Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Another book club read from awhile ago. A story about three orphans growing up in a home without any money. They go to a ballet school and look forward to turning 12 so they can get jobs and earn money.

I was excited to read this classic, especially since it's famously referenced in one of my favorite movies (You've Got Mail), but I was a little disappointed. It was kind of a boring book. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen, but the story cycled through the different jobs the girls were able to get and how they could cope with limited funds.

3 stars

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

We read this for book club last fall and it was very interesting. It's about an orphan boy in 12th century Korea who wants to become a potter. He becomes an apprentice to the village's most prominent potter and works very hard. Eventually he is given the very important task of transporting an exquisite work of art to the king who commissioned the work. The journey is difficult, there are bandits, and both Tree-Ear and his master are depending on this commission.

A very interesting and easy read. It was fascinating to learn about the process of making pottery in the 12th century.

4 stars

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I read this one forever ago--last fall--and didn't write about it then so this post will be short.

I liked the idea of this book but hated the ending. Though, I spoke with my friend who recommended it and she liked the ending because it was more realistic, which I understand. But I'm a lover of idealistic endings, so this one wasn't exactly my cup of cocoa, but that doesn't mean other people won't like it!

3 stars

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza

I don't post on this blog much anymore. I've started a new one where I choose books from affiliated reading lists (giving me a chance for a small income!) and it keeps me busy. But I had to post here today because I just finished an absolutely incredible book that I need to share.

My book club chose "Left to Tell" for our book this month. I was hesitant to read it because it's one woman's experience surviving the Rwandan genocide. I saw the movie Hotel Rwanda about 10 years ago and it remains one of the most terrifying movies I've ever seen. What happened in Rwanda was horrifying. Seeing it played out on the big screen was difficult (albeit important) to watch. I was worried this book would be a similarly difficult experience. Now that I've finished, I am so grateful I read it. "Left to Tell" is the single most inspiring thing I've read in years--possibly forever.

The real bathroom where 8 women hid for 91
days during the Rwandan genocide.
Immaculee is one of four children growing up in a small village in western Rwanda. When the genocide begins, she hides in a tiny bathroom of a local minister for 91 days along with 7 other women. This bathroom was so, so small. From the photo included in the book, it looks to be narrower than my kitchen table and a similar length. Aside from her oldest brother--who was attending graduate school out of the country when the genocide began--Immaculee was the only member of her family to survive the slaughter.

This book deals with horrific events, but the story is more centered on her spiritual development. Sitting silently in a bathroom for 3 months left lots of time for meditation and prayer. Immaculee shares how God gave her strength, answered her prayers, and eventually showed her how to forgive the killers who murdered her family. It is an intensely spiritual and inspirational story, not to mention written in a way that is gripping from page one until the very end.

If you are nervous about the heavy subject matter, I understand. I felt that way too. But this is a book that everyone--and I mean everyone--should read. It is inspiring; it strengthened my own personal faith in God, and helped open my eyes to the conditions some people must live in. It put into perspective the problems our country faces right now. Suddenly bathroom laws seem completely insignificant when compared to a government that was actively encouraging neighbors to massacre one another.

Go read this book. You'll be inspired and changed and want to make the world a better place.

5 stars

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

This was recommended by a long-time friend's mother who is especially interested in Ireland (because they're Irish) and the Titanic. This was a fascinating perspective of the Titanic disaster of 1912. It follows an Irish teenage girl named Maggie Murphy and a group of fellow travelers from her parish as they embark on the Titanic headed for America. She is one of only 2 survivors of her companions. The story is told partially from Maggie's time from both her and a couple others' perspectives, and Maggie's great-granddaughter's point of view.

The story of the Titanic has been told and retold countless times. It is a tragedy that has captured the attention of generations. The Girl Who Came Home was told in a fresh and heartfelt way. I connected with Maggie and her great-granddaughter. I was so concerned with who was going to survive and so heartbroken that most did not. It is truly a tragic story and this book will make you experience some of the emotions felt by the world as they experienced the sinking of that great ship.

If you enjoy historical fiction you will love this book. It was a little slow in parts, but perhaps that's just because I knew the climax I was waiting for. Good read!

4 out of 5 stars

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I have been neglecting this blog. I've started a new one that will hopefully result in a little extra bling (fingers crossed!) but I will try to keep this one updated with the books I read on the side.

I read The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, probably 6 months ago or more, so the specific details are fuzzy. The main character is a ward of the state who has gone from foster home to foster home until turning 18. Unable and unwilling to get a job, she spends her nights sleeping in a local park across the street from a flower shop. Her one true passion is flowers and the hidden language they possess. After convincing the shop owner of her knowledge and skill, she gets a job doing what she loves and eventually opens up her own business. Things seem to be going well, but she is unable to get over the demons of her past. Can she learn to love when she has never felt loved by anyone in her life?

Good story, interesting to learn about flowers. I got irritated with the main character because she kept making choices that I felt were either irresponsible or totally contrary to her overall well-being. But I enjoyed the book and would recommend it!

4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Selection series 1-3 by Kiera Cass

I had really, really high hopes for this series. My sister-in-law raved about how she couldn't put them down and just loved them. So I waited a couple years until the trilogy was complete, and then I found out she's working on another partner trilogy. Ugh. I checked out The Selection and The Elite to read on an 8 hour road trip followed by a week of camping, and even with their faults, they were good picks for the occasion. These books are essentially the Bachelor reality show plus royalty plus a dystopian society. Our protagonist is America, a class 5 citizen near the bottom of the ladder. Classes are ranked from 1, royalty, to 8, the homeless. The prince is looking for a bride so they throw a competition where a few dozen girls are picked from all over the country and all different classes to come to the palace to try and win the prince's heart.

My main problem with these books is their lack of content. Everything that happens in the 3 installments could have easily been consolidated into 1 story. There are 3 main conflicts in the story: 1-America holds on to feelings she used to have for her old boyfriend Aspen, who in/conveniently shows up at the palace to work as a guard, making it impossible for America to forget and move on.
2-America has a very hard time deciding how much she likes Prince Maxom, who happens to be an awesome guy, and she keeps flip flopping back and forth between wanting to go back to her old life with Aspen or become royalty with Maxom.
3-There is significant civil unrest and two different groups of rebels repeatedly attack the palace.
The first two conflicts in the stories I find highly annoying. America takes advantage of 2 good guys and leads them on for way too long. I just wanted to smack her upside the head to put some sense in her! So annoying. The third conflict with the rebels was the only thing that I felt gave the story some substance. The author could have developed this far more than she did, but instead focused on America's feelings about boys. I think she missed out on an opportunity to write a compelling story, rather than a fluff-filled teeny-bopper one.

Overall I did mostly enjoy the read, but I was also constantly annoyed at the lack of substance. Perhaps it's just my personality and taste preference; I don't watch the Bachelor and haven't much enjoyed the bits that I have seen; but I do enjoy dystopian stories and princess stories. I had hopes that this would be a truly awesome series. Sadly, it fell short.

3 out of 5