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My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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My Progress:

23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

21 / 50 books. 42% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

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43 / 50 books. 86% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

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38 / 52 books. 73% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

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25 / 40 books. 63% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

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2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

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9 / 25 books. 36% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

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6 / 26.2 miles (second lap). 23% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

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21 / 100 books. 21% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

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59 / 165 books. 36% done!
Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mormon Mentions: Rae Carson

If you're not sure what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain:  My name is Susan and I'm a Mormon (you've seen the commercials, right?).  As a member of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church), I'm naturally concerned with how my religion is portrayed in the media.  Because this blog is about books, every time I see a reference to Mormonism in a book written by someone who is not a member of my church, I highlight it here.  Then, I offer my opinion—my insider's view—of what the author is saying.  It's my chance to correct misconceptions, expound on principles of the Gospel, and even to laugh at my (sometimes) crazy Mormon culture.


Most Western or Western-ish novels mention Mormon pioneers, as they played an indelible part in the settlement of the western United States.  So, it's no big surprise that these iconic travelers make an appearance in Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson.  

Warning:  The following may be a little spoiler-y.  Proceed with caution!

Toward the end of the novel, Leah and company approach Independence Rock, a large, granite monolith in Wyoming.  Many real travelers carved their names in the rock.  Some of these inscriptions can still be seen today.  While discussing the rock, Jefferson says:

"The Mormons came this way.  And folks going to Oregon.  People have been passing by this rock for a long time." (quote at Location 4077 in e-ARC).

Independence Rock was often mentioned in journals kept by Mormon pioneers.  My own ancestors passed by it.  Although I've never visited the site, I'd love to someday.

*Book cover from Barnes & Noble; Independence Rock image from Wikipedia

Clean, Compelling Adventure an Exciting Start to a Golden YA Series

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"When there's gold to be had, you can't trust anyone.  Not a single soul" (15%).

Like a dowser is drawn to water, Leah Westfall can sense gold.  It's a handy skill to have.  And a dangerous one.  Although her peculiar magic helped the Westfalls buy their large Georgia homestead, Leah has to keep her abilities secret.  If no one knows what the 15-year-old can do, no one can exploit her.  

Then, Leah's parents are brutally murdered, their home ransacked.  It's obvious that someone knows about the Westfalls' secret stash of gold.  But who?  When Leah's oily Uncle Hiram conveniently appears on the scene, Leah can't contain her disgust.  She can't prove he's responsible for her parents' death, but that doesn't make it any less true.  With Hiram as her guardian, Leah knows she'll never be free.  She refuses to become his gold-finding pet.  

Disguising herself as a boy, "Lee" takes off for sunny California, where she hopes to blend in with other prospectors hunting their fortunes.  In a place where gold lust prevails, she should be able to camouflage her secret skill sufficiently.  Leah's best friend, Jefferson McCauley, is somewhere along the trail; she prays that, somehow, fate will allow them to meet up again.  In the meantime, she must fend for herself on a long, hard journey filled with dangers of every kind.  With Hiram hot on her tail, it's a desperate run for her life.  Can she escape her uncle's greedy clutches?  Will she make it to California unscathed?  And what of Jefferson?  Can she find the boy who's always loved her in the vast wilderness of an untamed land?  Anything can happen on the long, perilous trek—especially to a girl with a priceless, golden gift.

I love books like Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first novel in Rae Carson's Gold Seer Trilogy.  Starring a brave, hard-working heroine, it's a story brimming over with action, adventure, romance and, most important of all, heart.  Who cares if it's not the most original tale in the world?  I loved it from start to finish.  The story is engaging, the characters endearing (with a few exceptions), the historical details intriguing.  It's an excellent novel that will appeal to teens and adults, while being clean enough to hand to tweens.  Did I mention that I adored it?  Well, I did.

(Readalikes:  Like a River Glorious and Into the Bright Unknown (coming October 2017) by Rae Carson; also reminded me of Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee and Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Walk On Earth a Stranger from the generous folks at HarperCollins via those at Edelweiss.  Thank you!

Intriguing Coming-of-Age Story Based on Author's Real Life Mixed-Race Experience

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After a traumatic event that leaves her an orphan, 11-year-old Rachel Morse moves from Chicago to Portland, Oregon, to live with her paternal grandmother.  Having been raised by her white-skinned Danish mother, not her African-American father, the bi-racial tween experiences culture shock living in the "black" part of her new city.  With her light brown skin and blue eyes, no one's quite sure what to make of Rachel.  Least of all herself.  As she struggles to deal with not just her grief, but also finding her identity—racially, socially, emotionally, economically—she will make some startling discoveries about herself, her family, and what really happened on that rooftop in Chicago.
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, a debut novel by Heidi W. Durrow, is loosely based on a real news story and strongly based on the author's experience as a person of mixed race.  Because of the latter, Rachel's voice exudes authenticity, making her an intriguing narrator.  Her story is compelling not just because of the mystery that runs through the novel, but also because it's a tender tale about growing up and all the confusion, chaos, and consternation that comes along with that rite of passage.  Race and identity are big themes in the PEN/Bellwether Prize-winning book (2008); the points it makes on the subjects are both interesting and very discussion-worthy.  Although The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is sad and depressing, overall I found it engrossing.  Not amazing, but absorbing enough to keep my attention, meaningful enough to make me think.

(Readalikes:  Reviews compare it to The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, which I haven't read.)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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