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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Books read

Here's a picture collage of the books I read and reviewed during the month of February and March of this year. It is missing two book images that would not transfer ... (1)Faith: The Essence of True Religion by Gordon B. Hinckley and (2) Soledad by Anna Cruz.

Monday, March 29, 2010

"The Road"


by Cormac McCarthy, 2006, 241p, rating=4

Duh, just noticed the book cover is dark... appropriately so since the world that the man and boy lived now was dark and dreary! This is because this is a post apocalyptic novel so the road ahead is unknown and scary. Your survival skills had to been challenged here. Consequently, this book touched upon human's awakening of it's ultimate capabilities in face of the world's end. Would it be better to live or die? Is the fight to live worth it at this point? Is God around? Does having hope make a difference? These are a few of the questions that this book had it's characters pondering. Deep.

I believe a seasoned reader would find this book extraordinary. The author was skilled in describing everything in detail and much in symbolism that I suspect some I missed. Being that I am a striving reader, I saw the details more cumbersome. I was eager to find out what's at the end of the road. It was however the journey getting there that was more important to the author to get across. Surely it was, because when you're at that point of existence ... you don't know for sure who's the good guy or who's going to eat you! Yes, I said EAT. When you're starving and your scavenged food is gone, what else is there that some may turn to but cannibalism? Really, this book is intense in human desperation and tenacity.

Oh, oh, oh, the ending!! All the bleakness that you've been reading comes to a conclusion and you will be exhausted along with the man and boy's journey and you will weep, wail, ... howl!!

Excellent book. Now I've got to find the movie and see the novel in film ... should be interesting.

**My quotables:
"You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget." pg 10.
"If you break little promises you'll break big ones." pg 29.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"


by Mary Shaffer & Annie Barrows, 2008, 274p, rating=4.5

This novel was told through exchanges of letters between characters. I thought that was pretty clever and it worked here. I enjoyed getting to know the characters this way. And what a fascinating group of characters they were too! Isola was my favorite. She's a hoot!!!
This book club, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, came to birth at a whim as an alibi to avoid getting in trouble by the Germans while actually they were feasting on an illegal pig! So quickly the "members" had to fill the room with books and really hold meetings thereafter. A few were truly readers and the others later discovered their own literary niche. This pretend club soon became a true group.
Julie stumbles into this group post WWII and thus corresponds with the members to learn more. She learns about their personal stories including their experiences under the German occupation and feels there is a book there to write about. So she sets out to personally see the island and the members. There is a story alright and she becomes engrossed in it.
Wonderful book! You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll want to join a book club! Well written and I like how most of the characters embrace good human qualities. Lots of interesting side stories and even romance.
**My quotables: "Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.", Isola, pg.53

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Hush"

by Donna Jo Napoli, 2007, 308p, rating=2.5

Hmm ... a "mute" princess, medieval Ireland, a slave ship, raidings and plunderings ... sounds like an interesting recipe for a fascinating tale. So much so that the other night I told part of the story (hadn't finished the book yet) to my kids at bedtime and my seven year old said of the story so far, "pretty good". Indeed, a seemingly pretty good tale.

Here is a young princess that will find herself kidnapped and discovers that playing mute gives her the avenue to figure out what's happening around her and also in turn plays a great part in her mysterious character that her captors find intriguing. Also, she will come upon characters that will give her aid in understanding her surroundings and stumble into a heartbreaking life that she will eventually discover must be her new life.

I was waiting and waiting to read of what I hoped for a consequential escape and return to her homeland. Opportunities did present itself but other courses prevailed. In the end, the princess finds a tangible hope, a strange one but according to the author a sense of acceptance for the princess. Surely, not your usual princess stories with prince charming coming to the rescue. The story line was interesting though strange but it was not executed well.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ch. 5: The Creation

from Gospel Principles:

In our premortal life we were joyful when Heavenly Father told us about His plan for us to become more like Him. We were eager for new experiences. As previously mention we needed to leave His presence and receive mortal bodies to do so. Hence, we needed another place to live where we can prepare to become like Him. Our new home was called earth. Under the direction of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ created this world and everything in it ... light, darkness, land, water, plants, animals, and mankind ... having life being able to reproduce.

God's creations show His love. "Think of the sun, which gives us warmth and light. Think of the rain, which makes plants grow and makes the world feel clean and fresh. Think of how good it is to hear a bird singing or a friend laughing. Think of how wonderful our bodies are--how we can work and play and rest. When we consider all of these creations, we begin to understand what wise, powerful, and loving beings Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father are. They have shown great love for us by providing for all of our needs." (pg 24-25). The Lord said, "Yea, all things which come of the earth, and the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul" (D&C 59:18-19).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Push" aka Precious


by Sapphire, 1996-original, 2009-this movie cover, 140p, rating=4.5, for adults only

There are things in life that you don't have to experience to know that it is beyond sickening. In this case, child abuse! I dare not say I know what it was like for this character,Precious, but certainly I can say that I know I don't like it. Having children of my own, I am horrified-horrified-horrified!!

This book touched on several issues worth questioning like: the education system, social classes, self-esteem, welfare system, and parenthood. Precious could be the poster child of the negatives that come from these issues. So as a reader, I found myself rooting for her success in breaking the awful abuse cycle and her determination to push to the next level and have a "normal" life.

I applaud those teachers that empower their students to get to the next level and the rest of the next levels after that! Even more, I applaud those teachers that recognize that each of his students is a Precious in some way therefore is relentless in encouragements. I don't only talk about formal educational teachers but you and me. As parents, relatives, or friends to children we have a duty to provide them a safe, healthy, and thriving environment. Yes, that's the ideal world. That's what we're striving for, right?

There was a very ugly portrait of motherhood here. Oh, mothers everywhere, let's not be like the mother of Precious. Let us remember our sacred duty to our children ... to rear them in love and righteousness and to always be their advocates!!

What a powerful and affecting book! ~I am grateful that I can read and write. I am grateful that I had a childhood. I am grateful for a caring mother. I am grateful for my awesome husband. I am grateful for the continual divine guidance.

P.S. I didn't see the movie! I don't think I will either. It got great recognization at the Academy of Awards so I'm guessing the movie got it right??

P.S.S. Due to foul language and sexual content, I only recommend this to adults.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"The Last Lecture"

by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow, 2008, 206p, rating=3

How do I critique the last few words of a dying man? Yes, he had some words of wisdom but words of wisdom are everywhere. Everyone has them whether they know it or not. However, I was moved in the very end. It came down to what the book was really about ... leaving a piece of himself to his wife and kids that they can tangibly hold on to. So beyond those life lessons that Mr. Pausch talked about, what really mattered was that he loves them ... in memories of past times together, now in the present, and in the future when he would be gone. He was doing this by telling them that he existed in this world and made good use of it. Certainly a wonderful legacy that he can leave to his children!

"Soledad"



by Angie Cruz, 2001, 237p, rating=1

I just couldn't finish this book! There was too much foul language so it was a big turn off. I kept reading thinking I could get passed it, but the story line wasn't grabbing me either so I decided to move on to another book.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ch. 4: Freedom to Choose

from Gospel Principles:

We make choices everyday. Heavenly Father desires that we choose the right. He has given us the scriptures, prophets, and the Holy Ghost to help us do so. In opposition, Satan will tempt us to transgress, to sin, to be like unto him. We ought to remember that sin is bondage and following Satan's temptations actually limit our choices. Here's an example that suggests how this works. "Imagine seeing a sign on the seashore that reads: Danger--whirlpool. No swing allowed here. We might think that is a restriction. But is it? We still have many choices. We are free to swim somewhere else. We are free to walk along the beach and pick up seashells. We are free to watch the sunset. We are free to go home. We are also free to ignore the sign and swim in the dangerous place. But once the whirlpool has us in its grasp and we are pulled under, we have very few choices. We can try to escape, or we can call for help, but we may drown."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"The Joy Luck Club"

by Amy Tan, 1989, 288p, rating=2.75

I actually started this before Shanghai Girls but once I got a hold of Shanghai Girls I wanted to read that first then I ended up putting it on hold again to quickly read The Greatest Miracle in the World. Several days then passed before I resumed it again and my days got busy and I ended up reading this choppily. I kept referring back to which mother-daughter belong with whom as the author went back and forth from each characters. I recall the beginning being engaging but the middle got confusing. I got back on track towards the end but by that time I was just pushing myself to finish! It wasn't poorly written. The book just had the bad luck of me reading this too choppily and with my characteristic of being forgetful. Basically, the book accounts the lives of 4 sets of mother-daughter characters. Set in modern time America, the daughters are now adults with family stories of their own. The mothers tells of their backgrounds with their own mothers and struggles they faced to raise their daughters the best they could. The daughters told their version of growing up with their mother's Chinese influence. Through all of this the readers get a feel for Chinese ways vs American ways and told with much wit. Although the daughters have been Americanized, they're more Chinese than they realize.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"The Greatest Miracle in the World"

by Og Mandino, 1975, 108pgs, rating=5

What an incredibly brilliant and captivating book! To think it's been under my roof for almost 9 years (length of time my husband and I have been married)! My husband noticed that I've been reading a lot so he recommended this book. I absolutely love it! It's under the premise of a self help for the down and out so inside it reveals the secrets of happiness. Line and upon line of citations from history's greatest minds. The author figured out a way to spiritually inspire without coming across churchy, even though it has precepts of Christian beliefs and ends with a memorandum from God. This book reminds us of our individual worth and thus our capabilities to do be extraordinary. I can't say enough about how wonderful this book is and that everyone should read it!! I give this book the highest mark!! ~I'm looking forward to an interesting conversation tonight with my husband about this book ... his agnostic take on it and my christian take ...hhhmmm.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ch. 3: Jesus Christ, Our Chosen Leader and Savior

from: Gospel Principles

As discussed in chapter 2, in the premortal spirit world the plan for our salvation was presented. Because we would be away from heavenly Father's presence all of us would sin and some of us would lose our way. So He planned a way to help us ... we needed a Savior to pay for our sins and teach us how to return to our Heavenly Father. Jehovah said, "Here am I, send me ... Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever" (Abr 3:27, Moses 4:2). Lucifer however said, "Behold, here am I, send me, I will be the son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor" (Moses 4:1). Because our Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Savior, Satan became angry and rebelled... causing a war in heaven. Satan and the third of hosts of heaven that followed him were cast down from the presence of God and cast down from heaven. They were denied the right to receive mortal bodies. Because we are here on earth and have mortal bodies, we know we are the two-thirds that chose to follow Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. How cool is that?! So that mean guy that you know down the street made a good choice in premortal world so he's not completely hopeless! Consequently, Jesus Christ has revealed the gospel, which tells us what we must do to return to our God, so it is now up to each of us to do our part and become worthy of exaltation.

My thought: Watch out! Satan will do all he can to make us miserable like him so make good decisions always.

"Shanghai Girls"

by Lisa See, 2009, 309pgs, rating=4
I have mix feelings about this book. Started off interesting enough then about quarter into the book I found something disturbing. I contemplated if I should go on reading. I did with hopes that there would be a happy ending. Well, the remainder of the book was again interesting and when I finally got to the end last night, I heard myself say out loud, "What?!". I suppose I'm not fond of endings that leave you hanging. However, after the initial shock I thought it was a proper ending after all, plus it gave room to add a sequel if the author chooses to do so. Anyway, this is a good sister book. It's a wonderful story of a great bond sisters have for one another. This book also depicts a culture that is full of tradition, zodiac roots, and family honor. It contains awesome love stories between parents and children (particularly between mothers and daughters), husbands and wives, and country ties. Another book that reminds people that war can bring forth collateral damages.
This is an overall good book. I would recommend this to you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"The Secret Life of Bees"

by Sue Monk Kidd, 2002, 302pgs, rating=3

Another book made into a movie that I did not see! Seriously, somebody has to take me out to the theatre!! Anyway, this was a fun read. Got a few chuckles and found the taking on a runaway girl story familiar but the eccentric characters and the Black Madonna tale made it entertaining. There were sad moments but was overshadowed by the love lessons that the calendar sisters would unfold.
I'm embarrassed to admit that I think I missed the bee analogy. I rushed through the bee talks and concentrated more on the story line. I can make a guess but I'd probably be wrong. That's okay because the Mother Mary allegory also was important and that I got. Well, next time I should pay better attention.
I'd like to see the movie. It might help me fill in the bee gap. Though the book was an overall good read, I can't help but think I'd really enjoy the movie version.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ch. 2: Our Heavenly Family

OK, it's been awhile since I've posted from the scriptures/church manuals so here it is ... chapter 2 in the Gospel Principles manual (see sidebar for the link).

This chapter declares that we are all literally the sons and daughters of God, hence in our premortal life we were a heavenly family. While we lived in heaven, we developed personalities and talents. Our Heavenly Father knew that we could not progress beyond a certain point unless we left Him for a time so he called a Grand Council and presented a plan for us to become like Him. In short, we chose His plan ... receive a body, go to earth to be tested and to gain experience, be resurrected, then become heavenly parents ourselves if proved worthy (thus receiving fulness of joy). Because a veil covers our memories of our heavenly home, choosing good over evil will be because of our faith in Him, not because of our knowledge or memory of Him. All of us except little children would sin so a Savior would be provided for us so we could overcome our sins and overcome death with resurrection. Moreover, Heavenly Father has chosen the time and place for each of us to be born so we can learn the lessons we need and do the most good with our individual talents and personalities. We would be given trials in our lives and if we allowed them to, these trials would purify us rather than defeat us. They would teach us to have endurance, patience, and charity.

I will close with my favorite ponder question in this chapter: "How does your knowledge that you are a child of God influence your thoughts, words, and actions?

Friday, March 5, 2010

"The Kite Runner"

by Khaled Hosseini, 2003, 400pgs (large print), rating=4

What an incredible book! This will definitely be in my list of favorites!! A fascinating story indeed. I was dream lifted to Afghanistan and met beautiful families and got a taste of their culture and language. I also got to see terrible people and horrifying abuse. Here, I saw the power of guilt to painfully eat away a man's soul but, with a price, come to find salvation in the end. Largely, I was moved at the depth of love, loyalty, and sacrifice a true friend makes for another. I was introduced to different perceptions of how to survive. Wow, the cast of characters is just amazing! Clearly, I found myself sad and repulsed so I'm glad that there was a happy ending ...

Some people say, life sucks and you die. This book to me says, life sucks without family and courage.

~Thanks Brother Gunther and Arlyn for suggesting this book.

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