The Giver Trilogy by Lois Lowry

I read Lois Lowry’s The Giver (1993, winner of the Newbery Medal 1994) when it was first published (I was a teenager), but the related books to it, Gathering Blue (2000) and Messenger (2004), were both written after my childhood days, so I hadn’t read them before. My book club recently decided to read Messenger, so I finally rectified that! I technically read them “out of order” then, reading Messenger before Gathering Blue. I enjoyed the latter two, but because I am no longer of the impressionable stage of life that I was in when I read the original, I didn’t love either of them as much as I have enjoyed The Giver.

Each of these books by Lois Lowry focus on a different type of dystopian community. Because there are some overlapping characters, it is called a “series,” but one technically does not need to read them in order because of the different settings of each story. I was fascinated to read these as an adult, with a little more perspective on the quite different dystopias Lowry focuses on.Continue Reading

The Blue Castle and Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (Brief Thoughts)

I grew up with Anne of Green Gables, which I reread frequently. For some reason, I don’t recall branching out and reading the other Lucy Maud Montgomery novels. As I was reading some longer, denser books recently, I felt the need for a reading break and took the chance to read two stand-alone novels by the writer from Prince Edward Island.

The Blue Castle (published 1926) is one of Montgomery’s novels written for adults. Valancy is a 29-year-old old maid who is constantly criticized, berated, and teased by her extended family, finding her only relief from reality in nature writing and daydreams about her dream home, an exotic Blue Castle. I must admit that when I began the novel, I really did not like the set up. I didn’t know anything about the plot, and I worried that I’d be able to read a novel with a weak woman. Never fear, L.M. Montgomery was able to quickly bring me around. When Valancy receives some surprising news, she comes to a decision that shocks her family: she speaks her mind. I loved Valancy’s transformation, I loved the twists in her life, and the ways in which she struck out on her own. I loved the romance in the story and all the coincidences of the plot. The Blue Castle is a novel I will enjoy rereading, and I suspect each time I finish it, I’ll be able to say with a sigh, “Ah, that was nice.”

Jane of Lantern Hill (published 1936) focuses on a young child (11 years old) but she faces similar frustrations in her life. Her grandmother nags and criticizes her, her loving mother is a weak-willed woman who still succumbs to the grandmother, and Jane longs for something to make her life complete. Like Valancy, Jane retreats from reality in to a daydream, in her case a trip to the magical moon. When she finds out that her long-absent father is alive and wants to spend the summer with her on Prince Edward Island, Jane is delighted by her new freedom. Although Jane transforms in ways similar to Valancy and even Anne Shirley herself, Jane didn’t feel as alive to me as these other favorite characters. Maybe because the romantic notions of a preteen no longer echo my own notions as preteen reading Anne of Green Gables, or maybe the plot simply wasn’t as satisfying. Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed reading about Jane’s self-discovery. It was a hopeful and peaceful book.

I now look forward to finding the other L.M. Montgomery novels I have not yet read!

(Can I just add that I greatly dislike these awful 1980s covers?)

Happy Haulidays!

I’m trying something a little different today. Chronicle Books is doing a special holiday giveaway: one blogger and a commenter on that blog will each receive $500 of books from the publisher, and a charity of the bloggers choice will also receive $500. I don’t normally join in this type of thing, but I’ve enjoyed browsing other’s posts of book wishlists and I must admit, there are some fun books on the Chronicle site that have caught my eye.

My charity of choice, if I win, is the United Nations World Food Programme. Books may be food for the soul, but let’s face it, there are plenty of places around the world that just need food.

And then, here are the books I’d love to win from Chronicle Books. I’ve included picture books, middle grade books, nonfiction, photography books, and cook books. (Click on the book image to read more on Chronicle’s site.)



Would you like to win books too? Comment on this post and if I win, one of you will too! Which of these books most intrigues you?


Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m currently expecting my second child, a girl. Monkey should join my family at the end of February or maybe early March. I’m quite excited to meet my little girl. What better way to get in a baby mood by start reading some books about babies!

I gave birth to my son Raisin without any drug intervention and with a midwife when I was living in Australia. While I don’t have the midwife option in Illinois (silly laws and insurance issues) and I plan on delivering with a doctor (that I trust) in a hospital, I still love the stories of stress-free natural deliveries, and I’m hoping this baby’s arrival will be as good an experience as (or better than) my son’s arrival.

Baby Cather by Peggy Vincent (published 2004) is a memoir of a Certified Nurse Midwife who spent many years delivering babies in hospitals and at women’s homes as a private practitioner. With frankness about her ignorance of the process of delivery in the beginning, personal stories from her own three pregnancies, and numerous stories about home births gone right and a few gone wrong, I loved it.Continue Reading