Reading, Reviews

East of the Sun, South of Good: A “Why I Didn’t Finish It” Review

Last night, I found myself back in the book mood. I decided to take another whack at East of the Sun by Julia Gregson. This time, I couldn’t blame not being in the book mood for my distaste of the book. East of the Sun is not for East of the Sunme.[ This is why I’m scared to do Advanced Copy Reviews…I just can’t put myself through certain books.] I did like the idea of having a good look at what the British Empire was like for English wives in India. It was an interesting concept, looking at “The Fishing Fleet,” those debutantes who had not successfully reeled in husbands during “the season” in London and so had to go to India, where the ratio of British men to women was 3:1. The book definitely had some good qualities. However, the characters and the plot line were too thin and broke before they had a chance to reel in this reader.

The main characters are Rose, Tor, Viva, Guy, and Jack. Rose is heading to India because, being an English beauty, she met Jack on his leave in London during the season, and agreed to be his wife. She is traveling with Tor, her husband-less, lovelorn cousin, and Viva, their chaperone. Viva happens to be younger than she has claimed, and also has charge of Guy, an 18-year-old boy who has been kicked out of boarding school and sent home. He has some mysterious behavioral issues. I thought the character development got off to a good start, but then floundered after everyone boarded the ship to India. Everyone is embroiled in some personal mystery, that is slowly revealed through the book. It’s intriguing, and I can understand some readers really enjoying it. The soap opera feel of the plot on board the ship just got to me. People were throwing themselves at each other, lavish settings were described half way but not completely detailed, and a certain darkness surrounded everyone. It was as if something bad was lurking underneath the surface.

So have you finished East of the Sun? What did you like and not like about it?

I am now finally reading The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald and really enjoying it so far. Classics are so safe, you know? I’m headed to the beach soon so I’m trying to gather some good beach read titles.  Let me know if you have some ideas to share!

Everyday Life, Reading

Not In The Book Mood

I’ve been trying to get into East of the Sun, but it’s slow going. I don’t think it’s the book’s fault, though; I think I’m just not in the book mood. Do you ever have those weeks when you’ve been reading at a steady pace and loving it and then, all of a sudden, you just don’t feel like reading? Like you pick up a book and get through a page and then find yourself checking Facebook again, even though there’s nothing there to see? And you think “Who AM I?” I’ve had one of those weeks. I think it’s because the kids were sick from Thursday to Tuesday and the sleep has not been very quality for anyone in this house. On top of that, there’s a frantic, summer is almost over, humming in my brain that tells me to get outside. “Not that one can’t read out of doors.” But you know what I mean.

Despite all that, I’ll probably read something or other this weekend. But what I’m looking forward to most is hanging out with friends, drafting a stellar fantasy football team, getting some rest,  attending a blue grass concert, spending time with my husband, and going to the annual Labor Day Parade in a nearby small town. Ella and Isaac (4 and 2) have never been to a parade before, and this one happens to be one in which almost every float throws candy out to the kids watching the parade. Yeah, I think they’re going to like it.

Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend. As always, let me know if you stumble upon a great book!

Everyday Life, Reading, Reviews, Young Adult

August Reading, Part 2, and A Tiny Rant Against Autumn

There’s a crispness in the air that I despise. Yes, I said despise. Sorry, Fall and Football lovers. I love summer and I cannot lie. I do not like cold days. I do not like the mess of leaves all over the back yard, and all the raking…raking…raking. I don’t like watching the summer flowers die. I don’t like heavy clothing and jeans every day.  But really, the biggest problem of all is that my family is not taking our one and only beach vacation until mid-September. Summer, please stay until then!

However! I am trying to conjure up happy memories of hot chocolate and books by a warm fire. Maybe if I start a Fall reading list, I’ll let go of my morbidity towards Autumn. If I can keep finding as many good books in the Autumn months as I’ve found in August, the coming season will be pretty swell.

Here are the books I finished this month.:

1. Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier

Cybele's Secret (Wildwood, #2) The sequel to Wildwood Dancing, but not nearly as great. Still, a pretty good read, especially if you’re a fan of the genre. Marillier is one of  my new favorite YA authors.

2. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Read my reviews (yes, there are two of them) here and here

3. The Artist’s Daughter

I really liked this memoir. Read my review here

4.  Slash Your Grocery Budget & Eat a Whole Foods Diet With Aldi by Carrie Willard

I read a slew of nonfiction this month. I consider it a slew, anyway. The main reason was that Ella came down with a stomach bug on Sunday afternoon and I couldn’t leave her side without her getting upset. So while she dozed, I read all the free e-books I’ve been downloading to the Kindle app on my phone. I find these free books on moneysavingmom.com, but I usually download them and then forget about them. I was grateful to have them this weekend, though.

Slash Your Grocery Budget was a great book for people who shop at Aldi or are considering shopping at Aldi. It includes menus and recipes—features that equal awesomeness in any nonfiction book. I haven’t actually tried any of the recipes yet, but I plan to. Look for this book to show up in my next Saturday Cooking feature.

5. A Simpler Season by Jessica Fisher

With the chill in the air and the impending hours watching football, I’m feeling like now is a good time to start planning some projects for Christmas. Last Christmas I had all kinds of ideas and hardly any of them got done. I’m okay with that; my kids were 3 and 1, we had a nice holiday season that was not as stressful as usual, we celebrated what mattered. Still, I’d like to be a little more involved in the details this year. A Simpler Season was a good starting point for me to think through those some of those details. Will you still find me in Target two days before Christmas? Probably. But hope springs eternal.

6. How to Eat A Cupcake by Meg Donahue

A departure from the norm for me, but in a fun, not-too-terrible, romantic comedy kind of way. Read my review here.

Now I’m working on East of the Sun by Julia Gregson. For school with Ella, we’re reading In Grandma’s Attic. I can’t tell you how much I am loving re-reading my favorite children’s chapter books with Ella. We tried The Bobbsey Twins, but it was a little wordy for now. Maybe in a year or two. I actually never liked those books much, but they seem cute to me now.

Tell me what should go on my Fall reading list! I need a long, cheering list to console me over being robbed (robbed!) of summer.

Reading

My First Top Ten Tuesday – Most Memorable Secondary Characters

I’m linking up to The Broke and the Bookish‘s feature, Top Ten Tuesday, for the first time today.

I’ve thought about joining for a while, but I knew this had to be the week I started when I saw this week’s theme: Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters. I often find myself growing inexplicably fond of secondary characters. Probably because I suspect I would be one if I were in a book. Or possibly because authors have more freedom to make secondary characters more eccentric or quirky because readers don’t have relate to them throughout an entire book or even put up with them the whole time.

I felt that I needed a definition of what a secondary character is, so maybe you do, too. A secondary character, though not the main character, does make actions that affect the plot of a story. A minor character, however, does not.

So here are my favorite/most memorable secondary characters:

1. Eowyn in The Two Towers and The Return of the King

I went through a period in high school when I wanted to be Eowyn. It was not one of my finer stages. No, I didn’t dress up as Eowyn for geek costume parties or anything like that (I wasn’t invited). I just wanted to be that noble and brave. While I like a more traditional woman for a roll model these days, I still think she’s one of the best female character in literature. And definitely the best girl turned battle hero. I’d take her over Katniss or any other girl hero any day.

2. Miss Havisham in Great Expectations

She gets my vote, hands down, for creepiest memorable secondary character (that’s a mouthful). Really, this whole list could be made up of Dickens characters. Uriah Heep comes to mind.

3. Dickon in The Secret Garden

The Secret GardenWhen I was a little girl, I wanted a big brother. And I wanted that big brother to be Dickon. Or maybe Frederick from The Sound of Music.  Dickon was such a good friend to Mary, who didn’t really deserve a friend but desperately needed one. It wasn’t until Mary found a friend in Dickon that she was able to befriend Colin. Also, Dickon was a boy who was good with animals and plants. I found that to be important, somehow, in boys when I was a child.

4. Reepicheep in Prince Caspian

Reepicheep cracks me up. Besides his humor, he is so valiant and useful and loyal. His faith in Caspian and in Aslan is unshakable. Another Narnian secondary character I’ll never forget is Mr. Beaver. I’ve always wanted to visit the inside of his and Mrs. Beaver’s house/beaver dam. It sounds so quaint and cozy.

5.  Rachel Lynde in Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, etc.

Or any number of secondary characters in that series. I love Miss Lavender, too, but I suspect she’s more of a minor character.

6. Honey in the Trixie Belden series

This is probably where I get my sidekick complex. When I was a kid and I was reading the Trixie Belden mysteries with a friend, my friend told me, “you’re definitely Honey and I’m more Trixie.” Ouch. Honey was the rich, girly, tag-along. Oh well. It was pretty true. Except for the rich part.

7. Isla in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

 Yes, I’m mentioning Guernsey AGAIN on my blog. But Isla was awesome. She was so strange, yet someone with whom everyone felt comfortable. Also, I would put Kit in this list, too, but I feel bad about two characters from the same book. I fell in love with Kit. She is adorable.

8. Rudy Steiner in The Book Thief 

I will probably never recover (okay, exaggerating) from the boy Rudy in this book. He is the most likable character I’ve come across in years. And that’s not a slight to all the other characters in books I’ve read and loved. I just mean he is that awesome.

9. Hagrid from The Harry Potter series

Who can forget Hagrid? He could probably be number one on this list; he is that memorable. I’ll never forget his weeping over various and terrifying pets.

10. Lady Catherine from Pride and Prejudice

Her snobbery without anything but money to back it up is legendary. Her lines in P&P are some of the most memorable. “Are the shades of Pemberly to be thus polluted,”  and “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.” etc.

Who are your favorite secondary characters in books?


Reading, Reviews

Life After Life – Thoughts After Finishing

Despite my dithering, I did decide to finish reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I had to know how it ended. Remember, the premise of the book is that the main character, Ursula, has an unusual life that ends and begins Life After Lifeover and over again, with slight differences that end up making a lot of difference in the course of her history. Err..histories. It was an intriguing idea. I thought if I finished the book, there would be closure and I could move on to the next book. But talk about a novel without much clear closure! I can’t figure out which ending is true because Ursula seems to live a bunch of parallel lives. I am glad that I finished, but it didn’t make me long to read the rest of Atkinsons’ books. Life After Life will definitely make you think twice about deja vu, kind of like the movie The Matrix. It also made me ponder survivor’s guilt. Why is it that people feel guilty when they survive and others don’t? In Life After Life, Ursula feels guilty because she somehow knows in the back of her mind that if she had made one decision differently, she could have prevented whatever bad thing just happened. At one point in the book, she recounts being saved from drowning as a child and says, “It was one of the few adventures in her life where she felt she had played an almost entirely innocent part.”Shudder. It’s enough to drive you mad.

Another thing about the book that drove me mad was Ursula herself. Except for one part of her many lives, she seemed very lacking in ambition. And why couldn’t she pick a guy and stick with him? Why does it take her countless flings over many lives to figure anything out? I prefer the constancy of the characters in The Time Traveler’s Wife (though I didn’t really like that book much, either…). Ursula’s romantic life was mostly just disheartening and disgusting, and she never truly liked anyone she was with, much less loved. Did she feel that was all she deserved? I have lots of questions about this book.

There’s a lot one could ponder in Life After Life. It was a though provoking book, but it comes down to this: the whole premise is not reality, so there’s not much use in pondering any of it. If you have read the book and feel you got some nugget of true wisdom out of it, please share it with me. I think I could pick up a ton of nuances and details that are significant to the story if I did a second reading, but I probably won’t read it again. For one thing, dozens of library patrons are clamoring for it, so I need to return it post haste.

One very true thing I learned from the book was that I have got to take a break from World War II books, especially ones set in London during the Blitz. I’m beginning to feel like I survived it in person, instead of only through books. I’m like one of those historians in Black Out by Connie Willis (which is a fascinating book, with a mostly fascinating sequel). Atkinson’s account of the Blitz was particularly gruesome. I’m sure it was not far from the truth, but it was difficult to read, nonetheless.

Up next for me is The Princess and the Goblin and East of the Sun. And can someone please recommend a good book for me that is not set in World War II? I’d be most obliged. =)

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