Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs

I was looking up books for the children’s liturgy that I teach each Sunday, and discovered this interesting title by Liz Curtis Higgs. I’ve read her children’s Christian books, but had not read any of her adult novels so I decided now was a good time to try one out!

In Bad Girls of the Bible, Curtis Higgs makes the case that often the “bad girls” of the bible are easier to relate too than the good girls (such as Mary). She then presents different bad girls from both the Old and New Testaments. Each story is first told as a modern day story, then a discussion of the Biblical context, and then lessons that can be learned from each story. While the modern story sometimes allowed one to really understand the story in terms of today (such as Lot’s Wife and the Sinful Woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her hair), others fell flat (Eve and Saphhira). My favorite part was actually the discussion of the Biblical context. I thought each story had a very interesting discussion in biblical terms and made me think about some of these Bible stories in a new way.

I did have problems with the characterization of some of these bad girls, especially Micah. Micah had a rough life as a pawn of King Saul and King David. I don’t know why she would be characterized as a “bad girl” for telling King David that she thought he shouldn’t be dancing in the streets and showing his jiggly bits. If I were her, I would probably have more words than that for him, especially a heart to heart about his treatment of women in general. The discussion for this part was that she should have honored her husband and not said anything. I think this is a bit of a stretch. You should honor your husband, but I think you should also have honest discussions and be able to tell him when you think he is being foolish. I would fully expect Ben to tell me I looked like a fool if I were dancing about town with my jiggly bits exposed!

I think my favorite and most enlightening reading of the book was about Lot’s wife. I had always really thought before about it being a story of someone who did not follow God’s directions and was therefore turned into a pillar of salt. In this book, it talks more about the fact that perhaps Lot’s wife couldn’t let go her possessions and that we shouldn’t become so attached to things. It was a good discussion and gave me a lot to think about.

Overall, it was a very interesting book. I think it would have been even more interesting to read it with a church group of ladies. It would be a great book to use for a women’s bible study and discussion.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

An Uncertain Dream by Judith Miller

An Uncertain Dream is the third in the Postcards from Pullman series. My MIL gave me the first two in the series a couple of years ago for my birthday, but not unfortunately the last book. I finally purchased the third book last fall and read it this April when I wasn’t feeling so good from morning sickness.

The Postcards from Pullman series is a Christian historical fiction series set in Pullman, Illinois in the 19th century. Olivia Mott is a young chef at the Hotel Florence in Pullman. Life in Pullman has become stressful as the workers strike and George Pullman refuses to meet their demands. With her boyfriend Fred at the front of the striking workers, Olivia finds herself in a hard situation with her job.

Lady Charlotte Spencer is faced with tragedy in England. She travels back to Chicago with her young son and her new purpose in life. She also discovers that love can come at unexpected times.

Overall, it was a good book and a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. I really enjoyed learning the history of the Pullman Company over the course of the three books.

Book Source: Purchased from last fall.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Wide Sargasso Sea opened my eyes to a new interpretation of Jane Eyre and has made me reconsider whether I view Mr. Rochester as a sexy literary hero. I was wary of Wide Sargasso Sea to begin with; I thought it was strange that a “prequel” novel would be considered a classic in its own right. After I finished the novel, I realized it was a great novel as it forced me to reconsider one of my favorite novels and realize that poor mad Bertha may have been more than a one-dimensional crazy lady in the attic.

SPOILER ALERT (My review will contain many details of the novel). Wide Sargasso Sea is split into three parts. In part one, Antoinette is a young girl with a sad upbringing. Her father was a slave owner who died while she was young. Slaves have recently been emancipated in Jamaica and Antoinette, her mother Annette, and her brother Pierre live with the few servants who have chosen to remain. They live a poor existence and are looked down upon by other white people for being poor and by black people for having owned slaves. One loyal servant is Christophine who is a surrogate mother to Antoinette. Life changes when Annette marries the rich Mr. Mason who restores their Coulibri Estate. The local people riot and Pierre is killed in the subsequent burning of Coulibri. Annette is driven mad by these events and is put away by her husband Mr. Mason. Antoinette spends the rest of her childhood in a convent.

Part II is from Mr. Rochester’s point of view, although he is never named. He arrives in Jamaica, is sick, and then is quickly married to the beautiful and rich Antoinette. He feels anger that with his status as a second son he was “forced” into the marriage in order to keep his standard of living. He and Antoinette journey to an estate of Annette’s in Dominica. They enjoy an idyllic honeymoon until Daniel Cosway, an illegitimate child of Antoinette’s father, writes to Mr. Rochester to tell him about the madness in the family and possible madness (and promiscuity) of Antoinette. Mr. Rochester starts to view Antoinette with suspicion and starts calling her Bertha for no apparent reason. Antoinette wants to win his love back and gets a love potion from Christophine that she uses on Mr. Rochester. Thinking he has been poisoned, Mr. Rochester then stumbles off in anger. Upon returning home, he has “relations” with a servant, Amelie in the room next door to his wife! She hears everything through the thin walls. She is driven mad by the actions of Mr. Rochester.

Christophine implores Mr. Rochester to love Antoinette as that is all Antoinette wants. If not, she wants half of Antoinette’s money to take her away, heal her, and allow to have a happy life with someone else. Mr. Rochester grows full of jealous rage at the thought of Antoinette being with any other man and refuses this plan. Instead he takes her back to Jamaica, and then to England.

Part III is from Grace Poole’s point of view. It is very short and basically tells of a very mad Antoinette living in the attic of Thornfield and consumed with dreams of fire. She awakes from the dream and seeks to fulfill it.

The story was written in modernist, spare prose. It was a book I could put down, but it also was a book that got me to think greatly about many different issues. One issue was that of being a white person in the Caribbean and how that person could be an outcast from the local black culture as well as the white European culture. It seems like a very lonely place to be.

The main issue that concerned me was women’s lack of rights after marriage. Antoinette had 30,000 lbs that were given directly to Rochester upon their marriage. After that point in time, Antoinette couldn’t decide that Mr. Rochester was a cheating scumbag, take her money and run. She was stuck with him for better or worse and he was allowed to do anything with her as he pleased. I could see how Rochester was lonely and felt himself stuck in this situation, but to treat Antoinette the way he did with the cheating and then the imprisonment in his attic, all while benefiting from her wealth is beyond disgusting.

The sexual politics are interesting too. Mr. Rochester and Antoinette seem to have a healthy sex life, but he grows enraged at the thought that she may or may not have had relations with her mulatto half-cousin before her marriage. Apparently though, it was okay for him to have relations with her maid. He also grows enraged at the thought of her moving on and marrying someone other than him. But he is okay with locking her in the attic while he gallivants around Europe with opera singers and pursues young Jane Eyre. What a double standard!!

I was also struck by the imagery in part one of Annette’s poor parrot Coco. Coco had its wings clipped by Mr. Mason and tried to escape the house while aflame. His poor clipped wings failed him and he fell to his doom. This was great imagery that eerily paralleled Antoinette’s fall to doom from the alighted Thornfield Hall.

I love how the novel gave me these points to think about as well as a new light to see Mr. Rochester and “Bertha” in. I’m afraid I may never think of Mr. Rochester the same again . . .

I read the Norton Critical Edition of this novel. It had helpful footnotes on almost every page, a brief biography and letters of Jean Rhys, a sampling of Jane Eyre as related to Bertha, as well as critical analysis of Wide Sargasso Sea. I’ll admit that I did not read all of the critical analyses. I’ll also admit that I much preferred the prose and wording of the original Jane Eyre sections as compared to Wide Sargasso Sea.

Wide Sargasso Sea is my sixth item for the All About the Brontes Challenge and my first item for the 2010 Classics Challenge.

Book Source: My friend Wendy passed this book on to me.

Daughters of Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt

I read a great review of Daughters of Witching Hill when it came out in April and I picked up a copy from my local library right away. Daughters of Witching Hill is a very intriguing historical fiction novel about the Pendle witch hunt in England in 1612. I was not familiar with this period of history and I was very interested to learn more about it.

Bess Southerns is a local healing woman who uses ancient Catholic mysticism as part of her healing charms. It is now the time of the reformed Church of England and any hint of Catholicism can lead to trouble. Bess and her family live in the Pendle Forest outside of the village. She teaches her granddaughter Alizon her arts. Alizon has a tussle with peddler, which leads a local magistrate to decide to gain power by starting a local witch hunt frenzy.

Overall this was a good historical fiction novel, but not one that burned itself in my memory. I’m having a hard time remembering the details after two months!

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Everything Austen Challenge II

I loved the Everything Austen Challenge last year and participated quite enthusiastically. I’m going to scale it back a bit this year as Baby Gerold #3 is due in October and I’m still trying to catch up on book reviews from my morning sickness period. I do love Austen though, so please forgive me if I do get carried away in the heat of the moment!

Everything Austen II is once again hosted by Stephanie’s Written Word and involves one readings/listening/watching/etc. six Austen inspired items from July 1, 2010 to January 1, 2011.

I am lucky enough that I have four Austen inspired advanced review copy books from Sourcebooks waiting on my shelf for this fall. I also have one novel left from last year that I won from a book giveaway. The books I plan to read are as follows:

1. Lady Vernon and Her Daughter by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
2. Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson
3. Darcy’s Voyage by Kara Louise
4. Mr. Darcy’s Obsession by Abigail Reynolds
5. In the Arms of Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan

I also loved listening to Austen’s original classics via audiobook last year. It gave me a new perspective than when I read them the old-fashioned way in the past. The three novels I have yet to listen too are:

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2. Persuasion by Jane Austen
3. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I hope to listen to all three, but I’ll at least listen to one to get to my magical six items for this challenge.

I look forward to participating again and to reading everyone’s reviews!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire is book two in the Hunger Games series. I loved the Hunger Games and waited eagerly to get Catching Fire from the hold system at the library.

Catching Fire was worth the wait. It only took me a day to finish the book, and I had a hard time putting it down!

Katniss and Peeta have returned to District 12 as victors of The Hunger Games. While Katniss is happy to be back with her family and her best friend Gale, nothing is as it should be. Katniss now lives in Victor’s Village with her mother and sister Prim with Peeta and Haymitch for neighbors. She still sneaks out to the forest to hunt, but is often alone now that Gale must work in the coal mines full time. Gale is not happy about Katniss and Peeta’s romance and has been designated as Katniss’s “cousin” by the Capital press.

President Snow suspects that Katniss and Peeta’s romance is not real on Katniss’ part and is watching Katniss’ every move. As Katniss and Peeta make their victory tour through all of the Districts, they unwittingly start to spark unrest and possible revolts. With the threat of death to her family and Gale, Katniss must prove that her love for Peeta is real and must survive through riveting life and death situations.

There is much more to the novel, but I don’t want to ruin the entire plot! I love this sci-fi, young adult novel. It has action, romance, and also many thoughts to ponder. It is interesting to me how the Capital is full of decadence to the point were the people of the capital take medicine to vomit their food so they can enjoy as much as they like while keeping a trim figure. Meanwhile, people in the Districts are starving. This is probably how America as a whole is viewed by Third World Countries.

I also enjoy the “big brother” feel to the novel where President Snow and select few at the capital seem to be in control of everything. They watch everyone’s moves and try to keep tight control, while keeping their own elite Capital people ignorant. The mass of people are kept in ignorance and fear and the Capital uses that to their advantage. The only problem arises when people start to take control for themselves. It is very interesting, similar, yet different to Orwell’s 1984. I will think more about this when I read Book 3, Mockingjay.

Speaking of Mockingjay, I can’t wait to read the third novel! I’m already on the waiting list at the library! And my last parting thought is “PEETA!!!”

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

While I was down and out with morning sickness, I read Outlander again in a period of three days. Although it’s a big book, it’s a book I love and really enjoyed reading again. I was refreshing myself on the plot as it was my pick for my FLICKS Book and Movie Club for May. I must admit though, I was more than a little disappointed in my book club. Out of seven of us, only three people actually read Outlander (everyone else seemed to be intimidated by the size). Out of the three, two of us really loved it. At least I got one new person hooked on the series. A question for my blog followers on book clubs, do most book clubs have problems with “big books?” Every book club I’ve ever been a part of seems to have issues with books that are too large. It makes me sad as I think people are missing out on a lot when they deem a novel too large and decide not to read it!

For a brief recap, Outlander is the story of Claire Randall. She is on a second honeymoon in Inverness, Scotland after being away from her husband, Frank during the duration of WWII. After touching a stone in an ancient stone circle, Claire finds herself transported backwards through time to 1743. While there, she at first desperately tries to find her way back to her husband Frank, but finds herself intrigued with a young Scotsman, Jamie Frasier.

Reading Outlander again, I remembered why I love this novel. The story is fresh and Claire is a great heroine. I love that she is a unique character and that in this story she has more of the “hero” role with Jamie more as the “female” role. Not that there is anything feminine about Jamie, he is one of the sexiest heroes I have ever read. I guess I love that she is the woman of experience, while Jamie is surprisingly a bit more innocent. I love that this book combines action, adventure, historical fiction, romance, and science fiction. It is a hard book to adequately describe or categorize, but the characters are wonderfully developed and hard to resist reading about. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who has not yet been seduced by the series!

Book Source: I bought my used copy from a library book sale back in 1994 or so.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Making of a Duchess by Shana Galen

The Making of a Duchess is set during a fascinating period of history, the French Revolution, and the period shortly thereafter. I was captured by the start of this novel with thirteen-year old Julien Harcourt, duc de Valere, trying to escape with his life from a mob of peasants. The novel then flash forwards towards the future when an older Julien Harcourt is trying desperately to find his missing brothers in Napoleon ruled France.

Julien’s life is complicated when the lovely Serafina, another French aristocratic refuge arrives in England from Italy. Serafina is lovely, and a woman that Julien’s mother would love him to marry. Little does he know that Serafina is really Sarah Smith, a governess turned spy, who is trying to determine whether Julien is a French traitor.

I loved the two main characters and really enjoyed the setting. The adventure was very exciting and I couldn’t wait to see how it all ended. I read this book easily in a day. Overall, The Making of a Duchess was a highly enjoyable and exciting romance novel. I can’t wait to read the next two books in the series!

The book also allowed my husband and me to debate the French Revolution. We both decided it would be a good idea to read A Tale of Two Cities again one of these days.

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers

There is nothing I like more when I feel ill then to curl up to a romance novel. That’s why I found myself pulling Sweet Savage Love out of my pile of books back in April during the height of my morning sickness woes.

Sweet Savage Love is the story of the beautiful daughter of a U.S. Senator who was raised by her in-laws in France named Ginny Brandon. She journeys to America to be with her father and his new wife. Used to a fine style of living, Ginny soon finds herself on a wagon train west with her stepmother guarded by the ruggedly handsome Steve Morgan. Much adventure ensues.

Sweet Savage Love is a romance in the old school. In that there are scenes of violence towards women and the type of romance that repels me . . . if you’ve read romance in the past, you know the type I mean. Where the woman says “no!,” but the man forces her and see finds see likes it. After reading a scene of this, I checked the copyright and sure enough this book was written in 1974. I do not think this is “romantic” and I am glad more modern romances do not use this technique.

While I disliked the many of the more intimate romance scenes, I found myself unable to put the book down. Ginny and Steve had a very romantic chemistry that was great to read. I also really enjoyed the historical content of the book as much of it is set during a very interesting part of Mexico’s history that I knew nothing about.

Overall, it was a good book . . . but only if you could ignore the sexist old-school romance scenes.

Book Source: I bought this as a garage sale last summer.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware

Blythe Barton Stowe has just endured a terrible Hollywood divorce, made more terrible by the fact that her famous director husband cheated on her with her sister Ellie while she tended to their dying grandmother back in Wyoming. Determined to put the past behind her, Blythe travels to Cornwall to find out if she is connected to the past of a Blythe-Trevelyans manor home, which is currently owned by Luke Teague. Once at the manor house, Blythe finds herself attracted to Luke and also experiencing strange flashes back into the past of her erstwhile ancestor, Blythe Barton.

I really enjoyed A Cottage by the Sea. The novel was a thoroughly modern story with a historical fiction twist. It was different from most books I’ve read and I loved the difference. I also loved the many references to one of my favorite authors, Daphne Du Maurier, and many of her classic works. The only one I haven’t read yet that was mentioned is Hungry Hill. It sitting sadly on my shelf, waiting to be lined up in my reading cue! Overall, I had a very hard time putting the book down and found myself staying up late into the night to see what would happen next in both the modern and historical stories. I loved this book and highly recommend it!

Book Source: Advance Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner

Little Earthquakes was the April selection of the FLICKS Book and Movie Club. Sadly I was down and out with morning sickness and was unable to attend the meeting. Jennifer Weiner is one of my favorite contemporary authors. Her heroines are real people about my own age that have their flaws, but are also very funny.

I first read Little Earthquakes five years ago when I was suffering morning sickness while pregnant with my oldest son Kile. How did it measure up this time when I read it with morning sickness with my third unborn child? I feel I loved it even more and got so much more out of it being a mother of two now. It was great reading about other women’s struggles with raising their children and trying to find the right balance between work and family.

For a brief summary, Little Earthquakes is the story of four different mothers living in Philadelphia. Becky is an overweight chef that is married to a fantastic doctor, but has major problems with her mother-in-law. Ayinde is an NBA wife that soon finds herself embroiled in a scandal. Kelly is very perky and seems to have life perfectly planned out or does she? These three meet at a prenatal yoga class and soon become fast friends. The outside of the story is Lia, a woman with a tragic past that soon befriends them all.

The only negative I had was that most of these ladies were very well off financially. It would be really great to read a book about ladies that are more middle of the road financially and more like myself and my friends . . . maybe I need to write such a book! I also wasn’t keen on the Lia story line and would have rather had the book focus on the other trio of friends. Overall though, I really enjoyed this book!

I’m still slowly, but surely catching up with old book reviews while also trying to keep up with my new book reviews. Please bear with me!

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Giveaway and Review: Jane Eyre’s Daughter by Elizabeth Newark

Jane Eyre’s Daughter is a sequel to one of my favorite novels of all time, Jane Eyre. The heroine of this book is the second child of Rochester and Jane, Janet Rochester. While Janet idolizes her father, she shares a cool relationship with her mother Jane. When she is sixteen years old, Rochester, Jane, and Oliver (Janet’s older brother) set off on a trip around the world, leaving Janet at a boarding school in London. Janet is also in the care of Rochester’s old friend Colonel Dent. While staying with him at his manor Highcrest, Janet uncovers many mysteries that seem to parallel her mother’s stay at Thornfield. One of the secrets is who exactly is Colonel Dent’s secretary, Roderick Landless? Landless looks like a younger version of Janet’s father and his past is a mystery. Janet finds herself torn between her feelings for Roderick and for Sir Hugo Calendar, the new tenant of Thornfield.

I enjoyed the gothic mysteries of the novel, and really liked Janet Rochester as the heroine. The romance between Roderick and Janet is intriguing. I found myself unable to put the book down as I really wanted to solve the mysteries and see the romance through!

The only part of the novel that I didn’t like was the depiction of Jane Eyre and Janet’s love for her father. I am all for a girl being a daddy’s girl, but was disturbed by the passages where Janet seems to harbor an unhealthy love for her father. Jane Eyre being so cold to her daughter seemed unlike the Jane Eyre from the original novel. She does have a redemptive arc in the novel, but I can’t imagine Jane Eyre treating her daughter in that way.

This is my fifth item for the All About the Brontes Challenge.

Book Source: Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Giveaway Details
Danielle of Sourcebooks has been kind enough to offer one copy of Jane Eyre's Daughter by Elizabeth Newark for this giveaway.

If you would like to enter this contest do any of the following (and make sure to mention each item that you are doing in your comment for me to use to determine your number of entries):

1. Leave a comment on this post. You must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner. (1 entry)

2. Blog about this giveaway or post about it on your sidebar. (1 entry)

3. Become a follower or leave a comment that you already are a follower of this blog. (1 entry)

4. Leave a comment if you are a part of the All About the Brontes Challenge. (1 entry)

There are four ways to enter, but you can put all four entries as one comment.

I will be using to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight, Wednesday June 30th.

Good luck!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Audiobook)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is one of my favorite novels of all time. It is a novel that I have read many times throughout my life; each time different sections of the novel speak clearer to me. Each time I have read it, I have loved it. Jane Eyre is an independent heroine who knows what she wants out of life, and does not submit to temptation to accept anything less.

I decided for the All About the Brontes challenge to listen to Jane Eyre for the first time on audiobook. The version I listened to was read by Wanda McCaddon (she also narrated a couple Jane Austen novels I listened to last year). Unfortunately I finished listening to this audiobook back in March during the crux of my morning sickness and didn’t write the review right away. Therefore, I do not have as detailed a review as I would have had otherwise. Overall, I enjoyed experiencing Jane Eyre in a different way, through listening to the novel rather than reading it. Although I think I prefer reading it the old fashioned way. It didn’t seem to beg to be read aloud as the Jane Austen novels did that I listened to last year.

Audiobook Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Classics Challenge – 2010

I really enjoyed being a part of The Classics Challenge last year and so I am signing up again for it this year. I’m running a couple of months late for sign-up due to Baby Gerold Number 3 causing much morning sickness distress. As I am running behind, I am going to sign up for a “Classics Snack,” which is four classic novels by October 31st. The novels I plan to read as a “snack” are as follows:

1. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
3. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

I do like to change my mind, and a couple of alternatives are:

1. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
2. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Trish also has an intriguing question on The Classic Challenge, what book do I think might be a classic one day? I have many books that I think meet this criteria including, but not limited to:

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
3. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
4. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
5. The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini
6. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
7. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
8. Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
9. Atonement by Ian McEwan
10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows
11. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
12. The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
13. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
14. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I can only suggest one of these on The Classics Challenge. After looking at what has already been nominated, I will suggest The Help by Kathryn Stockett. For my bonus read, I will choose The Life of Pi by Martel. I have been meaning to read The Life of Pi for quite awhile, and I’m tired of waiting for one of my book clubs to pick it!

The Classics Challenge also asks for a suggestion on a good “starter” classics novel. Most of my suggestions have already been listed. . . so I will go with A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.

I am looking forward to this challenge!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I’ve heard a lot of hype about this book so I decided it was time to check it out for myself! While it was kind of slow at the beginning, by the end, I could not put the book down.

The Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalypse North America. The country has been split into 13 Districts, with the 13th District being destroyed for rebellion at some point in the past. The Districts are ruled over by a heartless Capital that keeps them hungry and demands a sacrifice of one girl and one boy chosen by lottery each year for a televised event, The Hunger Games. The premium reality show, the Hunger Games ends when only one of the 12-18 year olds is left alive.

Katniss Everdeen is a sixteen year old girl who lives in District 12 with her mother and young sister, Prim. Her father was killed in a mining accident when she was 12 and she has had to fight to survive by honing her hunting, gathering, and bartering skills. Katniss is horrified to watch as Prim is chosen for the Hunger Games. Katniss volunteers in her place and is then surprised when Peeta Mellark, is chosen as her male colleague from District 12. Peeta had showed her unexpected kindness in the past and Katniss does not relish having him now as a competitor and enemy.

Determined to win at all costs and return to her mother, Prim, and friend Gale, Katniss must learn how to navigate the Hunger Games while winning approval from the public that is ever watching.

I loved this young adult sci-fi novel. With shades of “The Lottery” and “The Lady or the Tiger,” The Hunger Games shows us just how far people could go to keep in power and to provide ruthless entertainment. Katniss is a great heroine and I loved her witty battle to survive the elements and her competitors. I also loved the unexpected love triangle between her, Peeta, and Gale and I can’t wait to see if this is further developed in the next two novels. I know I’ll be reading Catching Fire as soon as I can get it from the library.

I highly recommend The Hunger Games. It is a great adventure story as well as being a commentary on modern society.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Summer House by Nancy Thayer

Summer House by Nancy Thayer was the June FLICKS Book and Movie Club pick. Summer House is the tale of three generations of women who are all vacationing together with their families on their Nantucket retreat. Nona is the 90-year old matriarch of the family and remembers back to the days when she first met, feel in love with, had to separate with her husband during WWII. Her daughter-in-law Helen is facing current troubles with her husband Worth and their three children. Helen’s daughter Charlotte has started her own organic garden business on the island and is running from her past while also trying to start a romance with her good-looking next door neighbor, Bill Cooper.

While I found the book enjoyable, I felt that all of the storylines were not given enough time to really develop. The stories were tidally finished at the end, but I felt like there was so much more which could have been explored. Forgiveness for past wrongs seemed to come too soon without a good reason. I also didn’t care about the main love story as I should have because the male characters were not developed enough. I also wanted to know more about Nona’s daughter’s (Grace) issues, but she was portrayed as a one-dimensional harpy and we never learned what caused her problems.

Overall the book was an okay beach read, but had unsatisfactory character development.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush

While I may not have ever voted for Laura Bush’s husband, I was very interested to read her autobiography. Unlike other political memoirs I have tried to read (Hello Clintons!), Bush’s autography covered enough material to be interesting, but did not delve into boring and self-seeking detail. Of course, of even more interest to me was Laura Bush’s love of reading.

Laura Bush as first lady is every book lovers dream. Bush was able to hold literary symposiums about her favorite authors and meet many current favorite authors. She mentioned one of my favorite novels, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather more than once. Indeed, Bush’s love of books is apparent throughout the book and her favorite authors seem to match up with mine. I really loved that one of her favorite things that she did as first lady was to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home in Missouri.

Laura Bush writes the story of her life starting from the very beginning and through the move back to Texas after the end of George Bush’s presidency. I found her entire story intriguing, and was a great modern history. The book seemed to show me what I had always thought; Laura Bush is the kind of person I would like to sit down with for dinner and chat with. She is a normal person who just happened to be first lady (although her talk about the ranch being small at 4,000 sq. ft. did give me a chuckle).

I must say the book did give me a new way of thinking about some of George Bush’s policies, although some of Laura Bush’s defense of certain items was weak at best. For example, the defense against the invasion of Iraq was maybe we should have bombed Afghanistan in 2000 so 9/11 wouldn’t have happened . . . that is not the way the world works.

Overall the strength in the book was the interesting American life that Laura Bush has led and her great love of books. I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it to all of my friends, be they Republican, Democrat, or other.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library