Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

guernseypotatopeelpieTitle:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Authors:  Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Published:  July 29, 2008

# of Pages:  288

ISBN:  978-0385340991

My Rating:  4.5/5

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, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is one of those books which has been supremely hyped-up; everyone has read it, and 99% of them have loved it.  When I set out to read a book like this, I always feel a bit nervous because I never want to be that one dissenting voice, and at the same time if I unequivically love the book, I don’t feel very original.  But anyways, the question I asked myself when I finished this book was, does it deserve all the hype?

The short answer is yes, it definitely does.  The characters in Guernsey are beyond real; they truly come alive before the reader’s eyes.  Rarely do I read a book and find myself thinking of the characters as if they actually ARE real people, and while reading Guernsey I became so lost in the story, so lost in the characters’ lives, that I would honestly forget that the story was entirely a work of fiction.  I think there are two reasons that the characters were so realistic – the first is the fantastic writing by Barrows and Shaffer, and the second is the format of the book.  The entire book is written in letters from various characters to other various characters (the majority of them are either to or from Juliet, but a few are not).  This makes it seem like the characters are talking to the reader instead of each other, and as a reader you can really get inside their heads and understand what they are thinking and feeling.  I must admit, I was a little put off by the format of letters at first, but after the first few letters I got used to it and completely stopped thinking about it.  

It DID take me a little longer than I would have liked to get involved with the story.  The plot was just a tad too slow for my tastes in the beginning, but once Juliet started talking about actually going to the island the book really took off for me and it was at that point when I was one hundred percent involved, and felt an absolutele need to find out what would happen.  And I typically don’t believe in spoilers on my blog, so I won’t give anything away, but I do have to say that I loved, loved, LOVED the ending.  I mean, to me, it couldn’t have been more perfect.  I always remember a fantastic ending and Guernsey definitely had one.

So my conclusion is this – the book is absolutely worthy of all the praise it has been receiving.  I highly recommend this fantastic read.

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My first Did Not Finish of the year…

… is Tiger Lillie by Lisa Samson.  I have been interested in reading Christian Fiction for awhile now, and I’ve heard great things about this particular author, so when I was at the library last week I had the brilliant idea to grab one of her books.  I don’t know what it was about this one, but I couldn’t get past page 40… it just didn’t do much for me.  I couldn’t get into the story, and I couldn’t get attached to the characters either.  I feel bad about this, especially since all the reviews on Amazon are extremely positive, which makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me.  Anyone have any experience with this author or this particular title?  For those of you who read Christian Fiction, what other authors/titles should I check out?

Review: Paper Towns

paper-townsTitle:  Paper Towns

Author:  John Green

Published:  October 16, 2008

# of Pages:  320

ISBN:  978-0525478188

Rating:  4.5/5

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life–dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge–he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues–and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew.

Like Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns is full of amazing characters that feel truly alive to the reader.  John Green has a true talent for writing characters that come to life on the page; that feel like just the people you wish you were friends with.  I definitely felt that way about these characters, as I did with those in Looking for Alaska.

Paper Towns also had a great adventure throughout the book, an adventure that I happily participated in along with Quentin and his friends.  I don’t want to give too much away, because this is the kind of book where you really shouldn’t know a lot of the plot details going in, but I’ll just say that there truly are a lot of fun twists and turns in the story.  I am still not sure how I feel about the way the book ultimately turned out, but I’m willing to be unsure about that because of how excellent the rest of the book was.

I’m so glad I stuck with John Green after reading his first two books, and I’m absolutely excited to see what else he does from here on out.

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Review: The Law of Similars

law-of-similarsTitle:  The Law of Similars

Author:  Chris Bohjalian

Published:  March 14, 2000

# of Pages:  336

ISBN:  978-0679771470

My Rating:  3.5/5

From the number one bestselling author of Midwives comes this riveting medical thriller about a lawyer, a homeopath, and a tragic death.  When one of homeopath Carissa Lake’s patients falls into an allergy-induced coma, possibly due to her prescribed remedy, Leland Fowler’s office starts investigating the case.

But Leland is also one of Carissa’s patients, and he is beginning to realize that he has fallen in love with her.  As love and legal obligations collide, Leland comes face-to-face with an ethical dilemma of enormous proportions.  Graceful, intelligent, and suspenseful, The Law of Similars is a powerful examination of the links between hope and hubris, love and deception.

Here’s the thing about The Law of Similars – it’s a good book, it’s interesting and page-turning, and definitely compelling.  However, it is by far my least favorite of anything I’ve read by Bohjalian, which definitely hindered my enjoyment of the book.  Bohjalian is one of those authors that, in general, I love.  I plan on eventually reading everything he’s written because everything I’ve read from him thus far has been fantastic.  But in comparison to the three books by Bohjalian I’ve previously read, The Law of Similars, to me, was a disappointment.

I feel awful saying that because it truly is a good book.  The story did hook me, but just not to the degree that I was expecting.  The premise was compelling, but just not to the degree that I was anticipating.  Notice a pattern here?  I think my expectations were just a bit too high because of my experiences with his other books.  And it’s not that I didn’t like it – I absolutely did – I just didn’t love it, and I wanted to love it.

Here’s the bottom line… I still highly recommend Bohjalian as an author.  And if you’re the type of person who likes to read everything by a favorite author, The Law of Similars is not a waste of time.  By far.  But if you’re planning on experiencing Bohjalian for the first time, I would suggest starting with Midwives or Trans-Sister Radio instead.  In my opinion, those books showcase his talent much better.  This is a good book, but definitely not his best.

I couldn’t find any other reviews of this one, so if you’ve reviewed it, just let me know in the comments and I’ll link to ya!

Review: Eclipse

eclipseTitle:  Eclipse

Author:  Stephenie Meyer

Published:  August 7, 2007

# of Pages:  640

ISBN:  978-0316160209

My Rating: 4/5

Ok, so the third installment in the Twilight series… I’m not even going to bother summarizing this one because any summary that I could give would contain plot spoilers for the first two books.  What did I think of Eclipse?  Well, basically, I liked it.  I was highly entertained by the plot – there was a lot going on here, especially toward the end of the book, and I liked where the story went for the most part.  The ending definitely made me excited to pick up Breaking Dawn and finish up the series.

And the characters?  Well, I am not such a die-hard member of Team Jacob anymore… he actually annoyed me quite a bit in this book.  He was such a jerk sometimes – he treated Bella like such a possession, like a prize he could win away from Edward, and that totally bothered me.  And at the same time, Edward was becoming more caring, more conscious of Bella’s feelings, less jealous and possessive, etc.  So I’m not sure which one of the boys I am truly rooting for, but I have a feeling that in the end I’ll be moved over to Team Edward.  Oh well.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that Eclipse is their least favorite of the Twilight books, and I have to say, for me that’s not the case.  I liked the book, the story moved along very well, and I liked the characters more than I have in the past (Bella and Edward, at least).  I did hate Edward’s morally superior attitude regarding one particular issue (if you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about), but I’m willing to not let that damper my enjoyment of the story too much.  Overall, a good addition to the series and I’ll be reading Breaking Dawn very soon.

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Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox

adorationTitle:  The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Author:  Mary E. Pearson

Published:  April 29, 2008

# of Pages:  272

ISBN:  978-0805076684

My Rating:  4.5/5

Jenna Fox has just woken up after being in a coma for a year and a half.  She remembers absolutely nothing of her life – she is told that her coma was induced by a horrible accident and that her memory should slowly start to return as long as she takes it easy.  Watching old home movies gives her some insight into her life, but even the movies don’t really trigger any concrete memories for her.  When she does start to remember, it is in bits and pieces, fragments of a life she doesn’t understand and one in which nothing is familiar.  She pictures people her parents don’t talk about and situations that just don’t make any logical sense.  What’s more, her body parts feel so unfamiliar and awkward – she “walks funny”, or so her classmates tell her, and her hands don’t fold together like everyone else’s.  The worst thing for Jenna, though, is the fact that her parents are always behind closed doors, having hushed, secret conversations, and her own grandmother severely dislikes and ignores her – and Jenna has absolutely no idea why.

When Jenna starts putting the pieces together and discovering the truth about herself, the book raises some powerful ethical questions.  How far would a parent really go to save their child?  What kind of rules would they break, lines would they cross, and boundaries would they push to save the most important person of all?  And at what cost?

The Adoration of Jenna Fox is a fascinating look at our changing society, an examination of the ethics involved with our advances in science, and Pearson’s interpretation of what might just be possible many years from today.  I thought the book was so interesting, because once it was revealed exactly what happened to Jenna, it sort of made sense how the technology used would be possible many, many years from now.  And the book really made me think about the ethical situations and the dilemma presented in it.

In addition, I really enjoyed the character of Jenna Fox.  I found her to be very well-developed, and I liked how the reader slowly understood what happened to her at the same pace she did.  Even though the situation she was in is not possible by today’s standards it was still so easy to feel empathy for what she was going through.  She felt so isolated, lonely, and confused, and nobody in her life seems to want to talk to her or explain anything to her.  I loved how she truly grew as a person throughout the book – she did miss out on a year and a half of teenage life, so she had a lot of growing up to do once she awoke from her coma at seventeen, and she did the growing up very gracefully.  A lot happened to her in a short period of time, and I loved how Person wrote her character to be complex and interesting.

I listened to The Adoration of Jenna Fox on CD, and I definitely enjoyed the audio version.  The narrator was great, she really captured Jenna’s personality and made the book seem appropriately creepy at the same time.

Highly recommended, as a book or as an audiobook.

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A meme about my sweetheart!

I saw this on Dooce and thought about doing it, and then just now I noticed that Trish also partook in this fun meme.  So I decided I had to, too. 🙂  Be prepared to learn about my wonderful husband, Bob.

What are your middle names?
Mine is Lee, Bob’s is Joesph.

How long have you been together?
We have been married for one year, eight months.  Before we got married we dated for a year, broke up for a year, then dated/were engaged for another year before getting married.

How long did you know each other before you started dating?
We worked together at a restaurant when I was in high school and Bob was in college.  We really didn’t talk much, though, until I was also in college – that’s when we became friends that hung out in a group every now and then.  I think we knew each other for a total of about five years before dating.

Who asked whom out?
We didn’t really ask each other out, exactly.  We were texting one night when he invited me to come visit him at school that evening (he went to school about an hour away from where I was).  I figured, what the heck, jumped in my car and drove.  We hung out with some of his friends that night, and after hanging out a few more times, we were dating.

How old are each of you?
I am 25, he is 28 – soon to be 29.

Whose siblings do you see the most?
With the exception of one of his sisters, who lives in Florida, and my youngest brother who just joined the military, all of our siblings live 40 minutes or less from us.  So we see them all pretty frequently.

Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple?
I don’t know… maybe communication?  I tend to get really defensive even when  I have nothing to defend, and he tends to get condescending for no particular reason, so we sometimes come to a standstill when we’re trying to work out some issue.  But we’re getting better.

Did you go to the same school?
We went to the same high school, but not at the same time; he was a college freshman when I was a high school freshman.  We didn’t go to the same college.

Are you from the same home town?

Who is smarter?
We are pretty close.  But we’re smarter in different ways – I pick up on things much faster, but he’ll work a lot harder than I will to understand something.  He is more determined whereas I just like to get things done fast and don’t have a lot of patience.

Who is the most sensitive?
Me, absolutely.  Bob gets SO frustrated with how emotional I can get, he is the anti-sensitive.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?
We love Panera and Noodles & Co because they are delicious and inexpensive.  There are some other places we like better, but they are more expensive and we don’t go too often.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
We  have gone on three cruises together, and I think the furthest place we’ve visited on all of them has been Roatan Island, Honduras.  We also went to San Francisco together, which may be a bit further in terms of miles, I’m not really sure.

Who has the craziest exes?
Definitely me.  I dated one guy who falls VERY high on the crazy scale.  Bob’s dated some interesting girls, for sure, but my one ex definitely takes the cake on this one.

Who has the worst temper?
Neither of us really has a temper, but I guess I’d say me if I had to pick one.  I just get irritated over dumb things, and have a tendency to snap at him when said irritation occurs.  It’s not really a temper, though…

Who does the cooking?
We both do.  We mostly cook individual things, as weird as that sounds, because he is SUCH a picky eater.  I can’t cook anything that I like for him.  So unless I’m making homemade pizza, some kind of simple pasta, or a steak, I can only cook for myself.

Who is the neat-freak?
Ha.  Neither of us.  That’s why it’s such a struggle to keep our place appropriately neat and clean.

Who is more stubborn?
I think he is.  But we both are usually “right”, so it’s kind of a tie.

Who hogs the bed?
Haha, I’m with you, Trish.  Our three cats take up more of the bed than we do!

Who wakes up earlier?
On a morning when we can wake up naturally, I will always wake up earlier.  But usually Bob has to wake up slightly earlier than me for work.

Where was your first date?
We hung out with some of his friends at his college apartment, then tried to go bowling but found out it was closed.  If you can really consider it a date, since at the time I really didn’t.

Who is more jealous?
Me, but we’re both pretty laid back and not very jealous.

How long did it take to get serious?
Pretty quickly the first time.  REALLY quickly the second time.  When we had decided to get back together after being broken up for a year, Bob had an engagement ring picked out within three months (although I didn’t know it at the time).

Who eats more?
Oh my goodness, Bob.  He can eat endlessly.  I am hungry more often, but I eat small meals.  Bob will eat much, MUCH more than me in one sitting.

Who does the laundry?
We each do our own, believe it or not.  Laundry is something we are both very particular about, and there’s no reason to create conflicts when we can just do our laundry separately.

Who’s better with the computer?
Me, but I’m really not that great.

Who drives when you are together?
Bob because I really don’t like to drive.  So I will gladly let him.  Plus I like his car better. 🙂

Feel free to play along!

Review: Sister Wife

sisterwifeTitle:  Sister Wife

Author:  Shelley Hrdlitschka

# of Pages:  176

Published:  October 1, 2008

ISBN:  978-1551439273

My rating:  3.5/5

Sister Wife is set in the fictional community of Unity, a polygamous, religious community seemingly based on the real-life FLDS church.  The book centers around three young girls in the community – Celeste, Nanette, and Taviana.

Celeste is fifteen and about to be married, as soon as the Prophet determines who she’s supposed to be with.  While this should be an exciting time in her life, she is beginning to question her faith and doesn’t feel like marriage is what she should be doing at this point in her life – she yearns to get an education and become a veterinarian.  What’s more, a boy her age in the community has started to notice her… and she isn’t shying away from his attention.  Nanette is Celeste’s younger sister, almost fourteen, and the two girls couldn’t be more opposite.  Nanette is very secure in her faith; she believes wholeheartedly in the principles of Unity and she’s very jealous of her sister – she wants to get married now too, not in a year or two.  Taviana is seventeen and not originally from Unity.  She was a homeless teenager when one of the elders in the community found her and volunteered to “adopt” her; she then became part of a Unity family and she was raised as a teenage girl in that family just as the rest of the girls.  But Tavian’s past might just be a little too dark for the community members to forgive her for, and soon they start worrying that she is poisoning the minds of other teens, especially Celeste.

I found Sister Wife to be an enjoyable read.  Overall, I thought it was good but not great.  The succession of events definitely kept me interested, and I cared enough about the characters to want to know what would happen to them and to hope for them all to find peace and happiness in this lifestyle that I personally cannot understand.  What keeps Sister Wife from being better than just good is that I don’t feel it was very deep.  I can’t put my finger on exactly what was missing, but I suppose I expected a lot from a book about three teen girls in a fictional polygamous community, and it simply didn’t live up to my expectations.  There just wasn’t a lot here besides daily activities and thoughts of these three girls.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad book by any means, it was just lacking a certain something for my personal tastes.

I’d still recommend Sister Wife, it actually was a good book, it just won’t be making any of my favorites lists anytime soon.

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TV meme

I’ve seen this floating around a bit today, so what the heck.  I do watch a LOT of TV…

1. Name a TV show series in which you have seen every episode at least twice: Friends – I own all 10 seasons and have watched them all MANY times.

2. Name a show you can’t miss: American Idol, Top Chef

3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to watch a show: umm… can’t really think of anyone.  Maybe Josh from The West Wing, I miss him. (though I don’t know the actor’s name who plays him.)

4. Name an actor who would make you less likely to watch a show: Kirsten Dunst… she bothers me.

5. Name a show you can, and do, quote from: Friends… all.the.time.

6. Name a show you like that no one else enjoys: I really don’t know anyone else that watches Top Chef, but I know it’s pretty popular.

7. Name a TV show which you’ve been known to sing the theme song: umm… I don’t really do that, that I can recall.

8. Name a show you would recommend everyone to watch: American Idol… oh wait, everyone DOES watch that show.

9. Name a TV series you own: Friends is the only TV series that I own.

10. Name an actor who launched his/her entertainment career in another medium, but has surprised you with his/her acting choices in television: The only person I can really think of is Ellen Pompeo, who started in the movie Old School as a minor character.

11. What is your favourite episode of your favourite series? “The One Where No One’s Ready” from Friends.

12. Name a show you keep meaning to watch, but you just haven’t gotten around to yet:  Big Love, and my in-laws keep telling us we should watch Battlestar Galactica.

13. Ever quit watching a show because it was so bad? I barely ever give up on shows… I watch them til the pitiful end almost always.

14. Name a show that’s made you cry multiple times: Grey’s Anatomy… like every third episode!  Although I used to cry a lot more, most of the storylines are kind of dumb now.

15. What do you eat when you watch TV? usually dinner

16. How often do you watch TV? maybe an hour or two a day.  On the weekends, sometimes more.  But I DVR everything so I watch only when it’s convenient for me.

17. What’s the last TV show you watched? The Bachelor last night.

18. What’s your favourite/preferred genre of TV? Drama, and I am a huge fan of reality shows still.

19. What was the first TV show you were obsessed with? probably Full House… when I was a kid I didn’t watch very much TV at all.

20. What TV show do you wish you never watched? Private Practice… I wasted my time on two or three episodes.

21. What’s the weirdest show you enjoyed? The Real Housewives of Orange County… it’s like a train wreck, I can’t stop watching.

22. What TV show scared you the most? I don’t really watch any scary shows.

23. What is the funniest TV show you have ever watched? Friends and The Office are my favorite funny shows.

Feel free to play along!