The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Publisher: The Dial Press
Number of pages: 274
My copy: hardbound, bought from Book Sale

“ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

* * *

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows was another one of those books where I had no idea what it was about, except that some of the bloggers I followed loved this book. I am easily swayed like that, and it helped that I got my copy from a secondhand bookstore, so splurging on the hardcover version isn’t that painful. After my fantasy filled June and a few more books in between, I needed something new to read, something that I don’t normally read. So I picked this from my shelf and dove into it without really knowing what it was about.

Juliet Ashton is a writer and she’s looking for ideas for her next book. She’s in a rut, and she doesn’t know what to write until she receives a curious letter from a man she’s never met who found her address in a book by Charles Lamb that somehow landed in the island of Guernsey. This starts a correspondence between her and several people in the island who form The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a spur-of-the-moment book club that used to be an excuse from German soldiers for several people who were caught outside after curfew and then became a genuine group of literature lovers. Julie learns about the island and the people through their letters, until she finally sets off to Guernsey to meet them for herself, not knowing that this journey will changer her life forever.

I was just 8 pages into the book when I fell in love with Julie’s character — she’s a smart and charming woman with little quirks that make her not like anyone else. I like her voice, and it was a pleasure reading her letters to her friends and the people she “met” in Guernsey. I particularly like the background check done about her, and how contrasting these two letters were! Julie was such a darling that I wanted to receive a letter from her after I was done with the book. The other characters were lovely, too, although they may seem a bit too sweet and nice sometimes, but by the time I realized that, I was too invested in the book to really think that people this nice and charming couldn’t possibly exist.

Speaking of the letters, they were so engrossing that I often forget that this book was set shortly after WWII, and they were correspondences that takes days before it gets delivered. It reminded me of those days when my childhood friend and I would send letters to each other — it often takes 2 weeks before the letters get delivered, and it was enough to gather enough stories to fill the next letter, on top of the reply from the last one I received. I remember being very excited to receive my letters, and how I would read and reread them when I need comfort, or simply when I just feel bored. Who still takes the time to write letters nowadays? Long emails are lovely in their own right, but it’s just not the same.

The best part of the book, I think, is the idea of how books drew people together. I loved reading about how the little group in Guernsey was formed, and how they all became friends even if they don’t read the same books at all. It was just timely that I was reading this book right before our book club’s 7th face to face discussion, which proved to be a very sentimental one for all of us, with the production of our club’s very own collection of stories. Our July discussion was also my 2nd year anniversary of being with the book club, which made the event a bit more special for me. I was assigned to give the opening remarks for the event, and I was glad that I was reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society because it had that one quote that summed up most of what I feel towards the people I have become good friends with in our book club:

None of us had any experience with literary societies, so we made our own rules: we took turns speaking about the books we’d read. At the start, we tried to be calm and objective, but that soon fell away, and the purpose of the speakers was to goad the listeners into wanting to read the book themselves. Once two members had read the same book, they could argue, which was our great delight. We read books, talked books, argued over books, and became dearer and dearer to one another…our evenings together became bright, lively times – we could almost forget, now and then, the darkness outside.

No doubt about it — there’s a certain magic when books bring people together. I think anyone who’s ever been a part of a book club, or have had bookish friends can relate to that. :) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is a lovely, lovely book about books and reading and how it brings people together from wherever they are in the world. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Angieville
Book Harbinger
The Book Smugglers

Minis: Brightest and Giving

I have several short books that I thought I’d put them all in one Mini’s post but then that would defeat my purpose of the Minis feature because I’m supposed to not write long posts for that. So watch out for several Mini reviews soon!

Anyway, I haven’t read many children’s picture books lately — in fact, I can’t remember when was the last time I read one. Ever since Filipino ReaderCon, though, and being a part of the Readers’ Choice Awards committee, I’ve been curious, so I thought I’d start reading them every now and then. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being kids every now and then, right? :)

Brightest by Johann de Venecia, Joanne Crisner, Josephine Litonjua Brightest by Johann de Venecia and Joanne Crisner
Publisher: Isshin Dream Publishing
Number of pages:  50
My copy: free copy from publisher

A story about a lost firefly catcher, trying to find his way home… and a broken firefly that had long lost himself. And how friendship and being there for each other made a difference in their lives.

* * *

I received a copy of Brightest during our 7th Face to Face discussion for our book club, where Jho, from Isshin Dream Publishing, gave away copies. I was curious, and I have a soft spot for local, self-published books, so I got one and read it immediately the next day after the event (when I’ve caught up on sleep, that is). :) Brightest is the story of a firefly catcher who got lost trying to find his way home. As he went through the forest, he runs into a broken firefly who was also lost — lost long ago, and has given up on finding himself again.

I liked it. The illustrations were gorgeous, as well as the printing — it was such a pretty book that I almost didn’t want it to end. It felt like a good bed time story, something that parents would read to kids who don’t feel like sleeping, or at least, to read to kids who have trouble sleeping in fear of nightmares. I guess the older reader in me just started questioning some things, like why exactly was the firefly broken? I didn’t quite get that, but maybe that’s me over thinking it.

Overall, though, Brightest was a lovely book, and it’s one that I would probably give to my brother and sister-in-law once they have kids. :)

Rating:

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Publisher: Harpoer Collins
Number of pages:  64
My copy: ebook

‘Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.’
So begins a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein.
Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk…and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave.
This is a tender story, touched with sadness, aglow with consolation. Shel Silverstein has created a moving parable for readers of all ages that offers an affecting interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return.

* * *

The Giving Tree was one of the books lined up for our book club’s December discussion. It lost the face to face voting last Saturday, and one of my co-moderators said that this book is relevant reading now, especially to what has been happening with the floods and all that in our country in the past week. So yesterday when I got home, I decided to read it (the shortness of the book is also a factor why I decided to do that).

The Giving Tree is about a tree and a boy, and the tree loved the boy. So much that the tree gave him everything he asked for, even if the boy (who grew up to be a man) didn’t seem to return the same kind of love that the tree has for him. This book is both heartwarming and sad, because there is such truth in this book. I didn’t know if I would be happy or sad when I was done — I was pretty sure I felt both.

It’s interesting how a book can sum up what loving really means in less than 100 pages, and with simple words and illustrations. Yes, I think The Giving Tree is relevant to us as far as the environment goes, but I think the book is more relevant because it just shows one of the many, many aspects of true love: giving without expecting anything in return.

I think we all need a reminder of that every now and then. I know I do.

Rating:

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me by Rebecca SteadWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Publisher: Yearling
Number of pages: 208
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

* * *

I’ve wanted to read When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead for the longest time but for some reason, I never got around to reading it. Or getting myself a copy. There was a time when I saw a hardcover copy of this book on sale, but I let it go thinking I could find it again and go back for it. But alas, it was gone. And so I was on the lookout for another sale copy of this it proved elusive, until I finally got a full-price, brand new copy using one of my Fully Booked gift certificates.

I’ve heard really good stuff about When You Reach Me and the thing is, it’s best not to be spoiled about the elements of the story. So I’ll try not to be spoilery! :) It’s 1979, and Miranda and her best friend Sal knew everything about their New York City neighborhood. She lived a pretty normal life, until Sal got punched on their way home for no reason. Miranda’s life starts to come undone at this point, and it doesn’t help that she received some strange letters from someone who needs her help. As the letters come, she realized that whoever wrote the letter knew many things about her, things that other people don’t and shouldn’t know. She wished she could just ignore them, but what if the notes are true, and only she can stop someone from dying?

I loved Miranda’s voice from the very start — she reminds me of those characters I loved reading as a child. She’s a kid, but she’s also very mature and I liked how she viewed the world and her family and the conversations she had with them. I liked how you know from the start that this isn’t a normal middle grade novel, and it wasn’t even before I really discovered the mystery in it. The fact that Miranda’s mom is joining a game show so they could win $20,000 is already a clue that this book is different, and I knew I would like this book even before I was halfway done.

There’s a sci-fi element in this book that built the mystery up, and I have to admit that it got me a bit confused at first. I was really constantly guessing about who sent the letters and I was kind of glad that my hunch wasn’t correct, because I was really surprised at how it all ended up. I liked the conversations of the characters of the book even if they’re not the type of things I talked about when I was their age.

This book also made me curious about A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which I never read. I know, it seems like required reading for so many kids, but it skipped me! The only L’Engle book I read when I was younger was Meet the Austins, which is connected to the characters there, I think? Anyway, even if I never read the book, I liked how it was very anchored to that, and it gives for additional reading for kids (and adults) who end up really liking When You Reach Me.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and I think my sci-fi loving friends will appreciate this too. Oh, this is a giveaway, but if you liked the Japanese animated movie The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and the TV series Doctor Who, then I’m pretty sure you’d like this book too (and vice versa). :)

Rating:

Required Reading: July

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart

Honey, Baby, SweetheartHoney, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Number of pages:  308
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

It is summer in the Northwest town of Nine Mile Falls, and sixteen-year-old Ruby McQueen, ordinarily dubbed The Quiet Girl, finds herself hanging out with gorgeous, rich, thrill-seeking Travis Becker. But Ruby is in over her head, and finds she is risking more and more when she’s with him.

In an effort to keep Ruby occupied, Ruby’s mother Ann drags Ruby to the weekly book club she runs. When it is discovered that one of the group”s own members is the subject of the tragic love story they are reading, Ann and Ruby spearhead a reunion between the long-ago lovers. But for Ruby, this mission turns out to be much more than just a road trip….

* * *

I’ve had Deb Caletti’s Wild Roses lying around at home for more than a year now but I never found the time to read it because I never really thought I would enjoy it. That’s me judging a book and an author without any valid basis, and my only defense is that I read from some blogs in my reader how Deb Caletti books didn’t work for them. So I figured that I may not like it too.

And then friends started recommending Honey, Baby, Sweetheart to me, so I was mildly curious. Of course it had to be the Deb Caletti book that is the hardest to find — is it because it’s a National Book Award finalist? I don’t know. But when I finally found it, I decided not to let it go because I was curious.

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart sounds like your typical YA romance from the title alone, so I was kind of expecting that when I started reading it. Here we meet Ruby McQueen, The Quiet Girl, who finds herself hanging out with rich, gorgeous and mysterious thrill-seeker Travis Becker (who can afford to get several gift card sleeves if he wanted to). With Travis, Ruby felt like a different girl — someone who isn’t quiet, someone who can do the things normal Ruby wouldn’t do. But when she discovers some things about Travis that means trouble, she finds herself in over her head. To keep her distracted, her mom brings her to her book club meeting where they discover one of their members is the subject of the love story that they were discussing. Too crazy? Together they embark on a road trip to reunite the lovers, and as with all road trips, Ruby discovers more about herself in the process.

And this is where I eat my words about me probably not liking any Deb Caletti book. I was a third into the book when I felt that tug inside me that told me I will like this book no matter how it ended. I was never the quiet girl but I liked Ruby and I connected with her uncertainties and her attachment with Travis. I could identify with her need to be with him even if she couldn’t understand it, even if I’m not the kind of girl who likes bad guys. :P But I liked Ruby, and her voice, and I liked how it was quite easy to understand her and how she couldn’t understand that part of her that liked Travis so much. I also liked the supporting characters, especially Ruby’s mom and her brother, and the rest of the book club members that she gets to know. It made me realize that I like wacky old people in books — they’re almost always such a hoot.

The book had a distinct summer feel that made me just relax whenever I go back to reading it. It’s such a comforting read even if some of the situations in the book were kind of heavy on the emotional side. I guess it’s the writing that made it so comforting — Caletti has a way with words that may seem flowery to some but it hit just the right spot for me. Case in point, one of my favorite parts:

You could see the magic we all had that day. The magic that comes with the force of a mission, lit with a fine and rare energy. The magic of purpose and of love in its purest form. Not television love, with its glare and hollow and sequined glint; not sex and allure, all high shoes and high drama, everything both too small and in too much excess, but just love. Love like rain, like the smell of tangerine, like a surprise found in your pocket. We were all part of that. (p.198)

Sigh. It made me want to be a part of that adventure that they were all about to embark on.

The story is reminiscent of the Letters to Juliet movie, and the road trip isn’t really anything like how John Green does it, but there’s a pretty satisfying ending that just made me sigh with happiness. I like that this isn’t just about romance, but really about love and the ties that bind us together. I especially liked how love was described in the context of books:

We are all a volume on a shelf of a library, a story unto ourselves, never possibly described with one word or even very accurately with thousands. A person is never as quiet or unrestrained as they seem, or as bad or good, as vulnerable or as strong, as sweet or as feisty; we are thickly layered, page upon lying page, behind simple covers. And love – it is not the book itself, but the binding. It can rip us apart or hold us together.

This is definitely the kind of book that I would recommend to any teenage girl who’s looking for herself, and the kind that I think my younger self would probably really like (understanding is another thing, though! :P). And this is one of those books that I will probably go back to every now and then when I’m feeling lost.

So, I totally take back what I said/pre-judged about Deb Caletti. I really, really enjoyed Honey, Baby, Sweetheart. It’s definitely one of my best reads for this year on the contemporary YA front. :) While I’m not ready to declare my love for the author just yet, I think I’m going to bump Wild Roses up my TBR soon. :)

Rating: (but very close to a 5)

Required Reading: July

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
Chachic’s Book Nook

United We Read

Like I mentioned in one of my previous posts, one of the many reasons why I haven’t been blogging lately is because I’ve been busy using my creative juices over at the Filipino ReaderCon website. This year, I decided to step up and have a bigger role in the conference just because it’s about something I feel passionate about. I became the head of the Online Promotions team, which wasn’t really different from what I did last year, save for a few more responsibilities.

So most of my responsibilities happened before the event: managing the website, helping out with the Filipino Readers’ Choice Awards, twitter, Facebook. It wasn’t that stressful, but it did zap me of some writing juices hence the silence in this blog. And that other blog.

But anyway. Last Saturday was D-day, and man, what a day it was. I love being a part of events, really, and events about books and reading really just takes the cake. Since my main responsibility for the day was to live tweet and to update Facebook every now and then, I was pretty relaxed. Especially since I had a very capable online promotions team who were ready to do the live tweeting for the different panels. :)

Online Promotions! Yay! (Photo from Ella)

So the morning sessions went by smoothly and Internet was running perfectly and tweets were coming in with the hashtag #filreadercon. I was tweeting, too, from my phone, and it was quite a tiring thing, but it gave me some time to listen to the panels. I just love the energy of the people, both online and offline.

And then, my good friend Celina tweeted this:

And then I double checked on my Tweetdeck:

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