Monday, August 12, 2013


By Althea Kontis

It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.
When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.
The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past—and hers?

Quite to the contrary of what I thought I had picked up—another fairy-tale retelling of the frog prince—I got an original, creative, and difficult-to-guess story of a magical family and their impossible lives. This was delightful to read. I never knew what was going to happen next or what fairytale I would invariable fall into. There were allusions to Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and many other more obscure tales. Sometimes this seems to bog down the main plot, but it was all good fun to read. I found that more than anything this was a tale about the Faeries and their dabbling with humans. Sunday was a delightful character, a down-to-earth heroine that finds her magical family difficult to deal with, but loves them more than life. Rumbold on the other hand is less easy to decipher, his life shrouded in intrigue and mystery, which keeps the reader enthralled as to how he will find himself as well as winning Sunday’s heart. I for one will happily read the next installments of this series, it was well written and a fun and romantic adventure.

I give it a 4 out of 5

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

By Arthur Conan Doyle

This is a gathering of some of the more notable cases of the world-famous Sherlock Holmes, written by his faithful friend, Doctor John Watson. Among the stories is “A Scandal in Bohemia” where we meet the American woman Irene Adler, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, “The Man with the Twisted Lips”, and many others.


There seems to have been an outpouring of Sherlock Holmes related media the past few years, which spurred my interest in reading the actual stories by Doyle. With the surprising Hollywood debut and sequel featuring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, I was certain that it would be a horrendous version that I would be sick at, but was surprised when I finally watched it that I loved it. Then came BBC’s absolutely genius modernized version that has many people in absolute agony while they wait to figure out how Sherlock survived his ‘fall’. That in and of itself is a brilliant re-imagined version, which is enhanced by Benedict Cumberbach’s manic energy and delivery of the famous detective, not to mention Martin Freeman’s incredible friendship and loyalty portrayed as John Watson. And, to top it off we have the recent adage of “Elementary” in America where Sherlock Holmes is, once again, a modernized character living in New York, a recovering drug addict that is just getting back into detective work. All three versions have their good points and bad, but all three are entertaining. Reading the original stories has been fun knowing the back-stories and having grown up with the Jeremey Brett episodes on PBS, which are more true to the stories than any other. I had fun reading stories that I’d never heard before, especially the engineer’s thumb and the man with the twisted lips. The blue carbuncle was actually quite funny, unless you were the antagonist of the story. I highly recommend reading the original stories if you are a fan of any of the above shows. After all, we all know that in the vast majority, the book is better than the movie!

I give it a 4 out of 5

Above: Elementary, New Sherlock and female Watson

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson


By Cheryl Strayed

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed though she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most implusive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise. But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.


Wow. This book really has me reeling. Not a good reeling either.  There was so much that really frustrated me and left me so angry that I wanted to yell and cry at the same time. I will say this much for the author: she knows how to work emotion. I had the same problem I always have with memoir: my beliefs mess with my ability to be objective.  Her life was a big huge mess, and I congratulate her on being so open and honest, that can be really hard, I know. Grief affects everyone differently and this is just one woman’s reaction and subsequent descent into madness and eventual realization. Her life was riddled with sex and drugs, and she doesn’t skirt around the fact that she enjoyed it, though it was all “recreational”. Just one point of the book and message that I was upset about and completely and strongly disagreed with; she cheated on her husband because her mother died and she was missing something. Again, everyone deals with, or doesn’t deal with, grief in their own way. Another thing, warning there are probably over a hundred instances of the f-word in this book, a point which had me reeling (in the bad way) wondering if anybody really said it with that much frequency and without batting an eyelash about it. Wow. But honestly, the one thing in the entire book that had me hating it was the offhand way the author addressed the fact that her heroine buddy had gotten her pregnant and she just automatically got an abortion. I think in the entire book it comprised 3 sentences. I was taken aback by how easy that decision was for her. Being very strongly against abortion, this not only upset me, but I was downright livid, an emotion I don’t often find myself feeling. I tried to work my way past it and enjoy her story of hiking, but I got tangled up in my own opinion and just couldn’t get past it. I can’t give this book any sort of good rating because it seemingly promotes terrible lifestyle choices like drugs and one night stands by making them seem normal and commonplace, and in the end, not really of that great of importance. I believe that the more that certain things are talked of, the more they gain power, words are powerful and I don’t like the fact that a vast majority of this book is profane and dealing with unsavory life choices. I have nothing against the author, this just wasn’t for me.


I give it a 1 ½ out of 5 because it was well-written and formatted and had interesting information on long-distance hiking and those who experience it.

My Antonia

By Willa Cather

The classic tale of a pioneer woman coming from the Old World into a new one and the struggles and championship she makes of life on the prairie of Nebraska in the countryside of the town Black Hawk.  Often hailed as Willa Cather’s most beloved novel and most maturely written work, My Antonia is well worth the praise.

I fell in love with the works of Willa Cather after taking a college course solely dedicated to her life and works. It was fascinating. I thought, ‘how can someone make prairie life interesting?’ It sounded like the dullest subject I could think of; I’ve driven through Kansas and Nebraska; it’s monotonous, hot, and filled with wheat and corn. But reading Cather’s stories about the plains and the people who were courageous enough to first inhabit them is inspiring and frankly often times entrancing. Because she mostly based her characters off of real people, her fictional characters come alive in ways that will surprise the reader. She has the same sort of natural ability to depict humanity as Charles Dickens does when I read his works. There are base differences, Cather’s characters seem more real, while both these author’s characters seem alive. My Antonia is not my favorite Cather work, but it was beautiful in its own way. Narrated by Jim Burden, a boy who comes to Nebraska from Virginia (like Cather herself) at the same time as Antonia and her family arrive from Bohemia. It’s a novel about survival and love. Like many of her characters, Antonia comes to love the land that she had to work and cannot find anywhere she would rather be, save her homeland. It’s a great work of fiction, though I would probably point first-time readers of Cather towards “O Pioneers!” rather than this for an introduction to her work. My other favorite is “The Professor’s House” and if you like short stories, everyone should read her story entitled “Neighbor Rosicky”. A-maz-ing.


I give this a 4 out of 5 (But that’s probably a bit generous)

Greta and the Goblin King

By Chloe Jacobs

While trying to save her brother from the witch three years ago, Greta was thrown into the fire herself, falling through a portal to a dangerous world where humans are the enemy, and every ogre, goblin, and ghoul has a dark side that comes out with the full moon. To survive, 17-year-old Greta has hidden her humanity and taken the job of bounty hunter—and she’s good at what she does. So good, she’s caught the attention of Mylena’s young Goblin King, the darkly enticing Isaac, who invades her dreams and undermines her determination to escape. But Greta’s not the only one looking to get out of Mylena. The full moon is mere days away, and an ancient evil being knows she’s the key to opening the portal. If Greta fails, she and the boys she finds stranded in the woods will die. If she succeeds, no world will be safe from what follows her back.


So, I read this thinking it would be a fun fantasy with a slight beauty and the beast feel (anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love beauty and the beast). Well…you can kinda see it. I’m not a fan of this book, it had too many things that felt rushed or just a ‘not enough’ feeling when I finished. For one thing, this book is pretty much a love story, the background stuff was interesting, but there wasn’t nearly enough explanation of the world of Mylena and how it related to Earth and even what all the creatures meant to each other and how they inter-related. They’re just there as a buffer to Greta’s humanness. As for Greta herself, she’s contradictory as a character and feisty. There was a lot of telling how she felt instead of letting the reader figure it out though. I also thought that her ‘disguise’ was pathetic. There needed to be more differences between the goblins and sprites and faerie creatures for me to even consider her as needing a disguise. Her relationship with Isaac is purely to have a romance for the main character. It’s typical of young adult literature nowadays to have a stalker-esque guy that is extra pushy and possessive, but apparently that is ‘sweet’. It irritates me. There is some address of how quickly their relationship grows; basically putting it to animal attraction and ‘destiny’. Greta herself asks Isaac why he loves her and he says it’s because she challenges him and makes him think differently. Sure, okay, but then there is no evidence in his character or their exchanges whatsoever. It’s very frustrating for a girl who likes a down-to-earth believable romance. This book is basically “I’ll throw myself into mortal peril, then we’ll meet in dreams, make-out some, then I’ll refuse to let you find me in real life for some flimsy reason or another”. It’s all enough to make me find a perpetual frown on my face as I read. Gah.


I give it a 2.25 out of 5

21 Principles: Divine Truths to Help you Live by the Spirit

By Richard G. Scott

“As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles,” counsels Elder Richard G. Scott. “Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances.”

In this exciting book, Elder Scott offers 21 principles he has distilled from his life experiences. These “concentrated truths” will help you understand more fully how to be guided by the Spirit. Elder Scott’s brief explanations open the way for your own discovery and exploration.

“I bear witness that Jesus Christ knows you personally,” Elder Scott writes. “He will provide answers to every difficult problem in your life as you trust Him and do all you can to understand and apply His doctrine and strive to live by the Spirit.” 21 Principles will be a valuable tool in that quest.


I loved reading this book. It was concise and simply formatted, giving the reader 21 different principles to ponder and apply in their lives.  I doubt it was a coincidence that it was 21 principles, which could be applied in 3 weeks-the time it takes to form a new habit. I enjoyed the sections on dreams and had many inspirational moments as I read the thoughtful and beautiful insights of this apostle of God. Elder Scott has a way of gently speaking straight to the heart of people and if you have ever heard him talk, you can hear his loving voice in every word. I highly recommend this book, in fact I cannot say enough how I think everyone should read this book and re-read it again. It would be a fantastic gift. 


I give it a 5 out of 5- Yes, it was perfect!


By Jenni James

When Prince Anthony spies Eleanoria Woodston outside her family home dressed as a servant, he knows something is amiss. Pretending to be John, his cousin’s outrider, he decides to take matters into his own hands and figure out why Ella hasn’t been seen at court. And more importantly why the daughter of one of the wealthiest families in the kingdom dresses like a pauper.
Ella has had her own bout of trials, including losing her beloved father and facing the wrath and jealousy of her stepmother and stepsisters. Becoming a servant doesn’t seem all that bad until the handsome John comes into her life, now he appears to be upsetting everything. Never before has she been so unsettled. Just his presence is making her dream of a life beyond this one.
When John invites Ella to the ball and she grudgingly accepts, he wonders if he’s truly losing his mind. How would he ever pull off pretending to be John while obviously hosting the ball as Anthony? Especially when the stubborn girl has made it quite obvious she would never attend a ball with a snobbish prince.

Surprisingly I really enjoyed this. There are a billion and one retellings of Cinderella, and while this one follows the original tale fairly close, it does have some unique and endearing twists that had me feeling warm and fond of the two protagonists. I enjoyed their courtship and relationship and the underlying plot of the book. It was pretty fluffy, but entertaining and sweet, just what I like in a story about love and happily-ever-afters.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Friday, August 2, 2013


By R.J. Palacio

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Wonder begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

This book was surprising, touching, and absolutely wondrous. The author stated in one interview that this book was a “study in kindness” and it definitely made my favorite book of the year list. I was constantly engaged and impressed with the message and content of this book dealing with the cruelty and kindness of humanity. My favorite part is the overall message the author sends: people are better than we think and will more often choose to be kind when given a chance. I loved Auggie’s voice and was surprised that the different points of view from his older sister, to his classmates to his sister’s boyfriend worked so well. I’m not usually an advocate of different P.O.V’s but this worked so well and gave the book a depth and character that was endearing. I would recommend this book to everyone and anyone. I’ve already suggested it to scores of people who ask me what to read. It’s a book that brings tears at times and had me wiping my cheeks at the greatness of individuals and the power of kindness and friendship.

I give it a 4.75 out of 5

The 5th Wave

By Rick Yancey

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.
Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Bring on the apocalypse. Another premier in the ever-growing end-of-the-world survival novels, this book is quiet in-depth and well structured. The story was fast-paced and the characters memorable. Loads of teens are going to love this book, which is why I read it in the first place: you can’t escape the hype sometimes. So that being said, I do have some issues with this book. First: the language. It was pretty raunchy at times (beware sudden dropping of f-bombs) and does discuss sex (but does not include any actual scenes). This story bounces between 2 perspectives, that of Cassie and Zombie. There is a small chapter (which ruined what had potential to be a big surprise) from the perspective of another character. This book has been compared to Ender’s Game and The Passage. Now, I’ve read Ender’s Game, and I can see where the comparison was drawn from, but I thought it was hardly fair to compare the two. They had some similar plots, but the overall messages were vastly different. Ender’s Game had some serious questions and messages threaded throughout the book to the last page, this book however is more a ‘horror story’ of what happens when the unexpected happens. I’d call it a psychological thriller more than I would a love story—which I’ve heard it called. It’s meant to be horrible and scary and make your brain feel a little sick at the twists. The love story was interesting and I was reminded (spoiler) of The Host by Stephanie Meyers. It was more of a side-line than anything else, a way to keep a plot going that probably could have (and should have) ended with one novel.  It’s not a cheery book, nor was it meant to be—it’s the end of the world people. It’s graphic and people kill and are being killed throughout. Be warned; this should have more mature audiences.

I give it a 3.25 out of 5- average, save for the actual delivery of the story which was incredibly well thought out.

Watership Down

By Richard Adams

One of the most beloved novels of our time, Richard Adam’s Watership Down takes us to a world we have never truly seen: to the remarkable life that teems in the fields, forests and riverbanks far beyond our cities and towns. It is a powerful saga of courage, leadership and survival; an epic tale of a hardy band of adventures forced to flee the destruction of their fragile community…and their trials and triumphs in the face of extraordinary adversity as they pursue a glorious dream called “home”.

Welcome to the warren.

Hazel’s brother Fiver, a runt, has just had a bad premonition. The worst; they must leave their warren, he doesn’t know why he just knows that if they stay they’ll die. Not many of the rabbits believe in Fiver’s vision and think him insane, but Hazel manages to gather some discontented bucks and they make a run for it, barely escaping the Owsla, or the strongest rabbits in the warren that take orders from the chief. On a harrowing journey to find a new home and create a new warren, Hazel and the other bucks have to cross rivers and fight for their survival.  This is a journey of courage and fortitude for this unlikely band of rabbit-heroes. Each rabbit comes into his own as either warriors, leaders, dreamers, or story-tellers, among other things. This story is a great epic and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good animal tale. I learned a lot about rabbits I never knew and had some good laughs along the way as well as praying that certain characters wouldn’t die. Some of my favorite sections of the book were the stories within the story about the ‘first rabbit’ El-arairah and his lieutenant and friend Rabscuttle. They were myth-like stories for the rabbits about their cunning royal ancestor.  It’s written brilliantly and with precision, and you’ll come to cheer for Hazel and his band by the end.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Hope in Our Hearts

By Russell M. Nelson

Few people understand the human heart better than Elder Russell M. Nelson, who, prior to his call into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was a pioneering cardiac surgeon. Today, as an Apostle, he understands our hearts in a new way—most particularly, he understands our need for hope in our hearts. As a special witness of Jesus Christ, he testifies powerfully of where that hope can be found.
In Hope in Our Hearts, Elder Nelson brings his remarkable grasp of the gospel and his unique medical training to bear in eighteen outstanding messages that focus on family and relationships, Church doctrine, and personal growth. The book includes such classic addresses as: “Nurturing Marriage,” “Jesus Christ—The Master Healer,” and “The Magnificence of Man.”
“My greatest desire,” writes Elder Nelson, “is to be a worthy disciple who willingly follows the Lord Jesus Christ. If my testimony and the teachings in this book prompt anyone to follow Him more diligently, I will be most grateful.”

First off, this is a book pointed toward a “Mormon” audience, or people belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Russell M. Nelson is one of the 12 apostles.  It would probably get a tad confusing to read if you aren’t a member of our church. This is one of those compilations of different talks given either in general conference or at devotionals and such. I’m not sure, but you can probably find most of them online at, but there are some that I’d never heard before that were absolutely wonderful.  I especially liked the chapters on Christ’s birth and the last few chapters contained messages about the influence of good music and the character of man. There were a lot of choice messages in here along with some good messages that didn’t apply specifically to me.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Pingo and the Playground Bully

By Brandon Mull

Pingo and Chad are on an adventure with a few of Chad’s friends and their subsequent imaginary friends on a quest to discover who has the best imaginary friend. They may just discover something they’d never considered before.

Not as cute and warming as the first children’s book by Brandon Mull, but still sweet and full of good messages for kids, this sequel to the children’s book Pingo, is cute and fun.  I think kids will enjoy it and want to read it again and again. I really enjoy Brandon Dorman’s illustrating generally and this book has some great pictures.

I give it a 3 out of 5- it’s average.


By Robison Wells

Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

He was wrong.

Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

Where breaking the rules equals death.

But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible.


This book killed me; in a good way.  It was fairly typical of the popular teen genres, but with some pretty awesome twists. I was surprised and impressed with the twist that I didn’t see coming until the axe fell. It did remind me quite a bit of Dashner’s The Maze Runner, being quite violent at times and involving teens.  A lot like Lord of the Flies too from what I know of the novel (I’ve yet to read it, but I’m sure I’ll get to it someday). Honestly, it’s one of those series that I’m kind of ticked that I started because I don’t want to keep reading because of the violence factor in it, but I want so bad to figure out what happens! I was still kind of confused when it ended and wondered about a few things. It’s a great book for people who enjoyed books like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games.

I give it a 3.75 out of 5 because the twist truly surprised me.

Snow White

By Jenni James

Raven and Snow White have been the greatest of friends for years, so when Snow’s father, King Herbert, and Raven’s mother, Queen Melantha, wed, the girls’ dreams come true—now they are sisters! However, in an act of exceeding folly, the king presents his new bride with the enchanted Lythereon Mirror as a wedding gift. Its dark power soon corrupts the queen.
Prince Corlan, Raven’s brother, is determined to find a way to destroy the mirror before he loses his mother completely—or it kills them all. Already the queen’s envy of Snow has become obvious. Corlan has been in love with Snow White since they were children and would do anything to protect the beautiful princess, even defy his mother. But when Queen Melantha uses the mirror to force Corlan into killing snow, he knows it will take a battle of great strength to outwit the evil spell surrounding him and save the girl he loves.

This book was a little ironic for me because the character that seemed more of the protagonist is Raven, Snow White’s best friend and new sister. Raven had much more depth as a character than Snow, who seemed to be this effortless beauty and a bit of an unobservant dunce at times. I loved the romance between Raven and her prince.  Corlan is a typical but lovable character with a nice twist on his involvement with Snow White. While I did enjoy this tale it isn’t one of my favorite mostly because of Snow White herself and her underdeveloped and stereotypical character.

I give it a 3 out of 5 mostly because of Raven’s story