate.  I've known Jesus a very long time and even though I've had seasons of "drought" or thoughtlessness, I've always returned.  This brought me back from a season with leaps and bounds.  This little boy's trip to Heaven is believable and wonderful and made Him more real to me....again.

What I really loved about this book is that it's not just this steady stream of recapping Colton's visit to Heaven, but a woven story with his experience just thrown in - how it truly happened.  He didn't wake up from surgery spoutin' scripture or praisin' Jesus, but slowly opened up with his innocent stories and remarkable insight.....not to mention the statements he made that he could never have known had he not been there.

I always take these stories with a grain of salt.  I'm a bit of a skeptic.  As much as I WANT them to be true, I just always wonder how much of it truly is.  This one had me sold hook, line and sinker.  It just didn't FEEL false.  It felt real and genuine and sweet and simple.  Easy peasy read, not-so-easy heart changer.  :)

The beginning, however, made for a bit of dull reading.  Luckily it didn't take them too many {fairly short} chapters to get into the "meat" of the book, though.  Just enough, maybe, to keep people from truly getting into it FAST enough.  I'm glad I stuck it out. 

No spoilers here - the title says it all.  This little dude goes to Heaven and sits in Jesus' lap, sings with angels and can describe Heaven in a way that only a little 3 year old can.  Pure. 

I'm buying a few more copies of this book to give as gifts - or to make sure I have enough to lend out.  I just think it is a worthwhile read.  Heart-warming, heart-changing and heart-felt.  Read this book.  It won't take you long.  Just read it.  You'll see.

5+ stars

Friday, April 29, 2011

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels - Ree Drummond

Well, we all know The Pioneer Woman has mad skills in the kitchen.  She rocks the blogging world with her quick wit, sassy and spectacular photography and wonderfully-woven words.  And now she comes to the publishing world with a terrific novel about how she and Marlboro Man met, hooked up and handled the trials and tribulations of LIFE in the first year of their marriage.

And it's FUN!

I loved reading this book.  It was a total pleasure to read!  Just like reading her blog.  She spins a story like no other, and since her story is true, it makes it that much more interesting to read.  It's funny, heart-warming, steamy and real.  Did I mention funny?

Go through the twists, turns and detours of Ree Drummond's life as if you're her best friend and confidant.  You'll giggle when she meets Marlboro Man, cry when she is struggling over her parent's issues, laugh when she has multiple mishaps during the courtship and hold the book tightly as she adjusts to life on a cattle ranch.  I know she has more wonderful stories to share (she has four kids for goodness sake!), so I hope there is more where this book came from.  

I absolutely loved Marlboro Man's reaction to everything.  Now maybe this is a biased view coming from a woman who absolutely adores her husband (as it should be), but it's not unbelievable.  Marlboro Man (and, no, she never once called him by his real name) has the kind of spirit that we all want in our partner.  He is forgiving, understanding, warm and unconditional.  He never once falters from his "heroic" demeanor, but he isn't about bravado or conceit.  However, neither is Ree.  They seem genuine (she's awfully hard on herself, though!) and real.   

I really did want the story to continue.  I wanted to hear about all the other babies being born.  About how she really got into cooking.  I really wanted to hear about how she adjusted to the early morning hours of a cattle rancher's wife.  And I wanted to hear how Charlie (her basset hound) came into the picture.  :)  Sweet lady.  Sweet story.  BOOK TWO, please!

Until then, I'll keep readin' her blog. :)

I would recommend this book to all you gals out there that want a light-hearted romance with some true depth when it comes to matters of the heart.  It's not a complex storyline.  There isn't any deep moral to the story or contrived twist of plot.  It's simple, straight to the heart and good.  Period.

(4 stars) 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pulled - Amy Lichtenhan

I read this book in two days.

{I probably could have read it in less, but I didn't want it to end!}

There are two, three reasons why I read this book so fast.

One being:  IT.  WAS.  GOOD.

Second being:  I know the author!  Yes - it's true.  I went to high school with her.  :)

The last reason being:  I was just so compelled to see what happened to the main characters in this book that I needed to read just the beginning of the next chapter for a bit of resolution.  Well, I couldn't read JUST the beginning.....  COMPELLED

I guess that last reason is much like the first.  So?

Pulled was a wonderfully woven story about two young lovers who's lives are torn apart at the seams when they lose their baby girl, neither one of them understanding what or who is tearing them apart.  Nine years passes them by and suddenly they are thrown back together at a chance encounter.  What happened nine years ago that separated them?  What will happen now?  So much time has passed.  So much has happened.  Daniel and Melanie seem worlds apart, but their hearts are still in tune.

I love how Amy was able to flip back and forth seamlessly not only between the past and the present, but also between characters.  It was nice to be able to share the view of both protagonists.  The story was crisp, clear and left no holes or questions.  I suppose it was a bit predictable, but I find that reassuring and "natural" in a romance novel.  It wasn't a contrived storyline, but flowed through the details with ease.

I did find myself with tears on occassion, but not in the parts you would assume.  Yes, there are some tear-jerker moments, but I tend to cry with joy at the happy parts more often.  I rejoiced with the good times and pouted during the bad.  But I could tell that the book would have a positive ending.  I LOVE THAT.  I read so many books that may or may not end the way I want them to.  I'll still read them, but - like I said - I pout.

I'm all about the happy ending these days.

For a novice writer, Amy took me on a vacation for a couple of days.  When a book holds me to it even when I'm not reading it, it's a darn good book in my mind.  I can't tell if it's because I know the author and was just so stinkin' excited to read something she wrote or if she just wrote a good story.  Aw heck.  Who am I kidding?!  I thought it was a wonderful story and would have read it REGARDLESS of my familiarity with the person who penned it.

But I do know this book isn't for everyone.  I stated to my hubby when I finished it that every husband should read a romance novel.  Hee!  But - he won't.  Most guys won't, I suppose.  But it would be good for them.  Get some romance flowin' in their relationship.  And I know that some women don't even like a good romance novel.  That's okay.  This isn't for you, either.  But those of you that dig chick lit or some schmoopiness (yes, that's a word) in your life, grab this book.  SWEET, sweet book.

(5 stars, OF COURSE!)


These Is My Words - Nancy Turner

Death.  A lot of death.  Depressing, drag ya down death.  (Uh, is there any other kind?)

But hope, too!  I thought, after the first few chapters of These Is My Words, that I would seriously have to find another book to read.  The story was interesting, I really liked the characters.....but then those characters would die or be close to someone that did.

Now, I know that was part of the 1880's...with wagon trains, expanding the western territories and violent Indian raids.  But for Sarah Prine, it was a horribly sad time of loss and pain.  Her words cut through me and I just didn't know if I could read any more.

But I did - and I'm so glad!  Her close-knit family and all it's quirks, challenges and wonderful personalities kept me loving them through the whole book.  I know this story is just BASED on true accounts of Sarah Prine's life, but I'm so hoping some of the good times, the antics and the love that flowed between the people were true.  I just LOVE her and her story.

It's a tough read, but a wonderful, fictional account in a difficult time in history.  I'm a big fan of historical fiction, so this was right up my alley - with a bit more truth than I'm used to, but something I'll turn to again.  It was deeply moving in parts, frustrating in others and then just downright hilarious at times.

Read it.  You won't regret it.  It's actually a fairly easy read considering the history behind it.  Because it's in diary form, there are little to no "empty" words or long descriptions.  I got the idea and picture in my head JUST FINE.  Perfectly tuned in to what was going on - even thought it was only from one persons perspective and in first person.  I was never bored and never confused.  The story just simply flowed. it.  Unless you like fantasy or books with the eternal happy ending.  'Cause then, well, you'll be sorely disappointed.

I PROBABLY won't read the sequels.  (I believe there are two more?)  I haven't decided at this point.  I liked this story, but I don't know if I need more.  I know, I'm weird like that.  But - so many books, so little time!

(4 Stars)

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Hunger Games trilogy - Suzanne Collins

To read or not to read......?  That WAS the question.  I like young adult fiction, but was thinking "uh, apocalyptic.......uh........"  Just didn't seem like the book(s) for me.  But, BOY, was I sucked in FAST!  I couldn't put the first one down due to the never-ending supply of cliff-hangers!

The Hunger Games
Catching Fire

These books were certainly entertaining, but were surprisingly violent.  I don't mind that fact TOO much, but this book was about KIDS and that bothered me a bit.  But I read books that are fiction AS I just swallowed that fact and pushed onwards.

Like I said - cliff-hangers are a killer.

And each chapter in all the books kept me wanting to read more....and more and more!!

So, even though they REALLY reminded me (at first) of the City of Ember books (which I only liked a little and only the first one), I just thoroughly enjoyed them.  The characters were inspiring, strong, courageous and lovable.  Collins did a wonderful job at letting you see the heart of each one without giving away the continuous twists and turns of the plot.  Katniss, Gale, Prim, Peeta, Rue, Cinna, and even Haymitch......... Well, they all became my "friends."  I LOVE that when that happens.  When I feel like I know the people. 

The politics of the book really put me on edge.  Scares me to think that our world could become that....who knows.  What we know of North America is divided into districts and "The Capital" is in control.  SERIOUSLY in control.  Each district is ruled over with unfairness, held in poverty and famine, while The Capital gains all the goods.  So - of course - the districts eventually rebel.  This takes place over the three books, starting very slowly and building up to Mockingjay (the third book).  While The Hunger Games is character building, exciting and gives you the basic picture of this futuristic America, each book follows suit with a little bit more information on what the big picture really looks like.

Whoooooooo would like these bookies?!?  Hm.  Well, my neighbor friend (a freshman in high school) LOVED them.  Her mom did, too.  Like I said, they are VERY entertaining for those of you that like that fantasy, futuristic edge to a book.  I'm usually not a huge fan, but the warmth of the characters in this book helped me tremendously.  I HAD to know what happened to them next!  And it's sad.  Pretty darn sad at times.  I said there is a lot of violence.   Well, there is.  And characters you love die.  I won't spoil it too much, but if you read it, know that just because it's "youth fiction" doesn't mean you won't be protected by mushy, sweet, careful writing.  Ya know what I mean?  It's still pretty "pure" as far as fiction goes, but.....not entirely.

****SPOILER ALERT!******

The only thing that really bugged me, to be honest with ya'll, is that the end was a bit anti-climactic.  Collins had all these twists and turns and events that caught you by surprise, but the one thing that you knew from the get-go was that Katniss did everything she did for Prim.  She takes Prim's place right from the start to protect her sister.  And then (I'll tread cautiously here, but don't read if you plan on reading the book) the stuff with Prim happens at the end and it's like "okay.  We can end the book now."  I still loved the books, but I guess I expected more from the end.  A triumph.  A WIN!  Instead, life changed, but just kinda.....went on.  Okay.  The End.

But with all that said - I enjoyed these reads.  I miss my friends all ready.

(4 stars)