Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Authors: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 277
Date Finished:9 September 2008
My Rating: 5 Stars

I loved this book. Loved it! It is at the top of my list for not only my favorite book read this year but also one of my favorite books ever. This is going to be one of those reviews where I go and gush a lot because I just loved this book!
This is the kind of book that I had a feeling I would love even before I turned the first page.
Here is the blurb from the publisher because I am having a difficult time figuring out how to adequately summarize this book.
" '. . . I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.'
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, Dawsey Adams, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name in a book?
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of Dawsey and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—a book club born as a spur-of-the- moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts an outstanding cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable conversation in letters with the Society's members, learning about their lives, their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on all of them. Over time, and despite a demanding and dramatic life in London, she finds herself drawn to the self-contained Dawsey Adams, and to the story of Elizabeth, a young woman whose bright spirit and strength live on in the daughter she left behind when she was sent to a concentration camp. Juliet knows she has found the subject of her book, and possibly much more, and sets sail for Guernsey, changing the course of her life forever."

Have I mentioned that I loved this book?
The style, the plot, the history, the love of books and the literary references, the quirky and eccentric characters, even the title and cover, I loved it all. This book is witty and charming, heartbreaking and serious.
One thing that I really loved about this book was that it was so fun and charming yet still conveyed the horrors of the war and occupation without getting bogged down with graphic violence and gore like some other books I've recently read about WWII.

If you are one of the few people who have not already done so, you must read this book!
I fell in love with this book and was so sad when it ended because I wanted more of these delightful characters.
Some excerpts from the book:

Co-author, Annie Barrows discusses the book:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Looking For Anne of Green Gables

Title: Looking For Anne of Green Gables
Author: Irene Gammel
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Date Finished: 6 September 2008
My Rating: 4 Stars

I was really fascinated with this book about L.M. Montgomery and the creation of Anne Shirley, one of literatures most beloved heroines. After reading this book I was not at all surprised to read the recent news article written about L.M. Montgomery's suicide. A quote from the article, written by Montgomery's granddaughter, "Despite her great success, it is known that she suffered from depression, that she was isolated, sad and filled with worry and dread for much of her life. But our family has never spoken publicly about the extent of her illness.What has never been revealed is that L.M. Montgomery took her own life at the age of 67 through a drug overdose."

The author of this book, Irene Gammel, did an amazing amount of detailed research before writing this book. There is so much information and interesting tidbits in this book that I had to keep copious notes so I would remember everything.
Gammel delved into contemporary source material from Montgomery's life so that she could discover the origins of Anne. Magazines that Montgomery read and published in, unpublished letters and journal entires of Montgomery's, as well as pictures and photographs, books and articles from the years surrounding Anne's creation were all used to uncover the mystery.
Gammel herself stated in the prologue that "telling the life of Anne is like peeling an onion. This book takes readers inside Maud's guarded life not only by reading between the lines of her unpublished journal entires for the period, but also by looking beyond the conventional sources that Maud wanted us to see." While Montgomery was an addictive diarist and note taker and loved reading old diary entries, letting them influence her present, she destroyed much of her letters, notebooks and journals. What we are left with today is only what she wanted to survive. This is also an indication of the amount of research Gammel had to undertake to really discover L.M. Montgomery and her creation of Anne.
One thing that surprised me and that I think might surprise many of Montgomery's fans is that she was very pragmatic about her writing career. She wanted to make money, be self-sufficient and famous. She wasn't fueled by imagination like the character she created was. Montgomery read extensively from popular publications so she would know what kind of stories could get published and then she would mimic the formulas. The story of Anne is far from being an original idea. It was a formula story that sold well and was very popular at the time, even down to the red hair and the name Anne. Montgomery was very pragmatic in her creation of Anne. It seems much of the story was not drawn from her imagination but taken from real life situations and magazine articles.
One thing that really surprised me about L.M. Montgomery is what a tease and a flirt she was. She liked playing mental games with men and suitors. I guess I never imagined the creator of Anne of be so manipulative.
What was most revealing to me however, was how self-involved Montgomery was, how much of a "woe is me" attitude she had and how she felt a need to denigrate and bring down other people. That attitude arose from how utterly insecure she was. One example of this is that she kept a mental blacklist of everyone who failed to congratulate her on the success of Anne of Green Gables. "A sign of narcissistic self-involvement, it was also a mark of deep-seated insecurity and a lifelong desire for praise and acceptance. Nate Lockhart, with whom she had first shared her desire to write a book, never congratulated her on her novel, she complained. One wonders whether she congratulated him on the birth of two sons, both in the same year as Anne." (236)
The best part of this book is going along with Gammel as she uncovers so much of what influenced L.M. Montgomery in creating Anne of Green Gables. "Anne was the product of a long evolution. In fact, just as Maud would distill her winter potpourri from the blossoms of an entire summer, so she distilled Anne's character from a variety of "Anns" while also blending that distillation with her own nostalgic memories. That distillation is at the core of the novel's success....Anne was the result of ten years of disquiet and turbulence, years of restlessness and loneliness." (218-219)
Those who just have a passing enjoyment of Anne of Green Gables or L.M. Montgomery's other books might not enjoy this book. As I've said, extensive research into very minute details went into this book and it does get a little bogged down at times. That said, truly devoted Anne fans really should read this fascinating literary biography.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fall Into Reading 2008

My goal for this fall is to read as many or more books than I read during the summer, which was 21.
Here are the 22 books that are currently at the top of my TBR list. Because I am constantly adding to and changing my TBR list, this reading list is subject to change. As long as I can read 22 books this fall we will call it good.
  1. Emma by Jane Austen
  2. Waiting for Normal by Leslie Conner
  3. Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
  4. Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel
  5. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  6. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
  7. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  8. Alice's Tulips by Sandra Dallas
  9. A Flaw in the Blood by Stephanie Barron
  10. New Mercies by Sandra Dallas
  11. The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
  12. Diary of Mattie Spencer by Sandra Dallas
  13. A Woman's Place by Lynn Austen
  14. Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
  15. Savvy by Ingrid Law
  16. Northanger Abby by Jane Austen
  17. The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life by Jennifer Worick
  18. Home by Choice by Brenda Hunter
  19. The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
  20. The President's House by Margaret Truman
  21. My Name is Anne, she said, Anne Frank by Jacqueline van Maarsen
  22. America 1908 by Jim Rasenberger
Books added to my list:
T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte
Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse
In an Instant by Lee and Bob Woodruff
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Paper Towns by John Green
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Can't Wait to get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg
Mayflower by Nathanial Philbrick
What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

Katrina from Callapidder Days is host of the Fall Into Reading 2008 challenge. Head over to her blog to sign up and see more reading lists.

Summer Reading Wrap up

I read 21 books during the Summer Reading Thing this year.
If a book has no hyperlink that is because I have not reviewed it yet. You'll just have to come back to read my review later. :-)

Home by Julie Andrews
Once Upon a Town by Bob Greene
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
Anne of the Island by LM Montgomery
The Watsons and Emma Watson by Joan Aiken
Anne of Windy Poplars by LM Montgomery
The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull
Cankered Roots by GG Vandagriff
Of Deadly Descent by GG Vandagriff
Tangled Roots by GG Vandagriff
The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz
The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden
Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Bronte's Book Club by Kristiana Gregory
Sunflower Houses by Sharon Lovejoy
Faith, Hope and Charity by Janet Peterson and LaRene Gaunt
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Great Dayton Flood of 1913 by Trudy E. Bell
Looking for Anne of Green Gables by Irene Gammel

That is 13 Fiction and 8 Non-Fiction books.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Anne of the Island

I also really enjoyed:
The Underneath
Shooting the Moon
Faith, Hope and Charity
Looking for Anne of Green Gables

Books I enjoyed the least:
Skeletons at the Feast
Cankered Roots
Of Deadly Descent
Tangled Roots

Not bad for a busy Summer. We will see how I do this Autumn.
Thanks to Inksplasher for hosting The Summer Reading 2008.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Watsons and Emma Watson

Title: The Watsons & Emma Watson
Author: Jane Austen and Joan Aiken
Genre: Fiction
Date Finished: 13 August 2008
My Rating: 2 Stars
I received a copy of this book from a giveaway hosted by Austenprose.

Sometime between the years 1803 and 1805 Jane Austen began work on a novel, writing a draft of about seventeen thousand words before abandoning it. Unlike other works that were started and then set aside, Sense and Sensibility for example, Austen never returned to the manuscript. The fragment was inherited by her sister Cassandra after Austen's death. It was later titled The Watsons and published in 1871 by James Edward Austen-Leigh in his Memoir of Jane Austen.
With the writing of Emma Watson, Joan Aiken has undertaken the task of completing Jane Austen's fragment of a manuscript.
At only about seventeen thousand words, Austen's story was just getting off it's feet so to speak. In Austen's fragment we are introduced to the Watson family. The youngest daughter in the family, Emma, had been living with her widowed aunt for 14 years but has returned to her family after her aunt remarried. At 19, Emma is just getting to know her father and siblings. The Reverend Mr. Watson is impoverished and his health is failing. Emma's oldest brother Robert is rich and affluent, but disagreeable and is married to a woman who is conceited and greedy. Her brother, Sam is 22 and a surgeon in a nearby town and seems to be more agreeable than Robert. Emma's sisters Elizabeth, Penelope and Margaret are all still unmarried and feeling the pressure to find husbands before their father passes away and they are plunged into even more poverty.
We are also introduced to Lord Osborne and his mother and sister as well as Lord Osborne's former tutor, Mr. Howard. Both men seem to be drawn to Emma when they first meet her.

As I turned the last page of Austen's fragment and began reading Aiken's story the tone and feel of the book changed immediately.
The plot became too sensational and over the top in my opinion. There were too many deaths and too much melodrama. What would Miss Austen think?
I found myself scratching my head, wondering what had happened to the characters Austen had introduced us to. They all seemed to have been completely changed and reinvented, taking on new personalities.
It is interesting to note that Cassandra Austen did pass on to her nieces what was supposed to have happened to the characters but Joan Aiken took the story in a very different direction than even that.
This is the first time I've read a completion to one of Jane Austen's unfinished works and I really found nothing very substantial in the completion.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Skeletons at the Feast

The best part of this book is when the author lists the sources he used to write this book. I am going to add those books to my list of books to read.
I did not actually read all this book. Pretty early on I just started skimming through it and then I read the end. I was turned off by the explicit and needless graphic descriptions of Anna and Callum's relationship. I really hate reading books that are gratuitous just for the sake of being gratuitous.
The author also clearly did his research and gave his readers a laundry list of every cruel atrocity that occurred during WWII. Again, too many needless graphic descriptions.
I would not recommend this book.

Skeltons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
372 Pages

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Finds

Here are the books that I found and added to my TBR list this week.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (Can't remember where I found this one, someones blog...)
A look at France during the Nazi occupation in WWII.

Pemberley Shades by D.A. Bonavia-Hunt (Found via Austen Prose)
This was originally published in 1949 and is the second P&P sequel written. (You know, back in the day when people wrote sequels based on the book and not on Colin Firth jumping into a pond.)

Our Tempestuous Day by Carolly Erickson (Found via Jane Austen in Vermont)
I am really interested in learning more about the Regency Era and this looks like a good book to do just that.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart (Found via 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews)
This one just looks like a fun and interesting read.

Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson (Not sure where I found this one.)
The description of this book just makes me want to run out and find a copy of it right now. It sounds like just the type of book I would enjoy.

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs (Found via Bloggin' 'bout Books. She reviewed a later book in the series, this one is the first in the series.)
I have not read many mysteries this year. When I finish (or catch up on) one of the current mystery series I am reading, I will have to look into this series.

The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague by John M. Berry
(Found via surfing around Goodreads.)
I am interested in reading about the 1918 outbreak but I don't think I will care too much for the hype and doomsday bit about "the growing danger of the avian flu."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Reading with my Kids-Eric Carle

I feel as if we have been overrun with Eric Carle books in recent weeks. It started with The Very Hungary Caterpillar, which Red now has memorized and likes to act out, and has just grown from there. I think we have 8 Eric Carle books checked out from the library right now. What is it about these classic books that appeals so much to my son? The illustrations? The repetitive lines used in many of the books? The animals? I think it is probably all those things combined.

Here is a sampling of our current favorites:

The Very Hungary Caterpillar
"This all-time favorite not only follows the very hungry caterpillar as it grows from egg to cocoon to beautiful butterfly, but also teaches the days of the week, counting, good nutrition and more. Striking pictures and cleverly die-cut pages offer interactive fun."

The Mixed-Up Chameleon
"Hilarious pictures show what happens when a bored chameleon wishes it could be more like other animals, but is finally convinced it would rather just be itself."

The Grouchy Ladybug
"A grouchy ladybug who is looking for a fight challenges everyone it meets regardless of their size or strength. How this bumptious bug gets its comeuppance and learns the pleasures to be gained by cheerfulness and good manners is an amusing lesson in social behavior."

The Very Busy Spider
"With the use of raised printing, this innovative book adds the sense of touch to vision and hearing as ways to understand and enjoy the strikingly designed illustrations and the memorable story. Various farm animals try to divert a busy little spider from spinning her web, but she persists and produces a thing of both beauty and usefulness."

Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me
"Beautiful illustrations are enhanced by dramatic fold-out pages in this moving and imaginative tale of a father’s love for his daughter. Monica’s father fulfills her request by bringing the moon down from the sky after it’s small enough to carry, but it continues to change in size."

You can visit Eric Carle's website to learn more about this writer and illustrator. (My son also loves the books that Carle illustrated for Bill Martin's Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?, and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?
Also, visit 5 Minutes for Books for more Children's Classic Picture Books.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Reading and Blogging for Darfur

Have all my readers been to the Maw Books Blog? If you have not you really should check her out. Especially this month because she is holding a campaign to raise money for Darfur.
Here is how it works (from Natasha's blog):
  • Commit to write a post (if you have a blog or website) dedicated to the Reading for Darfur campaign. Use the button shown here and link back to this page. For every person who does this I will donate 25 cents to a organization that makes a difference in Darfur. Put the button in your sidebar linking to this post during the entire month of September and I will donate 25 cents more.
  • Commit to visit my blog on a consistent basis during September. For each comment left anywhere on my blog all month I will donate 10 cents.
  • Commit to read any of the books or watch any of the documentaries listed on this page. For every book that you read or video you watch during September, I will donate 50 cents. If you have a blog and review that book or video I will donate $1. Leave me a comment on this post once you do, so I don’t have to hunt you down. I will link to your reviews during my weekly recaps.
  • Commit to donate a penny for every single page that I read during September (excluding picture books and easy readers).
  • Commit to donate 50 cents for every single post I publish during September.
  • Commit to donate a penny for every page I read AND 50 cents for every single post I publish.
  • And heck, if you want to write the post, put the button in your sidebar, comment on my blog, read a book, and sponsor me in my reading and blogging, then I won’t stop you!
I think what Natasha is doing is absolutely wonderful and would encourage you to head over to Maw Books blog to get more details and to participate.

August Reading Review

Edit: I missed a book. I actually read 5 books in August. I have edited the numbers etc to reflect the book I missed.

I knew that August had turned out to be a slow reading month but it was not until I sat down to write this that I realized I only finished 4 books in the month of August. That is second only to May when I think I only read 2 books. I am really hoping to go on a reading frenzy this month. September is generally a slow month so, fingers crossed, it will be a good reading month.

The break down of the books I read goes as follows:
2 Young Adult
1 Mystery (LDS Fiction)
1 Fiction
1 Non-Fiction

Young Adult
Anne of the Island
The Underneath (this book is also categorized as Juvenile)


Tangled Roots

The Watsons and Emma Watson (Review Coming)

Faith, Hope and Charity

Total pages in August: 1403
Yearly book count, so far: 53

August Challenge Update:
The Summer Book Trek ended this month. I was hoping to read more for this challenge but called it good with 3.

Here is a list of the reading challenges I am currently participating in:
A Daring Book Challenge
9 books between 6/15/08 and 6/15/09: 0/9
Ongoing Challenge (to read the whole list) 28

Summer Reading Thing 2008: 15/38

A to Z Reading Challenge: 30/52

Decades Challenge 2008: 9/8 (I've read books from 9 decades but they are not all in a row so I have not actually completed the challenge.)

Young Adult Reading Challenge: 4/12

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Book Stacks

I am going to do my book stack a little different this week. Instead of sharing what is in my currently reading, reading next, and finished stacks, I am going to share my stack of library books. I am doing this because, well, I am still reading the same two books I was reading two weeks ago. I went on vacation and did not read the whole time I was gone and I've been slow getting back into things since I got home.

I go into the library for 2 books and decide to have a "quick browse" and then I come out of the library with 10 books. Chances that I will read all of these before they have to be returned in 3 weeks are pretty slim.
Hearing the Voice of the Lord by Gerald N. Lund (I have to read this one next because it is an inter-library loan which means no renewals.)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Shakespeare by Bill Bryson
The President's House by Margaret Truman
Home by Choice by Brenda Hunter
A Flaw in the Blood by Stephanie Barron
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
Savvy by Ingrid Law
The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel
The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Conner
Alice's Tulips by Sandra Dallas
New Mercies by Sandra Dallas
The Diary of Mattie Spencer by Sandra Dallas
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
A Woman's Place by Lynn Austen
Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
I think that is all of them....

Oh, and one more thing, I lost my library card! I feel so stranded and empty. Okay, so not really because I can still check things out if I have my ID and it is only the card to one of the 3 libraries I go to. But here is the weird part, I lost it at the library. I went in to turn in a small stack of books and pick up some holds and I slipped my card into the bag with the books going to be returned. After I dropped the books I looked in my bag to make sure the card was still in there, that I did not accidentally drop it with the books, because we don't want that happening. Assured that my card was still there, I went on to do some browsing and pick up my holds. I was in line and started fishing around in my bag for my library card when I could not find it! I walked around the library again, looking at the floor to see if it had somehow slipped out of my bag but did not find it. I told the lady at the desk that I might have dropped it in with my books even though I was sure it was in my bag after I dropped the books. Long story short, she went back to look but said the return bin was too full and she told the bookshelvers to keep an eye out for a card. It is just crazy because I swear it was in my bag! Either my eyes deceived me or some library fairy stole it away from me because I've been using it too much?

So, how many books do you have out from the library right now? What are they? (if they are not too numerous to list...)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Finds

These are the books that made their way onto my To Be Read list this week.

-The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
-Guernica by Dave Boling
-Those Who Love by Irving Stone
-Resistance: A Frenchwoman's Journal of the War by Agnes Humbert
-Mapp and Lucia by E.F. Benson
-Katerina by Kathyrn Winter
-Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife by Irene Spencer
-The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
-American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
-The Great Husband Hunt by Laurie Graham
-The Future Homemakers of America by Laurie Graham

Your guess is as good as mine as to when I will actually get around to reading any of these books.

Summer Book Trek Wrap-Up

I am squeaking in with this wrap-up a day late, but I still wanted to do a quick wrap up post and answer the questions that the host put up on the blog.

1. How many fiction books by LDS authors did you read?
3, all by G.G. Vandagriff

2. Did you read more than you would have read if you hadn't participated in this book trek?
More LDS fiction?
Yeah, probably. The books were already on my TBR list but they got moved forward because of the challenge.

3. Did the reviews posted by other participants influence which titles you read? How?

4. Did the Whitney awards influence which titles you read? How?

5. Did the many, many virtual blog tours that happened this summer influence which titles you read? How?

6. Did you finish all the books you had planned to read? If not, why?
No. I only read 3 books by LDS authors during the challenge period. My reading time was very limited the last few months. I did read several books but only 3 written by LDS authors.

7. Did you discover any new authors whom you now love?

8. Did you nominate any of the books you read for Whitney awards?

9. Would you be interested in another LDS themed reading challenge either this winter, or next summer?