The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale: Here is a book that captivated me enough to get me to sit down and read it in one sitting. That right there should tell you that, even though I tend to be a fast reader, this book is a whole lot of fun and also that this is a book for entertainment and didn't require any note-taking or having a dictionary at close hand.
I really like Shannon Hale's storytelling. She has a way of keeping me looking round the corner to see what will happen next and just when I start to worry that things might get sappy and predictable, she throws a little something in to shake things up. One aspect of this book that I feel to draw attention to is her unabashed mixing of the culture and beliefs of Mormonism into a mainstream, not-intended-for-a-Mormon-audience book. It is essential to the story and she handles it very well in my opinion. She is respectful-nothing she chose to include made me, a Mormon, feel uncomfortable. She is forthright-she doesn't try to dumb down Mormonism or make excuses for what the main character believes. Try to imagine Fiddler on the Roof without Judaism. You can't. The story goes away. So, why not have a story in which the religious beliefs of the main character are essential to the story? Mormonism gets misunderstood and covered sort of weirdly by the mainstream media at times, so I like that this author decided to just write it as it is. Go Sister Hale!
Beyond the religious elements, the story was fun for me. This main character is a Mormon housewife who meets her favorite English heartthrob actor. Hello? who hasn't thought about THAT a time or two, Mormon or not? For me, the image in my mind was a sort of cross between Hugh Grant and Rupert Everett. It was interesting to vicariously live out this kind of fantasy and see where it led. Again, because of Hale's skill as a storyteller, it turned out well for me and made for a lovely day of utter escape and imagination. And really, isn't that why we read?