Friday, April 30, 2010

Leigh Ann's Civil War by Ann Rinaldi

Leigh Ann’s Civil War by Ann Rinaldi
Leigh Ann Conners is spunky and determined. Although she often finds herself in trouble, she loves her two older brothers dearly and would do anything to make them proud. When the Yankees arrive in Roswell, Georgia, Leigh Ann places a French flag upon the family’s mill. She hopes the Yankees will then spare the mill from destruction, but her actions have disastrous results. Sent north with the women and children who worked in the mill—all branded traitors for making fabric for Confederate uniforms—Leigh Ann embarks on a journey that requires her to find her own inner strength. Only then will she be able to rise above the war raging around her...more"
(Book summary from author website)

I felt that the commercial summary of this book focuses too much on Leigh Ann’s experiences after the north invades the south when that aspect of the book is a very small one. After the being introduced to this conflict in a dramatic prologue the first chapter starts at the beginning of the story. Just as the war is about to start and Leigh Ann’s brothers are going off to fight for the South. Leigh Ann’s family is in a unique situation as her mother has run off and abandoned the family in favor of having multiple affairs. Her father has started to grow senile in his old age and so Teddy, Leigh Ann’s older brother, is her Guardian.

He tries to raise, educate, and take care of her in the best way he knows how. She is sometimes a spirited child and gets in trouble, but she loves him and the rest of her family and wants them to be happy. She discovers from her father’s senile ramblings one day that he is an Indian. Apparently, his tribes were one of the few who chose to settle down and farm land just as white settlers around them did. This family heritage shows itself in various ways throughout the story. Louis, Leigh Ann’s older brother, exhibits a type of Native American spiritualism that becomes important in protecting Leigh Ann later on in the story.

This was an overall good read. Ann Rinaldi is a prolific author of Historical Fiction and she always has some unique point-of-view or little-known story to emphasize or highlight in her novels so that her storytelling feels unique and fresh. I suppose this story was a little violent as Leigh Ann’s mother appears and likes to hit people with a riding crop. She is not a good lady and is the archenemy of Teddy throughout the entire story. There is a weird guy, hired to take care of Leigh Ann’s father, that tries to get fresh with her, but she threatens to poison him and he behaves himself. Not to mention that Leigh Ann’s time as a bummer is really not a positive experience, but she show resilience and strength, and finds a way to protect herself and her sisters. There are good people as well as bad people along the trail of Leigh Ann’s trials, and throughout the war.

The author admits in her notes that the prologue was really hard for her to write and I felt like it really didn’t work with the book well. She wanted to use the prologue to hook people in and then started the story in Leigh Ann’s childhood anyway. As a result it made other parts of the book feel awkward later because she couldn’t retell that chunk of info when the character was in the middle of the situation. So, the book was a good read despite a few awkward plot parts, and in general I would recommend Ann Rinaldi if you like to read Historical Fiction.

Ann Rinaldi's Website

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Whitney Award Winners 2009

Best Romance

Counting the Cost by Liz Adair

Best Mystery/Suspense

Methods of Madness by Stephanie Black

Best Youth Fiction

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Best Speculative Fiction

Servant of a Dark God

Best Historical Fiction

The Last Waltz by G. G. Vandegriff

Best General Fiction

Hotel on the Coner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Best Novel by New Author (a tie! wow!)

I am not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells


Gravity vs the Girl by Riley Noehren

Best Novel of The Year

In the Company of Angels by Dave Farland

Outstanding Achievement Award: Dave Wolverton/Farland
-For helping so many aspiring authors hone the craft.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Gerald Lund
-For introducing so many people to LDS fiction.

For fun look over some predictions.....
Motley Vision
LDS Publisher

I'm really excited because....

I'm watching the live transcript chat of the whitney awards.....wooohoooo!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

“In the summer of 1838, in his rented rooms on Great Marlborough street, London, Charles Darwin drew a line down the middle of a piece of scrap paper. He had been back in England for almost tow years, after a monumental voyage around the world. He was in his late twenties. It was time to decide. Across the top of the left-hand side he wrote Marry on the right he wrote Not Marry. And in the middle: This is the Question.”
(Charles and Emma, p 5)

Thus opens Deborah Heiligman award winning book about Charles and Emma Darwin. How can you not want to read on after reading an opening like that? This humorous little scrap of paper still exists! Who knew that a boring scientist could be so hilarious and intriguing?

I have to stay that I absolutely adored this book, but first off I should make clear that it is a biography, and not a historical fiction novel. The biography specifically focuses on Charles Darwin and his wife (and cousin) Emma Wedgewood, and they life that they built together. They really did love one another and lived a happy life, but their views differed greatly on the topic of religion.

I think the author did well at representing how Darwin was a moral man, and even at one point a man of faith, but how he slowly changed his views of religion and God. He was a man, who thought seriously about the world, and his science, and how his theories would affect the scientific community at large. It also portrayed how hard it was for his wife Emma to know that he did not have a stronger faith.

I like how the author shows how Darwin’s contemporaries—family, friends, and other scientists—reacted to his theories. In particular, I like how she included Darwin’s correspondence with Asa Gray, who was a strong supporter of the evolution theory, and maintained that it did not necessarily have to take God out of creation. It was nice to know about those who objected to the theory on a religious basis, and those that agreed to the theory as atheist or agnostics, and those, similar to Asa Gray, that took a route in the middle. As a result, I as a reader felt that book encouraged a more opened-minded dialogue about how religion and science relate to one another. The author’s tone played fair to religion and science alike.

While I really liked how the author treated the eternal religion v.s. science debate I think my enjoyment of the biography was increased by the fact that I love this time period, and that I really do love studying nature and understanding how it works on a macroscopic level. I loved hearing about how Charles Darwin would compare how his children’s expressions of excitement to how animals expressed excitement. It was hilarious to read one of Emma’s letters about how he was trying to train worms with huge leafs of lettuce.

Overall, I really enjoyed this biography and would recommend it to all. I feel readers of many different opinions on the subject could read it and come away enlightened about the topic of evolution. In fact the book points out some of the misinterpretations and misunderstandings that surround the theory. There are a few pages that deal with Charles Darwin’s analysis of animal mating practices and how that was similar to how humans react to one another in a romantic way that could be slightly offensive to parents who have younger readers. So, while the book is for the most part family friendly, the book really is geared towards teens and older.

Author's Website

Friday, April 16, 2010

Maurice and His educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

Maurice and His educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett.

This humorous novel by Terry Pratchett draws inspiration from an old children’s tale of the pied piper. Except in this story it is the rats calling the shots, or rather a clever old cat named Maurice, who discovered the rats. These rats used to claim a trash heap located right outside scientific laboratory, and they all ate something that changed them. They are no longer rodents eeking out a living, but now they are aware of themselves. In fact they are having moral dilemmas about being employed as con-rats.

Organized by the master-mind Maurice a money-loving, street-wise, cynical cat and joined by a passive human, who just likes to play the pipes in front of a crowd. They plot to harass towns until they call the boy up to pipe them away when the time and price is just right. They land themselves in a town in crisis, suffering from a famine caused by rats.

It would be an understatement to say that their antics are not welcome. This town has so many rat traps and poisons that it is hard even for the experienced rats to stay alive. It takes a group of educated rodents, and a clever cat to discover that this town is already being conned by a pair of rat catchers. In this situation there is nothing left to do but help their fellow rats, and to save the town.

This book was hilarious! I really loved watching the rats grow and develop as their thoughts about the world changed. Maurice is so funny because he is such a grumpy cat, and he really doesn’t know how to react when he starts caring for the rats and develops a conscience. It is fun to watch a little pack of rats develop an identity and work together, as they conquer the rat catcher villains. Overall, this was a really entertaining adventure story that still managed to be funny and insightful. I wish every book I read could be as satisfying on so many levels. Brilliant!

Terry Pratchett's website

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

"In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capital surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capital is harsh and cruel and keeps the other districts in line by forcing them to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight-to-the death on live TV. One boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and sixteen are selected by lottery to play. The winner brings riches and favor to his or her district. But that is nothing compared to what the Capital wins: one more year of fearful compliance with its rules.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her impoverished district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before – and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love." (jacket flap)

So, I’m sad that I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would. It was a really compelling read. I was expecting the book to be more violent. It is a book about teenagers forced to kill each other in a futuristic version of reality TV. There was actually quite a bit of the plot that dealt with wilderness survival since the terrain the players were placed in was challenging. I really liked that bit of the story, and the resourcefulness that Kat showed during the entire book. However, I really didn’t like the romance, in fact, I found it more creepy than romantic. Peeta is a cool guy and all, but the fact that Kat kissed him because she thought it would make the sponsors send her gifts really didn’t set well with me. Honestly, it grossed me out. So, while I found it an entertaining read, it won’t be on the list of my favorites, and I’m not all that interested in reading the sequel. Alas, maybe I just had too high of expectation for the book since people were raving about it so much.

Suzanne Collin's website

Friday, April 2, 2010

Fields of Home by Rachel Ann Nunes

Fields of Home by Rachel Ann Nunes
(Summary from Author’s website)
“After fighting her way through a bitter and hurtful past, Mercedes Johnson has painstakingly carved out a life of quiet contentment on a Wyoming farm with her husband, Wayne, and their three sons. Together she and Wayne have survived the worst trials a couple can face, and their relationship has grown as solid and lasting as the farmland beneath their feet. If their relationship is not everything Mercedes might have hoped for, it is enough.

All that changes when the birth father of Mercedes' oldest child returns to Riverton. Dr. Brandon Rhodes, a renowned heart surgeon, has plans for the son he has never met. Resentful at the secret Mercedes has kept for thirteen years, he threatens the carefully balanced life she and Wayne have created. Just how far is he willing to go to gain what he feels is rightfully his?

As Mercedes uncovers the truth of Brandon's intentions regarding their son and the lies surrounding the past, she is torn between what is and what might have been. One choice, one decision, has led her to this place. How can she live with the consequences?”

So, I read this book right before I moved, and never got around to reviewing it. I really like to read Rachel Ann Nunes because she always has an interesting and strong plot. Sometimes I wish for deeper characterization, but her characters are all different from one another with different sets of problems, and attitudes, and interests. I think this is my favorite of her books that she has published recently. I really like how this book explored different kinds of love honestly, and how decisions we make in the past can affect our future. There were all kind of complex levels of emotions in this book and it was fascinating and touching read. I have say I’ve always been a sucker for the kind of romantic love that develops over time and is guarded by fierce loyalty and commitment. I was always the type of girl that liked reading the getting married to the best friend story rather than meeting a mysterious stranger who is dangerously attractive. As a result this love story was right up my alley. So, while I usually enjoy reading Nunes’s books the romance doesn’t always connect with me as strongly, but I really loved this one. I hope you all give it a chance and read it.