Tuesday, March 19, 2013


When you first look at Gail Carson Levine's Fairest, it seems like it's going to be a Snow White tale. While it has elements, it is also a story all of its own. If it wasn't called Fairest, I'm not sure it would even appear to be like Snow White until over halfway through. You see, it's about this girl, Aza, who was abandoned as an infant at the door step of an inn.  Luckily, the innkeeper and his wife took her in and raised her as their own.  Aza lives in the kingdom of Ayortha where everyone is beautiful and has a beautiful singing voice.  Aza, however, doesn't quite fit in.  She's larger and isn't as beautiful as the other Ayorthians, but she does have the most amazing singing voice and has taught herself a trick.  Not only can she imitate other voices, but she can make it sound like it's coming from somewhere else. 

Because Aza is so different from the other Ayorthians, many guests at the inn don't care for her.  That is, until she bonds with the cranky duchess because of the inn's cat.  And so when the duchess is on her way to the palace for the king's wedding and the duchess's companion falls ill, Aza is asked to go with the duchess in her place.  And so Aza's fairy tale begins. 

Fairest is a really cute YA novel. I recommend it to those who enjoy a twist to the traditional fairy tale love story. 

Veil of Roses

I really thought I hadn't read Veil of Roses before, but as I started reading it, it felt rather familiar, and by the almost end, I was positive I had read it before.  Regardless, I think Laura Fitzgerald's Veil of Roses is a good, and important read. 

Veil of Roses introduces us to Tamila from Iran. Her parents have sent her to America.  And if she can find a husband, she can stay. No more veil.  No more oppression.  She can finally be free. 

I liked Veil of Roses because Fitzgerald keeps it light, but still obvious that women in Iran are oppressed   It's a good introduction to the subject; it serves as the setting, not the conflict of the novel.  It's made me interested in learning more about the Iranian and Islamic cultures.  I recommend this book to older YA readers and adults, especially women who are interested in a simple introduction to the differences in their lives form the women in Iran. 

I Hate It When Exercise Is the Answer

I Hate It When Exercise Is the Answer by Emily Watts is a sort of self-help book, designed for you to rad a chapter a day and implement the small changes into your life. It's got some really good ideas. Watt's ideas are more for a professional or a mom, though, not necessarily an in-between-er like me.  But with a little adaptation, it can be a helpful read for anyone. 

The Wise Woman

The Wise Woman is definitely, 100% Philippa Gregory's weirdest book. If you skipped Virgin Earth and Earthly Joys, this one is a skipper too. It gets pretty weird with the witchcraft and the sex. I'm not sure who the target audience even is. It's just an odd book.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

A few years ago, I took a Mormon Lit class at UVU.  It was a really interesting class and exposed me to new novels. Comedian Elna Baker's The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance was not a novel we read in that class, but our professor talked about it to us one day and read us an excerpt.  After hearing Baker's voice come to life via my professor, I had to get my hands on it. 
New York Regional is a hilarious yet touching memoir by a born and bred world-traveling Mormon. Her sense of humor sort of reminds me of Chelsea Handler, but not as crass. So I recommend this book with the caveat Baker uses in her dedication to her parents: " . . . aside from the nine-F words, thirteen Sh-words, four A-holes, page 257, and the entire Warren Beatty chapter . . . You might want to avoid chapters twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three . . ." 
Read on! 

The Wave

I first read The Wave  by Todd Strasser many moons ago, and upon rereading it, I still think it's a valuable read for the lesson it teaches. Based on a true story, The Wave is about a young history teacher trying to explain to his students how those in Nazi Germany were so oblivious to their surroundings and willing to follow Hitler.  I think it's a great book for a teacher to pair with Anne Frank or simply for anyone who finds themselves asking the same questions as those students. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Sun Also Rises

This was my second go at reading Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and it was easier to read as well as more enjoyable, though not necessarily a book I would recommend, and certainly not a book I couldn't put down. 

I also get a little upset with Hemingway after reading The Paris Wife and seeing what a jerk he was to his wife, Hadley. And if I understand it right, The Sun Also Rises was written at the end of their marriage, yet he dedicates it to her!! What?!?! "Here, dear, enjoy my affair!" Puke. 

But knowing, or maybe only feeling, that The Sun Also Rises is basically Hemingway speaking as himself, one almost feels bad for him, and certainly for his character Jake. He tries to chase fun and live in the moment, but is clearly an outsider and observer, even among his friends.  he is searching for happiness and cannot find it.  It's a little bit tragic. Maybe that's why it's dedicated to Hadley? He wasn't their marriage to work, but it just can't? 

So maybe The Sun Also Rises is a little more poignant than I first realized.  I'm truthfully unsure on how to rate or recommend this book.  Becoming familiar with it does make one well read, but it's not necessarily enjoyable.  But should all books be enjoyable? If Hemingway's intentions are fulfilled  isn't that good enough? What do you think? 

The Virgin's Lover

In The Virgin's Lover, Gregory moves us forward from Henry VIII's reign, past Edward's and Mary's, and into Elizabeth's. (If you want to read them "in order," The Queen's Fool comes prior to The Virgin's Lover.)  The story is not told from the view point of Elizabeth, but one of her lovers, Robert Dudley, as well as his wife Amy.  It's interesting to read from this perspective as one can see the abandoned wife and identify with her pain. It's also interesting to see Robert's guilt, yet how he still chooses to continue on with his affair. If you're into historical fiction, this novel gives an interesting insight into Elizabeth's life and is worth the read. 

Now, Gregory enters into a little bit of speculation, since most folks, obviously, didn't document their own affairs.  But Gregory is great at doing her own research and including an author's note to let your know where and why she made speculations or changes to history. It really makes me respect her as an author. 

The Boleyn Inheritance

Philippa Gregory's The Boleyn Inheritance picks up where The Other Boleyn Girl left off. Well, skipping the short marriage of Jane Seymour and the birth of her son, Edward. The Boleyn Inheritance shows the changes that have come about because of the interfering Boleyn's and their cousins the Howards. We read about the marriage and annulment of Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves as well as the consequent marriage to Anne Boleyn's much younger cousin, and my second favorite wife, Kitty Howard. 

I enjoyed The Boleyn Inheritance, but it's a little more like short stories put together than Gregory's other works.  I would have liked her to delve more into the characters and given these wives their own novels as well, although I can understand why she chose not to. Writing takes much longer than reading, and Gregory prides herself on doing actual research. This could have gotten very tedious.  Or maybe there wasn't enough truth out there, just rumors or unreliable accounts.  or perhaps she just had other ideas she was anxious to get to work on.  So I understand why the book may be set up like it is, but it made it harder to get into the work  and get to know the characters.  Regardless, it's an enjoyable historical fiction. If you like Henry VIII's life as I do, give it a go!