Uglies

 Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license–for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there. But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world–and it isn’t pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.”

This book has a very interesting concept. If everyone is pretty then no one can be made fun of, and everyone is more equal, right? Everyone should have the same opportunity for job choice, everyone should marry, and everyone should have friends. Well, it seems like that on the surface, but when Tally starts looking she SEES things differently. It does make you think more about how you live and if there is a different way to do things that you just aren’t seeing. The characters are believable, except the whole premise is hard to get used to.  I found myself pulling for Tally in both directions. I wanted her to get her dream, but I also wanted her to see that her dream may not be for the best. I didn’t like the political message portrayed: that WE are killing the earth with our metal buildings. Some of it was okay, like recycling newspapers, but Mr. Westerfeld definitely has a political agenda and I don’t like that in fantasy books.  Some of it is predictable, but some things did take me by surprise.  I did find it interesting that this was written by a man. A lot of it deals with being pretty and feelings, and it did seem like it would come more from a woman, but, that’s just a side thought.

Overall, I thought this book was okay. I still haven’t decided if I want to read the rest of the series, and that may say a lot. There were no “physical intimacy” scenes, except for some teenage kissing, and I can’t remember any language. There may have been one or two words, but not enough for me to remember.  There is some violence, and there are some deaths. I do know people that liked it, and I do know people that do not recommend it, and I think I’m somewhere in the middle. It did make me think, and that may be the goal.

Rating: PG-13 (There is some teenage kissing, some violence, and maybe a couple of words. There are a couple of deaths.)

Recommendation: High School and up. It may be somewhat clean, but the premise is definitely one for older readers. I think it may get lost on younger readers.

The 5 Laws That Determine All of Life’s Outcomes

The 5 Laws That Determine All of Life’s Outcomes by Brett Harward

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Success is predictable. This book is about the laws that govern successful outcomes–including making more money, finding fulfillment and increasing self esteem, improving health and connections with others. The 5 Laws control our outcomes in life, whether we know what they are or not. These laws control our speed and trajectory in life and most importantly how we deal with others. This book outlines in practical terms how those who are extraordinarily successful apply these laws differently than those who are merely average or above average.”

When I heard about this book I knew I needed to read it because I’m all for doing things more efficiently and seeing better results. I know I have issues with this. I am the one always saying how busy I am. I feel like I run myself ragged and then have nothing to show for it. Needless to say, I will take all the help I can get in this area. This book is easy to read and follow, and has lots of good examples of how to implement Mr. Harward’s recommendations. The 5 Laws seem to be common-sense solutions and just take a shift in how you  think in order to implement. A lot of it seems to be attitude related. I like how the 5 Laws cover every aspect of your life, not just business issues. There are a lot of examples in the book, and they range from running a business to strengthening your marriage, so it should be something everyone could relate to. I didn’t have much time to spend working on each “Law” as I read, so I will need to go back and take more time with each principle in order to feel more comfortable implementing them, but I think it will actually help me (hooray!). As I stated earlier, I am the one always feeling busy yet having nothing to show for it. I am constantly asking my friends how to find that perfect balance in life. Mr. Harward discusses this specifically in the book, and that was good, but I wanted more. He states that “the perfect balance so many of us long for is an illusion.” What??? He goes on to explain, but because this is “MY” issue, I wanted more of an explanation of how to do this. How do we go deeper and into greater depth? How do we measure things NOT according to time? I will definitely need to explore this topic more because if I could figure this out it would be a great day! If I heard of one of Mr. Harward’s seminars being held near me I would go for sure. I think this book has the power to help people in every walk of life, and I thank Mr. Harward for taking the time to put his ideas on paper and for using his talents to help others realize their potential.

Rating: G (Very clean)

Recommendation: High School and up, just because I don’t think Jr. High kids would care about it. I do think though, as a mom, that I could teach some of the principles to my children, and as a family we could use these “Laws” to help our family and strengthen our relationships.

T-Rex Virus

T-Rex Virus by Tom Forest

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “A small hunk of ferrous rock from an ancient asteroid which has roamed the cosmos for eons falls to earth. Discovered by a university paleontologist, a long dormant enzyme impregnated within the galactic stone is revitalized by accident in a university laboratory. A deadly virus erupts from the small boulder, taking the lives of the laboratory team within days. Members of the U.S. Army biological warfare operations staff from Fort Detrick, Maryland seize the extra-terrestrial ore. During transportation to a U.S. Government weapons research facility, the rock and its escorts disappear. Now, an off shore megalomanic pharmaceutical giant possess[es] the deadly diseased rock, and the only known antidote. Driven by greed of billions in profit, he won’t give up the cure until the virus becomes widespread. FBI agent Dale Fox hits the ground running in pursuit to recover the geode, and the medicinal remedy for the viral infection that now affects hundreds of thousands of people. Battling an elite team of killers within the pharmaceutical company, he has very little time to succeed, since he too has contracted the terminal virus!”

I didn’t know what to expect with this book. It has been awhile since I’ve read this genre, but I do enjoy a good action thriller. My boys love dinosaurs so I thought I’d give it a shot. I liked it. It was definitely action-packed. There was some language, which I expected for this genre. It’s not over-used, though, so that is good. I liked the characters, especially Dale, Sean, and Sullivan. I also liked the paleontologists. I happened to talk to a real paleontologist a couple of weeks ago and he said they had actually discovered a full T-Rex skeleton and would be displaying it by the end of the year in a new nearby museum. Consequently, it did feel kind of real when she discovered the T-Rex skeleton. It provides an interesting take on what happened to the dinosaurs millions of years ago. The writing is good: I did find a few typos, and at times it was predictable, but overall I thought it was good. There were some good twists and some humor. Mr. Forest definitely knows a lot about the subject. There is a glossary at the beginning and I needed it. A lot. I got confused with all the different acronyms and military/FBI terminology.  There are also some confusing transitions. It was full of action and would make a good screenplay for a movie. I was disappointed that I figured out the cure less than mid-way through the book, and it was a bit corny for me. Every time I read the foreshadowing I would laugh, thinking “No way, he wouldn’t really do that, right?” But he did. Even with this disappointment, I did find it very entertaining and will read more by this author. Mr. Forest brought it all together in the end and his creativity and knowledge made for a fun, action-packed adventure.

Rating: PG-13 (Language, death, fighting)

Recommendation: High School and up. There is a lot of death in this book between the virus and the fighting, and it is probably too much for children younger than high school. I think high school boys will really enjoy this book. It’s a great example of doing research for your book, and knowing a lot about the subject matter.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “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’d never met, a native of Guernsey, the British island once occupied by the Nazis. He’d come across her name on the flyleaf of a secondhand volume by Charles Lamb. Perhaps she could tell him where he might find more books by this author. As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed in a unique, spur-of-the-moment way: as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans. Juliet begins a remarkable´╗┐ correspondence with the Society’s charming, deeply human members, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Through their letters she learns about their island, their taste in books, and the powerful, transformative impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her forever.”
I really liked this book. I was wary at first because it is written in letter-style, which can be choppy and difficult to follow, but Ms. Shaffer and Ms. Barrows pulled it off very well. They write in a fun, light, happy tone, even though there are some hard things discussed. The war was hard on these people, and they talk of their sufferings, which is good for me to remember, but it is difficult to hear. I fell in love with these characters, just as Juliet did, and I just felt as if I were right there with her meeting them. It’s fun to see how Juliet “grows up” as the book progresses, and how she begins to see things from a different light. This book is rich with life experiences: how to cope with difficult situations, how to adapt to what life brings you, and that the people in our lives are more important than any thing we may possess. I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It is a fun, easy read that teaches what matters most in life.
Rating: PG-13 (War-time experiences, death, minor language, and a gruesome explanation of what occurred in the concentration camps.)
Recommendation: High School and up. The deaths and experiences described in the concentration camps were really hard to read, and probably shouldn’t be read by younger readers.

Rebecca

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

(Summary taken from the back of the book) “So the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter remembered the chilling events that led her down the turning drive past the beeches, white and naked, to the isolated gray stone manse on the windswept Cornish coast. With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at this immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten…her suite of rooms never touched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant–the sinister Mrs. Danvers–still loyal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca…for the secrets of Manderley.”

WARNING: DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK (AND WANT TO)!
I haven’t read a classic novel in awhile, and I have missed the beautiful language. I love Du Maurier’s style of writing. I enjoy the attention to detail and how it just pulls you in. Her characters come to life and pull you in. However, with all of this, I didn’t love the book. OK, well, I really liked it at first. Mr. de Winter intrigued me as much as he intrigued everyone else in the book. I cheered as much as anyone when she got to leave Mrs. Van Hopper. At the same time, I thought he was a complete jerk. He didn’t tell her he loved her, he didn’t get down on one knee, and he didn’t kiss her when he proposed. And, he didn’t do anything to prepare her for life at Manderley. He didn’t buy her any new clothes, he didn’t tell her where the Morning Room was, and he left her alone with Mrs. Danvers all day. And this girl (I don’t think it’s a good sign when I don’t even know the main character’s name.) drove me crazy! She wouldn’t stand up for herself and change the handwriting on the desk labels, or put the flowers where she wanted them. The worst part though (STOP reading if you don’t want to know the ending….) was that she still loved him after she found out that he murdered his first wife. She practically didn’t care! Maybe I could see still loving him (????) but once I got over that shock I came to the end. What???  They drive up and find their house is burning to the ground, and that is how it ends??? I immediately reread the first two chapters and didn’t find any answers. How long after the fire did they go to this hotel? How long had they been there? Had they traveled around or just found one place? Why didn’t they rebuild? Why didn’t they want to live in a house instead of a hotel? What happened to the staff, were they okay? Needless to say, I didn’t love the ending. I did enjoy the beginning and middle of the book, and I enjoyed the classic style, but I didn’t like the storyline at all.

Rating: PG-13 (Some profanity, a murder scene)

Recommendation: High School and up. It’s a strange book. Reading about how someone murders his wife is not pleasant.

Worlds of the Crystal Moon #1 World of Grayham

Worlds of the Crystal Moon #1 World of Grayham by Phillip “BIG DOG” Jones

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Fellow soul…I have been commissioned to deliver grave news. You are dead–a tragedy of a celestial war responsible for destroying the cosmos. Your soul has been without a body for more than 10,000 seasons and your spirit has been placed inside an eternal tome. This book is filled with mythical creatures and, like us, they are anxious to live again. While we wait, there are devious gods living on Ancients Sovereign. They are power hungry and seek to abolish free will. Their desire: control the new worlds created after The Great Destruction of Everything Known. With the theft of the Crystal Moon, chaos is imminent. Because of the Mischievous One’s malevolence, the worlds which are to be our new homes may not survive. Yet, there is a glimmer of hope. Three beings have been spared the devastation. They are about to begin an epic journey to save our only chance at rebirth. Their failure to reunite the pieces of the Crystal Moon will be be our sentence to an everlasting nothingness. Allow me, your spirited storyteller, to share everything I know to be fact. Welcome to chaos. Welcome to the World of Grayham.”

Wow, where to begin??  I was walking through Costco one day and I saw an author doing a book signing. I couldn’t pass that up, right? So I stopped and talked to him. It happened to be Phillip “BIG DOG” Jones. Now, first off, his name just comes across as arrogant and self-consumed, but the book looked interesting and so I had him sign a book for me. He told me that he had published the book previously as an unedited first draft in hardcover and had gotten feedback from the readers and this was now the edited version and coming out first in paperback. Great! Love paperback! Browsing through the book I really liked the full color photos of the characters and places at the beginning. It is helpful to have pictures of the characters and a correct way to pronounce their names.

This book is 592 pages long. It’s long, and it’s not an easy read like a “Harry Potter” or even an ” Eragon.” This book is heavier like a “Lord of the Rings,” and there is a lot of information to take in and keep track of, therefore it takes a long time to read. As you can tell, I haven’t posted in a long time, and that is why, I have been reading a very long book. This book is fantasy and brings in magic, romance, action, adventure, mystery, and lots of mythical creatures. It took me awhile to figure out who everyone was and why they were there, but in the end it came together. Overall I liked it. Jones’ writing is not of the same caliber as J.K. Rowling or Christopher Paolini, but it is good. Once you figure out what is going on (about the middle of the book) it gets better and the storyline picks up. I really like some of the characters and some of the character development is really good, but others not so much. There is a lot of gore and death in this book. The gruesome descriptions of how people die did not appeal to me. The character George likes to torture and kill people, and it’s not pretty. He also uses lots of “colorful” language, which I also didn’t love. He is a confusing character because he pretends to have a soft lovable side that I don’t find at all believable. I like Sam and Shalee, but Shalee speaks in a southern accent and sometimes it’s hard to figure out what she is saying. When Shalee becomes a sorceress her magic stick gives her moments of “satisfaction” when she accomplishes her goal, and I found it awkward. Luckily it stops after while. It’s also hard to get used to talking animals and a talking book, but it works alright.

Overall I did like it and I have ordered the next one. I like that the next one is already out and in paperback. That is definitely a bonus. I would recommend it with the above warnings. It is entertaining but I can’t say it’s my favorite book. I will read the next one but I’ll most like read a few other books in between.

Rating: PG-13 (There are some really gruesome deaths, and quite a bit of profanity when George speaks. There are murders and assassinations as well. There are also some “physical intimacy” scenes before marriage and after marriage.)

Recommendation: High school and up. With all the above I don’t think it’s appropriate for early teens.

I would recommend it if you’re okay with the above warnings. It is interesting and entertaining and there are some good twists that keep you reading.

Across a Harvested Field

.

Across a Harvested Field by Robert Goble

(Summary taken from the back of the book) “To Jordan Fairchild, the dark-haired girl renting his basement apartment seems somewhat quiet and reclusive. Just a business arrangement, he thinks, as he watches her sign the name “Nattie Hand” on the contract. Though two thousand miles away, Celeste Betancourt, an attractive Georgetown graduate student he met through a mutual friend, has captured his attention. A budding friendship with Nattie soon begins to bloom. Little does Jordan know his girl-next-door renter is none other than the world-famous pop star, a.k.a. Natalia Antonali, who recently disappeared from the public eye; little does he know how much his friendship will mean to her, how, for the first time, a love begins to grow, untainted by ‘Natalia,’ and how she hopes Jordan never discovers the truth.”

I need to begin by saying that this author, Mr. Goble, found me on Facebook and sent me this book to review. I thank him for the opportunity and hope that he still “Like”(s) my blog after reading my review.  Although I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon are other sometimes used names), LDS fiction has never been my favorite genre. Unfortunately for Mr. Goble, this book did not change my opinion of LDS fiction. One look at the cover and I knew I was in trouble. I would never have picked this book off the shelf. Having said that, I did read it. I liked the characters in the book, but the whole scenario just seemed too impossible. How would a superstar (comparable to Brittney Spears) end up in Magna, UT? It never explained why she chose to go there or how she even knew where it was. I thought Jordan was a nice guy, but the pieces didn’t really fit together for me. I felt bad that he had lost his family at such a young age, and I could have empathy for him, but I just could not see a widowed man in his mid-to-late twenties canning pumpkins, peaches, and pears. My husband does help me when I can fruit, but he would NEVER do it if I weren’t around. That just never felt right to me, but maybe other men would do it. And then the thought that “Nattie” and “Natalia” might be the same person never crossed his mind as he saw her on the news and in magazines, never? I don’t know.

Mr. Goble’s writing style is different. He uses a lot of parenthesis to explain little side-notes that add to the “cheesy” feeling in the book. I was also confused….was it LDS fiction or not? Let me explain: you would expect an LDS fiction book to have references to LDS buildings, church meetings, and standards (not smoking or drinking alcohol, or using profanity), but you would also expect the characters to follow those standards. There was a lot of profanity in this book. Not all the worst words, but a lot of little four-letter words. It drove me crazy. His writing feels forced. He tries in a few instances to have Jordan sound intellectual, but it comes across as someone trying to sound intellectual, not as someone who is actually intellectual.  I think Mr. Goble would have made the whole thing feel better if he had taken all the LDS references out and just made it a fictional love story. To all LDS fiction writers everywhere–that is what readers want, just good, clean reads. We are LDS and we consider ourselves normal, everyday people, not a group that needs special books written just for us. Besides, you will get a lot more readers if everyone can read it and not just one group.

Anyway, this happens to be one of my “soap-box” topics, so please forgive me for going on. Overall, the middle of the book was the best. It actually had me turning pages to see what happened with the paparazzi and with Jordan finding out the truth. Except that I hated how Jordan went into this mad rage and ruined everything in a split second. His rage was over-the-top. The ending was okay but unbelievable. I didn’t hate the book, but I would not recommend it to my friends because I know they feel the same way I do about LDS fiction. If you like the genre and are okay with profanity then I would recommend it.

Rating: PG-13 (Profanity, some kissing and some innuendos)

Recommendation: High school and up. I would recommend it if you enjoy LDS fiction and are okay with profanity.

Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Masons

Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Mason by Matthew B. Brown
(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Why did Joseph Smith become a Freemason? Who introduced Freemasonry into Nauvoo, Illinois, in the early 1840’s? Do the Masons really descend from the stonemasons who built King Solomon’s temple? Is there an ancient relationship between the Masonic lodge rites and the Mormon temple ordinances? The subject of Joseph Smith and Freemasonry sparks a wide range of responses among Latter-day Saints, from curiosity to suspicion to outright excitement. In this helpful guide, trusted LDS scholar Matthew B. Brown clearly and skillfully addresses the subject’s history, theology, traditional understanding, and myths. Readers will consider provocative questions as well as meaningful scriptural patterns and interfaith connections. With research ranging from the particular to the panoramic, this volume offers engaging, edifying exploration of the relationship between Freemasonry and the blessings of the House of the Lord, and early Christianity and the practices of biblical times.”
I’m not a crazy conspiratorial person, but the Masons have always intrigued me. I wanted to read this book because it sounded interesting. It actually was. I had no idea that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Hyrum Smith, and other early apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were Masons. My knowledge of the Masons came mostly from the History channel documentaries and Dan Brown’s books. I knew that some of the symbols of both groups were similar, but I didn’t know what they meant to the Masons. This book is very thorough and well researched. It is easy to understand and well-laid out. I found it engaging and informational. I liked it and I learned a lot about Masons and their symbols, their history, and some of their members who were prominent in the early LDS church. I would recommend this book to those of either group who would like to learn more. Yes, I would recommend this book. It dispels many common myths and helps to find the truth.
Rating: PG
Recommendation: High School and Up

No Apology

No Apology: The Case for American Greatness by Mitt Romney
(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “In No Apology, Mitt Romney asserts that American strength is essential–not just for our own well-being, but for the world’s. Nations such as China and a resurgent Russia threaten to overtake us on many fronts, and violent Islamism continues its dangerous rise. Drawing on history for lessons on why great powers collapse, Romney shows how and why our national advantages have eroded. From the long-term decline of our manufacturing base, our laggard educational system that has left us without enough engineers, scientists, and other skilled professionals, our corrupted financial practices that have led to the current crisis, and the crushing impact of entitlements on our future obligations, America is over-leveraged, overtaxed, and in some respects, overconfident in the face of the challenges we must address.”
This is the first book I have ever read that was written by a politician. And, full disclosure, I voted for Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential election, and my brother worked for his campaign. I really liked this book. It scared me a lot in some regards, but it was engaging and interesting. I nodded my head in agreement at some points and shook my head in others. The statistics he gives are staggering though. For example, “In the 1960’s, when the War on Poverty was launched, 7 percent of American children were born out of wedlock. Today, almost 40 percent of our children are born to unwed mothers. As noted earlier, among African Americans, that figure is almost 70 percent…” Wow. I like a lot of his ideas to help make us stronger. Whether or not you agree with his politics, the statistics that he gives really make you think.
I would recommend this book. I think it’s good for all of us to start engaging in honest, good discussions (not screaming matches) about what we believe. If we all work together and really listen to each other I bet we agree more than we think we do. There is not enough listening and understanding going on right now. I am glad I read this book because it helps me think of my life in broader terms. I’m not just a mom, wife, sister, daughter, etc., I am an American citizen and I am proud of our country. Okay, there you go…if you don’t want to read his book I would recommend reading a book by a politician you agree with. If we get all these ideas together then we can come up with a solution that is good for all of us.
Rating: PG-13 (No language or violence, but the premise of some of it is too much for younger readers.)
Recommendation:  High School and up (It might be okay for a mature junior high student, it would be a parent’s choice.)

America’s Prophet

America’s Prophet by Bruce Feiler
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “The pilgrims quoted his story. Franklin and Jefferson proposed he appear on the U.S. seal. Washington and Lincoln were called his incarnations. The Statue of Liberty and Superman were molded in his image. Martin Luther King, Jr., invoked him the night before he died. Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama cited him as inspiration. For four hundred years, one figure inspired more Americans than any other. His name is Moses. In this groundbreaking book, New York Times best-selling author Bruce Feiler travels through touchstones in American history and traces the biblical prophet’s influence from the Mayflower through today. He visits the island where the pilgrims spent their first Sabbath, climbs the bell tower where the Liberty Bell was inscribed with a quote from Moses, retraces the Underground Railroad where “Go Down, Moses” was the national anthem of slaves, and dons the robe Charlton Heston wore in The Ten Commandments. One part adventure story, one part literary detective story, one part exploration of faith in contemporary life, America’s Prophet takes readers through the landmarks of America’s narrative–from Gettysburg to Selma, the Silver Screen to the Oval Office–to understand how Moses has shaped the nation’s character.”
I really enjoyed this book. It reads easily, yet is very informative. He uses a lot of great vocabulary words, some that I had to look up. Feiler brings up things I had no idea happened in America’s past, and I loved it. I love American history, so this book was great for me. I also love the Moses story, so it fit in perfectly with my train of thought. I loved all the little-known details he puts in the book. He did a lot of research and it all comes together very smoothly. I didn’t realize how much our country was influenced by Moses and his story, and I found it interesting and intriguing. Anyway, I would definitely recommend this book. You don’t have to be a believer in Moses to enjoy it because it discusses America’s history, and whether you believe or not, our history was influenced by Moses.
Rating: PG
Recommendation: This would be great for any history class to reference. I think high school students and up would gain a greater understanding of our country’s heritage by reading this book. It is lighter than a text book but is still history. His style of writing is very engaging.