Wednesday, February 22, 2017


by George Eliot

Any reading nerd knows Middlemarch is listed on every "top 100 books" list and as such it would also be on their own "to-read" list.  I'm glad to say I can finally check it off mine! Eliot is in the same genre as Dickens, Austen and Alcott who present long, drawn out dissertations on society, culture, class structure, roles and relationships. I tend to like these stories and this was no exception.

The story begins with Dorothea Brooke, an intelligent young woman anxious to find her life's purpose. Then there's Dr. Lydgate caught between medical advancement and debt, Reverend Casaubon living with his aging spinster sisters but wishing instead for a wife and Mary Garth with her nose to the grindstone. Gradually we become acquainted with the whole little village of Middlemarch with all of its cares and concerns. There are so many characters it can become confusing, but each one has their own challenges along with supportive friends who guide them through. This is definitely a character driven novel, so there's no hurry to get it done and even when you do finish, it seems as if Middlemarch just keeps marching right along through time.

If you're a fan of the aforementioned author's then this is right up your alley.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness
inspirational idea Siobhan Dowd

I've read a string of different but fun books the past few weeks.

The first was A Monster Calls which is an elementary grade story about facing death. What's fun about death? Having a monster who navigates you through the pain both physical and emotional. That is what happens for Conor O'Malley as he lives with the stress of his mother dying of cancer and dealing with his future prospects for life without her. Conor is thirteen and lives with his single mother. His father has remarried, moved across the ocean and doesn't have much interest in maintaining a connection with his son. His grandmother is prim and stern and doesn't know what to do with a rowdy boy. And Conor is angry with all of them: his mother, his friends, his teachers and himself.

That is when the nightmares begin and the monster comes calling. The tree monster provides Conor with explanations for his actions and emotions that free him from guilt for his seemingly selfish thinking. While this story is mostly sad, there are many life lessons presented, which would be great springboards for discussion with your kids. But even us more mature people benefit. Read it with your kleenex nearby.

Friday, February 10, 2017

For the Love

by Jen Hatmaker

Last month a local university hosted Jen Hatmaker to speak at their chapel, interact with students and share some life/love tips mixed in with lots of funny! I was fortunate to get tickets, as both sessions sold out in a flash (thanks to my friend looking out for me). I really enjoyed the evening and found Jen's speaking very much in line with her writing. When you're reading For the Love, it is really like having a chat with your girlfriend. Sharing struggles, pet peeves, frustrations and laughs. It is a light hearted, quick and easy read and will remind you to love yourself and love others. Grace first- always!

I have a little card I carry that says:
Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. -- Thomas S. Monson

I need lots of reminders. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

by Katarina Bivald

Have you ever read a book and wondered why you kept reading? That's this one in a nutshell. I guess I kept thinking the Readers at Broken Wheel might actually begin to love books and recommend something. Instead the Swedish visitor to the tiny town in Iowa name drops a bunch of titles that some of the townspeople seem to read. But their main purpose is to be matchmakers of all sorts-- and there's LOTS of preachiness about it. Homosexual, bisexual, interracial, intergenerational, whatever and however you want it!

Why did I keep reading? Just so I could tell you not to.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Harry Potter Series

by JK Rowling

I don't tend to re-read many books, mainly because my to-read list is already constantly getting longer, but toward the end of last year and into January I read the Harry Potter series again. My initial experience was with my kids--- particularly my daughter who happened to be eleven when the first book came out (as were Harry, Ron, Hermione and friends) and as each year brought another book we waited expectantly, attended midnight release parties at Barnes and Noble, read and discussed and imagined what would happen next! Those are some fun memories.

My reason for reading them again was mainly to pump myself up for our trip to Universal Studios in Orlando. I should now add that the entire purpose of the trip was to allow some crazy runners an opportunity to runDisney marathon- which they said was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and must be done again! But for me it was all about Potter World-- Hogsmead and Diagon Alley-- which were amazing (although a few of the rides are pretty intense)! They sell wands that actually "make magic" throughout the village and there is even a Hogwarts Express train that transfers you between places-- but you must have tickets to both parks to ride.

So, back to the books--- it was quite a journey. Most things were just as I remembered, also having watched the movies multiple times.... but a few things I didn't remember. The main thing was just how dark the stories became at about number 5. I got to a point with Professor Umbridge that it was just hard to keep reading. I actually set the task aside and read other books before forcing myself back into it (I was determined to finish them all before our trip). This story is fun, fantastic, clever, magical, adventurous, scary, sad and joyous. It's a story about friends and enemies, winning and losing, teaching and learning. It's a great story to experience with your kids (11+).  Read these books, watch the movies, save your gold and take a trip to Universal (runDisney).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Passage

by Justin Cronin

Please Mr. Cronin, tell me there was a mistake at the publishers and they accidentally merged two entirely different books together, thus leaving The Passage Part One unfinished. Please tell me you didn't write The Passage Part Two, or if you did that it wasn't really the ending to the story with that mysterious little girl, Amy who everyone was trying to steal and save and figure out just what her special abilities could do and how to use them. Really there had to be a mistake!

The Passage Part One is an interesting and fast-paced drama set mainly in current midwest America. Six year old Amy is a child with unique abilities. She can speak to animals with her mind and make strange things happen, which is why the US government wants her. Her mother, in a desperate attempt to save her, drops her off with some nuns, where she finds a kindred spirit in Sister Lacey.  But even Lacey's special abilities can't protect Amy from the Feds. Once Amy is captured though, Detective Wolgast takes a liking to her and risks his life and career to help her escape. The characters in Part One are engaging and draw you quickly into their turmoil. But just when you're sucked in, POOF! they're gone.

The Passage Part Two is a slow-paced, apocalyptic, vampire-creature novel set a hundred years in the future west America. In this future most of humanity has been eaten by the Virals and the survivors have built protective communities to hide from them. The main focus is on a domed community in California whose leaders guard their children by locking them up in collective housing and patrol outside until they themselves are eaten by the Virals. This is their existence about a hundred years, but now their power source is running out, so a group of teens is going to venture out into the world for help. And here all kinds of unbelievable things happen. They connect up with a young girl who has been surviving on her own in the world. This girl speaks to them through her mind and seems to be able to communicate with the Virals. The brave teens take her along with them on their mission to somewhere in Colorado where there is supposedly help for all of them. Part Two is full of dull characters with rambling backstories that don't connect and drawn out occurrences that don't ring true to the circumstances. And even though you could care less about this story it goes on and on and on and never stops.

If you decide to read this 800-page nationally acclaimed novel, I'd recommend either stopping after about page 250 where begins an entirely different book written by an entirely different person or else skipping over those pages entirely. Maybe if you never knew about Part One you could enjoy Part Two and the sequels. Perhaps somewhere in books two or three Cronin returns to complete The Passage Part One, but I just don't have enough interest to invest another fifty hours to read the additional 1200 pages and find out.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Kill Me Again

by Rachel Abbott

As the year comes to a close and I find myself so far behind in reviewing all the books I've read I typically choose ones I like and drop the bad ones. However, two years ago I read Sleep Tight by this author and thought it was a decent thriller, so I felt after reading Kill Me Again, I owed you this critique so you wouldn't waste your precious time. In fact, it was so poorly written I'm questioning my judgement on that other book! 

For starters, it has a weak plot, no plot twist, no mystery, no thrill, nothing..... except a main character who is a complete idiot! I'm astounded when authors create a female character wanting her to be a smart, self-sufficient woman, but then have her consistently doing stupid stuff! What smart woman, who is a defense attorney no less, marries a man who has no family or friends, doesn't share any of his past, keeps things locked away in a cabinet but demands to keep it secret and gets private messages on his phone? That would be Maggie Taylor. And she did all this because (you guessed it) she just loves him so much! Then when people who look just like her start turning up dead and all fingers point to her beloved husband, she just keeps doing dumb things because she loves him and can't believe he'd lie to her. So she dispenses with reason, lies to her sister and puts her children's lives in jeopardy because she loves him. Ugh!

I vote NO!