Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: The Secret Keeper

Image result for the secret keeperI just finished reading Kate Morton’s “the Secret Keeper.” It’s long and fat and I read it in 3 days so I could go to bookclub and not have the ending spoiled.

This is the second Kate Morton book I’ve read (the Forgotten Garden was the first) and it did not disappoint. In fact, it was fantastic. One of the things I love about Morton’s writing is that she places you so firmly in the setting, which is important because the two books I’ve read jump around quite a bit both in time and place.

“The Secret Keeper,” set in England, is about a daughter, her mother, a shared traumatic experience and the search for a long held secret. Laurel returns home in 2011 to Greenacre, together with her siblings, to be with her mother in her final days. Being home brings back all sorts of memories for Laurel and soon she has more questions than answers. That starts her on a massive search for answers that takes us back in time to 1941 and 1961 (or thereabouts).

The trip through time is historically interesting and Morton does a wonderful job of staying true to history and making it come alive so much that you feel you are there. When she whisks you off to another time and place, you are loath to leave where you came from until she wraps you up in the new setting. But it’s not abrupt. It’s skillfully and gently done. The skill of writing it takes to do that is beyond me. It’s amazing.

The characters are well drawn, the setting is tangible, the prose is inspiring. My only problem was that I wanted the answers as much as Laurel and a few times I just wanted less fluff and more answers. But that’s her style and it sure is beautiful writing. One of my favorite parts of this novel is that the characters, the main protagonists, the hero/heroines have faults. So though you love them, you also want to shake them by the shoulder and beg them to be stronger or more patient or more kind.

My favorite character was Jimmy, the love interest in 1941. So loyal and principled. He was a photographer and took photos of the fall-out from the London Blitz. About one of the pictures of a newly orphaned, young girl, the book reads: “Small individual tragedies like this little girl’s were nothing to the larger scale of the war; she and her tap shoes could be swept as easily as dust beneath history’s carpet. That photograph was real, though; it captured its moment and preserved it for the future like an insect in amber. It reminded Jimmy why what he did, recording the truth of the war, was important.”

One of the themes of the novel is that we often don’t know the story, the history, of the people we love, our families and in particular to this book, our mothers. Laurel didn’t know her mother’s past. Dolly didn’t know the past of the woman who employed her. The book gives us insight into the past of all the main characters and guess what? The past becomes super important and fascinating.

So it got me thinking about my mom and sure, I know a few stories here and there but what about the meat? Do I know enough? Do my kids know enough? After reading this book, I am so motivated to know my own mother’s past and learn from her personal history, because it’s important.

I must confess, my admiration for this book was greatly increased when Morton referenced the Tardis from Doctor Who. How can you go wrong with a book that sweeps generations and mentions the Tardis? So read “The Secret Keeper”! Then go read “The Forgotten Garden.” You will be transported to amazing times and places and you won’t regret it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Review: Wonder

Image result for wonder palacioThe last book was Wonder. Late again to the party. This book has been around for a while. So I have a 6th grade son and, boy, does this author get the 5th/6th grade social scene. I loved how the story was told. With each new point of view going back in time just a little and then propelling the story further on. Genius. Each voice was clear and dead on as far as I’m concerned, for the age group.

As a parent, I appreciated the role and characterization of the parents. They were supportive and real. They struggled just as much as any other character in the story and parents reading the book could relate. Humor was a great part of the story as well, especially from Auggie (who probably got it from his Dad). My son liked it a lot and quoted it around the house for a few days.

I am glad Auggie had friends. Sometimes in real life, that doesn’t happen, so I felt like the story was a little sugar coated but I’m glad it was, especially for this age group. I think they need an example of the correct way to deal with difficult situations, which is one of the purposes of literature. I hope there are kids like that in my son’s school, who will stand up for the underdog. I would like to hope my son would stand up, or sit down at lunch, with the “Auggies” in his school.

Like “Fault in Our Stars” I felt like this book did a great job of voicing and describing the pre-adolescent and adolescent life. I really think everyone should read this book. If I had to pick one of the three in this post to recommend, it would be an easy choice. Wonder, for sure.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Image result for the fault in our starsOk, the next book I read was Fault In Our Stars. I know, I’m a little late to the party on this one. I wanted to see it with my teenage daughter and I just have a hard time seeing a movie based on a book without reading it first. And then, while I was reading it, she went and saw it anyway without me. Wahwah. Let me preface this by saying I’m not a romance reader (or writer, I’m a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad romance writer). So why am I rewriting Cinderella? I don’t know. Let’s just say it may not be that romantic.

I thought Fault In Our Stars was a good book but I’m not in love with it like others are. I felt like some language and some of the sexual content was more than I would have liked for my slightly sheltered, Mormon daughter (jr. high age). But she read it and watched it and we talked about it and all is well in Zion.
I really enjoyed the friendship between the main characters and others. Gus and Hazel were quite mature. Maybe that comes with dealing with life and death situations as part of your normal routine. I wonder if teens got that depth. As an adult I really enjoyed it. It made me think more deeply about life, death, relationships and where I place my priorities.
I really appreciate when things don’t play out perfectly. Life isn’t perfect and often disappoints. So I liked how the highly esteemed author turns out to be a jerk, even to the end. And Gus’s other girlfriend had a downer attitude. That’s real life. So I enjoyed the book but I didn’t love it like so many others did. Maybe because of life experiences.
So this got me thinking. I didn’t absolutely love it but I’m quite sure that if I were to get together with others and discuss it, I would find more to like about the book. SO, is part of my love of some books related to the discussion and sharing of feelings I have with others? Books are powerful alone, but they are also powerful when shared through thought and discussion.
Anyway, I do have to say though, I don’t recommend reading this book if you are in the middle of being called back for further diagnosis of an abnormal mammogram and contemplating your own diagnosis. That was a little unsettling but everything turned out fine and I’m ok and the book was great. I really liked it and felt philosophical and hip while reading it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: Cinder

Image result for cinderI just finished a reading splurge. I read three great books, all very different in my opinion. Well, two of them are a little similar and the third is very different from the others but not better, so we’ll start with that one.

Cinder, as you might guess from the title, is a retelling of Cinderella. This caught my eye because, hello, I’m in the middle of writing a retelling of Cinderella. This story is fun because it is set in the future in a very techno-savy, robotic society. It even involves a race of beings from the moon. The main character is a strong and intelligent woman but still the oppressed underdog, at the mercy of her stepmother. The prince is endearing and sympathetic. A very likable character. And the peripheral characters are mostly well done. There was heartache and humor. The romance was sweet.

The problem is the whole time I’m reading, I’m thinking, if you break this down to a rough outline, it’s very similar to my story. I know, I know, they’re both Cinderella, so of course they are going to be similar. But even still, some of the things I changed, she changed too. Not to give too much away, but the family situation is similar. The way Cinder, (my character, Dru) is looked down upon and why, is similar. Their insecurity stems from the same place. But the thing is, this other author’s setting is so unique, set in the future with all the techno stuff. Mine is set in same old, same old fairytale land. And I’m struggling right now with how to make my story unique and stronger. How can I make Dru stand out? How can I make the juxtaposition more dangerous or weighty (what’s the word?) between good and evil, natural impulse and expectation, dark magic and good intentions. And if I’m not seeing similarities with Cinder, I’m seeing them with the movie Ever After. They were the furthest thing from my mind when I wrote my version. I didn’t even know about Cinder, but now I just feel like mine is a cheap imitation. I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure it out.

Anyway, Cinder was a great read. It really ends on the edge of a cliff. Not really an ending at all, just a beginning for more to come. So I read the preview chapter of the next book, Scarlet, which I assume is Red Riding Hood, which coincidentally, I also have a rough draft of. But it didn’t really hook me from the get go. Maybe I’ll get to it eventually but I’m in no rush.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Cascade Falls or Bust

Heat waves assaulted our bodies as we made our way from the house to the mini-van. Five children scrambled over and around each other, trying to get the coveted seats, which were anything but the back bench.
“Turn on the A.C.!,” yelled Rachel. Being the fourth of five children and only six years old, she assumed her usual spot in the back.
“Where are we going?” Parker asked, making sure all the front vents were open and adjusted to blow directly on his face.
 “Cascade Springs,” I said. I felt a drop in the temperature just saying the words. “Do we have everything we need? Water, treats?”
I checked the rearview mirror and saw Sydney push her way through seatbelts to join Rachel on the back bench. Shotgun lost to her younger brother, again. I was confident once we got to our mountain destination all would be forgiven. I turned up the rear air conditioning for good measure.
Making our way to American Fork canyon was a breeze. The ranger at the pay station took our money and gave us a map in return.
“Here, Parker. Look for the Springs,” I said. I marveled at the majestic trees lining the road like sentries guarding a hidden treasure. The river rushed by on the left, alive and untamed. We pulled away from the station and I felt the shackles of suburban life fall off me. The road wove through the forest like a ribbon, playing peek-a-boo with the river. Twenty minutes into the canyon, the noise of the car muffled for a bit until my ears popped and I knew we had to be getting close.
“Look at the drop-off,” Sydney said from the back, her eyes glued to the window.
“Don’t remind me,” said Parker. His eyes focused straight ahead. “Are we going to be ok?”
“Of course,” I said, flexing my fingers on the steering wheel so the blood could flow again.
“Do you know where you’re going?” he ventured.
“Yep. We follow this road all the way to the Springs,” I said. “Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing, I’m a mom and I’m pretty much awesome all the time!” Parker rolled his eyes at the familiar phrase I repeated over and over, hoping to brainwash my children. I didn’t look behind me but I’m sure Parker wasn’t the only one rolling his eyes. I smiled, took a deep breath and glanced at my dashboard then looked again. Less than a quarter of a tank. Adrenaline shot through my veins like an earthquake.
I was pretty sure when we left it was closer to half a tank. But now I didn’t know. Did I even check? I had no freaking idea! I grasped the steering wheel with a death grip. Holy crap! I was in the middle of the mountains on a narrow road, riding the edge of a cliff like a dare-devil and I was approaching the summit. The summit-and we weren’t there yet! I didn’t know we had to cross the summit. How much further after the summit? Oh, my sweet children. Forgive me now.
How much gas did I start with? No idea.
How much further to the Springs? No idea
How much more gas will I need to get there AND get back? No freaking idea!
We’re screwed.
My breath came out in a stutter. I turned on the radio, static. I asked Parker to check my cellphone, no reception.
“Seriously, Mom. Do you really know where we are going?” Parker asked again. He was staring me down. Sweat trickled down my cleavage and I couldn’t look him in the eyes.
Against my better judgment, the words vomited out of my mouth, “Getting there isn’t the problem. I’m just praying we have enough gas to get back out!” My voice was hysterically high by the time I finished. I tried to cover up with an awkward laugh. It was acknowledged by complete silence.
“We don’t have enough gas?” Sydney said, her voice slow and penetrating, like a disappointed parent.
“I don’t know, I didn’t check, I’m hoping that…” I tried to explain.
“This is just great!” She folded her arms and sat back into the bench. The two middle girls sat silent, with big eyes and open mouths. Stunned, nervous, shocked, worried, scared. Check your thesaurus for terrified and that was it.
“We’ll be ok, girls,” I said and smiled in the rear-view mirror at their frozen faces. “We’ll get there just fine and then figure things out. There are plenty of nice people around these parts.”
“We’ve only seen one car this whole time,” Parker challenged.
“I’m sure there are other people at Cascade Springs.”
 “Yeah, sure, Mom,” he mumbled and turned away. He reclined his chair and closed his eyes, his lips working in silent, prayerful words.
I reluctantly pressed my foot on the gas pedal to climb another hill. What kind of mother does this to her children? A pretty much awesome one, I said to myself in my snarkiest inner voice. I dug deep and pulled out my awesome self and started talking about how beautiful the mountains were and how nice the water would feel when we got to the springs. At first I talked to myself but eventually everyone joined in the commentary. The first road sign I'd seen for miles gave me hope.
We rounded the corner and the lot was large. It was also empty. BING. The dummy light. Time to fill the tank, Mrs. Brown, the red light flashed. My heart sank below the fill line.
“Well, we’ll just keep going a little bit here,” I sang to no one in particular.
The next bend in the road revealed a smaller parking lot, covered with a canopy of leaves and a big sign: CASCADE SPRINGS. This lot had other cars. Parking the van, I released a deep breath as I pulled the key out of the ignition. That’s it. We find help here or we don’t. Two motorcyclists pulled in behind us. I wondered if they were camped nearby with a huge tank of extra gas for emergencies just like this. Maybe they had a tank with my name on it. I studied them as my children piled out of the car. The men were dirty and rough looking, like they were on an extended ride, not a day trip.
“Biker-dudes!” Bryce said and dashed into the parking, back around the car and into the forest. Four-year-old attention deficit at its finest. Chasing Bryce, I worked up my nerve to approach the “biker-dudes.”  When I looked back, they were gone. Awesome. I pulled Bryce back to the car, grabbed the backpack and locked the doors. I laughed. Even if someone stole the car, they wouldn’t get far.
My lungs swelled with sweet, pure air, perfumed by the towering pines. Quaking aspen whispered a fond greeting. Despite the unsettling situation we were in, I finally felt like I could breathe again. I followed my children on the dirt path to a pavilion which was occupied by an elderly couple and a park ranger. Angels sang faintly in the background as an aura of light descended around the ranger’s head. Surely she would know what to do.
I introduced my family and answered a few questions. Where are you from? Have you been here before? Are these children all yours? With the pleasantries behind us, I began to explain my predicament with a complete lack of volume control. I lectured myself silently even as I rattled on. Dial it down! Press the mute! Nothing worked.
“Gosh. What’re you going to do?” the young ranger responded and the angels sputtered and choked on the final chorus.
“We usually carry an extra gas can with us, but we don’t have it today,” offered the older gentleman. His wife nodded with a “tsk.”
“Let’s go look at the map and see if we can find the shortest road out of here,” the ranger said. She led me to a board covered in posters and maps. We both hmm’d and haw’d over it for a while. I wasn’t sure if she knew what she was looking at but I couldn’t make any sense out it. Stupid geographical mountain maps have too many lines. The older gentleman approached.
“We’re taking off. We could follow you out if you want to go now.” His wife nodded in the background. I paused. Did I seriously drive all this way only to turn around and go back? What stupid kind of awesome is that?
“I’ll be leaving in an hour,” the ranger piped in. “I could follow you out if you want to wait that long.”
“Let’s do that,” I said. We waved goodbye to the elderly couple and turned toward Cascade Springs.
Cold, mountain water tumbled over rocks, between bright yellow flowers and fragrant vegetation. The water sparkled, holding on to the light as bounced over the low, terraced falls. We started across a well-kept wooden walkway extended over the running water and I asked, “Can we play in the water or do we just follow the path?”
“Stay on the path and enjoy the scenery,” the ranger said. She pulled out her binoculars and turned her attention to more distant views. I turned to my children and pressed my fingers to my lips to silence the complaints I knew were coming. We were hot, the water was cold and staying on the path was boring. I didn’t need words to tell me that much.
I pointed out the signs for plants, animals and geological formations as a distraction. When we saw the sign for poison ivy, everyone nodded in the respectful fear only known by those with intimate experience. The sun beat on our bare necks and arms as we travelled back and forth across the paths over the enticing yet forbidden water.
We walked slowly, separating into small groups. Rachel stayed with me. The rest divided by gender. It was a quiet path disrupted only by the friendly babbling of the Springs and the occasional rustle of something hidden the brush.
“Bryce! Over here!” Parker stepped onto a rock urging his four-year-old brother to do the same. He looked at me with an unapologetic smile. “I’m not actually in the water,” he said. He shuffled his feet, splashing the water that ran around the rock. Bryce did not hesitate to follow him to the rocks, not caring a bit about getting his feet wet. As is true with children and with spoonfuls of ice cream, where one dares to tread, the rest are sure to follow. I let them frolic along the bank and mostly on the rocks. I made sure to pull them out before they were ready to leave though, to maintain my meanest-mom-on-the-block title.
We made it back to the pavilion early and waited for the ranger. The smell of the microwave popcorn snack I brought clashed with the pine scented trees. We sat in silence, jaws working over half-popped kernels. The peaceful walk around the Springs quickly dissipated as I considered the ominous drive before us.
“Maybe we should say a prayer,” Camille said.
“I already did,” said Parker, “twice.”
“I just want to look at something before we leave,” Sydney said and walked back down the path, her arms folded.
“We’re going to be just fine,” I said and forced the most comforting mommy smile I could pull out of the pit in my stomach.
When the ranger pulled out of the parking lot, we were in close pursuit. Each hill we climbed toward the summit seemed to suck gas like a wasted addict taking his last drag on an old cigarette. I pleaded to heaven for forgiveness. If I get out of this canyon, I will always check my gas tank before a trip. I will never yell at my innocent, patient, sweet little angels again. I will read scriptures every day and dedicate my life to good deeds forever. I will stop sneaking the kids’ candy from their hiding spots in their bedrooms. I promise, whatever it takes. Crossing over the summit, I put the car in neutral and started to coast where I could. I didn’t know if that even made a difference and I didn’t care.
Not daring to touch the gas and barely touching the brakes we finally birthed out of the mouth of the canyon like a bat out of hell, the ranger’s car always one car length in front. At this point, the car was practically floating on faith. From the backseat Bryce chanted, “I love Jesus, I love Jesus.”
 The children erupted in cheers as we pulled in next to the gas pump. The ranger, who parked at the pump in front of us, walked back, smiling at the raucous celebratory noise.
“I don’t know how but you made it,” she said.
“I’m pretty much awesome all the time. I’m cool like that,” I bragged.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

If Grandma were here

Dear Grandma,

I miss you. I wish you were still here. I miss sitting at the round, wooden table in your dining room and seeing you, sitting with one leg tucked up underneath you, your other leg propped up and held close to your chest as you sip your diet Coke. 

I can see the light from the coming in through the back window, muted by the heavy curtains and rosy as it picks up the color of the orange shag carpet.

But the warmth in the room doesn't come from the afternoon sun. Warm, accepting love found a home with you. Your willingness to listen to and value me, always warmed me from the inside out. I miss you.

If you were here, I would sit again at your table and pepper you with questions. You and I both know how you like pepper. You see, I've started writing. I like to do it and I like to think that some of that comes from you. 

If you were here, I would ask you if you ever doubted yourself as a writer?
Did you ever feel like you were in over your head? Like you have no idea what you're doing and you write like a 1st grader?
Did you ever get so nervous about your writing that you had a stomach ache? Did you cry?
Were you ever so full of self doubt that you couldn't write anymore? Did you ever want to quit?
Did words ever fail you?

Oh Grandma, how I wish you were here and we were cuddled up around your table, eating homemade toast with extra crispy crust and lots of butter. I wish I could lean into you and tell you all my insecurities and whisper all my fears. You'd wipe my tears and calm my nerves, gently laying your smooth, wrinkled hand on mine, not needing the words you so artfully craft on paper, to ease my troubled heart.

I love you Grandma. I miss you.

With endearment,

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A surprise publication

Years ago, the end of 2011, I came across a call for essay submissions for a project sponsored by BYU Women's Services, themed Recapturing Beauty. So I penned ashort essay and tried my hand at a poem for good measure and submitted them. 
Not long after, I received an email saying they wanted to publish my essay in their book. Time passed and graduate students in charge of the project came and left and every once in a while I would follow up with no concrete information other than they were still looking at the possibility of publishing it.
Fast forward 3 or so years to now. I received an email from BYU Women's Services regarding the book, "Why I Don't Hide My Freckles Anymore," published by Deseret Book (also available on Amazon). Because I was a contributor, they had a complimentary copy of the book for me in their office. What a surprise! What a fun title!

I was shocked! I almost wondered if they had my address wrong. It had been so long, maybe they'd made a mistake. When we were at BYU for the Hope of America, I stopped by the office to pick up my book. I joked with the woman (who was the editor of the book) that I hoped my essay was really in the book. She said, "Oh, I remember your essay, about the rainbow. I really like it. And here's your copy." 
And sure enough, there was my essay and a warm, fuzzy feeling settled in my heart. I must admit, after several recent rejections, seeing this short essay published, 3 years after submission, was a very, very nice surprise. 
Here is Rachel, modeling the book in Deseret Book.
Seriously though, I am really looking forward to reading this book. The messages are short and sweet, exploring the true definition of beauty. You can read as many or few as you have time for. Nothing but uplifting inspiration and validation will come from reading "Why I Don't Hide My Freckles Anymore." I wish I could buy a copy for every beautiful person I know.
Side note/Tip:This book would make a fantastic Mother's Day gift. One reason is because it doesn't focus on being a mother. Contradictory?
Being a mother is a noble and wonderful person to be, but sometimes it is quite overwhelming to contemplate how vast and important the responsibility is to be a mother.
I just erased two paragraphs here and realized I need to have a whole separate post about the pressure of Mother's Day. Let me just say, a book on loving yourself for the beautiful person you already are would be a simply magnificent gift for any womanon Mother's Day. And I'm please to have my name in there somewhere. 

And here is the poem, even though it's not in the book :)

An arch

Of splendid color,

crescent shape spanning the sky,

heavy with moisture, like diamonds.

Its unabashed beauty lies not purely in its shape or reflection

But in the beauty of the One

Who created it.

Beauty in the

Reflection of

His light.



The world

Would have beauty

Defined, as a rainbow, in

Mere shape, color and reflection

Of profession, accomplishment and reputation.

And so, like the rainbow

The world’s defined beauty

remains always just

Out of reach.



Authentic, real beauty

Is inherently ours, for it resides

In the essence of our Creator.

We, who carry within us the reflection of the Creator

Of His glory, power and love

Are beautiful because

We are


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review: The Girl Who Could Fly

"The Girl Who Could Fly" by Victoria Forester

Image result for the girl who could flyOne of the taglines on this book describes this book as Little House on the Prairie meets X-Men. I would have to say, that odd little combination is a pretty accurate description. This book is about a young girl, Piper McCloud, who discovers she has the ability to fly. As she grows, Piper develops and harnesses that ability. But not everyone around her is as thrilled as she is. Her parents keep her hidden away and home from school for years, in an effort to hide her ability to fly. Then one day, they attend a community event and as fate would have it, her ability is exposed and the fall out is just as they expected; rumors, gossip and unwanted media attention. Then Dr. Letitia Hellion comes to the rescue and invites her to stay with other children who have similar abilities in a secure and safe location. But is it really a rescue? You must read to find out!

The clever writing immediately sucked me into the story. Piper really is from Little House on the Prairie it seems, and Victoria Forester does a great job expressing a unique voice for Piper. From a young reader's perspective, this book has it all. Adventure, unique characters, super hero elements, a bad guy (lady) and a bit of mystery. 

Piper seemed a little out of place, na├»ve and old-school, of course she was isolated at home with old-fashioned parents in a very small, backwoods sort of community. The other supporting characters are more current and nicely developed. The antagonist, Dr. Hellion, also has a valid backstory. The setting is believable and fun, especially for a young reader. 

Near the end, the writing seemed to stumble and was uncharacteristic of the rest of the novel, which is unfortunate because it was right in the middle of the climax. There was also a mysterious character who shows up a few times and you're left wondering who he is and why he was even there. It leaves a loose-end like there may be more to come. But honestly, I would prefer it as a stand alone book. 

Not compelling enough to span age groups, I think it is a great book for early readers, 3-5 grade level.
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Sunday, March 23, 2014

2nd Draft

I printed out my 2nd draft of Witcherella. I must say, I am quite impressed. That's a lot of paper. That's a lot of words. That's a whole story right there and I wrote every word. Even if the words aren't always compelling or polished, I still feel pretty darn good looking at that stack of paper. 

After I printed it, I just sort of walked around the house for a while holding it close to my chest. I wrote a book! Time will tell if it's a good one. I will be handing it over to my book club on Thursday and then we'll discuss it at our April meeting. I'm nervous and excited. I can't wait to get the feedback and start on the 3rd draft. 
Regardless of where this goes, it's very fulfilling to see and hold these pages.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I'm reading "Les Mis" and its really long

Image result for les mis book
Have you seen the movie "Les Miserable"? The new one with all the raw emotion, requiring women to bring tissues in their purse, next to the Junior Mints they are sneaking into the theater? I've heard it's amazing, thrilling, evocative, fantastic, moving, etc. And I want to see it. I really do. The obstacle is this....I promised myself I'd read the book first. Wa Wa.

I started the abridged version the first week of January and I'm still plugging away. 90% finished as we speak. I was so excited to read this book. The preface blew me away. I love it so much I'll share it with you here:

"So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation prounounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century-the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light-are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world; -in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and pverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Miserables cannot fail to be of use."

Well said.


the further I read, the more disheartened I became. Oh, the words. The number of words used to describe useless information! Not to talk trash about good old Victor Hugo, but goodness gracious can that man ramble! Granted, he tells a beautiful story of forgiveness, redemption, love and the nobleness distilled in all men and women as creations of God,as well, but it is mingled with ramblings and history lessons and lectures on convents and sewer systems. It quickly became apparent to me that I was going to have to skim. And by skim, I mean skip entire chapters. 

This passage from the renowned wikipedia helped me not feel so alone in my discouragement and utter lack of understanding of so much of what I was reading. 

"More than a fourth of the novel—by one count 955 of 2,783 pages—is devoted to essays that argue a moral point or display Hugo's encyclopedic knowledge, that do not advance the plot, nor even a subplot. ... The topics Hugo addresses include cloistered religious orders, the construction of the Paris sewers, argot, and the street urchins of Paris. The one about convents he titles "Parenthesis" to alert the reader to its irrelevance to the story line.[11] He devotes another 19 chapters to the Waterloo,"

I wish I would have understood the subtle clue of the title "Parenthesis" before plowing through that chapter. But I could not stop reading. Stopping was out of the question. You see, I don't know how the story ends.

It's true.

I remember watching an older film version of "Les Mis" in French class...and I fell asleep.
I remember watching the stage version in New York. NEW YORK CITY for heaven sake...and I fell asleep.
I have listened to much of the music and even owned a condensed soundtrack that I listened to regularly, but I have no idea where the songs fit within the story or even which character sings which song.
I thought the entire story revolved around Jean Valjean and Fantine and her pretty little daughter, Cosette. Imagine my surprise when Fantine dies and I'm not even a quarter of the way through the book!

And so, I'm on a mission and I'm nearing the end. I'm 90% of the way finished and I'm loving it. The story that is...not the digressions. How else would I know that Gavroche is Thenardier's son and that he has 2 brothers who were also discarded and their paths cross in a heartbreaking moment and Eponine is his sister. And that's just to name a few of the more relevant backstories and details. I love the depth of reading a novel as opposed to the movie. So don't tell me how it ends. I'll read it for myself. Wish me luck! And then I'll go see the movie. Hopefully while it's still in the theaters.