Thursday, December 5, 2013

This Book Room

In the isolated rural community of Unity, the people of The Movement live a simple life guided by a set of religious principles and laws that are unique to them. Polygamy is the norm, strict obedience is expected and it is customary for young girls to be assigned to much older husbands.

Celeste was born and raised in Unity, yet she struggles to fit in. Perhaps it's because of Taviana, the girl who has come to live with them and entertains Celeste with forbidden stories, or Jon, the young man she has clandestine meetings with, or maybe it's the influence of Craig, the outsider she meets on the beach. Whatever it is, she struggles to accept her ordained life. At fifteen she is repulsed at the thought of being assigned to an older man and becoming a sister wife, and she knows for certain she is not cut out to raise children. She wants something more for herself, yet feels powerless to change her destiny because rebelling would bring shame upon her family.

Celeste watches as Taviana leaves Unity, followed by Jon, and finally Craig, the boy who has taught her to think "outside the box." Although she is assigned to a caring man, his sixth wife, she is desperately unhappy. How will Celeste find her way out of Unity?

Torn from the headlines and inspired by current events, Sister Wife is a compelling portrait of a community where the laws of the outside world are ignored and where individuality is punished.

My thoughts: I could not tell you why, but I am so intrigued by the world of cults, particularly cults who claim to be religious and practice polygamy. This book was incredibly compelling. I was gripped from beginning to end and really didn't want the story to end! This is a fantastic fiction book with a story line clearly inspired by events that have occurred in real life. It gives a real glimpse into the lives of those who have this life style. I highly recommend this book.

Born to slave-holding aristocracy in Richmond, Virginia, and educated by Northern Quakers,
Elizabeth Van Lew was a paradox of her time. When her native state seceded in April 1861, Van Lew’s convictions compelled her to defy the new Confederate regime. Pledging her loyalty to the Lincoln White House, her courage would never waver, even as her wartime actions threatened not only her reputation, but also her life.

Van Lew’s skills in gathering military intelligence were unparalleled. She helped to construct the Richmond Underground and orchestrated escapes from the infamous Confederate Libby Prison under the guise of humanitarian aid. Her spy ring’s reach was vast, from clerks in the Confederate War and Navy Departments to the very home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Although Van Lew was inducted posthumously into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, the astonishing scope of her achievements has never been widely known. In Chiaverini’s riveting tale of high-stakes espionage, a great heroine of the Civil War finally gets her due.

My thoughts: Generally speaking, I am not really a fan of Jennifer Chiaverini. She has an incredibly popular quilting series that I never got into (even though many relatives of mine love that series). I read her first historical fiction book last year and the first half was good, the second half was not. This book, however, has changed my mind about Jennifer. I am really looking forward to her next historical fiction book! This story is unique and one that I haven't heard before. It is also one that will stay with me forever. Weeks later, this story is vivid in my mind. That's the mark of a really great book.

Zack Dylan made a promise to God and his college sweetheart as he left his family's horse farm in Kentucky to compete on the popular reality television show Fifteen Minutes: If he makes it, the fame won't change him.

Overnight, Zack is the nation’s most popular contestant, a country singer with the looks and voice of a young Elvis. As his star rises, Zack is asked to compromise and quiet his beliefs, and also something more. Just as America is falling in love with Zack, just as he’s on the verge of winning it all, his choices lead him to the brink of personal disaster.

At the same time, Reese Weatherly, a therapeutic horse instructor, is no longer sure about her relationship with Zack, or the wedding they had dreamed about. While Zack advances from one round of the competition to the next, an offer comes to Reese--one that will take her to a home halfway around the world.

Then Chandra Olson--reigning diva pop star and one of the Fifteen Minutes judges--intervenes. Chandra has suffered so much public pain and private agony since her days as a Fifteen Minutes contestant. Now she wants just one thing: meaning.

Can Chandra's private losses help Zack find his way, or will his fifteen minutes of fame cause him to lose the life he once loved? Fifteen Minutes is a story of character, compromise, and the cost of having it all. A story that raises the question: Who are the real winners?

My thoughts: Usually I am such a fan of Karen Kingsbury, but I have to say this book fell really flat for me. I wanted to know more about Zoey's story. I wanted to know more about Chandra and Kelly. I wanted more, more, more. I felt like it was too much focused on Zack. There wasn't enough character development for the other characters, so the whole book just felt very lacking. I would skip this book.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a
mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

My thoughts: Our librarian (who also happens to be Jason's old boss and the mother of a student he tutors) recommend this book to me. I am really, really glad I read it. I highly recommend this book to middle school grade students and up. This book lifted me up, made me giggle and allowed me the chance to empathize in a very real way for those who are suffering (from any kind of pain). I have a new kind of respect for any person who feels less than and a new willingness to always be kind and smile.

Embroidery shop owner Marcy Singer is about to find out that show biz and sew biz don't mix!

Marcy's mom Beverly is the costume designer for a lavish, Bollywood-style production...and she suggests Tallulah Falls as a great place to shoot part of the film. Everyone at the embroidery shop, and around town, is in a flutter that a glamorous movie production is taking place in their midst. But when the star of the film is found murdered, the police suspect Marcy’s mom, who made it no secret she did not care for the diva’s attitude regarding her wardrobe.

Marcy might as well issue an open call for suspects, because the star had a long list of enemies. To save her mom’s career and keep her from accessorizing with handcuffs, Marcy and her friends will need to stitch together the clues to catch one crafty killer who may have designs on Marcy next…

Additional notes: This is the sixth book in the Embroidery Mystery series. You can read my review of the first book here, the second book here, the third book here, the fourth book here and the fifth book here. I don't know for certain, but I assume this series is ongoing.

My thoughts: Even though I feel like series like this are completely unreasonable and complete and utter fiction (how many deaths with malicious intent could one person witness or be part of it in one liftetime?), this series is just such fun to read. Even though people are murdered. Which is kind of sick and weird. But anyway, I really enjoy Marcy as a character and the supporting characters are humorous and quirky.

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