The Elite and The One, by Kiera Cass

eliteThe Selection’s The Elite and The One
by Kiera Cass
Pub Date April 23, 2013 & May 6, 2014

In my first post, I wrote about The Selection by Kiera Cass. In my crazy desire to read all sorts of princess stories, I couldn’t forget the next two books in The Selection series. I also had to write about them together since I read the two books in two days- I literally went back to the library on my day off just to get The One after I finished The Elite in one night. I couldn’t put it down until I knew what happened between America Singer and Prince Maxon.


The oneFor those of you who haven’t read the series, The Selection is based in a future America where our current government has collapsed and is now a monarchy that separates the population into eight castes, each with a different type of job and social standing, from the top number one being royalty and the bottom eight being peasants. When the prince is of marrying age, a competition is held where 35 girls from different castes and areas of the country are sent to compete for the prince’s hand in marriage. America Singer, a number five caste member, is chosen to compete in the selection for Prince Maxon’s hand in marriage.

Reading these books, I found myself incredibly grateful that dating is not like this in reality, similar to the reality tv show The Bachelor where one guy (or girl depending on the season) goes on dates with multiple people and it is expected that he will kiss, if not all of the candidates, most of them. What a weird dating ritual: hanging out all day long with girls who are competing with you for one guy and all the power and wealth he will share with you. America has to figure out if she truly loves Maxon and if she can be a proper princess before loses Maxon forever.

Honestly, America Singer drove me crazy, which is one of the reasons I truly loved this series. In the tv series The Bachelor, no one really questions whether or not being chosen is a good thing. Yet, America questions it all the time. She is a realistic girl with confidence issues who often compares herself to others. She is confused about what she wants and what she can handle. Throughout the series, you can see her confidence grow, although she is constantly making her relationship with Maxon more complicated. Dangerous revolutions, political intrigue, and secret associations are a constant part of this budding romance, and I could not drag myself away from these books. I am so excited for the 5th book in this series to come out this May.


Wide-Awake Princess, by E.D. Baker

Wide Awake PrincessThe Wide Awake Princess
by E.D. Baker
Pub Date: May 11, 2010

Magic, fairy tales, and fun fill the pages of this retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Only this time, the real hero is not the prince but the faithful younger sister of the ‘most beautiful princess in all the land.’

Princess Annie is not like any of the other princes, princesses, kings, and queens that she knows. All the others, including Annie’s parents and older sister, were blessed by fairies to be beautiful, charming, and amazing dancers. After Annie’s older sister was cursed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and cause all the castle to fall asleep, Annie’s fairy felt it was better to bless Annie to not be able to have good or bad magic affect her. In daily life, this means that all the magic around Annie diminishes, so her parents and sister do not like Annie to be around them for too long or they lose their fairy gifts. Fortunately, Annie is rather resilient considering her family neglect.

When the entire castle falls asleep under her sister’s curse, Princess Annie realizes that she cannot let her family stay asleep for 100 years. She needs to wake them up before someone tries to take over the kingdom. So, Annie goes on a journey to find the witch that can reverse the curse and to gather as many princes as she can to see if any of them can give her sister a true love’s kiss and wake the castle full of snoring people.

Princess Annie is a great example of someone who finds herself and her strengths by helping others. She has an optimistic attitude and a great ability to see the truth behind the lies. E.D. Baker has a great way of showing people realistically without delving into the darker side of humanity. She shows human weaknesses of jealousy, envy, anger, and fear; yet, these traits make the characters more loveable and seem braver because of the way they still do what is right despite these feelings. I highly recommend this book to young girls or those who are young at heart, especially for those who want to find a good story with a strong female protagonist.

Shelf Evaluation: Amanda Mae

Amanda Mae Shelf Evaluation A “shelf evaluation” seems to be the kind of thing nerdy book lovers enjoy – getting to talk about their books. I saw other book sites and blogs do these, and I thought it would be a fun exercise for the Not Your Relief Society Book Club community! What I have featured here is a portion of my “church books” shelf, books related to religion and Mormonism. (Being a former bookseller, I tend to shelve my books by genre.) So let’s give this a try!

Starting on the far left, you will see my copy of Daughters in My Kingdom with The Beginning of Better Days barely making the frame. I devoured both books when they became available, and my DIMK is looking a little worn with Post-It’s stuck in it from when I’ve prepared talks and lessons. I’m delighted with the renewed interest in the history of the Relief Society, and I’ve made it a mini mission of mine to encourage all women in the church to learn more about the organization of the Third Hour they attend. It’s followed by Sheri Dew’s Women and the Priesthood and Neylan McBain’s Women At Church. If you’re interested in learning more about the experience of women in the LDS church, these are also required reading. Both tackle similar issues from different angles, and both offer invaluable advice and encouragement. I definitely took a pencil to both of them. Continue reading

Rise of the Rocket Girls, by Nathalia Holt

Rise of the Rocket Girls Nathalia HoltRise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, From Missiles to the Moon to Mars
by Nathalia Holt
Pub Date: April 5, 2016

It’s become quite apparent to me in the last year or so that I am really into reading about the early space program. I’ve never had much of an aptitude or interest in math or science, but movies like Apollo 13 and Rocket Boys most likely had an impact on me. You may remember I reviewed The Astronaut Wives Club a ways back – this book looks at the space program from an entirely different angle.

I had only been made vaguely aware (through Tumblr) of the women who were part of the early space program. I really had no idea to what extent until I read this book. The narrative focuses on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, or JPL, that began to crystallize with some grad students at CalTech tinkering with rockets in the 1940s and eventually went under the umbrella of NASA. Barbara Canright was a skilled mathematician when she and her husband were approached by the rocket research group to join them, and began a long-standing tradition that continued for decades of JPL’s computer department being made up entirely of women.

Computers, as used in this sense, was the name for people who compute. Crunching numbers, figuring out missile trajectory and the like. Computers as we know them know were still not entirely trusted, took up whole rooms, and weren’t used as much. As JPL grew, the head of their computing department, an older woman named Macie Roberts, made the decision to only hire women. It was a “man’s job” to be sure, but the company had stumbled upon a rare opportunity for talented women to contribute their skills, and it was recognized that the all-women staff worked so well together it was practically a sorority. These women knew their math, loved math, and some could have qualified to be engineers at JPL except that they were women.

I particularly loved the personal stories of these women woven into the history of JPL and it’s work with NASA. Back in the 1950s, it was rare for a woman to continue working once her pregnancy became obvious, and especially once the baby was born. But some of the women of JPL loved their work so much, and were so needed, they found ways to balance work and motherhood (the ones who were successful at it had supportive husbands). One woman, Janez Lawson, was the first black woman hired as a computer at JPL, and was certainly overqualified for the position. She excelled so well at her that the company sent her to IBM to get more training. In fact, the women at JPL were the ones to jump on the emerging technology before the men, enabling many of them to eventually gain the job title of engineer.

These bright women started out plotting out data on graph paper and filling up notebooks and notebooks of equations, and eventually became the computer programmers who wrote the code that produced it digitally. These women participated in the company beauty contest “Miss Guided Missile” (mostly a tongue-in-cheek affair), and later on fretted with the decision to wear pant suits. These women worked long, hard hours with numbers and equations and problems I certainly cannot comprehend, having husbands and family members watch the kids while they completely projects, and because of them we have photos of the other planets in our solar system, and took twelve men to walk on the moon, and have the International Space Station. One woman who stayed at JPL for decades was actually a college dropout, and was touched one day when some correspondence arrived addressing her as “Dr.” She was so knowledgeable, and so well-regarded, she had mistakenly been given a few extra degrees.

With the on-going worry that there aren’t enough women in the sciences, this is a fabulous book to be inspired by. The author goes into some details about the projects the women worked on, but not too much for those of us whose eyes glaze over when things get too technical. We’re introduced to a variety of women from over the years at JPL, each with another story of the skills she brought and the sacrifices she made to further space exploration.

The movie Hidden Figures is currently filming, about the women of color who worked at NASA at about this same time period. SO STOKED FOR THIS. And the book it’s based off of hasn’t even been published yet – you better believe it’s getting added to my TBR pile!

Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters, by Shannon Hale

Princess AcademyPrincess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters
by Shannon Hale
Pub Date: March 3, 2015

Years ago, I fell in love with Princess Academy. Miri, Peder, and Britta— they are some of my favorite imaginary people. When Palace of Stone, the 2nd book in the series, came out I finished it in a day. When I discovered a 3rd book was coming out, I knew I needed to read it. It did not disappoint, and I must say, I love Miri and Peder even more after reading this book.

The book begins with Miri and Peder ready to leave the palace and go home to Mount Eskel. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned. King Fader calls Miri back for an assignment: start a princess academy to prepare a royal girl to marry a foreign king and stop a war. Miri is to use her gift as a teacher to start a new Princess Academy in…. a swamp. Three of Prince Steffan’s distant cousins live in an isolated swamp, and they must be trained to act like princesses so that the foreign king may choose one to be his bride and save the country Danland from war. Of course, nothing is what it seems and Miri is tested beyond she can imagine.

Miri is one of the most optimistic, level-headed, resourceful people I have ever encountered in books. She takes everything in stride, from learning how to live in a swamp to navigating the political games of governments. Miri’s relationship with Peder is a romance that is simple and beautiful; my heart sighs whenever they are together.  The story is intriguing with enough twists and turns to make it interesting, and, as a librarian, I love that problems are often solved using knowledge gained from books.

So if you are looking for a sweet story with a mystery and plenty of surprises, this is an excellent choice. If you are anything like me, you won’t be able to put it down.