Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Top Ten Bookish Worlds I’d Never Want to Live In

Top Ten Tuesday is a theme from That Artsy Reader Girl's blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

Oftentimes, a good book is characterized by the immersive world an author is able to create, one that transports readers into a realm unlike their own. Some of these worlds are so richly detailed and beloved that movie studios and theme parks have made a living off of recreating them for consumers (think Harry Potter World at Universal Studios). However, being engrossed in the world an author creates and wanting to actually live in it are two different things entirely. Below, I highlight - looking at both classic and contemporary titles - the top ten books whose worlds I personally would rather admire from a distance.

Yes, the world of Dickens is filled with memorable characters, a quirky made-up vernacular including words like “jog-trotty” and “slangular,” and delightful references to the oddities of life in Victorian England. But make no mistake: London in the middle of the 19th century was noted for its filth, stench, air pollution and overcrowded streets. This was not lost on Dickens at all, who in the first chapter of Bleak House imagines the dark smoke and soot-filled sky as having gone “into mourning…for the death of the sun.” Bleak, indeed.
There are a few positives about the post-pandemic world the characters in St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven find themselves in - not having to live in a technology-obsessed culture and being made to recognize the importance of art in life being chief among them. However, let’s be real: this is a world where over 99% of the world’s population has died as a result of a flu pandemic, and where the few clusters of people left have to go on without electricity or any of the modern conveniences that they knew before. Oh, and there’s also the possibility of getting killed by isolated gangs of survivors for food. No, thank you!
This book, set in the indeterminate future, features a world without color! Okay, if that wasn’t enough to convince of this world’s move-in undesirability, there is also the fact that every child gets their future vocation and spouse chosen for them by a mysterious committee, and no one understands genuine emotion or pain. While I’m glad that protagonist Jonas begins to be troubled by these aspects of his society, I’d rather not pay him a visit.
In an age beset with an over saturation of news (and the propensity for fake news), it is interesting to examine a world in which the opposite was true: a time when news was so hard to come by that a person could earn their keep by traveling from town to town to read the newspaper to people who either couldn’t read or couldn’t afford to buy a paper. This is exactly what protagonist Captain Jefferson Kidd does in this tale of post-Civil War Texas. While I do believe unplugging from our fast-paced news cycle from time to time would be beneficial, I admit it would be very hard to be that unplugged.
I would say this one is a fairly obvious one, right? Kids being asked to kill one another, and…I don’t even think I need to say any more. Just get me out of here.
A fantastic and imaginative tale, this book is perfect for just that - the imagination. Much as I would like to say that I would find living in Wonderland full of fun and adventure, I think if I really met the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit in real life I would still have circles in my eyes. A great adventure, but once again I’ll just read about it.
I readily admit that the chance to live in this world - a virtual reality full of references to 80s pop culture and video games - sounds very cool. But two things would hold me back if I ever got the chance to do so. One, the threat of antagonist Nolan Sorrento hunting me down, and two, the fact that I’m not very good at any of the video games mentioned in the book (even Pac-Man). I suppose Sorrento wouldn’t hunt me down because I’m not good at the games, so at least there’s that.
The world of Hatchet is one where a person has to live in the Canadian forest all alone and learn how to hunt, gather food, create a shelter and ward off predators completely on the fly. A very admirable endeavor, but a hard one to wish for.

Austen’s books are beloved by many, reproduced on film continually, and spoofed on to this day. But it is probably for the best that some of the customs of the Regency era are of the past. For example, the five Bennett sisters in Pride and Prejudice, young as they are, all have to find husbands because of the laws that existed about only male heirs receiving inherited property. The horrendous proposal by Mr. Collins could have been avoided were it not for that law!
It is easy to appreciate the world of Out of the Dust without wanting to live in it. Set in the “Dust Bowl” of Oklahoma during the Great Depression, a young girl through poetry recounts the often hard and difficult life her family has to endure. Yes, the severe dust storms are something I would never want to go through. But in all seriousness, this book shows through its heartbreaking and poignant moments that although the world can be hard to live in, there can be meaning and beauty.

~ Meg

This was Meg's first post on Mentor's Reader! 
We look forward to more bookish insight from her in the future! Welcome, Meg!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Small Screen Reads: Blue Smoke by Nora Roberts

Where Meredith reviews books and the 
made for TV movies they have been adapted into.

The BookReena Hale craves the fire. It calls to her and has followed her for her entire life, ever since her family’s restaurant burned in a blaze when she was a child. Now, decades later, Reena is an arson investigator. When a string of threatening phone calls and suspicious fires cross her path, Reena is pulled into a life or death game of cat and mouse. While this is occurring, she also finds herself falling for the handsome carpenter next door. Reena must unravel the mystery of a long standing grudge before anyone else she cares about succumbs to the fire. I’ve never had the inclination to read a Nora Roberts book before, so this was a new experience for me. Honestly, I get the appeal. Blue Smoke was plotty and fast-paced and kept me entertained during a four hour flight to Phoenix. I understand why they sell them in airport shops.

The MovieBlue Smoke the book, at 400 plus pages, is actually kind of long, so the movie was forced to condense a lot of the plot. They truncated Reena’s early life which is a significant chunk of the beginning of the book and this is done to the detriment of the story. As it turns out, the man setting fires and harassing Reena has actually been stalking her since childhood. He’s convinced she’s the reason his father went to prison (for starting that first fire at the family restaurant) and as revenge, he’s determined to bring tragedy down upon her at every turn. So by reducing the amount of set up, it kills some of the suspense. Blue Smoke aired in 2007 on Lifetime as part of an eight movie series of Nora Roberts’ adaptations. It stars Alicia Witt, who I have an absolute fondness for thanks to her multiple starring roles in a number of Hallmark Christmas movies, as Reena Hale.

Left on the Cutting Room Floor – This book was actually pretty violent. The antagonist commits a number of gruesome murders and even rapes a woman repeatedly before setting her on fire (while she’s still alive). I was surprised that Nora Roberts went there. I hear her name and I immediately associate it with Debbie Macomber or Fern Michaels. That was an incorrect assumption. The movie reduces the body count and opts out of depicting any sort of graphic violence against women which is probably for the best.

Adapted for the Silver Screen – Certain chapters are told from the disembodied narration of the killer while he stalks Reena and kills the people she loves. The movie chooses to adapt this by shooting first person video and dubbing some gravely, heavy breathing voice over on top of it. The results are…less than effective. It ends up looking clunky and ridiculous while the actors smile widely as they talk to an unsteady hand camera, instead of being menacing.

Book/Movie/Both/Neither – If you find yourself stuck in jury duty or a doctor’s office waiting room, this is the kind of book you’d want to have with you. As much as I like Alicia Witt, I can’t recommend this as something entertaining to watch. I think because of the reduced backstory shown in the movie, Reena’s character lacks some of the depth and darkness that haunts her into her adulthood, which in turn, makes the ending less dramatic.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Slay a Lion to Get Early

Top Ten Tuesday is a theme from That Artsy Reader Girl's blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic
I am pretty avid about the books I read. I closely follow my favorite authors and series and put book release dates on my personal calendar, because the day a books comes out is often an EVENT in my life that needs to be planned around. In fact, Tuesday is my favorite day of the week because it’s New Book Day! 

So, what books am I waiting for? Here is a list of the ten books I would slay a lion to get early…

Court of Frost and Starlight (Court of Thorns and Roses, book 4) by Sarah J Maas – (May 1) – Fairies, magic, love, courage, honor, and treachery abound in this series. The Court of Thorns and Roses series started as a fairy tale retelling and has grown solidly past that into its own mythos. Maas is a great writer. I recommend everything she has written (both teen and adult).

Dark Queen (Jane Yellowrock, book 12) by Faith Hunter – (May 1) – After 11 books, I am solidly invested in the Jane Yellowrock series, starring a motorcycle, riding vampire slaying, skinwalker (shapechanger). A reader would need to start at the beginning, but I highly recommend the action packed urban fantasy series.

Planet Dragos by Thea Harrison – (May 14) – Who waits in breathless anticipation for a novella? I do. I cannot wait to see shapeshifting Dragos and Pia again. Their developing relationship has been one of my favorite shapeshifter paranormal romances. Harrison has said that this is going to be the last story from their points of view, so with sadness and bated breath, I wait.

Venom in the Veins (Elemental Assassins, #17) by Jennifer Estep – (June 12) – Gin, an assassin who has unwillingly become the nominal head of the magical underworld, is a memorable character and all of the Elemental Assassin books are quick, fun, exciting reads. I really enjoy the series and recommend them to someone looking for an engaging Urban Fantasy read. Even after 17 books, I look forward to each new book.

Smoke and Iron (Great Library) – Rachel Caine – (July 3) – Evil Librarians! What more can this non-evil librarian ask for? This series is slated for teens, but every adult I know who has read it has enjoyed it. I mean, who doesn’t love an evil librarian?

Shadow’s Bane (Dorina Basarab, # 4) by Karen Chance – (August 7) – Dorina, a dhampir (half vampire/half human), is trying to figure out how she fits in a world of humans, demons, magicians, and vampires. It is a wild ride. Book #3 of this series came out in 2012 and yet readers are still excited about a new book in the series in 2018… which just tells you how good this series is. And, for the record, I am very, very excited.

Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels #10) by Ilona Andrews – (August 28) – Ilona Andrews is my #1 favorite author(s). I wait in breathless anticipation for anything out by this writing duo (husband and wife). Considering this upcoming book is slated to have the long anticipated battle between Kate Daniels and her world-conquering father, Roland, I would kill to get this book early. August 28th can’t come fast enough.

Leverage in Death (In Death, book 47) – J D Robb – (September 4) – A near future, sci-fi-esque police procedural, murder mystery, romance. There are 47 books in this series. 47! And my friends and I fight over who gets to read the new book first EVERY time a new one comes out. Me! Me! I’m first this time!

Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer, #2) by Lani Taylor – (October 2) – This is the sequel to Strange the Dreamer which was a truly haunting tale of gods, revenge, family, and hope. I cannot wait to see where Taylor takes the story. Since Taylor is known for twists, turns, and unpredictable storylines, I am sure it is going to end up nowhere I anticipate.

Uncompromising Honor (Honor Harrington) – David Weber – (October 2) – A new Honor Harrington book! A new Honor Harrington book! Spaceship war! The Star Kingdom of Manticore vs. the Solarian League. This epic battle has been in the making for years. It’s been five years since the last book and I need my Honor Harrington fix. Get me this book NOW!

These are the ten books I’d slay a lion to get early. Magic Triumphs even has a shape-shifting lion in it. But, I really don’t want to slay Curran. He’s too much fun to read about... and it would make Kate mad. I guess I’m going to have to find a different lion to slay.

~Mary P.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

TTT: 10 (+1) Books I Could Reread Forever

I reread books often and people ask me, “Why reread? What can a person get out of something they have already read?” I reread books because people change over time. I am a different person every time I read a book, so each new read allows me to explore my changing self and gain new insights I didn’t catch the first time… or even the 10th time. And, sometimes, stories are just fun romps that need to be enjoyed multiple times. Here are my favorites:

Top Ten Tuesday is a theme from That Artsy Reader Girl's blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

Magic’s Pawn – Mercedes Lackey
o This is one of my favorite books of all time. I reread this book every couple of years… and tear up every time. In the first book in "The Last Herald Mage" series, Vanyel, an uptight, snobbish heir who doesn’t want to rule, is sent to the capital to “learn how to govern.” In reality, he is being sent into exile. In his banishment, Vanyel finds heroism, magic, love, and tragedy in the unlikeliest of places.

Magic Bites – Ilona Andrews
o In a dystopian world where magic alternates with technology, mercenary Kate Daniels has to deal with shape-shifters, magic, murderous vampires and necromancers, and the threat of a empire-ruling father who wants her dead. Urban fantasy (with a little paranormal romance) at is best.

Time of the Dark – Barbara Hambly
o History grad student Gil Patterson and biker Rudy get pulled into a medieval world being terrorized by the Dark: amorphous creatures who strip humans of their flesh and blood. Gil and Rudy team up with wizard Ingold Inglorian to attempt to save Darwath from the horrible creatures. This is one of my all-time go to books.

Written in Red – Anne Bishop
o Humans are not the dominant species on earth, the Others are… and the Others have been known to eat a human or two when annoyed. When the Others meet human Blood Prophet, Meg Corbyn, who is on the run from the people keeping her in Benevolent Ownership (i.e. legalized slavery) everything changes. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a great read.

March Upcountry – John Ringo
o Roger MacClintock, third in line for the Throne of Man, has been sent on a diplomatic mission (mostly to get him out of the way). When the spaceship he is traveling on is sabotaged, Roger and his marine guard crash on Marduk. Now, the marines need to get the spoiled prince across a hostile planet filled with horrific alien creatures determined to kill all things human in order to return him to his Empress mother. Let the march begin. I love spaceship war. Add in bad boy princes and it only gets better.

On Basilisk Station – David Weber
o Spaceship captain, Honor Harrington, has been given an impossible assignment. She needs to patrol and protect an entire planetary system with one ship. But Harrington has never been one to shirk her duty, so she is going to protect the system, no matter how many enemies she may make or the cost. And... it will be costly – not only in money, but in lives. My go-to sci-fi recommendation. No one who loves science fiction should miss this one.

With the Lightnings – David Drake
o Interplanetary War! Daniel Leary, a military political appointee, wants nothing more than drink and women on his first real deployment. Librarian Adele Mundy just wants to get her new library up and running. Unfortunately their plans are derailed when Kostrama, the planet they are on, erupts in civil war. Spaceship war and a deadly librarian! What more can one ask for?

Iron Duke – Meljean Brook
o This steampunk paranormal romance is one of my favorites of the genre. Mina, a detective inspector with Scotland Yard, is called to a suspicious death at the Iron Duke’s manor. Who would threaten the Iron Duke, the person responsible for England’s freedom from the Mongol Empire? Mina will need all of her detective skills to find out.

Moon Called – Patricia Briggs
o Mercedes Thompson is an ordinary VW mechanic. What’s not so ordinary? She also happens to be a coyote shape-shifter. In a world full of vampires, werewolves, and fey, what is one lone coyote shifter to do? Get in trouble, that’s what. Urban fantasy/paranormal romance at its best.

Angel’s Blood – Nalini Singh
o Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux has been hired by the dangerously beautiful Archangel Raphael – to track an evil archangel. As a human, Elena is dangerously outclassed, by both her employer and her prey. Urban fantasy + paranormal romance + adventure = awesome. Add in angels and vampires and you get an outstanding read.

To Ride Pegasus – Anne McCaffrey
o People always tout McCaffrey’s Pern series, but I find I have more appreciation for her Pegasus and her Tower and Hive series. I mean dragons are cool and all, but the everyday life of psychics in a near future where they are struggling for respectability has always struck a chord with me. All of Anne McCaffrey’s writings are awesome and well worth (re)reading, but this one and its sequel Pegasus in Flight are my favorites.

Happy rereading everyone!

Mary P.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

TTT: Books I Loved But Will Never Re-Read

In creating today's Top Ten Tuesday list, I realized that these books I loved, but won't re-read were mostly the books that made me cry. Now, I'm a sensitive reader and tend to become invested in my books, so it's not really that unusual for a book to hit me right in the feels, but most of these did so in a way I just can't bring myself to re-visit. All great books that you should definitely read though!

Top Ten Tuesday is a theme from That Artsy Reader Girl's blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
I enjoy historical fiction and I really did enjoy reading this story, but parts of it were so gruesome I can't read it again. The book has multiple perspectives, including a Nazi doctor and a young woman experimented on by the Nazis while in a camp. Someone in my book club recently suggested it and I told them, "I guess we can read it if you guys are really really interested, but it'll be hard for me." (So hopefully they don't choose it!)
http://discover.mentorpl.org/iii/encore/record/C__Rb1307224__Sgirl%20you%20left%20behind__P0%2C1__Orightresult__U__X7?lang=eng&suite=cobaltThe Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes
Same as above, really. This book has two stories, both sad. The first story is in Occupied France during WWI, the second story is in the early 2000s London. (see here for more on it.) I loved this book, but I became far too invested in it while reading and it ripped my heart out many times over. So for that reason, I cannot re-read it. Ever.
The Returned by Jason Mott
Deceased people return to the world, unaware of their own deaths, and wanting to resume their lives with their loved ones. You may start to sense a trend here...this book was so good, but just so incredibly sad. Because of that, I don't know if I could go through it again.
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Again with the grim historical fiction. This tale was about a young white woman who had been raised as a slave, with the slaves on a plantation. As a child she's one of them, but as she grows, her place on the plantation changes. This was an incredibly well-written book, but there were some parts that were just so dark, I don't know if I could revisit it again.
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
This book was my mountain to overcome. It took me a year to read, on and off. The book is really two books in one, and as I was nearing the end of the first story, I became far too invested and worried about the characters living in the space station after the assumed destruction of Earth. It was a book to tackle.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
I didn't think I'd enjoy this tale of a college professor who slowly succumbs to early onset Alzheimer's, but the author really hooked me with the writing style. The book was written from Alice's perspective, which allowed me as a reader to be just as confused as Alice was. However, I don't think it's a book I'd enjoy revisiting.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
I'm starting to realize that well-written sad books are apparently my downfall. This story is about two high school students that meet at the top of the school's bell tower. Both are going through a difficult time and they come together to help each other cope. But again, sad sad book that totally made me ugly cry. I can't go through that again.
Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore
I really enjoy Christopher Moore's books; they're incredibly complex, intelligent, and funny. This book was a continuation of his book Fool which I had also loved. I enjoyed both books, but they just weren't the type of books I felt the need to re-visit.
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
I loved Laurie Halse Anderson's previous books Speak and Winter Girls, so I was very excited to learn she had released a new teen novel. This book hit me at a time when I related a bit too much to the main character's struggles, so again with the tears. Well-written and definitely recommended, just not for re-reading.
Sweep series by Cate Tiernan
As a teen, I was a little bit obsessed with this book series. I was fascinated by the witchcraft, the love triangles, everything. I don't think I could ever re-read them because, as an adult, I'm kind of afraid of what I'd find in these books. I can't imagine I'd be as hooked on the magic of the stories now, and I don't want to taint my memories of these books I loved.

So that's my list. What books did you love, but won't re-read?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that take place in foreign countries

Top Ten Tuesday is a theme from That Artsy Reader Girl's blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

Okay, this is a challenge because, as some of you will recall, I did a post on bookish locales a few months ago and went through a lot of the obvious choices. Still, this post isn’t so much meant to be about variety of places, as much as about a variety of books, so I’ll probably end up doubling up here and there. Once again, the reason this is interesting (at least to me) is that I really love books that have a pronounced sense of place. This is why, for instance, I’ve talked about Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind in a number of these posts. Zafón’s books (and that one in particular) are intimately connected with Barcelona in Franco’s Spain. Anyway, that’s what I’m looking for, so let’s see if I can find some other good stuff.

1. Kate Atkinson, Started Early, Took My Dog
This is the fourth of Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie books. They’re all set in the United Kingdom, although Atkinson likes to shift things around. The first in the series, Case Histories, was set in Cambridge, while the next two (One Good Turn and When Will There Be Good News?) are set in Edinburgh. The Brodie novels all have an air of melancholy, and this is the darkest of the lot. It’s set in and around Leeds, one of the bleaker industrial areas in England, but even when Brodie gets out into the country things are dark. Still, Atkinson has an almost unmatched talent for weaving complex stories that manage to come together without feeling the need to tie up every thread.

2. Colin Dexter, The Way through the Woods
Many people know Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels through the television versions, in which the eponymous detective is played with perfect grumpiness by John Thaw. The books have a little different flavor, but the essentials are the same, particularly the setting: the Thames Valley in and around Oxford. As you might expect from the university connection, there is a pronounced literary element to this series. In The Way through the Woods, Morse and his partner DS Lewis are brought in to look into a cold case in which a poem has been found among the effects of a missing woman. There is some literary interpretation to be done, but also a lot of good old fashioned detective work and Dexter’s ability to combine the two kept people coming back to the Morse books through thirteen volumes.

3. Patrick Taylor, An Irish Country Doctor
Taylor’s series is set in the small town of Ballybucklebo in Northern Ireland. They begin with Barry Laverty, a newly qualified MD, taking up a position in a small town and learning its people and its ways. There is a passing similarity to James Herriot’s All Creaturs novels, substituting life in small town Ireland for that of the Yorkshire dales. But Herriot’s books focus on the relationships between people and animals, while Taylor’s books are about the ways, sometimes tense but more often than not heartwarming, that people relate to each other. Taylor’s writing is straightforward and unassuming, and his characters are as well. This is not to say that the plots are bland, but rather that he gives his characters a lot of credit for breadth of spirit and warmth of soul.

4. Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend
This the first in Ferrante’s series of novels about girls growing up in Naples in the 1950s. They made a big splash a couple of years ago, and rightly so. Ferrante’s writing is beautifully crisp and conveys with precision the lives and conflicts of people in the very inward looking communities of postwar Sicily. Ferrante’s characters struggle with school and boys, but also with violence both inside and outside the family, with the dangers posed by organized crime (even if it’s only organized at the neighborhood level) and with the need to find one’s way in a world in which girls are mostly being groomed for marriage at the earliest possible point. Ferrante mixes interesting and varied storylines with an expert eye for detail and the result is gripping and beautiful.

5. John LeCarré, The Constant Gardener
LeCarré cut his teeth in the British Foreign Service in the days when the sun was finally setting on the empire. It clearly left its mark. Throughout his books, from his series centered on the MI 6 operative George Smiley to his freestanding works, LeCarré makes place crucial to his stories, from London, to Cold War Berlin, to the Far East. The Constant Gardener starts off in Africa and then moves all over, all the while harkening back to the problems of the less developed world and the role of countries and corporations in making them worse or better. The main character’s search for the reasons behind his wife’s murder are told in a number of places and time frames and LeCarré lends the whole story the feel of a spy novel without it being about an actual spy.

6. Hans Fallada, Every Man Dies Alone
This book is set in a foreign country both in the sense that it’s set in Germany and that it’s set in Nazi Germany (see David Lowenthal’s The Past is a Foreign Country for the meaning of that gag). Written in the space of a month or so, Fallada’s novel is inspired by the exploits of a married couple who left anti-Nazi propaganda in public places as a means of resistance. Their goal was to overcome the isolation that totalitarianism forces on people and, given that doing so was punishable by death, it took incredible courage to do so. It’s worth reading for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the way that it lets the reader in to the connections between the topography of Berlin and the flavor of life in Nazi Germany.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Small Screen Reads: An Uncommon Grace

If you’ve spent any amount of time around the reference desk, you’ve probably figured out that I have a great love of mediocre television movies, Hallmark channel in particular. I’m not sure where this fascination came from, probably watching a lot of TV movies with my mom in high school. So this has led to the blog's newest series. 

Where Meredith reviews books and the 
made for TV movies they have been adapted into.

The Book
To kick off this series, I’ve chosen An Uncommon Grace, a 2012 book by Serena B. Miller that was turned into a Hallmark movie last year. An Uncommon Grace is just one entry in the incredibly extensive Amish fiction genre. I have a soft spot for inspirational historical fiction, usually books set in the Western frontier. These are in a related but different subset than Amish fiction, but they both fall under the general umbrella of Inspirational fiction. That being said, I rarely read Amish fiction so, frankly, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I didn’t realize until I was finished, but Serena B. Miller was also the author of a trilogy of books set in the Michigan Northwoods during the Civil War that I liked quite a bit.
Levi Troyer lives with his family, members of the Schwartzentruber Amish, in Ohio. Tragedy strikes when an armed intruder storms into his home, an encounter that leaves his stepfather dead and his mother gravely injured. The incident greatly shakes Levi and causes him to question his commitment to the incredibly strict church. Also forcing him to rethink his life is Grace Connor, an Englischer woman and army nurse who helped save his mother on that terrible day. Their paths continue to cross while Levi’s mother recovers and despite their best efforts, they can’t help but be drawn to each other.

The Movie
An Uncommon Grace, produced under Hallmark’s Movies & Mysteries banner is an impressively faithful adaptation of Miller’s book. Personally, I find that the Movies & Mysteries channel movies tend to be slightly higher quality than those on regular Hallmark these days, especially in the time since shifting their popular Signed, Sealed, Delivered film series to Movies & Mysteries. The movie stars Jes Macallan, an actress who is also currently enjoying a guest starring role on the CW series Legends of Tomorrow and is someone I can believe as having been in the military. I think that goes a long way toward making An Uncommon Grace extremely watchable.

Left on the Cutting Room Floor
Throughout the book, Levi and Grace get into a few friendly arguments about faith, family, and society. These intellectual debates end up challenging each other’s point of view and it explains how these two incredibly different people end up falling in love. The movie lacks most of these exchanges which ends up being a detriment to their relationship.

Adapted for the Silver Screen
Apparently, Hallmark found the end of Miller’s book a little too dark. In the book, Levi is shunned by the members of his church when the bishop’s daughter, Zillah, makes an accusation that Levi has gotten her pregnant out of wedlock. This becomes the final straw for Levi who then makes the decision to leave the Amish church completely. The movie wraps things up more neatly, Zillah admits her (less serious) lie and Levi and his family choose to attend the less strict Old Order Amish church together.


This is one of those perfect lazy Sunday afternoon movies that is nice to watch without being completely mind numbing. The actors are all capable and the story is entertaining; it’s more or less exactly what one expects from watching an above average Hallmark movie. I didn’t think I’d get much out of reading the book, but I was absolutely wrong. Miller fleshed out the relationship between Levi and Grace and there was at least one romantic sequence (Levi rescues Grace from a flooded river) that was absent from the movie. I also learned some things about the Schwartzentruber Amish; that they exist, for example. Having grown up in Pennsylvania and living in Ohio for the last five, I was kind of shocked I have never at least heard about them. (For more info, click here.) So I felt like I came away from this book with more knowledge than before.

Keep an eye out for more book to movie posts in Small Screen Reads here on Mentor's Reader.