Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Angel Makers - Book Review

Sari is a young apprentice to the local midwife in an isolated Hungarian village when the men, including her fiance, are called away to fight in World War I. For most of the women, who have arranged marriages, having their husbands away is a relief. Before long many of the women, including Sari, begin relationships with the Italian prisoners that are kept at a nearby POW camp. But the war ends and the consequences must be faced. The Italian men leave and the village men return. However, the women are not ready to return to the repressed and abused lives they lived before the war.

Desperate to escape her cruel fiance, Sari uses poison to slowly end his life. An abused friend and then another ask Sari for help and soon the village and Sari are engulfed in a macabre conspiracy of murder.

The Angel Makers by Jessica Gregson is a novel based on a true story. During the years following World War I as many as 300 people were murdered in the village before investigators from outside finally figured out what was really happening. In her novel, Gregson, elaborating on the known facts, shows a decidedly human view of the story--at once sympathetic and outrageous.

As much an ethical discussion on the value of life and of personal choice, The Angel Makers is a mesmerizing and horrifying novel. Like many who met her, I found myself entranced by the character of Sari and I appreciated the descriptions of the village and the life.

My only complaint with the novel was the excessive use of foul language.

**I received a free copy of The Angel Makers in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Giver - Book Review

Although I spent most of my free time with a book, I can't remember much of what I read in junior high (other than Little Women, Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre). The other books from that era must have been blocked in my mind with the rest of my junior high memories. I spent the three years of high school reading from the "100 books list" my teacher assigned. I loved many and snoozed through others. I still have the photo copied list. I'm still working on reading all the books on it. For fun, I read all the Jack Weyland novels (possibly why I just can not bring myself to read LDS fiction now).

Essentially, I didn't read Young Adult Literature when I was a young adult. For years I didn't know I had missed anything. What I realize now is that I lacked the adult that could steer me toward enjoyable but well written and thought provoking novels for young adults. My English teacher was busy pushing the classics and I can't fault her for that. The school librarian was more of a multi-media manager and while I liked him and spent hours in the library, I can't remember him ever suggesting a book. My parents weren't big readers at the time and my "adult friend/YW leader" was letting me borrow her Jack Weyland novels.

This is what I regret now as I discover amazingly well written Young Adult novels such as The Giver by Lois Lowry (I do remember reading her Anastasia books). During a conversation with a friend last week who had borrowed and read my copies of the Hunger Games trilogy, she asked if I had ever read The Giver. I had not. Neal is assigned to read Lowry's novel Number the Stars this month for school, so while I was buying it, I added The Giver to the order.

The Giver is a dystopian novel. Published in 1993, it predates the current popular dystopian novels and it is obvious that it inspired at least a few of them. Living in a "utopian" society, Jonas and all the other twelve year old children are given their work assignments at a ceremony. Surprisingly, Jonas's assignment is a great and rare honor. He will be the new Receiver of Memories. The former Receiver becomes The Giver as he transfers all the memories to Jonas.

The Giver is cerebral. It has depth and symbolism and irony and wit and could have inspired a very interesting discussion in my high school English class (I graduated in 1993, so I would have missed it even if my teacher had included Young Adult lit in her curriculum). It is a beautiful novel--one that I will suggest to all the young and old adults within my meager influence.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Bungalow - Book Review

The sun may be shining and there isn't any snow on the ground, but it is bitter cold outside. I spent every spare moment between Christmas parties and family get togethers this weekend snuggled up with the latest novel from Sarah Jio. Remember when I gushed about her first novel The Violets of March last spring? Jio's second novel The Bungalow will be released at the end of December.

Anne Calloway is overwhelmed by the plans everyone else has for her life, including marrying the honorable and rich man her mother has chosen for her. Frustrated and also feeling a need to serve, Anne signs up as a nurse during World War II. She and her best friend are stationed on the base in Bora Bora, the warm and inviting island in the South Pacific.

On the island, Anne meets the dashing and charming soldier Westry and together they discover a hidden bungalow. Things really heat up then as Anne falls madly in love with Westry. Throw in a gruesome murder mystery and the horrors of war, and The Bungalow is one of those entertaining novels that will keep you reading late into the night.

Sultry and just a bit steamy, The Bungalow is a page turner that is perfect to warm up with this cold winter. Or if you happen to be lucky enough to escape the chill and spend some time on your own beach, The Bungalow is the book to take.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Bungalow from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.