Book Review for I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban

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Google Books summary for I Am Malala:

“When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. 

Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I AM MALALA will make you believe in the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.”

I recently read this book after seeing Malala Yousafzai on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Her story was so incredible just from the short interview on there that I knew I had to read the book. I was not disappointed.

I Am Malala starts out with the dramatic day that Malala was shot and the shooting itself. It then skips back in time and tells us the story of Malala’s family from before she was born. I found it all very fascinating, learning different things about her village in Pakistan and the struggles they’ve gone through. She dealt with things on a daily basis that I can’t even imagine. Osama Bin Laden even hid out in her tiny village at one point, although she never saw him with her own eyes.

I Am Malala is a real eye opener of all the things we take for granted. Where I come from and where I live now, women don’t have to cover their faces. They don’t have to have a man accompany them everywhere they go. They don’t have to guard what they say because there’s no such thing as freedom of speech for them. They don’t have to fight for the right to have an education just because they’re female.

Malala is an incredibly courageous young woman and her story is one that needs to be heard. Run, don’t walk, to your local library  or book store and read this book.

A Review of Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

17262155I am a diehard Bridget Jones fan. When I found out there was to be a third book to give us more insight into Bridget’s crazy mind, my excitement was equivalent to a kid’s at Christmas. Then I had to wait months for it to finally be released. Well, on the 10th of October, it was finally released in the UK! Lucky for me, I’m in the UK. Let the reading begin!

I read this book in two short days. I didn’t plan on it. In fact, I planned on finishing up the book I was currently reading (The Fault in Our Stars, another excellent book, by John Green), but I opened Mad About the Boy just to get a preview of it and I was hooked immediately. I read 60% the first night. Now, let me say, I enjoyed this book immensely. It was written in the same tone as Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. I read quite an important spoiler before the book came out and I was uncertain how it would be because of this. Happy to say, I was not disappointed.

I must advise you not to read any further if you do not wish to be spoiled. While I’ll attempt to not give too much away, there is one huge element of the story that I must divulge. It’s the same spoiler I had read before reading the book itself. Last chance. Look away now if you don’t want any spoilers!!

Did you look away??

Okay. Here goes. Mark Darcy is dead. “What?! How can Helen Fielding do this to her devoted fans? How can she kill off a much beloved character like that? I’m so angry! I’ll never read the book! I shall give the book a terrible review even though I’ve not actually read it!” That’s a little sample of some of the things I read about this book on Goodreads.com when I went to see what people thought of it. I couldn’t believe people were giving this book a 1 star rating without reading it simply because they heard a favorite character had died in the story.

Yes, Mark Darcy died. I appreciate a little realism in my stories (even when it can be frustrating) and sometimes, spouses die. It’s tragic and awful, but I admire the way Helen Fielding was able to take on this difficult subject matter and give it the weight it deserved while at the same time still making us laugh. The story actually takes place 4 years after Mark’s death. Bridget is widowed, single, trying to cope with his death and the gaping hole he left behind in her life, while also raising their two young children the best she can. We follow her on her journey as she tries to get back into the dating life in her 50s. We get to see her parenting blunders and how she handles them. As a parent myself, I related to some of the situations she found herself in with her kids, which just made them funnier. We got to catch up with old characters and we got to meet some lovely (and some not so lovely) new characters.

To sum up: If you can accept the death of Mark Darcy and you enjoyed the other books in the Bridget Jones series, I can’t see how you would be disappointed with this one. If you cannot accept the death of Mark Darcy, best to avoid this book altogether, but that is a real shame because it’s a gem!

A Review of Home Song by LaVyrle Spencer

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Home Song is an emotional journey into the lives of a small town family that is tested more than they ever imagined when a long kept secret comes to light. Tom and Claire Gardner were married 17 years ago and now have two teenage children and a beautiful relationship. The night before they were married, Tom had a one night stand with a woman named Monica. He was faithful every day after that and has a wonderful relationship with his wife, Claire, but he never told her about his indiscretion and he never spoke to Monica again. Until now. 17 years later, Monica shows up again and she has a 17 year old son, Kent Arens, in tow. Tom knows right away that Kent is his son and must decide how to handle it.

Home Song is the story of his family learning of Kent Arens and, thus, Tom’s long ago infidelity and betrayal of Claire, and how they work through it together. I really enjoyed this book. It was a Three Ladies and Their Babies book club selection. I probably wouldn’t have read Home Song if it wasn’t for our book club, but I’m glad that I did. Right from the start, this book holds no punches. It sucks you in and keeps you there with the drama of Tom and his family. I felt myself rooting for Tom a lot, which went against everything I’ve always felt about cheating. I was angry with his wife at times for having the same type of feelings that I would have had if I were in her shoes. I think the audience is allowed to feel sympathy for Tom when we normally wouldn’t because we have that special insight into what he’s really thinking and feeling and we know he’s not really a bad guy, he just made one stupid mistake many years ago.

I think if you read this book, you won’t regret it. It’s a great read and it will pull you in and not let go until the very end when you find out what happens with the Gardner family. Home Song was the type of book that I was telling other people about because I needed to talk about it with someone. Don’t forget to check out Three Ladies and Their Babies: The Book Club over on Facebook if you want to get involved in our group discussions.

A Review of Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

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Summer Sisters was our book club’s fourth selection. It is the story of Victoria (Vix) and Caitlin, two friends with two very different personalities; Caitlin is the popular girl and Vix is the shy one. When Caitlin invites Vix to spend the summer with her and her dad on Martha’s Vineyard, Vix can’t believe her luck. That summer kick starts Vix and Caitlin’s friendship and from that moment on they’re “summer sisters,” spending every summer together with Caitlin’s father and brother. We’re taken along with them on their turbulent friendship from the 70’s to the 90’s and as they have their ups and downs, they always remain friends.

I had heard this book’s title several times before it was actually chosen for our book club, but I didn’t know anything about it apart from that. I was excited to read it because I knew a few people who really enjoyed it. This story pulled me in right from the start. It’s told over chapters of years and from different character perspectives throughout. We get to see Vix and Caitlin become friends, grow up together, discover their sexuality, suffer losses, experience love and life changes and how all of those things affect their friendship.

I had a hard time putting this book down and read it in two days. I think most girls will be able to relate to this story in some way, whether it’s with Vix or with Caitlin. Summer Sisters ignites a variety of reactions throughout, from happiness, to sadness, to frustration and anger. It left me wanting to read more of Judy Blume’s books that are aimed at an older audience. If you think this sounds like your type of book and you’re thinking of reading Summer Sisters, go for it! I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Gone Girl: A Review

gone girl imageThe third book chosen in the Three Ladies and Their Babies book club was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This was a selection full of twists and turns that left the reader wondering if and when the characters of the book were ever going to get back to “normal.”

Gone Girl is a suspense novel written from the alternating points of view of Nick Dunn and his wife, Amy. In the beginning, the reader is introduced to Amy through her diary entries. She is an interesting New Yorker who is full of life and waiting for love when Nick walks into her life. When they finally get reconnected after losing touch, they end up marrying. For a while, the marriage works, but before long, trouble creeps in. Amy seems to be a very accepting and forgiving wife, often sacrificing her own wants and needs to those of her husband. Nick, on the other hand, seems completely self-absorbed and uncaring of his wife’s needs as he drags her off to his Midwest hometown to care for his ailing parents. Then, on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears, leaving behind signs of a struggle. As Nick becomes the focus of police scrutiny and is hanged in the court of public opinion, we start to learn a little more about their marriage and Amy’s true personality comes to life. Is Amy really the victim of a violent abduction and possible murder at the hands of her husband or is something more going on here? Nick does not help his case much as he tells the reader of his bitterness toward his wife, discusses the shape of her skull, and blunders his way through interviews and interrogations. As the story unfolds and more details come to light, you’ll be kept on your toes trying to figure out where things are going.

I found this book to be very engaging. It did take a few chapters before I really got into it, but by part two, I was hooked. I had a hard time putting it down and found myself trying to sneak in a few pages anytime I had an extra minute or two. I really enjoyed it…until the last few pages. Without ruining it for you, I have to say that I did not like the ending. There were a couple of ways that I could have re-written it in my head. That being said, I’m a big fan of happy endings, and Flynn, herself, is quoted as saying, “I wrote the ending that was the most unsettling to me. I am a big fan of the ending of unease. To me it feels real and it feels unnerving. Because you may not know exactly what is going to happen next in Gone Girl World, but you know it’s not good.”

Overall, I found Gone Girl to be a very quick and intriguing read. It kept me double guessing myself and anxious to see what would happen next. I would give it a solid B, with points knocked off due to the ending, but it is most definitely a great summer book.

She’s Come Undone Review

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She’s Come Undone is the story of Dolores Price, a misguided child who grows into a reckless and depressed teenager and adult. It is a coming of age story that follows her through major life events; death, divorce, mental illness, sexual abuse and so much more. Dolores must learn to live in a world that she feels is out to get her. She is a character that won’t soon be forgotten.

As for my opinion of the book, I would rate it as a 3 out of 5 stars.  It’s a story that brings in a multitude of issues that Dolores must deal with and she does so in rather unconventional ways, which for me made it a bit overwhelming. However, Dolores always keeps the reader guessing on how she’ll react next, so that aspect kept my attention. Dolores Price meets some rather interesting characters in her journey from childhood to adulthood. The people each play an intricate role in her transformation from an insecure and troubled teen to a recovering and more secure adult. I don’t regret reading this book; I would certainly recommend others give it a try. For me it was enlightening to read and understand a little more about mental illness. And as I’ve said, Dolores is a character that will go with you always.

Please feel free to join Three Ladies and Their Babies: The Book Club at Facebook and join in our discussion of She’s Come Undone, as well as the book we’re currently reading, Gone Girl.

A Review of Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

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If you’ve read any of our book club posts then you know that Midwives was the first book chosen. This was actually my selection. I was secretly hoping that Midwives would be the one out of my three choices that would win the vote and it did!

Midwives is a story about Sybil Danforth as told by her daughter Connie. Connie is telling us the story as an adult, but she was 14 during the time of this particular story. Sybil Danforth is a lay midwife and during one home birth she finds herself in a terrible situation where she takes desperate measures to save the life of a baby whose mother has seemingly passed away during childbirth. After the labor, doubts arise as to whether the mother was actually dead, which brings Sybil’s actions into question and we’re taken down the intense road of a criminal trial that sees Sybil Danforth at the center of it.

Right from the start I had a hard time putting Midwives down. Even though the story is told from the perspective of Sybil’s daughter, we’re not left feeling like we didn’t get enough information. Even knowing the premise of the book, I was in disbelief that Sybil was charged with the woman’s death. It seemed obvious to me that the woman, Charlotte, was dead when Sybil saved the baby and I felt that if I were in Charlotte’s position I would want my midwife to do everything she could to save my baby. As the story went on I got a better understanding of why Sybil was charged and also why there were so many doubts about Charlotte’s death, but I never personally thought Sybil should be found guilty. Bohjalian does a superb job of giving different perspectives. We’re shown the prejudices that many people had (and still have) about midwives and home birth, and we’re also shown the side of people who believe wholeheartedly in the practice of midwifery.

For me, this was an edge-of-your-seat story until the very last page. I know a lot of members of the book club agreed with me, while others enjoyed it, but weren’t crazy about it like I was. I’d love to tell you more of my thoughts on Midwives, but for fear of giving away any vital parts of the story, I will stop here. Please feel free to join Three Ladies and Their Babies: The Book Club at Facebook and join in our discussion of Midwives, as well as the book we’re currently reading, She’s Come Undone.

A Review of Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain

15791137I wish I could say I’d never heard of the Westboro Baptist Church. Unfortunately I, like probably many of you, have seen them on television picketing the funerals of soldiers, homosexuals, and murder victims, holding signs with such atrocious statements as “God hates fags” and “Thank God for 9/11.” Why a group of people, especially a group of people coming together to worship God, would spew such hateful diatribe is beyond my level of comprehension. Therefore, when I saw Lauren Drain’s book Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church on the New York Times bestseller list, I had to read it and find out just why these people are the way they are. What makes them tick? Why do they seem to hate everybody outside of their own church with such fervor? While I can’t say Lauren’s book definitely answered these questions for me, she does provide some disturbing insight into the group.

Once you start hearing more about the WBC it becomes clear that they’re much more like a cult than a church. They believe that everyone is going to hell except for them and they feel they’re doing God’s will by informing the world of this. They are led by one man, Fred Phelps, and most of the members are his children and grandchildren. At the time this book was written, there were only two outsider families involved in the WBC. Lauren’s family was one of these. Her father decided to do a documentary about the WBC when she was a teenager. The documentary was meant to shine a light on the negativity of the WBC, but instead he became enamored with the group and eventually moved his entire family to Topeka, Kansas to become more directly involved and join the church. Lauren takes us through her experience of moving to Kansas, being baptized into the WBC, and all the pressures she faced to be a “good girl” according to the rules of the church.

As I was reading the book I was a little bothered by the fact that Lauren doesn’t speak against the WBC, she seems to almost justify what they stand for and what they practice through much of the book. However, I believe what she was doing was explaining how she felt at the time. She didn’t choose to leave the WBC, she was banished by her own parents for a silly reason. She had to force herself to view their beliefs and traditions with fresh eyes before she could finally see how wrong their actions were. Having such a loving support system from my own parents, I can’t imagine how terrifying it must have been to be dropped off at a hotel and told never to contact her parents again, even if it was a life and death situation.

Overall I found this to be an interesting read. It provides an insider’s insight into the group. Lauren says in the book, “When passages [of the Bible] are taken out of context and twisted, the result is a powerful, manipulative, and dangerous weapon indeed.” Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Westboro Baptist Church does to control the minds of its members. Lauren still very much believes in God, she studied the Bible and other religions and formed her own beliefs and opinions. Luckily, Lauren’s story of once belonging to the WBC now has a happy ending.

A Review of Jodi Picoult’s Newest Book, The Storyteller.

Hello readers, this is what I hope will be the first of many book review posts. I love to read and I usually manage to fit in a book or two a week, depending on how busy things get. How do I manage to read that much with two children under 3? I try to set aside “me” time each night specifically for reading.

Traveling has always been a passion of mine. There are countless places I wish to visit, but I lack the funds, the time, and the patience (I know what you’re thinking, “Patience? For taveling?” Traveling with two little ones requires an abundance of patience, trust me!) to travel as far and as often as I would like. I have found that the easiest and most affordable way of traveling is within a book. Not only can you travel to different places in a book, you can travel to different times as well. It’s always seemed fairly magical to me.

It has been suggested to me that I should post my book reviews here for everyone to read. I was very excited by the idea when it was suggested. I only ask that you don’t decide not to read a book because of something I have said. Opinions are a wonderful thing and I don’t expect everyone to hold the same one as I do. I would hate for you to miss the opportunity to discover an amazing book that could become your favorite place to visit simply because of something negative I had to say about it. With that, I will begin my first book review.

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The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

I am a huge Jodi Picoult fan. There have been only two books written by her that I haven’t particularly cared for (Mercy and Songs of the Humpback Whale). When I heard she had a new book coming out I knew I had to get my hands on it as soon as possible. I started reading The Storyteller and had a very hard time putting it down. There was at least one day while reading it that I suffered from an extremely late night at the hands of this book. Here is the description that Goodreads gives of The Storyteller:

“Sage Singer befriends an old man who’s particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone’s favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret – he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who’s committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And most of all – if Sage even considers his request – is it murder, or justice?”

I will try to give as little away as possible, but be warned that there may be spoilers here. This was a difficult story to read through. There are two descriptions of The Holocaust, one from a survivor and one from a self-confessed Nazi. They’re equally hard to read. I found myself in tears a couple of times while reading. Even though I was reading this book knowing that it was a work of fiction, it’s an inescapable fact that this story could belong to someone real. Horrific, unimaginable events occurred during that part of history and who can say for sure that someone didn’t experience these exact things that Jodi Picoult has written.

Sage Singer struggles throughout the story with what to do about Josef Weber’s difficult request. She struggles with seeing the man he is now, at ninety-five, as the same man he is describing to her who murdered thousands of Jews in the war. Sage turns to her grandmother, Minka and asks her, for the first time, to really tell her what she went through as a teenager during the Holocaust. Minka reluctantly agrees and then we hear her difficult story.

I have to say that I struggled right along with Sage. We’re introduced to Josef Weber in the story as a kind old man who shares his food with his dog and befriends an insecure and scarred Sage without hesitation. For some reason I think it’s a common thing that we can’t picture elderly people ever doing horrible things. We just see a sweet old man who wouldn’t hurt a fly, or I do at least. So it was hard to relate this horrible Nazi who did unspeakable things with the friendly, elderly Josef Weber that we’d come to briefly know already. I found myself thinking of them as two separate people until I read Minka’s first hand account of the atrocities she suffered. From then on I was not a fan of Josef Weber. I felt a little tense each time Sage went to his house after that, afraid of what might happen next.

Much like Jodi Picoult’s other novels, there is a twist in The Storyteller. I figured out what the twist was before I got to it, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the story. The only negative part for me really wasn’t a huge negative and I believe it’s something other people might enjoy. Minka was a writer and she had been writing a story at the time of the Holocaust and it helped her survive. Between each chapter we get to read little parts of this. I understand why it was included and it was a big part of the story, it just wasn’t important to me to read that part, I was too anxious to get to the next chapter and see what was happening with Sage, Josef, and Minka.

I’m afraid to say anything else about this book because I really don’t want to give anything away. I would suggest you read it for yourself if you think you can handle the difficult subject matter. It was one of my favorite books to date of Jodi Picoult’s. There is a quote within the book from Minka’s friend Darija where she says, “It’s because you don’t just tell stories, you paint with words.” I feel this is what Jodi Picoult does time after time.